Archive: March, 2008

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Monday, March 31st, 2008

Silicon Valley meetings go 'topless' - Los Angeles Times

A report on the growing trend of banning laptops from meetings. We never have laptops at the Clearleft Monday morning meetings but it wasn't a policy: it's just common sense/courtesy.

San Diego Web Standards Group

Live in San Diego? Interested in web standards? Come along tomorrow to the inaugural San Diego Web Standards Group meetup. You won't regret it.

ScreenReader.net: freeware freedom for blind and Visually impaired people

A free screen reader. If this turns out to be any good, it could be a game-changer: a long overdue kick in the behind for Freedom Scientific.

Thriving Office

Worst. Business Idea. Ever. A CD of office sounds so that homeworkers can impress clients on the phone with the sounds of industriousness. "Instant credibility for home businesses!"

It's just you.

A handy little RESTful ping service to answer the eternal question: "is it just me or is my site really down?"

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Rick’n’rollaoake

San Diego is to Los Angeles as Canada is to the United States—it has all of the good stuff with none of the crap. Among its assets must be counted the fine quality of its geeks. There were only a few locals at the Web Apps Summit but boy, did they ever take good care of the out-of-towners.

Gema from Digital Telepathy acted as both tour guide and chauffeur in taking some of us visitors downtown when day one of the conference wrapped up. After sampling some of the local tiki delights, a bunch of us were finishing up the evening with a tipple in some bar or other when, through some series of digressions that I can’t quite recall, I happened to let slip that I had never experienced the peculiar ritual that is karaoke.

karaoke (karēˈōkē)
noun
A form of entertainment, offered typically by bars and clubs, in which people take turns singing popular songs into a microphone over prerecorded backing tracks.
From Japanese, literally “empty orchestra.”

This was somehow misinterpreted as a desire to engage in said ritual and so plans were hatched for the following night that would result in the breaking of my karaoke hymen.

But before that, there was the second and final day of the conference. While we were all enjoying some excellent presentations, an odd phenomenon was manifesting itself in the cyberspace extrusion of our social circle (that would be the World Wide Web). There was a higher than normal count of rickrolling incidents occuring.

rickroll
verb
To post a misleading link with a subject that promises to be exciting or interesting but actually turns out to be a video of “Never Gonna Give You Up” from one-hit-wonder 80s pop icon Rick Astley. Allegedly hilarious.
A variant on the duckroll.

One of the finest exemples to date was executed by Daniel when he rickrolled a bowling alley full of geeks. While I didn’t observe anything quite on that level, it seems that Trammell’s mischief-making was curiously timed with Stan’s notice of avoidance. This was duly documented on Flickr which then became the site of a new vector of infection.

Cindy was sitting next to me at the Web Apps Summit and she expressed curiousity about the URL Trammell had posted. I didn’t discourage her from entering the URL in her browser which happened to have quite a few work-related tabs open. She seemed strangely displeased with her first-hand experience of rickrolling and twittered as much. That prompted a failed attempt by Tantek to rickroll me (although some people got caught in the crossfire). Things started to get out of control when the rickrolling migrated from Twitter to voicemail.

While the internet was being traumatised, the conference wrapped up and I began to concern myself with matters of the flesh, namely getting food and drink. There was food aplenty at the microformats dinner but that was quite some distance away. Once again San Diego’s geek community came through with flying colours. Keith, Derek and I were whisked away by Patrick Crowley and Edward O’Connor. I bet those guys throw a great BarCamp.

The microformats dinner was a most pleasant affair but let’s face it, it was really just the prelude to the main event. The prospect of karaoke was hanging over my head like a Damoclean sword. Throughout the day I had been receiving some consistent advice, namely that karaoke was a whole lot easier to bear when alcohol is involved. I began to test that theory as soon as our gaggle of geeks migrated to The Lamplighter, a suitably um… “character-filled” locale.

