24 ways is not the only advent calendar for web geeks. There’s one for everyone, covering topics as diverse as web performance, UX and Perl. We compile the best ones for you to check out and talk to their creators, too
It is the season to be nerdy. Over the last few years, virtual advent calendars for web designers and developers have become increasingly popular. There are many that have come and gone.
In the last couple of years, for example, we had the HTML5 Adventure Calendar, created by ZingChart, which presented 24 days of killer demos, tutorials, community buzz, and “other stuff that Steve Jobs would love”. Then there was the Adfont Calendar, presented by Fontdeck, which gave away a free web font every day, as well as the MDN Holiday calendar, by the Mozilla Developer Network and built by Christian Heilmann. It provided daily resources “for you to look at, enjoy and even give some editing love”. And 24 Ways To Start, clearly inspired by 24 ways, provided daily tips for entrpreneurs, written by the likes of Mike Butcher, Stephanie Rieger and Michael Jackson.
None of these calendars have been updated for 2011 but all the articles are still online, so if you missed them last year, make sure you take a look.
But here are the best ones for this year:
1. 24 ways
This is the mother of all advent calendars for web geeks, now in its eighth season. The brains behind 24 ways, Drew McLellan, director and senior developer at edgeofmyseat.com, told us:
“It’s aimed at designers, developers, copy writers, producers and others who work in whatever capacity to create websites. We cover a whole range of topics from design and development to business matters and inspiration.
“24 ways has been running since 2005. Despite being in a compressed timescale, we publish about the same number of articles each year as A List Apart. The site is very popular, with traffic in the region of 70,000 visitors a day, so the decision to carry on is an easy one. We’ll stop when people are no longer excited to read the articles in the lead up to Christmas.”
For more on this year’s 24 ways, check out our full interview with Drew McLellan.
2. Web Advent
Taking a similar format, Web Advent (formerly known as PHP Advent), curated by Chris Shiflett and Sean Coates, sees a range of authors provide daily tips, tricks, and tidbits to usher in the new year.
Chris, a founding member of Analog, says: “I started PHP Advent in 2007 to encourage some of my favourite developers to share something that they might be too busy to share otherwise. I noticed that December was a particularly busy time for many of them, and as a result, they would blog less. An advent calendar seemed like the perfect excuse to try to address this lull in quality content.
“The first PHP Advent took place on my blog, because I didn’t think to do it until the very end of November. This tradition of pulling it off at the last minute has continued every year since. It’s a tradition.
“Sean Coates joined me in 2008 to help, and if it weren’t for him, I’d probably not have been able to keep it going all these years.”
3. Performance Calendar
The Web Performance Calendar, started by Stoyan Stefanov in 2009, is the one for speed geeks.
Stoyan told us: “I modeled it after 24ways.org. The first year in 2009 was mostly me, I wanted to give an overview of the web performance optimisation (WPO) discipline and the self-imposed deadline of an-article-a-day was very effective ABS (or rather AWBS – Anti writer’s block system). I only had a few contributions from friends from the industry.
“Next year in 2010, it was already something people were looking forward to reading but also contributing to. And it promises to be the same this year too.”
New this year is UXmas, an advent calendar for user experience designers. Every day at 8.00am (Australian EST) a bauble is opened to reveal a new gift to the UX community. UXmas is a joint effort from the teams at Thirst Studios UX Mastery, with delightful illustrations provided by Supereight Studio.
Benjamin Tollady, user experience director at Thirst Studios, told us: “We’d had the idea to put together a UX-specific advent calendar for a while but it wasn’t until we came up with the UXmas name that we really started to take the idea seriously. We wanted to create the site as a way to give back to the UX community during the festive season. That, and the pun was too good to pass up!
We’re good mates with the guys from UX Mastery, who are pretty well connected and specialise in educational content for UX designers. We floated the idea past them, and it turns out they’d been toying with doing something similar, so it really was a perfect match. UX Mastery leveraged their network to pull in some unbelievably huge names from the UX world, while we set to work designing and building the website.
The project has been a really nice, collaborative effort and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from the community so far. We’re planning to run the calendar again next year and hope to introduce even more great authors and interesting articles.”
Freelancember, by the makers of time tracking app Freckle, Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs, doesn’t just concentrate on 24 days but offers 31 free gifts for freelancers.
This year we’ve already had some tools that help you identify how you end up with bad news clients or projects, a free worksheet to help you identify your ideal clients, and one to help you define your idea of a successful year.
6. HTML5 and CSS Advent 2012
Every day until 24 December, Digitpaint, a small web development firm based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, posts new cool HTML5 and CSS3 techniques.
Flurin Egger, partner at Digitpaint, told us:
“We’ve got all this cool new stuff coming in CSS3 and HTML5 but most clients require us to support more than just the newest of browsers. That’s why we can’t always use all of the cool cutting-edge stuff in our every day work (or at least not without having to put a lot of effort into polyfilling).
“This advent calendar is about not having to care about older browsers and all the crazy things you can build with CSS3 and HTML5 nowadays, even if they may not always be very useful. As we approached December we thought it would be a good idea to put it all together into an advent calendar to showcase our experiments. And so far we’re really having a lot of fun putting together the different examples which we try to group by day and by a specific CSS3/HTML5 feature.”
7. Perl Advent Calendar
Don’t laugh, there’s even Perl Advent Calendar! It’s been going since 2000 and features a different Perl module each day for the 24 of advent, and an extra module on Christmas day.
It all started, when the London Perl Mongers were having a quiet social drink in the pub. They were talking about online advent calendars and the impracticality of shipping chocolate through your web browser. Mark Fowler then quickly hacked together a calendar and lo and behold it proved very popular.
8. 12 Devs of Xmas
Not strictly speaking an advent calendar, the 12 Devs of Xmas will feature 12 insightful articles the sweetest web technologies of the year, starting on Boxing Day. The project is run by UK web designers and developers Adam Onishi, Anthony Killeen and Clinton Montague.
Adam says: “Inspired both by a want to give back to a community which we love and an eagerness to learn new things we are creating a small collection of 12 articles to release just after Christmas during the 12 days of Xmas.
“The aim of these articles is to introduce people in the web community to new and exciting technologies or tools with some really interesting and quick projects. We want to inspire people to try new things or help people who’ve wanted to try something for a while get the chance to do so in a quick fun project.”