Astounding Web
July 9, 2000 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Astounding Web shows us that there is far more to the web than the's and the's. It shows us the hidden treasures which have remained undiscovered and now receive the recognition they deserve, not for recognition itself, but instead to get reviewed and examined by the rest of the users.

Astounding Web. Outstanding idea?
posted by skizz (39 comments total)
Seems to me that its more navel-gazing and self congratulatory slaps on the back among the 'blogger/web design "in crowd"
posted by owillis at 11:07 PM on July 9, 2000

What makes you think that?

People like you are quick to talk without thinking. If it was navel-gazing and self-congratulatory slaps on the back among the 'blogger/web design' "In-crowd", then it wouldnt allow access to anyone, and only the supposed "in-crowd", as immature people like to call them, would be able to post.

But no, you can go over there yourself and post. Participate. Be part of the "ïn-crowd". Stop whining and GO.
posted by skizz at 11:26 PM on July 9, 2000

thanks, skizz.

owillis: if you think we're doing something wrong, please come on in and help us fix it.

the idea is not to promote the site's creators, and it's not to promote the same 20 or 30 sites that always get links. (just like projectcool was never about the same 20 or 30 sites that get the links.)

but the forum can only be as effective as the posts it gets. so join and make it better!
posted by Zeldman at 11:33 PM on July 9, 2000

I'm a member of the "in-crowd"? Now that is astounding :)
posted by the webmistress at 11:40 PM on July 9, 2000

It's pretty cool... I like the 50's comic book look, and the reviews are pretty "right-on".

Maybe I'll join Skizz, Jo and Zeldman in the "in-crowd" one day....

Nah... I promised to use my powers for evil long ago. :0)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:24 AM on July 10, 2000

Outstanding idea, yes-- but Oliver's assessment of its current state matched my own first impression. When its proponents make the effort to dig out sites with substance, depth, and passion about something other than Web design-- Dennis Havlena's site, for example, or Janet Egan's-- then it'll be worthy of its name (and battling the too selfcensoredexpletive small font size for a return visit).
posted by syrynx at 5:50 AM on July 10, 2000

Not that it matters much to me personally, but I'm fascinated by the MeFi Process. Just out of curiosity what is Skizz's relation to the Astounding "incrowd"? Is he in the incrowd? Is he just a friend? I mean would this fall under that horrible MeFi taboo of posting a link for personal, selfish purposes? Or is it okay for friends to support one another by posting one another's links to MeFi?
posted by ZachsMind at 7:38 AM on July 10, 2000

Having never been a part of the "in crowd" I really just don't understand that comment. And forgive us for trying to populate it with content. I know that must be a heinous crime.

Syrynx says it needs reviews of other sites then gives two examples. Instead Syrynx should have posted reviews of those sites. Oh, the font size is too small? Well change the board's display preferences Syrynx, then the font can be a big as you want it to be.

There can be a thousand excuses not to do something, but if there's an open forum that invites anyone to post the content they'd like to see there, and then people complain that it's not the right content but don't post what they think the right content is, well that's about as hypocritical as it gets.

If you don't have the guts to change the world, perhaps you should consider a cave dwelling. :-)

posted by gdavis at 7:42 AM on July 10, 2000

"People like you are quick to talk without thinking"
I think that phrase speaks for itself. I have to agree with owillis, the links I clicked on were boring personal sites that had no true content but just resumes and portfolios. However, they did have pretty wickedbad layouts and such. So I'm torn here.
posted by starduck at 9:22 AM on July 10, 2000

Syrynx says it needs reviews of other sites then gives two
examples. Instead Syrynx should have posted reviews of those
Glenn, what makes you think I haven't? The reason I posted those links
here was because it was convenient, since I was at that moment working on my own
list of worthwhile Web sites. I'm under no obligation to post it to Astounding
Web Sites!
Oh, the font size is too small? Well change the board's display
preferences Syrynx, then the font can be a big as you want it to
I've already adjusted font face and size in all of my browsers, to suit my eyes, my monitor, my resolution, and my taste; why should I have to hunt for a too-small link that might let me restore it?

My world is a bit larger than the cave of too-small fonts and
mouseovers. :-)
posted by syrynx at 9:24 AM on July 10, 2000

Despite all the talk, today's the first time I've spent much time on AW at all. I like the idea, but I find that I've no idea where to start. Other than commercial/non-commercial, there's not classification, or even thumbnails. Maybe I'm a more graphically-inclined person but I tend to click when I have a better idea of what I'm clicking to.