The question of what song I should butcher to pop my karaoke cherry had already been raised on Twitter and I was leaning towards the suggestion of doing some Johnny Cash (just as soon as my brain cells were suitably numbed). Then Cindy offered her solidarity: she would be willing to join me in a duet of Don’t You Want Me? by The Human League. A good choice: it would be hard to sing it any worse than the original.

Late into the evening and a few tequilas later, my name was called. Cindy and I went up on stage and I began to psyche myself up to deliver my best Phil Oakley impression. I watched as the wizened karaoke DJ tapped in the numbers to bring up the correct song. That’s when the rug was metaphorically pulled from under my feet. The unmistakable sounds of Never Gonna Give You Up began to play.

I had been rickrolled …big time. I had two options:

  1. Run.
  2. Go with it.

What the hell? I thought, and went for option number 2.


Rickrolled

I suppose in one sense, I wasn’t just the victim of a rickroll, I was also the perpetrator as I inflicted the song on a bar full of civilians who were completely oblivious to the memetic subtext. And you know what? I think I do a pretty good Rick Astley impression. That’s not something to be proud of.

Rickrolling wasn’t the only meme that was trundled out that evening. Despite Stan’s warning, we couldn’t resist a spot of flap’n’snap. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. As I reminded the Twitterspherethe internet is serious business.

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Sand E. Eggo

I’m in San Diego for Jared’s Web App Summit. It’s my first time here and I find myself quite won over by the city’s charm. It’s a shiny sparkly kind of place.

The conference kicked off with a day of workshops. I should have tried to gatecrash Luke or Indy’s sessions but with the weather being so nice, I bunked off with Derek, Keith and Cindy to venture across the water from Coronado to explore the city. With no plan in mind, we found our path took us to the USS Midway, now a floating museum. We spent the rest of the afternoon geeking out over planes and naval equipment.

I got my talk about Ajax design challenges out of the way yesterday. It seemed to go pretty well. It might have been a little bit too techy for some of the audience here but I’ve received some very nice comments from a lot of people. As usual, the presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license. Feel free to download the slides but the usual caveat applies: the slides don’t make all that much sense in isolation.

With that out of the way, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the day. The highlight for me was listening to Bill Scott talk about interaction anti-patterns. I found myself nodding vigourously in agreement with his research and recommendations. But I must join in the clamour of voices calling for Bill to put this stuff online somewhere. I would love to have a URL I could point to next time I’m arguing against adding borked behaviour to a web app.

The conference continues today. Jason Fried kicked off the day’s talks and Keith and Derek will be in the spotlight later on (it’s always convenient when Derek is on the same bill as me because I can fob off all the Ajax accessibility issues on him).

Before making the long journey back to the UK I’ve got a social event I’m looking forward to attending. There’s a microformats dinner tonightTantek is in town too for a CSS Working Group meetup. Come along to Gateway to India at 9520 Black Mountain Road if you’re in San Diego. We can combine a vegetarian Indian buffet with semantic geekery.

Vitamin Features » The thrill of launch

A great narrative by Peter Nixey detailing the ups and downs of launching a web app (Clickpass in this case).

UIE 2008 | Links from Andrew DeVigal's Presentation

Andrew gave a peak under the skirts of The New York Times in his presentation at the Web Apps Summit. Here's a list of the demos he showed.

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Muxtape

This looks like it could be a fun simple little service: upload MP3s to make an online mix tape ...that's it.

Metafilter comments vs. Youtube comments

Not all communities are created equal. The web needs Metafiltering and less YouTubing.

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Hardware

While I had to travel quite for to attend the geek Summer camp that is South by Southwest, the next geek event I went to was a lot closer to home. BarCamp Brighton 2 was the perfect way to come down after SXSW without going cold turkey on passionate geekery.

My hat is off to everyone who helped put the event together and to the University of Sussex for agreeing to host such an unusual gathering. This was the fifth Barcamp I’ve attended and, as usual, it was simply fantastic. There were some excellent talks ranging from primatology to data visualisation. I did my bit by contributing to a panel discussion on portable social networks with Aral, Tom, Colin, Christian and Aleks, who covered the implications of social network portability for virtual worlds.

