Archive: August, 2006


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Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Iteravely Upcoming has rolled out some changes. The visual design has been tweaked, particularly on the events pages.

The colours and typography are looking very good indeed. The change to the way attendees are listed inline doesn’t work quite as well. I’m not the only one who thinks so. But instead of just bitching about it like me, others have provided mockups as part of their constructive criticism.

While this latest update is one of the biggest changes that has been rolled out on the site, it certainly isn’t the first. In fact, Upcoming seems to be in a constant state of gradual change and improvement.

There’s a lot of talk these days about , but Upcoming is one of the few places where I’ve noticed it in action. The design has been improving gradually and almost imperceptibly. Did anyone notice when the top banner changed from being a solid colour to a gradient? I wish now that I had taken screenshots of Upcoming every few weeks. They would make for an interesting time-lapse movie.

The Yahooiness of Upcoming is beginning to make itself felt. You can now migrate your Flickr buddy icon over to Upcoming. Also, if you tag photos on Flickr with “upcoming:event={event id}”, they will show up on the corresponding event page. Then there’s the maps integration.

Both Upcoming and Flickr are now making use of Yahoo maps. The Flickr map exploration page is, like so many things on Flickr, a real time-sink. It’s fun browsing photos with the added context of location.

But — and it’s a big but — Yahoo’s mapping data for Europe is particularly poor. So don’t expect too much detail when you’re browsing holiday snapshots from Brighton. I blame crown copyright myself (though I do wonder how Google has managed to get such detailed data).

As part of this latest iteration, Flickr are moving away from using tags for geocoding:

As a bonus there will be no more need for the unsightly “geotagged/geo:lat/geo:long” tags cluttering up your photos - we’ll offer an automated way to remove them all once the development community has had a chance to make the necessary changes to their code.

I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. There’s nothing wrong with using visible geographical co-ordinates. I’d prefer to keep my meta-data visible, thank you very much.

creative bastard

This is a great way to deal with telemarketers.

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Food - VideoJug

Short, instructive videos of food preparation. The recipes look good and the presentation is strangely hypnotic.

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Daniel Mall: Typobituaries

Fonts that deserve to do.

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

dog or higher: phone sex with mars - or why latency matters as well as bandwidth

Brian Suda has a theoretical solution to real-time interplanetary communication: "I get on my tachyon voip phone and make a call from mars to earth at 9:00am it takes 10 minutes to travel there, but the tachyons travel backwards (so i think) that would be

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

dConstructing the network

One of the sponsors of this year’s d.Construct is a local company called Madgex. Glenn Jones works there.

At the Clearleft office warming party, I chatted with Glenn about what form the sponsorship might take. Rather than go down the usual schwag-based route, Glenn was determined to do something useful, like build an app. He started telling me what he had in mind. The more he told me, the more excited I got.

Glenn has been working feverishly on the project and it’s now ready for unveiling. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

The d.Construct06 Backnetwork

You know the way that a backchannel develops at most conferences? IRC, iChat, and all that. Well, this is a backnetwork.

It’s a social network app, but a genuinely useful one. For a start, it’s all based around a single focal point: the d.Construct conference. Everyone using the backnetwork has something in common. They are all attendees of the conference. This network is closed to the outside world.

I’ve seen some other events attempt a kind of pre-conference network. The South by Southwest website last year had a section for maintaining a profile and connecting with other attendees. But these connections were very simple. As with most social network sites on the Web, either someone is your friend or you have no connection to them whatsoever. That isn’t a very accurate reflection of reality.

Instead of inventing some new proprietary schema for representing the connections between people, the d.Construct backnetwork uses XFN — XHTML Friends Network. The relationships represented in XFN map remarkably well to an event like this.

Here’s my profile. You can see all the people that I’ve connected with (friends, acquaintances, colleagues) and all the people who have a connected with me. Based on these connections, I even get a cloud of names with the sizes indicating the strength and reciprocity of that relationship.

But here’s the best bit. I can take this information with me. Instead of being yet another roach motel or data silo, the backnetwork actively encourages me take my data with me. There’s a pre-formatted XFN list that I can cut and paste into my own site. Or, if I want, there’s an OPML file of all the feeds from people in my network.

As with most social network sites, you have to go through the process of filling out your details before you can start using it. But here again, you are actively encouraged to then take this information with you. I can cut and paste my hCard or simply download a vCard via Brian Suda’s hCard converter on Technorati.

