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5 Lessons in Blog Advertising

June 18, 2008

Ah, to advertise or not advertise, that is the question.

Snook posted about his “SideBar Ads” from the gang at SideBar Creative the other day, and it reminded me of the different things I tried here on my blog. Over time I’ve had two different iterations of ad support:

  1. simply running Google Ads; it worked reasonably well
  2. text links; ultimately I removed them and got out of the text link game.

I may or may not go back to it, but I thought I’d put a few ideas out there as to why I got out.

Lack of Automation

Lesson learned: ensure that all payments to you are done through some type of automation — even a simple recurring PayPal payment would sort this out.

The problem I had with automation was very simple: the group that had placed text link ads on this site wasn’t fully automated. While their side of things was in terms of placing the ads on the site, they weren’t automated in terms of payment. For a stretch, I went 6 months without receiving a payment.

At that point, I had to simply ask “what’s the point?”

Ease of Integration

Lesson learned: just like any project, get the requirements from the client first, have them look at a prototype to see if it meets their needs and revise your ad integration code.

Placing the code on the site was easy as pie.

The first time.

After that, there were several emails where requirements seemed to change: “Can you please add this bit of code here?” or “We need you to add an image before your code and it has to be something like this.”

Yes, I’m being kind of vague, but my impression of what happened is that they put something out there and then were responding to requests from their advertising clients in order to make them happy. And by doing so, they were actually making me unhappy.


Lesson learned: do everything you can to provide just one point of contact for site owners so that we are not left wondering who to contact.

Over the course of running the text ads, I had contact with at least four different people and it was very unclear to me which person I should be contacting at any given time.

Account manager? I honestly can’t tell you. Should I contact their tech person or someone else if I have integration problems? What about payment issues? account manager or the accountant?

It was completely unclear to me and it contributed to my overall dissatisfaction with the entire experiment.


Lesson learned: If the ads aren’t of value or relevance to your audience, there isn’t much point.

Ultimately there was no value in it for me as I wasn’t getting paid. That aside, what really concerned me was that there was zero value in it for the readers of this site. Zero.

I like what Snook and others have done – the ads that they run are relevant to the industry, not simply text ads that appear to be there for page rank purposes.

If you can provide relevance, then you can provide a good reason for the ads to be there. If you can’t, in my opinion, it isn’t worth it. Even simple Google ads are great at attempting to deliver on the promise of relevance.


Lesson learned: if it looks like spam (even if it isn’t) it is still spam in the eyes of readers. If you’re going with Text Link ads, make sure it doesn’t look like your site has been hacked — you need to integrate it into the site so that it looks and smells like and ad. It needs to be obvious!

James Craig said to me “Dude, your site has been hacked – there are all kinds of spam links in the footer.”

That sealed the deal for me. I needed to get out of this advertising gig for now.

My page rank had dropped quite a bit, though I can’t say for certain it was because of the text link ads, I wasn’t getting paid due to the lack of automation, and ultimately I questioned the value of the ads for anyone reading the blog.

Interestingly, I received an email from the text link company saying they could help me get my page rank back. Their solution? Send a message off to Google explaining things and resubmit the site using Google’s Webmaster Tools. In their “instructions” on how to go about doing this, they mentioned that several of the sites that they had in their ad network had similar Page Rank problems! Here’s another excerpt that made me cringe:

Please note that this form is usually used for webmasters that may have been involved in “black hat” SEO techniques and have “spammed” the engines to some degree and been blacklisted. Although that is not the case with your site, you still use this form to resubmit your site to get your page rank back.

Ah, right.

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Refresh Ottawa Kickoff

January 5, 2008
Refresh Ottawa

Last year, just before SXSW, Jonathan Snook and I announced the formation of Refresh Ottawa. We (read: Jonathan) knocked out a quick site: Refresh Ottawa. We collected email addresses from interested parties.

And now, some 10 months later, we are holding our first get-together. A great way to start the New Year—we’ll be kicking off with a free event downstairs at the Clock Tower on Bank next Thursday, January 10th, 2008 from 7-9pm.

At each Refresh Ottawa event, we’ll have one or two presentations followed by networking/social time. On Thursday we’ll have Derek Featherstone (me) present “Accessible mapping with Google Maps” and Jonathan Snook will present on JavaScript Frameworks. Each session will be about a half hour leaving plenty of time to chat and get to know each other.

The social hour will be sponsored by Web Directions North, one of the world’s top conferences for web geeks. (Full disclosure: I am part of the organizing team for Web Directions North and both Jonathan Snook and I will be speaking at WDN in Vancouver later this month)

We’ve added the event to upcoming: Inaugural Refresh Ottawa event. Please RSVP there if you’re attending so we can plan for numbers – we need to let the Clock Tower know how many people to expect.

Refresh Ottawa is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavors in the Ottawa region. Promoting design, technology, usability, and standards, Refresh Ottawa is a part of Refresh and the associated Refreshing Cities.

3 Responses

Comment by Matt Robin — Jan 05 2008 @ 2:35 pm

Sounds great!

The only downside for me is that I’m a bit of a long way from Ottawa… ;)

Hope it goes well.

Comment by Gareth — Jan 05 2008 @ 3:16 pm

Congrats on getting your meetups up and running.

