Publicious Links: You’re Hurting My Old Eyes Edition

For the next few days I’ll be at the Flash on Tap conference in Boston, listening to the best Flash developers, and feeling very old. As I sat in the Papervision and Flash to iPhone seminars, I was surrounded by kids with mohawks, wearing their underwear on the outside, nodding in rhythm to the jargon. Meanwhile, I felt something like this old guy that my daughter drew.


Since you probably can’t read the words, here’s the transcript:

Kid: “You are weird!”

Old Man: “You’re too young! You’re hurting my eyes!”

That is how she thinks of kids vs. adults. Their youth shines like a beacon. Looking directly at it gives us pain. In some ways, she might be right. So I’m going to SuperCuts for a mowhawk, and putting my undewear on the outside, and posting some of the good links I’ve come across recently:

Papervision is a real time 3D engine for Flash. It’s the means for developers to create the virtual worlds for us to move around in Flash apps.

Took a class today on ActionScript 3. Very good. Totally over my head. But that’s OK. If you never get out of your comfort zone, you could relax yourself into oblivion. Here’s the instructor’s companion Web site.

VectorTuts+ offers 15 Great Resources for Learning Adobe InDesign. I’ll try not to be too upset that Publicious didn’t make the list, since InDesign Secrets is at the top.

Is a Photoshop backlash brewing? The NY Times has an article on some magazines making news by declining to ‘shop their models. In Europe, there is a movement afoot to force something like warning labels on published Photoshopped images. Sort of a “Truth in Pixels” law. As always, Photoshop Disasters is required viewing.

This week Adobe released a new feature on, Presentations, which you use to make…presentations. Apparently they’re either out of application names, or they’re trying to corner the market on Obvious. It’s pretty neat. Try it out. Between this and Keynote, there will be no excuse to use PowerPoint(less) going forward.

I Love Design is a site owned by Quark (hey, remember them?) offering downloads, templates, job listings (UK), blogs, and a gallery of things to look at.

Adobe also released an update to Camera RAW, with support for new cameras.

Also on Adobe Labs (not Acrobat labs), is info about a curious thing called Story. It’s a collaborative script-writing tool. Unfortunately, it’s not available yet. Still, when I finally take a crack at one of the screenplays I have rotting in my brain, I may check it out. Maybe I’ll pitch InDesign on Vacation to Spielberg. Too bad I couldn’t show it to him. YouTube took it down because of the Go-Go’s music in the background. Sigh. I’m sure Jane Wiedlan would’ve loved it.

Finally, you don’t have to hate your InDesign documents to want to punch, rip, and burn them. Just check out my latest entry in the InDesign Eye Candy series: Punch-outs, Stickers, and Rips.

Oh, I think I just broke a hip! My eyes!

Publicious Links: The Educated Cheese Edition


I know, I know: what the hell is educated cheese?

“Educated cheese” is a phrase uttered by Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley in his color commentary during a recent Red Sox game. It is my favorite new term, and I use it as much as possible, simply because it the caviar of baseball slang. And it makes me giggle and be glad to be alive. So I am trying to ignite a grassroots movement to increase its popularity. In baseball, “cheese” is slang for a good fastball. See also, “easy cheese”, “hard cheese”, and “cheddar.” “Educated cheese” is what a veteran pitcher throws when he no longer has the physical dominance to throw fastball after fastball. He can’t blow away the hitters, so he picks his spots. He finds a rhythm, and when the time is right, he lets it rip. Educated cheese. If he’s having a really good night, he may even “paint with educated cheese and salad.” But now we’ve gone beyond caviar slang to flying fish roe floating in a flaming absinthe smoothie slang.

So like that pitcher, I’ll pick my spots and hope to paint this post with nine slices of educated cheese.

First up, a tremendous short video on The Secret History of Fonts. It’s one of the Ignite series of brief, structured presentations. Most of the time, I love the Ignite format (aka, Enlighten Us, But Make It Quick). But this time, I was left begging for more. The presenter, Bram Pitoyo, should do a longer version. Beware of poor audio in spots. But it’s still worth it.