You can specify how you want sensitive data like emails and telephone numbers to be treated. You can make them public, you can not reveal them at all, or you can allow only your friends to view them.

There’s a lot of microformatted goodness throughout the backnetwork and constant encouragement not just to put data into the system, but also to take it away with you. The result is something that’s fun and useful before, during and after the conference.


In the run-up to d.Construct, you can find out who else is coming. If you know any of the people, you can connect with them. There’s even a Google Maps mashup so you can see where people are coming from. You might even find people coming from the same town as you and make travel plans with them.

There’s an aggregator that pulls in any relevant blog posts written by attendees. You can subscribe to the aggregate feed or take away an OPML file with a list of all the sites.


The aggregator is going to be very handy during the conference as a way of following any liveblogging. There’s also a really nice photo page that pulls in Flickr pics and displays them in a lightbox.

There will even be an Ajax chat room opened up on the day.


Once the conference is over, you’ll probably want to revisit the attendee list. You will undoubtedly want to mark a lot of people as “met”. Heck, you may even make some friends. You’ll certainly have made lots of connections. And if you didn’t manage to exchange business cards, you can grab each other’s hCard or vCard instead.

There’ll probably be plenty of post-conference blog chatter to track through the backnetwork. If you want to add your own impressions of the panels, you can post straight to your blog or you can add a review through the backnetwork. You can fill out a form and submit your review. This is formatted in the hReview microformat so that, once again, you can take it with you. Just copy and paste the review into your own site. You can even specify a creative commons license while you’re at it.


The backnetwork is using microformats all over the place: XFN, hCard, hReview, rel-license and rel-tag. It’s quite remarkable how useful this turns out to be. It makes it so, so easy to take your data with you. Your contact details, relationships, and reviews are yours for the taking.

This is something you can see on a lesser scale on the d.Construct website. The list of speakers has been marked up with hCards. The schedule for the day is an hCalendar. There’s a link off to Brian Suda’s converter on Technorati so that you can subscribe to the calendar, put it on your iPod, your mobile phone, whatever you want. If there are any changes to the schedule, the page will be updated and the change will be reflected in the subscribed calendar. There’s no need to maintain a separate file like Michael had to do for Reboot or Jon did for @media.

If you’re coming to d.Construct, you should have already received an email with an activation code for the backnetwork. I suggest you use it. If haven’t received your activation code, you’d better let Andy and Richard know.

If you aren’t coming to d.Construct, you can still browse the backnetwork and track the blog posts, reviews and photos as they come in. You just won’t be able to add your own profile or define any relationships with the attendees.

If you want to know more about the technologies driving the backnetwork, check out the “about” page. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m really excited about this application. I’m like a kid with a new toy and I’m loving it.

Skeptic: The Magazine: Featured Article

A good, if somewhat dispiriting, overview of Artificial Intelligence. (There's some nice typesetting on this page)

Friday, August 25th, 2006

A Scanner Darkly

The Clearleft office was empty on Wednesday afternoon. The bodies that normally inhabit that space were to be found sitting in a cinematheque.

By unanimous agreement, we decided to see A Scanner Darkly. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, I was looking forward to seeing this. I wasn’t disappointed. I can’t say the same for the other people who saw the film with me.

I loved it, Richard liked it, Andy, Paul, Aral and Jessica were distinctly underwhelmed. I can understand their reaction, even if I don’t share it. This isn’t a film for everyone.

Personally, I really enjoyed the experience of being immersed in an off-kilter drug-fueled world. But I can see why this world might not seem like the most inviting place to spend two hours of your life. The same dialogue that I found so hysterical (in every sense of the word) could also come across as just plain annoying.

The casting is inspired. It sounds like something a sketch show writer would put together: “So, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, and Robert Downey Jr. are all sitting around getting stoned…”

Oh, and using Thom Yorke and Radiohead songs for the soundtrack? Also inspired.

The roto-scoping worked wonderfully for the scramble suit. I’m not sure whether it was entirely necessarily for everything else, but it did add to the otherworldly atmosphere to have everything nestled in the uncanny valley. It would be interesting the compare the finished film with the pre-roto-scoped footage to see how much of a difference it makes to the emotional impact of each scene. The film’s style is an interesting way of trying to nail down the right medium for telling this story. It struck me that a graphic novel might actually be the ideal medium: exactly halfway between the novel and the film.

