Episode 175 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week we have the full panel, Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves), Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy) and Kevin Dees (@kevindees).
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Louis: Hello and welcome to the SitePoint podcast. We’ve got a panel show this week to talk about all the latest happenings in the world of the web. But this time, it feels odd to say this is special, but it is a little bit special. We’ve got a full panel show. Everybody’s here. Hi, guys.
Stephan: Hey, woo-hoo.
Patrick: Hey, it’s been a while. I missed us.
Kevin: I didn’t get that the first time. Oh, wait you didn’t say it twice. Dang it.
Patrick: No, I didn’t say it twice.
Kevin: I don’t even know.
Patrick: Sorry, we already don’t know what we’re doing.
Kevin: I must be drowsy.
Louis: This is how long it’s been. We’ve forgotten how to do this.
Patrick: But it’s good. There’s a lot of travel, a lot of things going on, people being away, accidentally on purpose, planned or otherwise. So, it’s good to have everybody back together.
Louis: Yeah, it’s good. Well, that obviously means we’re going to have a lot to talk about. So why don’t we just kick right into it? I think you and Stephan both glommed onto the same story this week, so why don’t we start with that?
Patrick: Yes, we glommed on like a tumor. Go ahead, Stephen.
Stephan: Well, we glommed onto the same story about app.net, a real-time social feed without the ads being funded finally. So they had a project goal of $500,000, and they’re now up to $760,000, and I think it’s kind of a neat project to look at. I guess the take is that it’s going to be a Twitter competitor, and they really just want to create something that’s not media-driven, but more of the API and developer-driven type application. So, Patrick, you add your two cents.
Patrick: Sure. No, I think to understand app.net – and as you said they’ve got nine hours left of funding so they are still taking money. But to understand them, you can take a look at the app.net core values on join.app.net, and I’ll go over those briefly here. The first is we are selling our product, not our users. So, they promise not to sell data or anything to advertisers.
Second is, you own your content. They’ll provide an easy way to back up, export, and delete your data whenever you want.
Third, we will align our financial incentives with members and developers. So, they’re operating under a paid model, not an ad- supported model. So people pay to have accounts.
Number four, their employees spend 100% of their time improving the services for you, not advertisers, again, no advertisers, so that they are improving the services for their members. Number five is they will operate a sustainable, predictable business. They say they’ll have a clear business model, and that services can go away or try to squeeze users for more. But that’s a toxic cycle and they’re not going to do it.
Number six is that they respect and value their developer community. They want developers to develop – well, that’s what developers do – but they want developers to build around their platform. That could mean them forgoing some revenue streams, just so that they won’t infringe upon what developers are doing. They say they’ll never screw developers acting in good faith.
Finally, number seven, our most valuable asset is your trust, so they pledge to take privacy very seriously and try to learn from the mistakes others have made and to learn from their own mistakes as well in the future. So that’s kind of the gist of app.net. It’s got a lot of press, a lot of buzz. Like you said, they’re up at 761,000 now. So, 11,647 backers, so that’s the number of members they have also.
They have three tiers of backing, the member tier, the developer tier, which is $100. The member tier is $50. But the developer one gets you the member features, plus access to the developer tool chain which includes API key generation, AP analytics and so on. Finally, the top tier is $1,000. Get all those developer tools plus phone support and a meeting with the founder of the company Dalton Caldwell in San Francisco.
So, in a nut shell, it’s a paid Twitter competitor basically right now. So people paid for the account. They’re paying for the security. The pledge that there will be no advertisers, it’s not built for advertisers, it’s built for users. I took a look and saw if any of you had registered a username yet. I did some common searches for things, Louie, Simoneau, RSSAddict, SSegraves, Segraves, Kevin Dees, nothing. So, I don’t think we, between us, have an account at the site yet, am I right?
Louis: You are right, we don’t. I had seen it mentioned a lot in Twitter streams, but I hadn’t really clicked through to it. I think it’s a great idea. It’s potentially interesting, I mean, there’s definitely some history of creating sort of paid communities in the past. Is MetaFilter sill charging like $5 to join, because it used to? Wow, $5 charge. Yeah, one-time $5 charge to sign up for MetaFilter.
Now, obviously that’s a much lower cost. But it does appear to have resulted in a really sustainable community and one where the conversation is of a fairly consistently high level. So, there’s definitely some precedent for this sort of thing, although $50 a year seems quite a lot steeper than a one-off $5 charge. So, obviously, it might not ever take on Twitter or Google Plus head-on, and really win as the dominant social stream.
But if it’s something that can stick around forever and where we can go to have intelligent conversations, I think I’m potentially interested. I might sign up for a thing.
Patrick: Right, and with MetaFilter, it’s worth pointing out that they launched in ’99, and then that $5 lifetime membership fee came up – according to Wikipedia – in November of 2004. So that wasn’t something they launched with necessarily. They already had kind of traction. When I look at this project, I think that – and you mentioned $50 a year. That’s what people are paying for. They’re paying for that first year of service.
