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January 26, 2004

Egoboo. As Teresa mentions here, she’s a finalist in three categories of the “Koufax Awards,” a poll of the readers and writers of liberal-ish weblogs. She’s been nominated in the categories of Best Writing; Best Post, for The Fabric of the City; and Best Series, for her posts on the ongoing Iraqi-antiquies story: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Voting is pretty informal; go to the January archive page of Mary Beth Williams’ and Dwight Meredith’s weblog Wampum and search on “Koufax Awards”, where the finalists in each category are listed in a series of posts and you can cast your vote in the comments section—or email your votes to them at koufax@abenaki.wabanaki.net.

Electrolite is also up for Best Design, which is gratifying. Electrolite and all its little templates and cascading style sheets thank you. [12:21 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Egoboo.:

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:33 PM:

FWIW, I like your page's design as well. It's very clean and professional. (Not exactly surprising, of course.) I've also appreciated the occasional post on your site update struggles, and have learned a few things about weblog technical details in the process.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:40 PM:

I've always liked your design. Everything's clear, uncluttered, and without distracting java apps or frills. So you've my vote!

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:57 PM:

Won't get my vote for design for the web.

I most emphatically think the design entirely too print oriented - magazine masthead style - where it would be just fine.

For my own use I have to fiddle not only with font but with leading (best accomplished by substituting style sheets I think, open to suggestions) given that I need large type and yet run a high resolution nominal 22" monitor at high pixel count. That is simply substituting font alone gives an unreadable page of overlying characters. That is I have to tear the page down and rebuild it to read it comfortably.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:42 PM:

I'm afraid I can't parse the sentence "I most emphatically think the design entirely too print oriented--magazine masthead style--where it would be just fine," but that's what makes horse racing.

Like most "design" on the Web, Electrolite's is a compromise between what I like to look at, what I want to guide people's eyes to (for instance, recent comments), and what I can practically maintain--heavily modified by the limitations of what I know how to do. One of these days I'll wade into the issue of how best to specify point sizes and leading for maximum convenience to every single browser, monitor, platform, and special need on the planet. Until then, life will be Imperfect. (And then there's those darn milk cartons that won't open right!)

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:51 PM:

Congratulations--and well earned, considering the heavy duties you already have as editors.

Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:11 PM:


Thank you for summarizing what I like about this design. It's very text-focused. Having come to the web, somewhat reluctantly, from entirely text-based media, I'm comfortable here. It's not terribly surprising, really, to see Nielsen Haydens celebrating text...

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:26 PM:

Nominations (and awards) completely deserved --

I would say that one advantage you have, Patrick, is a varied community of readers and commenters that are politely (well, sort of) assertive about what they want. You then do the smart but rare thing and listen to them without surrendering your own point of view. A good recent example is the issue of full text on the rss feeds -- having separate full text and synopsis feeds is a great answer from our point of view, as long as it does not reduce the frequency of your posts.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:45 PM:

I was amazed to see how many votes Kos was getting. I find that site cluttered and confusing and way way way to visually busy. It was hard choosing between Elecrolite and Crooked Timber though.


Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:33 PM:


- designed at a level of detail that violates the principles commonly espoused during my own particular personal golden age of the web when the use of SGML derived HTML tags would in principle allow me as reader to take the site's choice of tag and format into my own preferred document style rather than to view the layout and font and face as determined by the site - that is e.g. a strong tag might be purple for me and pink for the next person by the viewer not the designer's choice.

This conflicts with a view of the medium as part of the message and so the layout and relative size should be under the artist's control rather than the technician's.

I refer to this as print oriented because I've seen especially advertising/PR types who would do a literal paste-up and then say make the web page look like that - mostly in practice they didn't know what they were asking (on all browsers and all monitors) and would settle for seeing as per hard copy sample on their own monitor

(often ignoring the fact that on their own monitor a Coca-cola red came out deep purple and such - people who know Pantone in their head and can shop for fabric/thread without a color sample but don't know why looking for the Trinitron style wires tells something about attainable color balances on a monitor) then scream as their own monitor aged or was swapped out. Folks who couldn't work with a web designer to earn the Bobby ribbon back when that mattered.(for my money the access implied in the Bobby ribbon and alt tags and such ought to be rewarded more and other things less).

To my eye the local style here is somewhat reminiscent of Dan Bricklin's personal site influence and looks masthead influenced as well (common influence) with good entry into the site; conveys a good deal of information with adequate density. That is the splash page tells us a lot about the site and allows a good deal of site use without further clickthroughs - don't have to start with a sitemap to find things and so forth.

I have known only one great artist of the web - Deborah Carlen -(also SF community see Locus for a fanzine index entry) who grew up (literally) with a print shop familiarity with type and then worked the Compuserve PageMaker forum when that was a big deal - who could put together a page I didn't want to change.

