Archive: June, 2006


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Thursday, June 29th, 2006


This is an astoundingly brilliant mashup: Overheard in New York meets Google Maps. It's fan-bloody-tastic and remarkably fast for all the data it contains.

Max Kiesler - How to Make Your AJAX Applications Accessible - 40 Tutorials and Articles

A lot of these articles are more about JavaScript in general than Ajax per se, but it's good to have all these resources gathered together in one place.

This is Availabot (Schulze & Webb)

I think we should get Availabots for Clearleft. I want little toys of Richard and Andy connected to my home machine. Dance, Andy! Dance, Richard!

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

For want of a nail…

July was going to be a busy month for me. I was going to go to New York to do the Ajax workshop. Then I was going to stick around for An Event Apart. After that, I was going to head over to Seattle to hang out with brother-in-law before heading down to Portland to speak at Webvisions.

Alas, the workshop has been cancelled. No surprise, really… I imagine that most web developers in the area are quite rightly heading to An Event Apart and I imagine most people’s budgets won’t stretch to doing a workshop as well. It’s the just the wrong place and the wrong time to be putting on a workshop.

No workshop means no trip to New York. That means no Event Apart, no trip to Seattle, and no Webvisions for me.

On the plus side, maybe I’ll actually get some work done next month.

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Mashing up with microformats

Back in March, during South by Southwest, Tantek asked me if I’d like to sit in on his microformats panel alongside Chris Messina and Norm! The audio recording of the panel is now available through the conference podcast.

I’ve taken the liberty of having the recording transcribed (using and I’ve posted a tidied up version of the transcript to the articles section: Microformats: Evolving the Web. You can listen along through the articles RSS feed which doubles up as a podcast.

I’ve also posted the transcript on the microformats wiki so that others can edit it if they catch any glaring mistakes in the transcription.

During the panel I talked about Adactio Austin, a fairly trivial use of microformats but one that I’ve been building upon. I’d like to provide some cut’n’paste JavaScript that would allow people to get some added value from using microformats. Supposing you have a bunch of locations marked up in hCard with geotags, you could drop in a script and have a map appear showing those locations.

Perhaps the geotagging won’t even be necessary. Google added a geocoder to their mapping API two weeks ago. The UK, alas, is not yet supported (probably because the Post Office won’t let go of its monopoly that easily… Postman Pat, your money-grabbing days are numbered).

Unfortunately, Google Maps isn’t very suited to the cut’n’paste idea: you have to register a different API key for each domain where you want to use the mapping API.

The Yahoo maps API is less draconian about registration but its lack of detailed UK maps makes it a non-starter for me.

Maybe I should step away from maps and concentrate on events instead. It probably wouldn’t be too hard too write a script to create a calendar based on any hCalendar data found in a document. Perhaps I’ll investigate the calendar widget from Yahoo.

Ultimately I’d like to create something like Chris’s Mapendar idea. If only there were enough hours in the day.

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Microformats: Evolving the Web

A panel I sat in on at South by Southwest 2006. My fellow panelists are Chris Messina and Norm! The moderator is Tantek Çelik.

YouTube - Sam Jackson Vs. Yoda

More Sam Jackson goodness.

YouTube - Someone tell Sam Jackson he's my bro

The best U2 parody you will ever see.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

callto: tel @ Make Data Make Sense

A greasemonkey script that allows you to call telephone numbers in web pages (marked up with hcard) using Skype.

Redshirt Knitting - Erika’s Knitting Blog » Tree Sweater

The incredible story of the tree sweater in Seattle.

Cute Overload: Stop the insanity

A picture of a squirrel looking very pleased with its apparel.

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

A Proposal for a Safari Microformats plugin : journal : hicksdesign Ο°

Jon's mock-ups of how microformat detection and display might work in Safari are spot on. It would be so cool if this idea was picked up by browser developers.

The JavaScript Library World Cup [JavaScript & DHTML Tutorials]

Dan Webb does an excellent job of comparing the big four JavaScript libraries that were discussed at @media.

