Adam Greenfield encapsulates his ideas from Everyware for the audience at the LIFT conference earlier this year.
Monday, April 30th, 2007
Sunday, April 29th, 2007
Track Cindy and Jason on their trip across the country... mashup style.
Tom Watson's new site design changes stylesheets with the season. More of this kind of thing please, Web.
I read this article right after I had been browsing The Onion. I was halfway through before I remembered that I wasn't reading The Onion anymore.
Saturday, April 28th, 2007
Now this is what I call a captcha. You want to know about my mother? I'll tell you about my mother.
Friday, April 27th, 2007
HubbleSite - NewsCenter - The Carina Nebula: Star Birth in the Extreme (04/24/2007) - Release Images
Another stunning image from the Hubble telescope. This image is heart-stoppingly beautiful.
A gorgeous 1923 specimen book from the American Type Foundry.
The crowds at the big keynote events just weren’t my kind of people. That’s not to say they were bad people; they just don’t love the Web. They see the opportunities and power offered by the Web. They see how the Web can help them. But they don’t love the Web.
At the edges of the conference, it was a different story. There were some great ad-hoc gatherings organised by people who truly are my kind of people.
Kelly put together a Mobile Salon over at her place, gathering together some great geek minds from across the globe. She did a great job of herding the cats and made sure that everyone had a productive but fun time. I found myself in a particularly fruitful round-table discussion. The whole thing was recorded so keep an eye on Kelly’s site for a podcast of the evening.
From the Mobile Salon, I was whisked across town to the Thirsty Bear, the last-minute location of the microformats dinner: good food, good company and good markup. There was a great turn-out and the gathering was a great success due in no small part to on-the-spot sponsorship from Google, Yahoo (thanks, Nate), Technorati and Praized, all of whom chipped in for the first round of food and drinks. Magnolia followed up with the second round—Larry Halff is a gentleman and a scholar.
It wasn’t all eating, drinking and merriment. I sat down with Tantek, Chris and John to discuss some issues that had been on my mind ever since having a conversation with Andy and Brian in an Edinburgh pub. We reached consensus pretty quickly that we need to refocus the way that we’re presenting microformats to newcomers.
Microformats are an exciting technology and once that light bulb goes off over your head and you “get” how useful they are, your natural inclination is to enthusiastically join in the fun. The problem is how people then choose to get involved.
When myself or Tantek are speaking at conferences, evangelising microformats, we make a point of saying “Anyone can get involved in creating microformats.” This is true but it needs clarification. The process of creating a microformat is well documented but often ignored. Instead, enthusiastic developers toil in isolation before announcing “Look, I’ve created a microformat!” At this point we have to reluctantly crush their dreams and tell them that what they’ve created is not a microformat. Disappointment and disillusionment follows.
A lot of people are very eager to create microformats. But they’re missing a number of key points. First of all, the creation of a new microformat is rarely desirable. If existing microformats can be recycled or if regular markup suffices, that’s a success. But not everyone sees it that way—maybe because they want to have their name attached to a new microformat.
Microformats are cool. I don’t know when the tipping point occurred but at some stage over the past year, I no longer had to convince people that microformats are a good idea. That’s progress but the cool factor brings some problems with it. People are proposing new microformats left, right and centre, not because they solve existing problems but simply because having your own microformat would be cool.
Most surprisingly of all, there are now developers who are ready to embrace microformats before fully embracing meaningful markup in general. This really is a problem. Microformats are a subset of meaningful markup (itself a subset of markup in general). I personally don’t believe it’s possible to truly grok microformats unless you’re already using semantic markup.
There is a misconception that the word “microformat” refers to any re-usable piece of markup. That simply isn’t true. Microformats need to also solve problems (like aiding aggregation and easing the export of data). Having re-usable chunks of markup is still incredibly useful and powerful… but they’re not microformats.
So what you should you call a piece of semantically meaningful markup that can be applied in many places? Well, you could call it POSH: Plain Old Semantic HTML.
Okay, so it doesn’t sound quite as cool as “microformat” but it’s more accurate. Even if you decide not to use the POSH label, you should definitely be embracing the POSH mindset, especially if you plan on contributing to the possible creation of future microformats.
