Archive: November, 2007


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Friday, November 30th, 2007

wagamama | positive eating + positive living

An utterly addictive old-school platform game in Flash to get you in the mood for Christmas.

The Rissington Podcast | Like Gardeners Question Time, but for geeks

Check out the redesigned site for the podcast from Jon and John. Acknowledge the divinity in its gloriously liquid splendour. Smashing work, chaps!

Brighton, mapped

Today I travelled from home to work, from work to band practice, from band practice to an educational celebration: OpenStreetMap Brighton 1.0.

Ever since the mapping workshop after dConstruct 2006, Mikel and others have been out and about improving the mapping data for Brighton from the ground up. While a map can never be truly finished—it is, after all, a representation of a changing, evolving place—the data is now remarkably complete.

There’s a natural tendency for us to think in our own domains of experience so I usually only see the potential for OpenStreetMap data in web applications and mashups. But the launch event showed some wonderful use-cases in the real world: local councils, public transport… these are organisations that would otherwise have to pay very large sums (of taxpayer’s money) to the Ordnance Survey just to display a map.

OpenStreetMap is one of those applications of technology, like Wikipedia or BarCamp, that fills me with hope. On paper, the concepts sound crazy. In reality, they don’t just compete with commercial services, they surpass them.

I really need to get myself a GPS device.

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Google Maps

The new "you are here" feature on the mobile version of Google Maps looks, as Matt Jones said, "indistinguishable from magic." But it doesn't work on my phone. Grrr...


Can’t stop. Too busy. Working. I’m up to my elbows in markup, CSS and JavaScript—just the kind of stuff I enjoy getting stuck into. Mind you, I’d enjoy it more if it weren’t for IE6.

Patterns The site I’m working on has a nice sturdy grid underpinning the page layouts. Before opening up a text editor and marking up the structure, I plotted each grid variation on graph paper. That helped me figure out the range of variation in layout possibilities. But if I wanted to try a new variation, I’d have to draw a new sketch.

Lego grid That’s when I reached for a new design tool: Lego. Think about it: they’re pre-structured into consistently sized chunks that can be easily combined into different combinations: perfect for messing about with grid layouts.

Or I might have been procrastinating, playing with Lego when I should have been tied to my keyboard.

In either case, the Lego phase is behind me. Now I’m in the tippety-tap, edit, save, tab, refresh phase.

Edenbee design

I’m pretty excited about this site and not just because of its griddy goodness. This is a site that I can see myself using. To oversimplify, it’s a social network based around setting personal goals to improve environmental responsibility. Given the ridiculous amount of air travel I’ve indulged in over the past year, my goals might have to involve planting a forest.

The site is called Edenbee. There’s just a holding page up for now (that’s rapidly becoming Paul’s speciality). If it sounds like the kind of thing you might be interested in, pop your email address in there.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

W3C DOM Compatibility - HTML

PPK has once again been doing sterling work. He's updated the DOM compatibility chart and things are actually looking pretty good.

Markup Map for hCard Microformat : Christopher Schmitt

A handy diagram showing the nesting of class names in an hCard. Useful for styling.

Desert Bus for Hope

Playing the world's most boring real-time video game for a good cause. It's strangely compelling to watch the "game" in progress.

Fray: The Quarterly of True Stories

The site that sparked my love affair with the web returns as a quarterly book.

Undercover restorers fix Paris landmark's clock | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

In a bold move of reverse vandalism, a group of French cultural guerrillas secretly repaired the broken clock in the Pantheon.


A gallery of food collected from the web.

Monday, November 26th, 2007


Beautiful, disturbing and funny. The many ways that a chocolate bunny can meet its end.

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

BarCamp ends

We’re down to the last couple of talks at BarCamp London 3. I’m feeling remarkably awake considering how late I was playing Werewolf—it must be the presentations that are keeping me on my toes.

After a fun geek quiz in the style of QI, I participated in mass critique of the forthcoming BBC homepage redesign. The good news: all the functionality provided by JavaScript is still available using traditional full page refreshes. The bad news: it’s still fixed width—the number of pixels is different but the design decision is the same. It was very, very brave to show a redesign to this tough crowd but the ensuing discussion was enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Right now, Ian is giving a talk on data portability and that’s provoking even more discussion and debate.

It’s been fun but it’s time for me to make the long journey back to Brighton. I’ve had a great time. It was, like all the other BarCamps I’ve attended, very inspiring. Many thanks to BBC Backstage and to all the Google people who opened up their workplace to us and shared their facilities as well as their delicious and plentiful food.

BarCamp continues

When the talks wrapped up on the first day of BarCamp London 3, the evening events began. Our hosts, Google, sure know how to grease the gears of geek socialising; we were served a wide variety of good beer and wine, we were fed a thanksgiving turkey dinner, we were happy, happy geeks.

It wasn’t long before the happiness was replaced with fear, suspicion and paranoia. Yes, I mean Werewolf. I played in two games and moderated another two. Werewolf moderation brings out the asshole in me, but it usually makes for a good game experience.