As it happens Refresh Newcastle are meeting up that evening too ( That makes 37 groups

I’ve also put together a map of all the other Refresh events

Comment by Doug — Jan 08 2008 @ 9:06 am

Wish I could be there. I would love to know more about accessible mapping with Google Maps. Maybe you could post an overview afterward?

Web Standards Job in Ottawa

October 31, 2007

This may seem a little odd, but within the last 15 minutes, we’ve seen search hits (thanks to Shaun Inman’s mint) both here on the blog and on the company site for someone looking for a web standards job in Ottawa.

This is a good thing, and this post might be too late. Then again, maybe it won’t… Sooooo:

If you are looking for a web standards based job in Ottawa, please go over to the company site and contact us today with your resume, salary expectations, and a portfolio. You may be just what we’re looking for, and we might be a perfect match for you.

What are you waiting for?

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Doing it with (user) style

October 21, 2007

I’ve long since been fascinated with changing the style of a site to fit with my needs. Early experimentation with the Web Developer Toolbar lead to me writing Print it your way for A List Apart back in May of 2004.

The capacity to restyle and customize sites to match our personal use is a fundamental part of what we do on the web. My friend and colleague John Allsopp wrote about it back in April of 2000 when he wrote the visionary A Dao of Web Design, also on A List Apart. We have the ability to adapt pages and restyle all or parts of them for our own use, beyond what the author may have intended. This is the web.

WCAG 1.0 Resources

I need the WCAG checklist and guidelines as a reference when I’m testing or writing a report. When pointing out areas of concern to a client, I generally reference the specific checkpoints in question so that their developers and designers can go back to the guidelines to see what needs attention. My work isn’t driven by the checklist, but the checklist is definitely a tool that I still use.

The problem? The way the guidelines and checkpoints are laid out, doesn’t really match the way that I work. I need a quick reference – mostly because I don’t have the exact numbers of all the checkpoints memorized.

With that in mind, I created some user styles for both the WCAG Guidelines and the WCAG Checklist to make them easier to read at-a-glance, I made the numbers for the checkpoints bigger, added in some line-height and removed anything else I thought got “in the way” of me being able to reference them quickly and efficiently.


WCAG 1.0 Guidelines: Before with default styling

WCAG 1.0 Guidelines: After with user styles

I’ve posted them at which makes use of the Stylish extenstion for FireFox—allowing you to manage your user styles on a per site basis.

It would be silly to suggest that these will meet your precise needs, but adding these styles certainly made the checkpoints and guidelines easier for me to read and use.

Feel free to give them a try and let me know how they work out for you. I’m also interested in knowing how other people use the guidelines and checklists. Are there other styles that would be useful for other use case scenarios for the guidelines and checklists?


Just to be clear – once you install the user styles, you need to go to the web pages in question to see them in action. Namely the WCAG Guidelines and the WCAG Checklist. If you don’t go to those sites, you won’t see any effect at all.

4 Responses

Comment by Ben Buchanan — Oct 22 2007 @ 9:17 am

You can also apply user stylesheets per site using Opera. Just save the CSS file somewhere appropriate; then go to the site in question, right-click and select “edit site preferences”, go to the “display” tab and choose the CSS file in “my stylesheet”. Done!

No extensions required :)

Comment by feather — Oct 22 2007 @ 9:25 am

Ben – sure, that works too :)

Sadly, Opera hasn’t worked on my MacBookPro in ages. Every time I try to start it up, it hangs the machine. I actually took the Opera challenge a while ago and made it my default browser and I quite liked it. Then one day, poof! It wouldn’t start and I haven’t been back since. Which is too bad, because—as you know—I’m a huge fan of Opera because they get so many things right when it comes to accessibility.

Comment by Mike Cherim — Oct 23 2007 @ 8:13 am

Your modification of the WCAG styling is excellent Derek. Much clearer.

Comment by Richard Morton — Oct 31 2007 @ 2:31 pm

Looks good, I haven’t experimented with this sort of thing yet, but I can see it being very useful for those sites that I regularly visit and think, if only the colours were different or that text was in a better font.

It could start a craze along the lines of the Zen Garden but producing different styles for existing sites (just don’t tell the marketing teams at those big brands though)

Web Directions North, 2nd edition

October 16, 2007

One evening in 2006 during a group iChat, Dave Shea, Maxine Sherrin, John Allsopp and I threw caution to the wind and decided that we were all on board. We were going to bring the stand-out web conference from Australia—Web Directions—across the Pacific Ocean to Vancouver.

Here we are close to a year and a half later, and we’re excited to announce that we’re doing it again. Following on the success of Web Directions North from February 2007, we’ve just launched:

web directions north: Vancouver, BC, Canada; Jan 28 - Feb 2, 2008

We’re really happy with the line up of speakers and the entire week’s schedule – it is going to be an amazing conference and we hope you’re as excited as we are.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead over to the site, check out the WDN 08 schedule overview and the stellar lineup of speakers. We’d love to see you there!

2 Responses

Comment by Jonathan E — Oct 16 2007 @ 8:13 pm

Looks like an incredible event Derek, I absolutely hope I can make it again this year!

Comment by Ruth Ellison — Oct 22 2007 @ 8:33 am

As a big supporter of Web Directions, I would love to get over to Web Directions North! Not sure whether I can do it in 2008 though. Perhaps 2009!

