Archive: January, 2008

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Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Waxy.org: Daily Log: The Times (UK) Spamming Social Media Sites

Andy Baio does a nice bit of investigative journalism in exposing the social network spammer hired by The Times. The internet treats crass marketing as damage and routes around it.

A reasoned response to X-UA-Compatible • Gated Logic • nevali.net

A nice analysis and skewering of Microsoft's proposed default behaviour for version targeting.

Dopplr Blog » Dopplr Raumzeitgeist 2007: Where we went last year

Gorgeous visualisation from Dopplr of all the places visited in 2007.

TSA Now Requiring All Electronic Items Placed In Bins at SFO | Laughing Squid

I must remember to allow plenty of time at the airport when I'm leaving San Francisco.

Instapaper

A nice simple little app for saving URLs to read later. This kind of simplicity is remarkably hard to achieve.

Vitamin Features » Stay on :target

Brian shows some clever uses of the little-known :target pseudo-class.

The B-List: X-No-Thanks

A superbly clear analysis of the proposed default version targeting behaviour in IE8+.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The FAIL Blog

Chronicling moments of FAIL and sometimes EPIC FAIL.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Outbound

It’s time for my next Stateside trip. Tomorrow I’ll be making the long haul from Heathrow to San Francisco.

But this time, I won’t be staying in town. On Friday, I’ll be heading upcountry to join a gathering of ridiculously smart people for the Social Graph Foo Camp. I’m already feeling intimidated—I hope I’ll be able to bring something useful to the table even though my area of expertise feels woefully inadequate: hCard, XFN, and that’s pretty much it.

I’ll be spending ten hours on an airplane and then three days sleeping on O’Reilly’s floor. Between the flight and the camping, I’ll get a day or two in San Francisco, which I’ll probably spend running around like crazy trying to see my friends.

Mind you, most of my web design friends won’t be there. They’ll all be up in Canada living the designer cliché, snowboarding on the slopes of Whistler. Ah, how I wish I could be in both places at once! I’m sure Web Directions North will be amazing. I had a great time there last year. I still get a kick out of watching this little bit of mischief in the snow.

Regional

The time: Christmas morning. The place: Arizona. Gathered ‘round the richly festooned Christmas tree, we exchange gifts.

Jessica’s brother, Jeb, hands her a wrapped and ribboned package. Unwrapping it, she finds a box exactly the size and shape of a briefcase. This limited edition packaging of Bladerunner contains five DVDs, a metal miniature of an origami unicorn, and a toy .

All five discs are encoded for . Jessica lives in region 2. Jeb sends the briefcase back to Amazon.

We spend most of the holidays playing games on the Wii. When we make a foray to the local shopping mall, we stock up on some more games: , and .

We bring these games back with us to Brighton. There we discover that Wii games, like DVDs, are locked to specific regions. We also discover that the briefcase edition of Bladerunner is not available in the UK. Jessica settles for a tinned version lacking unicorns and spinners.

In future, we must remember not to buy any DVDs or games when visiting the United States of America.

Meanwhile, the US economy continues its downward spiral. I would have thought that any influx of foreign income would be welcomed.


Update: Yes, I know that most DVD players can be unlocked to play all regions but that wasn’t really my point. In fact, it just proves what a stupid idea region encoding is. What’s the point of adding in an extra layer of complexity to the medium if the device has a corresponding layer of complexity that can be stripped away? But thanks to everyone who wrote to tell me about region unlocking.

Monday, January 28th, 2008

» Blog Archive » Big Apple, Big Excitement

Tiki Bar TV's Johnny Johnny saves a woman from being killed on the New York subway. This is incontrovertible proof that outlandish cocktails can make you superhuman. Seriously though... bravo, Johnny Johnny, bravo!

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Still broken

It’s been a few days now since the announcement on A List Apart. Since then there has been some good debate but a lot of noise and fury signifying nothing. Eric put it best when he said:

If you feel the need to impugn the integrity or intelligence of another person to oppose an idea, you’re undercutting yourself, not your target nor the thing you oppose.

