Archive: February, 2008


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Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Thai-ing the knot

I’m about to head off to Gatwick yet again for another overseas trip. For once I’m not going to a conference or other geeky gathering. This is a trip I’ve been I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while: I’m going to with Jessica for an honest-to-goodness holiday.

I aim to do two things:

  1. Experiment with the permutations of combining the following activities:
    1. Relaxing.
    2. Doing nothing.
    3. Lounging around.
    4. Eating.
    5. Drinking.
  2. Celebrate Scott and Cheryl’s wedding on Koh Tao next week.

In what promises to be the gathering in the Orient this season, Scott and Cheryl will be getting married on a beach… on an island… in Thailand. I’m honoured that they’ve invited me along. The added presence of my antipodean brothers in arms like Cam, Dan, Lachlan and Tim means that a good time is guaranteed.

I do plan on taking lots of pictures. I don’t plan on checking email at any stage. I believe I have discharged any duties that were incumbent upon me so if you still want to get hold of me, sorry; you’ll just have to wait ‘till I get back.

Now I just need to run through any last-minute checks in preparation for the culture shock that awaits me at the other end of this flight to .


Remember when I was bitching and moaning about the way that search works on Upcoming? Well, it looks like my whining has paid off. As of today, search is fixed.

Thank you, relevant Yahoo employees.

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

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I'm loving the typography on this blog.

SXSW Videos

The guys from Viddler have put together a little site dedicated to video coverage from South by Southwest.


The newest book from Iain M Banks is called Matter. The middle M in the author’s name is a dead giveaway that this is a science-fiction novel and, as with most of Banks’ sci-fi material, Matter is set in the milieu of the Culture.

The Culture novels aren’t great books. The writing isn’t noteworthy. The plots and subplots tend to be rambling disconnected affairs. But despite all that, I enjoy reading them immensely. That’s because the Culture is such a fascinating place to visit. Life in the Culture is the kind of post-singularity world that Bruce Sterling claims is impossible to write about because no information can be retrieved from beyond the event horizon of a (‘though Cory did a pretty great job of it in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom).

The enjoyment of the Culture comes from being immersed in this (literally) alien society, catching glimpses of its inner workings. If glimpses aren’t enough, then I highly recommend reading this newsgroup posting from 1994 which reads like a digital for Banks’ imagined world:

The Culture, in its history and its on-going form, is an expression of the idea that the nature of space itself determines the type of civilisations which will thrive there.

The thought processes of a tribe, a clan, a country or a nation-state are essentially two-dimensional, and the nature of their power depends on the same flatness. Territory is all-important; resources, living-space, lines of communication; all are determined by the nature of the plane (that the plane is in fact a sphere is irrelevant here); that surface, and the fact the species concerned are bound to it during their evolution, determines the mind-set of a ground-living species. The mind-set of an aquatic or avian species is, of course, rather different.

Essentially, the contention is that our currently dominant power systems cannot long survive in space; beyond a certain technological level a degree of anarchy is arguably inevitable and anyway preferable.

There’s more of this kind of stuff and it’s all pretty fascinating: sex, law and politics all get covered. But it’s the socioeconomic situation that I find most interesting, rooted as it is in a belief of Banks’ that coincides with my own. Stick this in your Libertarian pipe and smoke it:

Let me state here a personal conviction that appears, right now, to be profoundly unfashionable; which is that a planned economy can be more productive — and more morally desirable — than one left to market forces.

The market is a good example of evolution in action; the try-everything-and-see-what- -works approach. This might provide a perfectly morally satisfactory resource-management system so long as there was absolutely no question of any sentient creature ever being treated purely as one of those resources. The market, for all its (profoundly inelegant) complexities, remains a crude and essentially blind system, and is - without the sort of drastic amendments liable to cripple the economic efficacy which is its greatest claimed asset - intrinsically incapable of distinguishing between simple non-use of matter resulting from processal superfluity and the acute, prolonged and wide-spread suffering of conscious beings.