@students Creative Resource is a nice treasure trove of graphic resources and links, mostly Web related.

If it’s the second Tuesday of every third month, it must be Adobe Patch Day. That’s Adobe’s new scheduled day to release security patches, a la Microsoft. Nice to know they’re taking security as more of a job than a hobby. Not so nice to know that they have to.

Mr. Doob’s blog is where you will “find some random experiments done with Flash, pv3d (Papervision 3d), and ape”. Some really interesting/entertaining bits. My favorite is the one where you can literally bring down Google with one mouse click.

Creatives Are is a browser toolbar add-on for Firefox, IE, and others that puts all kinds of resources for designers, illustrators, and other creatives at your fingertips.

Not sure if you can afford an enterprise class publishing system? Rent one. K4 is now available for rent. How long till you can rent InDesign for a week, month, year? Hmmm. Or maybe even shorter, like you have a project and you need Photoshop but just for the weekend? $9.95 for 72 hours? Just sayin’.

Despite all our troubles: war, disease, recession, climate change, and the downsizing of the Cadbury Egg, the ’00s have been one helluva clean decade—if you judge by trends in graphic design. Everything is shiny. Blame Apple perhaps, for spreading the shiny germ. Here’s your chance to jump on the shiny bandwagon before the inevitable matte-lash: my post in InDesign Secrets, Shine On.  sounds too good to be true, and they know it. There’s a “something’s fishy” graphic on the homepage. Free conferencing, free recording and downloading, up to 6 hours per call, up to 96 participants, no ads, no spam, etc. But as someone who’s used it a couple of times, and know folks who’ve used it more, I think it’s legit. And an awesome resource to take advantage of.

Last, I leave you with my favorite images of the week: the headless brides. They’re Photoshop templates for graphic artists to insert models’ smiling noggins into. Certainly this offers us a wonderful opportunity to make Frankenbrides, cat-brides, etc. ‘shop on, kids.

A Little Snag

We’re in the process of building a new XML publishing system. It’s going to be swell. But it doesn’t exist yet. We have an “old” XML publishing system that’s kind of languishing right now. No new projects are going into it. Lots of the people who used to work with it are either reassigned or no longer with the company. And there are over 100,000 pages of stuff in it.

Occasionally, one of the books that was created in the old system comes up for reprint. We like to take those opportunities to make corrections. Well, what do you do when most of the people who used to do this kind of work are gone? And on top of that, what do you do when the reprint work is assigned to a vendor who doesn’t have access to your system?

You panic. You hurl accusations. You scream about lack of planning. Then you relax and try to figure out what to do.

In our old system, each book exists as a set of XML files and a high-res PDF that was sent to the printer for the original run. If the corrections are light, then it’s possible to make them in the PDF files themselves, avoiding the whole XML thing. That at least gets the corrected book printed. I suppose it would be nice to make the same corrections in the XML files as well so our content is synchronized. But if we have the ability to do that, then why not just fix the XML and make a new PDF? The problem right now is nobody is available to fix the XML. So we’re essentially going to have bad XML, and if we ever want to move it into the new publishing system, somebody is going to have to remember that it needs to be fixed first. What could possibly go wrong?

Another idea would be to give the vendor access to the old system. But that’s fraught with peril as well. Technical and security issues aside, what’s the point in training a vendor to use a system that you’re planning on discontinuing? And what if there’s more than one vendor that we’re planning on using for this kind of work?

We could also give the XML to the vendor and have them figure out how to make pages with it. That’s kind of the beauty of having vendors: you can tell them all kinds of crazy things and it’s their job to figure out how to make them work. But imagine the time and expense they’d have to put in to make it work. We’d essentially be asking them to replicate our system in their shop. That ain’t right.

So what’s the solution? Seriously, what is it? Because I have no idea. Anyone?

Publicious Links: The Charlie Chaplin’s Christmas Tree Edition

I am eight kinds of geek. Among my varied geekery is film geekery. I took a lot of film classes in college, mostly from a wonderful man named Arthur St. Leger Grindon, who taught me ways of seeing, not just what’s up on the screen, but everywhere. Thanks, Lege. Nowadays Netflix is my film school, augmented by the ridicuously good podcast/blog, Filmspotting (née Cinecast).

