Posts Tagged ‘dylan wilbanks’

Squirrel and Moose

Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Squirrel and Moose

Starting tonight I’ll be creating a weekly podcast about making websites with one of the most thought-provoking web designers I know, Dylan Wilbanks. Broadcasting humor and thoughtful commentary on the current issues of web design, development, and technology from the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest, we’ll be putting up a new episode every Thursday night.

We’re being provided hosting by, which will be making the podcasts available (for the price of free) via RSS and iTunes, alongside their other great programs, including Jeff Croft’s and Mat May’s Weekly Chat.

Tonight we’ll be kicking the tires and checking the oil with our pilot episode, and will be getting the resulting product hosted as soon as possible for the pleasure of your ears and brains. I hope you’ll take the time to check us out!

Know Your Strengths

Monday, September 17th, 2012
CSSquirrel #99: Know Your Strengths

I count myself lucky to know Dylan Wilbanks. He’s an intelligent, well-spoken man who thinks and says things in a way that makes me intensely jealous of his erudite nature. In today’s comic, he witnesses the Squirrel in a hare-brained moment as he embraces his strengths in the wrong way.

Hustle is Hype is a piece written by Dylan that he posted with some trepidation on how it would be received. In it, he presents the radical proposition that we don’t need to work ourselves to death, that “hustle”, the 80 hour workweek that the tech start-up world tells us we need to be great and successful, isn’t a sign of greatness, but weakness.

He dares to suggest, rather outrageously, that we should embrace our strengths and have some focus. That we should work smart instead of blindly working long hours. That if you’re good at something, you should work to be great at it, instead of trying to re-do all the work of the rest of your team.

He even suggests, and I know this is going to disgust you, that we should trust the people we work with. That we shouldn’t be threatened by talent in our co-workers, that we should embrace their skill and encourage them to use it rather than suffocating it .

When it comes down to it, Dylan has the audacity to state that we should dare to live quality lives. He states that we should concentrate on the quality of our talent and skill rather than bleeding out all our time in the office in an quantity-focused 80 hour work week of bleary-minded labor.

Some people are offended by his post, believe it or not. People who may be missing the point of “focus versus hustle”, or who think he’s preaching “specialists versus generalists”. People who don’t get it.

Well, I do get it. I know I’ve had a tendency to burden myself down by overreaching, juggling too many plates, trying to drill down too deeply in too many skill-sets when I’ve got team members that can do the same job better and faster. Basically I’ve frequently burnt myself out instead of giving myself the opportunity to excel at the things that I’m best at.

A real team, in any environment, is one that may have an overlap of skills, where each person can take on another’s tasks if the need exists. But more importantly the team plays to its strengths, making the most use of each person and their skills to the best end results. There’s a great deal of trust involved, when each person in a team takes on what they do best and relies on the others to do their part, letting them do the same.

The kind of trust that pays off.

Stop working yourself to death. Find your strengths, trust your co-workers, and maybe get home while the sun’s still out.

Sounds good to me.

The Egotistical Puppet King & I

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
CSSquirrel #93: The Egotistical Puppet King and I

In a way I should be grateful to Ian “Hixie” Hickson for being an egotistical tyrant. Without his inability to acknowledge that a consensus-driven, well-crafted and usable solution built by a group of well-meaning, hard-working people could actually somehow be better than his own personal opinion, he’s pulled me out of my long-hiatus and back to to the drawing board.

Today’s comic is in fact three comics. No single idea could encompass everything. In all three Hixie gets top billing as the editor-for-life of HTML’s “living spec”. The first comic features Naepalm, chinchilla alter ego of fellow Mindflier Janae Wiedmaier. The second one includes the irreplaceable Justin McDowell. Lastly we see Matt May, Dylan Wilbanks and Ethan Marcotte joining forces with the Squirrel in a bid to take down the HTML king.

(Today’s comics as per usual aren’t meant to imply that the people represented therein endorse my views. I’m saying it outright today because I’m feeling particularly vitriolic and don’t want my words to reflect on them.)

The Situation

For those of you just tuning in, today’s outrage focuses around Hixie’s decision to adopt a problematic, late-arriving, Apple-proposed attribute of the <img> tag into the HTML standard as the solution to the adaptive images issue. In the process he again reinforces his inability to heed the creed of HTML’s priority of constituencies (end users over authors over implementers) while also tossing away the hard work of a community group of developers that built a very functional, very usable solution to that problem in the form of the <picture> element.

If you’d like a summary, you can check out the aptly titled WTFWG by Tim Kadlec, or take a look at Zeldman’s take on the situation over here, which links into an A List Apart article by Mat Marquis on the topic.