There is such a thing as successful small projects. This doesn’t have to be as big as Twitter to be successful. Because there’s that niche market that maybe those people want to pay for, want to pay for what they are promising, what they’re offering, and maybe it’s not about having a lot of people follow you. But with that comes a couple questions from me. The first is, will people pay for this enough for it not to be just a novelty?
I don’t know what level that is, but if you have $761, so they’re essentially pledging a year of access for that. I don’t know, how far can revenue grow, $1 million, $2 million, $5 million, and is that really a big business? Does it matter? I mean, will this catch on?
Louis: I guess it’s really just a matter of there being a community there. Like it doesn’t really matter whether it makes money or whether it’s a success. If they make enough to pay their developers and to continue to operate, that’s all you really need. But whether there’s enough people on there, continually posting content to make it an interesting community – and it doesn’t take much.
I keep harping on about FriendFeed circa 2008 being the golden area of my social media experience, and that was a fairly small community even at its peak before it got acquired by Facebook. As a fairly small community it was still extremely useful and good, and you had enough people to follow, and there’s always interesting content coming through. It should be noted… Sorry. I just realized. It says there are eight hours left to the funding project. So, by the time we go to air it will be too late, so sorry listeners.
Patrick: Yeah. But I’m sure they’ll be opening up in some form in the future.
Louis: Yeah, I mean obviously this is for access to the alpha and a pre- reservation username. But once it goes into, I assume, beta or into a full release it will be publicly available for, I think, a similar price. It’ll probably also be $50 a year.
Stephan: So, Louis, are you going to sign up at some point?
Louis: Yeah, I think I will. I mean, it’s certainly interesting. I’m happy to have a look.
Stephan: I mean, I guess my problem with this is that it’s a closed network essentially, right? Because you have to pay to be part of it, unless they plan to open it up for people to get it for free with less features. So really, am I going to connect with the people I want to connect with, with this tool?
Patrick: I’m just thinking about this. You know what I can see happening here? Because again, you talked about the – and this is value of Twitter and the value of Facebook and similar networks is because they’re not around topics. It’s not like I start a forum around the martial arts. Those sites are built around the idea of connecting with people, so it’s really about the people that are on the service and if those are people you want to know.
So, that’s why Twitter is still great to me and Facebook is great is because the people that I want to connect with, that’s where they are. It’s possible this could develop into kind of a different dynamic, because part of using Twitter for a lot of people is getting a message to a lot of people. Maybe what could happen here eventually – and it doesn’t have to be the goal, but maybe it is eventually and what they could do is allow people to subscribe to others for free. But then, not actually be able to post and reply without that access charge.
I don’t know, it’s just something that came to mind. I could see that being a kind of a natural evolution of it is to subscribe for free, but to say anything, you have to pay.
Louis: Yeah, that’s certainly interesting and it does allow people… Because you think someone’s trying to use this as part of their social media persona, if they’re a fairly well-known figure, okay. You pay your $50, but then you’re interacting with a few hundred other similar-minded people, which is fine. But it’s not serving as your platform out to the world in the same way that Twitter is. So, you kind of still have to keep using Twitter.
But if, like you said, it’s public and people can read what you’re saying, then maybe that has the potential to change things. But one way or another, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. If only for further proof of whether or not asking people to pay for the privilege of being part of a social network is a feasible strategy, because it certainly does lead to a different kind of network. Obviously, it’s great to have a community where you know it’s going to be around because it’s sustainable and it’s not dependent on increasing advertiser revenue or eventually selling out to another big company, at which point the community might just go away entirely.
So, for anyone developing a social network obviously it’s a really interesting approach to take to consider charging for it. It’ll be interesting to see if this pans out and that means that others can perhaps in the future take a similar approach.
Patrick: Yeah. To our audience it’ll be interesting to see how the developers kind of justify that outlay, right? I mean, $100 isn’t much, but $1,000 is a little more. You get that phone support and what not. But I guess you’re kind of an early adopter basically at this point. You’re not making money. You’re developing on the promise of a greater service.
It is kind of strange because in general developers will flock to something once it’s popular, because they’re developing for the greatest portion of the audience for the most part. People develop apps for Android and an iOS because those are the two most popular platforms. That’s why Blackberry doesn’t have the same marketplace as those other platforms.
So, I don’t know, it’s interesting from that perspective to see developers jumping in and how successful and how much time they’ll actually be able to spend on a product that is really in its infancy.
Louis: Yeah, that’s certainly going to be interesting, as well. I guess it’s all kind of in a wait and see situation at the moment now, although obviously there are eight hours left of the initial funding project. So, if you want to prepay and pre-reserve your username you have to do it now.
Patrick: I will be honest, if “/Patrick” was available, I would already have done it. But beyond that, someone else already took that. So, I’m just like, “I’ll wait to see what happens here.”
Kevin: I know I haven’t said much on this topic. I just don’t see why anyone would want to pay for Twitter and this essentially looks like Twitter to me. I mean it’s using Twitter bootstrap for crying out loud.
Patrick: Right, I think the idea is that… That’s a good point, because a lot of the people donating, is it fair to say are the geeky types?