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Hitler cats!

You can't invoke Godwin's Law on this one: cats that look like Hitler.

iPop My Baby

Elsa's OddzBallz are now available on baby t-shirts. Cute!

Monday, June 19th, 2006 [Planet]

Planet Microformats: Brian aggregates blog posts, upcoming events, links and Flickr pics tagged with 'microformats' (which means this link will also appear there... I mean here).

Ajax workshop in NYC

On July 6th I’ll be presenting an all day Ajax and DOM Scripting workshop in New York with Carson Workshops.

A few days later, on the 10th and 11th of July, An Event Apart NYC comes to town. Why not make a week of it? If you’re coming along to AEA, you might want to arrive a few days early for the workshop.

The Ajax workshop costs $495 and will be held at the Digital Sandbox. Registration for An Event Apart costs $1095. It will be held at Scandinavia House.

My previous workshops in London and Manchester were a lot of fun and garnered plenty of praise so I’m really excited about taking the show to New York. If you live in or near New York city, come along for a day of Ajaxy goodness and come away with a Neo-like “I know Kung-Fu” awareness of DOM Scripting.

Oh, and If you sign up now, you’ll also get a copy of my book.

Card sorting pix

Flickr photo set, AIGA card sorting exercise.

From the Other Side of the Microscope

Participating in a card-sorting exercise for the AIGA redesign.

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

Back from @media

@media 2006 is over. All in all, it was a great event.

As Ben noted, there wasn’t much blogging going on during the conference itself. That was partly due to the crappy WiFi situation — provided in theory, but not really in practice — but also there was just so much going on that there wasn’t much time for blogging. As well as the twin tracks of the event itself, there was a whole lot of socialising going on in the evening. Having a pint and a chat takes precedence over a blog post for me. Besides, the hotel I was staying at, though lovely in every other respect, didn’t have free WiFi. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the swankiness of a hotel and the connectivity options available.

Apart from the network issues, the conference itself was pretty slick and professional. Most importantly, the subject matter was engaging and well presented.

Eric kicked off with a great trip down memory lane in his Thursday morning keynote. After that, the room was divided in two and the schedule was forked. I had to forego the design panel with Jon, Veerle and Cameron because I was speaking at the same time on Using DOM Scripting to Plug the Holes in CSS.

The slides from my presentation are now online. The presentation itself went pretty well. I got a lot of positive feedback from people afterwards but I didn’t feel I was knockin’ ‘em dead. I think I nailed it at last year’s @media so it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Still, I did have fun getting the crowd to identify Buck Owens, explain the Kobayashi Maru scenario and recite Jabberwocky.

I stuck around for Dave’s talk on Typography on the Web which I thoroughly enjoyed. During the Q&A, he was getting grilled with lots of specific questions about sIFR that made me want to ask a nice straightforward question like, “What’s your favourite typeface?”

After lunch, the accessibility panel discussed the merits and shortcomings of WCAG 2.0. There was a Joe-shaped void that dominated proceedings — his presence loomed large.

Jeffrey Veen finished off the day in typically superb style. He remains one of the best public speakers I’ve ever seen. Once Jeff had finished speaking, the very first question from the audience was, “Where do we go to watch the match?”

Through the power of planning ahead, Patrick was able to avert a riot and provide a venue for all the @media attendees to watch some men kick a ball around a field. Jessica and I took advantage of the fact that the whole country was glued to the gogglebox and got a table at one of our favourite restaurants in Soho.

The high quality of presentations was maintained on day two. Dan got the day off to a great start when he walked us through some tips and tricks for Bulletproof Web Design.

The panel on JavaScript Libraries: Friend or Foe? was tremendously entertaining. I’m not just saying that because I have a soft spot for JavaScript. The panel was superbly moderated by Cameron and featured larger than life characters like ppk, Stuart, Simon and Dan.

