U.S.News & World Report Needs To Bet On The Web

Disclaimer: I worked as a developer at U.S.News & World Report from 2006 – 2009.

News broke late on Friday that U.S.News & World Report was ending the monthly print version of it’s magazine. The focus going forward will be “a predominantly digital publishing model” according to editor Brian Kelly. The leaked  e-mail mentioned shifting their focus to emerging platforms, specifically tablet computers.

“…these latest moves will accelerate our ability to grow our online businesses and position ourselves to take advantage of the emerging platforms for distributing information such as the iPad and Android tablets.”

I’m generally a fan of this position but I really hope USNews executes their strategy the right way. When it comes to mobile platforms, their are two options: web apps and native apps. When most people think of apps on phones and tablets they are thinking about native apps. Apple’s App Store and the Android Marketplace distribute and sell native apps; apps which need to be built specifically for each platform and need to be downloaded and installed. Web apps, on the other hand, are open to anything running a web browser.

Mobile web apps are what USNews should be focused on. Chances are they don’t have anyone in-house with knowledge of building native apps, so that task would have to be outsourced at an additional cost. Meanwhile the stable of talented in-house web developers could start work on building a platform-independent experience as soon as possible. In the meantime they should read this online book, Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: Making App Store Apps Without Objective-C or Cocoa.

But development talent aside, building on top of the open web is flexible. Updates can be pushed out nearly instantly without the need to go through a gatekeeper or approval process. As new platforms emerge, you’re brand is covered so long as it can connect to the web. Much of the functionality of native apps can be accomplished in non-desktop browsers like those found on phones and tablets. See check.in, iphone.netvibes.com, and even Apple’s own webapps catalog for examples of apps built on the web. For content publishers, native apps present far more problems than they appear to solve.

But what about money? Perhaps the biggest allure of native apps is the fact that they are attached to marketplaces where everyone browsing has a credit card attached to their account and purchases can happen with a single click. But do you get direct contact with your customers? Apps that want to span many platforms need their own payment process that they can be in control of. That way regardless of how or what platform your audience uses to accesses your content, they will get a consistent experience. And if you want to charge a recurring subscription for premium access your only option is to run your own payment platform. USNews already has this up and running with their Best Colleges and Digital Weekly products so why not extend that?

And judging from the past releases of magazine brands on the iPad, the industry is getting it wrong. They can’t just shove their traditional print product onto a touchscreen device with a few gestural interactions and call it a day. Jeffery Zeldman sums it up best in his post iPad as the new Flash

“Everything we’ve learned in the past decade about preferring open standards to proprietary platforms and user-focused interfaces to masturbatory ones is forgotten as designers and publishers once again scramble to create novelty interfaces no one but them cares about.”

So usnews.com is at a pivotal point where the company can focus on building a proprietary native app or an open web app. Today, it just seems so obvious to me to go the web app route. Native apps may seem like the answer today in the short term, but in the long term, their fragmentation overhead will hold them back for publishers while the open web will reign supreme.

I hope U.S.News & World Report doesn’t fuck this up.

Summary Of An Event Apart DC Day 1

The Event Apart conference series is the top-notch gathering for people who make websites. Making its way across various cities in the U.S., the Event Apart tour stopped in Washington, D.C., which I was fortunate enough to attend. The speakers themselves were amazing but interacting with the attendees in real-time during the talks opened a whole new level to the experience. Below are some of the best tweets I curated from each of the sessions. All of which came from afeedapart.com, the official feed aggregator for An Event Apart.

Web 2.1: The Medium Comes of Age by Jeffery Zeldman

Zeldman started things off with a presentation covering the history of communication from the printing press to HTML5, and everything in between. In 2010, standards based design is no longer fringe, HTML5/CSS3 are viable technologies, and the mobile web is taking shape.

