An Essential Firefox Extension For Apache Junkies

Posted by Will Bond on December 22, 2005.

LiveHTTPHeader Firefox Extension If you've worked with Apache much at all, you have probably used some Redirect commands, or even mod_rewrite. Every once in a while these nasty inifinite loops occur or you just get the wrong content from the server. LiveHTTPHeaders is the Firefox developer tool for exactly these situations.

To the right is a screen shot of the extension in action after requesting http://www.google.com. As you can see, it displays all of the http headers including cookies. The extension is easily activated by pressing Alt-L (on Windows, not sure on OSX) and can even save headers to disk.

For everyone upgrading from Firefox 1.0.7 to Firefox 1.5, make sure you get the new version, 0.11. You can download it from the LiveHTTPHeaders site, or from http://ftp.rz.tu-bs.de/. I wasn't able to get the version on the official site to work, so I grabbed it from the ftp server. Enjoy!

Thoughts on Project Planning

Posted by Dave Tufts on December 14, 2005. Tagged: strategy

A battle was never won according to plan and a battle was never won without a plan. —Napoleon

In 1999, a New Zealand Habitat for Humanity chapter built a house, from scratch, in 3 hours and 26 minutes, after spending 14 months planning the project. 0.03% of their time was spent in execution, 99.97% of their time, planning.

Chris Hardwick also had a plan when he solved a Rubik's Cube blindfolded in 18.50 seconds. He spent 99.8% of his time planning his solution by staring at, and memorizing, the cube for 1 hour and 54 minutes. The remaining 0.2% of his time was spent executing the plan.

Do yourself a favor, spend just a little more time planning your next project.

RSS and IE7

Posted by Fred LeBlanc on December 14, 2005.

I was just browsing around and saw some very, very good news. Microsoft was looking for an icon to use for their Web browser to indicate that a site has RSS feeds available. They came up with a bunch of their own, posted in their blog about it, asking what the people thought. The result? People said liked the icon Firefox already used. It is at this point that things could go only one of two ways: 1: Microsoft does their usual; forging their own path, ignoring everyone else, creating their own symbol 2: Work with people and set up a standard Oddly enough, this time they went with option two. As they wrote here, they met up with the Mozilla folk and have decided to use the icon Firefox is already using. Simply awesome. Standardizing is something that seems like it should be common sense, but has never come easily. There are so many proprietary formats and tangents away from standards that it makes developing more and more challenging. While this has less effect on the actual coding here, it's great to see cooperation among those guiding the way. So kudos to both Microsoft and Mozilla for improving the user-experience. Stuff like this actually gets me looking forward to IE7, rather than dreading what my Websites might look like under the new rendering (and the thought of learning more hacks to make things look right).

We (Finally) Have Signage

Posted by Nils Menten on December 8, 2005.

iMarc's Sign
It's been over five years since our move to downtown Newburyport. Over this time we've watched local artists capture Inn Street in every way they know how: paintings, photographs, quick sketches, even the occasional video shoot.

(A couple examples: Newburyport Downtown, Massroads.com)

We've always been missing from these paintings, at least until now.

The next time you're strolling down Inn Street, look up and you'll find a slick new 4' by 2' black and green sign that says:

iMarc
Interactive Media Architects
http://imarc.net

Annual Holiday Party

Posted by Nils Menten on December 8, 2005.

iMarc's 6th annual holiday party is just around the corner...

When: Thursday, December 8th @ 6pm
Where: iMarc's Newburyport office (directions)
Who: The iMarc team will be there. We hope that lots of our clients and friends come too.
RSVP: Send an email to rsvp@imarc.net if you're coming

This year's theme is Wine City (Wine and Sin City) - more info... Like last year, we'll have wine tasting, good music, and food.

Postcard Invitations



See you there!

Unintended Consequences

Posted by Robert Mohns on December 7, 2005.

The "Law of Unintended Consequences" states that when you change a system, there will be resulting changes that you could not predict, and did not intend. When I was in high school, our guidance counselors told us that many of us would someday have jobs that didn't even exist yet. (I, of course, didn't believe them.) Over a decade later, we have interactive designers, web developers, and information architects, all developing strategy and content for a kind of business that didn't even exist in 1990.

Here's another one: commercial color printing.

In the early 90's, there were some really interesting developments in 4-color printing that basically allowed a print shop to bypass the traditional plate setup work. At the time, those in the industry thought this would mean that local print shops would take on more small but full color print jobs.

What really happened? Super-short run printing met the internet, and boom! CafePress.com.

