How to make Atlassian Confluence talk (again) to IBM Lotus Domino

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Atlassian Confluence used to play nicely with IBM Lotus Domino, until Confluence version 3.5.3 came out with an embedded Crowd stack. The issue is that the default structure of a Lotus directory is mainly flat for groups, which are placed at the root level and do not share a common base DN with users (actually they may not have a base DN at all).

A typical Lotus directory entry as seen through Domino would look like this for a user and a group respectively:

  • User record: dn: CN=John Doe,OU=Department,O=Company
  • Group record: dn: CN=Group Name

This became an issue when Crowd landed in Confluence, because Crowd not only mandates a non empty base DN, but also requires the same base DN for both users and groups, making Confluence basically impossible to use with a Lotus Domino LDAP server since April 2011. I raised this double bug regression in May 2011 and have been waiting for its resolution ever since (along with 3500 users for that single installation, and then some).

If you are in a similar situation, rejoice, I found a workaround! While I'm still hopeful that Atlassian will finally resolve this regression, this should help you upgrade to the most recent version of Confluence, which has gone a long way since the 3.4 branch. Warning: this is a hack, provided without any guarantee, you are free to use it at your own risk. If you need full support from Atlassian, I suggest that you vote for the aforementioned bug report and wait until it is resolved (but don't hold your breath).

The trick is to add a rewrite/remap layer between Confluence and Domino using the slapo-rwm overlay combined with the OpenLDAP slapd proxy backend. You can then perform a “suffix massage” with a fake base DN, with slapo-rwm removing it from Confluence requests and adding it back in Domino responses. Assuming that "O=Confluence" is set as the Base DN in the Confluence LDAP user directory configuration, the example records above will now look like this for Confluence:

  • User record: dn: CN=John Doe,OU=Department,O=Company,O=Confluence
  • Group record: dn: CN=Group Name,O=Confluence

For this to work, you will need to:

1. Install OpenLDAP on a server (for this example I'll assume it's on the same server as Confluence, replace “localhost” with the server domain name otherwise).

2. Create a configuration file for slapd in /etc/ldap/slapd.conf. Here's a minimal one (replace parameters as needed, YMMV):

# This is the main slapd configuration file. See slapd.conf(5) for more # info on the configuration options.

#######################################################################
# Global Directives:

# Schema and objectClass definitions
include /etc/ldap/schema/core.schema
include /etc/ldap/schema/cosine.schema
include /etc/ldap/schema/inetorgperson.schema

# Where the pid file is put. The init.d script
# will not stop the server if you change this.
pidfile /var/run/slapd/slapd.pid

# List of arguments that were passed to the server
argsfile /var/run/slapd/slapd.args

# Read slapd.conf(5) for possible values
loglevel none

# Where the dynamically loaded modules are stored
modulepath /usr/lib/ldap
moduleload back_ldap
moduleload rwm

# The maximum number of entries that is returned for a search operation
sizelimit unlimited
timelimit unlimited

# The tool-threads parameter sets the actual amount of cpu's that is used
# for indexing.
tool-threads 1

# Proxy backend configuration
database ldap
suffix ""
rootdn ""
uri "ldap://yourldapserverFQDN:389"
acl-bind bindmethod=simple binddn="replace with your bind DN" credentials="password"

# You may want more restrictive access and limits
access to * by * read
limits * time=unlimited

# Suffix massage for Confluence
overlay rwm
rwm-suffixmassage "o=Confluence" ""

3. Launch slapd (the -u and -g parameters set the user and group for the daemon, -4 forces it to run with IPv4 only, -f points it to your configuration file):

sudo slapd -4 -h ldap://127.0.0.1:389 -u openldap -g openldap -f /etc/ldap/slapd.conf

(Or rather set it up to launch at boot time.)

4. Add or configure an OpenLDAP user directory on Confluence, using "o=Confluence" as the Base DN (or whatever you configured in the rwm-suffixmassage directive above) and point it at the proxy slapd server.

Et voilà, with a common (though useless) base DN for both users and groups, both Confluence and your users are happy again :-).