There was also plenty of hands-on hacking to be done thanks to a heavy arduino presence. I sat in on one session, managed to get an LED to blink and I was hooked. I now have my own little arduino kit, a bread board and a lucky bag of LEDs. Alas, know next to nothing about basic electronics so I’m really going to have to brush up on this stuff. It will certainly be a long time before I’ll be performing the kind of arduino/wiimote hacking that Nigel Crawley was doing.

There was more arduino/wiimote hacking to be seen at the Flash Brighton meetup a few days later. We were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibit by Rachel Beth Egenhoefer that’s currently running in the Lighthouse gallery in Brighton—in the same building that houses the Clearleft HQ. The show runs until April 5th. Be sure to check it out if you want to see the knitting equivalent of Guitar Hero.

Jeremy Keith's twitter conversations - Quotably.com

Quotably offers a nice well-ordered interface onto Twitter conversations.

Activate The Death Ray | A demonstration site by Andy Clarke

A holding page for Malarkey's upcoming series of workshops. Add you name if your interested.

Edge to edge alignment with CSS | Matt Wilcox .net

Here's a very handy CSS technique for floating a group of objects edge to edge. I've been in this situation quite a few times in the past.

960 Grid System

Here's another CSS framework for grids. It could prove to be very useful for wireframing.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Apostrophe Atrophy

Documenting typographical abuse, specifically when single primes are used instead of apostrophes.

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Welcome | Ben Saunders | North Pole Speed Record

Intrepid adventurer Ben Saunders is off again. This time he aims to to set a new world speed record from Ward Hunt Island to the Geographic North Pole. He is armed with a beautiful website courtesy of Colly and the lads at Erskine.

Moderation

As well as enjoying the panel offerings of my peers at South by Southwest, I had the pleasure of hosting a session too.

There are two ways to approach speaking gigs. You can do a proper presentation with plenty of preparation. That’s what I’ve always done in previous years and that’s what Richard and James opted for with their talk, Wireframing in a Web 2.0 World. The presentation was excellent although much of the humour derived from putting this picture on screen for all to see. And what were the chances that Derek’s presentation immediately afterward would feature a further two Star Wars related pictures of me?

The other approach is to do a panel. This is quite a different beast to doing a presentation. In this case, too much preparation can actually be harmful. If you ever find yourself in the position of having to moderate a panel, I suggest you read the wise words of Derek Powazek:

Do not get everyone together beforehand. Do not have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Do not start an email thread and make everyone participate. All this does is rob the panel of any spontaneity. Your panelists learn very quickly where the hot buttons are, and will avoid them later, which makes for a boring panel. And when the audience hears a panelist say, Well, as we were discussing earlier … it just makes them feel like they missed the good part.

The secret to having a good panel is actually pretty simple: get together a bunch of passionate, smart, sassy experts and let ‘em rip. I was lucky enough to have a dream line-up for Building Portable Social Networks:

They were all wonderful and the time up there on the stage just flew by. I had a lot of compliments on the panel afterwards. The kind words of Jeff Veen in particular meant a lot to me—he’s my public speaking role model.

I’m coming to realise how much I love moderating panels. It started with the Hot Topics panels at @media and now I’m hooked. I probably enjoy moderating panels for much the same reason that I enjoy moderating Werewolf: a feeling of power and the chance to get some cheap laughs at the expense of other people’s public humiliation …all without the hard work and preparation that goes into a proper presentation.

So if you’re putting together a conference and you’re looking for a dictactorial sarcastic bastard to moderate a panel, come see about me.

Meanwhile I’ll be eagerly refreshing the podcast coverage from this year’s SXSW until the audio from my panel is made available, at which point I’ll get it transcribed and published. C’mon Hugh, don’t make me break out my bitchin’n’moanin’ mojo.

sneeu.com // Fuck.