The other Cameron turned out to be a very smooth talker indeed. I missed his presentation on Mobile Web Design at SXSW so I was very glad to be given a second chance to catch it. It was slick. While I admired Cameron A’s audacious use of Cooper Black for his slides, Cameron M’s slides featured the nicest use of Trajan I’ve ever seen.

For the afternoon, I listened to Nate give a behind-the-curtains look at three different projects from Yahoo Exclamation Mark: the Yahoo Exclamation Mark homepage, Yahoo Exclamation Mark Photos, and the new Yahoo Exclamation Mark Mail. The hands-on approach was continued with Tantek’s presentation on microformats.

As the day progressed, attendees were encouraged to fill out little cards with questions for a mysterious closing panel on Hot Topics. Sounds like my kind of panel. During one of the breaks, I asked Patrick if I could join in. It turns out he was going to ask me anyway. In fact, he asked if I’d like to moderate.

Would I like to moderate a panel? Of course I would! I’m a power-hungry dictator at heart. Panel moderators are the Dungeon Masters of tech conferences.

It turned out to be more fun than should be legally allowed. It was a dream panel of Molly, Jon, Eric and Tantek covering a nice range of high-temperature topics. I had a ball and, from the feedback I got later, a lot of the audience really enjoyed it too. I think it wrapped up the conference nicely.

Even though the official event was over, there was still time for eating, drinking and socialising with my fellow geeks. Thanks to Andy’s organisational efforts, we commandeered a pizza express before steamrolling onto one of the bars officially nominated for the evening’s carousing.

By Saturday morning, people were beginning to disperse. There was still time to hang out in St. James Park and watch the colour being trooped before heading off to the @media social on the other side of town.

After an afternoon in the pub immersed in geekery, I figured it was time to hit the road. I said some goodbyes (but, as usual, there were far more people I didn’t get to bid farewell to) and I caught a train back down to Brighton.

I had fun. I took pictures. Other people took pictures. I think they had fun too.

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

Off to @media

I’m just heading out the door to catch a train to London where I’ll spend the next few days enjoying the @media conference.

If you’re going to be there, let’s get together for some geekery and beer at one of the many social events orbiting the conference.

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

Textblog: German Lessons for World Cup Visitors

This brings back memories: the German equivalents of "it's a game of two halves" and "they think it's all over; it is now."

Podcasts and the Internet Archive

I recorded an MP3 of In Praise of the Hyperlink, my presentation from Reboot 8. The recording process was pretty straightforward using Garageband but I should really invest in a good microphone.

I needed someplace to host the audio file — nothing will increase your bandwidth bills quite like audio or video files. I thought about using my .mac account. There’s plenty of room there but I think there’s still a cap on the amount of transfers allowed per month. I’m also concerned about what might happen in the future if I decide not to renew my subscription.

Then I found the ideal solution. On Pete’s recommendation, I downloaded ccPublisher with the intention of adding licensing metadata to my MP3 file. As well as allowing me to do that, the software also provides an option to upload files to the Internet Archive. “Why not?”, I thought. It seems like a good place to host media files. No bandwidth charges, no subscription charges, and it’s more discoverable.

By the way, the RSS feed for the articles section of this site doubles up as a podcast. If there are any audio files linked in an article, they automatically get added as enclosures in the RSS feed. I’ve also added some iTunes specific tags to the feed. If you want, you can subscribe to the podcast directly from iTunes.

If you’re a podcast producer and you’re publishing under a creative commons license, the Internet Archive might be the perfect host for your files.

Oh, and don’t forget to provide transcriptions if you can.

The Adventures of Cindy Li

Cindy redesigns... with standards. Gorgeous!

YouTube - Lord of the Rings - Voiceover

This isn't new but it really is laugh out loud funny.

Lord of the Rings - Voiceover

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

SimpleBits | Pairing Wine and Microformats

Dan documents the process of adding microformats to Cork'd.

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Grease Monkey Graphic Novel

Read the first two chapters of Tim Eldred's graphic novel online. - Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment

A recreation of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas using nothing but diet coke and mentos. Mesmerising.