  • The death of the web is greatly exaggerated. @tomkruk
  • If the web is dead, then print must be mummified. @Merlaak
  • “There are 241 newsgroups on 1986. 240 are porn…” @grum_dot_com
  • Zeldman calls the telegraph The Victorian Internet @eduiconf
  • R. Cailliau – leading man’s best friend. Worked with Tim Berners-Lee to invent the web. @mad_sunshine
  • 1991 AOL… remember 9600 baud modem? = yuck @lavinia
  • “there’s a history of the internet being ugly and being designed by people who can’t design their way out of a paper bag” @ashleyjoost
  • 1993. Mosaic. We’ve come a long way. #aea http://yfrog.com/jcem8mj @eTapWeb
  • I remember using MOSAIC on my Amiga 500, wondering why “forms” are not showing… @tomkruk
  • And you had to PAY for Netscape @cityrider49
  • Netscape Gold FTW! @tomkruk
  • Zeldman breaking down landmark moments in web history: “1995 brings us the tiled background” @mattmediadc
  • “IE no longer sucks, IE is awesome” – Zeldman, #aea … hear it from the man! @franksedivy
  • 1998 — internet traffic doubles every 100 days @ashleyjoost
  • the phrase “best viewed…” should be left to history @cityrider49
  • dot com bust = coming off a coke bender @tonyvia
  • 2000 dot com bubble burst brought us benefits: people were forced to learn standards, improve their skills to make a difference. @mihswat
  • The CSS Zen Garden changed my professional career… Design for the web became a whole different concept @mattmediadc
  • “you can’t burn every house down because we have this new idea for architecture” @TheTroz
  • XHTML 2.0 was burning every house in the world just to propose a new architecture. @mihswat
  • “HTML5. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” @eTapWeb

Object Oriented CSS by Nicole Sullivan

Nicole developed a technique for managing CSS called Object Oriented CSS. The basic premise is to recognize visual patterns and mark them up consistently. Consistent markup results in more compact and efficient CSS code to style which in turn results in more manageable code and faster performing websites.

  • If you write CSS for any site of significant size or traffic you MUST hear @stubbornella talk on OOCSS. This is my second time listen. @aebsr
  • Reason for CSS optimization, CSS Blocks progressive rendering @eduiconf
  • 42% of Alexa’s Top 1000 don’t gzip CSS. 44% have more than 2 files. 56% serve with cookies. 62% don’t minify. 21% have > 100k of CSS. @mihswat
  • “Our sites are choking on the amount of CSS we’re throwing over the wire.” @eTapWeb
  • OOCSS makes me intellectually erect @grum_dot_com
  • Object oriented CSS sound a lot more complicated than it really is. @kingkool68
  • wow around May 2009 FaceBook had over 700 CSS files that totaled more than 1.9Mb @160mph
  • “If you fighting your CSS, your architecture failed” @franksedivy
  • Facebook has all of their headings bold. Non-bolded headings looked weird to users. @kingkool68
  • People aren’t viewing your home page or reading your about section anymore. It’s all Google hit-and-runs, and it’s changing our design. @brian_klaas
  • Css objects were better for humungo sites like Facebook. Seems overkill for smaller, simple sites. @kingkool68
  • Dust-me Selectors to find unused css. http://www.sitepoint.com/dustmeselectors/ @chrismjones
  • A ‘giant pink heading’ should not become a ‘small blue heading’ when placed in another part of the site. @phej
  • Elements should be styled globally, avoiding area-dependent declarations in CSS. Rules should be predictable, avoid overwriting them. @mihswat
  • Love how @stubbornella uses the story of the lady who swallowed a fly in relation to CSS @candiRSX
  • Writing CSS to correct previous bad CSS is the legacy of the old woman who swallowed a fly. It makes sense when @stubbornella says it. @achellios
  • Nicole Sullivan’s Grids on github – http://wiki.github.com/stubbornella/oocss/grids @Merlaak
  • Classing elements with element names (“.h1”) is one step removed from or similar. @jgarber
  • hmmmm…not sure about @stubbornella rec. on eg h3.h6 Isn’t that sort of hacky? Shouldn’t we re-examine design first? @ryanhoonlaverty
  • Among Alexa’s Top 1000, there’s a site with 511 declarations setting styles for h1-h6. Facebook used to have 958. @mihswat
  • After a CSS rewrite, there were only 25 declarations. @mihswat
  • Amen to the underscore hack. I use it all the time. @kingkool68
  • Avoid styling IDs. IDs are for JavaScript. @mihswat
  • styling IDs messes up specificity @eduiconf
  • “You should definitely suffer if you use hacks” @chrismjones
  • Not sure about this ‘not styling IDs’ and have class driven styles .that on top of the things aren’t semantic (.h1, .h2 etc…) … :/ @franksedivy
  • “AVOID !IMPORTANT – except on leaf nodes” Good advice!! @JudyBad
  • “I try to get specificity out-of-the-way so my cascade can really shine.” @andysherry
  • agree with not using !important, disagree with not styling IDs. style IDs if they’re used sparingly or if “lead nodes”. @courcelan
  • Styling using IDs, !importants, and too many nested elements is like fighting whose CSS rules are going to win. @mihswat
  • who knew? the way I wrote CSS as a n00b was on the right path – lots of class selectors and few element/ID selectors! @raelehman
  • I think OO CSS takes the art and craft away from CSS and gets it ready for consumers world! 🙁 @franksedivy
  • The blinking cursor says, “You don’t remember anything.” (Referring to the command line) @Merlaak
  • Find and replace is really why I use Dreamweaver as my coding tool of choice. No need to figure out grep. @kingkool68
  • See how many times a declaration if when your css from command line. grep -r font-size . | wc -l @chrismjones
  • Hmm, @stubbornella‘s OO approach to CSS preso has some good QA tricks, but her philosophy has too much scaffolding for general use @talbs
  • Feeling a little weird about @stubbornella‘s approach to object-oriented CSS, but liking some ideas about finding duplication. @graphicsgirl
  • OOCSS sounds like the best approach for Facebook, but not most sites we design and build. @graphicsgirl
  • afraid newbs will get the wrong idea with @stubbornella‘s methodology and not consider scale/context/semantics @talbs
  • I found taking the general idea from this presentation and building a custom framework for our approach to build sites worked great @aeaattendee
  • Looking at CSS in a way I never have thanks to @stubbornella @TheTroz
  • Facebook reduced CSS size by 19% and HTML size by 44% after optimizations @mihswat
  • * and _ hacks > conditional statements @160mph
  • Been using OOCSS for the past year and a half. Have never found a site that did not benefit. @chrismjones