A great example of POSH was published by Garrett Dimon on Digital Web this week in an article called Coding for Content. Garrett outlines the markup he uses for putting captions with images in articles. This is a good re-usable piece of markup: a POSH pattern. Chris has an alternate pattern and so does Dan. These are all good. This is not microformats. This doesn’t need to be a microformat… and that’s a good thing.
Garrett calls this a personal markup pattern but muddies the waters a bit by using the word microformat to describe it:
You can think of a personal markup pattern as a sort of microformat that solves a problem unique to your situation.
Personal markup patterns, POSH patterns, or just plain old patterns: call them what you will but the important thing is to be thinking about this stuff. I don’t know about you, but I kind of miss the angels-on-a-head-of-a-pin discussions that we used to have on Dan’s Simple Quiz.
I intend to start publishing and discussing my own POSH patterns. I encourage you to do the same. Just don’t call them microformats.
The Dunbar number of the beast
I came across an interesting follow-up to a post I made a while back that makes reference to the oft-misused Dunbar number as first espoused in Co-evolution of neocortex size, group size and language in humans. In this blog post, the author makes an interesting point about Dunbar’s work:
However, from my perspective, he’s left out one crucial factor: Jesus Christ.
Looking back over Dunbar’s research, I found a number of other glaring omissions. Nowhere in his work does Dunbar make any reference to Zeus or even Apollo. It gets worse. There’s nary a mention of Odin, Thor, Loki or any of the denizens of Valhalla. Most damningly of all, Dunbar doesn’t even make a passing reference to the flying spaghetti monster.
That’s just shoddy science.
Mike and the team have redesigned/realigned Newsvine with some nice customisation of the front page.
Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
Identity and authority
When Richard talks, I listen. That’s a lesson I learned even before Clearleft existed. Right now Richard is talking about civility online mentioning the specific example of Digg—something I’ve touched on in the past.
If there’s any truth to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory then anonymity online can exacerbate the lack of civility. A key issue here is identity: you’re more likely to be rude or aggressive when posting an anonymous comment on a blog post than when you’re posting to your own blog—a place that’s associated with you and your online identity.
Just to be clear, when I talk about identity here I’m not talking about the issue of consolidating scattered online identities (a job for OpenID and, to a certain extent, microformats). I’m talking about identity as a basis for trust.
In order for an opinion to carry any weight online, the person posting needs to establish trust. A lot of the time this simply involves providing background material: “this is me, here are my photos, here are my bookmarks, etc.”
If you can’t provide a backstory, it’s becomes very hard to establish trust. Take for example the recent discourse on Flickr when some asshats ripped off Dan’s logo. To begin with, everyone was quite rightly joining the fray in support of Dan—with the exception of the Chief Executive Asshat from the rip-off company. But then some people showed up and started taking the side of the asshat. The other commentators did some quick’n’dirty background checks by simply clicking on the usernames and found empty photo pages. This lack of history pointed pretty strongly to these people simply being sock puppets.
But if your history establishes your identity and consequently your trustworthiness, then how can you instil trust if you’re just showing up to the party? As Kaliya was at pains to point out in her talk at the Web 2.0 Expo:
Trust is not an algorithm.
It’s important to realise that there’s a big difference between trust and authority. Trust is a personal judgement, different for everyone. Authority is a top-down value. There may well be an algorithm for authority—based on past achievements—but on the Web, authority isn’t nearly as important as trust.
Richard’s musings were prompted by an article in The Times that falls victim to the usual trap of mistaking a lack of authority with a lack of merit, citing the usual examples of Wikipedia and political blogs. The argument is based on the idea that someone who is paid to write (encyclopedias, newspapers, whatever) is likely to be more authoritative—and therefore trustworthy—than someone who writes merely because they have a passion for the subject. In my experience, the opposite is true.
Take some recent articles in The Independent:
- Wi-Fi: Children at risk from ‘electronic smog’
- Danger on the airwaves: Is the Wi-Fi revolution a health time bomb?
These articles were written by journalists and so they have authority. Yet they are entirely without merit because the stories are sloppily-researched, hastily written and downright untrue. Authority, in this case, does not equate to merit. I am far more likely to trust a blog post by Ian Betteridge debunking the articles precisely because he wasn’t paid to write it.