For instance, this posting at least said it was a flash-art site. That helps some. I like flash so I go there. But this gives me no clue other than the name. Why would I go there?

But anyway, I'll probably hang around because although i have better things to do, I don't like to do them.
posted by spetracco at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2000

posted by dgfitch at 11:06 AM on July 10, 2000

People, first of all. I am not the in-crowd. I get email telling me I suck. I live a regular life, not bathing in my fame ( which fame?)

I posted the AstoundingWeb link because I am a member. I think the site is cool, and Metafilter says that if I find something cool, to post it.

You do not own the board, so Ill trust MetaFilter's rules than your own. Think what you'd like, but the link is up.

Also, the web is an open-medium. Some people think AstoundingWeb is a good site, some people wont. Its natural. The thing is, if you dont like it, you can get your ass in there and POST some good content, you can start your own website the way you want it, etc.

You have the power to do what you want, its the internet goddammit.
posted by skizz at 11:32 AM on July 10, 2000

You're right, Spetracco - the person posting the review should add a description to pique your interest. That was her first review, and later in the thread she saw the error of her ways and realized she needed to add some more detail.
posted by the webmistress at 11:37 AM on July 10, 2000

posted by chaz at 11:42 AM on July 10, 2000

actually if you post something here, you should be prepared for some criticism.
posted by chaz at 11:43 AM on July 10, 2000

That is my point! This is a community, no?

Why should I be prepared for criticism when Im merely posting a site which is cool, and not doing anything wrong?

If you mean the site will receive criticism, then thats cool, but I dont think I should receive criticism for posting. Ive seen worse posts here.
posted by skizz at 12:20 PM on July 10, 2000

I can't believe a stupid catch phase like "in-crowd" got everyone's feathers riled up. Webmisteress and I were just being our usual, witty selves.

In Astounding Web, everyone is on a level playing field (just like here). YOU pick a site... YOU review it or YOU can add to the comments.

The only thing the powers that be will not tolerate there is FLAMING. It's all positive and upbeat. Any criticism there is constructive... only to make the site even better.

Sidebar: Skizz, you're one of the coolest guys I ever met... so let me give you one of my patented cliches that always keeps me going....

"If you're not making enemies, you're not making a difference."

People wouldn't be so vocal about you, if your work wasn't so stirring and thought-provoking. So I hope you're taking it all as a compliment to your talent. ;0)

posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 1:12 PM on July 10, 2000

LACK OF GREAT POSTS: You may have hit one or two sites that weren't great. We're trying not to over-moderate the emerging community.

On the other hand, imagine if I had just visited Metafilter for the first time, and the only things I'd seen were two concurrent threads about a girl and a bicycle. I'd probably think Metafilter was a meaningless community containing nothing but trivial, cryptic in-jokes that are not even remotely amusing.

In fact, MEFI is a great little community. It would be foolish to judge it on the basis of one or two threads that are not to my personal taste. Similarly, it seems misguided to judge Astounding on the basis of one or two threads that didn't float your boat.

Astounding is about great design, writing, and programming on the web. Most of the reviewers understand the community's mission, and are doing their best to find and to intelligently discuss work that meets one or all of those criteria. If you spend a bit more time, you'll see that's true. And, as was said, you are cordially invited to help us make it better.
posted by Zeldman at 1:21 PM on July 10, 2000

FONT SIZE: In my browser of choice, the default font size at Metafilter is uncomfortably LARGE (16px). Fortunately, I was able to change it using the Preferences Matt thoughtfully provided. It took about a minute, and I only had to do it once. If I had written off Metafilter because the font size was initially uncomfortable for me, I would be missing a valuable resource.

The default font size at Astounding looks pretty normal to most of us, but if it's small (or large) for you, you can easily change it, just like at MEFI. If, for some reason, you don't feel like permanently changing the font size via the site's personal preferences dialog, you may also be able to click a button in your browser and temporarily scale the type larger or smaller.

Every site on the web that attempts to style typography will cause a problem for at least some visitors, due to monitor resolution, platform, and browser differences - not to mention incomplete support for standards.

Frankly, even if CSS and HTML were perfectly supported in all browsers, the styled typography on any given site would be uncomfortable for some. That's why the site lets you change your typographic preferences; and that's why a better browser will let you change the typographic scale with a single mouse click. I welcome you to take advantage of either of those solutions.
posted by Zeldman at 1:36 PM on July 10, 2000


Btw, I lied.... I'm actively involved, just keeping low-key.
And if you can sell me on the concept of Astounding Web... you can sell ANYBODY!

