The Substance of Style

In my recent post on working remotely, I’m realizing that I kind of blew past something that we’ve always felt was key to making working on a series of projects for many different projects like working for Art & Logic on A&L projects, not a series of disconnected projects.

1D picture at the urging of my 14-year old daughter

One of the first things that the founders of A&L did was to sit down together and hash out a programming style guide. Over the years, that guide has evolved and grown, and it’s still the way that our developers write code. It’s easy to look at something like this as being a simple set of directives (“Use spaces not tabs! Opening braces go on a line by themselves!”), but it’s really much more than that.

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Bootstrap ALL the Things?

Bootstrap is a CSS framework that serves as a starting point for your website or web-application’s user interface styling. It has become very popular now, being the #1 trending repository on Github.com as of August 20, 2013. It is definitely a great asset, but should we be turning to it so quickly?

BOOTSTRAP ALL THE THINGS! …Bootstrap all the things?

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Word Processing in HTML

clippyI know a lot of people who hate word processors. For us web developers, we know how to optimally structure a web page and how to effectively apply cascading styles, so why can’t we ditch the word processor and simply use HTML?

With the power of HTML, CSS3, and some export libraries, we can do word processing by hand in a format much more convenient and familiar to us. We no longer have to sit there at the mercy of our word processing application, hoping that it interprets what we meant correctly and then fiddling with it until it does. (more…)

Oh, drop downs, you cheeky little things!

Image

Why is it? Form elements are fully customizable using simple CSS styling *except* <select> drop downs. Oh sure, you can tweak colors, sizes, fonts, etc. but I’m talking about overriding the native controls and really making them your own. Of course, you can use jQuery, which is an excellent solution in most cases, but sometimes introducing additional scripts can interfere with what’s going on under the hood.

I recently stumbled upon a neat concept, and after a little wrangling, I was surprised to have found a pretty simple way to override the native <select> drop down. Oh, happy day!

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My First CD Player

Shattered CD

I started college right about the time when the first CD players were coming onto the market — there weren’t many available, and they were all obscenely expensive. At the time, my dad was dong a lot of traveling to Japan for business, and he was able to bring me a really nice Yamaha CD player back from a shop in Akihabara for about 1/4th of what a similar unit would have cost me here in the US.

At that point, I only owned two CDs, and was very excited to get everything hooked up to start listening. As I was unboxing the unit, I noticed a strange blue cube at the bottom of the box with a note from my dad, explaining that this Japanese unit was built to run on Japanese 100 volt, 50 Hz AC, not America’s 120 volt, 60 Hz electricity. The blue cube converted between the two standards so that the player would run correctly. Everything hooked up quickly, I plopped one of my CDs into the player (and in the subsequent 27 years have used that CD as the first thing to be played in any device I’ve owned that will play CDs) and it served me well as I built my library.

…except that one day I walked into my room and the CD loading drawer was scratching in and out randomly and frenetically. I shut it off as quickly as I could, but that was it for the drawer. The player was useless, and one of my few discs was locked inside it — as long as I didn’t want to listen to anything else ever, I was set for life. I called a friend studying electrical engineering who said that he wasn’t surprised — for most gear, that standard adapter would be fine, but instead of nice clean alternating current it had been feeding my player grungy noisy electricity, and eventually that just killed the sensitive electronics in the thing.

I had forgotten all about that player until the other day — an email hit my desk from a developer who had been considering applying for a job until he saw our programming style guide, the document that explains to our developers the various details of how we want them to write code for us. This developer was so offended by something in there that he couldn’t just not apply, he had to make his disgust known to us. I’ve always thought that the important thing about standards isn’t even so much that they’re right (whatever that might mean in any instance), but that they are standard. I don’t care whether we drive on the right or left side of the road as long as we all agree to one or the other. I’d hope that when in the UK I could adapt to the other side of the road, and I’ve had to use other programming standards at other jobs.

I sent him a few links that explain the reasoning behind the thing that upset him and wished him luck. I don’t know–I like to think that humans are adaptable, but maybe there are people who are for some weird reason hardwired at 100 volts/50Hz.

(image by acampos)