I think that Jeffrey is right when he observes that there might have been less vitriol expended had this proposal come from anyone other than Microsoft. Still, it’s hardly surprising that the initial reaction to Microsoft’s version targeting is one of shock and rejection. After all, that was also the initial reaction of both Eric and Jeffrey.

Let me clarify what I think of the proposed meta element for version targeting, just in case it wasn’t clear from my previous post:

This proposal is fine. I don’t think it’s great but I think it’s a pretty good solution to a very real problem that Microsoft are facing. As Jeffrey said:

I don’t love version targeting but I see that it serves a need.

That need is ensuring that Microsoft’s customers won’t have to spend time and money jumping through hoops every time that a new version of Internet Explorer is released (as happened with IE7). Yes, I know that if these people—mostly in the Enterprise world of intranets—had just written to standards in the first place then they wouldn’t have had any problems. But that doesn’t change the reality of the situation that those people are in. Any proposed “solutions” that involve abandoning these customers—or, in the more extremist suggestions, abandoning Internet Explorer—simply aren’t facing up to reality.

The http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" instruction is a solution that requires minimum effort from publishers (although it does require a lot of future effort from the browser manufacturer). The switchover from IE6 to IE7 cost a lot of people a lot of time and money as they scrambled to move from CSS hacks to conditional comments. It’s no secret that Microsoft view this as a failure, hence the new proposal which will ensure that sites can be frozen at the level of IE7 even after IE8 is released.

Microsoft can now provide their customers with a ludicrously simple answer to any future problems. All they have to do is add a meta element to their documents (or set up their server to automatically output that header).

But that isn’t what Microsoft is proposing. Instead, IE8 will behave as IE7 by default. The meta element is required if you want IE8 to behave as IE8. Mark Pilgrim encapsulates the madness of this approach:

  • If you give me non-standard markup, I will render it according to standards.
  • If you give me standard markup, I will not render it according to standards.

Let me make it perfectly clear: I understand the need for version targeting. But the onus must be on the publisher to enable it. The effort required is minimal—much less than any pain that was endured in the move from IE6 to IE7.

On the plus side, future versions of Internet Explorer might not cripple themselves on encountering HTML5 documents. That’s good news for the future. Sometime in the ten years, this will be a solved problem. In the meantime, there will be millions of documents written in HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0—both perfectly fine DOCTYPEs. There’s no reason why they should be treated as second-class citizens by default.

Chris Wilson read my misgivings and commented:

However, the problem is that we can’t tell the difference between your content (valid HTML with a correct HTML 4.01 DOCTYPE) and that of someone who hacked up their own content to work with IE6/7 when faced with an IE browser, and whose content will break entirely if we correctly implemented standards as specified.

It’s true that a browser can’t read minds but rather than ship a browser that’s crippled by design, it seems far, far better to me to allow people to tell the browser to regress. I think that asking people to add one meta element isn’t asking too much. As compromises go, it would be a great way for publishers and browsers to meet each other half way.

I believe that Microsoft want to help their customers. I believe they have found a reasonable solution. But in defaulting to crippled functionality in their next browser, they are hurting everybody else.

Jeffrey describes this as an implementation detail but it is far more than that: it is the implementation.

A few years ago, Microsoft introduced some proprietary CSS properties for coloured scrollbars. Fine. Anybody who wanted to make use of this “innovation” was free to do so. The rest of us could just ignore it. Now suppose that instead of making coloured scrollbars an option, they were the default… and if you wanted to revert to the standard way of displaying scrollbars, you had to use the proprietary code. See the problem?

Non-standard browser features are nothing new. Internet Explorer has already given us XMLHttpRequest and innerHTML. We are free to use these or to ignore them. Now, for the first time, a browser feature is mandatory: if you don’t want to use the new feature, you have to disable it… by using the new feature.

