Email Standards Project

I originally posted this on the d.eskimo blog, but a glitch has meant the post isn’t currently up, so I’m reposting here in the interim… Update: it’s back live again

It’s been shown in a number of studies that HTML emails perform better than equivalent plain-text emails, so as a design agency we are often called upon by our clients to create HTML templates to support their online communications activities.

It seems like a simple task – create a newsletter design based on the website – a couple of hours work, maybe? Unfortunately, the task is deceptively difficult…

Owing in large part to the state of HTML support, and standards/CSS support, in the various popular email clients (software) that we typically need to support. Such clients include Hotmail, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook 2003 (and Express), Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and more. And many of those are browser-based, meaning even further quirks on the basis of which browser the client is used in.

For those of us that have been working on the web for some time, the different compatibility issues that exist between clients is reminiscent of the dark days before web standards support improved dramatically (even with Internet Explorer’s issues). So far designers have been limited to clunky table-based layouts, deprecated font tags, and other “hacks” which result in very difficult to maintain HTML code. And they’re forced to do an enormous amount of testing to check under a myriad of circumstances.

All in all, this adds many $$ for our clients. And in our business, where we’re supporting a number of non-profit clients, this can be really frustrating – for us and, we suspect, our clients.

Our friends at Freshview, who have created two excellent web-based email list management tools in Campaign Monitor and MailBuild, have done the design community a valuable service by documenting support for standards in a variety of email clients. Things were looking better, until…

David at Freshview noted recently on the Campaign Monitor blog that the launch of Outlook 2007, far from improving matters, significantly degraded support for HTML in what is one of the most popular email clients, especially in the corporate world.

So, they decided, it was time for action. And thus began the Email Standards Project (which also has a Facebook group, of course). Similarly to the push for better browser support for web standards that kicked off during the dark ages of the browser wars (gee – sounds like something out of Star Wars!?), the Email Standards Project aims to establish a core set of standards that the design community wants supported, and then will encourage email client vendors to support these standards.

And of course, once those core set of requirements are supported, then we’ll move on to secondary requirements etc. 😉

The Project’s website is launching today – so keep an eye on it to see how the campaign develops, and how you can help…

Sad moment for the Dems

ABC Online: Democrats to lose party status after 30 years.

Andrew Bartlett, whose excellent blog gave me an enormous amount of respect for the man and highlighted many of the Government’s abuses in the Senate, seems set to retire from politics. That’s a really sad thing…

I spoke to a few friends who said in the lead up to the election “we like the Democrats in terms of policy, but the party itself has lots of issues”. It’s a shame that the leadership issues that seemed to begin during Meg Lees’ tenure have resulted in such a poor result for the party.

I do hope that the party does continue and grows from it’s grass roots base, or that another party with similar policies and goals emerges over time. It might be an interesting time to join the party…

Howard heaved…

Needless to say I’m happy with the election result – not that Labor are in necessarily (they have yet to earn credibility and trust), just that after almost 12 years of lying and sliminess Howard has been turfed out on his backside. I can only hope he loses Bennelong too…

I really wanted to write a longer post outlining the many sins of the Howard government – and I may still have time later this week to expand. But in short (I could write at length about any one of these issues – but look at them all!):

  • abuse of refugee rights – not even upholding the basic principles of the international convention of the rights of refugees
  • the Tampa incident and “Children Overboard”
  • attacks on indigenous rights
  • rolling back of our fundamental legal rights – rights to a fair trial, to privacy
  • abandonment of David Hicks and support for the clearly illegal Guantanamo Bay facility
  • support for the Chinese government despite consistent human rights abuses (not even meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2002 because of fears of offending the Chinese government)
  • the introduction of the GST
  • WorkChoices
  • lack of any meaningful action, or even reasonable dialogue, on climate change
  • continued subsidisation and support for fossil-fuel industries (petrol, R&D support for development of big cars by Australian manufacturers, spending on nuclear instead of true renewable energy)
  • the so-called nuclear “debate”
  • going to war in Iraq
  • uncritical support of the US
  • lies about interest rates being something governments can control
  • the bungling of the privatisation of Telstra
  • lack of action prior to the elections in East Timor
  • the de-teething of the ACCC
  • persistent attacks on the education system, esp. public schools and universities
  • the AWB scandal
  • and probably more that I can’t think of right now…

I feel like a dark cloud has been lifted off of this country – really! I was out celebrating with friends on Saturday night and I was so delighted with the result. Let’s hope that Labor lives up to its promises (and more)…

Gig tonight at the Hopetoun

Just a quick reminder that Fuzu, my band, are playing tonight at the Hopetoun. We’re onstage at 8.30pm – so it’s an early start (and finish) if you’re worried about it being a school night.

We’re supporting the wonderful Centipede and Underlapper (who are also playing the Bat & Ball on Saturday night) – so it should be a great gig if you wanted to stay for the evening.

As an aside – for those that have been following the whole guitar saga, I picked up my replacement telecaster late yesterday arvo too, so I’m looking forward to christening it at the gig…

Don’t vote on interest rates

Marc says: “Don’t bother making a voting decision based on interest rates. Make a decision based on anything else but this if you want your watered down democratic vote well represented.”

And further:

Let’s remind ourselves that democracy in history was about voting on projects and their proposers as they came along. Wow, that would be cool! I’d love to vote on a fibre optic network or whether to build a desalination plant. That would be democracy, old fashioned style.

Somehow we changed this to a 4 yearly farce which wastes part of my weekend.

Politicians argue this is often enough because people need to be governed, let’s face it they say, because we don’t know the issues well enough. Please, Mr Politic save me the “constituents aren’t smart enough to vote often and on detailed matters” speech.

Hear, hear!

(It still amazes me that a party can get a majority with a minority of the vote. Stoopid…)

Speaking of elections, GetUp has a great site called How should I vote – which asks you survey questions and matches you with the closest candidate.

I was surprised by my results, and found out about an independent candidate that I’d not heard about in my electorate.

Just don’t go there if you’re thinking of voting Liberal – it seems all of the Liberal candidates have simply not bothered filling in the survey that the system uses. A friend of mine contacted them and got an arrogant response – their loss I’d say. Even though GetUp is left-leaning, the site is a great resource and I’m sure that many non-left-leaning folk are using it.

Lastly – I’m heading down to an election night piss-up get together at the Bat & Ball hotel with a friend or two – an event that’s been labeled “Rumble in the Balletbox”.

The event is supported by 2ser and NewMatilda.com (disclosure: 2ser and NewMatilda.com are clients of Digital Eskimo, my employer). If you’re on Facebook, the event details are here.

Choice on going carbon neutral

Choice magazine have got an interesting article on going carbon neutral. I found it interesting that in this graph Australia ranks 4th for per-capita emissions. I’d always been led to believe we were second only to the US. Also includes all the usual tips (and usual suspects) for reducing emissions, but doesn’t mention offsetting. A useful guide to pass on to family and friends that are bitten by the green bug…