DeTinyIt found the cold eye of an Asian Elephant staring down at it * Startup

DeTinyIt: Making Short URL’s Long Again

A while back I  reviewed 3.ly, a website that makes short URL’s as short as conceivably possible. And so life progressed, day in day out, and all my URL’s were shortened with 3.ly. This mostly comes in handy when sending tweets on Twitter, but I also used them to shorten Google Maps links in emails. Those are quite possibly the longest URL’s around that people use on a frequent basis.

Unfortunately not all is well in the world of short URL’s though. There are those that use them for nefarious purposes. Behind the nice short URL links sometimes lurk the demons of the web that we all hope to avoid. Viruses, banned sites, are just a few of the things that can happen if you click somewhere without looking.

DeTinyIt found the cold eye of an Asian Elephant staring down at it *

For the particularly cautious user we have a new site, one which decouples the short URL from its hidden long URL. DeTinyIt takes the short URL and tells you if it’s likely to be a dangerous site and it also will return the destination that it points to.

My first experience with DeTinyIt was an absolute failure. I entered the short URL that I had previously created as a test. It didn’t do anything other than tell me that likely this URL wouldn’t cause catostrophic damage. Great. Then I got to thinking that DeTinyIt was not named De3lyIt. In turn, I created a short URL using TinyURL, and it worked like a charm. I guess it pays to be the biggest fish in the short URL industry.

I would almost condemn DeTinyIt to depths of web obscurity, if it weren’t for the FireFox plugin. Who has time to cut and paste short URL’s into the DeTinyIt website?I know I’d just as soon click it and hope for the best. The FireFox plugin allows users to hover over short URL’s and it will provides all the information in a tool tip within the screen. It’s simple and easy.

I did check DeTinyIt with Bit.ly, another URL shortener. It seems to work just fine. So my only admonition to the DeTinyIt folks is to go down the list of URL shorteners and test it against each one. I will say though, it’s always nice when someone builds a product with simplicity and foresight. For this, I applaud the folks at DeTinyIt.

Thanks for the write up and thanks for alerting us to 3.ly. 3.ly uses a slighty different system to most redirect sites but we’ve now included it! The firefox plugin could do with some reviews if you’re up for it
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Once a few people have rated it we can then make it live on the main addons site!

I’m always a sucker for a developer making changes per my suggestions, so I gladly provided a review of the plugin on the Firefox page. The bestest place to test such a tool is Twitter, which quickly confirmed that it works as advertised. I also noted that the website now can accept 3.ly addresses, but the plugin does not yet. I’m sure you’ll sync those up over time. I also noticed the shar.es short links don’t work, which come from ShareThis.com. That’s fairly popular so probably a good one to move higher up the list. Speaking of the list, here’s an exhaustive one in case you happen to be bored one afternoon.

SlapBack: We’ll get working on shar.es tonight. :) I’ve also popped up a list on short URL services that are currently supported:
<removed>
Quite a few you see :)

* Asian elephant ‘Maximus’ posted with permission. Source here, attribution here.

We regret to announce that DeTinyIt has died. No cause of death was declared, but its contribution to the web will always be cherished.

Startup

Rollip: How to Polaroid a Picture

Everyone loves antiques. Isn’t it great having someone’s second hand junk around? There’s an odd novelty in owning broken down clutter that was thrown away years and years ago. I suspect it’s a form of nostalgia, where people get a sense of reconnecting to the past by memorializing objects that just as well should find their way to the dumpster. Of course I will agree that there’s something artistic about old things. They weren’t made by machines in a factory. Chances are MBA’s hadn’t yet cut back all non essentials and design engineers hadn’t optimized away any idiosyncrasies. Yes, there are loads of people that search for old things, fix them up a bit, and then keep them as treasured prizes.

For those of you who are dedicated to searching scrapyards and antique shops to pay a premium for something that didn’t cost a dollar when first sold, I give you Rollip. It’s the antiquifier for the web. Specifically, it will take your pictures and make them look like they’re from 1978.

In its entirety Rollip allows you to upload an image, puts a polaroid frame around it, at which point you can download it again. There are a variety of polaroid variants to choose from, though I’m not savvy enough to discern the difference between any of them. It’s a polaroid which will make nostalgic people happy when they view them on your site.

I don’t have any major concerns with this polaroidizer tool. It seems absolutely spiffy. I do have one major suggestion though. As a hack web developer I’ve grown accustomed to applying bits of Javascript to my pictures to give them various effects. I’m kind of a purist and prefer not to change the original picture. For example, to add a glossy effect I used a Javascript package insightfully named, Glossy. With a few modifications to the html it completely revamped my pictures, my life, and I’ve never been the same ever since. In fact here’s a list of similar such effects, one of which is damningly titled, Instant. Somehow that was supposed to translate to a polaroid picture effect. I know it’s an entirely different angle but I think it’d be really cool if Rollip did the same with their tool. I’m guessing that they have more expertise in polaroidizing pictures. Likely any Javascript tool they provide would be most fabulous. In the meantime, here’s our friendly llama again showing its stuff on a polaroid- stylized, of course. *

Llama that on polaroid

SlapBack: Thanks for the review! I like your comments, esp. about the javascript effect. Will look into it some time, actually i’m curious how far I could take it with javascript.