An Event Apart, Deep Dish Edition

September 12, 2007

It is hard to believe that it has already been a week two weeks since An Event Apart in Chicago. I had never been to Chicago prior to AEA (assuming you don’t count layovers in O’Hare as actually being in Chicago), so I have to admit I was incredibly excited to be on my first trip to the mid-west. I have but two regrets:

  • not having enough time to explore the city a bit more, and
  • not being able to eat more than one and a half slices of the Giordano’s deep-dish pizza we ordered on closing night

I gave a new talk: Accessibility: Lost in Translation that combined some new material with some of my favourite old classics. The premise is this: as developers, we tend to see a mockup, a polished design or a wireframe and then translate that into code. And—if we’re not careful—during that translation process, we lose some of the nuances and detail that actually make the interface meaningful, effective and pleasant to use. What that in mind, we examined a number of common design “patterns” and scenarios to learn what we can do to provide a better user experience for people with disabilities. After all, accessibility is part of user experience, and much more than just ticking off checkboxes to be accessible, right?

It was an absolute honour to be part of the speaking line up, and I’m thankful that it was a single-track conference so that I wasn’t speaking at the same time as one of the others! It also meant that I was able to see a lot of the other presentations and do a bit of learning myself. I love it when that happens! Thanks to Jeffrey and Eric for inviting me to speak—it truly was a pleasure.

A hearty thanks to the audience. It was extraordinary to chat with so many of you after my presentation, during lunches and breaks. One of the things I savour about speaking at conferences is the chance to talk to people about the kinds of problems they are trying to solve in their everyday work. It is reality, and that’s something from which we all benefit.

3 Responses

Comment by Jonathan E — Sep 12 2007 @ 10:29 am

Wish I could’ve been there Derek, I’d love to visit Chicago sometime! Glad you had a great time though and it sounds like your talk went very well (from everything I’ve read).

Comment by John F Croston III — Sep 12 2007 @ 2:51 pm


It was great hearing you speak. I learned a lot during your presentation and even more during the group discussions at the bar or while waiting forty minute for the Giordano’s deep-dish pizza after ordering.


jfc iii

Comment by Jeff Allen — Sep 30 2007 @ 9:51 pm

It was really great finally getting to see you speak after reading you for so long. You’re talk at AEA in in Chicago was just awesome and definitely for me at least, inspiring. Some of the things you showed made me green with envy and left me wishing I could have worked with you on a number of those projects. Especially the crossword example. It was cool!

As one of the main proponents for accessibility where I work on a university campus, I often feel my failure to inspire more of my colleagues to embrace web standards and accessibility to be very disheartening to say the least. Everyone tells me “its too much work for too little benefit”, “I’ve been doing it my way for 20 years, why change now?” etc… But hearing you speak about some of the problems you had to solve helped me pick my waning spirits up and give it another go. I’m not sure they’ll ever listen, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop telling them.

Thanks for a really inspiring presentation.


August 14, 2007

It has been quite some time since my last post (Swimming, Biking and Running Scared), but thought it appropriate to give a quick update on how the IronMan went.

The bottom line? We did it! We even created an entire site dedicated to the trek: ironfeathers: swim. bike. run., the new home for all of our thoughts about IronMan, triathlons, training etc. Hope to see you over there!

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Swimming, Biking and Running Scared

May 6, 2007
Me, signing up for IronMan 2007

I’m scared.

If you know me, then you probably know that I signed up for IronMan 2007, Lake Placid, NY to take place July 22. If you don’t know me, or didn’t know that, now you do.

IronMan triathlons are endurance events that require every athlete to challenge themselves to complete the following:

  1. Swim 3.8km (2.6 miles)
  2. Cycle 180km (112 miles)
  3. Run 42.2km (26.2 miles)

Continue reading Swimming, Biking and Running Scared

36 Responses

Comment by Jared M. Spool — May 06 2007 @ 3:40 pm

A triathlon is a bold move. I have complete respect for you even attempting it.

I think it rocks. Go for it and keep us updated!


Comment by Kathryn Featherstone — May 06 2007 @ 3:41 pm

today while doing my run – in the first hour of course because my legs started to ache in the second half – i came to the realization that we are going to do this – and we will do it well – we are going to do our second half marathon in a couple of weeks – which most people never even accomplish in life – and this has just become one of our weekends of training – i am amazed at the human body and how it learns to adapt over time – i am thrilled that i have been able to get my fitness level even to this level so far – and i must admit, the only reason I can is because you keep pushing me Derek Featherstone – with encouragement and belief – and I believe in you too – we will finish – it might not be pretty – be we are two of the most stubborn, competitive and fitness loving people I know – it will be done

Comment by Lisa H — May 06 2007 @ 3:42 pm

What an amazing thing to do!

I watched the Sydney Olympics on TV one night and decided I was going to Greece to compete at the next one. So I picked a sport I thought I could learn within that time: Archery.

I actually had 4 lessons. I think that’s the most sport I did that year. It was exhilarating.

Ok so there was no chance I was ever going to get to Greece with four lessons, but I can see you guys are really going to make it across the line.

