In a global sense, this week’s lessons got me thinking about coding for different technologies and additionally, how fast they tend to change.
As I mentioned before, I jumped through hoops of fire (okay… it felt like it for a beginning programmer) to make my portfolio page work on Internet Explorer. I dabbled with conditional CSS (but couldn’t get it to work) to use the “first-line” property in my Text Assignment, which doesn’t work in Firefox (see the comment I left in my CSS code). A mere two years ago, I oversaw the creation of a 10-minute documentary on Florence Kahn, the first Jewish woman to serve in Congress. We did the original in Flash; however, that particular technology seems to be phasing out…already. As well, as we’ve discovered, it is not accessible.
Now, there are “work arounds” for all the problems I cite above. I changed all the borders and padding a bit to get my Portfolio page to work in IE (without sacrificing too much in other browsers). I stuck with my “emphasize” class that I originally used to maintain the same effect in my text assignment as “first-line.” We also have a YouTube version of the Florence Kahn video, which is more cross-platform friendly. However, all these “tricks” (or additional versions) require something extra—from some creative thinking to extra lines of code. And in a few years, what else will we have to learn?
As the Lynda.com, CSS3 First Look video makes clear, Internet Explorer (IE) tends to be the culprit in some of the minor coding hassles. It might be good to point out here that over the past 2.5 years, it appears Firefox has (triumphantly) overtaken the (evil) IE in global browser usage; however, as the W3 school warns at the bottom of the page, statistics can be deceiving. I suspect that much of our historical audience is technophobic enough to simply use the browser that comes pre-packaged with their Windows machines. (I am attempting to spread the gospel at work with little success.)
As well, the brilliantly conceived Lost Museum website (into which went a lot of methodological thought, according to Joshua Brown) already seems a bit outdated. I had trouble navigating the Flash and found the window VERY small on my computer (and was unclear how to re-size it…that might be my fault). Although I enjoyed perusing the museum, finding a specific item also proved difficult. I perked up when I saw a newspaper article related to Robert Smalls in the archives. Smalls is one of the Reconstruction-era African Americans in Congress I profiled in our book. However, I tried for nearly 30 minutes to find the document related to him in the Waxworks room to no avail.
As historians, I think we revel in the stability of things. The past will not “change” (though certainly interpretations, available evidence, and how we manage the evidence do change) and I think the lightening-speed fluxes in technology scares us. It scares me. If I want to do web design and electronic resources as part of my job, how on earth will I have the time, let alone the money to keep up with the changing technology?