The film is, by and large, very faithful to the book. It is by far the most faithful adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story to date. But then, A Scanner Darkly, for all its quesy strangeness is one of the more coherent and down-to-earth of Dick’s works. While this film worked wonderfully, I doubt that even Richard Linklater could pull off an adaptation of Ubik or The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. On the other hand, there’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said… now there’s a great film just waiting to happen.

So maybe it was a relatively easy target, but the film of A Scanner Darkly really captures the essence of a classic Philip K. Dick book. Bladerunner is a wonderful, wonderful movie on its own terms, but it bears little resemblance to the existentialist heart of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

There is a wonderful moment in A Scanner Darkly when subjective and objective reality collide in the playback of a recording captured by a scanner of the film’s title. It’s the quintessential Philip K. Dick coup. Just as you think you have a handle on the world you have entered, the rug is pulled from under your feet. I’ll never forget the corresponding moment from Time Out Of Joint with its Truman Show-esque plot, in which a hot-dog stand winks out of existence to be replaced by a piece of paper reading “hot-dog stand.”

There’s a short story by Philip K. Dick called The Electric Ant which can be read as a version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The comparison is apt. Dick writes Kafka-esque stories: funny, paranoid, and unsettling.

Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly captures that Dickian feeling. That’s no mean feat.

As much as I loved this film, I’m hesitant to recommend it for your next outing to the cinema. It’s not the most cinematic of films. Wait for the DVD. I have the feeling that the film’s visual style will suit that medium very well indeed.

Gather some friends on the sofa. Pop the disc into your player and compare the anti-piracy warnings that precede the film to the pointless crusade against Substance D.

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

An Interesting Way of Showing Battery Status

The screen of this mobile phone looks like a glass of water. The amount of water shows the battery life. The phone has a built in motion sensor to keep the water level.


I’m enjoying the process of putting together the d.Construct 2006 podcast. It seems that other people are enjoying it too.

I wrapped up the latest episode with a call for feedback. I’ve added a link to Odeo on the podcast page so that you can record a message for the podcast.

I’m intrigued by the idea of using audio to leave feedback, add comments and ask questions. This is something that Tom played around with a while back. I like the context that’s added just by hearing a person’s voice. It’s like a gravatar times ten.

On Odeo, everyone knows you’re a dog.

Don’t be shy. Record a message, add some text if you want, and hit that big “send” button. If you’re coming to d.Construct, tell me your hopes and fears for the conference. If you can’t make it to d.Construct, make your presence felt by leaving your thoughts on APIs, mashups, Web 2.0, and anything else you feel like talking about.

If this little experiment works out, maybe I’ll end up using Odeo as a feedback channel for this journal. I have some other feedback and commenting ideas that I’d like to try out too. Watch this space.

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Noel Barnhurst

The portfolio of a food photographer.

Jason Santa Maria | European Adventure

Happy Cog Philadelphia goes to Ireland.

Toon Crisis

Run around Soho shooting cartoons.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

L o v i s a R i n g b o r g

A strange and beautiful portfolio of photographs.


A food blog based in Brighton. This is a woman after my own heart.

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

MacNN | Dublin man plans Apple "walk of shame"

He has decided to prove that he can walk to Cork -- the location of the nearest Apple repair center -- faster than Apple can arrange for the pickup of his broken Mac.

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

CNET TV at the movies

Ryan and Andy are now officially Internet Famous.

Friday, August 18th, 2006

BBC NEWS | UK | Ryanair issues security ultimatum

"Restore airport security measures to normal or risk being sued for compensation." Ryanair are such a bunch of assholes. I refuse to fly with them.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

API changes

If you’re using either the Flickr or APIs, be aware that some changes have been to both recently.

Cal Henderson announced on the Flickr API mailing list that…

…the API endpoints have been changed from to

The documentation will be updated by and by. If you’re making use of the Flickr API, now would be a good time to go in and rewrite those URLs. I’ve updated Adactio Elsewhere to use the new URLs. There are no plans to get rid of the old endpoints but all developers are encouraged to make the change.

Back in May, the team announced that all API requests would need to go over SSL:

If the old URL was, the new URL will be

I missed the memo so, like Dom, I was caught out by the change. On Adactio Elsewhere, I switched over to using PHP’s curl functions to retrieve the XML files and that seems to do the trick nicely.

If you’re tinkering with either API, take note of these changes.