Some business thoughts to Atlassian:

  • This issue isn't just limited to Lotus Domino.
  • There are a lot of Lotus Notes users out there that would be very happy with Confluence. But they can't use it because you made it hard for them to switch. Don't you want their business?
  • Saying that you don't have a Domino server for testing isn't an excuse. Please install one. Or ask your own customers (or experts ;-) for help. Also, the circular reference between this IBM Lotus Domino Integration page and the CWD-125 (Provide Lotus Domino Support) request to suggest that it works for some customers is quite weird.
  • Acknowledging a bug as a regression is great and appreciated. But not fixing it across two maintenance cycles means forcing a client to pay for the privilege of not being able to upgrade their Confluence instance. While touting in gory marketing details how fabulous the next versions are. (And compared to 3.4, they indeed are!) This is not a good illustration of your “Don't #@&! the customer” motto (which I've seen in the entrance of your Sydney office no later than last Friday).
  • Despite the above, your customer support team absolutely rocks. Special hat tip to Linh, Vincent, Mickael and whoever in development is working to get this bug fixed (you know who you are ;-).

Twitter for Mac accessibility

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Twitter just released Twitter for Mac on the Mac App Store, as the successor of Tweetie. Overall it's a good improvement but there's a big accessibility fail:

tweetie 1Twitter for Mac 2 On the left, the Tweetie menu. On the right, the Twitter for Mac menu. I'm not exactly visually impaired by the normal definition, but I just can't see the window controls (basically black on black), the tools icon at the bottom (can you see the little bird? I missed it the first time I launched the app), and barely the other dark grey icons on black in the navigation column. In the same vein, look at the ‘84’ figure in the box below, another overuse of dark gray on black background:

new tweet box

(Note: these images look more contrasted once converted to PNG and published here, the contrast of the running application is really much, much worse on my screen.)

Let's hope Twitter fixes that quickly, I guess it's going to be the biggest gripe about Twitter for Mac (apart from the usual old-timers complaints about the new retweet feature, which I like).

Melody 1.0 Beta 1 is here

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The Open Melody Software Group has just released Melody 1.0 for beta testing.

If you are using MTOS 4, and/or MTOS/MT 5 do not suit your needs, you should keep an eye on Melody.

Why Movable Type — 3. The Communities

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(This post is part of a series on why Movable Type is an excellent choice as both a CMS and a blog engine. The previous post was Myths, FUD and reality about Movable Type, the next post will be The Movable Type Publishing Platform.)

Meet the parents

First, a little bit of history to give some context on the troubled relationship between Movable Type and its parents. (N.B. what follows is based on my perception as an outsider, and this might be very different from what insiders have experienced. It is important to understand that the perception that people like me have had from Six Apart has shaped the MT community in a big way. Feel free to correct me on facts, but don’t forget that acts are not always perceived as intended.)

Movable Type started as a ‘personal publishing system’ in 2001. Crafted by Ben and Mena Trott in a great combination of engineering, design and elegance, it hit the ground running and became in no time the must-have blog software for the demanding blogger. Ben and Mena quickly formed a company called Six Apart to grow MT into something bigger. TypePad followed suit in 2003 as the hosted version of Movable Type. This marked a turning point in what would unfold next: Six Apart began as a software company but very quickly pursued what I’d call an ‘eyeballs strategy’. The acquisition of LiveJournal, SplashBlog, the creation of Vox when blogging was fading to social networks, Rojo, all those were serving a primary goal: accumulate page views on Six Apart’s web servers1. I understand it was also about talent acquisition, however those were serving the eyeballs strategy. The creation of Six Apart Media, an advertisement network was the most obvious attempt at monetizing this traffic2.

I’ve been watching Movable Type take a life of its own starting many years ago. Through Loïc Le Meur (who I knew long before he joined Six Apart), I met Andrew Anker who introduced me to Barak Berkowitz (then CEO) while I happened to be in San Francisco for the Apple WWDC in 2004. I interviewed for a job at Six Apart, and there was what I remember as a quid pro quo. Barak asked me what I thought of MT, and I made the case for MT as a great CMS. He didn't look enthused3. I watched the ‘money types’ managing the company (both in the US and in Europe), the growing gap between the promises (“We’ll grow MT alongside TypePad and feed the improvements back to MT”) and the reality4, the eyeballs strategy, the early and inherently doomed attempts at offering IT services to a few big media companies by providing them with their own copy of TypePad on premises, or later on by buying Apperceptive (and then competing with their own partners)… All this convinced me that although the company was staffed with passionate and competent people, MT didn't fit the business direction the company was taking. It was pursuing a half-hearted development of MT — not that the people working on it were half-hearted, but MT was not, in both appearance and acts, on any top manager’s radar. Except for a few months in 2004 during the great MT3.0 debacle, where they tried to monetize the software like an enterprise one, alienating the individual users without really matching the kind of ‘corporate-CIO-compatible’ game they were attempting to play5.