It is, arguably, in the elevation of this profoundly mechanistic (and in that sense perversely innocent) system to a position above all other moral, philosophical and political values and considerations that humankind displays most convincingly both its present intellectual immaturity and — through grossly pursued selfishness rather than the applied hatred of others — a kind of synthetic evil.

That probably makes both myself and Banks pinko commies but I’d rather see a future society like the Culture than one based on aggressive .

My fellow Brightonians can see Iain M Banks reading at The Old Market on February 25th. I won’t be able to make it but it promises to be an entertaining discussion of an anarcho-utopian science-fiction society.

Open Tech 2008 - 5th July in London.

I missed this last year but it looks like a good event. I must remember to leave some room in my calendar for this "informal, low cost one-day conference on technology, society and low-carbon living."

XFN encoding, extraction, and visualizations - Opera Developer Community

Brian has written an excellent article that not only explains how to write XFN but also how to parse it.

A Few Notes on the Culture

A great 1994 newsgroup posting by Iain M Banks that gives us a peek behind the scenes of the Culture: fascinating and fun.

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

They’re Working on Their Own, Just Side by Side - New York Times

Coworking is on the radar of mainstream media. This article even includes a mention of Brighton & Hove's very own The Werks.

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Fanning the flames

There’s a new issue of A List Apart out today. As Richard put it:

Jeremy dares to clash with the mighty Zeldman.

Though I find Shaun’s description cuter:

Morpheus is fighting Neo!

To be honest, there’s nothing really new in the article I’ve written. In 2000 words, I managed to squeeze out one decent sentence:

The proposed default behavior for version targeting in Internet Explorer solves the problem of “breaking the web” in much the same way that decapitation solves the problem of headaches.

For a better, more impassioned rebuttal of the IE8’s default version targeting behaviour, I’d recommend just reading my original blog post, Broken and its follow-up Still Broken. I’m starting to feel somewhat jaded and exhausted about the whole thing. I can understand why Eric gave up trying to convince Chris and co. that the default behaviour is wrong.

I will be going to MIX08 in Las Vegas at the start of March to meet with the IE team but though they might be willing to listen to opposing viewpoints, I get the sinking feeling that their position on default behaviour is not reversible.

Monday, February 18th, 2008


A pleasant Saturday afternoon of tea and burlesque was followed by a pleasant Saturday evening of cocktails, conversation and Guitar Hero at Andy’s flatwarming party. The party went on rather late which meant that I didn’t get a very early start on Sunday. I did, however, manage to convince Ben, Patrick and Frances to stay down in Brighton instead of running off early for the last train back to London so now I’ve got some new rel="friend met colleague" values added to my bedroll.

I eventually roused myself enough to get up to London for the last few hours of Semantic Camp. There was a session on pimping your FOAF of which I understood nary a word, Glenn gave a great talk about parsing microformats and Premasagar demonstrated and discussed compund microformats.

But the highlight of the event was the latest creation of Jon Linklater-Johnson: Semantopoly. Imagine a game of Monopoly where all the pieces are Happy Webbies, all the properties are websites or technologies and the currency is friends rather than money. Twitterable remarks were flowing a-plenty:

Andy Clarke uses Cindy Li’s CSS and looses 450 friends. He has to take Safari AND Facebook offline to do it. Facebook is offline oh noes!

Ah, what larks! Nicely done, Jon. And nicely done, Tom for organising a most enjoyable Semantic Camp… even if I did miss most of it. I blame Andy’s l33t Margarita skillz.

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

John Resig - Most Bizarre IE Quirk

The title of "most bizarre IE quirk" is hotly contested, given just how many of them there are. But John has found a real humdinger here.

Space Time/No Time - Brightcove

Matt Jones speaks about "Designing for SpaceTime, Building in No Time."

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Something for the weekend

Semantic Camp is taking place in London this weekend. Well, I say camp but that isn’t totally accurate… (yes, that was an attempt at humour).