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

The Fox Tales » Blog Archive » All “signs” point to Firefox

This is just about one of the geekiest things I've ever seen. A crop circle of the Firefox logo. This is not Photoshopped.


Ever since I switched over to a new CMS back in February, I’ve been tagging all my journal entries. Until now, I haven’t been doing anything with those tags apart from exposing them in category elements in my RSS feed. Now that I’ve got a good head of steam going with my tags, I’ve decided to play around with them a bit.

Each journal entry page now shows the tags at the end of the post. These are linked (using rel-tag of course) to an aggregate tag page that shows any other posts with the same tag. Pretty standard stuff.

But then I thought it would be fun to tie the post in with other things I’ve tagged, not on this site but on Under the heading “Related”, you’ll find links to the same tags for my links.

Rather then sending you off to, I’m using the API to bring the results back to this site. Using a bit of Ajax, these results are displayed without a page refresh. I’m using Hijax so if JavaScript is disabled, the links will still work.

I’ve got a nice little progress bar going while the request is being sent, and a bit of a colour fade happening when the response comes back. The results themselves could probably do with some more styling. Right now I’m just displaying them in a regular unordered list of x-folk entries but I think they might look nice if they were more comment-like in appearance.

After the links, I’ve got the same tags pointing off to Technorati. Again, instead of sending you away, I’m pulling in the results with the Technorati API. In some ways, these results are more interesting than the links because, instead of just showing things that I have tagged, this shows results from everywhere. The results are constantly changing. Right now I’m using the search query, but I must look into the experimental tag query.

I’m also using the Technorati API to find any blogs that are linking to the current post. This works like Trackback. If you want to respond to a post I’ve written, just blog about it. As long as you include a link back to the post, your entry will now show up in the results. It won’t be instantaneous, but if your blogging software is set up to ping Technorati when you post, it should show up pretty fast. I’d be interested in finding out just how long it takes for the API to reflect recent pings. If you blog about this post (with a link), try coming back to it and using the Technorati link to see how long your post takes to show up.

The Technorati API isn’t the most full-featured and sometimes it just seems to not respond. The API allows me to do quite a bit with my own links, but doesn’t offer any access to other peoples’. Still, by combining the two with the tags for any particular journal entry, an interesting picture emerges.

I have some other ideas for making individual journal entry pages more interesting. None of them involve the addition of buttons that invite the reader to add the page to Digg, Newsvine,, Reddit, Furl, Magnolia, Blinklist, or any other others I may be forgetting.

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

jonsonblog » Blog Archive » Male workplace restroom etiquette leads to scientific breakthrough

Me? I'm just pee-shy. From The Meaning of Liff: KETTLENESS (adj.) The quality of not being able to pee while being watched.

Saturday, August 12th, 2006


A few days ago, I got an email through Flickr from someone at the Daily Telegraph asking me to get in touch with them urgently. I gave them a call. It turned out that they wanted to use some of my Flickr pictures in an article for the travel section.

I told them that would be fine. I also told them that they didn’t even need to ask: all my pictures are licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license. They weren’t familiar with this so I sent them an email with some links and further explanation.

It strikes me that Flickr could be a very valuable resource for newspapers and magazines. The advanced search allows you to search specifically for Creative Commons licensed photos that can be used commercially.

The paper came out today and, sure enough, my pictures were in the travel section, duly credited.

A picture from Flickr

Funnily enough, this was the second time in one week that I had been contacted by the mainstream media. Matt Bradley from the Christian Science Monitor called me in the run up to a story about Little Green Footballs. I had to confess that I haven’t visited that site in years, and I have no intention of going back to it. My explanation for abandoning the site is linked from the Wikipedia entry, which must be why I got the call in the first place.

I guess I didn’t have any good soundbites though. None of my pearls of wisdom made it into the finished article.

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Screen Resolution and Page Layout (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

The devil can cite scripture for his own purpose... and now I can cite Nielsen: "...use a liquid layout that stretches well for any resolution, from 800x600 to 1280x1024."

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

vanillart » A List Apart » Séparation Comportementale

A French translation of my most recent article for A List Apart.

BarCamp London

will take place on September 2nd and 3rd. It’s a happening, maaaaan!

This should be a lot of fun. If you want to come along, put your name down and read the rules.

And Lo! The halls of Yahoo! doth resound with with the gnashing of hacking and wailing of geekery.

BarCampLondon Sep 2-3

Monday, August 7th, 2006

mezzoblue § ClearerType

Good news everyone! ClearType is turned on by default in IE7.