How brilliant. I might even go for a walk this morning :)


Comment by feather — May 06 2007 @ 3:42 pm

Crap. My wife just made me cry…

Comment by Bryan — May 06 2007 @ 3:44 pm

This is quite an undertaking, but you’re a very strong individual, one of the strongest I know. I can’t even imagine the amount of mental preparation needed for this type event, let alone the obvious physical commitment needed. But I truly believe that after everything is said and done, even if you don’t reach the goal you’re after, you’ll still come out better for having done it. This is a life chagning experience, and it’ll be moreso once you take part in it.

Jen and I will be cheering you on from here in the Bay Area. :)

Comment by Kathryn Featherstone — May 06 2007 @ 3:51 pm

the other thing that I am finding interesting during the course of this training is how much I appreciate the peacefulness of the “quiet time” I am getting on the swims, runs, and the bikes – Being a fitness instructor I am constantly listening to my music for the classes I teach (Derek can attest to that) and I am really concerned about how bored I am going to be swimming for over an hour in silence, and biking for 6 plus hours and the running – my biggest worry is that I am going to have one song stuck in my head and have it repeating over and over again for the entire day – However I find when I am swimming great distances I am focused on my stroke and trying to always improve it – it makes time fly – and today on my run after the second hour, I decided to turn off my music and run in silence – 30 minutes of silence – it was amazing where my thoughts drifted – I felt very peaceful when I returned home – sore and tired but in a great spirit – maybe silence isn’t so bad after all

Comment by Sarah — May 06 2007 @ 3:56 pm

Hey Derek and Kathryn,
I’ve been following Derek’s ridiculously early starts for training (via Twitter) and wondering what the big event is. I won’t be able to make it to the venue to support you, but I’ll be thinking of you both, and I’ll cheer you on from over here.

You know you had my respect anyway, but I’m truly in awe of your efforts in training as much as you do, especially with the schedules you both keep.

Good luck to both of you, both in the training and the event itself. How fantastic you have each other for motivation and support! :o)

Comment by Mike Stickel — May 06 2007 @ 4:09 pm

Dude, I’ve got a crazy amount of respect for you and your wife right now. You say your wife made you cry with her words but I’m sure just the thought of doing half of what you both are going to accomplish would make a lot more people cry.

Keep up the good work Featherstones, you’re doing something few people I know could.

Comment by Jeff Smith — May 06 2007 @ 4:40 pm

Krista and I both have a huge amount of respect for your (both of you) decision to enter the IronMan. It’s inspired both of us (mostly me) to get back to mountain biking and get back into shape again after a long winter.

You’ve both got our support, and if there are extra things that I can be helping out with business-wise – you know where to find me. :)

Comment by stuart — May 06 2007 @ 4:51 pm

Such an amazing think to even consider doing, you must be a little bit crazy! I have masses of respect for you Derek, I can’t imagine the amount of hard work you’re putting into this, and you’ll probably never have a better feeling than when you cross that finishing line.

Best of luck with it, and do keep us posted with your progress!

Comment by Scott Fegette — May 06 2007 @ 4:52 pm

Derek, you not only have my support, but admiration as well. The determination to keep with training on this level alongside a busy work and family life is hard to sustain (something I’m painfully aware of at this point in my own life), but you seem to juggle it all with ease. If it ever gets difficult, just know that you’ve got legions of friends rooting you on from the sidelines worldwide. I’m proud to be one of ’em.

(hopping on the bike to get some miles in ASAP while the inspiration’s still warm, in fact.)

Comment by Andrea — May 06 2007 @ 5:08 pm

You both have my support, and I know you’ll make it. :)

My advice would be to not worry, and enjoy the training. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how well you do in one event– it matters how well you do over the long haul.

Comment by Stephanie — May 06 2007 @ 7:01 pm

Hey Featherstones — you’re gonna do great! By just entering you’ve done something… by training as much as you possibly can with a busy life, you’ve done more… by starting the race, you’ve accomplished much. Even if you crawl over the finish line, you’ve done more than most of us. Kudos to you!

And anyway, having seen you both in Feb, it’s quite apparent that the training is agreeing with both of you… you guys rock! :)

Comment by Ruth Ellison — May 06 2007 @ 7:17 pm

Good luck to the both of you. A triathlon is an amazing event, and you both have my respect and well wishes. With the amount of training you guys are putting in, and with your determination, you WILL make it!

Good luck from Oz!

Comment by Jonathan Snook — May 06 2007 @ 7:33 pm

You guys will do it. You both seem extremely determined and I can only imagine the pride you’ll feel by the end of the day (as I’m sure you feel at various points through your training). Your kids are no doubt extremely proud of you as well and I think both of you are setting a fine example for them. The level of maturity, training and dedication required is an inspiration to everybody. Keep at it!

Comment by Nick Cowie — May 06 2007 @ 7:40 pm

I think you are both crazy to start with an ironman triathlon, when a regular triathlon would seriously challenge almost all of us. Then again you could be sneaking regular triathlons into your training regime with out letting us know ;-)

That said I have huge admiration and respect for you both and wish you all the best in your chosen endeavour.

Kathryn, I try to ride to work once a week (84km round trip) and have tried it with music. However I find it best is silence, the trip in is my best thinking time and solve numerous problems just riding. The trip home at the end of the day, I end up concentrating on my pedalling and you are right, time seems to fly by.

Comment by Chris Hamilton — May 06 2007 @ 7:59 pm

I’m pulling for you and Kathryn.

For the past two months since you first talked to me about the triathlon you’ve been an inspiration to my own fitness, which has helped me clear my head and begin to recover from a long disrespectfully ended relationship.