I know it's childish but I think this may be my favourite 404 page ever.

Extenuating Circumstances – SXSW: The Web That Wasn’t

Dan Hon's very extensive notes from Alex Wright's great talk at South by Southwest, The Web That Wasn't.

Pharyngula: EXPELLED!

The story of Professor Myers' foiled attempt to see the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

We Tell Stories - 'The 21 Steps', by Charles Cumming

The first of the We Tell Stories series is online. It's a clever piece of storytelling using Google Maps to full effect.

Translation From MS-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Joel Spolsky’s “Martian Headsets” [dive into mark]

Mark Pilgrim fisks Joel Spolsky. He's not greedy either: there's still plenty of straw men left in Spolsky's screed for the rest of us to skewer.

Twitter / SouthByScurvy

Quite a few people got sick after South by Southwest. There seems to be some kind of virus going around. Inevitably, the virus now has a Twitter account.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

South by secularity

On the Sunday afternoon in the middle of South by Southwest Interactive, Andy, Jessica and I took some time out for a very pleasant Mexican lunch at Las Manitas with Sean Bonner, Tantek, Ariel and our anglo-Canadian musical masters, Matt and Hannah.

As lunch neared its end, every single mobile device at the table began to vibrate with ever greater frequency. We were missing the now-infamous interview by Sarah Lacey of Mark Zuckerburg but Twitter was giving us a blow-by-blow account of the debacle. The most astute observation was delivered from afar by Tom Morris:

What’s the difference between Facebook and the FB session at SXSW? You can leave the session…

On balance, we were all pretty glad that we were missing the train wreck.

We got the bill and started paying up. Tantek began going through each of his dollar bills with a felt-tipped pen, crossing out the word “God” from the phrase In God We Trust. I asked the obvious question. Tantek, what are you doing? His answer:

Separating church and state.

Spokeo? More like Spooky-o; bad practice taken to the extreme. at Aral Balkan

Aral points to what is possibly the most egregious password anti-pattern implementation yet: a new startup called Spokeo http://www.spokeo.com/public/join

Southby gone by

South by Southwest is over for another year and once again, I had a great time. Yes, it was overwhelming. Yes, it was even bigger than before. But I went in with expectations of an overwhelmingly big conference so I wasn’t constantly comparing it to previous years and muttering It’s not like the old days.

As always, the most valuable and rewarding aspect to SXSW is the people. Sure, I didn’t get to see everybody I wanted to but rather than running around frantically trying to connect with everyone, I decided to savour the time I had with people in the moment. It was wonderful to spend some time with old friends and it was equally wonderful to meet new people, all of them smart, passionate and just plain nice.

In between the geek breakfasts, the hallway conversations, the BBQ lunches, the geek bowling—superbly overseen by Cindy—and such great parties as The Great British Booze-up, there was even time for an occasional panel or presentation. These can be fairly hit or miss (remember, no-one gets paid to speak and with 10 simultaneous tracks, the quality is bound to be inconsistent) but I got pretty lucky with the panels I attended.

I did some panel-hopping, invoking the law of two feet and remembering that if you’re not really enjoying a talk, it’s more insulting to stay than to leave. I also made a point of trying to get outside my comfort zone so for the most part, I steered clear of CSS and JavaScript discussions in favour of topics like High Tech Craft.

I really enjoyed the What Teens Want panel. If this had been a bunch of adults talking about what they think teens want, it would have been excruciating. But because this was coming straight from the young horse’s mouth, it was absorbing.

Jim Coudal’s presentation on Creative Relativity was engrossing but I must admit that I ducked out half-way through: just about everyone I follow on Twitter was raving about the Worst Website Ever comedy revue managed by Andy Baio that was on at the same time. I ducked into the back of the already-packed room and sure enough, it was absolutely hilarious—possibly the highlight of this and every other SXSW.

