November 21, 2003
new CSS Workshop confirmed
Quick note, as hinted at yesterday, we will be going ahead with the CSS for Page Layout Workshop on the 12th of December.
You can book online here
Look forward to seeing you there.
What the? I thought this was about Style master and software.
You must be new around here :-)
If so, a quick refresher. One of the things I do when I'm not stuck in front of my monitor, in a small room, with a Windows machine to my left and a G4 Mac to my right is Surf Lifesaving.
Surf Lifesaving is a volunteer organization in Australia (New Zealand, and other places around the world too) which provides volunteer "patrols" on most Australian beaches at the weekends and on public holidays from September 'til April.
I've been pretty heavily involved in lifesaving education for a few years now, and currently have a group of about 12 training for their Bronze Medallion, with my mate Ben. Its a pretty intensive 8 week program, with 2 examinations. They sat their first on last night, and did us proud, demonstrating above all their resuscitation skills.
At the same time, my partner Sara had a group of 5 15 year olds who all passed their exams too. Now that deserves a medal. Try training 15 year olds in the finer points of resuscitation.
Now they must have to demonstrate their competence in the water, with rescues and teamwork, and they will be lifesavers.
Then I can get a bit of a rest, after we finalize our new house, I run 2 or three workshops, and we release Style Master 3.5, all in the next few weeks.
As someone foolish once said "plenty of time for sleeping when you are dead"
November 20, 2003
workshop booked out - new one for the 12th
Quick note that my Sydney workshop has booked out, but we will be almost certainly running one on the 12th. Same location, same format.
And remember, I'm speaking on the past and the future of CSS (according to me) at the Sydney web Standard's Group end of year bash, on the 4th of December.
beta on the horizon
As mentioned, we've been working hard on Style Master 3.5. There are many many improvements for Windows and Mac OS X, from "one click validating" :-) to performance improvements, as well as something completely new that will really give developers a leg up when it comes to designing and implementing complex CSS and HTML based designs and layouts.
If you are interested in the beta program, please drop me a line, firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll take it from there.
November 17, 2003
Some thoughts on business
Recently someone dropped me a note.
They'd been reading this blog, and asked me whether given that 3.5 was just around the corner, was it worth buying now or waiting for 3.5.
She was concerned that she'd have to pay for an upgrade in a few weeks.
It's a legitimate concern. We've all probably been burnt by upgrade policies. I've bought a lot of software over the last 15 years or so. And more often than I should have, I've paid quite a bit for an upgrade for an application I had bought in some cases only weeks before.
Recently, a very significant software company changed their upgrade policy so that if you don't upgrade every version, you lose all your upgrade privileges. No matter how much money you've spent over the years.
While businesses aren't charities, I also don't believe they are simply mechanisms for extracting maximum revenue from their customers.
For the record, we offer free upgrades right up until the next major version, and in over 5 years, have only charged twice for upgrades. We are also generally very generous when it comes to those who bought some time before a major upgrade.
So I thought I'd write a little bit about how I see business, and what we are doing at westciv.
While westciv has a .com address, and we use US english by and large, we are in fact Australian, and I think culturally, while Australians are strongly influenced by the United States, we maintain quite a distinct philosophy about many things, for better and for worse.
The US president Calvin Coolidge is attributed the famous phrase The chief business of the American People is Business.
You certainly couldn't say the same of Australia. If anything, I'd say the chief business of the Australian people is sport (and if you are not from a commonwealth country, you'll find those sports often exceedingly strange - Rugby, Cricket (no not the sport with mallets and hoops alright!)) and many others some of which are only played here.
At any rate, I'd say that Australians are much less likely to focus on starting their own company, and taking the kinds of risks in business that in my experience are much more common in the US. In Australia business failure is seen as a source of shame, whereas, again in my experience, in US business culture it is a lesson to be learned from.
I'd also suggest that US business culture is very much zero-sum oriented. A zero sum game is one where you win because someone else loses. Chess is a classic example. Most sports are as well. It's an idea which can be applied to many things, not least of them business. I believe many companies, particularly big companies, in IT and in every field, essentially treat their customers as a resource to be mined for maximum profit. We have a culture of mistrust, whether it be at the cinema, in software, or at your local store, where all customers are treated by default as potential criminals.
I usually go to the local cinema, or an "art house" one. I'm that kind of guy.
