Archive: October, 2008


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Friday, October 31st, 2008

BBC NEWS | Wales | E-mail error ends up on road sign

An automated e-mail response reading in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment" is mistakenly put on a road sign.

Bacon Lamp Shade - a set on Flickr

Make your own lampshade. Out of bacon.

Assembly Step 1

BBC NEWS | England | Sussex | Giant Lego man appears on beach

"Mystery surrounds the appearance of a giant Lego man on a beach in Brighton ... In August 2007 a giant Lego toy, bearing a close resemblance to the Brighton figure, mysteriously appeared on Zandvoort beach in Holland."

User-agent: zombies Disallow: /brains

cafe scientifique brighton

Philip Ball (author of the excellent Critical Mass) is coming to Brighton to speak at the Café Scientifique on the third Thursday of November. Excellent!

Code: Flickr Developer Blog » The Shape of Alpha

Flickr has amassed tons of geotagging data and Aaron has been playing with it.

northtemple - JavaScript and screen readers

An in-depth look at the intersection of JavaScript and screen readers, concentrating on events in particular.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

gist: 20758 — GitHub

A huffduffer plugin for Ubiquity: "This simple script allows you to huff duff any mp3 file simple by invoking Ubiquity and typing 'huff-duff-it'."


Holy crap! A ZX Spectrum emulator built entirely in JavaScript. I cannot adequately describe the Proustian sensation I get from playing Manic Miner in a browser.

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

QuirksBlog: Slides from acessible Ajax workshop at Fundamentos Web

Download a PDF of PPK's slides from his JavaScript workshop at Fundamentos Web. There's some good advice contained therein.

Our First Labs Project: A Microformats Toolkit Called "Oomph" - Lab - MIX Online

A handy microformats toolkit from Microsoft(!) making it easier for developers to write, style and find microformats (hCard and hCalendar in particular). Neat!

Brighton geek cafe

Trying to find the perfect geek venue for meetups, coworking, networking and boozing in Brighton. I love the smell of scenius in the morning.

Magnum Photos: The Places We Live

A photography exhibition and book by Jonas Bendiksen of densely populated urban areas around the world.

OpenID usability is not an oxymoron | FactoryCity

Chris has written an in-depth critique of the state of OpenID, focusing strongly on usability.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Yahoo! Application Platform - YDN

This sounds like Yahoo's answer to Facebook Platform for single web pages or (spit!) widgets. We'll see if the reality matches the hype. "The Yahoo! Application Platform allows you to build and launch open-social applications to the largest daily …

Cursebird: What the f#@! is everyone swearing about?

Cursebird is a realtime feed of people swearing on Twitter. Fuck, yeah!

United States Patent: 6941562

A wonderful example of why the patent system is so totally b0rked and completely unsuited to software. Someone patent Ajax (or Remote Scripting, if you prefer) back in 2001. Un. Bel. Eeeevable.

Audio ga-ga

Huffduffer is written in HTML5. For the most part, this is no different to writing in any other flavour of HTML, just with a simpler DOCTYPE.

For the time being, I’m not using any of the new structural elements like section, article or footer. I am, however, making use of the audio element. Browsers that don’t understand this element—that would be most of them—aren’t left with nothing. Between the opening and closing audio tags, I’ve included an old-fashioned Flash movie for streaming the audio. This is exactly what is envisioned in the spec:

Content may be provided inside the audio element. User agents should not show this content to the user; it is intended for older Web browsers which do not support audio, so that legacy audio plugins can be tried.

Right now, Safari is about the only browser that includes support for audio. Alas, the way it implements that support is flawed. Safari pre-loads the file referenced in the src attribute. That works fine as long as there’s only one or two audio elements on a page but as soon as you get above that—as you do on Huffduffer—then everything starts to drag and your internet connection takes a hammering as the browser tries to suck down every file.

There appears to be no way of stopping this through the DOM. There’s a whole slew of properties that can be specified in the markup or manipulated with JavaScript:

  • autoplay
  • start
  • loopstart
  • loopend
  • end
  • playcount
  • controls

…but none of them can be used to instruct the browser not to pre-load audio (as far as I can tell). After trying to read the spec I’m still not sure if Safari is implementing the “correct” behaviour. It might well be. But in this case, the correct behaviour is certainly not the desired behaviour. I downloaded the nightly build of Webkit and the behaviour hasn’t changed there.

