FYI, I am Not Dave Shea

FYI, I am Not Dave Shea

People who know something about web design sometime stumble upon my site, and send me friendly email to say hi. We have a good conversation, and I think, “Yeah, this Internet thing rules! I’m meeting people who have found something that I’ve written personally relevant!”

Then they ask me a question about CSS or “my book”. And I realize that once again, I’ve been mistaken for Dave Shea. You know, of Mezzoblue and CSS Zen Garden fame.

Ay Carumba!

This has happened one time too many, just a few hours ago. It turns out that this person had even told other people that he’d been “talking to the guy who wrote this book”, as he gestured to a copy of The Zen of CSS Design. I can imagine the tears of disappointment streaming down his cheeks, as he stammers out a retraction to his friends. Here, he thought that Fate herself had smiled upon his condition, dispatching a messenger of standards-compliance and beauty to lift his spirits. Instead, he got me. Oh, the humanity of it all!

So it’s time to set the record straight: I’m not him. Check out my site in Internet Explorer and you’ll see such an obvious CSS coding bug that you’ll be thinking, “And I paid how much for this book? Who’s he trying to kid?” Well, it’s not his fault. Buy his book in confidence! Dave Shea would have fixed that double-margin bug. Dave Seah (me) regards it as something to complain about when there’s nothing else good on TV.

I should note that being mistaken for Dave Shea has not been entirely bad. I once had a conversation with an absolutely incredible woman who had seen mention of Shea on Joel on Software, and she assumed it was me. The misunderstanding was quickly corrected, we chatted further, and eventually we went on a fabulous date. Advantage: SEAH!

On the other hand, it’s a bummer to let people down. Here they’ve been thinking that a famous designer has been taking the time to talk to them about their lives, and they discover it’s not him. My sincerest apologies. If you have boarded this weblog by mistake, please exit through this link.

Now, I wish to avoid such inconveniences for future readers, so I’ve prepared this short orientation guide.

Tip No. 1: Different Visual Likeness

Question: Which man would you trust to build your award-winning, standards-compliant website? Heck, which one would you trust to hold an ice cream cone?

Dave SheaDave Seah

Personally, I would choose the guy on the left; witness the thoughtful gaze and high degree of composure. This, truly, is the face of a CSS Zen Master. The guy on the right looks a little goofy, possibly too happy about being surrounded by power tools at “The Home Depot”.

Answer: If you picked the guy on the left, CONGRATULATIONS! You picked DAVE SHEA! Who, if you’re still confused, isn’t me. Don’t let the matching leather jackets throw ya.

Tip No. 2: Different Professional Background

From Dave Shea’s SXSW 2005 bio:

Shea, a member of the Web Standards Project, created the highly influential CSS Zen Garden. He writes about all things web at

From the keyboard of Dave Seah just now:

Dave Seah avoids membership in standards committees whenever possible. He created The Printable CEO, a somewhat popular paper-based productivity tool. His background is in interactive design, and he’s moving away from Web development.

Tip No. 3: Different Pronunciation of Surname

Him: SHEA is an Irish or Scottish name I think. I would guess it’s pronounced shay.

True story: I once got a genealogy offer in the mail promising to reconnect me with my ancestors in Scotland. It even provided me with my long lost “coat of arms”. As I looked through the catalog, it showed beaming red-headed families in kilts. Though tempted to rediscover my lost roots, I chose to keep my 90 bucks. Are there really any Scottish Seahs? I’d like to know. UPDATE: here’s the original offer…I apparently imagined the kilts in my fevered state.

Me: SEAH is Taiwanese. The romanization is unusual because Dad made it up when he first got to this country. You usually see it spelled HSIEH, or HSIA, or even SIA, but he felt that didn’t capture the essence. It’s pronounced s’yah in Taiwanese. In Chinese, it would be sh’yeh. There are a lot of Singaporean Seahs too; apparently, people who emigrated from Fuchien province in China went to either Taiwan (just across the Taiwan strait) or Singapore.