Jeffrey is in favour of this proposed default behaviour. He argues very persuasively that it will help the non-professionals who are building websites:

Teachers, pastors, coaches. Managers and owners of very small businesses that can’t afford to hire anyone reading this page to create a snazzy website for them.

I passionately believe that anyone should be able to publish online. That is the vision of Tim Berners-Lee’s beautiful Web. But I don’t think those people will be affected by this decision one way or the other; chances are they are using old-fashioned table-based markup. Besides, they are not the people that Microsoft are trying to help. Microsoft are trying to help the people with money (which is fair enough: Microsoft is, after all, a profit-making business).

I’ve listened to the arguments in favour of IE8 behaving as IE7 as default. I still believe it is the wrong behaviour. Now what can I do about it?

Jeffrey counsels a polite approach:

And, presumably, if enough developers believe the default should be “current version” instead of “IE7” — and if they argue their case coherently and dispassionately — Chris Wilson and his colleagues might come to agree with you, and the version tracking default might end up the way you want it instead of the way it was originally proposed.

If that’s the part that bothers some folks here (like it bothers Jeremy Keith), the thing to do is politely take it up with Microsoft’s Chris Wilson. That’s how stuff changes: by politely talking to the people who make our browsers.

I concur. I hope that the decision regarding default behaviour lies in the hands of people like Chris Wilson and Marcus Mielke. I know that Chris is passionate about standards. I know that if he believes that changing the default behaviour is the right thing to do, he will do it.

Eric agrees with me. Many of the comments on Jeffrey’s blog also agree:

  • I support version targeting but the part that confuses me is that if the tag is excluded, it defaults to IE7.

  • I’m with Jeremy — it SHOULD default to IE8.

  • Many of the comments against the A List Apart articles seem to more or less echo what Jeremy Keith is saying.

  • I think that in IE8 the default should be IE8; but render as IE7 when asked (with version targeting).

  • Make IE8 work like IE8 by default. If your site breaks, then - and only then - add the meta tag to beg for IE7. Adding the meta tag will be easy for the small number of sites that require IE7 (ie. those sites that still ignore the 10-20% of non-IE browsers such as FF, Safari and Opera).

  • After a lot of reading and some hard thinking I think Jeremy is right. The meta could be a useful tool if the default is IElatest, not IE7 8 or any specific version.

  • If you’re going to have a fallback, you may as well use the gold standard in incorrect rendering; the one that the entire web was coded to for 5 years: IE6. If you’re going to implement something as logically backward but seemingly necessary as this version targeting, you may as well do it in the most backward way imaginable.

  • Far better is to force those who made poor choices in the past by working to IE7 implement a simple 1-line fix to get their legacy site to render under the IE7 engine. I’m sure the MS folks can get the message across: “Broken site in IE8? Add XXX to fix it.”

  • I’m also with Jeremy Keith (and others on this).

  • I’m going to go with Jeremy’s request for sites to use the latest rendering mode unless the meta tag say otherwise.

  • The most logical execution for this tag is that when it is not there, it defaults to the latest engine.

  • I really cant agree with the attitude that in order to do things right in a certain browser, you have to go out of your way and add a tag.

  • IE8 rendering *must* be the default in IE8 to further promote standards-based, interoperable websites.

  • IMO, I think they should do it the other way around. Make a flag available to mark ie8 sites into ie7 mode.

  • I am still not clear on why any site I make that conforms to standards has to include a new line of code to make it display according to standards.

  • If you don’t specify this meta tag, you will be served an IE7 rendering engine. Having opt out by default is one of the key arguments for most of the people saying that the suggested implementation of version targeting is wrong.

  • I am in favor of the version targeting, because it seems a very good way to untie the hands of IE’s design team. I am still not convinced by your argument for defaulting to IE7.

