Elsewhere: How to Handle Browser Differences on iPhone and iPad

I wrote a post for the company blog this week.

It’s about how we’ve reached a point with mobile Safari where different versions have different functionality. Is this a problem? What can we do about it?

Find out on the Macadamian blog!


You Know Better Than That

In grade six, everyone thought I was smart.

I’m not smart. Anyone who watched me struggle through university can tell you that. Smart kids get scholarships. Smart kids ace exams. Smart kids get good grades. I’m not smart.

But in grade six, I was still doing alright in school, and people still thought I was smart. Especially my teacher, Mrs. Mainwood.

Every time I would hand in an assignment, or show her my homework, or answer a question, she would compliment me on how well I did. It was nice. When I gave a speech in front of the whole class one time, she asked if I would come back next year and present it again so that future students could see how it’s done. Nice.

Finally one day, something strange happened.

Mrs. Mainwood came to my desk to talk about some written assignment I’d handed in. She pointed at a bulleted list I had written. It looked like this:

  • some sentence about the assignment
  • another sentence
  • and another

The content was fine, and the rest of the assignment was fine, but she was really upset about this bulleted list. Why?

Because it had no capitalization or punctuation.

That was it. And apparently it was very important. She was furious! She went on a rant that I’m sure the rest of the class could easily hear. I still remember the exact words that ended her tirade: “You know better than that.”

I didn’t understand what she meant at the time; I probably just apologized and fixed my mistake. (I’m an apologetically easy-going guy). But I understand now. It was a big deal.

It looked stupid.

It was an eyesore on an otherwise flawless page. And you know what? Mrs. Mainwood was right. I did know better. My list looked careless, but I cared about what I was saying. See the problem?

I’m sick of seeing tweets and Facebook posts written in all lower-case letters. Questions that don’t end with question marks. Paragraphs where every thought is laid out between mangled ellipsis instead of real sentences.

I’m not talking about imperfect grammar. English is a messy language, I get that. Plurals and spelling are often non-obvious, especially for non-native speakers, and even native speakers break the rules sometimes. We’re forgiven.

But everyone — everyone — knows that sentences start with a capital letter, and end with some sort of symbol. No fancy rules, no special cases. It’s one of the first things we learn while becoming literate.

So if you’re one of those people who’s social network feed is devoid of periods, capital letters, and apostrophes, please do better. I know you have it in you. Your lack of basic grammar is distracting from your message, and it’s driving people like me and Mrs. Mainwood crazy.

You don’t have to be smart to get this right.

You know better than that.


Back from Europe

Swiss Alps
Click for full size.

We had a great time.



Later today I shall board a plane bound for Europe.

I won’t be back for a full three weeks. But fear not! While I’m out gallivanting about, amidst fine architecture and breathtaking scenery, you will not be left without updates.

Introducing Classics Week(s)

It occurred to me that this blog has been around for a couple of years now, and not all of you were here in the beginning. You’ve probably missed some great posts!

This is unacceptable, and I’ve devised a solution:

Every Monday for the next three weeks, this blog will feature a re-run of a classic post from the early days of its existence.

I’ve selected three of my favourites and given them a quick sprucing-up. I tried to choose a matching set of posts; the goal was to reflect the general content of the blog. In any event, you’ll have something nice to read, and that’s what counts.

The only internet-capable device that will be near my person for the duration of this adventure will be the wife’s iPod Touch, so I’m not expecting to check my mail very often. I’ll also be slow at approving and replying to comments, and you won’t see much of me in my other haunts.

This does not mean you should avoid emailing me and posting interesting tweets. Quite the contrary! I look forward to conquering a content mountain upon my return. Heaping piles of hypertext and prose!

Like a little ASCII version of the alps :)

See you in mid-October!


Achievement Unlocked: Publish 109 Posts

I didn’t realize it at the time, but back in July (oops) this blog saw it’s one-hundredth post! Sadly, this milestone wasn’t marked by a thoughtful piece about the current state of Firefox or a bold prediction about Google+ — my one-hundredth post was me wishing my fellow Canadians a happy day of patronage.

Not exactly a classic, but I’ll take it :)

I still remember those first few posts I wrote back in the fall of 2009. It seems like forever ago that my friend Dave finally convinced me to start typing into WordPress instead of just Skype. It’s been quite a ride since then!

On a more serious note: Thank you. I know I don’t say it enough.

Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and thanks for linking. I really mean it. Every single one of those acts makes me smile.

And here’s to the next hundred! Already 9% of the way there!