Kevin: Absolutely, that’s what I mean.
Patrick: There are successful products that are just sold to geeky types. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to be the largest in the world. This could develop into the techie Twitter alternative, where all the cool techie people hang out. That’s fine. But as a mainstream product, getting people to have that buy-in on something like this to pay money, even an amount that’s really not that much, five $50 dollars a year, a few bucks a month, that’s nothing. But still it is money, and people will be reluctant to part with it.
It’s the same thing that happened with Google Plus and Google Plus is free. Why Google Plus? I use Facebook. Why is that necessary? Well, the same is true here except it doesn’t have Google’s backing and they’re charging for it. So, I don’t know. But you never know.
Louis: You never know.
Patrick: But you guys are the geeky types and you’re not on there yet, so I don’t know. Maybe one of you needs to go on there.
Kevin: It just seems to me like if the stream is going to be open to the world and you have to pay for a conversation, all of that already exists on Twitter and it’s free. Like, outside of, maybe access to my information, which I guess could kind of be the pitch, which is “Hey, Facebook has screwed you so many times. We won’t.”
Kevin: But your average person, especially if you’re a geek, you just don’t put that information out there if it’s going to get you in trouble. So, I don’t know.
Stephan: I just don’t know if I want to pay to be bombarded by “PHP sucks” hash tags. I don’t know if I want to pay for that, because that’s what’s going to happen.
Patrick: It’s all a matter of perspective, right? Because if you flip this if it’s not coming from Caldwell and sort of this start-up geeky mentality, and a major player was introduced into this. I’ll throw Google Plus out there, and they said, “Well, we’ll charge you a $50 a year to get in.” I think that would have been pretty widely criticized.
Patrick: So I guess it all depends on where it’s coming from and who’s coming up with the idea. They can afford to be sort of young and experimental with this process and it’s good. I like to see people experimenting on how they make money, even if it’s not my money right now.
Louis: You say right now as if you’re planning on taking over.
Patrick: Well, you know what? If they’re listening, give me that Patrick username, kick whoever that is out, they haven’t really posted any messages yet, and I will give you $50 for the Patrick username.
Louis: All right, reckon we can shift gears now. An interesting story I saw this past week was that Adobe has introduced their first complete open source type family. It’s called Source Sans Pro. This is a pretty lengthy blog post on Adobe’s typography blog that I’ve just realized is actually called “Tyblography,” which is pretty nerdy.
Louis: That’s an entirely legitimate reaction to reading “Tyblography” for the first time. It talks a little about the history of their involvement in typography and the free tools that they provide their involvement in the open type standard. It moves on to talk a little bit about the inspiration of this typeface which largely comes from some of the 20th century Gothic typefaces. They mention specifically News Gothic and Franklin Gothic as inspirations.
Then a little bit how things were changed based on user feedback, so a lot of those Gothic typefaces have a lowercase “l” and a capital “I”, which were very similar and indistinguishable and that came out in the user feedback when they were testing this. So, the designer goes on to explain that he added a little tail to the l’s just to disambiguate them, even though that’s not really consistent with the rest of the typeface. But I think it does wind up looking really good.
Yeah, and they released it fully open source. It’s available on web font hosting services, like Google Web Fonts. It will, apparently, shortly be available for use directly in Google documents and presentations. There’s also the full package, so because it’s open source they’re making all of the source files used in the production available. So, anyone who wants to look at what goes into making a complete type family can definitely have a look at that.
Obviously the other advantage of it being open source is that they’ve got a road map for continued development. So, currently it includes language support for Latin scripts, including Western and Eastern European languages, Vietnamese, the Pinyin Romanization of Chinese, and Navajo, which is like a less common language to be found in fonts. But if you ever need it it can obviously be a struggle to find a good-looking typeface that includes the characters you need.
So, that’s interesting, and they mention that in their future plans, they plan to introduce Cyrillic and Greek character support as well and to create a mono-spaced version of the design. So, really interesting work on behalf of Adobe and I think it’s a great move to see contributions to open source like this from big companies.
Stephan: I’m trying to tell, is the actual blog post in the font? I think it is, because if you look at the l’s, they have the little tails.
Kevin: I believe you’re right Stephen. I went in and inspected it, and it’s like Adobe Clean 1, so they’re not exactly using the name of the font family.
Kevin: It’s not called Source Sans Pro in the document object model. It would seem kind of odd not to do this blog post in the font that they’re advertising.
Louis: They look similar, but I’m going to go with the most obvious… Well, there are two differences that I think that are fairly clear. If you look at, in the top there, Source Sans Pro, if you look at just that header image for this blog post, if you look at the “a” the lower case “a” it’s in a totally different style from the one that’s in the blog post. I don’t know what those two different ways of writing a lower case “a” are called. I’m sure some type nerd will be able to inform me and I’m sure they have names. But the one where….
Stephan: Yeah. There’s not tail on the “a” in the blog post, but there’s a tail on the “a” in the picture.
