Preferences

There’s a new item in the sidebar menu, “Preferences”. At the moment, it provides two options: a menu to choose a default font size, and a checkbox to display referrer listings. However, like any preferences system, over the course of the next few years it will expand to several hundred options.

The font size switcher addresses the number-one complaint about Daring Fireball’s design: that the body font is “too small”. This stemmed from the fact that (1) I specify the default font size using px (a CSS unit of measurement that corresponds, more or less, to screen pixels); (2) one popular browser won’t let users resize text specified using px; and (3) that browser happens to be used by 90-95 percent of the world.

Rather than offer only a small/medium/large triumvirate of font size options, this site’s switcher allows you to choose any size from 10–16 px, or to use the default size specified in your browser’s preferences. (Implementation note, of potential interest to web nerds: Rather than switching between multiple style sheets, I’m still using just one screen-media style sheet, but which is partly assembled on-the-fly using PHP tomfoolery.)

Making the referrer listings a preference, off by default, solves a few problems. The main one is that it acts as a gentle countermeasure against spammers. If you pay attention to DF’s referrer listings, you may notice the daily appearance of “referrers” which quite obviously are not actually linking to this site, the vast majority of these forged referrers coming from our good friends in the pornography industry.

Referrer spamming is a growing cottage industry. The point of it, however, is indirect. I don’t think these scum bags have any interest or hope that Daring Fireball readers are particularly likely to click a link to “gay-hitchhiker.top-porn-sites.net” (not made up); what they’re trying do to is gain a bit of Google juice. The basic idea being:

  1. Daring Fireball is at least somewhat respected by the major search engines.
  2. These search engines spider DF and take note of the sites I link to.
  3. Thus, a link to a porno site in my referrer listings will be noted and given some iota of PageRank value by search engines.

I’m not saying this actually works for the spammers. In fact, I strongly suspect the major search engines — Google, Yahoo, and MSN in particular — have some anti-spam defenses in place to counter this sort of chicanery.

But regardless, by no longer listing referrers by default, search engine spiders will no longer see any of these links. This will have no preventive effect whatsoever to keep the spammers out, but it guarantees they won’t benefit from their scum-bag behavior.

Gruber vs. Nielsen

Humility almost, but not quite, prevents me from directing your attention to Andrei Herasimchuk’s “Gurus v. Bloggers”, wherein yours truly is pitted against Jakob “Two Wide Columns of Text Are Better Than One” Nielsen.

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