Avdi and I Discuss Remote Working

In case you missed it on Twitter and Google+, I was interviewed recently by Avdi Grimm for the Wide Teams Podcast. Here’s a link to the interview:

In the interview, Avdi and I discuss what it’s like developing software with geographically dispersed teams, and how we make this work every day at Macadamian.

Give it a listen, and let me know what you think!


On Hiatus until June

A lot of exciting things have happened recently. Most notably, my wife and I have bought and moved into our first house. It’s a townhouse, just built, in a quaint suburb near downtown Ottawa.

We’re in love.

With all the pre-move hassles, the moving pains and the post-move responsibilities, I’ve decided to take a quick break from the wonderful world of writing words for the web.

I missed last week’s post, this is all I have today, and I’ll likely skip next week as well. However, I expect things to calm down by the end of the month, and you’ve no reason to expect anything less than a tide of thoughtful treatise come June.

In the meantime, why not tell me what you’re up to? Surely you’ve got something to share…


Meta Notes, Blogging Edition

I dislike doing meta posts, but I have a lot of news related to blogging and myself, and since this is my blog, well… Let’s get started:

I’m now blogging regularly at work.

More specifically, I contribute a post to our company blog every two weeks. I’ll mostly be writing high-level technical pieces (like the kind you would find on A List Apart) and posts about how to work better with others (something I’m surprised I know so much about). In fact, I’ve already written two such articles:

I’m experimenting with video blogging.

Speaking of my job, I’m working on a rather exciting internal project. Not just exciting in that “we’re making something awesome”, (because that’s almost always the case), but exciting in how we’re documenting it.

With this project, we wanted to try to capture the essence of our development process. So every few days I sit in front of a camera and talk at it for a few minutes, trying to maintain eye contact with the lens and hopelessly attempting to stop saying “um” all. the. time. The rest of the team is doing this as well, albeit without such ineptitude, and I suspect eventually I’ll suffer the humiliation of having my awkwardness posted online, ripe for ridicule.

This has actually been surprisingly fun, and I might start a video-blog segment here someday. You know, like the glorious day when I finally upgrade my iPhone 3G after my slavery-like contract with the devil my wireless carrier ends — in July.

I’ve been thinking about writing a series of posts about blogging.

It’s not hard to find blogging advice online, but it generally comes from people that really know what they’re doing. I’ve always thought it might be interesting to see some moron with hardly any real experience try to explain the meagre lessons he’s learned from posting words online. Less authoritative, but no less valuable (hopefully).

Essentially, my struggles are more fresh and I have plenty of mistakes to share, so that should make for some interesting stories, right?

Please let me know if this is something you might want to read.

Finally, Dave is posting again!

Part of the reason I started blogging was so that Dave would stop nagging me about how I “should totally start a blog”. At the time, he had a blog and actually updated it. Then his post rate slowed to a crawl and I started to nag him about blogging, and apparently this is a really great strategy for encouraging people to write because he has a new post up and I think there are more to come!

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me through the entire post; I’m pretty psyched about all the things I have going on right now. Maybe you can share some of your own fun projects that you’re excited about in the comments?

Oh, and happy Friday!

Uncategorized Web Technology

Just Browsing

I’m kind of picky about my browsers.

Alright, that might be an understatement…

I’m a browser whore.

I use three different browsers every day at work, and several others at home. Two of them are beta versions. Even though I use Firefox at home and at work, I have completely different addons for each install. And I use different browsers on my iPhone and my iPad.

I’ve probably used about two dozen unique browsers in my life to date.

That’s not even the worst of it.

I’m also a browserphile.

I’ve memorized the market share of all major browsers, just because I hear the numbers so often. I’ve been following the progress of the HTML5 spec for about six years. I’ve installed (and used) nightlies.

I can tell you exactly which CSS attributes and selectors are supported by every version of Internet Explorer since IE4.

How did I get like this?

I blame my condition on a few factors.

First and foremost, I was a Mac user for much of my learning-about-computers days. This was long before Safari was an A-list browser. You just got to know about the Shiiras and the Caminos. The features varied so wildly that it really encouraged experimentation. That part just stuck with me.

Then there’s the internet/computer synonymy. I don’t really remember what computers were like before the internet, because I was in grade school when the web started to take off. To me, a browser has always been an essential part of a computer.

Finally, I do a lot of web development. Knowing what each major browser can handle is practically a job requirement for me, and if I have to have them all installed for testing anyway, I’m going to find things I like that are unique to each one.

