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Jeffrey Zeldman

Imagine needing some good advice. You go to your friend who is wise, gentle and has been where you are thinking about going. If you are looking at the Web, Jeffrey Zeldman is that friend.

About you

What did you do before the Web?

I worked at ad agencies in New York City (and before that, in Washington, D.C.), and I composed and produced music in my recording studio.

I called the studio "Red Flowers." It had an AKAI 12-track, a bunch of synths and outboard gear, and some eccentric electric and acoustic instruments and mics. I created a 90-minute album of, I guess you'd call it ambient stuff, composed and produced scores for a D.C. dance company called "Upright Vertebrates," and produced some soundtracks for PBS with Robert Goldstein, guitarist/songwriter of the 80s band Urban Verbs.

At some ad agencies I got an education on how to focus creative thinking and work in a team, at others I learned how to sell work, at others I learned about office politics, and at still others I learned how to be a total hack.

My studio fell apart around the same time my life did. The ad work kept coming. I did some of my best advertising work at one of the lowest points of my life.

How did you find the web?

I found it grey and rather limited at first, back in the days of Netscape 0.9, but by Netscape 1.1 it was pretty rockin'. An ad client, Warner Bros., asked us to create a website in 1995, and we did and I was hooked.

Why are you here?

My father and mother loved each other very much.

Methods of production

What do you use to create your sites?

I use Photoshop 5.5 for production (and sometimes layout), and use the bundled ImageReady app to cut stuff apart when I have to. I use Illustrator 8 for vector graphics.

I use Pagespinner for markup, stylesheets, and javascript. It's a $29.95 shareware text editor that came out when BBEdit was still making the transition from hacker's tool to web author's. I use BBEdit, too, when I have to, and BBEdit has one or two features that blow away every other HTML editor. But for 99% of what I do, Pagespinner is way better. It's constantly open on my desktop.

I use Tantek Celik's Favelets to validate my markup, stylesheets, and accessibility with one click.

For audio and video editing, I use Quicktime Pro 5, and occasionally some really ancient shareware apps to tweak sound files. I convert audio to MP3 in SoundJam, a brilliant software program that was unfortunately discontinued last year. Essentially, Apple bought out SoundJam, took the basic functionality from that program, called it iTunes, and made it available for free. SoundJam did lots of stuff iTunes can't touch, but SoundJam died that iTunes might live, and they call that progress, I guess.

If the sound has to go into a Flash file, I do the conversion in Flash 4. I haven't upgraded to Flash 5 yet, because I don't do that much programming in Flash, so the extra power doesn't mean anything to me.

I will upgrade eventually, and I'll also probably buy the 2.0 version of Adobe's SWF program, LiveMotion, when it comes out next year. The current version of LiveMotion is like "Flash Lite," and I can see why the community hasn't sparked to it. The beta of the 2.0 version I saw is incredibly powerful. I can't talk about what they showed me, but even totally committed Flash people might want to check out LiveMotion 2 when it comes out, absurd as that probably sounds to those folks.

For FTP, I still use Fetch 90% of the time. It's fast and primitive and that's the way I like it. Sometimes I use Transmit, a more recent Mac FTP app, but I find it holds my hand too much, and unlike Fetch it cannot remember all the subdirectories I've visited. Fetch is best, I don't care what anyone says.

Until a few weeks ago, I was still using Eudora Lite 3.1 for email, but I upgraded to Eudora Pro 4.3 yesterday to avoid having problems with the latest mail generated by Outlook users.

I edit text in Tex-Edit Plus (http://www.nearside.com/trans-tex/), a $10 shareware text editor, and recently I vastly simplified my work by downloading and installing Dean Allen's Web Writing Apple Scripts ( http://www.textism.com/resources/index.html?id=9 ), which contain several useless components and one insanely great one: Preflight Cruncher. Preflight Cruncher converts smart quotes, em and en-dashes to their numerical equivalents, so you don't have to remember (and type) “ for open quotation or ” for close quotation or — for em-dash, and so on. The program defaults to meaningless visual ornamentation (italics<i>) instead of structural emphasis (<em>), but I've spoken to Dean Allen about it and I think he will change it in the next upgrade. Did I mention the program is free and very useful?

I produce everything on a G4 Mac with 22" cinema screen, but I started on a monochromatic Classic II. Actually I started on a DOS machine in the 80s, that I used to store sounds I created on my digital synthesizers.

About the Web

What do you see as the greatest strengths of the web?

Open platform, open source, an almost perfectly democratic medium for anyone with something to express. The ability to communicate with anyone anywhere in the world, on the most particular or general topic, or no topic at all. Ease of creating pages. (Relative) ease of programming. Low barrier to entry.

What do you see as the greatest dangers?

Corporate hegemony.

What would you say to folks who want to work the web?

Do it.

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Jeffrey Zeldman -the man, the bathroom, the haircut

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Jeffrey Zeldman was the single most important reason I became a pixel mechanic.
He's probably sorry.

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