April 23rd, 2014

Announcing dConstruct 2014

I’ve been puttin together the website for this year’s dConstruct and I reckon it’s in a decent enough shape to ship, so without further ado, I present to you…

dConstruct 2014 — Living With The Network

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. dConstruct 2014 takes place on September 5th in the Brighton Dome.
  2. Tickets will cost £150+VAT.
  3. Tickets go on sale at 11am on May 19th.
  4. It will be bloody brilliant.

To clarify that last point, it will be bloody brilliant because of the people who will be speaking. Like, ooh, I don’t know …Warren Fucking Ellis!

Mandy Brown!, Aaron Straup Cope!, Clare Reddington!, Tom Scott!, Leila Johnston!, Brian Suda!

I’m ludicrously excited about the line-up for this year’s event, and what’s on the website isn’t even the full roster; there’s more to come. But I can’t contain my excitement any longer and I just have to share this with everyone.

Now, you may not recognise every name on the line-up. Heck, you may not recognise any the names on the line-up. But if you were at dConstruct last year (or the year before) than I hope I’ve earned your trust. And trust me, this is going to be a fantastic day.

So put Monday, May 19th in your calendar so you can grab your ticket when they go on sale (don’t worry—there’s plenty to go around). And put Friday, September 5th in your calendar and I’ll see in the Brighton Dome for the event of the year.*

*Not hyperbole

April 22nd, 2014

April 21st, 2014

New product opportunities for the Internet of Normal Things | Berg Blog

I like Matt’s observation here that the simple combination of a barebones data format like HTML delivered over HTTP is a good-enough low-level API for joining up all kinds of internet-connected things.

In the last 60 years, the biggest software platform for interop and integration – for new products, services, businesses, and value creation – has not been Android, or iOS, or Windows, or the PDP-11. The biggest and best platform has been the web.

One implication is that successful products are not necessarily those with seamless, beautiful, tightly-controlled “experiences”, but rather the ones that are capable of talking to each other.

Small things, loosely joined.

April 18th, 2014

April 17th, 2014

Fragmentions

Cennydd’s latest piece in A List Apart is the beautifully written Letter to a Junior Designer.

I really like the way that Cennydd emphasises the importance of being able to explain the reasoning behind your design decisions:

If you haven’t already, sometime in your career you’ll meet an awkward sonofabitch who wants to know why every pixel is where you put it. You should be able to articulate an answer for that person—yes, for every pixel.

That reminds me of something I read fourteen(!) years ago that’s always stayed with me. In an interview in Digital Web magazine, Joshua Davis was asked “What would you say is beauty in design?” His answer:

Being able to justify every pixel.

Here’s a link to the direct quote …except that link probably won’t work for you. Not unless you’ve installed this Chrome extension.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, this is something that Kevin Marks has been working on following on from the recent W3C annotation workshop.

It’s called fragmentions and it builds on the work done by Eric and Simon. They proposed using CSS selectors as fragment identifiers. Kevin’s idea is to use the words within the text as anchor points (like an automatic Command+F):

To tell these apart from an id link, I suggest using a double hash - ## for the fragment, and then words that identify the text. For example:

http://epeus.blogspot.com/2003_02_01_archive.html##annotate+the+web

That link will work in your browser because of this script, which Kevin has added to his site. I may well add that script to this site too.

Fragmentions are a nice idea and—to bring it back to Cennydd’s point—nicely explained.

April 16th, 2014

April 12th, 2014

Higher standards

Many people are—quite rightly, in my opinion—upset about the prospect of DRM landing in the W3C HTML specification at the behest of media companies like Netflix and the MPAA.

This would mean that a web browser would have to include support for the plugin-like architecture of Encrypted Media Extensions if they want to claim standards compliance.

A common rebuttal to any concerns about this is that any such concerns are hypocritical. After all, we’re quite happy to use other technologies—Apple TV, Silverlight, etc.—that have DRM baked in.

I think that this rebuttal is a crock of shit.

It is precisely because other technologies are locked down that it’s important to keep the web open.

I own an Apple TV. I use it to watch Netflix. So I’m using DRM-encumbered technologies all the time. But I will fight tooth and nail to keep DRM out of web browsers. That’s not hypocrisy. That’s a quarantine measure.

Stuart summarises the current situation nicely:

From what I’ve seen, this is a discussion of pragmatism: given that DRM exists and movies use it and people want movies, is it a good idea to integrate DRM movie playback more tightly with the web?

His conclusion perfectly encapsulates why I watch Netflix on my Apple TV and I don’t want DRM on the web:

The argument has been made that if the web doesn’t embrace this stuff, people won’t stop watching videos: they’ll just go somewhere other than the web to get them, and that is a correct argument. But what is the point in bringing people to the web to watch their videos, if in order to do so the web becomes platform-specific and unopen and balkanised?

As an addendum, I heard a similar “you’re being a hypocrite” argument when I raised security concerns about EME at the last TAG meetup in London:

I tried to steer things away from the ethical questions and back to the technical side of things by voicing my concerns with the security model of EME. Reading the excellent description by Henri, sentences like this should give you the heebie-jeebies:

Neither the browser nor the JavaScript program understand the bytes.

Alex told me that my phone already runs code that I cannot inspect and does things that I have no control over. So hey, what does it matter if my web browser does the same thing, right?

I’m reminded of something that Anne wrote four years ago when a vulnerability was discovered that affected Flash, Java, and web browsers:

We have higher standards for browsers.

April 10th, 2014

April 9th, 2014