No matter how the race goes you guys are kicking ass! Hang in there and keep training one day at a time.

Comment by Gary Barber — May 06 2007 @ 8:19 pm

Derek. I’m sitting here, stunned. I know you have a backbreaking schedule normally and from somewhere you are making the super-human effort to get all this training done as well!

To say that I’m in awe is an understatement. Derek you and Kathryn both have my deepest admiration.

Derek this is a mountain, you’re climbing, it not for the destination but the journey, I know you can do it. Focus on the smaller tasks, you will get to the end goal, I know you will.

I’ll be cheering you on from the other side of the world. Go Derek!

Comment by Ben Buchanan — May 06 2007 @ 8:19 pm

Derek my friend, you’re talking to lazy bastards like me who can barely get outside once a week for a walk. I am impressed beyond belief!

…of course I do think you’re nuts, but that’s because I’d die trying to run 4kms, let alone 42km :) Remember to give yourself credit where it’s due. You’ll be fine!

Comment by matthijs — May 07 2007 @ 2:23 am

Good luck. If you only started training last november, it’s an amazing feat. And you’d be very lucky with a body capable of coping with the training load. Most people would have been injured badly after a couple of months. Don’t know what your previous training background is?

Only advice I would give: keep it up, but stay realistic as well. If you are not doing very, very long training sessions now (cycling+running) with relatively ease, be careful. Doing a full triathlon in the heat (July NY), can be dangerous. If you’d push it too far you can seriously injure or even kill yourself. It’s not worth that.

Comment by Richard Rutter — May 07 2007 @ 4:47 am

Derek – it was good to go with you on a training run during SxSW. It was one of hundreds, I’m sure, but if it helped just a tiny bit, I’ll be well happy.

Triathlons are a challenging concept at the best of times, but IronMan is just monstrous. But the very fact you’re scared about it and worried you’re not doing enough training, is enough to convince me you’re going to do it. Combine that with the support you and Kathryn are giving each other and you’re sorted!

Comment by Garrett Dimon — May 07 2007 @ 7:15 am

Consider me impressed. I don’t have even a quarter of those commitments, and I find it incredibly difficult just to find time for basketball, let alone all of the other aspects of getting in shape.

I’m hoping to ease into a more intense and frequent workout regimen myself, and I’d love to hear updates of how ya’ll are doing. It’s posts like this that make me realize just how little I actually do, and just might get me motivated to “keep up with the Featherstones”.

Comment by Lori — May 07 2007 @ 9:35 am

I’ve always found the concept of triathalons appealing, and I love watching the Hawaiian IronMan on TV, but I’m not sure I’d have the commitment to do all the training y’all are doing. I tell myself my life is too busy, but really I’m just too lazy. Although my spouse and I both work full-time, I don’t run my own business, and I have two fewer kids than you do. I’m thinking that maybe a trip to cheer you on would be just the thing to inspire me to train for such an event myself! Whether I make it or no, I know you will. You’re amazing!

Comment by Scott — May 07 2007 @ 2:11 pm

As others here have said, just finding the time in a busy day to exercise at all can be a challenge. I can’t fathom trying to train for an Iron Man competition while juggling work and kids and the fact that you both are doing it is amazing and inspiring.

Always remember why you are doing it in the first place and make it fun for yourselves. In the end, whether you win or lose, it won’t diminish the incredible achievement you will have made to even get that far (and to get as far as you already have)!

Comment by Paul Hagon — May 07 2007 @ 6:12 pm

The hard part is nearly over, race day is easy compared to the training. You are much better off feeling that you haven’t done enough, than being burned out, training too much & juggling everything else that goes on in your life. If you want to do it, you’ll do it regardless of how much training you’ve done. Go out there on race day with 1000 other friends have a blast & enjoy the day (it goes quickly). Remember – if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Comment by Stephanie — May 07 2007 @ 9:46 pm

That’s incredible. I wish you both good luck and no injuries!

Comment by Robert Wellock — May 08 2007 @ 7:14 am

You’ll have to bury the computer in the garden or something so the temptation is not there to be reading this instead of training.

Good Luck.

Comment by Jesse C. — May 08 2007 @ 7:55 am

Well, your work has always inspired me, but this takes it to another level.
Here is my encouragement: go well, and enjoy each and every minute. It is so great to see an entire family so completely involved.

My gratitude (for inspiring me to reinvigorate my own life) is immense…

Comment by Duncan Rawlinson — May 08 2007 @ 10:32 am

Kathryn and Derek,

You have my full support as well. When you told me about your experience watching your brother at his triathlon it totally solidified my decision to run the half marathon myself! Now that I’ve done that I’m going to do a full marathon and maybe one day a triathlon as well! So thanks for the extra inspiration and best of luck!

I hope to see you in Vancouver sometime.

Comment by Donna Maurer — May 10 2007 @ 7:17 am

Here’s how I’m going to send encouragement your way…Whenever someone comments on how amazing I am and how much I do – I’m just gonna say “It’s nothing – you should see what Derek & Kathryn are doing”

Far out – you are amazing!

Comment by Jennifer — May 11 2007 @ 7:57 pm

I wish you the best of luck… I live here in Lake Placid down on Main St. and get to see bits and pieces of this amazing challenge every year. I’m not athletic at all so I do the cheering thing. I make miniature teddy bears and this year will be making them into Ironbears! You’ll have a local cheering you on!
Good Luck on the 22nd!