I liked the remark above about how some of the sites are boring... well folks, every site on the web means something to somebody. They have their own strengths & weaknesses that make each personal site totally unique.

Same way you guys feel about your sites, right?
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 1:37 PM on July 10, 2000


The only way I would be offended by the "in crowd" remark is that it bought to my conscious that horrid cellular commercial with the teenagers dancing about with phones stuck to their ears. "I go where the in crowd goes..." I need to purge this unholy jingle from my mind. Hendrix!
posted by john at 3:04 PM on July 10, 2000

Astounding Web has a great look to it. Nice tip of the hat to old pulp comic styles. Nice idea. Thumbs up and all that.

This may belong elsewhere and I personally don't even like the rule in question I'm just abiding by it and working on groking it. I'm sure Skizz has nothing to do directly with Astounding Web and it was my mistake. Perhaps it was Skizz's quick rise to defense of the site that made me think he was more emotionally attached to it.

I am by no means trying to police this place. It ain't my place and if it was I'd go in the exact opposite direction. But I ain't. And that is most definitely for the best.

IF Skizz was directly involved in AstoundingWeb I would have found it amusing that in a way he got around this social peer pressure censorship in here of not posting to one's own pages. No one has yet said it's wrong to post links made by other MeFi participants, or a friend's site so far as I can tell. You just can't post your own, but does it still break the spirit of the law? Hopefully not.

And MeFi and AstoundingWeb have a bit in common, so it would make sense to me if the guy who made AstoundingWeb himself posted the link here, but that would make other people freak out. I'm still in the process of understanding why.

I wasn't freaking. I was just amused by the possibility.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:14 PM on July 10, 2000

Because if everyone just started posting links to their own sites, within days this would be a free for all. Everyone would just be here basking in the reflective light of their own self-referential linky love. I think it's a pretty good rule. As someone wiser than I said, if people like what you say here, they'll find out where you live by reading your profile.
A few MeFi regulars almost always manage to get a little plug for their own sites in, no matter what. And friends post links for friends all the time - I see it on an almost daily basis. Whatcha gonna do.

posted by the webmistress at 9:32 PM on July 10, 2000

ha! while zach was tentatively policing skizz HERE, i was riot-squad-policing zach in the herrell/ICANN thread.

skizz liked the site and joined it and he posted a link here. no rules broken. zach didn't accuse, of course; he merely raised the spectre of accusation. which is, of course, an insidious form of topic drift.

this comment on zach's attempt at topic drift is, of course, more topic drift. so back to the topic. what was the topic? oh yes. finding and promoting interesting writing, design, and programming on the web, via a non-commercial open community called Astounding.

doomed utopian dream? great idea marred by poor performance? jury out? i think that's what skizz was asking when he posted the link here.

or maybe it was just an invitation.

posted by Zeldman at 12:40 AM on July 11, 2000

i see this happen again and again:

A posts link.

B immediately criticizes content or design of linked site.

C questions A's motive in posting link.

defensive replies follow.

horrified spectators quickly flee.

it's almost as if we are performing a group ritual, rather than actually engaging in conversation.
posted by Zeldman at 12:41 AM on July 11, 2000

Yet you come back for more. Like everything else you wade around in the slime for a few tasty kernals. This is such a common occurance, perhaps you are still lamenting for the lost 'incubation' stage of this place. I've seen it happen too many times. These things have longstanding traditions of growing pains. From petulant to elegant we all have our place, so take some small comfort you don't see their face.
posted by john at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2000

Re FONT SIZE (and face): First, let me perhaps narrow the area of our disagreement:

I don't have any problem with the designer specifying font face and size for the "look and feel" elements of a site: Headlines, site navigation links, etc. These contain few words, tend to stand in isolation, and generally perform familiar functions; they can therefore be recognized even at smaller than comfortable sizes. My focus is strictly on the principal text body content of a site, whether it be news articles, message board posts, or whatever. Sentences are a much different proposition than the "look and feel" elements; there isnt the isolation or the predictability.

Here's the foundation of my position: Everyone viewing a site got there, somehow. There's a font face and size established in the browser, by neglect or design. I'm sure most people don't bother to change the horrible 11pt TNR which, IIRC, is the default in IE and Netscape. Doesn't matter-- they're comfortable with it. No designer is going to irritate them by leaving it alone, but there's a non-zero probability of irritating some by changing it.