The word “amateur” has come to mean “unprofessional and sloppy” in common parlance. But it wasn’t always that way. The word can also be used to refer to someone who does something out of passion and enthusiasm.
The problem with those articles in The Independent is not that they are amateurish: the problem is that they are professional.
Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
Web 2.0 Expover
With my San Francisco adventures at an end (for now), I’m safely ensconced back in Brighton tackling the daily grind of emails, work and procrastination. Looking back at the Web 2.0 Expo, on the whole I had a pretty good time.
It was a big conference; really big, like South by Southwest big. I wasn’t quite expecting that. Unlike South by Southwest, the crowd was not dominated by geeky blogging designer developers. They were there but they were in the minority. The majority of people there were either businesspeople or techies working at the coalface of large corporations. In retrospect, this was a really good crowd to speak to: I certainly didn’t get the feeling I was preaching to the converted (which I sometimes get when I’m speaking at Web Standards conferences).
The split in the make-up of the crowd meant that the conference itself had a somewhat schizophrenic feel to it. Really, there were two conferences going on—and I don’t just mean that in the literal sense that Web2Open was running concurrently.
The sessions and panels covered a reasonably broad range of topics. Geeks like me could find plenty to keep them occupied and interested. Some of the ones I attended were:
- a panel on current state of browser technology that featured Chris Wilson, Brendan Eich, Rael Dornfest and others,
- a blazing talk by John Allsopp on microformats,
- a panel whose raison d’etre escaped me but featured Matt Jones and was therefore, for that reason alone, worth attending,
- a talk on Identity by Identity Woman herself,
- a tutorial on building an SMS service,
- a hands-on look at how to implement OpenID,
- Joi Ito and others talking about gaming and virtual worlds
…and many more. The quality was generally pretty good and if I found myself at a talk I wasn’t enjoying, I could always switch to another room. So overall, thumbs up for the panels and presentations.
But then I made the mistake of going to one of the keynotes.
Whereas the panels and presentations were split amongst lots of reasonably sized rooms, the keynotes were in a giant auditorium. Things started off okay: Tim O’Reilly chatting with Jeff Bezos. It was a bit boring but harmless.
Then John Battelle led an interview with Mena Trott, Jay Adelson and that guy from JotSpot (I think). This was a half hour of John Battelle asking unanswerable questions and the interviewees refusing to answer them. Fascinating.
At this stage, the bullshit was beginning to fly thick and fast. Words like “leverage”, “incentivize” and “monetize” were being bandied about. Just as I was ready to start chewing my own leg off, I remembered my buzzword bingo app. This made the time pass a bit faster. Still, by the time the product pitches started at the end of the so-called keynote session, I was feeling distinctly nauseated.
That was the first day. After that I made sure to avoid the “clap a billionaire” talks and concentrate on the small stuff around the edges. I found myself sitting at a table where Colin from Viddler showed me some really cool stuff he was working on, Chris was refining a microformats side-project and François from Netvibes shared some of his code with me. Now that was more like it.
So the Web 2.0 Expo was a mixed bag. There was a lot of bullshit and buzzwords but there was also plenty of hackery and geekiness. The real knack was avoiding the former while seeking out the latter. By the end of the conference, I had it down to a fine art.
Monday, April 23rd, 2007
Great post by Leisa on the real reasons for using personas (they might not be the reasons you think).
Sunday, April 22nd, 2007
Because if you use Tim O'Reilly's sherrif badge, the terrorists have already won.
Friday, April 20th, 2007
You can listen to an audio version of Hyperdrive.
It’s a noisy night out on the streets—a baseball night. The crowd sounds jubilant. I’m inside, making my way through the pipe-filled industrial-tinged hallways, leaving the Technorati office. Leading me through the maze, Tantek points overhead to a pipe that’s shinier and newer than the others. The red paint covering the joins where the pipe emerges from the wall gives it a cyborganic feel like something from a Giger painting or a Cronenberg movie. This is the fibre that plugs the whole operation into the net.
“Fat pipe, always on…” I say. “…Get out of the way” finishes Tantek.
We leave the building and thread our way through the crowds of ebullient sports fans until we enter the underground car park. More pipes.