There was one presentation I really didn’t want to miss. Even before the final schedule was announced, the talk at the top of my list was called The Web That Wasn’t based on the new book Glut by Alex Wright. It was a fascinating look at the alternative histories of hypertext from Paul Otlet to Doug Engelbart. It made me kick myself even more that I had to pass up David’s invitation to meet in the flesh at Saint Paul’s a couple of weeks back.

All in all, I had a great time filling up my brain whether it was at a panel, in a hallway or at a dinner table. I’m sure the conference will be even bigger next year but that’s not going to stop me from coming back. South by Southwest is the one event in the geek calendar that is truly unmissable.

But I hope that next year the organisers will heed Jeffrey’s remarks and provide some kind of daycare facility for the children of geek parents. Not only would it earn good , it strikes me that there’s a great sponsorship opportunity there too.

George Clooney - Interview with George Clooney - On Career, Sex, and Politics - Esquire

George Clooney watches '2 Girls, 1 Cup': "Clooney puts his hand over his mouth like he's going to throw up. He bolts from his chair and walks out of the room."

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Tony Haile - Own Your Identity

Tony Haile—erstwhile traveling companion to Ben Saunders—has started a new project called Chi.mp which already has Josh Porter and Brian Oberkirch on board. Here's the accompanying blog.

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Viddler.com - Merlin Mann - Worst Website Ever - SXSW 2008 - Uploaded by rooreynolds

This was the best part of the best presentation at South by Southwest this year: Merlin Mann gives his spiel during Andy Baio's "Worst website ever."

Tubbypaws

oh hai. paper cat is paper. i can haz ceiling cat?

Plants that Twitter when they need to be watered | Geek Gestalt - A blog by Daniel Terdiman - CNET News.com

Check out this cool arduino project: input from the moisture level of a plant sends an SMS to Twitter so you know it needs to be watered.

thecourtsofchaos » Blog Archive » BarCampLondon2 - Visualisation Presentation

A recap of an excellent presentation at BarCamp Brighton 2 on data visualisation.

We Tell Stories

Aleks pointed me to this sort-of ARG involving authors in London. Could be good fun.

Licence to Roam » BarcampBrighton - Portable Information

Liveblogged notes from a discussion I participated in at BarCamp Brighton 2 about Social Network Portability.

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Anti-pattern begone

Last week Google announced something called the Contacts Data API. This makes me a very happy camper indeed.

I’ve made no secret of my loathing for the password anti-pattern. Asking for a GMail username and password on a third-party website is just plain wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it teaches users how to be phished. I spoke about this at the Social Graph Foo Camp, naming and shaming implementors of the 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).

To be honest, the impression I got from Google was that I shouldn’t hold my breath but now that they’ve stepped up to the plate and provided an API, there’s really no excuse for websites to ask users to enter their GMail username and password. The API uses AuthSub now but Kevin announced at SXSW that it will support OAuth at some unspecified future date.

Within 24 hours of the Contact Data API’s release, Dopplr had already removed the username/password form and implemented the handshake authentication instead. Bravo, Matt!

So who’s going to be next? Place your bets now. Here are my nominations for the next contenders:

  1. Pownce
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Digg
  4. Twitter
  5. Last.fm

C’mon Leah, don’t let me down.

I’m starting to see a pattern. Whenever I bitch and moan about something, it seems to get fixed:

I think I might be suffering from some sort of reverse paranoia. The whole world seems to be out to help me.

Update: Well, shame on me for not including Flickr in the list of contestants. They’ve implemented a superb import feature that never once asks for a third-party password. Bravo, Flickrites!

Rescue

Getting from MIX08 in Vegas to South by Southwest in Austin should have been fairly straightforward. All I had to do was change planes in Dallas. But the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.

Moments after my flight from Vegas landed, Dallas was hit with an unseasonable snowstorm. My flight to Austin was cancelled. One phone call to American Airlines later, I was booked onto a (much) later flight. Jessica was flying in from London and I managed to get her booked on to the same later flight to Austin. Now we just had to kill some time in an airport. We met up with Natalie who was also trying to either get on a later flight.