Support for the audio element is on its way in Firefox 3.1, albeit in a crippled Ogg-only way. I sincerely hope it doesn’t follow Safari’s precedent with pre-loading.

Sunday, October 26th, 2008


The <head> conference—a title designed to screw up a thousand CMSs—has just wrapped up. It spanned three days and as many continents. It was a preposterously ambitious undertaking and, incredibly, it worked!

While there were some meatspace hubs, the majority of the action took place in cyberspace. That means the carbon footprint of the attendees is considerably less than that amassed by travelling to a “regular” conference. It also means that the logistics involved were an order of magnitude greater. That Aral was able to organise it all is a testament to his dedication, enthusiasm and sheer bloody-mindedness.

Ironically for a virtual conference, the London hub of <head> was one of the best IRL geek gatherings I’ve been to. It was held in the salubrious surroundings of The Magic Circle. While there was no prestidigitation, Aral did manage to conjure up a great day.

I kicked the day off with a short talk called The Long Web. It covered some similar ground as my keynote from Accessibility 2.0—one passage was lifted verbatim—but the emphasis this time was very much on digital preservation and long-term thinking. The audio and video should be available before too long.

After my talk, I had a very pleasant chat with Aral on the sofa on the stage. That was the template for the rest of the day: fifteen minute presentations followed by five minute follow-up questions. I took on the role of interviewer for some of the presenters, which was a real pleasure (I’ve made no secret of my enjoyment of this role).

Not every slot followed the presentation+chat format. Steph and Ann had a slideless chat on the sofa, Smily Raymaker sang a song, and Tim O’Reilly finished off the day with a great informal chat with Aral. In between, there was a whole range of talks covering a wide spread of topics: web security, Flash, digital identity, and tracking energy consumption. Though the mood of the day was always light-hearted and fun, there was an emergent consensus in the content of the talks of big-picture, long-term thinking. There was an echo of Jonathan Harris’s rallying cry for the web community to put away childish things and attempt to tackle the challenges facing our species.

It was a thought-provoking and enjoyable day out in London. And, from what I caught of the rest of the event, the whole conference had a very high standard indeed. Quite an achievement.

Aral, my hat is off to you, my friend; I offer my heartfelt congratulations on a job well done.

The Long Web

The opening talk from the inaugural Head conference, delivered at the London hub.

Web Security Horror Stories: The Director's Cut at

The slides from Simon's excellent full-length presentation at the head conference. Every web developer needs to be aware of these issues.

ThoughtCafe » Online Magazine

I like the look of this, both visually and idealistically. "ThoughtCafe is a crowdsourced online magazine, written by the internet community for the internet community."

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Fonts available for @font-face embedding -

A wiki for tracking which fonts have licenses that allow for @font-face embedding with CSS.

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Mad Libz, Yo!

It seems that quite a few people like the signup form on Huffduffer. This pleases me.

I share Luke W.’s rallying cry that Sign up forms must die! While I wasn’t able to kill off the signup form on Huffduffer entirely, I was at least able to make it human-friendly.

Ideally what I’d like to do is build a signup form that has one text field—What’s your URL?—and use that single piece of information to derive login credentials (OpenID), identity (hCard) and relationships (XFN). Alas, time constraints put the kybosh on that plan …for now.

Amongst the kind comments for the current signup form, I saw that Dan referred to it as Huffduffer’s ingenious Mad Libs style signup form.

This turn of phrase “mad libs” was new to me. I took it to be a compliment of some kind, perhaps along the lines of “mad props”, “mad skillz” or other stock phrases in the vernacular of the youth today.

Tracking the word “huffduffer” on Twitter, I noticed that other people were also using this phrase “mad libs” to describe the form. How very gratifying, I thought. I’m getting a ‘shout out’ from ‘my peeps’.

It turns out that is a party game where you fill in the blanks to humourous effect. I had no idea. I’m such a square.

Do you still use that word; square?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Chuff Chuff, Huffduff

I’ve just returned from delivering a day of DOM Scripting training in Manchester. The workshop went well but, given the significant distance between Brighton and Manchester, the journey there and back took quite a while.

