Greg Wood: Bespoke post design

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I have a lot of admiration (and a little envy) for Erskine‘s Greg Wood, who has been producing some really eye-catching designs, unique to each blog post he produces.

I was particularly taken with his latest effort: Chilli Babies.

Greg Wood: Chilli Babies

Of course, I can’t mention bespoke blog post designs without referring to Jason Santa Maria, who has been producing impressive customised layouts for some time.

Inspired as I am to produce unique work for each post, a bespoke blog theme would be a good start…

The Web, Social Media and the Democratisation of Music

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In the wee hours of this morning, I posted only my second addition to the NixonMcInnes blog: a 1000-word essay entitled The Web, Social Media and the Democratisation of Music.

As I’ve mentioned recently, this is a subject of constant discussion between me and LHR singer, Dan, so this won’t be the last time I mention it!

Somewhere along the line, music went from being an art to being a product.


Slowly, though, the Web is helping music to become art again. While the mainstream music industry once again cries that “Home taping is killing music“, things are changing for musicians in a very positive way.

Very Hungry Googlepillar

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Google often change the logo on their ubiquitous search engine to celebrate a holiday or special event.

Today’s logo really brought a sentimental smile to my face. To celebrate the first day of Spring, a logo has been designed by Eric Carle featuring the Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that I’m sure featured in the life of every British child from the ’70s onward (and probably every American child, English-speaking child and then some).


Two more major free albums

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Following in the footsteps of Radiohead’s ‘Pay as you please’ scheme for In Rainbows, two other major artists have released new, free-to-download albums.

Manchester indie veterans The Charlatans have made their new album, You Cross My Path, free to download through radio station XFM’s website. This is prior to a CD release in May, and would appear to be a move to support their UK tour in the same month. Fans are also being offered the chance to buy a Deluxe CD and ticket bundle.

Ghosts I – IV

Also free to download is the first part of Nine Inch Nails‘ experimental, instrumental album, Ghosts IIV. This obviously serves to sell the 36-track work in its entirety, which is available in several formats. These work in a tiered way, which gives an option for people with varying degrees of interest in the work.

  • Free, 9-track download of Ghosts I
  • $5, 36-track download of Ghosts IIV
  • $10, 2 CD, Digipak with 16-page booklet. This is released in April, but comes with an immediate download à la Radiohead.
  • $75, 2 CD, 1 DVD with audio in multi-track format for remixing, 1 Blu-Ray with high-definition audio, in a fabric hardcover slip case
  • $300, ‘Ultra-deluxe limited edition package’ (the site doesn’t specifically mention what’s in this)

The Charlatans approach is going to be quite common, with bands releasing free music to encourage people along to their gigs. To the contrary, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor is looking to promote sales of his new album with a ‘try before you buy’ approach.

Also of note is the tiered release strategy. Those with a little interest in Nine Inch Nails or Ghosts IIV can sample the free downloads. Those who would have already given some consideration to a purchase (or perhaps grabbing it via BitTorrent) will probably feel that $5 for the download is easily worth it. $10 is a bargain price for those who like their music on a physical format, while the $75 and even $300 packages (the latter of which has sold out!) will really appeal to die-hard fans and those with an eye for something special.

These are two artists with different musical styles and different approaches to the changing music market. The both have the same agenda, though — to bypass record labels and get their music out to their loyal fans, and hopefully win over some new ones, too.

IE8 Version Targeting Doesn’t Work

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If you’re a web developer, there’s only one issue this week that deserved your attention: Browser version targeting.

On Monday, A List Apart published an article — Beyond DOCTYPE: Web Standards, Forward Compatibility, and IE8 — that described a new, Microsoft-led method, of instructing browsers to use a particular version of its rendering engine to render a web page — in other words, which set of prior bugs or incorrect/missing parts of particular specifications a page needs to appear as originally intended. Version targeting uses a meta-tag in the head of a web page to specify what particular version of a browser the page was written to work with.

Questions about the motive or necessity for version targeting aside, one side-issue that has stirred up a lot of attention is the default behaviour of Internet Explorer 8, which will implement the proposed targeting. If the version targeting meta-tag is absent, IE8 will not use the most recent, standards compliant code to render your page, but will instead fall back to rendering as IE7!

To convince IE8 to render your nice, clean (X)HTML and CSS using its most standards-compliant engine, you need to add this meta-tag to your pages, which, I agree, sounds completely backwards.

The reasoning for this behaviour is that it is Standards-savvy developers that will know to implement the meta-tag, while legacy content that goes unmaintained will still render as originally intended. However, I’m not convinced that the proposed default behaviour will actually solve anything.

Surely, most of the problems that Microsoft are trying to address with this proposal are incorrectly coded sites, created for IE6 and earlier. Falling back to IE7’s rendering would only benefit those who have developed their sites using IE7’s ‘Standards’ mode, or at least updated it to render correctly in IE7.

IE7 was a big leap forward for Web Standards, as it was the first new release of Internet Explorer for around 5 years, and supported parts of the CSS 2.1 specification that had been missing or incorrect in Internet Explorer 6. However, this leap forward came at a cost for developers not adhering to Web Standards, as sites that looked correct in IE6 now looked broken in the more standards-compliant IE7.

If IE7 is the default choice for rendering sites that do not feature the meta-tag, then websites developed for earlier versions of Internet Explorer will still reveal their problems under ‘No meta-tag, IE7 mode’, anyway. Meanwhile, while IE7 does still have its issues, I believe that tightening up the Standards-support is hardly going to have catastrophic effects for any sites that were developed for IE7’s ‘Standards’ mode.

It’s also worth mentioning that sites that rendered in IE7’s ‘Quirks’ mode (that is, using IE5.5’s rendering engine) should be unaffected, as they will still be rendered in ‘Quirks’ mode in IE8.

I haven’t seen this particular point raised anywhere in the various blogs commenting on the proposal, or the associated comments left, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some detail that I have missed that may invalidate my point. However, the more I think about and read up on version targeting, the less I like the idea.

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