All this to explain why no one should have expected Six Apart Inc. to stand up for Movable Type as if it were a strategic product for them. I’m tempted to say that it’s never been strategic, save for bootstrapping the startup company and TypePad. It has survived thanks to the passion and energy of a small group of extremely dedicated people within Six Apart, who worked in an environment that wasn't hostile but not particularly supportive either.

However, in an interesting twist while the mothership was struggling with its business model, the Japan subsidiary took over the entire MT business in 2009 for an excellent reason: it is the leading CMS there and they are making money with it. While the occidental MT world watches the death of Six Apart fearing for MT’s future, I see a business entity with a clear, focused and lucrative business model is which MT is not an alien thing.

For the first time in its history, MT is now a logical and core product of a profitable business entity. How’s that for a change? Take my advice: see the positive side of this and don't waste too much time worrying about the new life of SAY Media with respect to MT, it has no reason to be more relevant than Six Apart US or Europe have been before6. Six Apart Inc. is dead? Long live Six Apart Japan!

The external communities

There are four different groups hanging in different places:

I distinguish those communities, because they are different across profiles, interests and countries. They are seemingly big in Japan (where MT is a bigger hit than anywhere else), small in the US (in comparison to WP) and virtually non-existent in France for example7. Six Apart used to rely a bit too much on the MTOS-dev community to provide documentation and community support, and that wore out even more the time-constrained hardcore developers. The result is that the knowledgable experts do not have lots of time to answer the newbie questions, dismissing the ones that beg for “RTFM” as an answer, and leaving an impression that the community — often mistaken by users as “just the forums” — is small and unhelpful.

The truth, I think, is twofold.

First, while there is a certain coherence between the first three communities above — professionals are not all developers but all developers are professionals and both cater to enterprise clients — the users community is mainly composed of individual users, often beginners. I know that the Melody folks are very willing to help the individual user, and they are not alone. But I also know for a fact, being someone who sells his time, that time is the most precious and least renewable resource I have, and the vast majority of MT professionals do not spend time on the users forums (I will not blame them).

Therefore, the MT community is an elitist one, which will ignore the random guy who cannot bother to read the manual but will be extremely helpful with whoever has shown a true interest and understanding of the platform. Clearly, starting with “Where do I put /mt-static/?”, “Error 500, help me!!!” or "I hate Perl” will not get you anywhere with time-starved professionals who have bothered to read the manual and a book or two. But once you have crossed the chasm, you'll be surprised at how easily people share and give on the MTOS-dev, ProNet and Melody lists. I have always been helped there, and amazed to see how far some people are willing to go to get you out of a problem with MT.

To me, this community would of course be even better if the number of English-speaking experts was higher, but it remains live and helpful. I also consider that its elitist nature is actually a good point. I know this isn't a popular view (by definition!) but the last thing the MT community needs IMO is an invasion of random newbies who'd better stay away from fiddling with a web server, lest a software like MT. The Japanese MT community seems to be outnumbering the rest of us, but the barrier of language makes it practically invisible to the rest of the world. Six Apart Japan is aware of this problem, and there are efforts done by them and the community to overcome this issue.

Lastly, a better understanding of the MT publishing platform would go a long way to help dissipate the confusion of many users about MT as a blog engine on one side, and as a content management system on the other. This will be the subject of the next post: the Movable Type Publishing Platform.

(This is a work in progress, please stay tuned and pardon the occasional edit.)