I wish this was a new situation. Or that it was surprising. Or that I didn’t feel like I was repeating myself each time I mention Hixie in blog or comic form. The fact is that as the Editor of HTML, Ian keeps doing this. And we keep letting him.

The Puppet

At one point I attributed this issue solely to his gigantic ego and clearly overwhelming case of not invented here syndrome. Now I’m frankly convinced that although these qualities contribute to the problem, the real issue is that he’s the puppet of the browser vendors, namely the three most involved in WHATWG: Apple, Opera, and Google. Although the priority of constituencies dictates that implementers (aka, browser vendors) should be lower priority than developers (who are in turn answerable to end users), it seems that without fail Hixie will bow to the vendors before considering any work on the part of developers at a solution, no matter how reasonable, well-built and documented that solution is.

That’s not a kind accusation, that a man is a puppet. But clearly every attempt to work with the WHATWG has always resulted in developers being treated as second-class citizens to the browser makers. And let’s make it clear: this is our job. We make websites for a living, and the tom-foolery that Ian is engaged in is directly impacting our present and future workflow. We work on making websites every damn day. We know what works for us, and what doesn’t.

And he doesn’t care in the slightest.

“Work With Us”

At this point, Hixie and his backers are relying on the same smoke and mirrors to distract people. Present use cases. Keep engaged with the WHATWG and let them know your technical objections. Get involved in their IRC. But the fact is we as developers have done this over and over and over. Yet at the end of the day, regardless of the hard work put in and all the proof jammed into the pudding, it all amounts to naught. Hixie spends twelve seconds coming up with his own solution or takes what the browser makers gives him and uses that instead.

It happened with metadata. It happened with the <time> element. It’s happening now with responsive images.

The fact is that Ian doesn’t give a shit.

He’s going to do it his way, or failing that he will do what Google and the other browser makers in the WHATWG tell him to do. He’s not going to look at what the developers have built and give that solution a thumbs-up. As John Foliot said: “Dev community, if you continue to author to the WHAT WG doc, you lend your tacit support to heir hixie. Look where that gets you.”

Enough Is Enough

Being part of their process is being part of the problem. I’ve never seen things resolved by following the WHATWG’s “process”, as it amounts to little more than distracting developers while he goes off and implements a less functional, more complex solution to the problem.

Don’t deal with Hixie. Don’t deal with the WHATWG. Directly object to the browser vendors. “Occupy” HTML by making use of the consensus-built techniques that already have functional polyfills. Do what makes sense, and what works for you.Sooner or later, the browser vendors will be tired of the grief sent their way and tell Hixie to roll over.

<time> wasn’t fixed because we followed the WHATWG’s process.

I’m going to say it: I don’t believe that WHATWG is part of the solution anymore. As I’ve been told by others, democracy isn’t always the best approach. Sure, ok. But so far when it comes to the community-build, consensus-driven approach and Hixie’s brain, the community’s solution has proven more effective more often.

I’m going with the community, not the puppet.

Comic Update: Peahen Butter

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
CSSquirrel #85: Peahen Butter

Today’s comic features inanity, a rather eye-bleeding shade of green, and Dylan Wilbanks. It does not feature any snide commentary on web design or development, a joke at Apple’s expense, or even any squirrel-related humor.

It does however reference the mighty peahen.

Consider this comic something of a mental enema, loosening up the blockage that has been plaguing me throughout the summer.

Quite honestly, I’ve been feeling like something of an imposter over this past year, a lurker in the forum that is the web development/design world. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but it turns out the Internet is chock full of extremely talented website makers. Constant displays of their talent pour from my Twitter stream like Gideon’s moist wool, dripping all over the web with raw, unfiltered awesome. They’re not just rocking my face with their drool-inducing personal website redesigns. They’re not just filling Dribbble with jaw-dropping snapshots of amazing work. They’re drop-kicking monitors until they explode into fancy, limited-edition magazines that you put on the coffee table to impress both the lady you’re courting and your mother.

Look, I’m not saying that Elliot Jay Stocks is a curly-headed, 21st century typographic British Chuck Norris that groin-punched Comic Sans so hard that Bill Gates’ grandchildren will feel it. I’m also not saying that he isn’t.

It comes down to adequacy, and the occasional disheartening fear that you’re not up to snuff. With “you’re not” meaning “I am not”. In a world of Stocks and Santa Marias and Irishes, I’m aware that my design skills (which were never my selling point) are a combination of obsession with green and empty space and not much else, and that my Javascript skills, while far better, aren’t Olympic grade either. I don’t invent Javascript libraries, I just use them. I frequently feel like a Jimmy Olsen in a field crowded with Supermen.

