Liveblogging a panel at South by Southwest 2005 (; ) with Jane Wells, Chris Wetherell, Dunstan Orchard, Eris Free, Kevin Conboy, Jaxon Repp, Vera Fleischer; 2005.03.14 15:37

Jane Wells moderates. Flash and HTML developer teams have created prototypes of four different applications.

Interactive tour for Steamboat Springs

I can’t see people’s names and am not going to guess about speakers. The proponent admits that even he was not in favour of many of the features their Flash developers added. Dunstan notes that there are no text equivalents at all for people with no Flash installed, and that the Lynx view is simply [EMBED].

“There wasn’t even really much point at trying to replicate” the zoomable maps. “It’s such depth of information that it’s quite incredible. Not only would it be very hard to copy that information out, but this sort of functionality – rolling over tiny little trails and so on – we had to admit that we couldn’t duplicate this functionality with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. That said, this is a case where the tool drove the way the site was developed…. Yes, I can’t duplicate it, but I wouldn’t want to, to a certain extent.”

What would you have done differently? JavaScript-generated menus and suchlike have no meaning at all when CSS is reverted to the browser’s default (often mistakenly dubbed “when CSS turned off”). His improved version checks if JS is not running and, if so, fails to include certain content.

Man on Flash team: “I think that’s a win for us.”

We applaud and are registered on a sound meter. Sounds like a stacked deck in favour of HTML to me, though the Flash is better. “Oddly, an exact tie.” No, 24 for Flash and 31 for HTML.


Chris from Google: HTML elements are generated by JavaScript. “The browser is somewhat of an impoverished user-interface environment.” “There are a lot of iframes on this page.” Keystrokes “are from Unix applications, so that makes a lot of sense to new users, which is nice.”

Kevin: Redesigning E-mail is kind of a hard thing to do. Gmail did a pretty good job. “Doing it in a strict traditional Flash environment, I was going to have to do some scaling and some crazy experimental-type things, and when it came right down to it, I didn’t want to do that.” He uses Flex to dynamically serve a Flash file to your computer. “The Flash player, luckily for me, is not” an impoverished user-interface environment. “I didn’t go that far, but what Flex gives you right off the bat is a pretty solid suite of tools.”

He asks how many people use keyboard commands to move through Gmail – fewer than 10 hands. “I never get it to work in Safari,” he says to laughter.

Text is antialiased even on Windows. He’s even got a browse-by-picture feature for his contacts and can drag and drop pictures to add contacts. You can also file all your attachments in one place.

Chris quite likes it, with a caveat about how to “star” a contact, whatever that means.

The plain-HTML version “exists, but it isn’t really cool. Please blame Berners-Lee for that, not me,” Chris says.

Applause meter: 38 all. “Kevin may have rigged the applause-o-meter.”


“We thought the current JetBlue site was pretty horrible and clunky,” so they decided to give both teams free reign.

Jaxon (I think): He never knows what the big picture is. But with TurboTax, you put your income in and your tax due rises, then you add the tax you’ve already paid and it goes down, then you add your freelance income “and it goes way up” until you “lie about your expenses” enough to reduce it. Exposé on a Mac is “really, really like what I just built.” His version lets you compare two travelers and change settings and costs in real time.

Eris handles HTML version. She’s using XForms, which only works in IE for her. It beats using HTML plus “a language on top of it.” “It doesn’t really work in the real world right now, but in a year or two when XHTML2 comes out and CSS3 is supported—”

Help, hint, and alert are all available to assist the user. She mentioned accessibility, but it was really about help in that case. The first menu has every departure choice available, but the second menu varies depending on which departure choice you made.

Dunstan: Eris knew nothing about XForms until about a week ago.

Applause meter: 39 Flash, 22 HTML.

Jaxon: So you have to reset [the meter] every time? Is that a Flash-caching problem?


Teams pretended that Ludicorp weren’t intelligent and instead were dogmatic and were all-Flash or no-Flash.

Vera for the Flash team: She initially thought Flickr was a great use of Flash, particularly with the notes feature. So what else could I add? Speech bubbles! “If you type more it resizes, just like a good bubble.”

She’d prefer to see more than just two photos in an album, so she created an autoscroller.

Dunstan: We were working on this last night… and Chris said ‘Look at their version of the site.’ …[I] realized we were on their version of the site.” They’d already worked some of his improvements into the site! (With his permission.) “I came up with the name Flick originally,” Dunstan jokingly adds.

His goal was mostly to replace Flash with JavaScript. Current site uses tables for layout. Their code appears in nearly the same order as it appears in the final site. His new version places navigation at the bottom in browser’s-own-style view (errantly called “unstyled” view). A “bog-standards CSS makeover, which was quite interesting to do.”

His version copes well with resizing even though it uses absolute positioning and margins set in em.

Visiting Flickr without Flash means you don’t see any of the notes. They hide a notes section in JavaScript. And you can move notes around in JS, too.

Dunstan: Layout works in nearly everything but Netscape 4. “Does it work in iCab?” “Yes, it works particularly in that.” “Does it work in Lynx?” “Yeah. Yeah, sure.” “What do you mean ‘work’?” “Well, you use that to kind of disparage the site.” “Well, you get to see the layout,” Dunstan says.

Applause meter: 19 Flash, 61 HTML.

Totals: 120 Flash, 152 HTML.

“I question the calibration, but I’ll go along with it.”

OK, how about Gmail accessibility?

I asked when Gmail would meet WCAG 1.0 and any part of ATAG.

“You are aware we have an HTML version?”

“Please answer the question.”

“Well, the HTML version was the first step. There will be more. We are in beta.”

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.03.14 17:29. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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