  • Making the default version IE7 rather than “edge” seems like a bad idea. If it’s as easy as making a one-line change to your web server configuration (to add the HTTP header rather than the meta tag), then corporations will have plenty of time to future-proof their intranet apps against IE8.

    Adding the versioning capability, but having a default of “edge” gives corporate sites/intranets a way to protect themselves. This allows Microsoft to stop worrying about backwards compatibility and lets them focus solely on implementing the standards correctly.

  • I don’t agree with the direction of the switch; it really should default to IE8 and give people the meta to invoke Trident.

  • The switch is all cool, but it’s opposite of what it should have been. Instead of forcing developers that are following standards to insert this meta element to actually be able to use these standards, Microsoft should reverse the switch so those targeting a rendering engine has to insert it instead.

  • PLEASE, reconsider that default behavior, it is NOT a “detail.”

  • I’m not seeing how the current form of the tag is better for standards over making the tag an opt-in for IE7 rendering.

  • If the default was reversed I think no one would raise so much as an eyebrow for this proposal. In fact most people would positively support it. As it stands this problem is just crazy.

  • Even if IE8 can display everything my style sheet declares, if I omit the META declaration, IE users will get a sub par experience.

  • *”Edge” should be the default, not IE7!* (That’s my new sig ;)

  • If the default behaviour of any future IE version is to render as ITSELF, then surely all lousy developers need to do to fix their sites is put in the required meta tag.

And here’s a cherry-picked sampling from the IE8 blog:

  • I’d prefer having the superstandards mode on by default.

  • SuperStandards should be ON by default. If IE7/quirks mode is needed, the meta tag should be used.

  • Standard should be on by default, or just call your browser ‘IE 7 extended’.

  • I’d prefer having the superstandards mode on by default.

  • I agree, super-standard mode should be the default mode.

  • Let’s have the IE8 Standards mode on by default.

  • Make it an OPTION to work in IE7 or IE6 or whatever mode. But make it DEFAULT to run IE8 “super standards” (this should be called standards mode) mode.

  • Standards mode should be the default.

  • What i think would be a good idea is to turn this exactly around: add a meta tag or http header to sites that need to be rendered by IE8 in ‘crappy-mode’, ‘ie6 mode’ or ‘ie7 mode’ and kick it into standards compliant mode by default.

  • There SHOULD be an option to trigger IE 8 to use old rendering engines but it should be disabled by DEFAULT

  • A site that wants IE8 to behave like IE7 should have to specify the meta tag, not the other way around.

  • Use standards compatibility mode by default.

  • I personally think that you should really consider making the real IE8 engine (“super standards” as some have called it) the default option.

  • So let me get this straight… I have to add an additional meta tag to my page in order for IE8 to support standards?!?!?

  • Standards mode should be the default.

  • Standards mode should be the default if the doctype is declared.

  • Super-standard should be the default, period.

  • I’m coming round to the idea that this is workable *if* the default is changed to IE8 - standards compliance mode - the meta then provides a fix for any site that breaks.

  • As some have previously mentioned, the Standards compliant mode should be the default.

  • All browsers must be in Standards Mode by Default.

  • Please make fully standards compliant mode the default.

  • In case it’s not clear: Make the standards mode default.

  • It’s great that IE 8 will have a much better standards support. It’s bad that it won’t be on by default, requiring a switch.

  • The idea is good. The default is bad.

  • Standards Mode by Default. Standards Mode by Default. Standards Mode by Default. And now repeat!

  • I too think that this is a great idea, but the default behavior is evil.

  • It is fundamentally wrong to stick us with IE7’s broken implementation as a default.

  • Standards should certainly be default, not an opt-in.

  • I’m no web developer, and I never, and I mean never say anything anti MS,but why can’t standards mode be enabled by default?

  • Make IE8 standards compliant by default.

  • Fellas, I really appreciate what you’re trying to do. Improving the renderer was the right thing to do, and you’ve done that. Bravo! The wrong thing to do is to have the correct behaviour require yet another tag.