A tipping point for microformats

My spidey senses are tingling. Something has been happening in the last week or so. Microformats are getting noticed.

Until now, microformats were trapped in a chicken and egg situation. Few people wanted to publish microformatted content unless there were tools that would then make use of those formats. Meanwhile, the tool makers didn’t want to make applications to harness microformats until a critical mass of people were already publishing with those formats.

Technorati have broken that circular argument with the introduction of microformats search. It’s still in beta but already it’s started a new wave of interest in microformats. This is the killer app we’ve been waiting for.

I’ve been contacted by quite a few different people lately with questions about implementing hCard or hCalendar on their sites. The reason is pretty straightforward.

What’s the first thing you do when you’re presented with any new kind of search engine? That’s right… you ego surf. If your name isn’t returning any results from the Technorati kitchen then you’re going to want to do something about it.

So it may be ego, not altruism, that is driving the current push of increased microformat usage. Whatever the reason, I’m just glad to see more and more data being published in a format that I can take with me as part of my local infocloud.

It’s also a real time saver for the people providing the data. Publishing the same data in more than one format is a pain.

Michael Heilemann created an iCal schedule for Reboot 8. Jon Hicks has done the same for @media. All that effort wouldn’t have been necessary at all if the original schedules on the conference websites were marked up with a few extra class names.

Mind you, the @media site does have all the speakers marked up in hCard. You can use the wonderful Tails extension for Firefox to isolate the contact information or just point that page to Brian Suda’s vCard extractor on Technorati and you can instantly add all of those people to your address book.

I’ve been doing my bit for the microformats revolution over on The Session. There are hReviews in the Amazon-powered shop and there’s a brand new section that I launched a few days ago. The events page lists user-contributed details of upcoming concerts, festivals and workshops, all marked up in hCalendar. Right now it’s a handy way for someone to discover places to go for some fun in Ireland this Summer. In the future, I hope to build on the microformatted content to provide personalised information tailored to people’s location and schedule.

Like I said in my talk at Reboot:

Microformats are the nanotechnology for building a semantic web.

(By the way, there are a few microformats hidden in that article: I took a perverse pleasure in marking up the Renaissance with class="vevent").

Remember, the microformats community isn’t even a year old yet. This is just the beginning. I’m quite certain that we’ll see many more cool tools that harness microformats in the coming months.

Of course, we’ll probably also see the introduction of microformatted spam (hSpam? Ham?). That will be surest indication that a technology has really hit the big time: just look at what happened to email, blogs, comments and trackbacks.

Friday, June 9th, 2006


It all started with levels of CSS knowledge. Roger followed that up with levels of HTML knowledge (remember kids; that’s the most fundamental and important technology on the Web). Anne added his own take.

Dean came along with a tongue-in-cheek list of levels of JavaScript knowledge. I’m at about level 4.5 (I still attach events the old-school way but document.all? yuck!).

Then Joe contributed levels of accessibility knowledge. I started snickering by level two:

Has seen blind people on American TV shows, and knows the first thing they will ask you is “Can I feel your face?”

By level six, I was laughing out loud:

Coauthored Friends of Ed book; business partners have coauthored O’Reilly books and/or have colour deficiency… Has cooed at Zeldman’s baby… Speaks at Web-standards conferences. Hosts visiting fellow developers in spare bedroom.

Level seven was soya-milk-out-of-the-nose funny:

Author of minor star in gauzy firmament of accessibility books. Interested in subtopics so obscure even the actual disabled subgroups affected don’t really care. Overarching competence acknowledged, if begrudgingly, yet often viewed as subordinate to grating personality “quirks.” Difficult to feed, let alone have fun with, when staying over in spare bedroom. Viewed as derailing WAI process. Typically the only X in the village irrespective of village or value of X.

Ah, Joe! Come back to Brighton. We no longer have a spare bedroom but we do have a spanking new sofa-bed.

The bedroll may now resume. In fact, the idea has even spread to Denmark.


