Archive for March, 2006

For about a month now I’ve had a Post-It Note on my desk telling myself to call up Providian and see if I can get a lower APR on my Visa that I have through them. At some point a while back my year-long introductory APR ended and I started on the not-so-nice higher APR. This was something like 13.5% variable. It was this high because I was recently out of college when I got the card and my credit score was around 45 points lower than it is now – at least this is why I think it was that high.

Anywho, I finally got around to calling them up to see what I could do about the high APR. After about 5 minutes of getting lost in their automated phone service, I finally get a real person. I asked if there was someone I could talk to about getting my APR lowered. She informed me that Providian does a periodic three month audit of your account and automatically offers you a higher limit or a lowered APR if it’s applicable. She also informed me that there was nothing on my account that indicated I had an offer for a lowered APR.

That’s all well and good. In fact I can vouch for this system because about four months ago my limit increased 1300 dollars without me calling and asking for it.

My issue was that I wanted it lowered now, I didn’t want to have to wait until they were nice enough to simply grant me a lowered APR. So, I asked her if I could talk to someone about getting it lowered. She put me on hold, talked to her supervisor (I assume), and then said that there was, in fact, an offer for a lowered APR on my account. She then transfered me to whatever department it is that handles that sort of thing.

I get transfered to a very vibrant lady who is nice enough to explain everything to me. She said I have 2 offers. One, I could take a fixed 11% APR. Two, I could take a three month fixed 1.5% APR teaser, then afterwards a fixed 11% APR. Seems like a no-brainer to me; I obviously took the latter.

However, that’s not quite the end of the story. I did learn something else from this phone call thanks to my very forthcoming contact on the other end of the phone. After I mentioned that the 11% was still above what I wanted to pay, she told me to simply call back after the three month teaser was over. She explained that there is a very good chance I could get it lowered more after that. In fact, she advises people to call their credit card company every 5-6 weeks to see if there are any offers for either a higher limit or a lower APR. Interesting, I learned something new. It is funny, I have to take my dog to Banixx dog ear infection treatment and have to spend some money for it.

So, my recomendation: Call your credit card companies and see what they can do for you, specifically, Providian. I can honestly say, despite the higher APR I had/will have three months from now, Providian is my favorite credit card. They gave me my highest limit on any of my cards and they have a free credit score that they give to you every month. That cost alone would make up for the extra money I pay in interest each month, plus I’m thinking about getting one of the long term payday loans to help me financially.

I know, I know, everyone and their brother posted their SXSWi posts a week ago and I’m probably the only person who went who hasn’t finished posting, but eh. I mean, what else do I have to write about? :-)