A week or so back, I went to what I guess most people know as a "multiplex" (hey, that makes me feel good, such a human sounding name - BTW, my local cinema is "The Randwick Ritz" how much better is that? A name to conjure with)
Anyway, my local is $10, (and its a nice cinema, good seats, small theaters, good projection). The multiplex was $14.50 - almost 50% more. But that was only the start. Even before seeing the movie, I felt like a criminal. I had my ticket checked 3 times, going in, at the top of an escalator - where they insisted we go to the right, even though the toilets were on the left, so we had to say "I want to go to the toilet" and then into the cinema. My time is money, so sitting through 20 minutes of ads is not what I pay a premium for. Upshot is, I felt pretty cranky even before the movie began.
Sound familiar to software users? Register to download a demo, convoluted activation schemes, and so on. And certain operating system developers, the Recording Industry, and Hollywood, want to have a hardware based "trusted computing". Quite an oxymoron, who is trusting whom here?
So John Allsopp's rule number one for business is - don't treat your customers like criminals. Don't make them feel that you think they are dishonest. And while you are at it, that goes doubly for your employees, you know, the ones who actually make the money for you. Don't treat them like criminals either.
And while you are at it, reward customers for the faith they have shown in your and your products by being generous in term of upgrade pricing and conditions. I reckon you'll make it back in terms of your ongoing relationship with your customers, but that's not why I do it. It's because I genuinely believe business is about a mutually beneficial relationship. I develop software which I feel it useful and valuable to web developers. If they do find it worthwhile, they reward me for my efforts. "Upside all round".
I'll write more about the idea of a relationship a little later.
Love to hear your thoughts.
CSS Workshops coming soon
A few weeks back I ran a workshop in Melbourne. Over a full day, we covered in detail using CSS for page layout. By the end of the day, everyone who attended could decipher what was going on with complex CSS Zen Garden style layouts, and had created sophisticated layouts using absolute positioning, the CSS box model, as well as float and clear. Two and three column layouts with headers and footers, that work across browsers - not a problem.
It was a great, in depth day, with plenty of interesting questions. Everyone was pretty exhausted by the end of the day.
So if you are interested in the workshop, and have the core HTML and CSS hand coding skills down well (you don't have to be a guru by any means) then if you are in Sydney, or can get here for Friday the 5th of December, please drop me a line.
The details and a booking form are here
We only have 3 or 4 places left for this workshop, so if you are keen, get in touch now.
We may be able to run a workshop the following week, probably Friday December 12, so if you are interested, please let me know.
BTW, if you are in the US or Canada, we are looking into the feasibility of running the workshops in January next year. If you are interested in a workshop in January, please drop me a line. Locations and dates are tentatively San Francisco around MacWorld time, Los Angeles and Vancouver, mid January.
Cost would hopefully be around US$200-250.
Let me know.
Sheepishly I had better point out that we as in Sara and I became apartment owners this week. And given she did most of the hard work, was a bit remiss to not mention that.
Sydney is a pretty real estate obsessed old town. The great Australian dream is to "own your own home". Which translates into a bank owning your home for 20 years while you pay them.
Late last week I entered the ranks of the home owner. Well actually apartment owner. Its in a lovely part of Bondi, a place I never want to leave. And now, I'll probably never be able to afford to leave :-)
Very happy, very relieved, and probably more than a little lucky to get it. Fortune favours the brave. At least I hope so.
So on top of developing software, running workshops, training lifesavers, I've also been looking for a place to buy. It's hard work.
No wonder my posts have been a bit patchy. I'm working on a couple of longer ones, so more soon.
November 05, 2003
I am going to stop apologizing for my paucity of posts. I promise :-)
We are putting a lot of effort in readying 3.5 for Mac OS X and Windows for beta release. Just to whet your appetite, here are some things that you'll find in 3.5
There are many little things, and not a few big things. I'll talk about some of the "little" things here, and some of the big things shortly.
In no particular order
In both Mac and Windows, it is a lot more responsive. To clicks, typing, editing, dragging, scrolling... you name it
Vaidating the current style sheet in the w3c's online validator (surely the gold standard) is as easy as choosing a single menu item
In Style Master 3 for Mac, invalid values (for example negative padding values) have their own styling. Its like interactive validating. In 3.5 the Windows version now has this feature, and as well, for both platforms, Style Master handles all kinds of tricky features, such as the Tantek box model hack.
In addition, when you select a statement with invalid values, the editor for that value now notifies you that the value is not valid.
code auto complete
We've continued to improve code auto complete. Its much more context sensitive now, and only makes available relevant possible values. All in all, it just works better.
Particularly on Windows, we've done a fair bit of cosmetic work. If you use XP, you'll find that all controls, particularly tabs, are now XP native. The fonts are much nicer, and we've rejigged the properties editors. We've also added a properties menu to choose the properties editor you want.
There is nothing like using your own software to encourage you to fix stuff :-)
And if that's not enough, next time I'll let you in on some of the new major features we've implemented for Style Master 3.5