The CSS3 Experience by Dan Cederholm

Dan emphasizes that sites don’t need to look and behave exactly the same in every browser. Case in point, he owns http://dowebsitesneedtolookexactlythesameineverybrowser.com/ and http://dowebsitesneedtobeexperiencedexactlythesameineverybrowser.com/. CSS3 is available in modern browsers today and suitable for non-critical elements of a design. His presentation consisted of several demos showcasing how CSS3 could be used to sweeten interfaces.

Mobile First! by Luke Wroblewski

Luke covered designing Web applications for mobile platforms first before the desktop. This helps you focus a website down to its bare essentials and functionality. The mobile web is exploding, and in some cases, is the only access someone has to the Internet.

  • “Web products should be designed for mobile first, even if no mobile version is planned.” @eTapWeb
  • desktop internet devices: 1 billion, mobile devices: 10 billion @tonyvia
  • “50% of people who were new to the web last year were on mobile devices.” @eTapWeb
  • Why build mobile first? More growth and future users. @tyrale
  • Mobile Web growth has outpaced desktop Web growth 8x. Smartphone sales will pass PC sales in 2011. @mihswat
  • Mobile is the new black @JudyBad
  • Great mobile products are created never ported. @kingkool68
  • mobile stats from #lukew http://lukew.com/ff/ @eduiconf
  • “27% of searches on Yelp! come from 4% of users (i.e. the users who access Yelp! via iPhone.)” @zeldman
  • “Designing for mobile forces you to focus and prioritize.” @eTapWeb
  • Moving from desktop to mobile… First remove 80% of the crap @tyrale
  • Design for mobile first and you will get down to the things that matter. @mad_sunshine
  • “everything else on this page needs to pixelate and die.” @courcelan
  • Mobile devices’ limited screen size makes you focus on what’s important – main features, straight communication. @mihswat
  • Use vector to design for the web, build with css3 it will scale automagically! @tyrale
  • Mobile design is all about adaption @kingkool68
  • for mobile, make the content the UI @rkunboxed
  • 100ms delay results in 1% sales loss for Amazon ($191 Million) @eduiconf
  • Google says 500ms delay drops search traffic by 20%. Wonder what our 8,000ms server hangs do. Cough. @itmaybejj
  • optimize for mobile:speed eg, eliminate redirects & use app cache for local content storage @dinalew
  • Mobile is quick bursts, and mostly at home on usage. @tyrale
  • Your mobile is with you all the time, so designing for mobile means designing something that can be used all the time. @zeldman
  • Only make content and web apps that are useful to people *all the time @halvorson
  • People spend only about 2 to 4 seconds on a webpage using a mobile device. Optimize your site for this behavior. @mihswat
  • design = constraining until an elegant solution presents itself @lavinia
  • Many users will interact with mobile devices using one hand and one thumb (one-handed touch), so the UI has to be simple. @jessicaivins
  • 1 million per day = touch based phone purchase @lavinia
  • mobile: must accommodate “french fry fingers” @JudyBad
  • wow. ‘1.1 billion consumers with Nokia devices in 2009’ @westerndave
  • 8-10mm = average human finger pad , so design for 9mm touch area @lavinia
  • touch me = Touch Gesture Reference Guide http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1071 @westerndave
  • Hovers are not intentional, clicks are @eduiconf
  • great stat: People spend only about 2 to 4 seconds on a webpage using a mobile device. Optimize your site for this behavior. @lavinia
  • Hovers are not intentional. Just because a user’s mouse has paused somewhere doesn’t mean they expect to see a menu. @zeldman
