The Beautification of the Internet

I live in a historic neighborhood in Dallas.  The area has a certain charm and character to it quite different that what you find in new housing developments.  Most of the houses were built in the 1920s.  They have large front porches; many of them have swings.

A few miles away is another neighborhood, almost as old as this one.  There are a few houses from the same time period here, but most houses are new construction.  The older, smaller homes were torn down for newer, larger ones.  It is a nice neighborhood, but it doesn’t have the same character as my neighborhood.

The difference is that I live in a registered historic area.  Here, the homes cannot be torn down to be replaced by new construction.  All new construction must match the existing style.  In other words, significant effort has been put into preserving this part of our history.

The Web is like the other, non-protected neighborhood.  Many sites were built in the late 90s and early 2000s, but most of them have been torn down in favor of new construction.  In some ways this is a good thing.  Most of those early sites were ugly.  Bright backgrounds, blinking text, Comic-Sans font, and background music.  These are all things I do not miss.  But I fear that the character of the Web has been lost to the mass production of cookie cutter websites.

The sameness in design doesn’t bother me as much as the consolidation of the content.  When was the last time that you actually “surfed” the web?  I used to “sign-on” and then begin a journey of following links deeper and deeper down the rabbit’s hole.  The Web was a place where any crackpot with a computer could and would post their thoughts and ideas.  You could discover a topic and hit every site in that ‘web-ring.’  Today, one Google/Wikipedia search, and I’m done.

Today, we’ve traded out “Under Construction” icons for “Beta” tags.  Our web-rings have been replaced with “social bookmarks”.  Our home pages with guestbooks are now blogs with comments.  And although it may just seem that we’ve just swapped terminology, I think the Web has lost it’s charm and character.

I think we need a historic district for the Web.  A place to encourage new content, but it must match the style of a certain time period.  We should also find the old ‘classic’ web sites and relocate them to this district.  I also think there’s a place that’s perfect for this: GeoCities.  I’ll bet you didn’t know they were still around.  This could breathe new old life right back into the Web.  What do you think?

Sending Legitimate Bulk Email

This is for all those people who are trying to run a web business that need to send bulk email messages and don’t want them to go directly into their recipients’ spam folders.

Yesterday, I (and several others) dedicated several hours to the task of determining why every email we sent went directly into the spam folders of those we were trying to reach. When you search Google for information about spam filters, you find plenty of information about blocking unwanted email, but hardly anything about making sure your legitimate bulk email is not discarded with the trash. We were able to solve our issues, and so I thought I’d share our findings with the community.

  • Send only plain text. Attachments and HTML content raise flags with content filters.
  • Set the message header: “Precedence: bulk”
  • You must set a subject, body, from address, and reply-to address (not having reply-to was my problem

In addition, if you are hosting your own mail server you should:

  • Publish an SPF record in your DNS configuration
  • Configure your MTA to and DNS to use DKIM. (Acronyms FTW!)

I hope this info is helpful to someone. I wish I had it.

Sources:

Blatant and Shameless Book Promotion

Yesterday at OSCon, Prentice Hall announced the launch of the Sourceforge Community Press.  It is a special line of eBooks (called Shortcuts) that feature open source projects and are written by the developers themselves.

It is my pleasure to announce that one of the four titles available at launch is the ThinWire Handbook: A Guide to Creating Effective Ajax Applications, co-authored by yours truly.  It is available now for the price of $12.99 as a downloadable PDF, and it is also available through the Safari Bookshelf.

In the book, Josh Gertzen and I provide an overview of the entire framework.  Our goal is to describe the essence of each piece that makes up the complete framework, as well as to document features that may not be obvious to most developers.  So, if you’re into that sort of thing, go pick up download a copy, and start learning the awesomeness that is ThinWire.

Safari 3 For Windows — First Impressions

As soon as I heard the announcement, I downloaded the public beta of Safari 3 for Windows.  So far I’m pretty impressed.  The memory usage seems to come in between Firefox (the worst) and Opera (the best).  ThinWire, my web application framework, works beautifully.  Gmail works fine, but Yahoo Mail has some issues (I get lots of JS errors).

I did a quick performance benchmark.  ThinWire has a Grid component that can display lots of data.  I fired up my benchmark app for the Grid, and added 10,000 rows.  Here’s the performance results:

  • Internet Explorer 7: 1 minute 33.66 seconds
  • Opera 9: 27.93 seconds
  • Firefox 2: 23.24 seconds
  • Safari 3 Beta: 18.91 seconds

I realize that there is only approximately a 4 second improvment over Firefox 2 in this test, but 4 seconds is a lifetime in terms of waiting for a web application to load.

Also, while the Grid was loading, the rest of the app was still responsive; I could even start browsing and scrolling the Grid.Also, a quick look in the install directory reveals some interesting libraries.  WebKit was there as expected, but also CoreFoundation (Apple’s base C library) and CoreGraphics (the main OS X graphics library).  Very interesting.

Creating and Debugging ThinWire Applications with Eclipse

This tutorial will walk you through the creation of a simple Rich Internet Application with ThinWire using Eclipse 3.2 (Callisto) and the Eclipse Web Tools (WTP). It will also show you how to use these tools to debug your ThinWire application.

NOTE: Neither Eclipse nor the WTP plugins are necessary for ThinWire development. There are also other methods of using Eclipse to debug your ThinWire application that don’t require the WTP, but this currently appears to be the most straight-forward approach. Continue reading “Creating and Debugging ThinWire Applications with Eclipse”