Behind the Scenes: Developing OS X and Longhorn
This was another instance where there wasn’t a whole lot of panels that interested me at this particular session. However, I say interested me, but I mean interested in terms of relating to my work. This panel certainly interested me, but more on a general nerd level. The panelists really illustrated the stark difference in design methodologies at Apple and Microsoft. Apple’s methodology was based on design first, develop later. Microsoft had the opposite methodology: develop first then design based on what your developers can accomplish. Being a nerd-conference, of sorts, there was an obvious audience bias towards Apple and I think that fact was visible in the facial expressions and general demeanor of the Microsoft panelist. Despite all that, I learned a lot about both companies. Interesting indeed.
Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps
This panel interested me simply because what I’ve been doing lately is web application development for our intranet at work. This panel was more of a discussion about current web apps, which was still better than What’s hot in web applications on Sunday. I really liked the visualizations that Eric Rodenbeck presented, however they kind of didn’t go with the flow of the other panelists. Cool nonetheless. A lot of the other discussion was about applications that I’ve heard of and know about like Flickr, LiveJournal, and ChicagoCrime.org. Incidentally, Chicago Crime was designed by Wilson Miner who went with Jeff and I. Neat huh? All in all, I really enjoyed this panel.
Burnie Burns Keynote
Caught this keynote late as well. Burnie Burns, whose name I had to look up to figure out who he was exactly, puts on Red Vs. Blue. Once I heard that, I immediately knew who he was. I caught up on web stuff while listening, but did listen quite a bit. I did a bit of explaining to Jeff about who he was and what Red Vs. Blue was. Neat.
Dogma Free Design
This panel was… alright. There was much talk about how when designing a site, you can’t tell “if you got it” just by checking things off of a list provided by upper management – it just doesn’t work like that. I think this panel had a lot of good stuff to say, it just came off convoluted. People would just sort of chime in about whatever, really. It’s hard to give a quick summary of what I learned because, well, I’m not sure that I can really contextualize what I did learn, if anything, for that matter. C’est la vie. Perhaps I should have gone to Secret Sex Lives of Video Games, sounds more interesting.
Bruce Sterling Presentation: The State of the World
Everyone had talked about how Bruce Sterling always gave a great end-of-SXSWi-talk. Bruce pre-empted his esoteric tirade by saying that he was in a literary mood and not a very technical one, as of late. As such, he talked very abstactly about random things that, to me at least, made no sense whatsoever for him to be at SXSWi. I guess he had given great, relevant, talks in years past, but that was certainly not the case this year. Honestly he kept rambling on that I started to nod off. Maybe it’s because I was sort of tired and not really listening, but I really didn’t catch why he ended up reading poetry and crying at the end of the talk. Furthermore, I didn’t catch why everyone gave him a standing ovation at the end. Really, I just wanted dinner at that point. Meh.

So that was SXSWi, the next morning I caught a very early flight and headed back to Kansas. I want to apologize now to anyone who read all of these posts, I’m sure they were horrible, wrought with typographical errors and run-on sentences I’m sure. That’s the wonderment of the Intarweb, I don’t have to care. :-)

Sunday we had a good time after all the panels; we attended the Flickr/Del.icio.us/Upcoming.org party and then went on to the web awards after party. I’m just happy I found out there was a back bar on the other side of the bar. :-)

This post has been 75% done for a few days, but I’ve been busy with stuff. My appologies.

On to the panels!

CSS Problem Solving
I went to this panel becuase I had hoped it would basically give me some new CSS techniques I could use. They had some very good designers on the panel, most notably Dave Shea and Ethan Marcotte. Dave talked about having an image at the end of a link, vertical centering, and certain margin issues. Ethan talked about absolute and float positioning. Another speaker, Charles Wyke-Smith – someone I hadn’t heard of until I came to the panel, gave examples of different page layouts that can be attained through absolute positioning, floats, and negative margins. IA lot of useful information for any budding designer for sure.
Standard Deviation: Hacks and Dirty Tricks for the Web
Here is another panel that I was disappointed at. I thought the panel had so much potential, especially with people like Aaron Boodman in on the discussion. However, as I say, the panel was not as I expected it to be. It’s hard for me to sit in a panel where people advocate goinng back to using tables for layout simply because it’s a little bit easier than using CSS. I understand their argument that if things are too complex or fragile then you may look for the easy way out. However, it just seems to me like people aren’t trying hard enough. If there is a valid way of doing something, then by all means do it that way. I guess everything comes down to a sliding scale of when to deviate from standards. A lot of what they used as examples for when they deviated from standards were in terms of Web 2.0 applications that weren’t your standard web pages. Take for example Google Talk in GMail using undocumented ActiveX components. However, I will say that they did end on a poignant note: Always know what standards you are breaking and why.
Craig Newmark Keynote Interview
We got back from lunch kind of late so we sat in on this one in the overflow room. Quite honestly, I didn’t pay all that much attention. I have never used craigslist and I don’t really see myself doing it. I casually listened to his talk, but mainly I just got caught up with internet stuff.
Nothing
I took a nap. :-)
Design Eye for the List Guy
The highlight panel of the day, really. This is the annual redesign panel and this year they tackled craigslist. Four of the five panelists made it to SXSW, apparently Andrei Herasimchuck (yes, I had to look up the spelling of the last name) was unable to make it physically, but was virtually there via iSight.
As for the topic of the actual panel, the redesign of craigslist. The common consensus was that craigslist was pretty good as it already is, it could just use a little tidding up. And, to that end, that’s just what they did; oh, and the listings page, too. I think their redesign, or realignment as I think they mentioned, was spot on. When displaying a lot of data like that on craigslist, you don’t want a very flashy kind of site, just something that is clean and easy to navigate.
One last note, Craig Newmark, the craig in craigslist, happened to be in the audience for this panel. During the Q & A he came up and sat with the panelists. To me, it seemed uncomfortable for Craig to be there – end of the first date kind of uncomfortable. He said he liked what they did, but that’s about it. He didn’t say much other than that. During his keynote speech and his short time with the panel, he mentioned that he wasn’t really in charge of craigslist nowadays. His CEO, I think it was his CEO, is really the one to talk to about these sort of things and that he would run it by him. Who knows. If I were a craigslist user, I’d be happy with the prospect of a redesign.

