a jaundiced eye:
the weblog

what's on your mind?
some really old stuff
another site

where i'm writing

09/ 6/2020

Cascading Style Sheets:
Separating Content from Presentation
by Owen Briggs, myself, Eric Costello, and Matthew Patterson.

The O'Reilly Network:
JavaScript: Why You Don't Know More About It;
JavaScript: How Did We Get Here? and
My SXSW Swag

Apple's ADC Internet Developer:
An Updated Browser Sniffer and
Modifying Styles

New Architect /
Web Techniques
Debugging Web Applications;
Why DHTML Will Win;
Finding the Right Search Engine;
Save Your Site From Spambots;
Wrenching Decision;
Building a High-Volume Newsletter Server and
the Mailman followup

The Secret Life of Markup,
XSS, Trust, and Barney and


Coming soon (we hope):
Dynamic HTML Bible, with Scott Andrew LePera, Eric Meyer, Porter Glendinning and Eric Costello

The Head Lemur interviewed me recently at Pixelview

I was interviewed for:
Derek Powazek's Design for Community

I was tech reviewer for:
Mac OS X for UNIX Geeks by Brian Jepson and Ernest Rothman
Apache: the Definitive Reference, 3/e by Ben and Peter Laurie

I contributed to:
Unix Power Tools, 3/e

I edited:
We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs by Paul Bausch, Matt Haughey, and Meg Hourihan.

Molly Holzschlag's Special Edition Using HTML and XHTML

Zeldman's Taking Your Talent to the Web

The Art and Science of Web Design
by Jeff Veen

XHTML: Moving Toward XML
and XML: A Primer
by Simon St. Laurent

XML: Extensible Markup Language
repurposed as The XML Bible
by Elliotte Rusty Harold

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web
by Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville

...all of which simply proves that I can't decide what the hell I want to do when I grow up. :)

Valid XHTML 1.0!