The mauling was interrupted at midnight to enjoy extra treats from Google: waffles, crépes and a chocolate fountain. I thought the food at BarCamp Brighton couldn’t be topped but BarCamp London 3 has really raised the bar. This morning, after a good night’s sleep (I was glad I brought an inflatable mattress), breakfast included omelettes cooked to order and freshly squeezed orange juice.

As well as the culinary goodness, there are plenty of toys to keep us amused: guitar hero, Wii and a Segway. With our entertainment needs satisfied, we know return to the matrix of presentations with renewed vigour.

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

BarCamp begins

BarCamp London 3 is in full swing. I’ve put together a schedule of the talks. It’s marked up in hCalendar so everyone here can subscribe to it, stick it on their laptops, phones, iPods, or whatever, and then get updates as and when I edit the HTML.

The Google offices have been taken over for a grab-bag of great presentations. I sat in on Norm!’s Law, an introduction to storytelling, an overview of OpenSocial from a very jetlagged David Recorden and a treatise on website psychology from Gavin Bell. Then it was my turn.

I enjoyed talking about The Transmission of Tradition. I didn’t use many slides and they were just reminders for myself. I mostly just nattered on and punctuated my tale with the occasional tune or two. I really enjoyed it and the people who were gracious enough to listen to me seemed to enjoy it too.

And now I should get back to listening to and participating in the other talks. I ought to be heckling Norm! right now.

Return to London town

No sooner am I back from one London geekfest than I find myself getting ready to head back up for another. is about to kick off, hosted by Google this time. If it’s even remotely as good as the previous two London BarCamps, it’s going to be great.

A BarCamp offers a nice opportunity to for me to break out of my usual subject matter. Instead of talking about Ajax, web standards, or microformats, I’m planning to take some of the material from my talk at the local £5 App event and condense it down into a study of how technology has altered the transmission of Irish traditional music. I’m hoping that this could be a good starting point for a discussion of ideas such as the public domain, copyright and the emergence of a reputation economy. Failing that, I’ll probably bring my bouzouki with me so I could just play some tunes.

Mostly I’m excited to see what other people have got in store. I’m constantly amazed by the quality of presentations I’ve seen at BarCamps. I feel kind of guilty that this will be my third London BarCamp—after all, it shouldn’t be the same faces every time—but, oh, I do love them so! I can always earn my keep by moderating a game of Werewolf or ten.

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Safari CSS Reference

A comprehensive list of all the CSS properties supported in Safari including "a number of properties that are not supported for developer use."


Wonderful and funny photographs of people in serendipitous situations.

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007 - @media Ajax

The slides from Dan's excellent presentation on metaprogramming JavaScript.

Extortr: online blackmail for the masses

What a great antisocial network: blackmail people with rich media. Upload photos or videos; demand a price from the victim; if they don't pay, the whole world sees the evidence.

Giant Global Graph | Decentralized Information Group (DIG) Breadcrumbs

TIm Berners-Lee explains what the "graph" part of "social graph" means. I'm still not keen on the term but I really love the idea (although I also disagree about the building blocks required today).

Thatmedia Ajax

The @media Ajax conference has wrapped up in London and a most excellent gathering it was. Kudos to Patrick and his orange-clad helpers for putting together a schedule filled with excellent presentations. I’ve written up individual summaries of day one and day two on the DOM Scripting blog.

The closing “hot topics” panel went pretty well. I could really get used to this moderation business. Instead of agonising over slides for days and weeks in advance of the conference, my preparation consisted of chatting with my fellow attendees in the pub to find out what questions they wanted answered. Seeing as beer-lubricated discourse is my favourite activity at any geek gathering, I didn’t have to modify my existing behaviour.

I did feel somewhat out of my depth on stage with the likes of Brendan Eich and Douglas Crockford. I hope I didn’t make too much of an idiot of myself.

All the presentations were recorded and a podcast will be available soon. As usual, I’ll transcribe the panel I moderated and post it with the other articles.

The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » HMRC fiasco: Government “not interested” in expert warnings

The ORG turn a Newsnight interview into hypertext, thereby strengthening the message exponentially.

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

QuirksBlog: @media Ajax

PPK delivers his report on the excellent @media Ajax conference.

Stephen Fry » Blog Archive » Getting Overheated

A wonderful piece of writing by Stephen Fry that frames the problems communication in cross-cultural settings and then works through said problems.

Portable Social Networks: Take Your Friends with You [Content]

Brian's article on portable social networks is a clear and concise introduction to the subject with explanations of the technologies involved.

The Plumen Project

A new twist on the lightbulb.

The Future of Reading (A Play in Six Acts) [dive into mark]

A superb skewering of Kindle and just about any other attempt to make book distribution digital that involves ludicrously restrictive terms of service (or worse, DRM).