This page as noted I want to increase the type size because I run a larger than usual monitor at small pixel size - I once subscribed to the notion that the page might prescribe relative sizes and I should be permitted to choose the standard to which they are relative. Gave that up in practice but it's still some backroom ideal. Don't sweat it and don't take it personally - I'd wager very few of your readers have a 21 and 22 inch bottle side by side on the desk.

Nevertheless it violates some notion of freeform web that I once valued.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:37 PM:

Oh, I get all that, and I value it too. I certainly agree that web layout isn't the same as print layout; ideally, everything should be specified in relative terms, and the user should have the option of configuring matters to their comfort as much as possible.

It's really more a matter of learning how to do it all. Everything I know how to do is self-taught, and subject to time limitations. Sometime when I have the time (or need a good day of Therapeutic Dinking Around), I'll try implementing an alternate style sheet or two, the way the pros do.

Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 04:16 PM:

Clark, your preferences are legit, but it's hard to see how they're offended by Patrick's design. Yes, he's a bit overfond of generic structural tags with class-based styling (that is, using [span class='title'] where an [h2] tag would be more appropriate), but it's still very user-stylable -- certainly moreso than HTML ever was in practice back in the "golden age".

A richly styled, highly laid-out site isn't incompatible with flexible markup and solid structure.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:15 PM:

Take it as praising with faint damns or damning with faint praise - I will cheerfully say first rate, better than most, top 2% if you will but not first or prize winning.

Show me an easy way to consistently change only the display font sizes in IE6 without having to change just a little more.

Compare with Virginia Postrel and others who implement font size as a one click choice - in a sense taking more site control to offer more user control - easy to argue philosophy and practical effect all day.

Rewrite all the jokes to rank the urge to tinker with somebody elese's copy just behind the urge to tinker with their code - and certainly an opportunity for party tricks there; can even use net meeting or project it on the party wall.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:53 PM:

Using Mozilla Firebird on an XP box, I can crank the type sizes to billboard size. Using IE6, no way, josé. IE6 is not, last I heard, noticably standards-compliant. You may have better luck using a Gecko-based browser if you have accessibility concerns.

FWIW, Electrolite looks just fine in Firebird. And IE6. And Safari. And (OSX) Firebird. Also (OSX) Camino. I'd check it in Opera, but I detest Opera. Anyway, I think that's a pretty good track record.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 06:56 PM:

Understand, I can do it - for my money IE is standards compliant in the sense of standards are great everybody should have one - that is IE is its own standard and certainly the world's most popular browser.

I don't mean to damn the site but I do mean to agree everything on nielsenhayden.com looks just fine across the board and also there are specific problems for very very popular browsers.

The fact that some browsers have better control and even that almost anything is a browser does not yet redeem the site for purposes of prizes. I can also open the site in an editor and view source in one screen and as displayed in a second screen. I don't mean it's a big issue I do mean it misses a best of class award on that issue alone.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 10:47 PM:

I am so very sorry humans don't have longer lifespans. I want to hear Redd Boggs arguing about the fine points of website design. He's a ghostly presence here as it is.

I started setting type in the mid-'70s, and I've done my best to keep up with technology since, then, but I learned my basic principles from the masters: You have to use slipsheets to pull yourself out of the torrent of overinking, because without clarity and readability, what's the point? On the other side, the offset railway will exhaust your energy and break your budget long before you get anywhere. (Eric Gill on mimeography. What did you think it was?)

I think Patrick's designs are swell. I'd better. I don't think I've won an argument about typography in twenty years.

David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:31 AM:

Congrats to you both on the nominations.

I'm not going to go vote myself; Making Light r0xx0rz my \/\/0r7d and Electrolite isn't so dusty either, but they're pretty much the only blogs I read regularly and I feel that I ought to be familiar with the whole field before I vote.

Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 11:25 AM:

I miss Redd. I once wrote an elegy in FAPA on the imminent death of my dwindling No. 2 pencil, and he wrote me a very nice letter just to single it out for comment. I had set myself to attempt something memorable about a little triviality; I think only he may have picked up on that, and I treasured the response.

You already had my vote, anyway.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 11:13 PM:

Wow, David, now I feel all guilty for going and just shamelessly voting for Teresa and Patrick in their respective categories, just because I think they deserve it. I hardly read anything else, either, but what I've seen isn't so great.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 10:35 PM:

I wonder if Clark's problem with IE6 is due to the use of hard-coded pixel leading; if IE6 is sufficiently badly written, it may be scaling the text but not the line-height. Safari deals nicely, though.

Clark: could you try saving off a page and a copy of the style sheet, change the page to refer to your local copy of the CSS, and change the CSS to use percentages for line-height?

That might work, and if it does, you might be able to talk Patrick into changing the style sheet.