Dmitry Kirsanov's Dessert Links | WebReference

Dmitry Kirsanov's Dessert Links

Before you start wondering about the raison d'être of this weird link collection, read the three points that explain what sort of a diet are the Dessert Links:
They're interesting. Not just entertaining or funny, but unexpected, thought-provoking, intellectually thrilling. This is something you can't help learning.
They're immediate. No need to start at a home page groping for the real stuff---I'll link directly to the page to read and enjoy.
They're uncommon. Although the topics are chosen to be of interest to the widest possible audience, the pages themselves are rather out of the mainstream.

AT&T Logo Guidelines
When looking at a well designed logo, it's hard to imagine how really difficult it may be to create this small, elegant, seemingly simple symbol. Even after you got the basic idea right, you still have to spend quite a time adjusting your logo for different uses and design environments. AT&T's guidelines on using its corporate logo present an engaging insight into what it all really takes. Because of its size and diversity, the company's designers are having major headaches trying to ensure that all of AT&T's departments and contractors use the logo the way it was designed. This document has lots of do's and dont's on the use of the familiar AT&T's globe in white on black and black on white, in large and in small sizes, in paper documents and on product labels, etc. etc. There's even a section on common logo usage errors!  

The Halloween Document
The ever-escalating war of two different software development philosophies, "open source" vs "commercial" (for lack of a better word), has just resorded a landmark episode. An internal confidential study of open source phenomenon was leaked from Microsoft and published by Eric Raymond, the editor of the Hacker's Jargon File that I linked up earlier and a very influential speaker for the Open Source community. Not surprisingly, Microsoft's intended strategy as per this document is to swallow (sorry, "embrace") as many open standards and protocols as they can lay their hands on and then spoil them by incompatible MS-only extensions. Even for casual reader, this document and Raymond's commentary present a very instructive and lively insight into the inner life of both enemies' camps. 

Chomsky's Propaganda Model
When I was studying linguistics at St.Petersburg University, the name of Noam Chomsky meant one thing for me: the creator of one of the most important linguistic theories of our century, generative grammar, lying in the foundation of all modern computer translation systems.  Recently, thanks to the Internet, I discovered The Dark Side of Chomsky previously unknown to me: He's also an unconventional political thinker and the author of a number of controversial books on both current issues and philosophy of politics.  In fact, I find it natural---when scientists become interested in politics, their long-trained manner of thinking often makes them dissidents (thus, the most renowned opponents of the Soviet regime were of mathematical and physical background).  Here's just one example: in a lively radio interview, Dr Chomsky argues that it doesn't take someone's malice to impose a substantial---and real---censorship on mass media, much as it didn't take divine intervention to carry out evolution whose fruits seem so intelligently designed.  

10 Newspaper Design Myths
Design is a very versatile and multifacetous field, and designing web sites is but a small corner of the design continent.  When studying some particular design province, you can benefit very much from visiting your neighbors and learning from the problems they face and the solutions they've found.  This article offers a succinct and involving breakdown of some of the most important issues in newspaper design, which has some interesting parallels with web design---being "material," this media is nevertheless even more fluid than most web sites, and the obvious "less art, more information" newspaper bias reminds me of the well-known bandwidth and accessibility restrictions in web design.  

Finally, I've found an authoritative word of advice on the pesky punctuation problems that emerged after the practice of including e-mail and web addresses into everyday correspondence became common.  What is the best way to break URLs across lines?  What if you have to end a sentence with an electronic address but don't want the period to be mistaken for a part of the address?  The answers offered by Bill Walsh in his Curmudgeon's Stylebook may be considered preliminary and arguable, but they at least give some guidance while most printed sources haven't yet caught up with the issue.  

From Russia with FAR
After some delay, I'm back with new Dessert Links! Go visit Eugene Roshal, a Russian programmer and author of two extremely useful programs: RAR (Russian ARchiver), definitely the best file archiver utility around, and FAR (file and Archive Manager), a really neat (albeit text-mode) and powerful file manager for Win95/NT.  (Poor souls still struggling with Explorer are welcome to check out what they're missing.)  FAR's configurability and design thoroughness are immense, and although it draws a bit from Norton Commander (an old DOS shell once incredibly popular in Russia), it's gone really FAR from that prototype!  

Leading Internet IdNetities
Finally, a design-related link found its way to this page.  (You know, I've been trying to variegate my Dessert Links as much as possible, keeping in mind that broad perspectives can only improve your design sense.)  This is a survey of identities, shown in both their concepts and implementation, of a number of prominent Internet-related companies.  An identity (or "IdNetity," a neologism coined for "Identity on the Net") is more than just a logo; however, a logo is often in the center of a modern corporate identity.  This report is a bit outdated, but still very interesting as it shows the featured identities dynamically, tracing their origins and development.  