Safari Microformats plugin

Oh yes! A plugin for Safari that will detect, display and export hCard and hCalendar data. Caveat: it only works on Leopard so, because I haven't upgraded yet, I haven't had a chance to testdrive this yet myself.

Photos taken in Brighton on Flickr!

Flickr Places. This is what George announced at dConstruct. It's enthralling: interestingness mashed up with geotagging.

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Local activity

It’s been a busy few days for geeks gatherings here in Brighton.

On Thursday, I was too knackered from band practice to make it along to the Brighton Web Awards (part of the Digital Festival) so I missed seeing my Clearleft cohort Sophie win the award for best blog. Mazel tov!

The next day at the Clearleft HQ was spent trying not to let slip to Paul that a surprise birthday party was being planned for him. Said party was a most enjoyable affair. I think I enjoyed myself a little too much because I’ve spent most of the subsequent day nursing a sore head. That’s why I didn’t make it along to the local Hack Day.

Now I’m going to leave my seaside town for a few days. I’ll be up in London for on Monday and Tuesday. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Derek, John and all the other geniuses who will be in town. I’ll be moderating the conference’s closing panel. If you have any ideas about what I should be asking the panelists, leave a comment over on the DOM Scripting blog.

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

ribot - Mobile application design & rapid prototyping

Local siblings Ribot Maximus and Ribot Minimus have launched their smart-looking site. All mobile, all the time.

Friday, November 16th, 2007


oh hai. i maded you a website.

Thursday, November 15th, 2007


A great little tool for creating favicons.

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

@media 2008 | The Best Practice Web Design Conference

It's back... the conference spanning conference from HTML Dog will be returning in Summer 2008.

Wonderland: A strange thing in the post..

Alice got something strange in the post. So did I. Looks like an ARG. - Share and remix data using open standards

A new site to track the building blocks of portable social networks: OpenID, OAuth, hCard, XFN and more.

FUCK this website

I don't think the end of Catcher In The Rye will have quite the same impact after browsing through the signs on display here. This is big and it is clever.

Cascading calendars

I had fun styling the hCalendar markup for the Berlin Web 2.0 Expo schedule. I based the CSS on what I had written the table of errata for DOM Scripting (which uses del and ins to indicate changes—a nice little dab of ). For the conference schedule, I added a little flourish for standards-compliant browsers by highlighting headers and cells on the same row with these declarations:

table.vcalendar tbody td:hover,
table.vcalendar tbody td:focus {
 background-color: #ddd;
table.vcalendar tbody tr:hover th,
table.vcalendar tbody tr:focus th {
 background-color: #678;

Gareth asked if he could use the same CSS for some hCalendar schedules he marked up:

I’m more than happy to share my style sheets. In fact, Brian suggested the CSS could be released under a Creative Commons licence. So that’s what I’ve done.

This CSS file is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution licence. If you use Dmitry Baranovskiy’s conference schedule creator to generate an hCalendar table, this CSS should style it nicely.

Of course, you might decide to write your own CSS. In that case, please consider also sharing it under a similar licence. It would be nice to gather together a whole range of possible style sheets for hCalendar schedules and list them on the microformats wiki.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

iPhone/iTouch Backgrounds, Set 1 · Journal ·

Awesome iPhone wallpaper images from the awesome Anton.

Bent Objects

Cute pictures of everyday objects anthropomorphised into having an adventurous life.

Vespertilium clothes-peg

Best. Clothes pegs. Ever.

Upcoming's Founder on Going From Giants to Startups (and Back Again) | Epicenter from

Andy is leaving Upcoming to concentrate on so expect lots of linky goodness there. Wired News reports with a photo by yours truly. (via... Andy!)

'Cool Cash' card confusion - News - Manchester Evening News

A seasonal twist on the lottery card is withdrawn because people don't understand how negative numbers work. "I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I'm not having it."

Monday, November 12th, 2007


I had the unusual experience today of reading two pieces of writing that inspired diametrically opposed reactions from me.

Browsing through archives of David Emery’s excellent website, I found myself nodding vigourously in agreement with his thoughts on fluid layouts. Needless to day, he, like me, is a proponent of flexible adaptive layouts but he really nails the reason why we don’t see more of them:

The reason for the debate then? Laziness. Plain and simple. I’m guilty of it (you can find a fair few fixed width sites in my portfolio), make no mistake. It’s that simple – if making a fluid width site was as easy as making a fixed width site, I’m sure 99% would be fluid width.

Then, not five minutes later, I was reading through the transcript of the newest episode of Andy Rutledge’s Design View Show. After an amusingly OTT description of meeting Andy and Derek, he drops this ecclesiastical bombshell:

I suggest that if you cannot recognize and acknowledge that purpose in life can only be derived from God, by whatever name you call him, then I’m afraid you do not grasp what “purpose” is. And to you I’d offer my deepest sympathies.

Now my head was shaking as emphatically as it had been nodding earlier. That surely ranks as one of the more condescending passages yet to be published on a web design site.

