May DoctType Meetup

DocType Society is a monthly informal get-together of local web developers, designers, and hobbyists.  We center on having a few presentations by members about web technology & techiques.  It's great to be in a room with the mixed experiences and skills.  I always learn something while I am there, and when I get home, I usually stumble into 2 or 3 things online, linked through social networking effects of the group, that grow my concepts of web professionals.  For instance, I added some members as LinkedIn people and looked at their profiles, this led me to Seth's About Me page, which led me to get my own About Me and this blog.

So, talks this week (I came in a little late, so technically there was a talk about SVG, but I missed it) were themed around "Being a Beginner":

What is good html? - James

James talked about going from "Vanilla" to "Chocalate" HTML, through best practices, focusing on semantic-oriented HTML5, and valid markup.  My experience in web being primarily in .NET, which doesn't really let you do a lot of manual markup (and when it does, it's not in HTML5!), I actually thought this was an interesting talk.  He did a good job boiling it down into memorable axioms:

  • Focus on the markup having meaning, through careful us of tags (try Josh Duck HTML5 Periodic Table of Elements).
  • Go through the trouble to validate the markup (http://validator.w3.org/) as a best practice
  • Use reset.css to normalize formatting across browsers
  • Use CSS and js workarounds to emulate HTML5 in older browsers, it's preferable to vanilla markup
  • Use h1 for logo and 'throw out' text using text-indent, that way screen-readers can see it
  • "Valid code is not always good code, but good code is always valid".
  • Use a decent editor:  Measureit, coda, textmate, espresso, textwrangler

Introduction to CSS & CSS Sprites - Doug

Doug gave a general introductiion to CSS and sprites, a specific technique in CSS.  I have a pretty good understanding of CSS and have used sprites before, so nothing blew me away.  He almost delved into the Cicada Principle, so perhaps some thunder was stolen by Seth.  I would really like to see sequels to this talk, since CSS skills seem universally underdeveloped in devs I know.  It's something that usually falls to the "learn by doing" danger, which results in lots of practical, but still non-optimal knowledge.

Bugs (The Cicada Principle) - Seth
Seth dropped the coolest idea of the night, something I wanna do on every page now, just for the beautiful math of it all.  Best to just see it in action:

http://designfestival.com/cicada/

Then marvel at how simple it is:

http://designfestival.com/the-cicada-principle-and-why-it-matters-to-web-designers/

Intro to Web Frameworks - Angie
Angie was going to delve into Django (a python web framework), but since the theme of the night was beginners, she decided to back-up a step and just go over intro the concept of a framework and justify using them.  They're libraries that implement the common functionality of web apps, usually presenting  flexible paradigm for organizing your application.  They let you focus on architecture, instead of on too granular a detail.  I think frameworks are the real tools of programming, not so much language, so encouraging people to dive into them and harness them as best as possible is a fertile area for discussion.  Now that she established the very baseline justifications for using a framework.