I don’t actually pronounce the name as s’yah. When we were growing up in rural New Jersey, it was easier to tell people that it was “See-ah”. Dad reasoned that it was “close enough”; one challenge in pronouncing chinese words correctly is that you need to make the syllables very short. If you know a Chinese person who’s just learning English, you may have noticed that they never stretch out the vowel sounds. Likewise, when a non-chinese speaker tries to speak chinese, they make the sounds way too long. “See-ah” allowed the rural New Jerseyans to get the basic idea correct without changing their speech patterns, though this led to a lot of “David See-yah Later!” heckling in the 2nd grade. Sigh.

These days I pronounce it as “Say”. The reason for this variation is that when I went to work in Florida, everyone who I knew there through IRC had no idea how to pronounce it and had settled on “Say” when their boss told them that’s what it was. Upon arriving, I decided I liked the way it sounded; “see-ah” had always sounded a little awkward to me, like someone accidently dropping a loaf of bread. “Say” sounded like a soaring bird. So that’s what I go by now.

In a cruel jab of irony, my sister (who hangs out with an entirely different set of white guys) chose to pronounce our surname as SHAY. Just like You-Know-Who likely does. This mixup is possibly all her fault.

In Summary

Dave SheaDave SHEA (“Shay”) of CSS Zen Garden / Mezzoblue fame. Famous! You are not reading his site at this moment.

Dave SeahDave SEAH (“Say” or “See-yah”) of Better Living Through New Media / The Printable CEO. You are reading his site right now, hopefully on purpose. I’m not famous…yet.

Thank you for your time, and good luck telling us apart in the future!

HAPPY ENDING: We met at SXSW 06, and there was no matter-antimatter anhiliation to speak of. Whew!

UPDATE: Here’s the original 1994 genealogy offer. Apparently I imagined the part with kilts.


  1. Joe Louis 19 years ago

    Your best article yet. Hilarious!

  2. Richard 19 years ago

    Hah! Brilliant.

    I have to admit, I discovered this place through misspelling Shea’s name, but have been an avid reader since.

    Good job getting a date out of the confusion, though!

  3. David W. 19 years ago

    Hilarious! :) I’m glad you mentioned the history of your names pronunciation. If you recall, that stymied me as well. I ended up guessing “Say” in the same way your Floridian cohorts did.

  4. BradFitz 19 years ago

    I’ve often wondered about this myself! :)

    Dude, that was a pretty entertaining post. You know… I run into this same problem with the Brad Fitzpatrick who started live journal. We have the exact same name and it can be an issue at times.

    I’ve actually gotten threatening messages left on my answering machine from a few very unhappy people thinking I’m him. No idea what he does to piss these people off, but I’m just lucky enough to get some of the residual effects. I even got a message from a sheriff one day!

    It’s been pretty quiet lately, but if it starts up again I’ll have to steal your idea and post a very clear disclaimer proclaiming my innocence. At least the guy they confuse you with is cool! :)

    Great post, now you can just direct all misguided emails to this page!

  5. John B 19 years ago

    Well done, Mr. Sh…  er, Mr. Seah. Carry on.

  6. kartooner 19 years ago

    Very funny. I’m sometimes mistaken for Carl Sagan’s newphew even though the spelling of our last names are different by one letter; “Sagan” and “Sagen”.

  7. Dave Seah 19 years ago

    Thanks for the support, guys! :-)

    Brad: That’s funny! You know, the other Brad has, which is funny because you sign your work as “Fitz”. Or maybe not, given the threatening phone calls you’re getting.

    Kartooner: The thought occurs to me that maybe it’s THIS VERY KIND OF MISTAKE that causes people to become finicky and meticulous about certain things. I constantly had to deal with misspellings of my name (MY NAME) growing up, and it was aggravating. A friend of mine would call this a “tip of the iceberg” trigger :-)

  8. seuss 19 years ago

    FYI…I am the real Dr. Seuss.

  9. Lea 19 years ago

    Hilarious! I’ve been mistaken to be several different Leas before (odd, considering Lea isn’t that common) and perhaps it’s my “generic asian face” I also get mistaken to be other people, too. Ha ha. But so far, I’m the only “lealea” or “lea alcantara” (there is only ONE site on google I’ve found where there was a reference to Lea Alcantara that wasn’t me)

  10. Benedict 19 years ago

    Happy to say that no one has ever confused me with anyone else, although a girl at college did once compare me to Steve McQueen. Still trying to figure that one out.