For others, and I include myself, the font is a serious usability issue. For me, the issue isn't so much the absolute size of a font as the weight of its body. In Windows, 14pt Arial or Verdana have the right body weight, but are too big for me to be comfortable; it makes me feel much like all-caps SHOUTING on Usenet. 14pt TNR has the right body weight, and is almost comfortable. At 12pt, almost everything is too thin for me-- except Comic Sans MS, which, like Baby Bear's porridge, is juuuust right. So that is the font I have set in all of my Windows browsers. The probability of irritating people like myself by taking away our specified font face and size approaches 100 per cent.

And it's totally unnecessary! There is absolutely no reason to alter the browser-set font for article or message body text, except that the designer wants to leave his dirty, David Siegel-"Take control of every pixel!"-stained fingerprints on it. Nobody else will be bothered in the slightest if s/he's allowed to keep the browser-set font. (And if you can't write a style sheet to accomplish it, I can.)

Zeldman suggests I should be grateful to Matt for allowing me to re-establish my font preferences, once he has taken them away. I'm not. Here's why:

1. He "fixed" something that wasn't broken.
2. The "fix" doesn't work. Here's why:

On my first visit to MetaFilter, I was in Windows, using IE 5.01. I took advantage of the opportunity to clone my browser settings in MeFi's preferences.

Now, I'm using BeOS, which renders fonts of a given point size considerably smaller than Windows does. (I'm told the MacOSen do this, too.) I'm using Opera 3.61b7, the latest version available for BeOS, which is CSS-aware, with 16pt Humnst777 BT Roman set in the browser preferences. But my own MeFi preferences are overriding the browser preferences, and everything is much too small to read comfortably. What do I do? Change my MeFi preferences every time I change OS? I don't think so! Click the mouse twice to zoom the page to 120%? Tried that, still not big enough. Click twice more, zooming to 150? Nicely readable, but a trifle "shouty." Or do I click the mouse once, to throw away the site style sheet, and see an ugly but comfortably readable page? You betcha!

Unnecessarily making readers uncomfortable with the principal font at a site with text as its principal attraction strikes me as plain bad design. Doing so on a message board site, where readers are expected to create the content, strikes me as abso-selfcensoredvulgargerundive-lutely insane.
posted by syrynx at 10:40 AM on July 11, 2000

your points are well taken. still, FOR COMMERCIAL REASONS as well as aesthetic ones, designers are going to continue to attempt to style the typography (including body text) at nearly all sites. most clients demand it. there is a long heritage of demanding "our look and feel, our branding, reflected in every element of our marketing materials." (i agree that designers can sometimes persuade clients NOT to demand this. these are exceptional clients.)

i agree that there's no NEED to do this on personal sites and community forums. but designers often will do it, in order to BRAND those properties too. because we live in a world of brands, and a site that makes no effort with its typography will be perceived as amateurish by less-sophisticated visitors.

you might enjoy this article at ALA, which basically promotes your view: Dao of Web Design.

you might rethink your hardcore opposition to text styles after reading this article: Web Design and Sin by Leo Robert Klein.

posted by Zeldman at 11:45 AM on July 11, 2000

Thanks for the links. I had read the Allsopp piece before. I'm afraid that all I got from the Klein piece was "be civil to each other." OK, I'll try. :-)

I am not opposed to text styles; I just think that the user should apply them.

Since designer-styled body text invariably ends up as either Arial or Verdana on my system, it looks more like homogenizing than branding to me.

I think less sophisticated users, if they notice anything at all, will notice the "look and feel" elements the designer does define, and probably not even realize it if the familiar default font doesn't change. I also think that, in the case of message boards, allowing the browser-defined font for messages is actually a powerful design element, distinguishing between content provided by the user and that provided by the owner.

But, hey, I'm a Web site perpetrator, not a designer, so whaddo I know?

posted by syrynx at 2:01 PM on July 11, 2000

>I am not opposed to text styles; I just think that the user should apply them.

you can do that with user style sheets in IE5. (mac version, anyway.)

personally i think the DESIGNER should apply styles.

"i am not opposed to content, i just think the user should create it."