  • The default when processing a correctly specified doctype should be standards mode.

  • I have to agree that full standards compliant mode should be on by default.

  • I agree that super compliant mode should be enabled by default and the meta tag should be used for Quirks mode.

  • I have no problem with the concept of a meta tag that allows developers to target specific browsers, but the default should ALWAYS be the latest and greatest.

  • After reading the various articles (and comments) on this approach (i.e. the meta tag “switch”) I really think that IE 8 should default to the latest and greatest rendering first - not the IE7 rendering engine.

  • If you do go ahead with this: make super standard mode default please.

I kind of feel like John Turturro to Chris Wilson’s Gabriel Byrne:

I’m praying to you! Look in your heart!

Understanding art for geeks - a photoset on Flickr

Normally LOL is a throwaway little phatic interjection but I really did laugh out loud at some of the pictures in this photoset.

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Microsoft koan [dive into mark]

The madness of the default behaviour in IE8 explained in a beautiful koan.

Empty Links and Screen Readers » Yahoo! User Interface Blog

Excellent research into how screen readers respond to empty links (i.e. A elements with no text between the opening and closing tags).

O'Reilly Maker - Create a funny book cover!

Create your own O'Reilly book cover. Maybe you have to be a geek to find this amusing. I find this amusing.

Katemonkey.co.uk: X-UA-Lemur-Compatible

The timeline behind Microsoft's latest announcement.... as told by stuffed lemurs.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Last.fm – the Blog · Free the Music

"As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the Last.fm website."

The Existential DiSo Interview on Vimeo

Chris interviews himself about portable social networks and distributed identity.

Is the Tipping Point Toast? -- Duncan Watts -- Trendsetting

Duncan Watts works at Yahoo Research? I had no idea! Ironically, it was Gladwell's Tipping Point that first led me to Watts' work.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

this is rachelandrew.co.uk » IE8 and the future of the web

Rachel adds her thoughts on Microsoft's broken implementation of version switching—and very good thoughts they are too.

Broken

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the latest issue of A List Apart. Therein, Aaron outlines Microsoft’s implementation of rendering switching based on a meta element and Eric describes how his initial feelings about the technique changed over time.

I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear. You might infer from A List Apart or from the IEBlog that there was collaboration between the Web Standards Project and Microsoft on this. That is not the case. There was collaboration between some members of the WaSP and the IE team but, as Drew makes very clear, most of us were completely in the dark about this. I knew that something was coming but I didn’t know what because Microsoft will only collaborate under NDA. That is not a good situation. NDAs are poison to free and open discussion.

With that out of the way, let me tell you what I think of the proposed http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" instruction. I think this could have been a great feature—exactly the kind of innovation that Alex was talking about. It could have been a way of solving Microsoft’s fear of “breaking the web” for existing customers who have coded their sites to the current level of browser support—the people who understandably don’t want to have to change their sites when a new browser is released.

Here’s how the X-UA-Compatible works. In a meta element or HTTP header, an instruction such as IE=8 tells future versions of Internet Explorer to render the document as a specific version would (IE8 in this case). In theory, any future versions of Internet Explorer will retain the ability to render documents just as they would have been rendered in previous versions.

This solution was driven by the perceived problems with IE7’s release. Personally, I believe that Microsoft did a great job with IE7 but I know that within the company, it was in some ways seen as a failure. Many customers complained of IE7 “breaking” sites that worked just fine in IE6 (where “break” is usually defined as “not looking the same”). This is a legitimate source of concern for Microsoft. The proposed X-UA-Compatible header will solve this problem. Customers who don’t want their sites to behave any differently in future versions of Internet Explorer can lock down the rendering to the current browser.

So far, so good… great, in fact. But—and this is a huge “but”—if you don’t include a X-UA-Compatible instruction, you are also condemning your site to be locked into the current version: IE7. This is a huge, huge mistake.