* Llama photo attribution. (Found on Wikipedia, posted with permission.)

Startup

Check My Colours: Stop Beating up Blind People

Ever had one of those days where you wake up in the morning, pour a cup of coffee, then walk out into the street with a cane and beat down all the handicapped people you can find? I mean, sometimes you just have to make life harder for someone else, in particular the downtrodden and oppressed. Well as it turns out I’ve been doing exactly that every day, in 56 different ways. At least according to a new website, Check My Colours.

Colorblindness is a common vision deficiency. Its prevalence among men is up to 10% of the population. For women it’s less than a percent. Since I’m an astoundingly inaccurate mathematician I’ll average them and assume that 5% of the people who come to your website have difficulty distinguishing between colors in some capacity or another. The lot falls to designers to make a website color blind friendly. Determining which colors might need to be adjusted just got a lot easier with the new Check My Colours tool. All you do is submit the URL and it will list the offending objects and their associated colors.

The report includes three different categories including contrast ratio, brightness difference and color difference. From there it’s expected that you would adjust your CSS to modify the offending elements. Now this is where the trouble begins. Let’s assume that I’m not a color aficionado and the distinction between contrast ratio, brightness difference and color difference isn’t something I have a firm grasp on. Then what? I’m guessing I’m not the only one who would be taking a stab in the dark at finding a less malevolent color. Key suggestion: tell me the range of hex colors that would work with both the background and foreground colors. I’m sure the logic is already right there within the application so it’s just a matter of putting the info on the screen.

Test your new contrast colours here
Test your new contrast colours here

The next grievance with Check out my Colours, baby, is with the accessibility of their tools. Specifically, it contains the instructions at the top of the chart, “Click on the row to test other colours.” That’s great, but I’m always lapse to click somewhere, anywhere, within a general undefined area. I know Javascript allows you to set it up so that I can click on the entire row, but my vote is for a clear and defined button within that row to bring up the color contraster tester tool. And likewise I’d opt for an exit button as well. These UI features are fairly common and might confuse people without them.

Moving along, on the path to critiquing an otherwise pristine product, is the nice green submit button to the left. Try clicking it, if you dare. Once you have submitted your colors you can now sleep well knowing that your colors have successfully been submitted. To what point and purpose I do not know. But yes, they have been submitted. Once you click away from the tester tool you will notice that a few cells in the row are now an equivalent green. I’m not sure if it accomplished anything other than that.

Overall the Check My Colours site is probably best in its class as far as providing information that may help designers create color friendly sites. Interestingly, all the sites that I tested came up far short of passing the color test, with the exception of Check My Colours itself. Perhaps with a few tweaks and modifications this site will grow to be a tool common to the arsenal of designers. Then everyone can feel better about themselves knowing that they’ve made a world a better place for the color blind. That and it will likely at to the stickiness of your site.

SlapBack: Hi :)

I’m reading your review and it seems very interesting. Now, I try to address some of your doubts :)

You write: “I’m guessing I’m not the only one who would be taking a stab in the dark at finding a less malevolent color. Key suggestion: tell me the range of hex colors that would work with both the background and foreground colors.”

The range of hex colours are specified in the homepage, in “What is check my colours” section:
Text or diagrams and their background must have a luminosity contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for level 2 conformance to guideline 1.4, and at least 7:1 for level 3 conformance to guideline 1.4. The range for color brightness difference is 125. The range for color difference is 500.

These values are suggested by the world wide web consortium.

More documentation here:
http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20-20081211/#visual-audio-contrast-contrast
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/wai-pageauth.html#gl-color

Checkmycolours is meant to be a tool for web developers, so I didn’t think so necessary a detailed documentation. Now, the webapp is used by many many users so,I will write a more complete documentation as soon as possible :)

Then, you write: “The next grievance with Check out my Colours, baby, is with the accessibility of their tools. Specifically, it contains the instructions at the top of the chart, “Click on the row to test other colours.” That’s great, but I’m always lapse to click somewhere, anywhere, within a general undefined area.”

Yes, this is a good observation, but it is related to usability, not accessibility.

And, at last: “What’s your best guess as to what the Submit button actually does?”

The submit button simply updates the hex values in the report and highlights it with a different color. So, the developer can easily get the correct values and replace them in the stylesheet :)

Thanks for your suggestions. I’m receiving many mails from many users, so I hope to be able to solve bugs and implement new features as soon as possible.
In next day I will probably publish a blog about these issues and the next updates, so… stay tuned :)