“HTML5, or as some people call it, HTML” – Jon Buda.

Just about a year and a half ago, I had the distinct pleasure of hosting my first ever Chicago HTML5 Meetup at the COOP coworking space in Chicago. Our presenters were Jon Buda and Sam Rosen. Sam presented the business case and design thinking behind Desktime (www.desktimeapp.com) and Jon Buda presented the tech stack and dev methodology.

It was a great night. A seminal moment for the Chicago HTML5 Meetup that set the tone for the blend of strategic, design and tech content that has become a staple of our monthly events and our great mixed membership.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event, but the thing that sticks out in my mind more than anything from that evening is the quote from Jon above. Not least because I was one of the folks on the losing end of the HTML5 v HTML naming argument.

Which brings to mind another statement on naming. At Brad Frost’s session at SXSW 2013, he was talking about the debate over what to call what we all now just think of as Responsive Web Design and mentioned AJAX as a great example of another epic naming battle. The thing I remember, his point, was that folks might have been freaked out over what to call AJAX, but nobody, NOBODY was arguing the fact that we needed a browser standard for the asynchronous exchange of data using Javascript.

Likewise, we might complain about the naming or even the contents and recommendations contained in the HTML5 specification, but we can all agree on the need for a standard. Well, most of us anyway.

Even though it’s still not fully supported everywhere, and still evolving, the buzz and adoption of HTML5 as a defacto standard has had a huge impact on our industry. The support for HTML5 by the browser vendors has resulted in significantly reduced uncertainty. We’ve moved out of Beta v VHS territory to a place where the risk of investing time, resources and money are much lower risk.

As a result, you can now find HTML5 in the dashboard of cars, in refrigerators, in smart tv systems and many other places where proprietary device native development once would have been the sole option for building an application.

I might be biased, but given that I’ve been a web developer since that was ever a thing one could do with their life, being able to use my core skillset to create things that might be just as likely to appear on a desktop computer screen as a vending machine or an in-dash entertainment system feels like a really good thing.

As a result of this new found stability, I’ve seen my peers turn their attention away from figuring out how to fix bugs in browsers that have dropped the ball on this feature or that. I don’t believe we’ll ever get away from progressive enhancement or graceful degradation. We need to do these things, but having clarity around what the browser vendors support now and at least a general idea of what they will support in the future means that progressive enhancement can legitimately be considered as more of an afterthought than the main event it used to be.

Freed from the drudgery of fixing bugs in browsers, and armed with the power of Github, we’ve seen more and more folks turning their attention to creating new tools to make our jobs easier and more efficient so that we can focus on even more innovation and the building of cool shit.

Good times my friends. Good times.

The General Motors infotainment team is in town this month. As part of their activities for the Chicago Auto Show, they were kind enough to host the Chicago HTML5 Meetup at the Skyline Loft in Bridgeport, giving the attendees an opportunity for a close up look at an Alpha release of GM’s in dash hardware. It’s early days for the automobile as an application platform, so the event was a unique opportunity to speak with the product managers, engineer and customer support leaders.

GM announced the app framework at CES earlier this year and are working toward completing a release version of the hardware, software and APIs for model year 2014. For the folks that braved a particularly harsh Chicago winter evening, our hosts provided some insight into what it taken to get the new platform ready for launch.

It’s great to see another platform for HTML based applications. I’m not sure that the HTML5 technologies will be the right fit long term, but as we’ve seen on iOS, Android and now the new Blackberry OS, HTML5 web apps can provide a means of transitioning an existing application to a new platform and can allow developers to build and test a market with new functionality. I find this pattern really interesting. Mostly, be cause it allows a broader base of developers to bring ideas to market with a lower cost of entry. Certainly, that is was GM is banking on.

I wonder what other platforms we might see for HTML5 in the near future and I’m curious to see how Responsive Web Design will fit into this as we begin to develop a single application with UI that adapts not just to multiple screen sizes but to multiple contexts as well.

I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, http://developer.gm.com is worth a look.

With the release of the new Blackberry phones and BB OS 10, there has been plenty of news, reviews and speculation. The hardware specs, software improvements and Blackberry’s viability as a business have been covered in plenty of detail.

As a developer, I’ve found it especially interesting to see the specific attention paid to the Blackberry web browser’s HTML5 compatibility and rendering speed. I think most developers developers are going to welcome any new competition in the mobile browser market as a good thing for feature and performance innovation.

I’m not likely to rush out to pick up the new Blackberry (or Windows) devices based on their browser performance marketing, but I will admit that they have my attention. For a mobile device brand that myself and many of my peers have written off, Blackberry’s effort to get out ahead of the pack with a fast standards-compliant browser seems like a step in the right direction.