"i am not opposed to graphics, i just think the user should create them."

i suppose you could argue either of those points, but why?

in any case, it looks to me like nobody wants to talk about the astounding site. if you want to debate web design issues, you can do that on evolt, webdesign-l, or alistapart. we probably should NOT keep discussing this here.
posted by Zeldman at 7:48 PM on July 11, 2000

My comments are directed precisely at Astounding Web. The fact that they happen to be appropriate to all Web message boards and many other Web sites is just a happy coincidence.
I am not opposed to text styles; I just think that the user should apply them.
you can do that with user style sheets in IE5. (mac version, anyway.)
Hey, I'm the Browser Junkie-- I can throw away all of the styling on any Web site, in any browser. Is making me want to do so, or need to do so, the hallmark of good design?
personally i think the DESIGNER should apply styles.
Then why offer user preference settings? You can't have it both ways.

And if you're going to offer user preference settings, why not finish the job, and at least allow me the option to "Use my fonts" for AW's messages? That would cure the multiple-OS problem I've mentioned previously, while still allowing you to hold your head high among your peers by specifying the default font. Writing a style sheet to do this may be tedious, but it's trivial.
"i am not opposed to content, i just think the user should create it."
That is exactly what AW invites, and what you and Glenn have chided me for failing to do.

Other suggestions for improving AW:

Either dispense with the superfluous "Your password will be emailed to you shortly" on the post-registration screen, or actually require use of an emailed password.

I hunted for several minutes for the "Reply to this" link before I found it, disguised as an "email the poster" icon, at the top of the message. Are AW users supposed to reply to messages before reading them? "Sentence before verdict!" Please consider putting the link at the bottom of messages, and replacing the tiny stamped envelope icon with something less suggestive of mail.

posted by syrynx at 1:05 PM on July 12, 2000

Sigh. You CAN "use your fonts" in the preferences section.

This is the SIXTH time you've restated a web design argument that probably belongs on a web design message board (or in the Nearly Anything Goes section of Astounding) but does NOT belong on Metafilter.

I'm not going to continue a private debate on a public message board, particularly a public message board that is NOT about web design issues.

What you have succeeded in doing, by hammering away at your complaint, is driving away anyone who might have wished to discuss the merits or demerits of Astounding Websites. Which is what this thread was supposed to be about.

I expect that you'll post a SEVENTH argument directly below, but I won't be here to read it. And I don't think anyone else will be, either.
posted by Zeldman at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2000

I like astounding web.

...and pudding. I really like pudding. I just wish that it wasn't already flavored when I bought it. I mean, I like my pudding chocolatey, but with enough vanilla to be fragrant -- I can buy chocolate and vanilla at the store, so why do those pudding companies *insist* upon putting in their own flavor? And while we're on the subject, I have one of those big boxes of 64 crayons, and yet all the magazines I buy are already colored in!!! I want Tyra Banks to have blue eyes and flaming red hair, damn it!

The following weblogs seem to like Astoundingly Chocolate Pudding:
  · jeblog
  · davey blog
  · gusset.
  · Janus Prison Intelligence
  · my.existence
  · petalog
  · prolific 2000
  · the-inbetween
  · Bitácora Tremendo
  · binkydognose
  · Digital Web Magazine
  · glossolalia
  · the webmistress
  · mini-wetlog
  · ... this is my brain on blog.

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:05 AM on July 13, 2000

Why don't you just mix the chocolate and vanilla puddings together? Or sniff a vanilla bean while you eat the chocolate pudding? Or better yet, why don't you just melt vanilla and chocolate scented crayons together with blue contacts and clairol #71 light auburn hair dye in a big vat of magazines, stir it all together, and voila! Astounding chocolate-flavored, vanilla-scented, flaming red-haired, blue-eyed Tyra Banks. Why must you always complicate things?
posted by the webmistress at 10:19 AM on July 13, 2000

mmm... chocolate flavored tyra banks....
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:31 AM on July 13, 2000

Thanks to Uncle Joe, the topic has stopped drifting and has become beached in a slimy mire of delicious chocolate pudding.
What I like about Astounding is this - It appeals to the frustrated reviewer/critic in me. It's positive in its energy. It focuses on the "wow" factor. Anyone (even Uncle Joe) can contribute.No one has used the word "huzzah" yet.

posted by the webmistress at 11:38 AM on July 13, 2000

You know what I think is cool about Astounding Web?

The way a particular site gets discussed, and it gets moved to the forefront of the list of sites on the splash page... that is *so cool*. This way, when someone lands on a real gem, it "moves up in rankings" based on how much people like it.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:38 AM on July 13, 2000

'tis a fine manly smell, but i like it too.
posted by Zeldman at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2000

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