I passed the time on the train doing a little bit of hacking, all the while listening to my Huffduffer podcast which I had loaded up with stuff I thought I might be interesting. Nothing makes a train journey go faster than stimulating the mind with some audio nourishment.

I’m very happy to report that the quality of stuff being huffduffed is extraordinarily high. Just check out the material being huffduffed by Jason Weaver, for example:

As I said when I announced Huffduffer a few days ago, I really built it to scratch my own itch. I wanted to somewhere to gather together the audio files that I stumble across while I’m surfing the web. It looks like I’m not alone. It’s immensely gratifying to discover that others share my craving for a quick’n’easy way to create a podcast by bookmarking MP3s. The site is starting to feel more “lived in” and the network effects are beginning to make themselves felt in the tags and popular items.

I’ll keep iterating on the site, of course (whenever I can find the time). If you have any ideas or suggestions, I’m all ears. I launched Huffduffer with a very minimal set of features. How the site evolves will depend on how people use it. I don’t want to try to second-guess too much of that.

After all, I wouldn’t have predicted that the killer app for Huffduffer would be long train journeys.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

The Pownce Blog » Blog Archive » Pownce Powered Beer Pouring Robot

Robots. Beer. Pownce. Three of my favourite things, together at last.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Everything You Know About CSS Is Wrong! - SitePoint Books

Rachel and Kevin's new book looks very interesting indeed. It is about just one thing: CSS tables.


My geek social calendar has been quite full over the past few days. On Saturday, I—along with half of the web developers in the land—went to Maidenhead for Drew and Rachel’s wedding.

Just as with Norm!’s wedding a few weeks ago, ‘twas a lovely, heartwarming affair. The pièce de résistance was the wedding “cake”: a tower of the finest British cheeses. Needless to say, I took many pictures and dutifully tagged them with the official wedding tag.

The weekend’s shenanigans extended into the start of the week. Rather than spending Monday at work, the Clearleft team made an outing to Ditchling Museum.

Despite its small size, the village of Ditchling looms large in the world of typography. and both lived and worked there. As a result, the museum’s collection is veritable treasure trove of typey goodness.

But we didn’t just spend the day ooh-ing and ah-ing over the wonderful pieces on display. We rolled up our sleeves and started using the printing press for ourselves, under the tutelage of Phil Baines. You may remember him from such websites as Public Lettering and such books as Penguin by Design.

It was a lot of fun. I can only echo what Stan said of his experience with the tactile inkiness of movable type:

I adore the way I can touch the past through the old metal type and really appreciate typography on a new level. I really can’t recommend classes like this enough. If you are a lover of type, you really owe it to yourself to spend some time with letterpress printing.

I was practically giggling with glee as I set 60pt Baskerville with Richard—my font of choice for Huffduffer. Handling the metal, smelling the ink, operating the printing press …it was simultaneously rough and sensual.

If you share my fetishism for the printed word, feel free to browse through my stash on Flickr. More delights are on display from Relly, Cennydd and James.

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Announcing Huffduffer

Back in April, I wrote:

I’ve been thinking about maybe putting together a podcast — just an RSS feed — that points to interesting inspirational talks, sort of like Jon’s Found Sounds podcasts but for spoken word instead of music.

Well, as soon as I started trying to do that I discovered that, contrary to what Tim Bray says, creating an RSS feed by hand is a pain in the ass. So I decided that I would automate the task of creating an RSS feed complete with enclosures. Then I realised that if this was going to be useful to me, it might well be useful to other people looking to create podcasts of found sounds. So I made a website:


The term derives from the abbreviation HF/DF. It refers to a technique, widely employed during World War II, to triangulate the position of radio transmissions. I thought that was a suitable term to revive for the practice of finding interesting MP3 files on the web.

Using the service is pretty straightforward. First of all, you have to sign up. No, I haven’t implemented OpenID support. Sorry. I hope to get around to it at some stage.

Secondly, you find MP3 files out there on the web. Using either a bookmarklet, or a form on the site itself, you “huffduff” the file: give it a title, description, and tags.