Beyond the browser, I’m also pleased to see the effort that the Blackberry team has put into supporting mobile and front-end developers with many of the familiar tools that we use for Android and iOS development today. Blackberry’s GitHub (http://blackberry.github.com/) and the documentation for the Blackberry HTML5 WebWorks platform (https://developer.blackberry.com/html5/) demonstrate the possibilities for developing HTML5-based applications for the Blackberry using open source tools like Appcelerator and Cordova.

This is great to see, because it means near zero investment is necessary for curious developers to try their hand at creating applications for the Blackberry. I would have laughed at the suggestion a few months ago, but looking around the documentation and some of the code in the GitHub, I’m feeling a willingness to give it a try myself. I can’t imagine that I’m the only developer with that sentiment, which probably bodes well for Blackberry.

In my ongoing effort to find time for doing things to keep my development skills unjustified I’m once again looking to my commute as a source of unused time. This evening finds the added boon of a two hour plane trip to Atlanta. This morning I decided I was for sure going to travel Macbookless and prepared for the trip by grabbing a selection of three of the popular HTML editing apps available for the iPad. Despite my intentions, my heavy ass lappie is in the overhead. However, I nonetheless sit here with my third Jack and Coke, my finger begreased tablet and a pretty sweet Gogo Inflight Wireless connection posting for the first time is months while prepping for some real world testing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

One of my LinkedIn network peeps recently showed a status of “Biggest Footer Eva!” with a link to the Zappos.com site. I went to see for myself and had a pretty decent laugh over it. I did some Googling and browsing this morning to see what, if any, discussion there might be of this super tall footer. For starts, @erikvorhes, my own personal “feeling lucky” button, pointed me in the direction of this post.

Totally get that whole I’m reading down a page and now I’m at the end thing. I’ve definitely grown to like the rich footer. We’ve been pushing these things all year long, but apparently rather conservatively. Witness the teensy one we made for Shure or the new GE Citizenship site.

Up until now, I’ve thought these are reasonably sized footers. They give users some place to go, but not too many places to go. The Zappos footer seems huge at 16KB of HTML and several hundred pixels tall.  However, if you figure that Zappos gets a couple million unique visits a month, that’s only about 6GB of footer getting pushed out into the interwebs. So really, no big deal, right? Happy Cog are no dummies and neither are the folks at Zappos.

I’ve been trying to argue designers and clients into believing that users don’t mind scrolling for years. So, while at first glance the sheer size of the Zappos footer feels weird to me, I can’t help but wonder if I don’t like this better than the giant grow out navigation overlays or other now-you-see-it now-you-don’t gimmicks I’ve been seeing used as a means of exposing ever-growing site structures.

I’ve poked around for some more discussion of the footer aspect of Zappos UI, but can’t find anything tonight. Happy Cog’s post focuses on the project in general, but doesn’t specifically get onto footer. If anyone sees a post let me know. I’m curious to see what others think (once they stop and get past the initial shock).

I think I need a new theme. Finally started to dig into the CSS and HTML of this Sandbox theme and am noticing a lot of DIV based layout. Now I’m trying to decide just how much learning I want to do in here. I could get into all of the actual PHP files in the theme and start altering the way they are coded. I’ve done that with other themes and it is definitely a great way to get real familiar with WordPress real quick. Given the new version and the fact that I’ve had little experience with Parent-Child Theming* thus far in my life, I might get to reading and go that route, or I could just start stripping down to the barebones and build back up.

Given that I’m doing more and more real work that leverages WordPress, I’m inclined to go the Parent-Child route and to experiment with multi-blog serving on WordPress 3.0, conditional theming and platform targeting. I suppose one of the benefits of starting so simple is that reverting is no big deal.

I think I’ll poke around a bit, before I do anything else which means the super simple utilitarian look may be here for a bit more.

*Brief article by Ian Stewart with some great starting points here: http://themeshaper.com/functions-php-wordpress-child-themes/

Sadness and happiness simultaneously. Not sure what is up, but my YSlow grade has already dropped to 82 with only a few posts added some teeny CSS modifications and the addition of two plugins. Disappointing to see that happen so quickly, but I suppose it’s also an opportunity to do exactly what I’ve set out to-do with this install.

UPDATE. False alarm, Firefox or maybe Firebug was temporarily deciding to count some images from Feedly or some other weirdness into my score. I’m still at 92. Which is where I started off at. Maybe just to feel better I’ll go tweak my ETags which are currently not accounting for CSS. Then that’s it for tonight. My poor eyes are ouchy. I desperately need a new prescription or a couple months off from screen time.