Get That Spammer!
Some time ago I used to send out an angry response to every spam e-mail I got.  Now, I only try to avoid reading more than one line of a junk message and kill it at most a second after receiving.  But that's not because I capitulated---I do hope that those socially conscious will someday successfully fight this incredible annoyance.  For everyone interested (and I suspect nearly anyone is interested these days), here's definitely the most informative page I've found on the subject.  Not only it gives lots of practical advice, it is also an engaging reading as it reveals Internet's intricate workings of which many of us are unaware.  

On the Pleasures of Made-Up Science
If science is the driving force of the modern civilization, then Science Fiction is the modern saga.  Yet it is an amazingly rare ability, even among the best SF authors, to persuasively show (or even understand?) how modern science works and to engage the reader with the thrill and fatigue of scientific exploration.  This short essay by Matt McIrvin explains why the "science" part is as important to this genre as is the "fiction" part; it is included in the reviews collection of one of my favorite SF writers, Stanislaw Lem.  

Hackers' ASCII
Since ancient times, alphabets have been in the foundations of cultures.  Our modern computer-centric culture is no exception; its alphabet is called ASCII, the basic character set standard used on virtually all computers around the world.  This article summarizes all known nicknames of ASCII characters and presents tons of other historical material that has been stratifying for decades over this computer artefact.  This is an entry from the Hacker Jargon File, the premier resource on the rich and versatile culture of hackers' communities of 1960s and 1970s.  An inspiring reading for computer addicts!  

An Introduction to Mitki
An artistic and lifestyle movement originated in mid-80s in my native St.Petersburg, the Mitki have since stayed surprisingly unconcerned about both the agonizing Soviet environment and the aggressively pushing Western culture.  It is easy to conclude that the childish and primitivistic flavor of Mitki is alien even to St.Petersburg itself---commonly perceived as an austere, classic, not-too-human city.  But the visible singularity of the Mitki phenomenon is actually deeply rooted in Russian and, particularly, St.Petersburg culture.  

Lessons from a restricted Turing test
If a machine ever becomes intelligent, how can you tell?  The solution proposed in 1950 by Alan Turing is a test where an independent judge chats with a human and a computer without knowing which is which; if it turns out impossible to reliably distinguish the two, we have to admit that the artificial intelligence has equaled the natural one. The article by Stuart Shieber reports on a recent attempt to partially implement the Turing test and persuasively argues about the validity and usefulness of this undertaking.  

Ark Debate
The issue of the Biblical Flood and the Noah Ark is one of the relatively minor skirmishes of the notorious Creation vs. Evolution war.  Still, this transcript of a public TV debate is a very engaging reading, if not for the depth and consistency of argumentation, then at least for the true passion and bizarre drama (or is it a comedy?) of this unfalsifiably lifelike dispute.  

Dangerous Words
If you're an advertisement copywriter, here's your ultimate inventory of cliches for web advertisement.  But if you want your words to make sense and not only glitter and dazzle, take this list compiled by Jutta Degener as a good opportunity to question many usage patterns plaguing web pages.  It really takes constant efforts to guard yourself against sayings that are literally "in the air."  I, for one, not unfrequently find myself composing something along the lines of the first sentence of this paragraph...  

SETI news
A report of one of the researchers at the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project.  Without much hype, the project of listening to distant stars via radiotelescopes, launched back in the 1970s, is now in its maturity.  Intensive computerized search is underway in a number of observatories around the world.  Big news may arrive anytime soon; meanwhile, read an informal diary of the everyday SETI activities.  

A Logotype Machine
I never could envision that such a use can be made of my logo tutorial.  A student at the University of Ulster in North Ireland has written a paper on the possibility of creating a computerized logo designer---a smart application to assist and guide an artist throughout a logo project.  It's only a vague outline so far, but interesting nevertheless, and it uses the categorization I developed for my design lab article.  

Gender-Free Pronoun FAQ
Can you guess how many ways are there to say "he or she" in one word without being sexist?  As much as 212, and the first artificially created gender-free pronoun (ne, nis, nim) is dated 1850!  For this Achilles heel of the English language, lots of people have been offering lots of solutions, from simple "they" used as singular to the awkward semi-abbreviations like s/he and to the unutterable "xe," "zie," and even "smrtz."  The author has taken great pains to collect (seemingly) all information that has ever existed on the subject, and his (oops - checked an impulse to say "his or her" :) passionate attitude makes for an engaging reading.

Daniil Kharms.
Things That Happen
An English translation of my favorite Russian writer's short stories.  A very funny, deeply shocking and really sublime reading.  (The translation by Nicholas Sushkin is not perfect, but nothing better is available on the Internet.  Or wheresoever, I'm afraid.)  

Symbolics Guidelines for Sending Mail
A guide on writing email messages, dated 1984.  An informally written style guide, with lots of now-incomprehensible jargon and implications, but very interesting nevertheless.  It was created for internal use at Symbolics, the legendary artificial intelligence company of the 1980s.
Created: 05/27/97  /  Revised: 03/26/98