March 12th, 2008

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CSS Tutorial?

So sometime in the next week or two, I'm going to be done with the functionality of alpha 0.1 of CommYou -- still nowhere near functionally complete, but enough that you can start to see what's going on. One of the next steps after that is to clean up the UI. And for that, I need to really get my head around CSS.

I'm at the point where I know the basics fairly well, but I'm sure that I'm missing many details, and I'm sure I don't grok all the subtleties of the box model and other layout issues. I'm looking for something at the level of an advanced tutorial for the experienced web programmer, or a well-written reference document that is better-organized and less minutiae-obsessed than the standard itself. Anybody have any useful pointers? I know that I'm far from the only person trying to get into CSS2 in-depth these days, but sorting the wheat from the chaff is always a task...
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The darker stories

*Sigh*. I just occurred to me that the CommYou story list didn't yet have "As a sysadmin, I can ban specific users." I can probably put that off while I'm in alpha, but by the time I get to an open beta I'm going to have to have all of those abuse-management tools in place. Sucketh most mightily -- I always prefer to believe the best in people -- but it's a certainty that I'm going to need efficient ways to boot spammers and other abusers out of the system.

(The design is fairly spam-resistant by nature, but since Facebook has some open groups, spam is certainly possible. Indeed, this reminds me that I need to add the stories for automated abuser-detection -- for instance, if someone is getting a high percentage of "ignore this user" requests in public groups, that's a red flag.)

I'll bet that there are a whole bunch of abuse-centric stories that I haven't thought of yet, which will become apparent once the system grows beyond a friendly initial few thousand users. I'll need to allocate some time to shove those stories in and deal with them fast as people think up abuse vectors. Not my favorite part of the project, but necessary if I really intend to have a million users.

Hmm. I bet I should create a CommYouCrackers group upfront, while it's still in alpha: a closed group of folks who are actively encouraged to mess with the system and come up with ways to break it *before* the blackhats do. Does that sound like something you'd be interested in playing with? I have enough devious clever friends that we really ought to be able to beat this thing into submission before the bad guys find the back doors...
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Happy happy browser benchmarks

For those who, like me, generally have a few dozen browser tabs open at a time, and spend much time annoyed at how huge and slow the browser process gradually gets, hope may be in sight. Check out these delightful benchmarks of the current Firefox beta. Summary: this sucker is *fast* -- five times faster than Firefox 2 on a Javascript-heavy page, almost ten times faster than IE7. Also, they've apparently clamped down hard on the memory leaks that browsers are prone to, which should greatly ease the tendency of the browser to slowly... grind... to a... crawl. And it's apparently the most standards-compliant browser so far, to boot.

It's yet another browser that I'm going to need to support for CommYou, of course, so it's a slightly mixed blessing -- standards compliance is lovely, but not a panacea when I still have to support those other pieces of crap Internet Explorer. But the speed improvement should be a real boon for heavy Web users.

(Caveat for the non-techies: keep in mind that this is just improvements in rendering and running speed. If you've got a slow connection, it can't help you. But some pages will likely show up a lot faster.)

Since the browser is so crucial to my work, I'm waiting until release before I actually install it on my main computer. But I'm waiting eagerly...
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R.I.P. Dave Stevens

Passing word on: this post by Peter David announced that comic book writer/artist Dave Stevens has passed away. This may be significant to some of my non-comic-reading friends because Stevens was the man largely responsible for bringing Bettie Page back as a modern cheesecake icon -- Stevens based much of his (really lovely) art on her, and as a result made her moderately famous once again...
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How to get the door slammed in your face

Dear door-to-door salesman,

If you had led off with, "I'm with Verizon, and was wondering if you'd be willing to consider our FiOS service," I probably would have declined for now but done so politely and taken your literature. We haven't ruled the possibility out, so this was a fine opportunity for you.

But when you instead start with "I'm doing a survey of Verizon customers, and wanted to check how you like your fiber-optic line", and then claim to be shocked -- *shocked* -- that I have Comcast service when Verizon is so much better, and *surely* I should upgrade, you don't deserve politeness. I don't like liars when they waste my time on the phone, and even less in person. Even being charitable in my assumptions, you're *both* doing a survey and selling the service -- but you're still using the survey as a sales tactic that I find unsavory. And trying to keep up the canned hard-sell after I say "no" goes from "loses" to "loses big". Buh-bye...
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Oh, look -- another bubble

[My, I seem talkative today. I can only assume that this is a reaction to feeling like I haven't posted much lately, combined with trying to get my mind off the frustration of bending SQL to my will. Anyway...]

So the slowly-growing news on the money front is that gold is fashionable again. The price is up to fairly silly levels -- around $1000/ounce. Why? Well, everyone is panicking about other places to put their money, and gold always has a certain cachet. And hey -- the price is going up! Why is the price going up? Because everyone is buying gold! Surely that means that it's a great way to make a good return on your money, right? After all, everyone else is doing it!

Basically, this logic is akin to, "Choose Rock. Rock *always* wins." It's another bubble, inflated by the popping of the previous one. For the time being, some people with good timing are going to make a lot of money; in the long run, many people are going to take a bath on it when fundamentals reassert themselves. Caveat emptor...