That’s pretty much it. People can subscribe to your podcast and you can subscribe to other people’s podcasts. You can also subscribe to a podcast of files with a certain tag or a combination of files from a particular person with a particular tag. Basically, if there’s a page for it on the site, there’s probably a corresponding podcast you can subscribe to.

So if you’ve ever fancied curating your own podcast, head on over to and sign up for an account. If you’re interested in the kind of audio I find interesting, you can subscribe to my podcast.

By its nature, this will never be a popular, mass-market site. But, as is the case with most things built to scratch a particular itch, I hope it will turn out to be useful for some other people. If other people do end up using the site, that will open some opportunities for bubbling up some interesting stuff: popular MP3s, popular tags, recommendations of files from users who share similar interests with you.

I had quite a lot of fun building Huffduffer. It’s been a while since I’ve done any back-end programming so I used this as an opportunity to get intimate with the whole MVC idea. I thought about building the site in Django or Ruby on Rails, but in the end I decided to stick with PHP. I investigated some of the PHP frameworks out there and, while they all had parts that I liked, I decided to roll my own code …my own framework, really.

On the front end, the site is built in HTML5. I did this partly for the heck of it, and partly to show that HTML5 is not some future technology but something that you can use right now. The validator by Henri Sivonen proved invaluable.

The visual design of the site is very minimal, as most of my sites tend to be. On the plus side, this means the site is lean and fast-loading. On the minus side, it’s monochrome to point of boredom. But I spent quite a while crafting the typography just the way I want it in the belief that, if you’re going to concentrate on one aspect of visual design, the typography is probably the best place to start.

I’ll be iterating on Huffduffer over time. It’ll be interesting to see how the site gets used (if at all) and react accordingly.

Check it for yourself and see if it’s something you might like to use. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about the site, feel free to chime in on Get Satisfaction.

soxiam portfolio - a set on Flickr

A comprehensive set of sketches, diagrams and screenshots from Soxiam showing the evolution and iteration of interfaces on Vimeo and other sites.

sketch: vimeo clip page ideas


Weekly gallery of popular websites reconstructed by removing all words and images, replacing them with blocks.

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Ubiquitous web font embedding just got a step closer | Web Directions

John has come to the same conclusion as Richard with regards to font embedding. In short, the font foundries are missing a huge revenue stream. They could be offering fonts on a per-domain basis (a la Google Maps or any other third-party API). Rem…

Sad Guys on Trading Floors

The cumalative effect of these captioned pictures will ease you through any financial crisis.

Friday, October 17th, 2008 Conditional classnames

Here's a handy little trick from Paul: use conditional comments to add a class to your BODY element, allowing you to target IE without a separate stylesheet.

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Welcome - Playful: Game Design London, 31st October 2008

A one-day event in London all about games and play. Looks like it could be fun, and all for £25.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Satire through mystery meat navigation in Flash: "Can you imagine? We can."

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

London to Boston

When I bump into someone I haven’t seen for a while, I am often greeted with a remark along the lines “Oh, I’m surprised you’re actually in the country.” Har-dee-har-har. That’s my cue to point out that because going to foreign climes is different and exciting, that’s when I’m more likely to write something here on But I spend most of my time in Brighton, going to the office and building websites; writing about that would be the equivalent of Dog Bites Man. Still, if you keep an eye on my Pownce page and my my Magnolia links, it would become clear that I’m publishing plenty …it just happens to be in short form.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Working, eating, sleeping, punctuated with the occasional trip out of Brighton up to London.

Last Friday, myself and Andy spent the afternoon in the Big Smoke meeting up with the good people from, School of Everything, Moo and Dopplr. It made a change to see my colleagues in their natural habitats rather than the usual meeting place of a conference.

That said, meeting people at a conference is pretty damn great. It’s by far the biggest reason for going to a conference in a first place. That’s why I had a good time on Thursday at The Future of Web Apps. I spent more time chatting to people than I did attending talks. I had lunch with SXSWers Hugh and Shawn, drank beer from YDN, loitered around the Headshift stand and played with a Microsoft Surface. Just occasionally, I popped my head into a presention.