Among the many design fads prevelant in the trendiest designs (rounded corners, drop shadows and gradients, bloody gradients), there’s been a movement toward upside-down reflections of anything that can stand up: books, words, pictures, the kitchen sink.

I’m not 100% sure where this trend started but I know I’ve seen it on the Apple site for quite some time. It’s certainly present in their Front Row software. I suspect that they may have started the whole reflection design meme. I also suspect that this was a fiendish long-term plan of theirs.

See, I think they wanted us to associate reflective surfaces with feelings of coolness and trendiness. Why?

So that they could release the otherwise lovely MacBook laptops with shiny, reflective glass screens. “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Pogue’s Posts - Technology - New York Times Blog - Picture This: Common Sense

This is ridiculous. Target refuses to print a customer's pictures because they look "too professional."

Devlounge | Cameron Adams aka The Man In Blue

Cameron shares his thoughts on Ajax, Hijax, libraries and having fun.

Monday, June 5th, 2006

Cheat Sheets for the YUI Utilities » Yahoo! User Interface Blog

If you use the Yahoo JavaScript libraries a lot, these cheat sheets (inspired by those of fellow Brightonian, Dave Childs) should come in very handy.

CcPublisher 2 - CcWiki

This is a tool for embedding licensing information in files (like MP3s). I'm going to try this out and see how it goes.

Sunday, June 4th, 2006


The party shuffle feature in iTunes is supposed to create a random playlist of songs. Oh yeah? Then how come, out of 6,435 songs, it manages to choose the exact same song performed by two different bands one after the other?

Sick Of Goodbyes in the iTunes Party Shuffle list

Update: The question is rhetorical. The fact that coincidences like this occur is in fact proof that the shuffling is truly random. If there were no coincidences, that would be suspicious. The Cederholm-Fugazi effect is another example. It’s just that, as Daniel Gilbert says, we notice things that are memorable and filter out the vast majority.


I made it back from Copenhagen using one plane, three trains, a tube and a lot of time.

Reboot was good fun. I met some nice people, had some pleasant conversations and watched some invigorating presentations. All in all, a cool little conference.

It’s interesting to read some of the post-reboot blog posts. Most first-time attendees were blown away while some people who were there last year said that this year’s event didn’t quite have the same “wow” factor. While it wasn’t South By Southwest, I certainly enjoyed myself although some of the pre-reboot hype may have raised my expectations higher than was warranted.

Reboot was a fairly hands-off sort of affair, more talk than code. It made for an interesting counterpoint to XTech. After two days though, I was itching to cry “show, don’t tell!” There was a lot of talk about what an exciting time we’re living in and how world-changing our work can be, but I would have welcomed a practical workshop on changing the world in ten easy steps.

I think the presentation I enjoyed the most was from Steve Coast of Open Street Map. He didn’t stand up and talk about how amazing the project is. Instead, he just showed what they were doing and Jessica and I both thought “Wow, this is amazing!”

I also really enjoyed Jean-Francois Groff’s t-shirt illustrated stroll down memory lane. His first hand recollections of CERN and the invention of the Web got me all fired up for my own historical overview.

But, as usual, the daytime schedule tells only half the story. A good conference, like the Web itself, is all about people. It was really nice to meet so many people of varying nationalities. After the pre-conference boat ride on the first night, I had dinner with five people from five different countries. Stick that in your pipe, Paul Graham.

Twenty Major - still smoking in Dublin bars.

The best response yet to the O'Reilly Web 2.0 cease and desist debacle.

Friday, June 2nd, 2006


The deed is done. I had the pre-lunchtime slot at Reboot to speak about a very simple subject: the hyperlink.

It was fun. People seemed to enjoy it and there were some great questions and comments afterwards: it was humbling and gratifying to have Håkon Wium Lie and Jean-Francois Groff respond to my words.

Unlike any previous presentations I’ve done, I had written out everything I wanted to say word for word. I began by describing this as a story, a manifesto, but mostly a love letter. For once, I was going to read a pre-prepared speech. I still had slides but they were very minimal.