I suggest that if you recognize and acknowledge that purpose in life can only be derived from an imaginary friend, by whatever name you call him, then I’m afraid you do not grasp what “reality” is. And to you I’d offer my deepest sympathies… but that would be quite patronising of me.

I sometimes wonder if it would be worth forming a humanist webring as a healthy counterbalance to all the god botherers*. But then I usually dismiss the idea because personal belief strikes me as being very shaky ground on which to form any professional organisation.

Instead, I’ll just continue to find purpose in making usable websites for my fellow human beings.

* Just to clarify: I’m using the term god botherer in its generally accepted sense here in the UK as a mild, almost affectionate term. Why, some of my best friends are god botherers.

Sleevage » Album Cover Blog. Music, Art, Design.

I could spend ages browsing through the archives of this site dedicated to analysing album sleeve artwork. In fact, I just did.

MD005 - Spotlight on Dopplr

Brilliant infomercial for everyone's favourite social serendipitous coincidental networking site.

Pac-Txt: Pac-Man meets Zork

Pacman as adventure game. Brilliant.

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Design doing

One of the standout presentations at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin was Mark’s excellent talk on typography. The last portion was particularly useful especially for the hybrid designer who might be coming from more of a developer background.

During his talk, Mark admonished the audience members who don’t allocate a writing budget to projects. Riffing on his thoughts on art direction he pointed to sites like A Brief Message where the design is driven by the content rather than the content simply filling up a pre-designed template. He makes a good point but, as I said to him later, he’s talking about a certain type of website.

There are some kick-ass designers, such as Mark, Jason and Khoi, who are fortunate to work on editorial sites. There are other equally kick-ass designers, such as Hannah and George, who work on social media sites where the content is written by the audience. In many ways, that second category is more challenging. The designer must somehow create a design that communicates without ever knowing the details of the message. That lack of control might seem like a hindrance but in many ways it simply reflects the inherent lack of control in this medium.

Of course writing is still very important, even on social media sites. Perhaps especially on social media sites. Writing—and by extension, typography—is part of the user interface. One of the reasons why Moo’s design works so well is because Denise writes kick-ass copy as well as crafting great visual designs. Design is about communication and creating the right tone of voice (through words and type) is critical to successful communication—just ask 37 Signals.

Going back to Mark’s example of content-driven design, A Brief Message has published a rather wonderful piece by Dan Saffer called Making Stuff vs. Making Stuff Up in which he argues that design needs to be a craft, not a cerebral exercise:

It’s not that I don’t appreciate being appreciated for our brains (which is a little like being told you have a great personality). But divorcing “thinking” from “making” reduces design to “concepting.” And while concepting is valuable, concepts are much easier to have than finished products. Almost anyone can have a concept.

The evidence seems to back this up. Speaking personally, all of my favourite web designers have one thing in common: they know how to write HTML and CSS. Dan Cederholm, Doug Bowman and Jon Hicks aren’t just markup-literate; they are markup craftsmen. It’s this ability to work hands-on with the raw materials of the Web that allows them to put all the theory of typography, colour and layout into practice.

In the provocatively-titled Something’s Missing in Web Design, Khoi juxtaposes Dan’s thesis against an article on Under Consideration’s Speak Up called Landmark Web Sites, Where Art Thou? There, Armit Vit writes:

Myself, I could list projects in every category from logos, to annual reports, to magazine covers, to packaging, to typefaces, to opening titles that could be considered landmark projects… But when it comes to web sites, I can’t think of a single www that could be comparable — in gravitas, praise, or memorability — as any of the few projects I just mentioned. Could this be?

As many of the comments on both the original article and Khoi’s post show, there’s a lot of disagreement about whether the Web, as a medium, can be compared to what has come before. Joe weighs in:

When you say landmark, clearly you mean “able to be photographed and reproduced in some canonical textbook,” presumably (co)authored by Steven Heller. You can take a screenshot if you want, but Web sites are experiences, not artifacts.

Still, I think Armin is asking a fair question. I’d like to humbly submit my answer. I think there is a website which can be accurately described as an iconic landmark project. That website is the CSS Zen Garden. Dave’s creation is a virus; a device capable of rewiring minds. Now, you might argue that this landmark is really only of interest to designers. But guess what? The same is true of ’s IBM logo and Massimo Vignelli’s New York subway map. Heck, it even lends itself well to being printed out in a coffee-table book.

The Zen Garden also stands as a counter-argument to Khoi’s feeling that…

the majority of the Web design field, by and large, is too easily motivated by technique.

Perhaps it’s the computer-based nature of what we do, but it’s true enough that most of the tutorials out there concentrate on the technicalities of CSS hacks and workarounds rather than fundamental design theory. This is something that Jeff Croft has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about and he adds his own take on Khoi’s post:

The obsession with technique amongst web designers is something that really, really gets to me. I find it incredibly irritating that some of the world’s most influential “web designers” aren’t really designers at all, but rather CSS gurus or semantic markup studs.