So this week, I was watching Un Chien Andalou, by Luis Buñuel and some punk named Salvador Dalí. Among its many charms are ants crawling from a guy’s palm, dead donkeys on pianos, and the notorious eyeball shot.


Watching UCA is like getting beaten with a sack of puppies, but it is a cornerstone of modern art and cinema. Plus, we would never have had Monty Python without Buñuel and his ilk, so you gotta love it, dead donkeys and all.

In the DVD commentary Buñuel’s son told how his father was once so bored at Charlie Chaplin’s Xmas party, that he and some accomplices stood up and stomped the Xmas tree and presents to pieces. Just to be, y’know, subversive. As you might imagine, Chaplin was rather miffed. But sometime later, after the holiday, he invited Buñuel back to his house and surprised his guest with a completely new Xmas tree, loaded with presents. Chaplin asked Buñuel to stomp everything again, but this time do it first, so they could enjoy a nice peaceful dinner afterward. So in honor of Buñuel and Chaplin’s random acts of weirdness, I give you eleven pieces of the ultimate surrealist work: the Internet.

First off, I can’t believe it’s taken me over a year to mention Deke is, of course, Deke McClelland, author of ten trillion books on Illustrator, Photoshop, etc. I watched Deke’s videos (on actual video tape!) back in the day to study for the Photoshop 6 certification exam, and to this day I still “hear” many of the keyboard shortcuts in his voice. In Deke We Trust.

In case your eyes hurt just thinking about that shot from Un Chien Andalou, soothe them with my latest post at InDesign Secrets: InDesign Eye Candy, Part 1.

Want another great InDesign resource? Check out Gabriel Powell’s Instant InDesign. Great info on template design and high-speed production skills. Videos, tips, and excepts from Gabriel’s book.

Sherman, set the Way Back Machine for last fall, when I was raving about a new Adobe thing called TLF. Well, it looks like someone at the New York Times agreed with me. This week the Times launched a new AIR-based online news reader. It’s getting rave reviews, and it relies on TLF. Here’s the behind-the-scenes story from Adobe. TLF guys, remember your friends when you’re rich and famous!

This week’s Adobe Developer Summit has been great, so far. It’s amazing how easy and well Adobe Connect works to deliver the conference to those of us who couldn’t make the trek to Seattle. If you want to glimpse the direction that the big A is pointed in for the future, check out the conference. In particular, pay attention to technologies like Configurator, which allows you to create custom interfaces for Photoshop, and will be extended across the Creative Suite.

Ever wonder what typeface the Adobe “Periodic Table” of logos is set in? It’s called Adobe Clean. It was designed by Robert Slimbach and used to be called Gauge. While you can’t buy it, you can read the story behind it.

Tweets in Space! Twitter has now gone beyond a worldwide phenomenon, with the first astronaut to tweet from orbit. Can you imagine if we had Twitter during the Apollo days? DrRendezvous RT@CoolNeil: “The Eagle Has Landed!”

That’s all for now, kids. Beware of Spaniard Surrealists bearing straight razors, and remember the words of poet Frederico García Lorca:

On the empty plain
an olive tree goes walking

Just one lone
olive tree

CS5 Revealed, For Real

Well, a little. If you like your geek in big thick slabs, check out the Adobe Creative Suite Developer Summit. It runs through Friday, May 15th and offers live, free sessions (via Adobe Connect) on many cutting edge  Adobe technologies, including stuff that may find its way into Creative Suite 5.

Note that this is a developer conference, not a user conference, so be prepared for tech talk about creating apps and plug-ins and features. Still, you don’t need to be a developer to appreciate the impact of what they’re talking about.

If you can’t watch the sessions live, many of them are being recorded so you can catch them on demand. I’ve seen some really cool stuff so far, mostly to do with Flex and Flash working their magic on the user interface of Creative Suite applications. One more reason to attend: if you watch the sessions and fill out the comment forms, you’re eligible for a free copy of Flex Builder, so you can make your own cutting edge goodies.