  • most devices use wifi for location (gps is narly indoors) @lavinia
  • Yes! Hover cannot be considered an intentional interaction on a mobile device. I activate them accidentally on my *desktop*. @kissane
  • Yelp’s augmented reality feature boosted their sustained traffic by 40 to 50 percent @mihswat
  • Wonderful presentation from Luke Wroblewski. This really jives with a lot of stuff that get talked about in IxD these days. @iwilsonjr

Message and Medium: Better Content by Design by Kristina Halvorson

Kristina sure knows how to develop a killer content strategy. A website’s message carries through to other places on the web than just the main website. Customer support, social media, and meta data should all echo the tone of the main message. And there is a lot more to a good content strategy than determining what text goes on the front page. How will this content be produced? Who will update it? How often will we add new content?

  • Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson) asked us to sing Happy Birthday to her son. How sweet… @shiota
  • @halvorson on two of my favorite topics: teeth & content strategy! @dinalew
  • haha. User-scented content. “Smells like user.” @ryanhoonlaverty
  • Content strategy plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of content that people care about. @eTapWeb
  • website content: stop talking about what you do and talk about what your users want. hello user-centered content @dinalew
  • content requirements ≠ content strategy @tonyvia
  • content strategy = content (substance + structure) & people (workflow + governance) @tonyvia
  • messaging is not a mission statement, brand promise or tagline @eduiconf
  • nobody cares about your mission statement [so true!] @tonyvia
  • First second visiting a website is an emotional response @kingkool68
  • user forms an impression of your site in ONE SECOND (load time + design) & decides to trust you or not within 10 seconds @tonyvia
  • In 1 second user should have an emotional response. 10 seconds, understand your primary message. 2 minutes, secondary msg. @eTapWeb
  • Reminded of how some of the traditional #ux roles/deliverables can suffocate copywriters’ creativity/skills. Preach on, @havlorson. @talbs
  • Include maintenance requirements for key pages – great content strategy idea @graphicsgirl
  • Consistency inspires trust in your readers. @JudyBad
  • consistency inspires trust in your readers @lavinia
  • Visiting every page of your site with its main message in mind helps to see if you’re communicating it the right way with consistency @mihswat
  • #aea is really driving home the importance to collaboration across roles/disciplines to tackle those important grey areas of an experience! @talbs
  • And your FAQ page is inconsistent. Where’s the fun, Ben & Jerry? @mad_sunshine
  • pet peeve: “contact us” page hiding phone/address 10 layers deep. after all, that’s all we want from “contact us” page 99% of the time @sarahdippity
  • Workflow and governance are crucial for good content strategy. @kingkool68
  • “whats our facebook strategy?” “that depends… what are you trying to do, who’s going to do [keep up with it]?” hear, hear. @courcelan
  • What is your social media strategy? Is it successfully delivering your message? Or do you have a Twitter just for the sake of it? @mihswat
  • Page descriptions. Tweets. Facebook posts. Google results. Your message should be consistently delivered everywhere. @mihswat
  • @halvorson‘s talks on content strategy are ALWAYS timely and poignant. Maybe because content strategy is a never-ending struggle… @ryanhoonlaverty