Louis: Yeah. Then the ‘o’ the lower case ‘o’ is somewhat elliptical in Source Sans, and in Adobe Clean it looks to be nearly perfectly spherical.
Stephan: Yeah, I got you.
Louis: All right, well anyway one way or another, the Adobe “Tyblography” blog is not set in Source Sans Pro as of yet. It is set in another font called Adobe Clean. It took us a little while to figure that out. But, nonetheless, it looks really interesting.
Stephan: I like the idea of the l’s with the tails. I like that and it looks good, so I’m just going to say that. I’ll throw that out there.
Louis: Yeah I also like it. I think it is – that’s what I was saying. He’s sort of saying – in the blog post he says, “I gave the default glyph for this letter a tail even though it is uncharacteristic of this particular type style.” So if you look above at that picture of News Gothic for example, that lower case “l” is pretty much only differentiated from the capital “I” by its width, which is particularly difficult to read especially at a small type size.
But not only is the lowercase “l” a bit taller. It also has that tail, and I think it looks really good as well. It fits the overall rhythm of the typeface even if it is a level of ornamentation that the font otherwise doesn’t have.
Stephan: I like it. I have to try this font out on a website sometime. I don’t have a project in mind, but I think it’d be a good one.
Louis: Yeah. It should be mentioned that some of these typefaces that get attention, the fonts that Google released for free that it used in the Android operation system… So, initially it was – what was the first one? It was Droid Sans and then Roboto is the more recent. Those are very distinctive typefaces with a very identifiable look. So, as people on blogs are like, “Oh there’s this cool free font that was done by Google and I started using it,” you start seeing it a lot and it gets to be a little bit too omnipresent.
But this typeface is really very basic, very clean. It doesn’t have a lot of decoration. It’s not super recognizable, but it is really nice and well-designed. So, it’s something I think you could use for a main body typeface on your website without necessarily giving away that you’re jumping on the bandwagon of using this latest free front.
It should also be noted that they developed it partly just to serve as the user interface font in some of their open source projects, so Adobe does work on a few open source software projects and they wanted the user interface typeface to also fall under the same licensing terms as the applications they’re releasing, I imagine. So, it was designed to be legible in sort of single word UI labels, as well as to be usable as a main body typeface.
That was sort of the design problem that they were trying to solve with this. There’s a lot of background and interesting content about the development of the font in this blog post. So, I encourage people to read it.
Kevin: So yeah, speaking about typography, I figured the next best story to talk about would be WordPress. So, the title of this blog post is, “Help Us Help WordPress.” Basically, there’s been this kind of issue coming up and cropping up in WordPress as its popularity continues to subscribe new users to it, but also new developers. This issue is around the usability of WordPress and the fact that no plugin is the same. That you’ll install one plug in and it’ll use different navigational elements, and it’ll use different interface elements, and it’ll use different hierarchy, and just the list goes on and on.
There is no consistency between plugins. So, in this blog post, this team goes through and they talk about how they kind of came to the conclusion that they did, that WordPress is kind of broken in this. So, they want to basically institute and get developers on board and people on board that use WordPess to help develop an interface guideline for WordPress development. Not necessarily the WordPress core team, but just the people who are building plugins and themes for that.
The blog post kind of uses that as a subject. But it actually latches onto something deeper, which I think would be good for conversation here, which is basically usability testing. How that’s important in eliminating assumptions that we make that we think our users will have when developing maybe plugins or websites in general. They mention the book written by Steve Krug, which I have not read yet. I own it, I just never really read it, because I’ve never really instituted doing “Rocket Surgery Made Easy,” which is the name of the book. Have you guys heard of the book?
Louis: Yeah, I have.
Kevin: Yes, no, maybe?
Louis: I was a big fan of Krug’s earlier book, “Don’t make me think” as a sort of primer…
Kevin: That’s an excellent book.
Louis: …on the concepts of web usability, which is really fantastic. If anyone’s listening and hasn’t read it yet, and you do anything related to software or web design or development, you should absolutely read it whether or not you’re a designer. Yeah, read it. It’ll take you twenty minutes to read it. It’s a really short book. But it’s really fun and it really gives some good primers.
Yeah. But, I saw the second one… Just because I haven’t really had the opportunity to do a lot of user testing apart from just sort of grabbing someone from another team and just sort of pointing them at something and walking them through it.
Louis: But really sort of real user testing with real users, haven’t had the opportunity, so I didn’t take a look at that book.
Kevin: Yeah, one of the assumptions that people make, and Steve points this out in both books, that user testing is just this elaborate – video cameras everywhere, microphones, hanging wires, and they put the little stickers on your forehead with the wires connected to them kind of thing. it’s just not that at all. It’s not like going to the doctor’s office or the dentist.
So, usability testing can be fun and the rocket surgery book, for people who don’t know, it’s basically the cheaper and fun way of doing user testing. So, as they go through this blog post on Smashing Magazine, wp.smashingmagazine.com, they go to talk about the amount of time it took them. It was probably around eight hours. So, it only took them a day, one day, to do all the testing, to get all this great feedback.