Inevitably all the flights were cancelled. At this stage, there were no more hotel rooms to be had in Dallas. The airport infrastructure was beginning to collapse under the weight of a thousand irate passengers.

In the end, Twitter came to the rescue (I know that surfacing serendipity is meant to be Dopplr’s bag but I’m accumulating quite a store of serendipitous Twitter stories). Erin was also in the airport. She read of my predicament and sent a direct message to tell me that she, Peter and Josh had managed to rent a vehicle with space for a few more people. All we had to was get to the rental space. That turned out to be quite a challenging level of the game. It was like Trains, Planes and Automobiles crossed with War Of The Worlds.

Eventually we made it out of the airport and begin a classic American road trip through the Texas night in a gold-coloured rental van, stopping at the occasional gas station to buy toothbrushes and souvenir t-shirts because American Airlines still had our luggage. Meanwhile, other stranded geeks were making their way to Austin by any means necessary. An octet of Britpackers rented a taxi all the way from Dallas (one fine geek didn’t even make it that far).

My simple shot from Vegas to Austin turned out to be quite an adventure. I feel like quite a few us really paid our dues getting to SXSW this year. It was certainly worth it.

Yahoo! Search Blog: The Yahoo! Search Open Ecosystem

Yahoo is now actively indexing microformats. You are now permitted to throw your hat into the air and cry "Hurrah!"

NOSCRIPT for nerds. Stuff that disappears. -

Okay, you have to be a real JavaScript/HTML geek to find this funny but check this out: document.write('<noscript>...'); Madness!

kottke.org is ten years old today (kottke.org)

kottke.org is 10. Many happy returns, Jason.

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Exploring Methods of Accessing Virtual Worlds - AccessWorld® - March 2008

This is pretty freakin' awesome: an accessible interface onto Second Life.

Coding Horror: A Question of Programming Ethics

A cautionary tale that explains just why the password anti-pattern needs to die. Coding horror indeed: in this case, 1,777 GMail accounts were compromised.

4 Technologies for Portability in Social Networks: A Primer - ReadWriteWeb

A nice summary of the technologies presented at my SXSW panel.

Join Jeremy Keith, author of "Bulletproof Ajax" as he discusses the Web today

A short video Q&A I did with New Riders. The camera does not flatter.

Viva

My trip to MIX08 was also my first visit to Las Vegas. I’m sure I’m not the first place to make this observation but may I just say: what an odd place!

I experienced first-hand what Dan was talking about in his presentation Learning Interaction Design from Las Vegas. In getting from A to B, for any value of A and any value of B, all routes lead through the casino floor; the smoky, smoky casino floor. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had to hunt down an Apple Store to try to deal with my broken Macbook—more on that later—I wouldn’t have stepped outside the hotel/conference venue for the duration of my stay. Also, from the perspective of only seeing The Strip, visiting Las Vegas was like Children of Men or a bizarro version of Logan’s Run.

But enough on the locale, what about the event? Well, it was certainly quite different to South by Southwest. Southby is full of geeks, MIX was full of nerds. Now I understand the difference.

I was there to hear about Internet Explorer 8. Sure enough, right after some introductory remarks from Ray Ozzie, the keynote presentation included a slot for Dean Hachamovitch to showcase new features and announce the first beta release. I then had to endure three hours of Silverlight demos but I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to PPK so I spent most of the time leaning over his laptop while he put the beta through its paces.

After the keynote, Chris Wilson gave a talk wherein he ran through all the new features. It goes without saying that the most important “feature” is that the version targeting default behaviour is now fixed: IE8 will behave as IE8 by default. I am, of course, ecstatic about this and I conveyed my happiness to Chris and anyone else who would listen.

IE8 is aiming for full CSS2.1 support. Don’t expect any CSS3 treats: Chris said that the philosophy behind choosing which standards to support was to go for the standards that are finished. That makes a lot of sense. But then this attitude is somewhat contradicted by the inclusion of some HTML5 features. Not that I’m complaining: URL hash updates (for bookmarking) and offline storage are very welcome additions for anyone doing any Ajax work.