I don’t know whether or not to agree with Jeff as he doesn’t actually say who he’s talking about—criticism works best when it’s aimed at real people rather than the shadowy cabal that Jeff so often rails against. Fundamentally though, I think we’re all in agreement that it would be nice to see more emphasis on universal design principles applied to the Web. Khoi writes:

What that leaves is an enormous and unfulfilled gap in the middle which, while it’s not entirely unoccupied, is sparsely populated.

I would count these resources as denizens of that sparsely populated area:

But these fundamental principles need to be allied with the domain-specific skills required for Web design. In order of importance, that would be HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It’s the lack of such marriages of skills and knowledge that upsets Khoi:

We don’t have enough designers who do both; we have a polarized industry right now, and the result, as Armin tactfully alludes to in his article, is that Web design is really boring. Sorry, but it’s true.

That’s quite a sweeping statement to make about something as big as the Web. My initial temptation is to give the same response I give to people who complain about the accuracy of Wikipedia: So fix it! but I can relate to Khoi’s frustration. I ended up writing two books because I felt that important subjects weren’t being addressed. I’m not sure how much difference my efforts made and looking at the mess that is 90% of the Web, it’s easy to get discouraged. But in that respect, the Web isn’t really that special at all; it’s just another examplar of . I’d bet good money that similar frustrations are voiced in the worlds of product design and advertising. Designers in those fields are probably lamenting their worlds as being boring too.

With a bit of perspective, I think it becomes clearer that Web design isn’t in a better or worse state than other fields: it’s just different. It’s that difference that makes it so appealing; the possibilities for interaction, the flexible nature of the delivery mechanism, the ability to view source and learn from others… these are all the things that make Web design anything but boring.

Brand Autopsy: Buckley’s: The Good Taste of Bad Taste

Here's one for Matt and Cindy: Buckley's truth in advertising.

Spam One-liners - a photoset on Flickr

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you spam, make pretty pictures.

repl1ka watches spam


Long day’s journey into Brighton

I spent what I thought would be my last few hours in Berlin wandering around with Jessica, walking in the footsteps of Leibniz. There was scant of evidence of the master’s presence in the house of his student, , but the setting still lent itself to imagining him trying to build his , all the while hampered by the ongoing task of researching the family tree of the blue-blooded nitwits whose pictures still fill the walls of the palace.

After that we made our way to Schönefeld airport, accompanied by Stephanie. It was only once we got there that she realised she was at the wrong airport. Nothing a quick taxi ride couldn’t fix.

Jessica and myself were at the right airport but we clearly chose the wrong airline. Our EasyJet flight was delayed by five hours. But eventually we made it back to England and, after an expensive but comfortable taxi ride (because the train situation was hopeless) we arrived back in Brighton.

I enjoyed my time in Berlin although the Web 2.0 Expo was very much the mixed bag I thought it would be: some excellent presentations coupled with some dull keynotes. Still, it was a good opportunity to catch up with some good friends. I was keeping tracking of other good friends on Twitter: some of them were in Boston for the W3C Tech Plenary; more were in New York for the Future Of Web Design. It was a busy week for conferences. Even if I could master the art of , I’d still have a tough time deciding whether I’d want to be a fly on the wall at the CSS working group, listening to Malarkey interview Zeldman or reading a story about Roy Orbison in clingfilm to thousand puzzled Europeans.

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Tantek's Thoughts — 2007 April: Vlogging lesson 1 - from Canon SD400 AVI to vlogpost

I keep meaning to post more videos to my blog and seeing as Tantek has the camera as I do, I'm making a note of what he does.

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Why a Tittle?

A blog dedicated entirely to documenting inappropriate dotting of "I"s in otherwise capitalised words.


Here's Dan's latest project (and of course it looks gorgeous). I've been testing it for a while before the official launch and it's really sweet. Best of all, there is no sign up. All the interaction happens through Twitter. Clever.

Berlin, day 4

After a late night of German beer, I had my first non-early start since getting to Berlin. By the time I roused myself and made my way to the conference, I had missed most of the morning’s talks. I managed to catch Matt’s talk about the Olinda device. His presentation was excellent, as always.

I spent a little time in the corridors metaphorically picking fleas with my fellow geeks before they wandered off to hear the keynotes. Because I am neither a masochist or lobotomised, I passed on the opportunity to hear the latest and greatest corporate product pitches.

Instead, I regrouped with Jessica and we headed to Potsdamer Platz for a spot of wursty lunch at the Christmas market there. We spent most of the subsequent afternoon exploring the film museum. Much as I enjoyed the paraphernalia from Metropolis and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, I was somewhat disappointed that the exhibits from the ’40s had nary a mention of my heroine, Hedy Lamarr (okay, technically she was Austrian so it’s understandable). Still, the opportunity to ogle large-sized projections of Louise Brooks compensated.