Again, sorry this was out so late!

The daytime on Sunday seemed a little less hectic. I think this is because I didn’t go to a panel at every offered session. One of my few criticisms of the SXSWi panels is that there are some sessions that are loaded with about 3 panels that I want to go to them all, but then on other days, I simply don’t go to any panels for that session because not a single one sounds all that interesting to me. Despite this criticism, I believe all of the panels are being podcast (available… somewhere?), though I’ve heard some or all of them will be just audio.

But now, on to the summary list of panels I went to that no one will read! Perhaps that last sentece could use some hyphenation… oh well.

What’s Hot in Web Applications
This panel was alright, I suppose. Coming into it, I had the impression that it would be about what it was titled. I was wrong. What this panel actually consisted of was three guys talking about their particular web app. The three companies that I’m referring to are YackPack which does a sort of social networking/voicemail thing, Meebo which is an online instant message client for the four major IM systems, and finally Zimbra which is a very AJAX-infused mail web client. At no point did they talk about any other web applications, which was really a let down. The only positive that I found was that I learned more about Zimbra which was nice because of my interest in Zimbra and more specifically their involvement in the Open AJAX Initiative.
Nothing at 11:30
Demystifying the Mobile Web
This panel reminded me of a advanced web technology class I took my senior year at Kansas State. We talked at great length about things like 3G and WiMax. So, because of that class, I felt I had a good understanding when panelist Kelly Goto talked about the more technical side of mobile technology. It was interesting to hear some numbers regarding the different types of mobile devices. All in all, I’d say this was an interesting talk, but at the same time didn’t really apply to any work I’m currently doing, or for that matter, planning on doing. I jsut don’t feel as though I create any content, be it for my work or for my own stuff, that necessitates specific alterations for mobile web. Things like XHTML-MP (mobile profile) or WAP-CSS just seem like overkill. I guess we’ll just wait and see what the future brings, you never know.
Web 2.1: Making Web 2.0 Accessible
Talk about a wasted panel. This was the most unorganized panel of the entire trip. There was much discussion of the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and related recomendations. When someone says Don’t read the WCAG, read the Understanding the WCAG document, there is something flawed with the WCAG in the first place. Does that not seem obvious to anyone else? Accessibility, to me, is just like any other thing in web development, it all depends on your audience. If your goal is to publish your content such that the most amount of people can have access to it, then accessibility becomes a very significant issue. However, if you have a controled environment, say an intranet, then certain parts of the accessibility argument become moot points. But I digress, accessibility is great, but you have to know when it’s not worth it to deal with certain parts. This panel could have been much better if that would have been their message as opposed to “make it comply with the WCAG 2.0 or it’s not even worth doing” kind of attitude.
Holistic Web Design: Finding the Creative Balance in Multi-Disciplined Teams
Here was a fun panel, one I really enjoyed. The purpose of this panel was to demonstrate the usefulness of applying a holistic approach to your design process. The panel embarked on redesigning a site called Plazes. If I could find a link to their examples online, then I would link them but I can’t seem to find it. Because of this unattainable link, this paragraph about the panel just doesn’t do it justice. Basically, I’ll just sum up by saying they did a great job of redisigning and focusing the site. If I get a chance to find the online example, I’ll edit this post.Ah ha, the slides and actual pages are linked here.