I’m hoping to make it up for the second day of the event. If nothing else, I really want to see Jon’s sequel to his Specificity Snap game: Semantopoly. Alas, I shan’t be able to make it along on Saturday though. Instead, I’ll be enjoying afternoon tea with a dollop of burlesque.


Really; it's not that difficult.

Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle

Barack Obama bookmarked your website.

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

New Founders Interview with Poppy Copy

An interview with Relly who, in case you didn't know, is a kick-ass copy writer.

jQuery 1.2 Cheat Sheet ::

A handy cheat sheet of jQuery methods to print out and keep on hand.

RIP: Yahoo! Design closed down - data visualization & visual design - information aesthetics

Yahoo Design has been shut down. I understand the need for belt-tightening but firing your smartest most innovative people isn't going to help.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 Home | Next Update

Garrett's bug tracking software is one step closer to completion.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

The Highland Fling | Home

The Highland Fling returns for its second year. This was good fun last time 'round. It's a cheap and cheerful one-day conference. This year's theme is "The Browser and Beyond."

Geeks Love Bowling

Bowling is back. Skip the web awards ceremony at South by Southwest (it inevitably blows) and come hang with the geeks attempting to participate in a sporting event. It's bound to be fun.

Monday, February 11th, 2008

deathboy: anonymous vs scientology

An account of an anti-scientology protest in London that used memes as weapons: rickrolling, "the cake is a lie", you name it... and all while wearing V masks. In short, teh awesum.

Cake Friday vs HM Revenue & Customs

Tax-deductable Friday cake? The cake is a lie.

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

AJAX and Screen Readers - Content Access Issues - The Paciello Group Blog

Steve Faulkner gives a rundown of the current state of play between screen readers and Ajax.

The L words

You can lose

  • games,
  • money,
  • keys,
  • the will to live.

You can loose

  • the dogs of war,
  • earthly bonds.

Pixish: We bring visual artists and publishers together

The latest website from Derek Powazek allows artists and businesses to hook up. Nicely done.

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Sniff browser history for improved user experience

I saw Niall explain this at the Social Graph Foo Camp. It's crazy stuff that could be used for good or for evil.

Dopplr Raumzeitgeist 2007 by dopplr Fine Art Prints and Posters

You can now order a poster of the beautiful Dopplr visualisation of where we are travelling.

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Is it a fucking irritating browser?

You'll probably want to visit this page in anything other than Internet Explorer.

Foo through

I’m back in Brighton after my brief sojourn to California. My workload didn’t take a break while I was away so now I’m in catch-up mode.

The Social Graph Foo Camp was pretty darn great. I was nervous going into it that having one single topic would be too constricting but I needn’t have worried: the word “social” meant that the floor was open to quite a wide range of sessions. As well as the technical talks, there were some great discussions on the nature of society, and play. I could sit and talk with people like Kevin Marks, Gavin Bell and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden about this kind of stuff all day.

The invitation list for SGFoo was put together by David Recordon and Scott Kveton. They did an excellent job, shrewdly ensuring that no one person would know more than 25-30% of the other people there, which meant that everyone had the opportunity to meet lots of new interesting people. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to make it onto the list but I’m very grateful.

My only point of reference for this event was the BarCamps I’ve attended. While there’s a lot of similarity in terms of energy and enthusiasm, there are also some differences—the exclusivity being the obvious one. I think that the two models complement each other very well. A BarCamp is like going down to your local boozer: anyone can get in, you’ll meet your friends but you’ll also meet some new people with whom you have a lot in common. is more like a dinner party: you’ll still meet a mixture of people you know and people you don’t but everyone there has been invited by the host. I like the idea of a social life balanced between pub-going and dinner parties.

Rands In Repose: Out Loud

Some good advice on preparing presentations.

Research Tools | |

The Economist style guide: the "dos and don'ts" section is particularly useful.


Good typography + stylish grid + liquid layout = WIN!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008


A site devoted to cataloging good website typography.

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Foo fighting

The bulk of SG Foo Camp was staged on Saturday with talks from 10am to 10pm.