The Bits and Pieces VIII: Output

We’ve covered content modeling, authoring, and content management a bit in this series of posts. The next step is doing something with all that shiny XML. Keeping it cooped up in a database of some sort isn’t going to pay the bills.

Naturally, and as usual, I can’t tell you how to do anything. I don’t know what you’re making. Maybe you’re making something that’s going to compete with something I’m making. Awk-ward! But there are some general pathways that we can go over.

You can transform your XML into another flavor of XML. Maybe you have an existing XML-based system that would very much like to ingest your data. You can transform XML to another kind of markup, like HTML or whatever the kids are using these days. You can wrestle it into all kinds of proprietary input formats for various applications. If your equipment is fancy enough, you can even create PDF files.

So about that fancy equipment. You need something that can manipulate the XML, because doing it by hand is simply crazy and nobody would ever consider doing it that way. Forget I even said that.

One step above retyping everything with new tags (which is laughable and totally not worth doing) is using a text editor of some sort to execute find-and-replace functions to transform the XML. Maybe your XML has lowercase tag names, and the target content model has capitalized tag names. If there are no major structural differences, maybe a simple find-and-replace would be adequate. A slight upgrade to this tactic would be to use something that allows for grep searches. This dramatically expands the level of complexity you can have in your searches. Instead of “find all the lowercase n’s” you can do “find all the lowercase n’s that appear after < at the beginning of a line and are not followed by o, l, d, q, or z”. Because you’re going to need to do that at some point.

This would be a very cheap implementation, but it’s kind of like the MacGyver duct tape method of problem solving. You’ll look really cool, and it will probably work fairly well, but certainly with a little more time and planning you can come up with a more elegant solution.

There are many free or cheap XSLT engines available online. Just search for “XSLT engine” and behold the bounty. The advantage with these is, um, they’re specifically designed to manipulate XML data. So you get nice things like validation. These can also be plugged into a workflow of some sort to allow for automation.

There are also fancy commercial content engines available. These are designed to be used by companies that have lots of data to transform, and are often plugged into content management systems. There will be consultants involved. They might have one of the free engines as part of their chewy core (the engine, not the consultant), but with clusters of nougat and whatnot bolted on for your transformation pleasure. I guess read the brochure and ask the consultants why their product is any better than the free ones. See how many times they say “seamless” and “robust”. Remind them you are not buying gutters or coffee beans.

I’ll leave you with this anthem to transformation. Enjoy. Sorry.

Upsampling for Fun and Profit

Cross-Promotional Log Rolling Nugget:

Last time out I forgot to add a link to my latest post on InDesign Secrets, Flattening Fun.

I had this one stuck in my craw for about six months. Man does it feel good to have an empty craw. After doing about 100 tests, I think I sorted out all the variables involved with the resolution and color space of flattened graphics. Basically the point of the post was to demonstrate that InDesign can change the color mode and resolution of graphics in some surprising ways when you flatten transparency. And also to give some face time to my 1968 model Godzilla.

Publicious Links: The Whine Flu Edition

I don’t have a cure for the H1N1 virus, but good links are good medicine for whatever ails ya. Unless you’re ailed by attention deficit disorder. In which case, they’re poison. Anyhoo…

Thus far, I’ve been able to avoid the Swine flu, but I think I’m coming down with a case of the Whine flu. Symptoms: dissatisfaction with my software and hardware. Not fast enough. Not up-to-date enough. Buggy. Case in point: Adobe’s back with another warning about the security of Javascript in Acrobat. Some folks are so fed up, they’re dumping Reader for alternative PDF software. Sheesh. Adobe invented PDF. “How embarassking,” as Popeye would say. The new patch is promised by May 12th. Till then, I guess, just rub your screen with Purell, and disable Javascript in Acrobat.

