Thirteenth Parallel /archive/multi-interview/


March 2002

For the 3rd issue of Thirteenth Parallel we thought it would be interesting to ask several different people, with varying experience and from different web based backgrounds the same 10 questions.  Of the people we asked 3 found the time to respond so we thank them profusly and hope you find this interesting.

The Players

name:  Eric Costello
location:  NYC, NY, USA
age: 31
bio:  "Eric Costello is a contract developer and author who maintains a personal site at where he links to articles on Web standards, DHTML, CSS, XML, and other topics of interest to web developers, along with providing free CSS templates at CSS Layout Techniques."

name:  Glen Murphy
location:  Melbourne, Australia
age:  21
work:  Developer, DeadFish Design
bio:  "A designer/developer who thinks too often"

name:  Adam Schwarcz
location: Providence, RI, USA
age: 19
work: Student at RISD (
bio:  "Last night a friend described me as a brooder.  Don't know how accurate that is, but I'll let it

The Questions

What is the www?

"A bunch of computers that help people interact, share information, and express themselves with a degree of freedom and a scope both unprecedented in history."

"I had a nice concise answer, but I think a proper definition is in order, to give meaning to following answers; It is a network of documents (primarily HTML+images) that are served to users over HTTP."

"The complete set of documents residing on all Internet servers that use the HTTP protocol, accessible to users via a simple point-and-click system.  (thanks!)"

Why and when did you start working with the web?

In 1996 I decided to be a web designer after a friend hooked me up with a floppy disk that had a free Internet account with a local ISP on it.  One of the things that first turned me on to the power of the web was PBS Frontline's page on their Waco story which had real recordings of FBI negotiations with David Koresh.  The Internet as a fount of primary news sources still sounds pretty fantastic.  It still hasn't happened in the mainstream yet, and maybe it never will.  But there are great things like The Smoking Gun out there."

"In 1997, in between studying for my final year of high school, I spent my time writing a Quake 1 Partial Conversion and it really needed a site in order to get it 'out there'."

"I first got on the internet in about 1991-92 via a BBS that was linked up to the net through a really crude text based system.  Eventually I got AOL when AOL was still a dos program, and by 1995 I had a real dial up account.  Basically, I grew up with the web."

How do you see your role with respect to the web?

"I make web pages.  Lately, I've been concentrating on helping others make web pages, hopefully helping the web developer community embrace solid building practices that will survive the phenomenal change that is the rule on the web."

"Commercially, I build sites for big corporations.  Personally, I find that the web is the easiest platform on which to build things that connect people, which is where all my current energies are focused (which is why my sites haven't been updated in yonks.)"

"I'm still trying to figure out what my role is, so I really couldn't tell you."

How has the web changed since you started?

"It's gotten better: more and more intelligent and creative people have found it and are using it for self-expression; technological hindrances that were one mountains are now pebbles; there's a search engine that actually works!"

"It's become interactive and connected; previously it just threw stuff at the user - now a user's input can change other users' experiences. This has coincided with the rise of non-HTML web technologies (Flash, Java, XML), and the rise of broadband - I doubt the people who wrote the HTTP RFC envisioned people steaming audio to each other via shoutcast using their protocol."

"Well, there's this whole Flash thing, and no one uses Mosaic anymore.  Internet Explorer actually became decent, broadband became more widespread..."

How do you see it changing in the future?

"I think that it will develop a consciousness.  Eventually people will no longer be designing web pages, but web pages will instead be designing people.  And maybe, just maybe, people will stop using NS4."

"It's hard to say what future technologies (such as the semantic web) will succeed; yet these are the things that will cause paradigm shifts in the way we use the web, so trying to specifically predict what will change will just come back to haunt me later.
"Speaking generally, I think the web will further blur into everything else; HTML and JavaScript are already being used in non-web applications, and software which previously relied on HTTP may switch to other, more suitable protocols.  To the user though, it will likely all look the same.  On the developers' side, hopefully we'll see less 'I develop what I want for the web' and more 'I use the web to develop what I want'."

"I have a hard time seeing it doing anything but continuing in the direction it's been going for so long.  Faster speeds (both through bandwidth and processors) will allow bigger and grander things...  My big prediction is that some future version of director (I envision a melding between director and after effects) will probably make flash obsolete."

What is(are) your favourite site(s) and why?

Eric: James Lileks is one of the funniest writers I've ever had the pleasure to surf across.  Check out the misc collection of the Gallery of Regrettable Foods for a taste. intelligent commentary, brilliant articles, and DHTML links galore.
Like many, I love and hate MetaFilter with equal passion.  I hate it because, quite frankly, there are too many people there and most conversation degenerates quickly into the predictable blather.  I love it because Matt Haughey does a great job of leading, developing and writing for the site. And because there are still a lot of great links to be found there. [Full disclosure: I am the developer for] I love The 5k Contest because it encourages people to think about web development in new, innovative, and often very funny ways.  Stewart Butterfield is one of the best minds on the web, and if I had the time and the development chops to build into the site everything he wants, it would be the greatest thing since French baguettes.
There are other sites I really like, but all my other friends still owe me money.

"Aside from the obvious (/., DiK etc) kumo and nooface rank highly for the simple reason that they contain unique, interesting content."

"I tend to like pages that have some sort of emotional impact on me, that hit in the gut rather than just empty eye candy.  So keeping that in mind, my favorite design sites are probably,,,, and the old trueistrue (his recent stuff isn't to interesting to me).  Sites I go to on a regular basis for content are metafilter, yayhooray, and

What makes a site excellent?

"Usefulness. Or humor."

"The provision of inspiration or information."

"Engaging content?  Every page has a different target audience, so what makes a good site is always subjective.  Overall, I think a big thing for me is attention to detail."

What do you think are the most important considerations in designing for the web?

"I can't think of a good simple way to answer that; it all depends on what you hope to accomplish with the site being designed.  I suppose that the most important consideration is how to best provide the content to the intended audience."

"That depends on the audience; so my answer is 'the audience'."

"Making sure you don't have major errors in your code.  That's about it.  When I made my page, I made it so it required at least 1024x768, and the navigation was somewhat obscure. Those were conscious decisions though, to create what I thought would be the best experience for the viewer, as well as ending with a product I would be content with."

Usability? Accessibility?

"Both extremely important, but few seem to have got the methodology right.  I think it's mostly a case of things either being designed by committee, or being designed by one person who doesn't understand the complete nature of their audience.  I think as long as people pick a scheme and stick to it, things usually turn out ok; any 'refinement' further down the development process is usually tempered by over-exposure to the system."

"To create the desire to explore through any means necessary."

How well do you feel standards address the needs of the web?

I think web standards are absolutely necessary, and the W3C recommended approach to web development (using HTML to markup the content structurally and using CSS to define presentation) is an altogether sound model.  But I am increasingly frustrated with poor browser implementations and what I fear are often short-sighted W3C approaches to the problems that the standards are intended to solve."

"I am happy with the way the whole standards-compliance issue has progressed, other than that, I don't really feel qualified to answer this question. "

"I don't code if I can avoid it, so I really couldn't answer."

Any final comments?

"I am sure I will change my mind about all my opinions on this. I don't know."

"Keep an eye out for the upcoming issues of, in which I'll have a 2 minute animation."