Overall IE8 is still going to be a laggard compared to Firefox, Safari and Opera when it comes to standards but I’m very encouraged by the attitude that the team are taking. Web standards are the star by which they will steer their course. That’s good for everyone. And please remember, the version available now is very much a beta release so don’t get too discouraged by any initial breakage.

I’m less happy about the closed nature of the development process at Microsoft. Despite Molly’s superheroic efforts in encouraging more transparency, there were a number of announcements that I wish hadn’t been surprises. Anne Van Kesteren outlines some issues, most of them related to Microsoft’s continued insistence on ignoring existing work in favour of reinventing the wheel. The new XDomainRequest Object is the most egregious example of ignoring existing community efforts. Anne also some issues with IE’s implementation of ARIA but for me personally, that’s outweighed by the sheer joy of seeing ARIA supported at all: a very, very welcome development that creates a solid baseline of support (you can start taking bets now on how long it will take to make it into a nightly build of WebKit, the last bulwark).

The new WebSlices technology is based heavily on hAtom. Fair play to Microsoft: not once do they refer to their “hSlice” set of class names as a microformat. It’s clear that they’ve been paying close attention to the microformats community, right down to the licensing: I never thought I’d hear a Microsoft keynote in which technology was released under a Creative Commons Public Domain license. Seeing as they are well aware of microformats, I asked Chris why they didn’t include native support for hCard and hCalendar. This would be a chance for Internet Explorer to actually leapfrog Firefox. Instead of copying (see the Firebug clone they’ve built for debugging), here was an opportunity to take advantage of the fact that Mozilla have dropped the ball: they promised native support for microformats in Firefox 3 but they are now reneging on that promise. Chris’s response was that the user experience would be too inconsistent. Using the tried and tested “my mom” test, Chris explained that his mom would wonder why only some events and contact details were exportable but not others. But surely that also applies to WebSlices? The number of WebSlices on the Web right now is close to zero. Microsoft are hoping to increase that number by building in a WebSlice parser into their browser; if they had taken the same attitude with hCard and hCalendar, they themselves could have helped break the chicken’n’egg cycle by encouraging more microformat deployment through native browser support.

Overall though, I’m very happy with the direction that Internet Explorer is taking even if, like John, I have some implementation quibbles.

Having experienced a big Microsoft event first-hand, I still don’t know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about the company. I get the impression that there are really two Microsofts. There’s Ray Ozzie’s Microsoft. He’s a geek. He gets developers. He understands technology and users. Then there’s Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft. He’s an old-school businessman in the mold of Scrooge McDuck. If Ray Ozzie is calling the shots, then there is reason to be hopeful for the future. If the buck stops with Steve Ballmer however, Microsoft is f**ked.

DOTHETEST

A brilliant piece of mindhacking for a good cause. Take the test for yourself and see if you can figure out where it's all leading.

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Street Team: Make Your Mark - WaSP Street Team

Here's the first initiative from the WaSP Street Team: labeling outdated webdev books in libraries as hazardous material.

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

IEBlog : Microsoft's Interoperability Principles and IE8

Praise Jeebus! The IE team are doing the right thing regarding the default behaviour of version targeting in IE8. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Vegas by Southwest

One trip ends, another begins. In a few hours I’ll be back in Gatwick. This time I’m embarking on a journey to Las Vegas where I’ll be attending a little bit of MIX08.

I’m going specifically to meet the IE team. I was all set to head out there in a fighting stance, ready to fight my corner in the battle against the default behaviour for version targeting. Well, it turns out that I needn’t be so adversarial. I’ve just heard that Microsoft are reversing their position on the default behaviour. So now instead of going to Vegas for a title fight, I’m going to celebrate.