about me


No matter how I write this, it's going to come out sounding like fiction, so please don't take any of the following remarks as gospel. In fact, don't take any of the following remarks, period: there's a copyright statement on them, after all. It's not really very good about sticking to the strict chronology, either.
After an aborted attempt at a career in astronomy (I found out you couldn't look through the really big telescopes, even if you did get to work at night) I entered the third grade and decided I wanted to be Johnny Rutherford, the Indy car racer. Some time thereafter, it was pointed out to me that he was already doing that, and that the job market was limited to one. Thus began my interest in computers.
My father brought home a TRS-80 Model III and a copy of the aquamarine Creative Computing, and for the next four years I played Golden Voyage and Pyramid 2000 and Raaka-Tu and the like. I learned BASIC and some Z80 assembler, but not enough. Then I grew sixteen inches taller and discovered girls. Baseball was already a wash because I didn't have any depth perception. So, I did what comes naturally for a geek kid unused to his own height: I fretted for six years.
For a while there, I was going to be the next Van Gogh. After getting to college and discovering that Modernism had been over for a hundred years (and that it had been replaced by something awful that nobody could put their finger on, called—appropriately enough—post-modernism) I despaired of living and dropped out of the art school and into the liberal arts college, where I planned to follow in Socrates' footsteps, corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens. Unfortunately, I was in Syracuse, New York, where togas and sandals aren't very practical, so I just got a degree in religious studies and philosophy instead.
In college, I learned that you can get paid to sit around, read books, write papers, wax philosophical, and drink. So, despite having spent years working in a bar with graduate students—this experience should have taught me that they were generally poor and over-stimulated folks in flight from the real world—I kept on with the dream and applied for graduate school. I got in, but they didn't have any money, or at least not any they were willing to give me, so thus began my long post-college drama.
In the space of a year, I lived in eight different apartments in three different states. I worked as a day laborer, pizza delivery boy, drug testing guinea pig, desktop publishing novice, survey administrator, front desk boy at a furniture store, Pepsi bottling line habitué, grader of student essays, printer of t-shirts with baseball team logos and rainbow flags on them, carpenter (frame and finish), Ford steering shaft assembly line worker, SGML document conversion operator, and Perl hacker.
I liked the last part best. Getting paid to sit around a cubicle and write on white boards and listen to music on my headphones while I pitted myself against the machine and the limits of my own logical and artistic ability: now that's my idea of a good time. Air conditioned comfort, adjustable keyboard tray, free Internet access, getting paid to learn UNIX? Pinch me.
Like all good things, it eventually made me highly resistant to change. But change came, first in the form of two, then twelve, employees, and later in the form of the awesome and mindbending responsibility for laying them off (along with 400 of the company's 540 other employees). Within three months, I, too was on the road looking for the next best thing.
I tried consulting. In my case, this meant "going to strange cities to sit next to guys with white shirts, black pants and bad coffee breath, having meetings with guys with sport coats and golfing trophies, and trying to tell them what they needed to do in order to get their intranet up and running, all the while dodging the politics, hoping to accomplish something, feeling justified when nothing was accomplished, and sending lots of email."
In the hotel room at night, after a long and weary day of nothing much at all, I would dial in and spend hours reading mailing lists and Web sites, answering questions, and building a name for myself. The downside to being cloistered in your perfect dream job is that when it goes away, leaving only a smoking crater in the ground, you've got some catching up to do. And a lot of it seems to involve dealing with the sort of people you don't like. All in all, though, I got to work with some great folks.
The Net was different, though. Dislike someone? Killfile them. Problem solved. Or, if you're feeling particularly peckish, flame and then killfile them. Want respect? Demonstrate competence. Want love? Help somebody out. Want fame? Do something compelling and spread the word. So I started a mailing list for Webfolk—now in its fourth year—which seems to be fairly well liked. In the process, I also developed a reputation as a surly curmudgeon.
I like that people think I'm surly. It feeds some weird fetish I have; something to do with being a crusty old sonofabitch that everyone misses when he's gone. Like Mencken or someone like that.
I eventually quit the consultant gig, though, as it was clearly not going anywhere, and joined up with Heather at hesketh.com, where I remain today. I have an office with no windows, on purpose.
I was lucky enough to know a few people, got to know quite a few more, and eventually got the chance to strut my stuff a bit, outside of work. I've written for { the fray }, after dinner, stating the obvious, smug, developer.com, +he finger, the dreams project, a list apart, media nugget of the day, high five, Webmonkey, Web Techniques, Apple, O'Reilly, and been quoted in a few others.
Oh, and I wrote two articles a week for this site for about five months, after which I got busy, or it lost its charm, or maybe it was that I was suddenly getting paid (or so I thought) to write, which took some of the fun out of it. The thing on the home page is a Buddha, perched atop a USRobotics 33.6 Sportster modem, attached to a Macintosh Centris 610, from a picture I took myself with an ancient Connectix Quickcam.
I've worked as a production line document conversion drone (where I learned SGML, Perl, SunOS, Solaris, shell, vi, emacs, and about a dozen different ways not to make my bosses happy). I've been a Perl hacker, tech lead, technical manager, consultant, freelancer, entrepreneur, writer, editor, programmer, systems administrator, security guy, network guy, and a few other more or less related sorts of people. I like cats, but I'm allergic to longhaired cats, so we shave ours bald. I've used PHP, mod_perl, Apache, Linux, FreeBSD, AIX, Solaris, mSQL, mySQL, Windows, Macintosh, and a few other OSes. I know more computing languages than I do words in any single foreign language except for perhaps French. I love this stuff.
I wrote four chapters for a QUE book that was never published. My favorite quote came from the copy editor, who said something like "this is the worst book I've ever seen in all my career as an editor". We don't really shave our cats. Emboldened by this support, and forced into dire financial straits by the fact that QUE didn't pay me for a year, I submitted a proposal salvo to the kind folks at O'Reilly, who turned it down, then called me back to chat, then eventually turned me down again. But that's okay, I got to do some technical editing for them anyway.
In subsequent years, I've been the technical and/or development editor for the following tomes: I must be doing something right, they let me write my own book, too. A "doorstop technology book" with a fun, charming bouquet and a light, peppery finish, it was voted the book most likely to prop up a monitor by an independent panel of bookstore buyers' agents, rated 4 3.5 out of 5 stars at Amazon by people who dared to leave their names, and is selling briskly, thank you very much. If you do check it out, do me a favor and buy it through my site. As an author, I make three times as much on a book via an affiliates program purchase than I do from the publisher.
We won Cool Site in a Day, at Web98, and I judged the same contest for Web2000. Now I sometimes give talks about nurturing Web community and building cross-browser DHTML user interfaces. I've spoken at South by Southwest, the CMP/Miller-Freeman conferences, and Thunder Lizard, and at a few other conferences. CMP liked me so much I got to be on their Advisory Board. I'm still not sure I like the whole speaking thing, but it's great to get out of the office and throw down Web designer gang signs with my geek kin.
No, really. I was just kidding about the cats, already.
All in all, I have a rich life, good friends, great co-workers, a loving girlfriend, challenging work, and a bright future. What's not to love?
My blogger code: B7 d+ t+ k- s- u= f- i-- o++ x+ e+ l-- c--

And yes, I know I cheated a bit on the "I am Jeffrey Zeldman" question.