Comment by Nate Koechley — May 15 2007 @ 12:38 pm

Wow, just imagine the feeling of pride and relief and excitement and glorious well-earned weariness when you wake up Monday, July 23rd*.

I’d love to know that feeling.

Hear, hear!

(*you cleared your calendar that Monday, right?)

Comment by Jeff Davies — May 17 2007 @ 6:42 am

Derek, while I was only able to spend a brief amount of time with you when you presented at Web Essentials 05, you told me your goals were to:
1. do more public speaking/conferences,
2. contribute more to Industry publications,
3. achieve a lifestyle where you can spend more time with the family and
4. complete in at least 2 triathlons a year.

The first 2 were simply enablers for you to achieve the 2nd 2 goals (the more important ones). By the looks of it, you are well on track. No need to wish you luck because people with your determination do not rely on luck. I look forward to seeing the photos of you and Kathryn crossing the finish line, being greeted by family and Friends.

Comment by Jenny — May 24 2007 @ 12:03 pm

just found your website while taking a lunch break at work.
dont be scared, i am right there with you. I am a full time female md, married to another md (heart surgeon) we have two boys, 10 and 11.

i am training for placid also, agree, this is really difficult but we should hang in there, it is really a great goal.

wishing you and your wife the best of luck!

Comment by Belinda — Jun 23 2007 @ 7:55 pm

Derek, I remember you speaking with such enthusiasm about running and triathlons last year at Web Directions, so it’s completely inspiring to know you are both still training hard and focussed on race day.
Truely amazing… Best wishes to you both!

Comment by Kevin Rutherford — Jun 26 2007 @ 6:06 pm

Derek –

I actually just connected to you again through facebook (through Switz). I was intrigued by your ‘status’ that you just finished training in Lake Placid for some ridiculous length of a bike ride. It’s been a long long time since chatted, but I sure have a ton of respect for you. It’s interesting, I did a 1/2 marathon a couple of years ago in Chicago as I too was inspired by watching someone else. Since then, I have competed in several extreme adventure races … but none are even close to being an Ironman. You are your wife are so inspirational that you have me rev’d up to compete a goal that I have been waivering on for the last couple of months. That goal is to compete in the Xterra Triathlon Series (an Olympic length triathlon but off-road), specifically a race in Michigan in the fall. I will follow through and do it … thanks for the kick in the butt.

I will keep following your training and I wish you and your wife the best of luck on July 22nd. Actually you won’t need luck, you will both be well prepared. Mark me down for an Ironman next year.

Game on …

SXSW: The impact of music

April 1, 2007
The Mother Truckers Logo: The long-horn salute with a cowboy hat perched on the index finger

Two of my favourite moments of SXSW this year both involved music.

The first was a night that started out and ended fairly innocently, but involved a great non-6th Street event. I was very excited to see some of my Australian friends again (Lachlan, Lisa, Lisa, Cam, and Anson—who would later be mistaken for James Craig—and his girlfriend Irena), and somehow they convinced me that we should go see The Mother Truckers at The Continental Club. Sure, some whatever band. Yeah, yeah. Just go hang out with my friends really.
Continue reading SXSW: The impact of music

18 Responses

Comment by Gary Barber — Apr 01 2007 @ 11:56 pm

When I first read of this panel, I thought. But what’s new about that!

You know I have been listening to music a mood influencer for over a decade now. And just considered it not that unusual, I thought everyone did it (to some degree). As I where a designer and coder hate I listen to different music to enhance the mood for different things.

With anything that has words in it, reports, correspondence etc I use mellow instrumental for classics, low funky jazz to slow chillin trance. No lyrics, they too distract me. African (and any that matter) Chants work well for general marketing activities.

Coding, this is intense, high energy, brain very active, high energy trance, later classical music, the thumping stuff (sorry can’t recall what its called), anything with a high energy beat basically. Again No lyrics, they distract and alter the focus.

Design and general front end coding (not Javascript). Anything with lyrics, I want to capture the images and the imagination. To the point that I just can’t create with out some type of music. For me music is not an option of the creative process.

Now if I hit a wall or a bug and major problem, I have discover that changing the music immediately to something calming allows me to focus on the task at hand.

Comment by Lachlan Hardy — Apr 02 2007 @ 12:24 am

That was a great night and a great concert! I still remember you sitting behind me in the cab asking, “where *are* we going?” as we headed away from downtown and over the bridge

Lisa H and I had seen them the night before and we just wanted to share the love with everybody!

For me, music is such a fundamental part of my life, that I have real issues without it. I’m not in any way a muso, I’ve spent my life trying (and failing) at various instruments, but I must have music present

Creativity flows for me from the music I listen to, and I use it to control my mood and tempo of production. My Pandora stations give a pretty good indication of my uses

When I need to crank out a project or some tasks, I turn up the Angry Young Men to amp the adrenalin, but normally I’m more into the Melancholy Cowboys for an emotional connection to my work. When I’m just kicking it, having a great day and rolling along with whatever, then I’m all about the Old Skool OGs

I listen to music from many other sources for other different things, but I think those are the ones I associate with work the most. Not with specific tasks, per se, but with the way I need to relate to that work emotionally

Comment by pauldwaite — Apr 02 2007 @ 2:19 am

Aphex Twin for coding. Jazz for coding when stressed.