They just used some basic technology like Go2Meeting, joinme.com, or Adobe Connect. I mean, you could even use Skype if you really wanted to or Google Hangouts. They recorded the screen using ScreenFlow, so of course they’re using Macs. But basically, they kind of give you this outline list of the steps that they took.
The first of the thing was kind of to setup a basic WordPress site, so you have to have a testing environment for people to kind of go to and test whatever you’re talking about, or if you already have an app, a free way for them to get to that. Then, they go on to talk about, “Okay, we want to list out some core pieces of the functionality of our plugin that we want people to kind of test and see if it works.” So, they didn’t want to go very minute. They kind of stayed rather broad so they said turning on the actual plugin or finding the actual plugin display on the website.
It goes through some really interesting stuff, and the data that they get back is actually kind of interesting. It’s just kind of encouraging to see, Okay, these are some of the things that they learned. It seems like small details. Like, one of them is locations of the settings page. So, should they put that under the settings of the WordPress core settings page? Or put that as a sub-link inside of their plugin’s page? If that makes any sense.
So, it’s just the little things like that that could actually make a big difference in an application. So, it’s just nice to see a blog post on user testing and kind of what that looks like outside of 37 signals, to be honest.
Louis: Yeah. I absolutely like the ideas behind this and it definitely raises the question about WordPress plugins specifically, because you’re right. There is no “third defacto standards”, as they say, about where your plugin settings go in the menu hierarchy. But they’re a little bit haphazardly followed, and whether they’re actually the best idea because it does eventually get pretty cluttered if you’ve got a lot of plugins.
Although, I wonder if maybe part of that comes back to WordPress itself. If, rather than giving you as much flexibility of putting your stuff everywhere, there was just a really strong default that puts all of the settings for the various plugins in one place, maybe under plugins or under plugin settings or something like that. That just gave users a hint so that they would have an idea where to look. Because it seems one of the problems they’re experiencing with their users here is that the users didn’t know where to look for the plugin settings.
Louis: Their suggestion is that there should be human interface guidelines for WordPress for plugins. Sort of following on what Apple did for iOS and what Google has followed on and done for Android as well, to just provide some good general guidelines for people to use when designing the user interface of a WordPress plugin.
Kevin: I think there’s actually another layer to this and the usability of WordPress. It’s much more usable than Drupal, by the way, and some other systems out there due to its simplicity.
Louis: I think the cockpit of a 747 is more usable than Drupal. I know I’m going to bring on massive rage in the comments from saying that, but there we go. I said it. Bring it on.
Kevin: Yeah I wouldn’t actually mostly disagree. You have to know Drupal really well. You just don’t pick up Drupal and start making sites with it like you can with WordPress. That’s just not going to happen. You’re just not going to do it. You’re going to need to spend like a week and a half just learning the interface of Drupal before you even get good at making sites.
But that’s kind of beside the point. The point I’m trying to make here is that in contrast to, say, Drupal, WordPress also runs wordpress.com. Because the core development team of WordPress is wordpress.com, they’re going to make some design decisions based on their users of their site more over maybe the overall need to perhaps revamp the WordPress interface, based on all the new functionality that’s come out. Because if they make a massive change, that’s going to reflect over at wordpress.com and they could take a lot of flak from that.
So, you have this open source project that’s kind of biased towards the proprietary side of things. So, it’s hard for WordPress in that context to kind of say, “Okay, we’re going to take this new direction as far as design goes,” or maybe interface guidelines. Now, interface guidelines are just that. They’re guidelines. You don’t have to implement them. But if you do, there are many benefits to it. So, I feel like a lot of these issues are really around just WordPress can’t really go and just change the way they do things.
Louis: Yeah, it is a different kind of ecosystem.
Patrick: Open source.
Patrick: I wanted to say, the final frontier.
Louis: Yeah. Hey, sorry. Maybe one of you guys can assist me with this. One of the things that I noticed when you linked to this story on Smashing Magazine is that the design of Smashing Magazine looks totally different from the last time I saw it. I’m not sure whether that’s because I always see it in RSS Reader and I haven’t seen the site in forever. But is this new design – how new is this new design? Because it’s fantastic, I really like it.
Kevin: Yeah. The new design was done by Elliot Jay Stocks. He went and kind of did a lot of typographical things to it. I think there was actually a blog post at some point. I feel like it was a good little while ago. At least six months ago I would say.
Louis: We’re going totally off track here. But there used to be a big block of ads down the right hand side. I can’t even find ads on this page anymore, so have they changed their business model entirely? I know they have some books.
Patrick: No. There are ads right on the page to the right side. What are you viewing it on?
Louis: I’m seeing two menus, then the thing, and then there’s this search on the right side. There’s a search menu, smashing highlights, get your smashing book, the newsletter, job board…
Patrick: Do you have some sort of ad block thing on?
Louis: Oh, boy, maybe I do.
Patrick: Are you blocking ads?
Louis: I’m like, “This is a beautiful redesign.”
Patrick: Gosh. I’m disappointed in you. I’m disappointed. Come on, Louis.