  1. Guess what is the only Six Apart web publishing product that produces content not hosted by Six Apart, and doesn't fit the eyeballs strategy.
  2. In effect, SAY Media is the merger between Six Apart Media and a former video company trying to shift its business model to exactly the same thing: Have eyeballs? We’ve got ads to serve ’em. Have ads? We’ve got eyeballs! Ad libitum.
  3. Or so I think. I was pitching for a product manager role with a clear interest in MT, they were looking for a more marketing type. Soon after, they hired Michael Sippey as VP of product.
  4. TypePad had very early on a great, simple and user-friendly drag-n-drop interface allowing non-technical people to customize the layout of their blogs. It never ended up in MT except partially in the Widget manager.
  5. I’m glad they got back to their senses and kept the prices reasonably low (except for some short-lived variations like MTCS which were outrageously expensive), because this is what helped me and other independent service providers build a healthy business around MT (as in ‘interesting work and good money from happy and loyal clients’).
  6. What I wrote above about company relevance does not apply in the slightest to the MT folks at Six Apart worldwide. They are there, as passionate and helpful as always, even the most discreet among them will sometimes chime in to help someone, and most of those who have been laid off Six Apart at difficult times remain active participants of the community (an excellent sign IMO, I can't even think of a former Six Apart employee who went negatively vocal against MT the product).
  7. Where Six Apart Europe used to be headquartered, QED for its relevance to MT :p.

Why Movable Type — 2. Myths, FUD and reality

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(This post is part of a series on why Movable Type is an excellent choice as both a CMS and a blog engine. The previous post was the Introduction, the next post is The Movable Type Communities.)

If you are new to the Movable Type world, you have excuses if you find things confusing, for it is encumbered with lots of myths, FUD and even miscommunication and blunders from its own parents. When you look at MT, it is important to look at both the people, the technology, the rationales for using it, and separate what really matters from noise. This post is about exposing the myths, the following posts are about what matters.

I've decided to treat the noise separately because, like many other MT experts, I am frankly tired of the low signal/noise ratio out there. My goal is to present rationale arguments for professionals to consider (or continue) using MT. It is not to make a definitive comparison of MT with other solutions (and there are plenty of good ones out there), nor is it to convince people who think in black and white, confuse what is good with what they love, and are convinced that their favorite ‘X, Y, Z’ CMS is “absolutely and universally THE best CMS of the entire universe, ever, and everything else sucks, period.”

Myth: Six Apart is dead, and Movable Type with it.

Six Apart Europe has been shut down months ago, but it was irrelevant in the development of MT anyway. Six Apart US has been bought by VideoEgg to form SAY Media. But Six Apart Japan (6AKK) is alive and actively developing MT5 which is the “#1 leading CMS in Japan” according to Jun Kaneko, Six Apart's Community Manager for Movable Type, who also announced a beta of MT5.1 for the fall. Actually 6AKK took off the entire development process of Movable Type starting with MT5 more than a year ago. Only the MT4 branch remains in the hands of a few people in the US, now working for SAY Media. And the Melody Project has forked Movable Type Open Source to boost its development.

To summarize:

  • MT5 and MTOS5 are under active development by Six Apart Japan
  • MT4 and MTOS4 have reached their end of life and are maintained only for bug/security fixes by SAY Media
  • The Melody Project has forked MTOS4 and is actively working to launch Melody 1.0 based on MTOS 4.34

Doesn't look like a dead product to me.

The only uncertainty that I see concerns MT Enterprise. I have no clue how many customers are concerned with this. But at the same time, I wonder why one would need MT Enterprise in the first place (my little finger tells me that MTE won't survive long as a separate offering, but I might be wrong. I hope I'm not spreading FUD myself here ;-).

Myth: The MT community is non existent.

Most of the time, when saying that, people expect the community to be as populated and vibrant as the WordPress one. Or they are newbies who can't bother reading the documentation and ask questions like they'd throw bottles at sea, then complain that no one answered them. The reality is that the community is diverse and elitist, as I'll show in the next post.

Myth: Perl sucks. Related FUD: you have to learn Perl to use MT

The usual pearls about MT and Perl go along those lines: Perl sucks as a language, is a strategic mistake (usually compared to the supposedly more “friendly” PHP), and you have to know it to use MT.

First, and this comes from someone who a decade ago thought by pure ignorance that Perl was antiquated, Perl is not only a good language, it is specifically designed for text processing (which is precisely what a CMS is about). It is not difficult to learn Perl and it can be a useful skill outside MT.

On the strategical choice, Perl has been here since 1987 and runs (when not included out of the box) on virtually all modern server, desktop and mobile OSes out there, and most importantly at any good internet hosting provider. The only legitimate question IMO would be about developer attractiveness, or popularity. But notwhistanding the fact that the Perl community itself is not small despite a supposedly unpopular language, one might argue that popularity is orthogonal to quality, and point out that even so the PHP language boasts to be massively more popular than anything else, it also has arguably one of the highest share of crappy programmers, spaghetti code and, consequently, security issues.