The technical talks were a bit too technical for me—though Blaine and Matt did a great job of talking about some pretty hardcore server-side technology in such way that even a n00b like me could grasp some of it—while the business talks tended to walk a line uncomfortably close to product pitching. But that probably says more about my low tolerance for product pitches than it does about the quality of the speakers, who I’m sure were perfectly good if you’re into that businessy stuff. Still, there’s just no redeeming the guy from BT who, with a straight face, pitched a browser-based telephony service—whilst never once mentioning Asterisk—under the banner of it being all about communification. At first I thought it was simply a slip of the tongue but once he kept repeating it, it became clear that he honestly thought it was a perfectly cromulent word.

The day finished with a thoroughly entertaining Dragon’s Den style panel accepting the desperate pitches of hopeful startups. Most of the startups were pretty awful but the winner, Erepublik, looks genuinely brilliant. They had me at “massively multiplayer online text-based social strategy game.”

It was fun watching the interaction of the panelists as they dissected each startup. Ryan was playing Columbo—So let me get this straight…Mike played the part of the likeable cheeky chappy that he is (honestly, why such a nice guy associates himself with the seedy Techc*nt brand is beyond me), and Jason Calacanis was a consummate dickhead. If the guy from BT was channelling George Bush with his communification shtick, then Jason Calacanis was channelling Sarah Palin with his never-ending series of irrelevant, pre-prepared anecdotes that he trotted out at every available opportunity. Watching him rip the brave entrepreneurs to shreds was a thoroughly entertaining slice of schadenfreude.

A Media Temple afterparty and a curry in Brick Lane finished off the day nicely but I decided against going back for a second day of FOWA. Instead, I’ve been preparing for my next trip.

I’m off to Boston for the User Interface 13 Conference which starts on Monday. This time, I won’t be able to spend all my time shooting the breeze with my fellow geeks because I’m speaking. I’ll be giving a talk on Ajax design challenges as well as a full-day Ajax workshop. I’m pretty nervous about the workshop. I’ve given Ajax workshops before and they’ve always gone well but the audience was generally developers whereas I think the audience in Boston will be somewhat different. I’ll need to adopt, adapt and improve my workshop mojo. Perhaps paper, sharpies and post-it notes will help.

Before that, I intend to spend at least a day being a tourist in the capital of Massachusetts, maybe taking in one of the legendary sessions. If you’re going to be in Boston this weekend, get in touch.


There’s been some really interesting stuff coming out of Mozilla Labs lately. The latest toy is a plugin called Geode.

It’s based on the W3C editor’s draft geolocation API. In a nutshell, it allows you to provide your location to a website at the click of a button. You can try it for yourself on Pownce.

Now, I have no idea where it’s getting the location data from—probably a mixture of WiFi and network information a la Plazes—but I don’t need to know or care. What’s important is that it works. It works to such an extent that it’s close to being indistinguishable from magic. Sitting in the Clearleft office at 28 Kensington Street in Brighton, Geode updated my Pownce location as 9 Kensington Street in Brighton. That’s pretty damn close.

Little by little, we’re getting there:

I look forward to the day when geostamps are as ubiquitous as timestamps. If every image, every blog post, every video, every sound file had a longitude and latitude as well as a date and time… I can’t even begin to imagine the possibilities that would open up.

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Comfort T ~

"But who the hell is Jeremy Keith anyway?" No, I have no idea either.

Validifier: Turn Flash embed code into valid XHTML

A handy little tool to turn video embedding markup into valid XHTML.

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Scroll Magazine

How awesome is this? A real-world "print'n'paper magazine" for web developers. "An elegant, timeless, collectable magazine for people who love web design and are intrigued by the possibility of the web"

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Getting Semantic With Microformats, Part 4: hCalendar ~ A Blog Not Limited

A good, detailed hands-on article about implementing hCalendar.

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Shatner Hasselhoff '08 Presidential Election Campaign Blog

William Shatner and David Hasselhoff (circa 1984) are righting wrongs and taking Obama and McCain to the mat for the biggest brass ring in the country. From yesterday's tomorrow, for a better today!

Flickr: Panda

This makes me literally LOL.

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008


The last project from Simon and Nat is essentially a way of viewing groups (slices of activity) on Twitter ...and it exposes a security flaw in the JSON-P API too.