I ended up using two laptops. One iBook, controlled from my phone using Salling Clicker, was displaying the slides done in Keynote. I used the other iBook as a teleprompter: I wanted large sized text continually scrolling as I spoke.

I looked into some autocue software for the Mac but rather than fork out the cash for one of them, I wrote my own little app using XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. I bashed out a quick’n’dirty first version pretty quickly. I spent most of the flight to Copenhagen refining the JavaScript to make it reasonably nice. I’ll post the code up somewhere, probably over on the DOM Scripting site in case anyone else needs a browser-based teleprompter.

If you’d like to read a regular, non-scrolling version of my love letter, I’ve posted In Praise of the Hyperlink in the articles section.

In Praise of the Hyperlink

A talk I gave at Reboot 8 in Copenhagen.

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Technorati Kitchen: Microformats Search

This is still experimental, but Technorati now allow you to search for snippets of content that has been marked up with microformats. My egosearching returns suitably satisfying results.

Reboot 8, day 1, second part

Having ensconced myself in a comfy corner to write my last update, I only managed to rouse myself for one final talk. I listened to Rebecca Blood and it was, yes, you guessed it, inspiring. Mind you, there’s only so often I can hear how amazing and revolutionary these times we’re living in are: at the end of a day of being told how world-changing everything is, I was starting to feel a little jaded.

After that it was time for beer (which wasn’t free, alas) and a nice buffet meal (which was).

The events are going to keep going ‘till midnight. It sounds like there are some fun things planned but I’m not sure how long I can hold out. I’ll certainly stick around to listen to Ben Hammersley talk about how to be a Rennaissance man (he’s just about to take the stage now).

I should really get back to my hotel and get down to doing some serious worrying about my presentation tomorrow. It’s going to be quite, um… compact. I sure hope people ask questions or contribute to the discussion somehow or else I’m going to go down like the proverbial lead balloon.


This is really cool: a real-time map of bluetooth devices currently at the Reboot conference.

Reboot 8, day 1, first part

Jessica and I flew into Copenhagen yesterday. By fortuitious coincidence, I ended up sitting next to Tom Armitage on the Sleazyjet flight from Stansted.

The first day of Reboot is progressing nicely. There have been some excellent presentations so far. I’m not in the best state of mind for paying attention — I didn’t really get a good night’s sleep — so it’s a testament to the speakers that I’ve been able to stay awake at all.

Matt Webb kicked things off with an imaginative talk about building a browser of the future that incorporated more of our senses. I like the idea of web pages having tastes and smells. During the next session (Visualisation put into perspective) I realised that tag clouds are smelly things: tags are shown with varying strength of odour.

The data visualisation talk was also really good for showing some excellent, excellent usage of SVG. Seeing SVG on a mobile really brought home that the S stands for scalable.

The slidesless seminar on Karl Marx was, I’m sure, great but unfortunately my lack of sleep was catching up on me and my brain just wasn’t capable of following the many, many ideas being thrown out. I had revived by the time I got to the T.L. Taylor’s talk on play, specifically in terms of massive multiplayer online games. It was a fascinating talk delivered in a really engaging way. There was a lot of food for thought packed into it.

After lunch, a notoriously tricky slot, J.P. Rangaswami gave a rousing, inspirational, impassioned talk on, well… just about everything. You had to be there.

If that wasn’t enough to get me inspired, it was followed by Steve Coast’s talk on the first year of OpenStreetMap. This is the same talk he gave at XTech but I missed it then. I heard it was one of the better talks in Amsterdam so I was really happy to have the opportunity to catch it here. He didn’t disappoint. It made me want to get a GPS device and get out there and start mapping.

Right now there are some lightning demos being presented and I’m taking this opportunity to grab a comfy site and take a breather.

If you want to keep up with events here on Technorati and Flickr, most people are tagging posts and pictures with “reboot8”.