Not to kick a giant corporation while they’re down, but there is more bad news in Adobeland. Not only did they have shutdown weeks where all employees were forced to stay home, layoffs, wage freezes, and now financial analysts downgraded Adobe stock from “buy” to “hold,” even though it’s stumbling between $15–$25 lately. The thinking is that Adobe’s stock will stay low till Creative Suite 5 appears. Let’s hope CS5 is a home run. But of course, if you read Publicious, you already know what’s in store for CS5 😉 If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the  interview with CEO Shantanu Narayen. I’m sure he mentions Publicious in there somewhere…

Actually, he’s more focused on Flash, making deals with Netflix, Comcast, and Disney to deliver content in Flash to your TV. The question is, do you want Flash on your TVs? Personally, I don’t. TV’s craptacular enough as it is, without having to install the latest plug-in version and reboot the set before you can watch MythBusters. Or commercial pop-up ads. Or the prospect of having the SuperBowl “Unexpectedly Quit” while a team is driving for a touchdown. When it happens (and you know it will), it’ll be a 21st Century Heidi moment.

Want to know who else is reading Publicious? Check out for a look at yourselves. It’s fun to see where everyone is coming from. I’d like to give a shout out to my 10 unique cookies in Bulgaria. Yo! S’up, Razgrad?

Trying to enhance your software developer skillz? By all meanz, check out for free PDF “cheat sheetz” chock full o’ information and well-dezigned.

Also worth checking out are Adobe’s new “marketplaces.” Claiming to be “the ultimate resource” and “the most comprehensive collection products, services, and communities available.” Sounds like Exchange on steroids. So far there are two marketplaces, Photoshop and AIR. If they succeed, there will no doubt be more.

I’ll give you three guesses who just bought Stanza, the eBook reader app for the iPhone, and the first two don’t count. If you said Amazon, you win (or do you?) Hmmm.

By the way, Amazon just announced a large format Kindle, aimed at the textbook market. My heart’s still with the underdog, PlasticLogic guys. But either way, if my son’s backpack can get under 20 lbs, I’m good.

Looking for a perfect Mother’s Day gift? Sure, Facebook was ruined when your mom joined, but at least you have Twitter, right? Well, before mom starts following Ashton Kutcher and tweeting links to your prom photos, you might be proactive and give her the new Twitter book from O’Reilly. Who knows, maybe she’ll become a niche titan and buy you a shiny new MacBook Pro.

Finally, I leave you with the disturbing images of the real origin of swine flu: Johnny Cash singing with Miss Piggy.

Be good, and remember, cough into your elbow to keep your PDFs virus-free.


The ability to change course as circumstances dictate is the strength of the project management philosophy we’ll look at now. Agile development is based on the idea that development is an iterative process that uses cross-functional teams to solve problems and develop solutions. Adaptability is the name of the game.

In our current XML publishing project, we’ve split the initial development phase into several parts. Different teams are focusing on different parts of the system: content modeling, authoring, content management, and composition. Each group is responsible for research and requirements gathering. By splitting the tasks between groups of experts, we’re speeding up the whole project, but still are able to delve deeply into each topic.

Contrast this with our previous project, which used the traditional waterfall methodology. In that project, everyone worked on everything. Time and personnel alone imposed limitations on the project. Instead of small groups working in parallel, we had one big group lumbering along, taking on each issue in sequence.

It’s kind of like the old christmas-tree lights where if one burned out they all stopped working. What a revelation when they came out with the ones that kept working despite one burned out light.

There are dangers with agile development of course. One of the groups could go off the deep end or down a rabbit hole, or fall victim to any number of cliches as the project wears on. Different groups may have slightly different ideas of what the project is all about. For this reason there still needs to be a strong project manager who’s in charge of it all–a benevolent dictator who has the authority to say “no, that’s not what we’re looking for.”

So far, on our project, this methodology is working fairly well. Each group is able to spend ample time researching their area of responsibility. We’re getting better information than if we were all lurching around together. It’s nice not having to have every aspect of the project in your head at all times. I never learned how to juggle, after all.

At certain points, though, we all have to come together to compare notes and make sure we’re on the right track. Inevitably somebody puts together a presentation that gets shown to the management sponsors of the project. Words of encouragement are offered, opinions are aired, and we move on.

As our project continues, I’ll be keeping track of any good or bad aspects of agile development. I’ve never worked on a project to completion using this methodology before. I’m curious to see if it really will help us deliver a better system when we’re done.