Louis: Hold on, I think I was having some problems with something crashing my browser on a forum I was visiting the other day. I may have… Yeah, totally. No wonder it looked so good.
Patrick: I think their ads look nice. But okay, that’s fine.
Louis: But nonetheless…
Kevin: Actually they’ve started charging $50 a user.
Louis: Yeah, exactly.
Patrick: Yes, just for people with the first name that starts with “l” however.
Louis: Yeah, to be fair, I know Patrick and I know some people have strong opinions about this. I generally do not browse the web with an ad blocker turned off.
Patrick: All right.
Louis: Like I said, it was specifically because there was a forum I was visiting that had an ad that was an auto playing video that was all the way at the bottom of the page. It was flash and it was locking up my browser. I needed the information on the forum, so I had to install a blocker and I forgot to turn it off.
Patrick: All right. So that’s another thing that will never make the actual live air about Smashing Magazine.
Louis: No, it probably should. It’s very interesting, although I still think this is a fantastic redesign. It should be said that I really, really like it and I had not seen it with or without ads. So, I guess I must just always see it through Flipboard or an RSS reader, or something. So, I don’t actually see what the website looks like. But the sort of super-wide, three-tiered navigation version of their responsive site is really, really nice. Yeah, I love it.
But anyway, that’s a total sidetrack from what we were talking about, which was WordPress and user testing, which was a sidetrack from WordPress.
Kevin: It’s okay.
Patrick: Oh boy.
Louis: User testing, we should do it. WordPress, it should be more usable. WordPress developers should do user testing. Drupal developers should also do user testing.
Kevin: A lot more of it, too.
Louis: So, I think those are the core take home messages of that conversation. Also, Smashing Magazine redesign was excellent. There we go. That’s everything you need to know about that conversation.
Kevin: Turn on your ad blocker.
Louis: Turn on or off your ad blocker as your preference is. But obviously, sites depend on ads to make money. So, if you like the content, then it’s only fair that you should see some ads unless you’re paying for the site, right?
Patrick: That’s a feature of the subscription, yeah.
Louis: Yeah, then that’s a different story…
Patrick: It is?
Louis: …that we can talk about it another time, I guess.
Stephan: So in developer news, TextMate 2 is now on GitHub, and so they’ve actually announced that it’s going open source just recently on August 9th.
Louis: Womp womp womp.
Stephan: Womp womp womp. Allen Odgaard announced that they were going to take it and put the licenses, GPL3, and basically fork it for open source. So, what do you guys think? At first, when I first heard this, I was a little down. I figured it meant the end of TextMate as we know it.
Louis: So, first of all, let me preface this by saying I was never a big TextMate user. I did briefly use it, I think. But I’m pretty much a fully converted Vim user now, so I haven’t had a lot of interest in sort of GUI-based text editors. But I know that a lot of developers, and especially developers who work on Mac obviously, were really devoted TextMate fans that have been waiting for the release of TextMate 2 with baited breath for a very long time now.
So, to some extent it was a project that we all knew was having a hard time and it should have been released… I don’t know when the initial stated release date for TextMate 2 was, but it’s definitely sometime in the past now. But, from what I’ve seen – I saw the news that it had been open sourced and put on GitHub on Twitter, and almost immediately I saw a comment from someone else who’s a TextMate user. It says, “Oh, I’m using the development version. It’s really great to start seeing new feature updates come through from the open source project.”
So despite, maybe people’s initial sort of, “Oh my, God. He’s given up and it’s going to die a quiet death in the open source world,” it does appear to have gotten some uptake and people are working on it, so that’s great.
Stephan: Yeah. It’s good to see.
Patrick: What does it mean for the people who bought it? I mean, how many of you use this application and did you buy it? Kevin?
Stephan: I purchased it, so I’m guessing the upgrades are going to be fine going forward.
Patrick: And free.
Stephan: Yeah, free. Well, I guess it’s a good sign. If they can keep up with the updates and adding features and things then I’ll still consider it worth my money.
Kevin: It’ll be interesting to see. I think it’ll survive if they port it over to other platforms outside of just Mac. So, because of Sublime’s ubiquity, Windows, Linux, and Mac, it’s just good for that reason, right? You can buy one editor for all your operating systems. Whereas, TextMate has kind of just been, “Hey, Mac users, here’s this thing.” Now, everybody kind of has Sublime or Vim, it feels like to me. If TextMate, the open source project kind of helps it get to Windows or another system out there, I think it’ll have a good bit longer to live in the open source world.
Patrick: But will there be a textmate.com and a textmate.org, one for the cloud and one for you to download?
Louis: That is a good question. Have any of you guys experimented with any of the various sort of online Cloud-based text editors? I don’t remember what the name of any of them were.
Kevin: Okay. I’ve tried some of them. I know Mozilla put out one, there’s a paid one called Cloud Nine, I believe, and yeah. It’s great if you maybe want to collaborate on some stuff. But really, version control does everything that an online editor would do for me as far as collaboration goes. So, I’m cool with turning on Vim in my terminal. I’ve never had this need to be like, “Oh, I’m on somebody else’s computer. I need my editor.”