After a game of SMS tag with Stephanie, an evening of more metaphorical mutual grooming followed, culminating with cocktails in one of the few tiki bars in Berlin. They had sand on the floor and everything. Not exactly typisch Deutsch but a fun way to wrap up a conference.

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Boxing clever in Germany

I wonder if I can find a game of Chess Boxing before I leave Berlin.

Berlin, day 3

For the second morning in a row, I rose at an ungodly hour to make my way to the Web 2.0 Expo and clamber on stage. There wasn’t a huge crowd of people in the room but I was glad that anyone had made the effort to come along so early.

I greeted the attendees, “Guten Morgen, meine Dame und Herren.” That’s not a typo; I know that the plural is “Damen” but this isn’t a very diverse conference.

I proceeded to blather on about microformats and nanotechnology. People seemed to like it. Afterwards Matt told me that the whole buckyball building block analogy I was using reminded him of phenotropics, a subject he’s spoken on before. I need to investigate further… if nothing else so that I can remedy the fact that the concept currently has no page on Wikipedia.

After my talk, I hung around just long enough to catch some of Steve Coast’s talk on OpenStreetMap and Mark’s talk on typography, both of which were excellent. I gave the keynotes a wide berth. Instead I hung out in the splendid food hall of the KaDeWe with Jessica and Natalie.

The evening was spent excercising my l33t dinner-organising skillz when, for the second night in a row, I was able to seat a gathering of geeks in the two digit figures. Berlin is a very accommodating city.

Running from Camera

"The rules are simple: I put the self-timer on 2 seconds, push the button and try to get as far from the camera as I can." The cumulative effect is mesmerising.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Coverflow for People | FactoryCity

Chris mocks up an interface idea for Apple.

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Berlin, day 2

Today the Web 2.0 Expo kicked off for real and I spent the day hanging out in the cavernous isolated venue. It’s a cold concrete brutalist building that makes me feel small and alienated. Actually, most of the time it feels like hanging out in a university, but that might just be all the bad coffee and cigarette smoke.

I started the day far too early by sitting on a panel. Just as happened at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, I somehow found myself on the opening panel of the design track. The subject matter was pretty similar too. Instead of being called The Hybrid Designer, this one was supposed to be Moving from 1.0 to 2.0 but Leisa and I decided that a better title would be Moving From Islands In The Stream to Super Best Friends’ Web (with the “islands in the stream” portion sung in our best Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton voices). It was a fun panel to participate in; I’m not sure how much fun it was to listen to.

After that I listened in on David Recorden’s talk on Opening The Social Graph. Much as I dislike that term, the subject matter was great and David is an excellent presenter.

I skipped the next set of sessions to hang out with Carole before wandering into the expo hall to peruse the stands. There I found the people from Mister Wong giving away sandwiches. They reassured me that there were no hard feelings about that blog post.

Overall, the expo hall was pretty dull except for the presence of a radio-controlled blimp. Airships are inherently cool.

Then it was time for the keynotes. I had been dreading these. I would have just skipped them except, because I was going to be doing a two minute slot at the end of the keynotes, I had to be in the room sitting in the front row.

It was as arm-gnawingly bad as I expected during the product pitches from Microsoft, Netvibes and Amazon. The only thing that made it bearable was buzzword bingo. Quite a few people played along (it really does make the time pass faster) although nobody had the balls to stand up and shout “Bingo!”

The keynote segment was redeemed by the presence of Kathy Sierra. She gave a talk on Creating Passionate Users that was, as always, wonderful. She was a breath of fresh air in amongst all the self-congratulatory guff.

Then it was time for Ten Great Ideas In Twenty Minutes. Apparently the plan was for speakers to explain in two minutes why attendees should go to their talks. But I asked Brady beforehand if the idea could be a different one from my talk and he said Sure.

So I read a short story about a great idea: wrapping Roy Orbison in clingfilm. Despite my microphone cutting out halfway through (which was a technical hitch rather than censorship, I am assured), I managed to do it just about in time. I had been timing it the night before in my hotel room and a lot of the chapters from the Roy Orbison in Clingfilm novel can be read in under two minutes if you’re fast enough.

Perhaps I should explain myself…

I figured that everyone in the audience had a brochure that listed descriptions of each talk so I didn’t see the point in repeating easily-discoverable information. Given that people already knew the subject matter of the talks, the only reason for having the two minute blurbs must be to assess the speakers themselves; whether they will be entertaining and/or articulate. It’s the singer, not the song. So I figured that anybody who enjoyed hearing me read a story about Roy Orbison wrapped in clingfilm would probably get a kick out of my talk on The Beauty in Standards.

Anyway, isn’t Web 2.0 supposed to be all about social media and disruption? Frankly, I can’t think of a better definition of Web 2.0 than Roy Orbison in clingfilm.

After the two minute synopses, I went downstairs to deliver my talk. Not many people attended. Funny that.