Let’s say you’re building a website right now that uses a CSS feature such as generated content. Any browsers that currently support generated content will correctly parse your CSS declarations. Future browsers that will support generated content should also parse those CSS declarations. This expected behaviour will not occur in Internet Explorer. IE8 will include support for generated content. But unless you explicitly declare that you want IE8 to behave as IE8, it will behave as IE7.

I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. This shouldn’t make any sense:

Unless you explicitly declare that you want IE8 to behave as IE8, it will behave as IE7.

That’s madness! If I don’t use the X-UA-Compatible instruction, I won’t get the benefit of any future improvements in Internet Explorer. That sounds like blackmail to me. There is an option to activate whatever is the current browser version—which, of course, should be the default behaviour. This is achieved by using the (strongly discouraged) IE=edge value in… yup, http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible". So even if you want to opt out, you have to opt in. That too is madness.

Just to be absolutely clear on this, I think that the X-UA-Compatible header is a great idea. It’s great for Microsoft. It’s great for Microsoft’s customers. But the default behaviour is wrong, wrong, wrong! This should be an innovative feature, not a mandatory part of the process of creating a document on the World Wide Web. *

IE8 has not yet been released. It’s not too late for this broken default behaviour to be changed. If enough of us make our case clearly, perhaps Microsoft will listen to us… even if we haven’t signed NDAs.

For more on this, please read


*As for all the comparisons to DOCTYPE switching, can I just point out that the reason why I put a DOCTYPE on my documents (and the reason why the WaSP lobbied authoring tool vendors to do the same) is because valid (X)HTML documents require a DOCTYPE; not because it makes Internet Explorer render in a different mode. The tail does not wag this dog. If I write a valid (X)HTML document with a correct DOCTYPE, surely I should expect a browser to render it to the best of its ability rather than crippling itself?

How to create CSS layouts without using FLOAT

An interesting CSS technique that uses table-layout instead of float.

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Easy as Pie Ajax Requests - Create compelling ajax in minutes with simple examples. | Notes from Phazm

This is a good straightforward hands-on explanation of Ajax: succinct and clear.

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Outgoing

As a web developer, I get annoyed by interaction design implementations all the time: Why is that a link instead of a form button?, Why doesn’t that scale when I bump up the font size?, Why am I being asked to enter this unnecessary information?… Usually I can brush off these annoyances and continue my journey along the threads of the World Wide Web but there’s one “feature” that has irked me to point of distraction and it’s all the more irritating for being on a site I use habitually: Upcoming.

As an Upcoming user, I have a default location. In my case it’s Brighton. This location is important. My location determines what content gets served up to me on the front page of the site—a useful way of discovering local events of interest.

The site also has a search feature. The search form has two components: what I’m searching for and where I’m searching for it. The “where” field defaults to my location, which is a handy little touch. If I want to search for something outside my current location—say the Future of Web Design conference in London this April—I can enter “Future of Web Design” in the “what” field and delete “Brighton” from the “where” field, replacing it with “London”. That works: I have now narrowed down my search to the location “London.”

Here’s the problem: if I now return to the front page I will find that my location is London. That’s right: simply by searching in a place, the system assumes that I now want that to be my location. You know what they say about assumptions, right? In this case, not only has it made an ass out of me, it has, over time, instilled a fear of searching.

I’ll be in San Francisco at the end of this month so I’d like to see what’s going on while I’m there. But once I’ve finished my searching I must remember to reset my location back to Brighton. Knowing this makes me hesitant to use the search form. No doubt the justification for this unexpected behaviour in the search is to second-guess what people really want: do as I want, not as I say. But when I search, I really just want to search. I suspect the same is true of most people.

Normally I wouldn’t rant about an obviously-flawed feature but in this case it’s a feature that can be easily fixed by simply being removed. Here is the current flow:

  1. The user enters a search term in the “what” field, a location in the “where” field and submits the search form.
  2. The system returns a list of search results for the specified term in the specified place.
  3. The system changes the user’s location to the specified place.