Kevin: Code is code to me, to be honest.
Patrick: Code is code. Code is poetry. Before you guys laugh at me, I have to say that I’m not really a programmer, obviously. So, when I open code it’s mainly to edit other people’s code or install some sort of customization or something. So, before I switched over to Windows 7 a few months ago – a couple months ago – I was using Crimson Editor and Crimson Editor hasn’t been updated in a long time. So, when I switched over to Windows 7, I downloaded Notepad++, so that’s my code editor.
Louis: To be fair, for the few times when I actually do develop on Windows, my home machine is a Windows machine, but I almost always develop using Vim in a Linux VM. But if I do have to open code files on the Windows desktop, Notepad++ is what I use, and I actually quite like it.
Stephan: Yeah, it’s my default text editor on Windows. Even for regular text, not just for code. Sublime on….
Kevin: Notepad++ is good, but you should definitely try Sublime on Windows. It’s actually very good.
Patrick: Does Sublime cost money?
Louis: I’m sure it is. But it’s not free. Yeah, exactly. That’s what I was thinking.
Kevin: It is free. It is free, actually.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s free. Sublime is free to any platform. You just get a popup after 30 days that comes on once a day. It just says, “You want to buy it now?” You click “no”, and you just keep on. I know people that do this.
Patrick: That’s funny. I just ignore that popup forever.
Louis: Wait a second. First of all, let’s check to see if this is actually, “Sublime text may be downloaded and evaluated for free, however a license must be purchased for continued use.” So, it’s not a suggestion. It’s in the license that if you want to use it continuously it’s a paid product. So, just putting that out there for anyone who’s listening, who might have been misled.
Kevin: I didn’t say I do it myself. It’s free for 30 days.
Patrick: If they give you the option to click “no”, as Kevin says, then whose fault is it really? Don’t allow me to say “no”. No, I don’t know. Sorry. But for me, Notepad++ is it.
Kevin: It’s a good editor.
Louis: So, we’ll start the editor wars. Chime in, in the comments or send us an e-mail…
Patrick: The editor wards. Yeah.
Louis: …if you want to tell us what you favorite editor is and why, and why everyone else is wrong. We’d love to hear from you.
Kevin: You’re going to have that one person that says Notepad. I’ve known some people who have done that. I’m like, “Why do you use notepad?”
Louis: You can’t do anything in Notepad. But anyway, look.
Kevin: Anyways, yeah.
Louis: All right. We’ve had a lot of tangents in this episode. So, what do you say we go off on some more tangents as it is time for the host spotlights, which are basically tangents in an officiated form?
Patrick: Sure, I have mixed feelings on this one, because I actually have an on-topic spotlight.
Patrick: Yeah, I know. Are you seated? But I also have an off-topic spotlight. So, I mean, I have that reputation.
Louis: Look, mine is way off-topic. So, if you’ve got your on-topic one maybe that will balance things out.
Patrick: Okay. I have two, but I’m leaning toward the on-topic one, so I’m going to go with that. All right, so Brandon Eley has written for SitePoint before, was a moderator on the forums for a long time, and on his blog, brandoneley.com/blog he’s doing VEDA, which is a video every day in August. He’s doing 31 days to higher conversions, so higher conversions on your website, testing, analytics, and all of those good things. He’s really going into detail with a video series about it from his own experience, testing and running an e-commerce store.
It’s very e-commerce themed, but I’m sure there are also a lot of lessons in there for anyone who’s trying to convert people, whether it be an email subscription list, or website registration form registration, etc. So, there are a lot of good lessons he’s put out already. Obviously, August is going to be about halfway done by the time we put this out, so there’s a whole other half a month coming as well. So, check that out if you’re interested in upping your conversions and just being more efficient in general with your website.
That’s brandoneley.com/blog. Eley is E-L-E-Y. So, that’s my on- topic spotlight. Listen in silence. No laughter. No fun. That’s why I don’t do them very much. So, Louie, why don’t you go next to balance it out with something that’s more fun.
Louis: Sure, I just have a totally random link this week. It is a link that I found on a blog called “Twisted Sifter,” which links to a bunch of sort of national flags that were designed using the national foods of those countries for the Sydney International Food Festival. They’re just fantastic. I love them. I mean, they’re going to make you hungry, but they’ll also make you laugh. They’re great.
The Italian flag is basil and spaghetti and cherry tomatoes. Then there’s an Indian one that looks like butter chicken at the top and then rice, and then some kind of maybe saag-based curry at the bottom. They really look like the flags, and they’re also awesome designs, really, really inspiring if you like to look at designs of different materials and if you really like pictures of food, because we all love pictures of food.
Patrick: So here’s the question, which one of these makes you want to eat it the most? Which one of these gives you the greatest appetite?
Louis: Let me have a look. I’m going to have a quick…
Patrick: Okay, so for me, I’ve taken a look through them…
Louis: Almost certainly India, because I really, really like curry.