Stephanie was there and, as usual, she did an excellent job of liveblogging the talk.

I heard later that none of the talks in that slot were very full except for the session on OpenSocial, which was rammed. I also heard it was quite lame—a repeat of the video that’s already online combined with plodding walkthroughs of demo apps.

I was planning to head straight back to my hotel after my talk but I got sucked in by Matt’s excellent talk on Coding on the Shoulders of Giants. Then I went back to my hotel before gathering together fifteen geeks and seeking out a good restaurant where we could fill our bellies with bodenständig German dishes. There was an official conference party happening as well but seeing as they couldn’t stretch to allowing non-attendees like Jessica in, I figured it probably wasn’t worth going to. Instead I argued with Tom and Cal about semantic markup and microformats over dinner.

Speaking of which, I’m talking first thing tomorrow on Microformats: the Nanotechnology of the Semantic Web so I’d better get my beauty sleep.

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Berlin, day 1

Since arriving in Berlin this morning I have…

  1. eaten at a cute little imbiss,
  2. eaten a slice of with a cup of good coffee and
  3. eaten ludicrous amounts of stick-to-your-ribs gut bürgerliche Küche at a restaurant with some friends while sucking down .

I have yet to…

  1. figure out why I’ve agreed at the last minute to be on a panel at 9am tomorrow morning,
  2. go over my slides for my presentation tomorrow afternoon and
  3. figure out how I’m going to fill my two minutes in the “ten great ideas in twenty minutes” slot.

I’m thinking I could either…

  1. rant about portable social networks, the password anti-pattern and how Web standards and microformats can save us all or
  2. read out a short story from Roy Orbison in Clingfilm.

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Berlin schedule

I’m off to Berlin tomorrow where I’ll spend the week immersed in the first European Web 2.0 Expo. I’m hoping that it won’t be the same mixed bag as the US counterpart: despite some good stuff, the lows were very low indeed.

I’ve been nominally serving on the board of advisors, helping to put together the design track. If nothing else, I passed along the names of Brian Suda, Mark Boulton and Jan Eric Hellbusch so the topics of microformats, typography and accessibility should be well covered. I’ll also be giving a couple of talks that I’ve already road-tested; Microformats: the Nanotechnology of the Semantic Web and The Beauty in Standards.

A full schedule is listed on the conference website but it’s marked up as a dead end. It always strikes me as a shame when someone goes to the bother of publishing event information without sprinkling the few extra class names needed to create an hCalender. Here’s a hint to any conference organisers out there: Dmitry Baranovskiy’s conference schedule creator is rather excellent. Brian and myself used it to output a nice hCalendar version of the expo schedule.

I’ve added some CSS and put the markup online. If you’re in Berlin and you want a quick glance at what’s on, here’s a suitably short URL:

From there you can download the schedule or better yet, subscribe to the schedule. That way, if there are any changes to the line-up, I’ll edit the HTML and you’ll get those changes reflected in your calendar.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Eye-Fi Wireless Camera SD Memory at The Photojojo Store

At lunch the other day, Josh was telling me about this magic new WiFi-enabled SD memory card that allows you to upload pictures to Flickr straight from your camera.

The Global Sympathetic Audience - New York Times

An article about Twitter focusing on one threatened suicide and one averted break-up. Leisa and her excellent phrase "ambient intimacy" are quoted.


The nerdier nether-regions of blogland have been burning through the night with the news of the OpenSocial initiative spearheaded by Google and supported by what Chris so aptly calls the coalition of the willing.

Like Simon, I’ve been trying to get my head around exactly what OpenSocial is all about ever since reading Brady Forrest’s announcement. Here’s what I think is going on:

Facebook has an API that allows third parties to put applications on Facebook profile pages (substitute the word “widget” for “application” for a more accurate picture). Developers have embraced Facebook applications because, well, Facebook is so damn big. But developing an app/widget for Facebook is time-consuming enough that the prospect of rewriting the same app for a dozen other social networking sites is an unappealing prospect. That’s where OpenSocial comes in. It’s a set of conventions. If you develop to these conventions, your app can live on any of the social networking sites that support OpenSocial: LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo and many more.

Some of the best explanations of OpenSocial are somewhat biased, coming as they do from the people who are supporting this initiative, but they are still well worth reading:

There’s no doubt that this set of conventions built upon open standards—HTML and JavaScript—is very good for developers. They no longer have to choose what “platforms” they want to support when they’re building widgets.

That’s all well and good but frankly, I’m not very interested in making widgets, apps or whatever you want to call them. I’m interested in portable social networks.

At first glance, it looks like OpenSocial might provide a way of exporting social network relationships. From the documentation:

The People and Friends data API allows client applications to view and update People Profiles and Friend relationships using AtomPub GData APIs with a Google data schema. Your client application can request a list of a user’s Friends and query the content in an existing Profile.