Sorry for this being a late post, I… had stuff come up.

Update: I updated the post to reflect the link to the plazes information for the Holistic Web Design panel.

Despite the trials and tribulations of yesterday, things are going well. I woke up, got breakfast, showered, and took my nine dollar cab ride downtown.

The MondaySaturday panels were alright. Many were geared towards going into business for yourself, which I don’t really have any desire to do at this point in my life. Despite all that, I’ll detail the panels I went to.

Traditional Design and New Technology
This talk was was geared towards towards discussing the effects traditional design, read print design, has had on new design, read the web. This was a fairly interesting panel discussion, but didn’t really apply to me as I’ve never done any print design, nor do I really care to for that matter. It was interesting, though, prior to the start of the panel discussion the moderator said the opinionated one of the group would be Jason Santa Maria, however, the opinionated one ended up being Mark Boulton. We thought it was interesting at least.
How to Be A Web Design Superhero
I suppose I sort of went to this panel by mistake. I had originally listed Ajax: What Do I Need to Know? as my 11:30 choice, but I was under the impression that it was at a different time. C’est la vie. Despite that, this was still a fairly entertaining panel. I won’t say that it was the most interesting, but certainly entertaining. I will also say that they had the nicest slides I’ve seen so far.
The reason this panel wasn’t all that interesting was that they didn’t actually tell me anything I didn’t already know. It’s was basically just a bunch of analogies between web designers and super heroes.
Jim Coudal / Jason Fried Opening Remarks
This was an interesting session that I went to. Jim Coudal is the big cheese at Coudal Partiners and Jason Fried is the president of 37 Signals. It seemed more like it was about Jason’s opinions on everything, though. Jim mainly just sat in his chair and chimed in every once and a while.
The interesting part of this session was Jason’s opinions on development. Basically, he has the mindset that the faster you get to doing stuff, the better off you are. This contrasts many peoples’ idea that you should plan things out before hand. He believes you shouldn’t worry about things like functional specs and anything over a basic featureset for your product. I can’t say that I agreed with much of what he said. To a certain degree, he has a point. A lot of projects, particularly in larger companies or say the education sector, take a lot of time – too much time – to get off the ground and actually provide a product. So, on that wave of thinking, I do agree, but he just took the idea a little further than I would say is a practical idea.
How to Bluff Your Way in DOM Scripting
This was an interesting panel, though a bit lower level than I would have liked. More or less it was a DOM Scripting 101 kind of panel. I don’t consider myself a JavaScript writer by any means, but to me, JavaScript is just another programming language. I know how to program, so it doesn’t seem all that hard to me. They did mention some things that I wasn’t directly aware of, such as using cloneNode() to create one basic node and use that cloned node as opposed to creating many of the same node. Despite the presentation being for more of an introduction to JavaScript, it was still good to go and get a sort of refresher on it.
Starting Small: Web Business for the Rest of Us
None of the 5pm set of panels seemed all that interesting to me, so I just went to the one that Jeff and Wilson went to. The panel was interesting enough, I suppose, but like I said initially, it was geared towards stuff, in this case starting your own business, that I wasn’t interested in. Furthermore, it seemed like it was just stuff you should already know before taking that huge leap of quitting your day job.

That was the quick rundown of the panels I attended. Afterwards we went to the Frog Design party located somewhere in the warehouse district. It was cool enough, I suppose, open bar, though all they had for beer was Foster’s and Miller Light. Also, they had no hard alcohol. Just wine and beer. Free is free though. We all left that party after a while and went to the South By Northwest party at the Iron Cactus bar. A quick tangent: we seem to always end up at the Iron Cactus for meals. That party was really packed, probably not all that many people, really, but mainly that it was such a small space.

I suppose that’s all for now, tomorrow I will update everything that happened on Sunday.