Anatomy of a Design Decision by Jared Spool

Jared pointed out that every site on the web came to be from a series of decisions. He has identified 5 styles to design decisions and when each style might be appropriate for a given project. Oh and university homepages feature images of girls under trees way too much.

  • Seen it before, but it’s easy to forget just how awesome http://havenworks.com/ is… @davidocoulter
  • “it validates” – Jared Spool (sarcastically referring to havenworks.com) @SethBlanchard
  • “Someone actually designed this on purpose. This way.” – @jmspool on a particularly egregious web design specimen. @alykat
  • Sites like havenworks.com or arngren.net went over design decisions. Now that’s something to think about. @shiota
  • Jared is talking about the famous 37signals vs. Donald Norman “celebrity deathmatch”. @shiota
  • “Self design works great when you’re designing something for your own use, or for use by people just like you.” @eTapWeb
  • Crappy and unhelpful error messages are the perfect way to frustrate your user. @shiota
  • Unintentional design happens on its own. Works great if user will put up with whatever or we don’t care about support costs. @eTapWeb
  • Airline websites: helping AEA speakers make their point since 2005 @ryanhoonlaverty
  • “Genius design: when we’ve previously learned what users need. We’re solving the same problems repeatedly.” @eTapWeb
  • “Activity Focused Design: designing for new activities unfamiliar to us.” @eTapWeb
  • Well @jmspool‘s talk includes a reference to @lingscars‘ website www.lingscars.com… and well, just check it out. @hellogeri
  • Jared is comparing Six Flags map to Disney World’s map. Both amusement parks, yet totally different maps. Each with its own focus. @mihswat
  • Disney. Someone has thought about what happens between the rides. Thinking about the experience. @mad_sunshine
  • experience is the stuff that happens around usage. @lavinia
  • “User experience is what happens in between activities” @simplebits
  • University website traps — girl under trees. WOW! So many of them… @mad_sunshine
  • OMG I can’t search – the search box is on the left [side]! @raelehman
  • Rule #17: Always put the search box in the upper right @grum_dot_com
  • Hmm. design style guides and guidelines never work. @mad_sunshine
  • Informed Decisions > Rule-based Decisions @160mph
  • Rule-based decisions prevent thinking. Informed decisions require thinking. @sarahdippity
  • Design is about the exception cases. If everything was always the same, we would not be interested in this work. @beep
  • Instead of spreading dogmas/methodologies, try spreading tricks/techniques. People will learn, think, and won’t struggle with rules @mihswat

Top 5 Firebug Extensions

Firebug started as an indispensable Firefox extension which takes web development to a new level. But after 2 years since it’s initial 1.0 release, Firebug has grown into a platform with a host of extensions built right on top of it. Here are my top 5 Firebug extensions that every web developer should have installed.

#5 SenSEO – SenSEO is a handy checklist of key SEO criteria. This Firebug extension rates your page on a scale of 100 against Google’s webmaster guidelines. SenSEO is most important right before a big launch to catch any simple tweaks that you may have overlooked during development.

SenSEO Firebug Extension Screenshot

#4 CodeBurner – CodeBurner is an HTML and CSS reference right at your fingertips while you debug. It adds a Code Example tab which gives a brief description of the HTML tag or CSS property you have highlighted as well as a code sample so you can see the recommended usage. If that’s not enough, CodeBurner provides a link to the Sitepoint reference page which has everything you could ever want to know. Man, I wish I had this extension when I was learning HTML and CSS (let alone Firebug).

CodeBurner Firebug Extension Screenshot

#3 FireFind – FireFind does only one thing but it does it well: finding elements. Using a CSS selector or XPath statement, FireFind will highlight all of the matching elements on the page. This makes it a breeze to test CSS selectors with your site right in front of you. To boot, it also features a count of all the elements found. Even though this is possible through Firebug’s console tab when any popular JavaScript library is included, FireFind makes the process straight-forward and painless.