“Ever read any Sartre?” asks Tantek as we pass a sign that reads “No Exit” in loosely-kerned Helvetica.
Tantek locates his car. It’s hard to miss. The convertible is small, black and low to the ground, its sleekness tempered by the clear signs of an eventful history of use.
Despite the chilly temperature outside, Tantek rolls back the roof. To protect me from the cold, he gives me a spare hoodie with the word “Stanford” boldly emblazoned across the front. We strap in and Tantek starts to flip switches like he’s Han Solo preparing to leave docking bay 94.
The engine is revving but before we can take off there’s one last piece of prepping left to do. Jacking his nano through the stereo, Tantek cycles through genres; soundtrack; The Matrix. The unmistakable base line of the Propellerheads begins pulsing from the speakers, filling the air with its urgent energy.
I’m a nervous passenger at the best of times. I’m starting to get the feeling that this won’t be a sedate cruise across town.
“I’ve been warned about you” I tell Tantek.
“I’ll go easy on you” he says but there’s a mischievous gleam in his eye.
We shoot out onto the street only to be pulled up short by a red light. That’s enough time for Tantek: he reaches down in one Pavlovian-ingrained move, grasps his Blackberry and starts thumbing his way through the Twitter timeline.
“Concentrate on driving,” I tell him, “don’t Twitter this!” But that’s the worst thing I could have said: it’s like being told not to think of a pink elephant—you just can’t help it.
“Look” I say, “I’ll Twitter for both of us, okay?”
Reaching into my pocket, I pull out my jaded mobile phone. I start to methodically compose a message to the Twittersphere. This task becomes distinctly trickier when the light changes and the car begins to tear through the streets. We’re leaving South Park behind us, zipping past the meatspace protrusions of Citizen Agency and Obvious Corp.
Still thumbing my way slowly around the glowing blue numeric keys of my Sony Ericsson, I turn to Tantek and tell him, “Y’know, we’ve got completely different texting styles. You’re all about the contractions but I still insist on correct spelling and punctuation.” But this is too much to ask of me now and I decide to contract the words “San Francisco” to simply “SF”… I still capitalise both letters though.
By this time we’ve reached the on-ramp. The freeway is the shortest route connecting tonight’s nodes. The car accelerates exponentially up the ramp, reaching escape velocity as it is spat into freeway traffic. On the freeway the acceleration continues. Our ground-hugging position and the wind streaming across our heads accentuates the feeling of speed.
I should be scared but I can’t help smiling instead. We’re travelling fast but not recklessly.
We leave the freeway to rejoin the world of traffic lights. Surprisingly, Tantek doesn’t gun the engine when the lights turn green. Instead he approaches each red light at a steady moderate pace. Every time we’re just about to arrive at an intersection, the light turns from red to green.
“These lights are timed for about about 25 or 26 miles per hour,” he explains.
“Spotting the patterns?” I ask.
“Given enough data, you can’t help seeing patterns.”
As he’s talking, he thumbs the reassuringly familiar interface of his Blackberry again. There’s one missed call. Of course he has to return it straight away. My nervousness returns as he simultaneously navigates the streets and the conversation. The phone call lasts just long enough to come to the agreement that some more people should join us.
Leaving the car to cool down in Tantek’s garage, we make our way on foot down Haight Street. We’re the last ones to reach the bar, a sedate and classy oasis in the middle of an area best described as “funky”.
Keith buys me a beer from the local microbrewery. I opt for an amber ale while he plumps for an IPA. After the first sips, we compare tasting notes and once again speculate about a beer-oriented version of Cork’d.
It’s my last night in San Francisco and this mellow gathering seems an appropriate way to end my trip. The conversation is suitably geeky. We exchange war stories from the trenches of Information Architecture. We discuss the value of play and I relay an idea I’ve got for Hack Day. A laptop emerges only once.
Tantek offers to get the next drink in but I’m just too exhausted. I’ve got a ten hour flight back to England ahead of me the next day. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time in San Francisco, I’m really looking forward to getting back home.
It’s time for me to head back to my hotel room, upload some photos to Flickr and get some sleep.
This time I’m taking a cab.