Last, only plugins and core developers have to use Perl (some plugins, like themes, can be developed without coding a single line of Perl). Designers—and that is actually a major difference and an advantage compared to a software like Wordpress which forces them to learn PHP—will never see Perl nor any other programming language unless they want to (MT can publish PHP pages, PDF documents, XML and virtually anything you want). Templates in MT are designed using MTML, a powerful, tag-based and designer-friendly markup language that makes templating easy.

Perl may be a liability for people who are religious about it, but it is certainly not one for Movable Type. And most of its users will never see a single line of Perl anyway.

Myth: static pages are bad, dynamic ones are good

This post is already quite long, and I'm going to address the technicalities of MT in the fourth post of this series. But let me tell you that whoever claims this does not know much about performance and how this choice plays in terms of costs for the editors and impacts the real end-users of their sites.

I often see this myth used by clueless people as a cheap shot against MT. I've seen it used many times by selfish people who think only about their own instant gratification when pressing the "publish" button, without a single thought about their site responsiveness and the ensuing readers’ experience.

But I can acknowledge that the stock themes of earlier versions of MT didn't scale well. With the (legitimate) goal of showing what MT was capable of within the default templates, Six Apart did not always anticipate how their templates would behave with thousands of posts, comments, categories, tags etc. This is ancient history. With a comprehensive system of inclusions, cache, deferred publishing, it is perfectly possible to create fast and scalable templates that will make MT beat the crap out of many dynamic publishing systems for a fraction of the hosting cost.

Ironically, since the Wordpress world has become enamored with their new catalog of caching plugins, I hear less and less cheap shots about MT's static publishing nowadays ;-).

Myth: MT is closed-source and commercial. FUD variant: MT started as open source software then went commercial then OSS again.

MT started as a shareware before Six Apart was born, and while you could see all its code, it was not open source. One could use it for free, I paid $45 for my copy in 2002 to start my personal blog. When Six Apart introduced MT version 3.0 in 2004, they made a mistake trying to impose expensive and unrealistic license terms that turned people away and fell apart in a communication blunder. They gradually corrected their mistakes by lowering the prices, relaxing the license terms and offering a free version for non-commercial use. They released MTOS, MT under an Open Source license, in December 2007. To date, there are a variety of versions of MT, both commercial and open source, catering to different users and needs.

FUD: You don't control your data

I list this one just to poke fun at the intellectual dishonesty that exemplified the knee-jerk reaction of some former hardcore users of Movable Type who used to boast about how much better MT was compared to anything else prior to the MT3.0 license uproar. Then all of a sudden, MT was evil, and their data was in peril. Only Open Source could save it (and Wordpress opportunely came to the rescue right at that time to become their new blind love). I'd point out, again, that MT Open Source was born in late 2007. How come their data was safe before 2004 then? Because the data in MT has never been trapped into any kind of proprietary format, you can export it in a variety of formats (and likewise import pretty much anything you want). It is also worth mentioning that since MT is usually used to publish static pages, in many cases the produced site doesn't need the MT engine to deliver its content.

Myth: There is no documentation

Here it is.

While it is true that Six Apart has not always done a stellar job at documenting things, relying on the community with the MTOS wiki, there has been a real effort to improve things with MT4 and MT5. Things can always improve—and there's indeed room for improvement, especially in the developer's section—but the present documentation gives you all you need to start using MT from beginning and up to an advanced level. There is a work in progress to translate the Movable Type 5 Designer's Guide written by Mr Hajime Fujimoto from Japanese to English, with another guide to follow for developers.

FUD: There are no plugins

Here they are. Oh, and more here too available as open source (all the Six Apart plugins are moving to github.com/movabletype). And even more if you search a little or ask the community (you might be pleasantly surprised).

Don't be fooled by the Plugins repository, it does need some curating to get rid of the obsolete plugins and it is far from being exhaustive (many plugins exist in Japanese, waiting to be translated in English). It also seems that not all developers do bother with listing or updating their plugins in the MT Plugins repository. I don't think it is unfair to say that this Six Apart web property is in need of an overhaul, not the least to fix an image that does not reflect the reality.