FireFinder Firebug Extension Screenshot

#2 FireCookie – If you have ever had to debug JavaScript cookies then you’ll wonder how you got by without this extension. FireCookie lets you inspect and edit cookies on the fly including permissions, values, and the expiration time. You can even sort all of your cookies as well as filter them out by domain. And when testing a script for your audience that has cookies disabled, FireCookie provides a simple option to disable cookies globally or just for the current domain. Now working with cookies doesn’t have to be such a stale experience.

FireCookie Firebug Extension Screenshot

#1 YSlow – Serious web developers are obsessed with performance and YSlow provides a smorgasbord of tools for measuring the speed of a site. YSlow is built around 34 best practices for speeding up a website which is the result of extensive research by the Yahoo Performance team. The extension provides a letter grade of each practice with advice on how to squeeze out every little bit of extra performance.

YSlow Test Grade View

Another handy view is the Components tool which gives you an insight into all of the componets of the page. There are a bevy of stats that can be analyzed to pinpoint bloated waste.

YSlow Components View

Finally, the statistics tool gives insight into the weight of your page for users with an empty cache and a primed cache.

YSlow Statistics View

If you have never given much thought to the performance of your site, YSlow makes it easy to dive right in.

What are some of your favorite Firefox extensions geared towards web development?

Mozilla Needs Your Feedback For Their Redesign

What does an open-source company do when they need to re-design their site? Open up the decisions to their community. Mozilla has reached out to Happy Cog Studios, noted for their WordPress interface revamp, to give Mozilla.org a makeover. Round 1 of the project is up at RedesignMozilla.org with three mock-ups ready for a critique from anyone who can fill in a comment form.

None of the designs really jump out at me. The 2nd concept tickles my fancy the most but the header is too big and lacks the focus on Mozilla’s projects which is what the Mozilla Foundation is all about. I guess what I like the most about concept2 is the colors. Concept3 seems a little too gimicky/amateur and concept1 is too bland.

Blue and orange grunge concept for Mozilla.org redesign.

Open-source is all about sharing and listening to feedback. When it comes to a redesign, the more feedback you can get the better. I wish we could do a community-involved redesign at work. I wonder what people would come up with?

(via Daniel Mall)

I Participated In Firefox Download Day, Did You?

Firefox Download Day 2008 Certificate

Today is June 17th and that means Firefox 3 becomes official. After several betas and release candidates the successor to the #2 browser in the world has finally been thrusted upon us. You might want to skip Firefox 3 if you don’t use any addons, only use one tab at a time and/or enjoy a slow, bogged down web browser. Besides better memory management, the new “awesome bar”, and refreshed interfaces that better integrate into the look of your operating system, Firefox 3 manages to pack in over 15,000 other improvements.

To draw attention, the folks at Mozilla headquarters decided to break the Guinness record for the most downloaded software in a 24 hour period. Hence Firefox Download Day was created.

I updated Firefox on my MacBook Pro, on my Windows XP virtual machine running in VMware, my ancient PC at work, and even my huge Windows laptop. That last update was particularly tricky as the wireless card for my desktop replacement died and I had to tether it to my Mac via a cross-over cable. Here is a picture of the irony.

Apple makes a great $2700 wifi card.
Apple makes a great $2700 wifi card!

How many computers did you update today?

P.S. Get your own certificate.

UPDATE: Now you can track the number of downloads in real-time as well as see the average number of downloads per minute!

Adobe Air Reaches 1.0, Twitter Clients Blossom

Adobe Air Logo
Adobe released it’s Air product today making it official and peeling off the cliche` beta title. Adobe Air allows developers to build desktop applications using web technologies like HTML for structure, CSS for presentation, and JavaScript for behavior. Flash and Flex, Adobe’s own web technologies, are also rolled up in the mix. Professional authoring tools like Flash CS3 and Dreamweaver CS3 saw updates today to allow development within the popular tools. Aptana also offers a free plugin for their open-source development tool Aptana Studio.