It was interesting to get a feel for the recurring issues. The really big issues are social in nature: user expectations, data ownership and, of course, social network portability. On the technical side, I was struck by how big XMPP has become. It’s something I know next to nothing about. It was really gratifying to see how established has become. It came up time and time again as key component in glueing social networks together. It’s going to really explode now that the has launched.

Speaking of which, the day kicked off with Brad Fitzpatrick and Kevin Marks answering questions about the API. The unanswered question right now is also the most exciting: how are people going to use it?

After that, Chris and Steve did a run-down of . During the following break, I was having a nice chat with Rohit Khare about social objects. Somehow we got onto the subject of Hackfight and I mentioned Justin Hall who was a big inspiration. I looked around and who did I see but… Justin Hall! Cue the next conversation.

Matthew Rothenberg from Flickr asked me to come along to a discussion on user expectations to share my story of the Adactio Elsewhere shitstorm. Then I listened to Tom share his excitement about Fire Eagle before slipping out to join in a discussion about games and play.

During the dinner break, I took the opportunity to gather together my fellow South by Southwest panelists, all of whom are here. I have feeling that the panel is going to be teh awsum.

After dinner, it was my turn to host a session. My subject was the password anti-pattern. Brave representatives from Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter, LinkedIn, Dopplr and Pownce showed up to be named and shamed (though most of the shame was reserved for Google in not providing an API for contacts). I can’t talk too much about some of the things that were said but it was by turns frustrating, exhilarating, inspiring and depressing. Someone pointed out that the session was like a bunch of oil barons gathered around a table discussing the impact of environmental issues on the bottom line. I guess I was the tree-hugging activist.

All in all, it was quite a day; full of good chat with interesting people. Needless to say, I’m now exhausted. I don’t know if I even have the energy for Werewolf.

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

SG Foo Camp schedule

Thanks to my life-saving inflatable mattress, I managed to get a decent night’s sleep. A full day of sessions is about to kick off so I’m going to fortify myself with plenty of coffee.

But markup comes before coffee. I’ve copied down the schedule (as it currently stands) from the whiteboard and turned it into a nice portable hCalendar:

If you’re here, you might want to subscribe to the schedule and stick it on your phone (or any other device with a calendar).

Foo camping

The day that I was flying to San Francisco, Simon and Nat were flying to New Zealand for Kiwi Foo and Webstock so we shared a bus to Heathrow. They both look knackered because they had attempted to “get on New Zealand time” by staying up all night. We parted at the airport: See you in Austin I said. Good luck decentralising the social graph he replied.

Since arriving in San Francisco, I’ve spent most of my time trying to meet up with as many people as possible. A hastily-convened microformats/geek dinner helped to accomplish that.

Now I’m in Sebastopol for the SG Foo Camp. The letters SG stand for Social Graph, which is unfortunate—I’m not a big fan of that particularly techy-sounding term. That said, I’m really looking forward to hearing more from Brad Fitzpatrick about the new Social Graph API from Google. It isn’t the first XFN parser but it’s the only one with Google’s infrastructure. The data returned from spidering my XFN links is impressive but the fact that it can also return results with inbound links is very impressive, although it takes significantly longer to return results and often times out.

For most people, today’s big news was Microsoft licking its lips at Yahoo but that was completely eclipsed by the new API for me. While I was waiting at Tantek’s for Larry and Chris to drive by and pick us up, I spent my time gleefully looking through the reams of information returned from entering just one URL into the API. Just now, I was chatting with John Musser from Programmable Web and we were thinking up all the potential mashups that this could open up.

I’m not going to build anything just yet though. I’m far too tired. I need to find a nice quiet corner of the O’Reilly office to unroll my sleeping bag.

Typography with Potatoes Workshop : Ana Belén Ramón

This looks like so much fun: spudpress.

Friday, February 1st, 2008

DC Design Talks 2008 | DC Talks

Live in the Washington DC area? Be sure to make it along to this on February 29th.

Google Code Blog: URLs are People, Too

This is great news! Brad Fitzpatrick and Kevin Marks have built a new Google API that will spider XFN links.