Am I Color Blind? Tuesday, Feb 27 2007 

Ok, am I the only one who found Tufte to be less than helpful? I thought the book was neat and the stories were great, the Challenger one most of all because I remember that but was way too young to really comprehend what was happening, being 8 I think. And I did like ch 6 especially on the use of multiples. But honestly, the thing I found most helpful of all was his discussion in ch 3 about practical advice for giving a talk or a paper! And that was only tangentially related to his overall topic of visual explanations.

Maybe it was his presentation that I found a little off and if it was, I guess that would be a perfect thing to talk about given that it relates so nicely with both what he was trying to explain and what we are currently trying to accomplish in Clio II. It, simply put, seemed too cluttered! And that is fairly ironic since, in Ch 4, he discusses ways to reduce clutter and make visuals clear and effective. And I think he failed in doing that himself! Whoa, did I just blow your minds??

To boil it down, I guess my problem is this: it seemed as if the things Tufte was trying to impart to me were important but I felt like I was, at times, reading a children’s book. On the other hand, Williams’ book IS a children’s book (using “children” here as a variable for an inexperienced and overwhelmed novice) and I seemed to get much more from it. I don’t know, I could definitely be crazy since most folks seemed to love Tufte…

These are my comments on other folks’ blogs for this week:

Doing digital history cheaply Tuesday, Feb 13 2007 

Carrie Bickner’s book Web Design on a Shoestring was great. If there is anything most of us in Clio II will be doing, when and if we do a digital history project, is designing on a budget. And that budget may be significant but it is more likely, especially if it is a solo project, that it will be fairly skimpy. So, what are we to do? Well, Bickner has several suggestions. And, as displayed by my refusal to buy Dreamweaver (both because I am poor AND more importantly because I do not see myself doing any digital project until I am out of grad school, and you know by then it will be on Dreamweaver 12!!) and work with the not-so-user-friendly nVu/Kompozer, I am all about the low budget. Luckily, I have finally gotten the hang of all the little quirks as you can tell by my decent but VERY SIMPLE portfolio and css page. The one thing I would have liked is for Bickner to have created a 5th character – maybe a lowly grad student who has a budget of $0 or close to it. That would have been awesome!

The only other topic I will touch briefly is the issue of designing one’s webpage for multiple browsers. I would comment on the The Polyglot Manifesto but it seems many people have already done so and I figure I will comment on their sites as opposed to writing any further on it here. As for designing with IE, Mozilla and other browsers both old and new in mind, I was shocked to see what my site looked like on IE! The heading was the main problem and no matter what I tried I couldn’t seem to fix it easily. And it seems one of my problems (I am sure there are many) is my use of pixels, for the most part, instead of percentages or ems. The reading on css-discuss addresses this and honestly, I had not even thought to try my page on IE until then. I guess that tells you how much of a digital guy I am and also how much I have grown to love Mozilla and thus, detest IE. Back to my problem: I like pixels, I know what a pixel is. I really don’t have any idea what an em is and, while I know what a percentage is, what is this a percentage of?? But it seems like a significant issue, especially since I think a majority (right?) of web users till use IE as their browser. Hmmm, not good…

And here are my comments on other folks’ blogs for the week:

The lost art of Footnoting Monday, Feb 5 2007 

I loved the NYT book review by Gertrude Himmelfarb. First the title is great: “Where Have All the Footnotes Gone?” Second of all, I just love the subject matter because I too hate endnotes and absolutely adore footnotes. I especially love those long 1/2-pagers that give you so much extra content and places to go to continue your studying if desired. The beauty is, you can look down from your page without having to annoyingly turn to the back of the book, and see what the author has to say further than he/she says in the piece. If it’s useful, you can read the whole thing and jot down some interesting notes for future reading.

So, the question becomes: is this possible and how does one do this easily on the Web? Piggin.net addresses this problem in its “macro-typography of footnotes” section. Although they suggest interleaving the notes inside the text, I see pop-ups as the best for us as historians (and the CSS seems relatively easy…famous last words?) with side notes as the second best. If it were easier to interleave the notes after paragraphs, that may work but apparently that is difficult. And anything labeled difficult by these folks, I tend to believe them! But both pop-ups and side notes can be “separate” from the document yet close enough as to not interrupt the reader’s flow too much. They will also allow for those wonderful and lengthy footnotes that can link to other sources that could then be pulled up in another browser or tab. That seems like money to me…