Nobody saw it coming. Even the famed Bill Gates has been incredibly, amazingly wrong. In his early 90's book "The Road Ahead", he made a lot of bold predictions about the future directions of computing, yet he was completely blind-sided by the Internet. Who would have expected a largely academic and government network managed by a non-profit entity to change the world?

This morning, Fred received a shipment of a dozen or so gorgeous full color 2006 calendars featuring his photography. Photos were uploaded to CafePress.com around 12:30am in the morning on Monday; calendars were printed a few hours later; these colorful holiday gifts were put on a truck and delivered to Fred less than two days later. Unintended consequences are cool.

Hybrid7: An Art Project

Posted by Fred LeBlanc on December 5, 2005.

In an attempt to convey our different views, a couple of us iMarcians have started an art project which for now we're calling Hybrid7. (Mainly because we're squatting on one of Craig's domains.) http://www.hybrid7.com This project is an attempt to explore who we are, what we see and how we interact with the everyday things around us. The premise is simple: weekly, the three of us (Craig, Christian and I) will each find two items around Newburyport as subjects. These can be places, items, people, anything, and each of our jobs for the week is to shoot a picture of each item. Every Friday, we'll post our results side-by-side and we'll see how the results turn out. We've been trying not to see what one another is taking to purify the outcome, but even in the first issue you'll see that a couple of the pictures even came out similar. And that's perfectly fine. It's the way we see things. Over time we hope to develop quite a catalog of pictures. The objects and deadlines help to spur creativity forward even through times when it may not be obviously present. Not only are we exploring how we see things but we're also making the uninteresting interesting. You get three views items that one may normally never even consider in their daily travels. We're making the things you may walk by everyday stand out and impress. Or so we hope to accomplish. The project is young, but the first issue is up and we're ready to churn forward. Check it out.

iMarc Grows by Two

Posted by Nils Menten on December 1, 2005.

Blog imageiMarc welcomes Robert Mohns and Christian Keyes. Robert Mohns will be working with the sales and business development team, assisting with strategy and technical aspects of project planning. His official title is Information Architect. Robert has been working on various web projects since 1995, and has a vast knowledge on almost anything Internet-related. In his spare time, Robert is a contributing author at MacInTouch.com. Christian Keyes will be working with iMarc's graphic design team. Since graduating from New England Institute of Art and Communication in 2003, Christian has worked on numerous web projects as a freelance designer and multimedia producer. Along with Christian's design skills, he brings a strong understanding of Flash programming.

Photoshop Complaint

Posted by Fred LeBlanc on November 21, 2005.

I won't lie, I don't know much about Photoshop. I've recently installed version 9.0 (or CS2 if you're into letters) and among other gripes I have about how things work now, hex color values are in lowercase. I've never used lowercase hex values, and I don't think I ever plan to (until the W3C requires them to be valid, which they will do just to spite me). Is there anyway to change this back to uppercase? #7d1e1c is ugly, and converting them all to caps later on is just wasting time.

Whitehat vs. Blackhat

Posted by Will Bond on November 18, 2005.

This week's A List Apart has a really interesting article about accessibility and search engine optimization. To sum it up, whitehat search engine optimization is more effective than blackhat search engine optimization. What exactly is the difference between whitehat and blackhat and why should you care?

Whitehat SEO is optimization of a site by making it simple, well written, accessible, and all around user friendly. Blackhat SEO refers to the approach of using SEO "tricks", such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, and landing pages. More often than not blackhat SEO ends up making your site harder for your real users to use. Whitehat SEO, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with usability and well implemented web sites. Whitehat SEO isn't really SEO at all, but it results in better search engine placement. Whitehat is really visitor optimization (VO).

Here at iMarc we recently revamped our website with a focus on making it easier to use and more concise. Not only is the content better, but we designed it using common sense principles. We used relevant title tags and accurate h1, h2 and h3 tags. Our html is xhtml 1.0 valid for cross-browser consistency and accessibility. We also started using more descriptive page and directory names. All of our news articles and communiqués have the headline in the url and title. There are lots of other little tweaks we did, but you get the gist of it.

But what point am I getting to? Try searching Google for any one of our team members. That's right, every team member comes back in the first six results for their name, and all but one are in the top three. Dave has a couple of personal sites that are very popular (including http://dave.imarc.net) and push his iMarc Team page down a little in the results. Oh well, I guess Google actually does return more relevant results first...

Between this and the spike we have seen in web site traffic since our launch, I think it is fairly safe to say that whitehat SEO is the best way to go. Not only do you get good search engine rankings, but you deliver what visitors are looking for. From what I hear that helps turn visitors into customers.