Comment by Matthew Pennell — Apr 02 2007 @ 4:10 am

I tend to go for anything fast and loud when coding, although that can cover hard dance through to thrash metal.

Music tends to put me off if I’m trying to understand something I’m reading (or write something coherent) – with a classical music education, I pay too much attention to music for it to be entirely background noise.

Comment by feather — Apr 02 2007 @ 8:13 am

I agree – music is a big mood influencer, and always has been for me. I’m really interested in seeing what else people listen to. Anyone listen to mashups, for example, when they are getting creative? when they are coding a mashup?

I suspect each person is influenced by music in a different way but wonder if any patterns will emerge?

I was actually quite shocked when listening to Thom Yorke resulted in a really productive morning.

Comment by Jonathan Snook — Apr 02 2007 @ 8:21 am

When it comes to coding, drum’n’bass does it for me although I need something a smidge slower to get into the rhythm. If I had the time, I’d compile a coding session mix that started and stopped with the right pace. Most raves have this type of timing where they speed up and slow down at various points.

Comment by Anton — Apr 02 2007 @ 9:46 am

Although Massive Attack was mentioned during the panel as a group that I like (proving that I do have exceptions to my comment, since they do have lyrics), I thought it worth listing a few of the other creative groups I listen to:
Blue Stone
Goldfrapp (you might recognize the song Strict Machine from the LG Chocolate phone commercials, if they played outside the US)

Thanks for coming to the panel, Derek!

Comment by ralph — Apr 02 2007 @ 11:09 am

When I really have to focus on meaning, I have to avoid music. Even instrumental music impinges on my consciousness. But when I’m coding, often something loud and fast like Husker Du or Mission of Burma where I know the words by heart anyway and so don’t have to concentrate on them does wonders (I think once I listen to music that much and know it that well, I hear the words with a different, less intrusive part of my brain). Design tends to work better with a slightly mellower soundtrack, sometimes modern classical like Steve Reich or John Adams, or sometimes techno type music, something with a pulse. Surf music is another possibility. I also find music in languages I don’t understand to be helpful. That could be a very wide range, from German pop/rock like Wir sind Helden to Ukrainian thrash-folk like Haydamaky, Finnish folk like Värttina, or Congolese dance music by Franco or Tabu Ley Rochereau.

Comment by Nathanael — Apr 02 2007 @ 6:48 pm

As a general rule I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when I’m writing English (as opposed to Code) documents that require thinking – it just distracts me.

However Massive Attack is fairly light on in the lyrics department so that’s usually ok. Electronica is usually best suited for this – maybe some drum n bass if it’s not too intense.

As for coding – anything goes. Any lyrics are in English (well usually) and I’m coding in ASP, PHP, HTML, JS … whatever, so they don’t clash in my head.

Also have to take into consideration tendencies to break out into a massive air bass guitar solo or drum fill which besides taking you away from keyboard can also distract any co-workers. But it’s good for a bit of an adrenalin hit :-)

Comment by Nathanael — Apr 02 2007 @ 6:52 pm

Most of the stuff that makes it onto my Recently Played (which I started last week) is what I listen to at work. Some in the car on way to or from, but mostly at work. At home I usually listen to CDs so don’t get … scrobbled:

Faithless, Muse, Tool, Paul Mac (our one, not the UK DJ), De La Soul, Beautiful Girls, Lemon Jelly, Moloko, Groove Armada …

Comment by Ben Buchanan — Apr 02 2007 @ 10:58 pm

Well I’m already on record saying that punk rock and coffee make code work better ;)

I find I like loud/hard/stompy music for serious coding; slower stuff for bashing out emails/doco; and for high-end writing I might have to have quiet/silence. When I was a copywriter I found I needed a quiet environment… I’ve never been sure just how big a factor that was in my decision to follow the code path ;)

Friends consider my taste to be ecclectic… I like a bit of just about everything. I really like industrial and trance, though.

I do use music as a mood influence… hard stuff to get motivated, chilled to de-stress and so on. Random playlist when I’ve no real idea…. ;)

One thing I’ve got to say though… all workplaces should have a strict headphones rule. The *worst* thing is being subjected to someone else’s music, or worse still commercial radio with blathering adverts. Even if your coworkers share the same taste in music you may not be in the same mood.

Comment by Lori — Apr 03 2007 @ 3:16 pm

I agree with others who’ve said that when they’re writing words/English, music is a distraction. (Exception: It doesn’t usually bother me when I’m blogging.) I turn off my iPod when I’m trying to come up with presentation slides or writing a Wiki page for a new feature.

When I’m coding, however, music can totally fuel me. I created a CD back in 2001 called “Moody” that I’ve been tweaking ever since (easier to do now that I have iTunes; I’m now on Moody V) and discovered right away that I could code to it for hours. It started as a mix of Radiohead, Moby, and Bob Mould, and it now includes tracks from Soul Coughing, Portishead, Zero 7, and Madonna as well, among others. The only limit to how many times I could listen to it on loop was imposed by my headphones, which eventually made my ears ache. Now that I work remotely and have no cubicle-mates to annoy, I can listen without headphones — but there’s still the interruption of phone meetings…

Comment by feather — Apr 03 2007 @ 7:17 pm

Wow, thanks, everyone. There are some great recommendations in there. Yes, I officially feel out of touch with what is happening in the music world, despite my ever-growing collection of music.