UPDATE 2: Found a nice post that talks a bit about the particulars of some htaccess settings and WordPress (including some Media Temple hosting specifics) at http://www.dquinn.net/htaccess-adding-etags-gzip-expires-headers/trackback/

I’ve implemented the suggested config and have bumped my YSlow up to 95 JIT for bed. Goodnight nerds.

Tonight is about keeping some momentum and not letting another two week gap creep into my progress on this blog and my general attempts to get a better handle on my personal Web presence here, and beyond this domain. I’ve decided to knock the “install SEO plugin item” off my development to-do list and have managed to sidetrack myself into making a point about donating for open sourced software.

I’ve long been a fan of the All in One SEO Pack by Michael Torbert of Semper Fi Web Design. Tonight I sent a donation to Michael to show my appreciation for this plugin that I’ve been using for a few years now. There may be other alternatives out there, but All in One SEO Pack has always done everything I’ve asked of it, with very little setup and zero problems. The least I can do is click a few keys and press a button on my Paypal dashboard.

In recent years, I’ve really been trying to be better about donating for shareware and good open source software. If, as a front-end engineer, I want to argue and advocate for open platforms, then I feel like I should be backing up my opinion by supporting other developers. These folks are kind enough to lend their skills and expertise toward creating tools so the rest of us can do what we are passionate about and not spend our time coding PHP to generate site maps or rewrite WordPress template headers.

Done: SEO Plugin install

I sat down tonight with the question “where to next?” on my mind and immediately got a good eye twitch going as all of the to-dos in my brain starting swirling to the surface. This basically means that what I need to do is make a list. A roadmap if you will. I am definitely a list maker by trade. Without lists my poor little peabrain would be defenseless against the demands of juggling multiple projects in increments as small as .25 hours with a team of nine full-timers, a regular cast of contractors and near constant scheduling and scope changes.

Even without all that though, I’d still be making lists. I do it around the house for long term projects, weekends at home, shopping trips, you name it and I’ve got an scrap for that or more likely a striped index card size or 1/2 letter sized Post-it. I loves me some striped Post-its.

Anyhoo. It occurs to me that my road map will be something I update over time and there for not necessarily something I want to continue as a post. So we have our first item for the Road Map: 1. Add Road Map page to navigation hierarchy.

Stuff I did tonight: Started the list of stuff I want to do. Wrote way too much about my content ideas. Added a sitemap plugin. Eyes hurty. Time for bed.

So. Starting a new blog for myself. Been a long, long while. For my first few posts, my intent is to document the process of building the blog itself. Most of my Web development these days is focused on search engine optimization, metrics and data analysis and the front-end engineering necessary to creating a high-performance user interface. My goal with this new site is to explore building a site from the ground up to be fast and effective without the pressures of deadlines, clients and internal team resource management that are the constants in my day-to-day.

My team at VSA Partners strives to build accessible, progressively enhanced user interfaces that push the boundaries of our client’s IT teams and the third-party systems integrators and content management vendors. As is to be expected, we make a lot of compromises along the way. Everyone involved in any large-scale IT project does. The stakeholders, the writers, the designers, the application developers, everyone. Nothing would get done otherwise. Time and money are always factors in any development endeavor.

Recently, I’ve got to thinking about what it might be like to build a site from the ground up, or as near to the ground as one can be when you start with a fantastic piece of open-source software like WordPress. Now, I’ve taken thought to action and gone a registered a personal domain for the first time in several years, and here we are.

I’m starting as simple as can be. I’m using the super skeletal them, “Sandbox” built by Andy Skelton & Scott Allan Wallick. I’m going to take a pass through the theme to pull out anything I don’t need and from there will start to progressively layer on CSS and Javascript enhancements to the UI. Additionally, I’ll be adding plugins to help me we search optimization, metrics tracking, syndication and all the other staples of a well-oiled Web platform.

As things stand now I’ve got a YSlow performance score of 94 with 3, count them, 3 HTTP requests and total page weight of 6.4K. On my lovely UVerse FIOS connection I’m getting a 497ms page load. Gotta love that. Let’s see how much I can junk this thing up while still keeping the A.

To-Do for tonight: Reconfig MediaTemple to kill the default blog.mattielangenberg.com URL.
Done: Used the file manager to rename the domain folder contents and switched the settings in WP to point to the correct URL
Done update: Okay. Couldn’t resist updating the permalink structure and editing the post slug.