Also don't fall into the same usual confusion between quantity and quality. MT does indeed have much less plugins than Wordpress. But MT doesn't need a dozen plugins to manage cache issues, to output SEO-friendly pages, or a different engine to manage multiple blogs (which was possible before Wordpress even had a following). MT's core features and templating languages are enough for a wide variety of needs, and I have built dozens of sites without using more than a handful of plugins (I usually even disable most of the stock plugins).

FUD: There are no themes

There is not a plethora of themes for MT, but MT ships with a collection of themes for starting blogs, web sites and communities out of the box. The quality of the stock themes is good, they are SEO-friendly and accessible, they also present a good showcase of how MT works and can serve as a starting point to learn how to build your own.

Of course I would love to see more themes, but I'd rather have a few high quality ones than a lot of crappy ones. Like plugins, it is easy to fall into the quantity vs quality trap. I also guess that the quest for ready-to-use themes is done more by individual bloggers than anyone else, and that people using MT for building websites will rather produce unique themes and/or reuse their own framework. Enterprises and corporate customers, the primary target for MT, are certainly not looking at bland and non distinctive stock themes.

As someone who watched his TV channels grow from 6 to more than 500 only to realize than less than a handful are interesting to watch, I think the low number of themes is not a problem per se, only a perceptual one for those who mistake choice with quantity. (As an illustration of the relative meaning of choice, to me the choice is first and foremost that MT allows me to output anything I want in any format I want.)
Yet again, the community is working to increase the number of available themes, hopefully increasing the number of quality ones. The Melody Project is also working on making easier for theme designers to produce multi-purposes themes that can be easily customized by the end users through the UI (and, wait for it, without ever touching Perl ;-).

I'm sure I missed other MT myths and FUD, feel free to complement this list in the comments.

The next post will be about the Movable Type Communities.

(This is a work in progress, please stay tuned and pardon the occasional edit.)

Why Movable Type — 1. Introduction

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(This post is part of a series on why Movable Type is an excellent choice as both a CMS and a blog engine. This is the introduction. The next post is Myths, FUD and reality about Movable Type)

Introduction

Following the news that Six Apart is no more, many people—among which the vast majority isn't even using any Six Apart product today—are speculating about the death of Movable Type. Not only Movable Type isn't dead, it is under active development, and I would like to explain why the Movable Type publishing platform remains an excellent solution, both as a blog engine and as a web content management system.

Disclaimers

I have been using Movable Type since 2002 (I paid for my copy of this "shareware" when it was just Ben and Mena Trott in their proverbial garage). I now make a significant part of my income thanks to Movable Type, and most of my clients using it. I also interviewed at Six Apart US for the job of Movable Type Product Manager, but it didn't pan out. I am therefore biased, but a few things save me from being oblivious to reality.

Firstly I'm the kind of consultant who'd lose sleep over giving a bad advice to a client, and the kind of engineer who'd lose sleep over delivering something based on an irrelevant or dead-end technology. I do not shove new technologies on clients because they're fun to play with, or simply popular; I do not make choices lightly or on a whim, but after a careful look at the bigger picture.

Secondly, would Six Apart completely disappear tomorrow morning (they haven't, more on that later), none of my clients would be impacted (neither myself for that matter). The MT code is long-lived, rock-solid, secure and there is a small army of experts who are capable of hacking it at will whether its original editor remains in business or not.

In this series of posts I will address the following points:

  1. Myths, FUD and reality about Movable Type
  2. The Movable Type Communities
  3. The Movable Type Platform
  4. The rationales for using Movable Type
  5. Conclusion

(This is a work in progress, please stay tuned and pardon the occasional edit.)

On Apple Safari's use of justified text in Reader

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A propos of the new Reader feature of Safari 5, Derek Powazek just sent a note to Apple: Justified text decreases readability:

Safari 5's new "Reader" feature makes my site less readable by justifying the text. Flush-left text (aka ragged-right) is demonstrably more readable, especially when the rendering engine doesn't know how to hyphenate. You never, ever justify text without hyphenation.

One of his readers disagrees with him:

I prefer the justified text and was extremely and specifically pleased Apple made Reader this way. As I get older, justified text is infinitely easier to read as long as the column width is not so wide that my eye loses track of the left edge. Ragged right text just looks lazy and sloppy, to my eye at least. I realize I may be in a minority.