Louis: Although the France which, to get the blue, white, and red of France’s flag, they’ve done blue cheese, white cheese, which I guess is a brie or Camembert, and then grapes, red grapes on the right hand side. So, the French one is also very appealing to me. But almost certainly India wins.
Patrick: Okay, so for me personally, I like tuna and rice so Japan is close. But I have to go with Italy, just because I like the pasta, I like tomatoes and basil, and it’s a good mix. The U.S. one is crap. Hot dogs, I don’t like hot dogs. So, not too interested in that, can’t be very patriotic in this case, unless they’re turkey hot dogs in which case I might have some. Stephen, what do you think?
Stephan: What do I think? I haven’t…
Patrick: Yeah. Did you take a look at it? You travel. You actually go around the world and eat foods at these countries.
Stephan: Yeah. Let me look and see here. I kind of like the Greek flag. That’s kind of nice with the…
Louis: It’s feta cheese.
Stephan: Feta cheese and Kalamata olives. I like that. I kind of like them all. I’d probably all any of them. I wouldn’t have a problem with any of them. Is that wrong?
Patrick: It depends.
Louis: No. It’s not wrong at all.
Patrick: What does your wife say?
Louis: It’s entirely correct. The correct approach to seeing – if all of these were laid out on a table in front of me, I would eat all of them.
Patrick: All right, good spotlight.
Stephan: So I have a spotlight, another font related dilly-o. This is free font icons for web user interfaces.
Louis: Free icon fonts.
Kevin: Free icon, yeah, always, always good. So, there are just a slew of these. My favorite, the one I actually use is Icomoon? I guess icon moon, except they’re using the M as the N, when it’s really not an N, so it’s I-C-O moon.
Patrick: They’re trying to trick you, and they succeeded. I mean, really they succeeded to trick you because you had to explain it.
Kevin: Yeah, so outside of the names of these, you’ve just got to check them out. They’re really cool. I love using fonts as icons now whenever I do front-end development. You don’t have to specify size. You just make a vector, and if you want it bigger you make it bigger. It’s much better than processing an image all the time, over and over and over again.
Stephan: I like the ones from Font Awesome. Those are pretty good- looking, just simple, very nice.
Patrick: Yeah, those would look good in an application.
Louis: Yeah. I think it’s a really good trend, especially if you use a lot of icons and you can all pack it into one fairly small font file. It can be pretty nice for your up-front performance, although I guess a well-compressed sprite map would probably be smaller than the font file.
But the font file, as Kevin said, gives you that advantage of being able to scale to various sizes and especially to various pixel densities, is rapidly becoming an issue that web designers have to contend with. With a wide variety of pixel widths on mobile and now with some new high pixel density laptops from Apple that adds yet another layer of complexity for web designers. Icon fonts are definitely one way of addressing that.
Kevin: Then you can change colors, everything.
Louis: Yeah, exactly.
Kevin: So anything you do with a font, like text shadows, all of it. So, I love using it.
Louis: That’s great.
Kevin: Anyway, so that’s my spotlight.
Stephan: Finally me. I have a blog opinion post by Errol Morris, who is a writer and a filmmaker and he’s on the New York Times. He’s talking about typography and how believable a sentence is depending on the font that it’s written in. So, he did a whole kind of sly study by having people take a quiz and then got some results – and I don’t want to give it all away. But it’s just interesting what the results of the study were.
Patrick: So people didn’t trust Comic Sans, right?
Stephan: Pretty much.
Patrick: That’s got to be the way the comment that ends up here. I haven’t even read it, but I’m just guessing.
Stephan: Yeah, he even goes into things like is it a Sans-Serif font or just a Serif font. So, it’s just a good read. It’s kind of long and it’s just part one of it. But I think it’s interesting and it’s something to keep in mind when you’re writing and trying to be taken seriously.
Patrick: This is really interesting and something that politicians should keep in mind.
Stephan: Yeah, don’t do your political ad in Comic Sans.
Patrick: That’s right, exactly. That is really interesting, and if you want to convince people of something and appear legitimate this is something to heed. I do find this interesting. Good spotlight.
Louis: Yeah, thanks. I’m definitely going to have a read of this whole thing. It’s a pretty long post, but definitely interesting.
Kevin: It’d be interesting to do. Like if you did the last election, I bet Obama had made 27 websites that said support McCain, but they were all in Comic Sans so nobody voted for him. So, it wasn’t even like mud slapping. It was just like, “Hey, support this guy, but he uses Comic Sans.”
Stephan: We’re not going to support him.
Louis: Yeah, I mean you would have lost that on the crucial designer vote there.
Patrick: Yeah the geek-vote. It’s time to go around the table.
Louis: I’m Louis Simoneau. You can find me on Twitter @rssaddict. You can follow SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom. That’s sitepoint D-O-T-C-O-M. You can go to Sitepoint.com/podcast to keep up with the show. You’ll see all of our latest episodes. You can leave a comment and you can subscribe to the RSS feed there. You can find us on iTunes, of course, and you can send us an e-mail, email@example.com. We’d love to hear what you think. All right. Well, I will see you all next week. Thanks for listening and bye for now.
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