I have been playing with Air apps for the last couple of months while the product was still in beta. There are a lot of clever applications that are more like widgets then conventional full-blown desktop programs. For example, the Adobe sample app PixelPerfect was a simple ruler overlay letting you measure anything on your screen. This little tool comes in handy for web development where there aren’t any rulers on the side or measuring tools like in Photoshop. Powerhouse auction site eBay created their own Air app that banishes the concept of refreshing the page so bidders can watch their auctions in real time. But perhaps the biggest crowd of Air apps belongs to Twitter clients. Thwirl, Spaz, Tweetr, and Snitter are just a handful.

Snitter Next To Tweetr Couresy of Andy Piper

I thought John Ballinger had let his Twitter client, Tweetr, go to pasture without an update since the end of November. With each new Air beta release more functionality would break edging me towards Jonathan Snook’s Snitter. But alas, Tweetr is alive again with version 3.0 launching today to coincide with the official Air release. I’m happy as a clam to have my favorite Twitter client back and to see so many great ideas that have seemingly sprung out of Air.

No Browser For Surfing? Get Some Help

It’s hard to imagine being somewhere that locks down the web browser so much that you have to resort this nifty trick I read on DownloadSquad.com, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If you can’t reach the web through Internet Explorer due settings beyond your control and forgot your portable Firefox thumbdrive then simply open up the calculator or MS Paint and click “Help”. From there go to “Help Topics,” which will bring up a help window. Now all that is left is to right click on the title bar and select “Jump To URL.” Type in any web address you like, but make sure to include “http://” at the beginning and you should be good to go.

Browse The Web In The Help Menu

What you are basically looking at is a stripped-down, basic version of Internet Explorer which is built into Windows and used to display CHM files, or Microsoft Compiled HTML Help files. Sure there are no niceties like bookmarks or your comfy, cozy Firefox extensions, but if you need to check your e-mail or Twitter account and this is your only resort, you will put up with a little cruft in order to get your stuff. Besides there are back and forward buttons, what else do you need in a browser?

CoinCalc.com Guesstimates Spare Change

CoinCalc.com is a simple and straight forward site aiming to estimate how much moola you have stashed away in your change jar. All you need to do is weigh your jar of coins, grab a handful as a sample and enter the quantity of each coin you pulled out into the CoinCalc form. The site does a little math and guesses how much money is in the jar based on your sample.

Coin Cup

I just happened to have a jar full of coins that needed to be tallied and wrapped up so I though I would give CoinCalc.com a run for it’s money (pun intended). I took 5 samples of various sizes from the same cup of coins. After counting the number of coins I would put them all back in the cup and shake them around to keep it as fair of a test as possible. I happen to have a small postal scale at hand so calculating the weight of the coins was a snap. My first weighing included the weight of the cup which came to a total of 3.375 pounds. After running all of the numbers through CoinCalc.com, I realized the weight of the cup was inflating the estimate. I weighed the empty cup and subtracted that weight from the previous weight resulting in 2.8625 pounds of pure coinage. The results are summarized in the table below:

Sample Pennies Nickels Dimes Quarters Estimated Total Estimated Total
w/o Cup
1 36 0 10 20 $43.07 $36.53
2 23 4 3 9 $33.71 $28.59
3 16 3 5 7 $36.96 $31.35
4 31 3 14 11 $37.82 $32.07
5 13 2 6 11 $46.26 $39.23

The total value of my coin-collection was $28.91 which came out to the following:

Coin Quantity Value
Pennies 211 $2.11
Nickels 33 $1.65
Dimes 59 $5.90
Quarters 77 $19.25
Total 380 $28.91

CoinCalc.com came within $10 at most of the actual value after correcting for the weight of the cup. CoinCalc’s estimation was more accurate than I thought it would be. The site gives you a good ballpark range of the value of your coins without having to dump them all over the floor and count them out one by one or paying a fee to have Coinstar count them for you.

Speaking of counting, I like to wrap my own coins and I use this little device from MMF Industries pictured below to tally them up before wrapping.

Plastic Coin Counter

You simply dump your sorted coins into their respective slot and the plastic container will keep them stacked until they reach the top. At that point there is a slit where surplus coins fall out leaving you with the exact quantity for the roll. I think I got this from my parents a couple of Christmas’ ago.

(via BoingBoing)