I’m pretty keen on Massive Attack from the clips I listened to on, so definitely thanks for that one…

Comment by Gavin Jacobi — Apr 04 2007 @ 2:39 am

I have found that there is a real difference in mood between headphones and loudspeakers. I can play Front Line Assembly (electronic/industrial, the heavier end of what I listen to) while coding — but only if I use headphones. If I play it through loudspeakers it is very distracting.

If anyone hasn’t discovered inner-ear headphones they are a godsend! They take a while to get used to but once you do you won’t go back. Also good for plane flights, bus trips, etc. The better brands (Etymotic, Sure, etc) are dearer but give much better fidelity.

Comment by pixeldiva — Apr 04 2007 @ 7:43 am

I actually find that I have difficulty working if I can’t listen to music, and when working, I prefer listening via headphones (big, comfy, over the ear ones – maybe it’s become a comfort thing, I don’t know).

Usually when I’m coding it has to be loud and fast, and I usually head in the direction of heavy metal for my fix. Three of my last four major redesigns were born while listening to (for reasons entirely passing understanding) Linkin Park (first album followed by second album, then repeat). There are lyrics there, but I don’t usually find lyrics a problem when it’s this kind of music. Somehow, the sound as a whole takes over and acts as a kind of filter for the outside world. It’s not the first time that I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve been sitting working for six or more hours straight without realising the time is passing (or being annoyed at hearing the same thing over and over).

If I’m at work, sometimes, the only thing that gets me through the day is loud angry music – especially if I’m on a deadline. My go to for that is usually Ministry’s album Rantology.

Then again, a while back I asked for music recommendations from twitterers and had Armin van Buuren’s 76 on heavy rotation.

Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a folk kick and today belongs to a bonkers band called Bellowhead and their album Burlesque, which is kind of folky but kind of not and well, it just makes me want to dance.

Comment by The Mother Truckers — Apr 05 2007 @ 7:44 am

Thanks for the kind words and we are glad you enjoyed the show!

Hope to see you in Austin again or somewhere else down the road.


Comment by dw — Apr 05 2007 @ 11:02 am

I like to listen to KEXP while I work (full disclosure: I’m a regular financial contributor), but I have trouble listening to the station while I’m in a big code/design project. It’s not that the music or lyrics themselves are distracting, it’s that I will hear a song and think “Who is this band and where I can get more,” and it’s off looking for that, which may spring to mind something else that I look up in Wikipedia, which means I’ll look at ten articles there, which will eventually get me back to my Amazon wishlist and hey, look at that book for sale on my wishlist… and then it’s 20 minutes later.

IOW, I can’t listen to music that new to me and distracts me into looking for more like it while I’m trying to find the groove.

In fact, I sometimes find it easier to listen to stuff that I’m really neutral about when I code. That is, music that I don’t especially love but at the same time can stand to listen to for long stretches. Ambient, for instance. Or that sort of Euro-dance stuff on Radio 1. Classical usually works best for me, though.

This last project I listened to classical music mainly, with some bluegrass mixed in. I also listened to Dustin O’Halloran, but I’ve been fighting a depression of late, and he’s probably not the right sort of solo piano guy to listen to while depressed.

All that said, I generally avoid country (by that I mean alt-country) for code/design for precisely the reason Anton gave — it’s a lyric-driven genre. Uncle Tupelo is the lone exception. March 16-20, 1992 got me through my first dotcom job back in the day.

Comment by GRAHAM — Apr 20 2007 @ 7:19 am

derek, as you well know, i don’t code, so that thrusts me most definately under the “creative” category. i HAVE to listen to music of some sort when creating things. whatever it is. i’m with anton in the view about elctronic music. i listen to loads of stuff, but i find fairly fast monotonous techno type stuff works well for me. its upbeat, and rarely has words, and can sort of settle in a part of my head that not only allows “the flow”, but sort of helps move it along i think. uhh, ya, so that’s my 2 cents worth. oh and for what its worth dj mixes on, and aren’t a bad place to start. GT

WCAG 2: A Done Deal

April 1, 2007

At last. I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever see an end to this, but it looks like WCAG 2.0 has finally been sorted out.

This is a great move forward for web accessibility—for the web as a whole—one which will leave a permanent mark. Finally getting WCAG 2.0 sorted out was my goal when I joined the W3C, and now that it has been accomplished, I’m happy to say to all those out there that thought it couldn’t be done: We did it!.

Olivier (Oli) Farlop

5 Responses

Comment by Jeff Davies — Mar 31 2007 @ 8:51 pm

Had to check the date – thought it was an April fools joke :)

Comment by Gary Barber — Apr 01 2007 @ 6:09 am

Derek, Nice, very nice… just enough to make people prick their ears up.. :)

Comment by Zach Hale — Apr 01 2007 @ 4:37 pm

Ha! Finally. :)

Comment by Patrick — Apr 02 2007 @ 1:18 pm

Ha! Nicely done.

Comment by WTL — Apr 04 2007 @ 12:03 pm

Okay, that was just funny.

What will be even funnier is if this ranks higher on Google when the new standards are actually released. ;-)