Digital Longevity

Zach Leatherman:

Digital content longevity will continue to be highly variable, depending only in part on the file format used. HTML has existed for about 27 years and I wouldn’t venture a guess to say how much longer it’ll go. I can say that a reduction in ceremony around opening and reading a file is better for that file’s longevity. Relatedly, the ubiquity of software necessary to read a file lends to its future proofing as well. And what software has been historically and continues to be more ubiquitous than the lowly web browser? I’m not sure such software exists.

So feel free to keep creating your content in Microsoft Word or in Markdown or using JSX or Mustache templates or in your WordPress database. But if you want the content to live a full and happy life, publish it in HTML on the web.

HTML rocks!

Vietnamese Typography’s Second Edition is in Progress

My goal for the first edition of this book was to expand and enrich the quality of Vietnamese typography. In the last two years since the book published, I am thrilled every time a new typeface released with the Vietnamese language.

Many type designers have used this book to help them understand Vietnamese’s unique typographic features. Even though most of them do not speak or write the language, they have gained insights into subtle details and nuances of the Vietnamese writing system through this book. As a result, they have more confidence in designing diacritics, which play a crucial role in legibility and readability of the Vietnamese language.

They understand that the design of the diacritics is as important as the letters. If the marks are too small, readers will have a difficult time distinguishing each word. If the marks are too large, the flow of text can be interfered. Without clear, proper diacritical marks, the reading experience can be disjointed and disrupted. When the marks are missing, readers have to slow down or stop to guess at words, which can distort, or obscure entirely, the original meaning of the text.

Since the release of this book in 2016, I have been fortunate to play a small role in advising type designers all over the world to make their typefaces appear natural and comfortable for Vietnamese readers. In interacting with them, I have gained more understanding of the issues and the confusions they faced when designing diacritics for Vietnamese. I have nothing but positive and supportive experiences working with type designers. I appreciate the caring and the attention they devoted into crafting Vietnamese diacritics. To show my appreciation to the type community, I have revised this book and expanded the illustrations to showcase new typefaces with the Vietnamese language.

How to Convert OpenType Font to Web Font

I needed to convert OpenType Font (OTF) to Web Font (WOFF2) and Roel Nieskens kindly showed me how using Bram Stein’s Homebrew web font tools. I want to write this down so I can remember how to do it later.

First, I needed to install Homebrew, which I pasted the following command at my Terminal prompt:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

Then I ran these two commands

brew tap bramstein/webfonttools
brew install woff2

Then convert:

woff2_compress /directory/to/fontfile.otf

Magic!

Centering Text

I am fed up with people telling me to center all the text. No matter how many times I explained to them that centered text is hard to scan and not easy to read, they always came back with “the committee wanted the text centered.” Well, fuck the committee. I don’t design for the committee. I design for the intended audience. If the committee wants to make all the text centered, it should design it itself.

Sometimes I just want to give in and get the damn job over with, but it irritates the fuck out of me. I don’t want to be an asshole, but I hate seeing a piece of crap. There, I just need to get it out of my system.

Be Your Own Boss

I started to listen to WorkLife with Adam Grant last week and the episode on “A World Without Bosses” struck a chore. To be your own boss, you need to work for yourself. With a family to feed and my sans-savvy business skills, working for myself is not an option. Fortunately, I have built a responsible, reliable reputation for myself that I can be my own boss in an institution.

My boss has given me the complete freedom to do my job. I have earned her trust to make my own design and technical decisions. I still run them by her, but she lets me make the call. I work directly with members of the law school community as well as the people outside. The freedom allows me to balance my work and life. I take complete ownership of all my responsibilities. For example, I don’t mind making an update to MODX in the middle of the night when no one is using the system. Likewise, I can take time off when one of my kids got sick.

Flexibility is the key to employee retention. With three kids and one more on the way, flexibility is crucial to me and my family. I cannot work in an environment that lock me in from 9 to 5. I had been there before and I was miserable and depressed. I do not want to go back to that.

