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Gotta Agree

Installing software people didn’t request erodes trust. It’s especially repugnant when it hitches a ride with a security or version update. Marshall Kirkpatrick’s right: downloading software has to be opt-in, not opt-out.

As technologists, we want up to date users. Beyond the real user-safety issues, it frustratingly holds us back. The oldest browser is the lowest common denominator and holds us all back. But sneaking new software into the sacred realm of auto-updating flows is unwise. We cannot take advantage of users at the exact moment we want them to trust us blindly and reflexively.

Multiple Apple products are within arm’s reach. My first technology experience several decades ago was on an Apple product. Love ‘em, but they should know better.

I’m glad John wrote his post.

HTML Slicers

I’ve heard about various services that charge a flat rate to chop Photoshop (etc) files into clean (X)HTML and CSS, generally for a flat fee and quick turnaround. The topic came up today when a freelancing application developer buddy asked me about this type of service.

So this morning I asked my twitter followers (follow me!) which services they knew of. Here’s what came back (in a matter of minutes – gotta love twitter!):

Then @jasonw22 pointed out that Jonathan Snook (a hero of mine) has a list of about 20 such services, and just this week posted a review of his experience auditioning the psd2html service.

If you’ve used any of these services, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below (and of other services you may know of or recommend).

I’ll report back on my friend’s experience.

(I must mention, in closing, that I’m skeptical of such services. I’ve spent the last several years of my career promoting the professionalism of frontend engineering, and so I have a twang of fear that these services are a step in the wrong direction. Then again, perhaps services such as these — if, in fact, the quality is there — prove that some aspects of “professional grade” web development are now par for the course. Jury’s still out.)

Foreward to O’Reilly’s High Performance Web Sites Book by Steve Souders

Steve Souders wrote High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers last year for O’Reilly. He generously invited me to write the foreward.

The book was published about six months ago, but in writing the my last blog post (on the 20 new rules just released) I noticed that I didn’t have an easily-accessible copy of my contribution. So, please forgive me for pasting it here for future reference.

Book Cover: High Performance Web Sites

Foreword

You’re lucky to be holding this book. More importantly, your web site’s users are lucky. Implement even a few of the 14 techniques Steve shares in this groundbreaking book and your site will be faster immediately. Your users will thank you.

Here is why it matters. As a frontend engineer, you hold a tremendous amount of power and responsibility. You’re the users’ last line of defense. The decisions you make directly shape their experience. I believe our number one job is to take care of them and to give them what they want—quickly. This book is a toolbox to create happy users (and bosses, too). Best of all, once you put these techniques in place—in most cases, a one-time tweak—you’ll be reaping the rewards far into the future.

This book will change your approach to performance optimization. When Steve began researching performance for our Platform Engineering group at Yahoo!, I believed performance was mainly a backend issue. But he showed that frontend issues account for 80% of total time. I thought frontend performance was about optimizing images and keeping CSS and JavaScript external, but the 176 pages and 14 rules you’re holding in your hand right now are proof that it’s much more.

I’ve applied his findings to several sites. Watching already-fast sites render nearly twice as quickly is tremendous. His methodology is sound, his data valid and extensive, and his findings compelling and impactful.

The discipline of frontend engineering is still young, but the book in your hands is an important step in the maturation of our craft. Together we’ll raise expectations about the Web by creating better and faster (and therefore more enjoyable) interfaces and experiences.

Cheers to faster surfing!

–Nate Koechley

Senior Frontend Engineer
Yahoo! User Interface (YUI) Team,
Platform Engineering, Yahoo! Inc.

San Francisco, August, 2007

The 34-Blade Razor from Yahoo!

Congratulations to my friend and colleague Stoyan Stefanov for the publication of Yahoo!’s Latest Performance Breakthroughs after presenting them at the PHP Quebec Conference in Montreal last week. The 20 new tips bring to 34 the total performance tips his team at Yahoo! has published in the past two years.

Stoyan (who authors the phpied.com blog) is part of an established tradition of Yahoo! sharing performance research publicly and widely. Stoyan’s teammate Tenni Theurer concluded the official blog post announcing these data and findings by saying, “We share our findings so that others can join us in accelerating the user experience on the web.”

I agree. That’s why I was honored to help disperse their 14 Rules for Faster Web Sites in my presentation at the @Media conference in London last year.

And that’s why it was a special honor to write the foreward to Steve Souders’ High Performance Web Sites book for O’Reilly last year. (Steve used to head up the Performance team at Yahoo!.) In the foreward I tried to express why performance matters to professional frontend engineers:

Here is why it matters. As a frontend engineer, you hold a tremendous amount of power and responsibility. You’re the users’ last line of defense. The decisions you make directly shape their experience. I believe our number one job is to take care of them and to give them what they want—quickly. This book is a toolbox to create happy users (and bosses, too). Best of all, once you put these techniques in place—in most cases, a one-time tweak—you’ll be reaping the rewards far into the future.

Read more about Yahoo!’s Latest Performance Breakthroughs on the Yahoo! Developer Network site.

Data Ocean vs Document Lake

Friend and Yahoo! Developer Network (YDN) Director Matt McAlister has a good post today on Creating leverage at the data layer.

Matt cites Tim Berners-Lee from a recent interview saying that the future of the web is one where we and our agents “can access all the data” via a “much more seamless and much more powerful” interface and experience made possible “because [of] integration.”

That’s different than how it’s been. Documents are a subset of Data. The Web has been a lake of Documents. It is becoming an ocean of Data.

We’ve surfed the lake of documents with a web browser. But a web browser is not always the right tool for the ocean of data. One of many examples is that many people consumer Twitter via a desktop client like twitterific or twhirl. In fact only 45% of recent messages (of people I follow) were posted via the web interface. It’s not a stretch to conclude that a majority of twitter users have determined that there is a better way to interact with twitter’s data than with a web browser. (If not the stats, then certainly the trend.)

I see that as evidence that A) some new interfaces are required for some new types of data; and that B) the web has interesting data to consume outside of a browser.

In the same vein, Matt writes that “Social networks are a good user interface for distributed data, much like web browsers became a good interface for distributed documents.” He’s right: social networks are a great way to consume the so-called vitality stream.

Moving on he writes that the markets and technologies supporting this new world “are still in very early stages.” His notion that “there’s lots of room for someone to create an open advertising marketplace for information, a marketplace where access to data can be obtained in exchange for ad inventory, for example” is important.

There’s more good stuff in his post, but I gotta get back to my other work. I didn’t even mean to write this much about it — so i’ll stop now and let you head over there if you want – but I’ve got a bit more that I’m mulling that I’ll try follow up with.

Live on Yahoo! Live



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