  11. Lisa 19 years ago

    Haha! That’s cute. Yeah, the photo on your About page would’ve been very obvious ……

  12. Petit 19 years ago

    Hi Dave!

    This really is a wonderful piece of literature. I came here by link and recommendation from
    You said “Yeah, this Internet thing rules! I’m meeting people who have found something that I’ve written personally relevant!”

    How true! Using the web on a daily basis from 1995 I’ve fond it an invaluable source of information. Since I last year decided to join the ever growing crowd of blogger, I’ve discovered more of the human aspects.

    This article is really something to love. Thanks!

  13. Dave Seah 19 years ago

    Petit: Thank you for the kind words…I’m glad we’re on the same wavelength on the “human aspects” of blogging! Put the vibe out there, and you will receive in kind!

  14. Paul Watson 19 years ago

    Doh and I just clicked through to here thinking you were David Shea. My first thought was “Woah, he redesigned.”

  15. Jon 19 years ago

    As I can be mistaken with absolutely no one I have zero frame of reference — Still it was a very funny post. :D

    Just stumbled upon your blog doing random surfing. :)

    Nice to meet you.

  16. Dave Seah 19 years ago

    Paul, Jon: I’m glad you found us no matter how you got here… enjoy your visit! I wish I had a gift shop or something to direct you to, but sadly I am caught unprepared :-)

  17. William Rehnquist 19 years ago

    Hi.  This is William Rehnquist.  They buried me alive.
    I have Wi-Fi, but no oxygen.

    Love your site.

  18. Dave Shea 19 years ago

    Hey, can you give me some CSS tips some time?

  19. Dane Petersen 18 years ago


    Since we’re on the subject, I am not Dane Petersen, famous Dallas-based musician.  I am, however, Dane Petersen, an impish young sprite who will make off with your car keys if given the chance.

    I have had the pleasure, however, to know the other Dane.  We correspond occasionally via email on subjects web design.  Sometimes that simple act is enough to make my head spin.

  20. nortypig 18 years ago

    Ha ha. yes remarkably dissimilar! Its uncanny how little you look alike. If i saw you in the street I’d be compelled, not even knowing your name, to pull you over and point out the obvious unlikeness of you to Dave Shea…

    You brightened my day… and I do empathise :)

  21. Azad 18 years ago

    I’m Saddam Azad. Thank god my last name is’nt Hussein.

    BTW, awesome post :)

  22. Marc 18 years ago

    No idea who the other guy is, but you sound pretty cool Dave!

  23. David Correll 18 years ago

    Haha, great article. Best part for my experience is that I came here from Eric Meyer’s link, and my first though was “Whoa, Dave [Shea] redesigned!”

  24. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Dane: That’s an awesome double! It is kind of mind-boggling to talk to someone who’s not you about things you do that they happen to need too…ow, brain freeze.

    Norty, Azad, Marc, David: Thanks for the sympathy, and for the cheery compliments! :-)

  25. Shanti Braford 18 years ago

    Dave – as a male with a name that can be used for both guys and chicks (in India, though, its apparently more of just a chick’s name), I find chatting it up with Internet contacts can be tricky sometimes as well.

    Even with a pic on my blog, an explanation of the name, and a statement that “And yes, I’m a dude”—I still have some people think I’m a female.

    Oh yeah, and I’m caucasaion.  I’m going to sue my parents.  =)

    Btw – printable CEO rocks!

  26. Molly E. Holzschlag 18 years ago

    Dave, this is great! I remember seeing your name for the first time when I became a 9rules member and thought to myself “how odd but yet, so cool.”

    Just as a point of reference, how do you feel about people calling you David?

    For anyone wondering why I’m asking, call Shea that name sometime. If you like living dangerously , that is.