Before I was promoted to Director of Design and Web Services, I was interviewed for another position. When I asked about flexibility, the new supervisor told me that she can be very flexible but I have to earn it. That’s fair and I understood her perspective, but I didn’t have a year to build up the trust. One of my kids would probably needed me the second day on the job. How am I going to earn her trust? When she made the offer, the salary was good, the people seemed nice, the job was not bad, but the flexibility had me worried.

I thought about it some more and decided to talk to my current boss. I was honest with her about the whole situation. She understood and valued our working relationship. She not only promoted me, but also matched my new salary with 10 percent more. I decided to stay and turned down the new job. I am glad that I talked to her. My wife and I were pleased that I stayed.

My boss also promised to get me a part-time web developer and she did. He has been helpful in taking care of daily requests, which allows me to focus on bigger projects. I want to get him to the point where I don’t have to send him tasks. I would like him to take ownership of his responsibility just like what my boss has done for me. My goal is to improve our web experience by making pages load faster and more attractive. When requests are low, he can find issues to work on such as cleaning up pages with spaghetti markups or creating new banners. I would also love to see him initiates projects that are beneficial to our sites. We are not quite there yet, but I really appreciate his contribution so far.

Susan Kare Who Gave the Mac a Smile

Alexandra Lange writes about Susan Kare in The New Yorker:

What Kare lacked in computer experience she made up for in visual knowledge… She also designed a number of the original Mac fonts, including Geneva, Chicago, and the picture-heavy Cairo, using only a nine-by-seven grid.

Kare is a legend.

Computers in Libraries 2018: Day 1

I always have a mixed feeling about the annual Computers in Libraries conference. In past years, I hardly found the presentations inspiring. Many of my colleagues probably felt the same; therefore, most skipped this year. I was not planning on going either, but I changed my mind at the last minute before the discount ended. With the group rate and membership discount, the admission is quite cheap; therefore, I don’t feel so bad. Although the venue is in Arlington, Virginia, I get to get away from the office for a few days.

For the first day, I sat in most of the presentations on UX and digital presence. In the first presentation, “Creating Engaging Content Strategies for Maximum Impact,” I had no clue what the speaker what talking about. Followed by “Custom Data Rich Websites Using Information Architecture,” which is another boring talk on Drupal. After lunch, I was half zoned out on “Iterative Design: Users in Learning Object Development.” Worse was “Website Design Winners & Losers!” The title alone made me cringe.

After being fed up with boring web talks, I switched to a different track. Learning about Dash and Dot robotics for the first time excited me. It seems like an excellent way for kids to learn to code. Đạo’s birthday is coming up. I am thinking of dropping $280 on Wonder Workshop Dash & Dot Robot Wonder Pack for his present. It’s not cheap, but it is more useful than buying him Lego. With Lego, he would spend an hour or two building, but Đán and Xuân could just break it in a second.

For tomorrow, I will try to attend presentations that I don’t know anything about.

Gutted Google Analytics

After many months contemplating, I pulled the plug on Google Analytics last night. Although GA is not as intrusive as other trackers, I no longer want to keep track of my visitors. I don’t know how many of you are reading this site, but I respect your privacy. I have done nothing with the data GA collected and I have not checked my traffic for a long time.

I would love to know my readers (you can contact me any time), but I am also fine not knowing. It’s a personal blog after all. I write what I want to write and you read what you want to read. We can keep our relationship that way. It’s all good.

With all the in-your-face ads and snooping scripts all over the internet, I would like to provide you a place to escape. When you come to my site, you can read and leave. If you enjoy what I write, you can come back. That’s it. I want to help make the web a friendly place to visit again. I also want to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In addition to this blog, I gutted GA on my portfolio site, Vietnamese Typography, and Professional Web Typography. Now you can read and browse these sites without being tracked.