I can’t express how happy this makes me. I’m also extremely impressed that Microsoft listened to—and acted upon—the feedback from the developer community. They can now count on me as a staunch ally in educating site owners about how to implement version targeting when necessary.

Once I’m thanking the IE team from the bottom of my heart, I’ll hop on a flight from Vegas to Austin for the annual geek Summer camp that is South by Southwest. I’ll be in transit on Thursday, spending most of the day hanging around the airport in Dallas. If you’ve also got some time to kill there, send me a direct Twitter message and we can meet up in some corner of the airport.

As is now traditional, I’ve drawn up Adactio Austin: a mashup of microformats and maps that lists all the best parties so you can see how far apart they are. If our paths should cross at any of those geek gatherings, be sure to say Hi and drink a Shiner Bock with me.

It won’t be all beer and BBQ in Austin; I’m also going to be moderating a panel. This is the first time that I’m doing a panel rather than a presentation and I’m quite looking forward to it. After getting together with my fellow panelists at the Social Graph Foo Camp, I’m certain we’re going to have an exciting and fun discussion.

If you’re going to Southby, be sure to make it along to The Great British Booze-up on Monday evening. It was one of the highlights last year and we aim to repeat the success (we being Clearleft, Boagworld and Carsonified).

See you in Vegas and/or Austin.

Google Static Maps API - Google Code

Google Maps now provides static (IMG-based) alternatives to the JavaScript API.

SXSW 2008 Interactive Schedule

An iPhone-optimised schedule for South by Southwest.

Siam I am

I’ve always been something of a tropical fish geek. As a young child in Ireland, I would regularly trek down to a place outside town called Cobh Aquatics where I would spend hours looking at the fishes in all their multi-coloured variety from all over the world. I never had my own tropical fish tank—I could never afford all the peripherals—so it was goldfish all the way for me (not that there’s anything inferior about the wonderful world of shubunkin and fantails).

I mention this because during my time in Thailand I discovered the joy of snorkeling. On the island of Koh Tao, that joy was somewhat like sticking your head in a tropical fish tank. The water was filled, filled I tell you, with an incredible abundance of brightly-coloured fish that I had previously only seen from behind the glass of a fish tank or aquarium. Also, the water was lovely and warm—something of a novelty for someone from the British Isles. Snorkeling, then, consists of floating around in lovely warm water looking at beautiful animals: exactly the kind of lazy non-strenuous activity that suits my temperament.

When I wasn’t snorkeling, I could generally be found enjoying the wonderful Thai cuisine or perhaps enjoying the blissed-out feeling that follows a really good massage. It was all very relaxing. That relaxed mood extended to Scott and Cheryl’s wedding which was one of the loveliest ceremonies I’ve ever attended; a truly happy event.

My time in Thailand was bookended with one night in Bangkok at the start and the end. Like the song says, I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine. Specifically, I got a real kick out of the multi-faceted food offerings on every street. By far the finest food I had during my week away was from highly skilled street vendors. I intend to write about that in more detail on Principia Gastronomica.

All in all, it was a relaxing, interesting and fun: the perfect holiday really.

The only downside is that, because of the island rendezvous, it looks like the Oz Squad won’t be in attendance at South by Southwest. Ah well, at least I got a chance to catch up with my Aussie geek friends at least once this year.

Much pictorial evidence of my trip to the orient can be found in a Flickr photoset. Its 272 photos are a subset of the 1099 pictures I took in total. Thailand is a very photogenic place.

StrawPoll—Tiny polls in 140 characters or less

Another "barnacle app" built on Twitter: answer a question, view the results. Cute.

hCardMapper - How to use hCards to fill in forms

An open source project for parsing hCards to add to sign-up forms.

SCHED: SXSW 2008 Schedule for Friday March 7 in Austin, TX

Look what Taylor made: a handy schedule of everything going on at South By Southwest. Smart kid.

Twitter / Greg: @stefsull - ok. for the res...

I've seen plenty of engagement announcements but I believe this may be the first ever proposal via Twitter. She said "yes".