  27. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Shanti: Ouch! That must be annoying! When I was in Taiwan as a US-born kid going to the American school, we had our hair the normal kid length…for the US. However, in Taiwan, any boy my age would have the military buzz cut. So people would assume I was a girl (this was when I was 9-11). It made me really angry. This was a common experience for a lot of expat chinese kids :-)

    Molly: I don’t mind people calling me David, but I prefer Dave. DaaaAAAAaave is even better! David sounds so formal sounding.

  28. Simon Glaser 18 years ago

    Of course, now that Dave Shea has in fact linked to this article the confusion can only become more funny.  Further, while you might not be famous yet, I think that Dave Shea and Molly Holzschlag’s posts do in fact make you famous by association.  In fact, I’m feeling a bit famous just being here.

    Seriously, this was a great read, and I really feel for you vis a vis the second grade heckling, as I myself spent an entire year as “Semen” to my classmates.

  29. David B. 18 years ago

    Have you seen the link that the real David Shea put up about your site?

    You are getting closer to fame already!

  30. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Simon: OMG…that’s awful. My sis and I used to taunt each other with a phrase that went (by example) “Emily SEE-AH! Is a PEE-AH! YAK! YAK! YAK!” It still makes me laugh actually, because it’s one of those really bizarre examples of childhood logic that makes no sense except between me and sis. At the time we’d get mad at each other, I think. Em would remember the specifics because she’s sharper than me with regards to such things :-)

    DavidB: Heh, yes, I did see that! I did actually just buy his book tonight. I feel like I’ve crossed a line I shouldn’t, but I’ve been looking more at his writing lately and have found his style really instructive without being pedantic. I need to write a book now to balance things out :-)

  31. Kevin 18 years ago

    You Rock Dave !

  32. Jackson Peebles 18 years ago

    Actually, Dave, I think you are kind of famous… ever since featured you like a gazillion times.

  33. Chris 18 years ago

    And I came here looking for a dave shea that works at a local newspaper

  34. sarah 18 years ago

    hooray! i found this while figuring out how to pronounce the last name Hsieh. I didn’t want to sound like an idiot when I said this girl’s name out loud. Thanks for the info! And you look WAY more fun than Shea.

  35. Deb 18 years ago

    This literally made my day…. Dave (Seah!), I would definitely let you hold my ice cream cone—you can even take a bite. :D

    LOLOLOL…. I look forward to hearing of any potential morphing experiences now that you have THE book in hand…. :D

  36. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Thanks Deb, Sarah! :-)

  37. Sam 18 years ago

    Hmm, I wonder how often Dave Shea is mistaken for YOU?

    Thanks for all you do, Mr. Seah!

  38. Anna 18 years ago

    This entry would make for a great opening to a book! Sadly I’m not a publisher but I’d definitely buy it. You read like a cross between Nick Hornby (About a boy) and Scott Adams (Dilbert). Consider writing some fiction on the side.


  39. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    I recently wrote a silly story about a bee, based on a “story challenge” I threw out to the blog readership! Pick 10 ideas, and I’ll write one story about them all!

  40. Lance Fisher 18 years ago

    I got here though <a>lifehacker</a>.

    Hilarious post!

  41. Harry Blanchard 18 years ago

    Enough about this Shea guy – tell us about the power tools.

  42. Ken 18 years ago

    I traded emails with “the real” Dave Shea (haha :P) a few months ago about a project and mentioned to him that I had a cousin named Dave Seah…wonder if he ever put the two together? You do come up at the top of Google search results afterall…er, actually, practically the first two pages!

  43. dshea 17 years ago

    As a different David (or Dave) Shea, I just wanted to say that I found this post very entertaining.  I haven’t had the same trouble with recognition (I’ve only been asked once what I did to end up in the Mozilla credits), so maybe I need to change the spelling to get the ladies.  Also, as someone who frequently has to deal with his name being pronounced “shee-ah” (this is less of a problem in the Northeast US due to Shea stadium (thanks, maybe relative Bill), but I live in the South), I wanted to thank you for getting the pronunciation right.

  44. Rasti 17 years ago

    I discovered your site through Lifehacker, and i rss-suscribe to it.
    I found your work very interesting, specially enjoy this post, the comparative, and the final photo. LOL@matter-antimatter !!!
    BTW im not Lance Fisher (post 49)