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LinuxWorld 2001 ("Mondrian") | by wintersmithen
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LinuxWorld 2001 ("Mondrian")

LinuxWorld is a well-known site, affiliated with an equally well-known conference. In 2001, the IDG business unit that ran the site failed to survive the annual review. As a result, JavaWorld and LinuxWorld sites as well as their remaining skeleton crew (4 editors and 2 Web producers) were unceremoniously dumped on It was a raw deal all around, especially to the aforementioned producers. What they knew was that they would code the redesign for JW that had already been in the pipes. What these two hardworking women didn't know was that they were to be laid off once they were done. Kinda like what was in store for me a year later, except their fate had taught me to expect the sudden knife in the back.


While Patti and Candy coded JavaWorld, the powers-that-be had an even more fun job for me. Redesign LinuxWorld from ground up, code it, have it up and running in two weeks. My tech director had the most fabulous job of all, transitioning the entire LW content from their previous system to ours. There was much gallows humour among the four of us.


I'm all for open source in general and the Linux/GNU movements in particular, but I can't congratulate them on their design sensibility. It's a sad fact that most engineers are autistic when it comes to aesthetics. Hence, I had high hopes of giving Linux geeks a new and improved LinuxWorld. I wanted to emphasize LinuxWorld as the original, premier Linux publication/conference gateway. To that end, I enlisted the Linux penguin, that bird of unimpeachable credibility. The result is the rough logo-colour proposal (top left; click to enlarge) I dashed off that day.


Alas, IDG is not an open-source organization. Changing the logo and identity color wasn't what the senior management had in mind. It was a branding and hence an asset, they explained to me with an air of shocked patience. They'd had lots and lots of meetings to agree on it years ago and paid good money to have it designed. And, the logo was used for the Expo as well. All the more reason for a change, I suggested. It's ugly, no engineer I know who cares likes it, and with me inhouse, they don't have to pay some bogus design firm that ripped them off with this amaterish monstrosity. Good arguments all, which of course means I wasn't even heard out.


Hence the Bruised Mondrian look. Yes, yes, I know a lot of people hate it. All that blue and black, they say. It looks like the site got beat up. Well, I had my reasons. It had to be coded and ready in 2 weeks. The front page had to look nice and full even though new stories wouldn't be coming in for weeks and the archive was in chaos and couldn't be retrieved until god-knows-when, so all the content would be from sites like ComputerWorld till then. And oh, when original stories did become available, there had to be space ready for them on the FP. I amused myself by experimenting with much thicker-stroked, geometric layout than normal, and I'm not apologizing for it.


After I left, the page codes immediately started getting messed with by the editor, and I saw some terrible things happening with table widths, and (ironically but not surprisingly) compatibility issues with open-source browsers started to be introduced. Sad. Now SysCon owns the site and they've taken over the task of trashing the site. You'd think they'd at least redesign the thing, but 3 years later, it's still staggering around looking wounded. It's not the most inspirational tale to come out of the Land of Linux.

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Taken on October 19, 2009