That third step is completely unnecessary. Its omission would not harm the search functionality one whit and it would make the search interface more truthful and less duplicitous.

I’ve already mentioned this on the Upcoming suggestion board. If you can think of a good reason why the current behaviour should stay, please add your justification there. If, like me, you’d like to see a search feature that actually just searches, please let your voice be heard there too.

Please Leonard, Neil, I kvetch because I care. I use Upcoming all the time. It would be a butt-kicking service if it weren’t for this one glaring flaw… even without a liquid layout.

Update: Fixed!

If all your friends jumped off of a bridge… at Ben Brown, Internet Rockstar

Ben Brown outlines the reasons why he left Facebook: "I think it is important to note that Facebook, though they claim to be a tool for staying connected, is actually a software tool designed *primarily* to deliver marketing messages to its audience."

Alison on the Behance Network

A wonderful series of black and white photographs documenting the growth of photographer Jack Radcliffe's daughter Alison from childhood to adulthood.

The CandyFab Project - The Revolution will be Caramelized.

Make your own 3D printer (you know, like the replicator in Star Trek) using sugar and an air pump. The results are astoundingly cool.

CSS Gradient Text Effect

A neat new CSS effect. You don't see many of those these days.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'Darkest ever' material created

It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Logica Stock Icon Family debuts at Iconfactory's Stockicons.com

Clean, businesslike icons by the icon artists behind Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Common people

George just announced a wonderful new initiative. It’s a collaboration between Flickr and the Library of Congress called simply The Commons.

The library has a lot of wonderful historic images. Flickr has a lot of wonderful people who enjoy tagging pictures. Put the two together and let’s see what happens.

I think this is a great idea. They get access to the collective intelligence of our parallel-processing distributed mechanical Turk. We get access to wonderful collections of old pictures. And when I say access, I don’t just mean that we get to look at them. These pictures have an interesting new license: no known copyright restrictions. This covers the situation for photos that once had copyright that wasn’t renewed.

The naysayers might not approve of putting metadata in the hands of the masses but I think it will work out very well indeed. Sure, there might be some superfluous tags but they will be vastly outweighed by the valuable additions. The proportion will be at least which, let’s face it, is a lot better than 0/0. That’s something I’ve learned personally from opening up my own photos to be tagged by anyone: any inconvenience with deleting “bad” tags is massively outweighed by the benefits of all the valuable tags that my pictures have accrued. If you haven’t yet opened up your photos to tagging by any Flickr user, I strongly suggest you do so.

Now set aside some time to browse the cornucopia of . And if at any stage you feel compelled to annotate a picture with some appropriate tags, go for it.

I really hope that other institutions will see the value in this project. This could be just the start of a whole new chapter in collaborative culture.

Flickr: The Commons

Here's a fantastic collaboration with the Library of Congress. We are being asked to collectively tag historic pictures with no known copyright restrictions. Wonderful idea! Are you watching, British Library?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Ten songs titles that could be Twitter updates

Tweet what you eat!

Another nice barnacle app built on Twitter. Send direct messages to note what you've eaten... or tweeten.

MacHeist » Bundle

The asking price of $49 for all these apps together is a bargain. CSSEdit alone is easily worth that much.

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Nanotech Used 2000 Years Ago to Make History's Sharpest Swords | Wired Science from Wired.com

Could it be that swords made of wootz steel—as described in The Baroque Cycle—were so sharp because their blades contained fullerenes?

Friday, January 11th, 2008

shiyuan.co.uk

The idea I like most from this portfolio is the heat-sensitive wallpaper with blooming flowers.

KnickerPicker - online dressing room

A Flash interface that allows you to interact with lingerie models when shopping for knickers. I point this out purely for reasons of interaction research, of course.

Creating Proprietary Content is Like 'Writing in Sand' | Compiler from Wired.com

Tantek talks about the importance of open media for the longevity of data.