Thursday, April 19th, 2007
Official Website to Help Save William Morris Gallery & Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, London
The William Morris gallery is going to be shut down unless we can do something about it. Let's do something about it.
Wednesday, April 18th, 2007
Registration for Hack Day Europe (June 16th-17th) is open. Sign up now! This is going to be a lot of fun.
Hybrid Design and the Beauty of Standards
My speaking commitments at the Web 2.0 Expo have been fulfilled.
The panel I gatecrashed on Monday morning—The New Hybrid Designer—was a lot of fun. Richard deftly moderated the discussion and Chris, Kelly and I were only too eager to share our thoughts. Unfortunately Emily wasn’t able to make it. It may have been slightly confusing for people showing up to the panel which had Emily’s name listed but not mine; I can imagine that some of the audience were looking at me and thinking, “wow, Emily has really let herself go.”
I mentioned a few resources for developers looking to expand their design vocabulary to take in typography and grids:
- Oh Yeeaahh! by Khoi Vinh
- Five Simple Steps to designing grid systems and Five Simple Steps to better typography by Mark Boulton
- The Elements of Typographic Style applied to the Web
Tuesday was the big day for me. I gave a solo presentation called The Beauty in Standards and Accessibility. My original intention was to give a crash course in web standards and accessibility but I realised that the real challenge would be to discuss the beauty part.
I reached back through history to find references and quotations to bolster my ramblings:
- Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats
- Auguries of Innocence by William Blake
- Easter, 1916 by W.B. Yeats
- Micrographia by Robert Hooke
- De revolutionibus orbium coelestium by Nicolaus Copernicus
- The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
One of the tangents on which I veered off was Joseph Whitworth’s work with Charles Babbage. If you’re interested in following this up I highly recommend reading a book by Doron Swade called The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer—originally released under the title The Cogwheel Brain in the UK
I really enjoyed giving this presentation and from the reaction of the people in the room, a lot of people enjoyed listening to it too. I was just happy that they indulged me in my esoteric wanderings.
On the morning of the presentation I schlepped a box full of copies of Bulletproof Ajax from my hotel to the conference centre so that I could give them away as prizes during Q and A. My talk was in the afternoon so I left the box in the speakers’ lounge for safe keeping. Once my talk was done and I had time for some questions, I said “I have some book… oh.” They were still in the speakers’ lounge.
Thus began our merry trek through the halls of the conference centre. I continued fielding questions from the enthusiastic crowd of followers eager to get their hands on a copy of my book. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer audience. I was only too happy to reward them with tokens of my appreciation in dead-tree form.
They're here! New from Moo: NoteCards. Beauteous.
Monday, April 16th, 2007
Fake tales of San Francisco
San Francisco is my kind of place. I can see why one might leave one’s heart here.
Spitting in the face of superstition, I flew over on Friday the thirteenth. I made my way to the swish studio of Kelly Goto who kindly offered to put me up for my first night in a new town.
Before resting my weary head, we went out to an Indian café so that Kelly could plan her upcoming panel with Emily Chang, Chris Messina and Richard MacManus. Before long, my name was added to the list so now it looks like I’m going to be on another panel; Monday morning’s discussion of The New Hybrid Designer. Should be fun.
Kelly’s place is close to the Mission district so once Saturday morning’s rain cleared up, I started walking around the neighbourhood, stopping for a coffee at that den of hipsterness, Ritual Coffee Roasters—“RitRo” to those in the know. Inevitably, I met someone I knew… but someone I had never met: Matt ‘Blackbelt’ Jones. Upon exiting RitRo I bumped into some more Brits in exile—Paul and Amy (with young Tom) Hammond.
This pattern of just bumping into people has continued ever since. Today I met Eris and later Simon this way. I was wandering around Union Square when I recognised someone from the Future of Web Apps conference in London in February. He also recognised me. We then initiated the “I know you but…” ritual:
Both parties pause and cock their heads slightly to one side. Each one points at the other quizzically. The pointed fingers now begin to wag as if trying to shake the names out of them. At this point both heads are turned almost completely to the side (while still maintaining eye contact) until the movement ends with a “tsk”. By now it is clear that neither can recall the name of the other and so the pointed fingers can be safely morphed into extended hands ready for shaking as each reminds the other of their name—followed by “Right, right…”
This situation is far less awkward than that embarrassing moment when you meet someone who can recall your name perfectly well while you’re still floundering in an attempt to put their face into context. I’m okay with faces; I’m lousy with names. I wasn’t always this bad. I think the first brain cells to go are the ones associated with putting names to people.
I’ll put this theory to test at the Web 2.0 Expo. It looks like most of the geek world is going to be there. I’m starting to get nervous about my presentation on Tuesday. I guess I was expecting something cosier.
Strangely, while the space inside the conference centre seems huge and overwhelming, San Francisco itself feels remarkably condensed, like one big neighbourhood. Just about everything is in walking distance from everything else and there’s decent public transport in case of inclement weather. Like I said, my kind of place.
Thursday, April 12th, 2007
I’ve got some more travelling ahead of me. I’ll be getting the bus to Heathrow tomorrow to get on the long flight to San Francisco. That’s the setting for the Web 2.0 Expo next week, at which I’ll be speaking on The Beauty in Standards and Accessibility.
I’ve been to the States quite a few times but this will be my first time visiting San Francisco. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit so I’m glad that I’m finally getting my foggy due.
The conference proper doesn’t kick off until Monday so I’ll have a weekend to explore the city (and frantically finish preparing my slides). Denizens of San Francisco, if you fancy meeting up and showing a tourist around, grab my contact details. I’ve also got my Twitter account set up to send direct messages to my mobile phone so that’s a quick and easy way to get in touch. Yahoo-ites, Apple-ates, Technoratini and other geeks who want to meet up for beer, coffee, sushi or all three, don’t be shy.
Non-residents of Shaky Town, I will no doubt be taking plenty of pictorial evidence and given the Bay Area’s famed WiFi coverage, I expect I’ll be doing plenty of uploading to Flickr.
If you're in Dublin on the evening of the 8th of May, come 'round to Bono's hotel to hear me natter on about Ajax.
An ingenious alarm clock that runs away if you don't turn it off quickly enough.
Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
I always like to have a good book with me when I’m travelling. A few years ago, when I was making a trip to the States, the journey was made tolerable by some excellent reading material. The Victorian Internet is a wonderful true story written by Tom Standage, author of The Mechanical Turk. It tells the history of the telegraph while subtly drawing parallels to today’s revolution in information technology.
When I finished the book, I passed it on to my good friend Dan in Baltimore. He then read through it as we spent a few days together on a mini-roadtrip through Maryland and Virginia to visit American civil war battlefields.
This week I got a small package in the post from Dan. Inside was an item that pre-dates the plastic age: a glass telegraph insulator with the words
New York embossed on one side. A note accompanying this gift said:
Jeremy, congrats on the book! I send this artifact from the Victorian Internet which I’d found for you ages ago (but now am obliged to send post haste). Please enjoy and reflect on the technological ripples your efforts will create through the decades.
Google Developer Day will be taking place around the globe on May 31st, including a London event. I'll probably be in Copenhagen though.
Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
Conceptual and photographic art in Brighton
Spring is in the air here in Brighton. The sun is showing its face, people are rediscovering their skimpier clothes and a young man’s fancy turns to… art.
Day Of The Figurines is part board game, part secret society. The game is set in a fictional town that is littered, dark and underpinned with steady decay.
The foyer is currently dominated by a table covered in miniature building facades and populated by tiny subbuteo-like homonculi. Visitors to the exhibit can register their mobile phone numbers, claim figurines as their own and give them names and back-stories. For 24 days, they can partake in a kind of SMS-based adventure game. The figures will obey commands sent from their owner’s phones, have adventures and interact with other figurines (this part isn’t handled by any high-tech robotics: there are two people stationed in the foyer who update the figurine positions every hour).
I’ve registered a figurine of my own. His adventure begins tomorrow.
In a slightly more traditional vein, there’s a nice photography exhibition currently running a stone’s throw away from the Clearleft offices in Brighton’s trendy North Laine. Miss Aniela—she of Flickr fame—is displaying a selection of her online work.
It’s interesting to see the pictures outside of the confines of the browser. The descriptions for each picture come straight from Flickr so technically there shouldn’t be anything new to be had from the exhibition but it’s still quite gratifying to behold the pictures in a non-pixel format. Call it the Moo effect.
Machine Tags of Loving Grace
One of the highlights of Refresh Edinburgh for me was listening to Dan Champion give a presentation on his new site, Revish. He talked through the motivation, planning and production of the site. This was an absolute joy to listen to and it was filled with very valuable practical advice.
Revish is a book review site with a heavy dollop of social interaction. Even in its not-quite-finished state, it’s pushing all the right buttons with me:
- The markup is clean, semantic and valid.
- The layout is uncluttered and flexible.
- The URL structure is logical.
- The data is available through microformats, RSS and an API.
There’s some really smart stuff going on with the sign-up process. If your chosen username matches a Flickr username, it automatically grabs the buddy icon. At the sign-up stage you also have the option of globally disabling any Ajax on the site—an accessibility option that I advocate in my book. Truth be told, there isn’t yet any Ajax on the site but the availability of this option shows a lot of forethought.
Also at the sign-up stage, there’s a quick’n’dirty auto-discovery of contacts wherever there’s overlap with Revish usernames and your Flickr contacts. This is very cool—one small step toward portable social networks.
One of the features dovetails nicely with Richard’s recent discussion about machine tags ISBNs. If you tag a picture of a book on Flickr with
book:isbn=[ISBN number], that picture will then show up on the corresponding Revish page. You can see it in action on the page for Bulletproof Ajax.
Oh, and don’t worry about whether a book has any reviews on Revish yet: the site uses Amazon’s API to pull in the basic book info. As long as a book has an ISBN, it has a page on Revish. So the Revish page for a book can effectively become a mashup of Amazon details and Flickr pictures (just take a look at the page for John’s new microformats book).
I like this format for machine tagging information related to books. As pointed out in a comment on Richard’s post, this opens up the way for plenty of other tagging like
book:title="[book title]" and
I’ve started to implement this machine tag format here. If you look at my last post—which has a whole list of books—you’ll see that I’ve tagged the post with a bunch of machine tags in the
book:isbn format. By making a quick call to Amazon, I can pull in some information on each book. For now I’m just displaying a small cover image with a link through to the Amazon page.
That last entry is a bit of an extreme example; I’m assuming that most of the time I’ll be just adding one book machine tag to a post at most, probably to accompany a review.
Machine tags (or triple tags) is still a relatively young idea. Most of the structures so far have been emergent, like Upcoming and Last.fm’s event tags and my own blog post machine tags. There’s now a site dedicated to standardising on some namespaces—MachineTags.org has a blog, a wiki and a mailing list. Right now, the wiki has pages for existing conventions like geo tagging and drafts for events and book tagging. This will be an interesting space to watch.
A new project from Idea Codes (Emily Chang and Max Kiesler): a tag cloud for Twitter.
Monday, April 9th, 2007
Joshua Bell goes busking in the Metro. This well-written article could have been disheartening but, as a former busker myself, I found it downright reassuring.
Sunday, April 8th, 2007
Further flung reading
I had the honour of opening up the Highland Fling with a short sharp keynote on the history of progressive enhancement. As always, I enjoyed presenting though I’m not sure if the silence emanating from the audience was due to rapt attention or boredom. Once the audio is available, you can decide for yourself.
I’ll get the audio transcribed as usual. In the meantime, there isn’t much point offering up the slides as they don’t contain much information. Instead I’ll list out some of the things that I mentioned in the talk.
Music and books
- Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky
- Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
- Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
- Why I Write by George Orwell
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
- The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore
Flung and refreshed
In amongst all of these tourist activities I enjoyed the geeky goodness of The Highland Fling followed by Refresh Edinburgh. Both were nice intimate gatherings. Both were also recorded for future podcasting. In the meantime, here are some of the presentation slides:
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
A nicely succinct and surprisingly accurate article on Newsweek all about Twitter.
Monday, April 2nd, 2007
Sounds like Brighton is ready to become one big WiFi hotspot.
Sunday, April 1st, 2007
There's now a blog dedicated to the Lifestream concept. It looks the idea (and the word I coined) has legs.
If I were to wear a tie, this would be the tie I would wear.
An ongoing comic on Flickr where the subject matter comes from the "missed connections" posts on Craigslist.