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

V for Vendetta

When I heard that V for Vendetta was being filmed, I was very, very nervous indeed. It has long been one of my favourite graphic novels, second only to Watchmen. The film industry hasn’t traditionally done a very good job of transferring graphic novels to celluloid.

When I saw a trailer for the film, my fears were not allayed. It all looked so slick, a million miles away from Alan Moore’s grim vision. I heard about the climax of the film featuring a gathering of people in V masks… that was most certainly not in the book.

I decided not to see the film in the cinema. I figured I’d just be as disappointed as Paul. I mentally filed the film away in the “watch it on DVD” category.

This week, I did just that. Even as the disc was sliding into the DVD player, I was still hoping that I could enjoy it, although I imagined I would probably spend most of the time nitpicking, comparing it to the graphic novel and finding it wanting.

Sure enough, it’s very different indeed. The story has been condensed. Characters have been changed. Everything looks cleaner and more up-to-date.

I should have hated it. But I didn’t. I liked it. A lot.

The graphic novel was a reflection of Thatcher’s Britain. It remains a product of its time. If the film were to stay absolutely true to the book’s look and feel, it would feel dated. Instead, the film is more in synch with the mood of Britain in the 21st century.

Most dystopian visions rely heavily on a sort of pathetic fallacy to show a world that looks dark, depressing and downtrodden. It’s easy, in such circumstances, to sympathise with any protagonist bent on tearing down the system. But what about a totalitarian society where everyone’s doing more or less okay? In a society where people are doing comfortably, with clean clothes and respectable jobs, would you still feel the same righteous desire to rip the fabric of society apart?

It’s this more ambiguous stance that made the film of V for Vendetta such a pleasure for me. In some ways, and this is a somewhat heretical thing to say, the film is superior to the book. Of course, it isn’t nearly as densely packed, but it does flow quicker, with a more cohesive structure than the episodic nature of the book.

I even liked the climax. I was afraid of some kind of Deus Ex Machina scenario, but instead the film builds towards the gathering at Westminster as an inevitable culmination of everything that has come before. It sounds like such a Hollywood ending, but it’s actually a reflection of our own world. Remember, when Alan Moore and David Lloyd wrote V for Vendetta in the ’80s, none of us had seen the embodiment of the human spirit in the gatherings of Eastern Europe or witnessed the sight of the citizens of Moscow facing down the tanks of a military coup.

But, plot changes aside, this film was always going to stand or fall based on one thing: the character of V. I was impressed with how the film depicted this man, and not just because they kept the mask on the whole time — something that’s almost unheard of for a leading actor. He is a hero and a villain. He is a murderer and a terrorist, yet he is charming and sympathetic. V was a complex character in the book, and he is equally complex in the film, thanks to Hugo Weaving’s great performance and the decision to keep V’s dense, lyrical dialogue intact.

I found myself enjoying V for Vendetta immensely. It was thrilling to see scenes from the graphic novel brought to life. And where the film veered away from the book, it always made sense in the context of the modern setting.

I was reminded of The Lord of the Rings. Watching that film, it became clear very early on that it was made by someone who has an equal love for the original material and the medium of cinema. The real art is reconciling those visions.

V for Vendetta certainly split the critics. Much of the negative criticism is aimed at the perceived politics of the film, as is much of the praise. In truth, the film is a cipher. It’s impossible not to bring in your own political opinions and belief system. Far from being a watered-down, wishy-washy Hollywood adaptation, this film turns on its audience, confronting them with uncomfortable juxtapositions and questions… much like the book. The film does the best possible job with the thankless task of transferring a much-loved cult work to a mainstream audience without compromising the integrity of the piece or insulting the intelligence of the viewers.

This isn’t a frame for frame, word for word adaptation of the the graphic novel. But it is faithful to the spirit of the book. Had the film-makers slavishly transferred the story from book to film, the result would have been a curious historical document. Instead, this is one of the most topical, engaging and well-crafted films I’ve seen this year.

V for Vendetta is available on DVD now.

Happy Birthday, WWW

It was fifteen years ago today Sir Tim taught the planet to play.

What a short, strange trip it’s been. Here’s to the next fifteen years. Who knows what wonders they will bring?

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

brix mail... 1984 Playset Goes on Sale in Two Days

Ridley Scott's seminal superbowl ad for Apple... in Lego.