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

SemanticCamp London

You can sign up to February's SemanticCamp by pointing it to a URL with an hCard (or FOAF). Nice.

Blame

If I’m on the tube listening to my iPod—because, y’know, that’s exactly the kind of situation for which the iPod was invented—and somebody steals said iPod, which is illegal, is that my fault?

If I publish my email address online—because, y’know, I actually want people to be able to get in touch with me quickly and conveniently—and it gets harvested by scum-sucking spammers who send unsolicted commercial email, which is illegal, is that my fault?

If I utter my date of birth or my mother’s maiden name—because, y’know, I don’t believe that information should be a state secret—and somebody uses that information to “steal my identity”, which is illegal, is that my fault?

If you answered yes to any of the above, I would like to remind you of something said at last year’s South by Southwest:

If I’ve learned anything from hanging out with the Eastern European dissident crowd, it’s make no decision out of fear.

John Resig - Secrets: Table of Contents

It looks like John's next book will be superb.

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Yahoo!, Flickr, OpenID and Identity Projection

Looks like Flickr has some interesting plans around OpenID. Our reporter Simon Willison is on the scene.

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Dean Edwards: IE7.js version 2.0 (beta)

A new version of Dean's IE7 script is available. Given my daily frustrations with IE6, I hope its marketshare declines enough that I can use this as a magic bullet in front-end development.

Flight thru Instruments - a photoset on Flickr

A collection of beautiful illustrations scanned from a flight-training manual.

Visualize Performance

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Secret Websites, Coded Messages: The New World of Immersive Games

Reznor had stepped into a new kind of interactive fiction, one where players don't just passively consume the story.

Friday, January 4th, 2008

It’s high time we moved to URL-based identifiers | FactoryCity

Chris says that URLs are people too: "You’ve got my URL, now, tell me, what else do you really need?"

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Rolling

Happy New Year!

At the beginning of 2007 I listed some resolutions:

  • to get back to some “real” work,
  • to keep travelling and speaking (I do love it so!),
  • to not write a book,
  • to play more bouzouki.

Three out of four ain’t bad. While I didn’t play nearly enough bouzouki, I enjoyed rolling up my sleeves and diving back into HTML/CSS/JavaScript, I really enjoyed not writing a book and yes, I certainly did plenty of public speaking:

  • Web Directions North Web Directions North in February
  • BarCamp London 2 BarCamp London 2 in February
  • South by Southwest South by Southwest in March
  • Highland Fling The Highland Fling in April
  • Web 2.0 Expo Web 2.0 Expo in April
  • XTech XTech in May
  • @media America @media America in May
  • Reboot 9.0 Reboot 9.0 in May
  • @media Europe @media Europe in June
  • Hackday Hackday in June
  • An Event Apart An Event Apart in August
  • dConstruct dConstruct in September
  • BarCamp Brighton BarCamp Brighton in September
  • Fundamentos Web Fundamentos Web in October
  • Voices That Matter Voices That Matter in October
  • Web 2.0 Expo Berlin Web 2.0 Expo Berlin in November
  • @media Ajax @media Ajax in November
  • BarCamp London 3 BarCamp London 3 in November

As a result, I did plenty of travelling. I paid inaugural visits to some wonderful destinations:

  • Whistler Whistler
  • San Francisco San Francisco
  • New York New York
  • Chicago Chicago
  • Asturias Asturias

I’ve already got some more travelling lined up for 2008. I’ll be making at least one return trip to San Francisco and needless to say, I’ll be in Austin again for South by Southwest. But not all of my sojourns will be web-related—Jessica and I will be making a trip to Thailand in February that I’m very excited about.

I’m going to start cranking up this year’s odometer in a few hours when I make my return trip across the Atlantic from Arizona back to Brighton. I think one of my new year’s resolutions should be to plant a forest in an attempt to assuage the guilt I’m feeling about my carbon footprint.

For my future self throughout this coming year, here are those resolutions you were looking for: