Introducing Marty Alchin Labs

by Marty Alchin on August 31, 2009 about numbers

A few weeks ago, there began some discussion on Twitter about a few people who wanted to update their personal sites, and they gained a bit of attention from others who were interested in doing so. Thus they formed the site sprint, wherein all participants agreed to launch their redesigns on September 1. I rather like my current design, and I don’t have the energy to redesign it, but I had mulling about the idea of a “Labs” site for a while, so I thought I’d use the deadline as challenge to actually get it going. In all, 15 others also participated, and I eagerly await their results.

So, it seems like labs are the trendy thing these days, from Google and Twitter to Mozilla and Opera. I don’t really care to be trendy, but I do tend to have a lot of ideas that don’t (yet) consistute an entire site, and I’d like a way to put some of those ideas out there for feedback, to see if they’d be worth expanding into something more complete. Rather than try to build an entire site out of them, I decided a small labs site would be the perfect place to put them. I can put a simple hcunk of functionality out there, refine and expand it over time, and perhaps someday graduate it into something real.

Thus, today, I formally announce the arrival of Marty Alchin Labs. This is the product of what very limited spare time I could devote to the site sprint, and I’m quite proud of what I was able to put together. The landing page is intentionally simple, as I’m not currently testing anything out with regard to link lists. Within that, the first few example applications are based on some work I’ve been doing with data visualization in HTML and CSS.

So far, I’m limiting myself solely to HTML and CSS, as far as what gets viewed in the browser. Namely, I’m trying to avoid things like SVG (though I’ll have plenty of labs for that down the road), VML, Flash, images, canvas or fancy JavaScript hackery. Heck, I’m not even running Django on that subdomain yet; it’s a set of static HTML pages. All the experiments will eventually grow to include some of the technologies I just mentioned, but for now, I’m just trying to see what can be done without them.

Everything you see in the labs so far are based largely on Wilson Miner’s article on A List Apart. That does mean some inline styles for positioning, but I think the results are well worth a small leak of presentation details into the markup. As of the time this article was written, there are three experiments in the labs: golf tournaments, NASCAR races and flight search results. Each will get its own post explaining its current status and future goals, but here’s a list of what else I’d like to touch on as time goes on.

There are more, I’m sure, but it’s late and I have lots more to write about the ones I’ve already done, so I’ll just keep you in suspense for now. Stay tuned. Also, note that there’s not really any navigation or anything yet, either. Getting the experiments themselves out the door was my priority to begin with. I’ll work on better branding and navigation later on.