The caveat is that ultimately I’m a commentator in the field, blending humor, a cartoon squirrel and occasionally a sense of outrage into bite-sized portions for people to chuckle at. Ultimately, I’m okay with that. All the way back in the first grade I accepted that my role in life was to serve as comic relief. But some days, which drag into some weeks or some months, I feel so irrelevant even in that role (perhaps without any good justification) that I can’t seem to muster the desire to put something out there.

Dylan, back in the end of June, wrote a piece that on the surface was discussing a spat between usability experts. Underneath that, it goes to the topic of feelings of adequacy as a designer, and a speaker, and even a participant in the always-on social stream of web development. His article got a bit of heat of its own due to perceived attacks on certain outstanding leaders in our field, which for the record I don’t think was his intent or point. But it also touched into a good conversation I had with him a month prior to that in a pizzeria in Seattle.

I’ve met Dylan approximately three times in the flesh, but I’d like to call him a friend. The most recent time was when I went to Web Directions Unplugged (which was an amazing event that I was honored to be invited to as a cartoonist-in-residence). On my first night there we met for pizza then started a small, two-man bar crawl while getting reacquainted and discussing our field. The topic went to the realm of conferences, and our mutual interest in participating in them as more than audience. He told me about his experience as a speaker in a higher education web conference and I mused about an interest in either speaking or even creating my own conference.

My main worry, as shared between pints of IPA, was a nagging concern that I had nothing to offer in a crowded web development conference world where the likes of Mr. Beep himself are there to blow your mind with cutting-edge techniques, Andy Clarke is ready to take an aggressive stance and make you angry, and Jared Spool is going to make you come dangerously close to experiencing a personal brownout in the pants region as you learn your personal limits on how much you can laugh in a single hour. Does the world need another thirty-something white guy who’s only moderately talented to take up a speaker slot in an industry that desperately needs to give more room to the packed crowd of web development superwomen that both we need to see more of and deserve the opportunity more than I do?

In the end, Dylan insisted I had something to offer, whether it be speaking in someone else’s conference or someday making a “Squirrelcon” of my own. Maybe he’s even right. That’s not relevant. But it meant a lot for a man of his experience to insist on my worth over pizza and beer mere blocks from offices packed with employees in Seattle’s various web-centric corporations. Whether he’s speaking to a crowd or just to me, I’ve found him profound.

I don’t need reassurances. I’m not seeking affirmation. I’m not wearing black eye shadow and reading Poe. I’m just getting something written down on this damn blog to get the gears rolling again, and I might as well share the insecurities that caused it to grind to a halt in the first place. Writing it, writing anything, is a vital step to contributing to the stream of awesome web designers that clogs your inbox every day.

Every time I make a prediction about when I’ll next post something, I’m usually wrong. So instead, I’ll say they you’ll hear from me again soon, and I may even be more on topic when you do.

Comic Update: When I Die, Burn Me Viking Style

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Today’s comic explores a subject that is one of the most difficult, for me at least, to approach humorously. Featuring Eric Meyer, Jeffrey Zeldman and Dylan Wilbanks (I love his site’s content), I think I manage it with the grace and agility only a fifty-foot lizard could manage.

Over the past couple weeks, some people have died. Well, thousands die every week, even without disasters like the one that has recently struck Haiti. With no disrespect meant to the many who have died, it was the death of two specific individuals that caused an attention-worthy explosion of conversation in my Twitter feed, and I didn’t know either one of them: Brad L. Graham and Jack Pickard. I linked their Twitter feeds, as I don’t know how enduring the website of either individual will be after their death (a topic addressed in more detail below).

Their passing started a discussion on death, both theirs and that of others.

Eric Meyer had a couple of tweets that highlighted the poignancy of loss, even over a digital medium. Jeffrey Zeldman, in a post entitled Posthumous Hosting and Digital Culture, addresses the Big Question (well, its little cousin): “Where do our sites go when we die?” I’d like to think that the entire readership of my site are aware of how fragile the survival of sites on the Internet is, as highlighted in this strip that discussed the end of Geocities.

If we hope to have any lasting legacy for friends, family or a curious future, we can’t hope for a copy of a book resting on a shelf for a few hundred years. Instead, we need to think, while alive, about how we’re going to preserve our digital identities (which have become a huge part of who we are) long enough so that those who come after can decide for themselves whether it was worth it.

Dylan Wilbanks recently had a presentation at Ignite Seattle about this very topic. Everyone Coredumps, he reminds us, and he addresses both the grieving process and how to preserve your online data for future generations. He also discusses viking funerals. Check out his slides for thoughts on the topic, especially the tips on keeping your websites alive beyond the grave.

I recently was reminded by my registrar that I need to get this site’s domain registration renewed. It’s disturbing to think that if a bus hit me today, the laughs I’ve created would simply disappear at the end of the month, well before any tears from my passing would (hopefully) have ended.

I think I’m going to go get that renewal handled right now.