Here’s what I use at work.

My primary browser is Firefox. I need this for Firebug, and a handful of other useful web-development extensions (Fireshot, Tamper Data, Window Resizer, and FireQuery, which is actually an extension for Firebug). I’m also a huge fan of app tabs, because Chrome got me enthralled with that feature, and I’ve experimented with some tab-bar modifications here and there, but not found a working combination that I like just yet.

The half-dozen pages I keep open all the time are app-tabbed, and other than that Firefox is used for relatively-persistent browsing; stuff I’ll want to keep open for a little while.

Chrome is my secondary browser, and I use it for more instantaneous needs — like when I can’t remember jquery syntax, or looking up spelling, or when I need to grab a url for an obligatory xkcd reference. This is because Chrome is extremely fast, especially compared to Firefox with 18 tabs open, half of which are running AJAX in the background. Chrome fires up instantly, I punch in whatever query I have, and moments later I have my result and close the window.

I also use Internet Explorer at work, because our archaic timesheet software only renders properly in IE (I know, right?). Right now I’m running the IE9 beta, so that I have an excuse to play with SVG in all its GPU-accelerated glory.

At home is a different story.

I’m actually pretty good about sticking to one browser on my desktop machine. It’s been Firefox for quite a while now, ever since the novelty of Chrome wore off, and I’m currently running the latest FF4 beta release. Unfortunately, that disables most of my plugins, but with built-in app tab support I’m not too broken up about it. Also, when I experiment with Opera/Flock/anything else, this is the machine I use.

In the mobile world, I’m still using Safari for iPhone. I find that with the screen being so small, there’s not much room for fancy features, and they’re all webkit anyway so there’s little reason to stray from the default.

My iPad is a different story, though. One of the first apps I downloaded was Life, a browser with some neat multi-tab features. It’s non-free ($3), but I like it quite a bit. Besides, how many people do you know that have actually paid for a browser?

Why am I telling you all this?

Honestly? I don’t have an answer. Some days you just feel like writing about what you love, and you’re not going to let the fact that it’s a total rant that doesn’t really go anywhere stop you.

Am I the only self-confessed browser-nut out there? Or are you passionate about something completely different?

I’m here to listen, too.


Loose Ends

Fitting that on the last day of 2010, I have a few loose ends to wrap up.

There were publicly-set goals that expire today, and ideas and targets that are currently in limbo. So let’s address all that:

One Post Per Week

A few days shy of a year ago, I decided to start posting on a regular, weekly schedule. There was a big announcement, and then off I went, not knowing if I would be able to stick to it or not.

To date, this was probably the best decision I’ve made for this blog.

Forcing myself to post every Monday has made me a much better blogger. Having a weekly opportunity to try something new or hone my writing skills has been fun, and I’m going to keep doing it. For the curious, here’s how my posting schedule looked in 2010:

  • There were 52 Mondays in 2010.
  • I successfully posted a “real” post on 44 of those Mondays (not bad, but not great).
  • The only time I missed more than one consecutive week was when I missed three back in August/September (yuck).
  • Overall, I posted 61 times this year (slightly more than expected).

The Karma Experiment

This idea, which I posted about last month, was something I was really excited to try. Unfortunately, it never got off the ground.

December was a busy month for me, and I was starting to burn out a little (not a lot, and I’m getting better). It turns out that being pressed for time and lacking energy really aren’t optimal circumstances for writing heartfelt messages to fellow bloggers. In the end, I didn’t send a single message (though I wrote and discarded more than I care to count).

I really liked the idea (I still do), and I really wanted to do it well, but that wasn’t possible this month, and I didn’t want to half-ass it. Going forward, I’m going to put this on hold for a bit and get back to it when I’m capable of doing it right. So if you were holding your breath waiting to see how this turned out, start inhaling again and I’ll get back to you in a few months, k?

OCRI Updates

The original plan was to post these every two weeks. That sort of fell through when the schedule shifted a bit from what was originally planned, but I’m still one solid post behind. I’ll get that up soon, and after that the updates will be more sporadic (but I’ll try to keep them on Fridays).

Going Forward

I’m still going to post every Monday. I’m still going to use Fridays for smaller posts or additional content, and probably still the rare Wednesday when necessary. I’m still going to experiment. I’m still going to set goals and then try to hit them, and I’m still going to fail every now and then. In short, I’m still going to learn.

I have plenty of fun ideas in store for 2011, so thanks for joining me in 2010 and I’ll see you in the new year!