I see this comment as a sign that Apple will not fix this, because to the dismay of typography experts (and mine), most people out there without significant reading impairment cater to justified text for aesthetic reasons only. Those are Apple clients, and Apple will please them before the typography experts.

I have made this test numerous times: it's only when you point to someone how their eyes travel on a page and what constitutes an obstacle that they become conscious of readability issues.

You can make this test yourself.

Take attention-grabbing stuff on the left of a main content column, for left-to-right readers (or the reverse for right-to-left languages). When you read text and reach the end of the line, your eyes will travel back to the left in an automatic movement to fetch the left edge of the text column. If something is placed on the left of the text column, and is prominent enough to catch your eyes attention, they will continue to travel left and fly far more than necessary, then you will have to make an extra effort to realign them on the left edge of the text column to resume reading. And this for each line of text where there's something distracting on its left.

Most people will not notice this readability issue (until they get a headache maybe). But once you make them conscious of their eyes movement, the cognitive and muscular taxes imposed by the obstacle on the left become almost painfully visible.

Paris Web 2010 - Call for speakers

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(Disclaimer: I manage the communication for Paris Web, this is a copy of the official call for speakers.)

Paris Web 2009 : Day 1 by ~Thanh.

Hello all,

Paris Web is a French conference organised each year and revolving around questions of web accessibility, quality and design. For its fifth edition, the conference wants to broaden its subject base and suggests that you think of this question:“Improve the user experience through appropriate design and contents” (non-limiting question).

Paris Web 2010 will take place on the 14-16th of October 2010, and we invite all the potential speakers to speak out and get in touch with us at propositions@paris-web.fr.

You can submit one or more topics under the following formats:

  1. Conference:  50 minutes, Q&A included
  2. Mini-conference: 15 minutes, without Q&A
  3. Workshop: 1 hour 30 (or 3 hours for a double-length workshop)

Conferences and mini-conferences will take place in amphitheaters on Thursday and Friday. Workshops will take place in 40 to 60 people rooms on Saturday. They are a moment of intense interactivity, and can be either theoretical or practical (rooms with computers will be provided if necessary).

The deadline for proposals is set to the 31st of May 2010.

Ideally, here is the form your proposal should have:

  1. You, in a few lines
    Who are you? What is your experience? Your specialty?
  2. Your subject
    In up to ten lines, a title (doesn't need to be the definitive choice)
    and a summary of what you wish to deal with. Please indicate the
    estimated level of the audience.
  3. The form of your intervention
    According to you, will this be better suited for a conference, a
    mini-conference, or a workshop? (We can talk about it.)

People who have submitted a subject will be notified personally, whether their subject is selected or not.

If you are selected, you will be able to have your travel expenses and hotel paid. Please bear in mind that videos will be recorded and will be made available for free on the internet (under the CC-By-NC licence).

We can't wait for October!

DSC_1229 by lejoe.

If you want to have a look at what it's like, there are close to 1,600 pictures of past Paris Web events on Flick.

Going to Webstock 2010

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I'll be at Webstock this year again. I enjoyed it a lot last year and I'm really looking forward to seeing this edition. I only go to two web conferences nowadays, Paris Web as an organizer and Webstock as an attendee. Each one at the other side of the world and both shock-full of great people and topics. While the main focus is the same and attendees have similar profiles, the perspective is different. It gives me a richer view of the interwebs, and I love it.

2010 @ Ubiquitic

Welcome and bonne année !

2010 marks the start of the third fiscal year for my little company Ubiquitic, although I have been freelancing for longer than that. In 2008 I followed my heart and took a 18,000km plunge from Paris to Noumea. I was very lucky to retain my loyal clients and gain new ones who helped me make this adventure aux antipodes a success. I thank them for trusting me and validating my first reason for giving this name to my company: that the internet can make one ubiquitous enough to work remotely with people all around the globe.

2010 also marks for me 30 years of passion and work with computers, 17 with the internet and 7 as a blogger. But even so that makes me quite an old dog in internet time, the excitement, passion and curiosity continue unabated, because I am still learning after all those years and it feels good! I guess the little stage fright in launching a new site and starting a new blog is normal (some say it comes with talent ;-).

I wish you all a very good year. I think it's going to be mobile, more than ever.

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