Category: Articles



Birdcam, or: the unexpected virtue of dumb ideas

I don’t have the patience to learn new skills for their own sake. Most of what I know about computers, including everything I do at my day job, was something I learned because I needed it to do something cool. In 2001 I needed to learn PHP to make a web site, and in 2005



Hypermedia APIs, Part One

Part of me bristles when I hear someone say “Hypermedia API.” I worry it’ll become the sort of phrase, like “semantic web,” that means different things to different people, and ends up covering such a breadth of ideas that it’s impossible to argue for or against without specifying which flavor you’re addressing.
Nonetheless, when I see



Designing the Census

The recent mailer from the U.S. Census Bureau struck a chord with two of my hobbies: information design and open government. Today I’ll be redesigning a piece of paper that looks mundane but has an astonishing impact on the amount of money our country is spending to conduct the 2010 Census. Sometimes good design can



The “Configurable” pattern

If you don’t know about RaphaĆ«l, you’d better ask somebody. It provides a vector drawing API that works in all major browsers (by abstracting between SVG and VML).
I’ve been working on a JavaScript charting library called Krang. Krang is designed to take a data set and produce any chart (line chart, pie chart, bar



Deep-extending objects in JavaScript

Today I’m going to be talking about Object.extend without much introduction or context. Bear with me. This is a prerequisite blog post for something I’ll be talking about in a few days.
Extending objects in JavaScript
Prototype has a function named Object.extend. It takes two objects and copies all properties from the second object onto the first.




Here’s the short version: I made a site called Filibusted that just won Sunlight Labs’ “Apps for America” contest.
I started to write out the long version, but I don’t have Ken Burns or a bunch of old-timey photographs. I’ll split the difference.
The Soapbox
As some of you already know, yelling at Congress (or at coverage of



Tough Love

Jason Scott rips into Joe Clark. I have learned a number of things from Joe Clark, and I still find reason to link someone to i let u b u at least once per quarter. But I can’t find much fault with this assessment of his words and his worldview.
A sizable slice of technology experts



Paginate THIS

Here’s a lovely pagination control I looked at on PSDTUTS today. Actually, first I used it; when it took me to a page I was not expecting, I hit the Back button and looked at it.

It’s a testament to both my arrogance and my compulsiveness that I found five things I could “fix” about this



Pseudo-custom events in Prototype 1.6

One major goal of frameworks is to minimize the amount of code branching an individual developer has to do. Usually that means the framework does the branching itself, then builds around it an API that will work in all major browsers. By that metric, support for custom events in Prototype 1.6 might be our biggest



English: The Perl of Natural Languages

The American Heritage Dictionary, in a usage note below the definition of the word shall, uses more words than I’ve ever used to describe anything. I’m reprinting them here because I find this fascinating, in an odd mystery-solving sort of way. I’m a linguistic Jessica Fletcher.
The traditional rules for using shall and will prescribe a

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