But it looks like these API calls are intended for applications sitting on the host platform rather than separate sites hoping to extract contact information. As David Emery points out, this is a missed opportunity:

The problem is, however, that OpenSocial is coming at completely the wrong end of the closed-social-network problem. By far and away the biggest problem in social networking is fatigue, that to join yet another site you have to sign-up again, fill in all your likes and dislikes again and—most importantly—find all your friends again. OpenSocial doesn’t solve this, but if it had it could be truly revolutionary; if Google had gone after opening up the social graph (a term I’m not a fan of, but it seems to have stuck) then Facebook would have become much more of an irrelevance—people could go to whatever site they wanted to use, and still preserve all the interactions with their friends (the bit that really matters).

While OpenSocial is, like OAuth, a technology for developers rather than end users, it does foster a healthy atmosphere of openness that encourages social network portability. Tantek has put together a handy little table to explain how all these technologies fit together:

portabilitytechnologyprimary beneficiary
social applicationOAuth, OpenSocialdevelopers
social profilehCard users
friends listXFN users
loginOpenID users

I was initially excited that OpenSocial might be a magic bullet for portable social networks but after some research, it doesn’t look like that’s the case—it’s all about portable social widgets.

But like I said, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve really got a handle on OpenSocial so I’ll be digging deeper. I was hoping to see Patrick Chanezon talk about it at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin next week but, wouldn’t you know it, I’m scheduled to give a talk at exactly the same time. I hope there’ll be plenty of livebloggers taking copious notes.

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Episode 21 - .net magazine

I had a chat with Paul Boag this morning and now the podcast episode is online. Me, Paul Hammond, Drew McLellan and Christian Heilmann discuss APIs.

Third time’s a charm « Davidville

Tumblr has just added a shedload of new features.

Silent witness

Re-watching some movies on DVD recently, I noticed a recurring motif: pivotal death scenes featuring a passive, non-human observer:

  • : Jones the cat looks on as the xenomorph claims its first post-natal victim in Harry Dean Stanton.
  • : A genetically engineered owl—of course it’s not real—pays scant attention to the brutal killing of Dr. Eldon Tyrell at the hands of another of his creations, Roy Batty.
  • : During the combined patricide and regicide of Marcus Aurelius by his son Commodus, the camera comes to rest on a bust of the emperor within sight of the murder.

…or it could just be a series of coincidences.

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Sign up, get your free BragBucks and start betting in less than a minute on

Another sign up form that features hCard input (like Satisfaction). Choose a service (e.g. Flickr,, Twitter) or enter your own URL.

ATypI Brighton 2007

Audio and video from the typography conference held in Brighton earlier this year, including Joe's presentation about the signage in the Toronto subway. Download the files or subscribe to the podcasts.

The crawling dead

The day I was leaving San Francisco was also the day that thousands of people across the world were attempting to break the record for simultaneously dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Forget that prison in The Philippines—this was an attempt to thrill the world. The San Franciscan portion was unfortunately scheduled to clash with my departure so I couldn’t make it along to Delores Park to watch the Trammell and the zombies shake their funky decomposing stuff. I wish I could have made it, not because I’m any great fan of Michael Jackson, but because I do enjoy a good zombie gathering (and yes, I know the zombie backlash has already begun but call me old-fashioned).

I was excited to hear that there was going to be a zombie pub crawl in Brighton on Halloween. Sophie said she was going so I figured I’d know at least one person (Jessica was going to be busy attending Relly’s night of scrapbooking). But on Halloween evening, Sophie was struck down with a virus.

So faced with the prospect of meeting a bunch of complete strangers in a cemetery and shuffling from pub to pub, I figured what the hell?

Dressed up I’ve got a stack of clothes that I’ve been meaning to bring to a charity shop but never got ‘round to. With some judicious ripping, tearing and splattering, they were soon turned into typical zombie apparel.

In the graveyard As it turns out, zombies are a friendly bunch. I was welcomed in the Churchyard and we began the evening’s shuffle. I’ve plotted a map of the route from the graveyard to The Earth And Stars to The Eagle to The Freebutt, taking every opportunity to press our decaying flesh against the windows of every dining establishment along the way.

Shuffling The effectiveness of zombie scariness appears to be directly proportional to the numbers in the horde. When I was walking to the graveyard, nobody on the street batted an eyelid (this is Brighton, after all). But once I was in a mob of shuffling, shambling zombies chanting “Braaaiiinnnssss…” then the effect was quite different.

Bar zombies There’s also something quite calming, almost soporific, about being a mindless zombie in a group of fellow mindless zombies. I found myself staying in character even during pub invasions, ordering beer with grunts and gestures. I thought everyone else was going to stay in character too so I felt a bit foolish when I noticed that my fellow undead were politely ordering their drinks in the Queen’s English.

All in all, it was an excellent night of fun. I plan to do it again next year but I need to come up with better makeup if I hope to match the high standards of my fellow crawlers.

You can peruse my photos on Flickr taken throughout the evening.

Ouch! Recordbreaking Fear