Jun 2010
03:48 PM

Hooray for Tucson!

We hope that anyone considering a boycott of our lovely state in the wake of SB1070 will hear the news that the city of Tucson (homebase for BrinkMedia) is actually the first city to sue the state of Arizona over SB1070. The whole state is not some fox washed nut job right wing key hole, just some of it. And Tucson is 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix. So there.

Jun 2010
11:01 AM

Twitter Proof Your Site

Twitter's Fail Whale

As we all know, Twitter goes down very frequently. Twitter has released a useful tool to inform users about outages, planned or otherwise, but this is no help to the many websites that syndicate their Twitter feeds.

Too often the script that is pulling the Twitter feed triggers an error that can take down the entire page. One of the common culprits is the XML parser, such as DOMDocument. When Twitter goes down, all status feeds return the infamous “Fail Whale” HTML. This, of course, does not validate as XML and causes the parser to throw an error.

The best method to deal with this is to wrap all XML parsing in try/catch blocks and cache the Twitter feed. If Twitter goes down, you can display the cached copy of the feed.

This is good advice for anytime you find yourself syndicating a feed.

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Jun 2010
06:28 PM

It’s time for @font-face


Since the beginning of the web, designers have struggled to use fonts on their sites, but have been limited to using the fonts that come installed with users’ operating systems. This meant that web sites had to use Arial, Times New Roman, or one of a handful of other “web safe” fonts. Of course there are ways around this – including creating graphics using a font, employing Flash to render the font (sIFR), and using proprietary browser-specific font embedding techniques. None of these options are even near perfect.

In 1998, the W3C added the CSS selector @font-face, which allows sites to point the browser to a font file, to the spec for CSS2. It was dropped from CSS2.1, but returned in CSS3. Although it took some time, it is now supported by all current browsers. Recently at Google’s 2010 I/O conference, they announced a free and open font library called Google Font Directory. The significance of this announcement is that Google (arguably the most important company on the web) has thrown their support behind @font-face. It was’t until Google supported xmlHTTPRequest (aka AJAX) that it became widely adopted and I think that this will also be true of @font-face.

The next obstacle to overcome is the licensing of fonts. Although you can use almost any font with @font-face, most fonts do not come with licensing that allows this. This is also why the Google Font Directory is so useful. All of the fonts in their directory are licensed to be used on commercial sites. Another great resource, that Brandon shared with me, is Font Squirrel. They have 633 fonts and counting, all of which have free licenses. They also have some great tools to sample fonts and create your own @font-face kits. From now I hope to see more site’s using great fonts.

It’s time for @font-face!

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Jun 2010
01:30 PM

Marketing in the New Economy

There was an advertisement in this month’s Entrepreneur magazine by a self-proclaimed business guru (to remain anonymous) in which he listed the new realities of the post-recession economy. The overall theme of how he framed this new economy is encapsulated in his first point: the purchasing power has returned to the buyer. What an interesting notion; not only the fact that the power has “returned” to the buyer, but the fact that at some point in time the buyer did not have power.

I respectfully disagree with him. The buyer always had the power. Maybe they were in weaker negotiating positions. Maybe they succumb to the allure of abundances a little too often and made unwise purchasing decisions. But they always had a choice, and that choice was shaped through the power of marketing. Whether in an unprecedented economic boom, the Great Recession, or a brave new post-recession world, in the end it is our job as marketers to convince consumers to buy what we are selling, and furthermore, it is our job as a marketers to sell what our customers need.

To say that the power was somehow in our hands, as if consumers were privileged to be purchasing from us, understates the work we do. Buyers always had the power, it is how they exercise that power that has changed.

I may not be a millionaire entrepreneur hocking self-help books in trade magazines, but I’ve got perspective as someone working on the front lines in the battle of consumer perceptions. So here it is, my one simple rule of the new economy: try harder. The only thing that has changed is consumers are spending less. So you have to try harder to convince them to purchase from you. Otherwise, the rules of marketing still apply.

Understanding your consumers needs and convincing them that your product can meet them is, and always will be, the rule of doing business no matter what the state of the economy is. Just be aware, your consumers needs are constantly changing. It is up to you to stay on top of them and to adapt accordingly. The businesses that failed to survive The Great Recession are the businesses that failed to meet the needs of the modern market, plain and simple.

Photo credit: d’n'c on flickr

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Jun 2010
11:00 AM

The Hilarity. The Madness. The Reviews.

Cliché time, ladies and gentlemen – nothing that’s worth doing is ever easy.

Our people are out there. They sit patiently – at cafes and restaurants, hotel lobbies and theaters – gears grinding and pens in hand, itching to deliver the goods. In more than a dozen cities, and growing, our army of intrepid editors is gathering the information so that you don’t have to. If there’s a renegade art collective in downtown Austin with ground-breaking wares or an virtually unknown café down that obscure alley in Bernal Heights with free wi-fi, a friendly staff, and epic pastries, you’d better believe that we’ll find it.

Not only will we find it, but we’ll polish off a fresh appraisal, clean and honest.

Our people aren’t afraid to lay things out as they are. Certainly, the tendency is to always say nice things – hell, we’ve been trained since childhood to keep our yaps shut otherwise. This is why most city guides are unutterably useless to serious adventure-seekers, weathered travelers, and the otherwise ‘plugged-in’ denizens of these fine towns. The fact of the matter is that sometimes a bad review is in order – take for example a submission by one of our most trusted San Francisco contributors:

Bus Stop Pizza – Haight Ashbury

“You know, it’s pretty damn hard to ruin a slice of pizza – dough, sauce, cheese, and there you have it. Pretty simple, right? That being said, you may want to take some extra caution here at ‘Bus Stop Pizza,’ because this stuff isn’t nearly as appetizing as a pile of salty garbage. The name isn’t so clever, either. In fact, do yourself a favor and visit your local bus station. Take in a healthy eye-full of the wretched humanity of it all – endless lines, indecipherable voices growling out of loud speakers, and walking stomachs, milling about like haggard ghosts. Gaze at the detritus, the filth and agony, and then you might have an idea of how god-awful this pizza really is. If you don’t believe me, head on over, where ruining pizza and murdering your good mood is the name of the game.”

That poor pitiful man – having to endure all of that, just so you don’t have to.

All of the glowing venues rise to the top, of course, and then the world doesn’t seem so grim. With their well-developed senses of humor and buoyant attitudes, we’re elated to work with such interesting and creative individuals. And we’re always on the look-out for more.

We spend a goodly amount of time in front of these cursed computer screens. It’s beginning to get hotter out here in our Tucson desert headquarters, so perhaps there’s no real reason to complain. It benumbs us at times, however, this monumental task we’ve taken on. The screening process is rigorous, the hours long, but it never ceases to amaze us, the kind of brilliance that slides down the funnel and into our laps. We’re always moving forward with the BrinkGuide; currently, we’re fleshing-out all of our reviews from San Francisco, getting ready for product testing. In short order, we’ll have our product cleaned up, shiny and new, and on its way to you.

photo credit: joland