Archive: February, 2009


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Saturday, February 28th, 2009

2Modern Design Talk - Modern Furniture & Design Blog: Designer Toast

If I could get Twitter updates burned into my toast, my mornings would become much more efficient.

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Epeus' epigone: A load of Thunderer

Kevin does an excellent job of Fisking that ludicrous anti-Twitter article in The Times.

List of Words it is NOT ok to ever say.

Glad to see "webinar" on this list. Shame about "lifestream."

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

YouTube - Newsnight Goldacre Sigman BBC2 20090224

Behold the double awesomeness of Jeremy Paxman and Ben Goldacre! Susan Greenfield, alas, is simply embarrassing.

Newsnight Goldacre Sigman BBC2 20090224

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


Past winners of the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, "where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome."

How to run Safari 4 beta and Safari 3 on the same mac: BeatnikPad Journal

Neil explains how you can have your Safari cake and eat it.

Emergency Trammell (dot com, lulz)

No substitute for the real Trammell.

Small world, loosely joined

I’m in Seattle. Dopplr tells me that Bobbie is showing up in Seattle on the last day of my visit. I send Bobbie a direct message on Twitter. He tells me the name of the hotel he’ll be staying at.

I use Google Maps to find the exact address. All addresses on Google Maps are marked up with . I press the in my bookmarks bar to download the converted vcard into my address book. Thanks to , my updated address book is soon in the cloud online. My gets the updated information within moments.

I go to the address. I meet Bobbie. We have coffee. We have a chat.

The World Wide Web is a beautiful piece of social software.

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures

IFoundYourCamera is a continuous project dedicated to reuniting lost cameras and orphan photos with their original owners.

Make Your Own Wine » Blog Archive » Free Culture Movement - Open Source Wine?

Can the concept of free culture be applied to wine? Ryan O'Connell thinks so.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009


A platform game with a twist. Play it and see. Surprisingly intuitive and utterly addictive.

Busker Du

Busker Du (dial-up) is a recording service for buskers through the telephone (preferably public payphones hidden in subway stations).

Welcome | The Signtific Lab | Massively Multiplayer Thought Experiments

An even more speculative version of The Long Bet. Given a supposition (e.g. "What will the world be like when custom satellites are as easy to design and launch as your own website is today?"), you can add to a list of positive and negative outcomes.

An approach to releasing community-driven books that is more like software than traditional book publishing. Think versions instead of editions.

Wiki Paths

A greasemonkey-driven hypertext game: get from a starting Wikipedia page to your target solely by following links in the articles.

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Code: Flickr Developer Blog » Found in space

The “blind astrometry server” is a program which monitors the Astrometry group on Flickr, looking for new photos of the night sky. It then analyzes each photo, and from the unique star positions shown it figures out what part of the sky was photographed and what interesting planets, galaxies or nebulae are contained within.

CloudMade - Make Maps Differently

A set of APIs built on top of OpenStreetMap data.

FORMation Alliance | KERN

Tetris for type geeks on the iPhone.

Canvas Test

Conway's Game of Life executed using the canvas element.

YouTube - Arcattack: Faraday Fun- Imperial March

The Imperial March played through a Faraday cage. Telsa would be proud.

Musical Tesla coils and Faraday suit - Imperial March

Friday, February 20th, 2009

OK! Happy Cogaoke — Presented by Happy Cog

This year's SXSW is shaping up to be a lot of fun. Here's "a karaoke competition and party for people who lover the web... and karaoke."

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


One of my resolutions for this year (and the year before) is to try reduce the amount of jet fuel I’m responsible for pumping into the atmosphere. So far, my speaking schedule for the year looks reasonably in-keeping for that aim.

Next month I will be flying to Austin for South by Southwest. I wouldn’t miss that for anything. Like last year, my plan was to go but not speak. Like last year, that plan has changed. Tantek asked me to join him on his microformats panel to talk about some of the things I’ve been doing on Huffduffer.

I can’t resist the opportunity to ramble on about my newest toy. I’ll be blabbing on about Huffduffer closer to home when I give a talk here in Brighton on the third of March at £5 App. The last £5 App event was amazing, featuring a crowdsourced adventure game, fighting sumo robots, duelling bluetooth phone lightsabres, and augmented Christmas reality.

When I get back from Southby, I’ll be popping over to Frankfurt at the end of March for the European Accessibility Forum where I’ll be wearing my moderator hat for a panel on accessible web applications.

In April I don’t even have to leave the country. I’ll be speaking at an inaugural grassroots event called Bamboo Juice down at the Eden Project in Cornwall. What a great location for a geek gathering! And the event is priced at a very affordable 99 quid too.

June is when things get a little crazy. First of all, there’s UX London in the middle of the month. I won’t be speaking but I will be helping out and doing my bit to make sure that everything goes smoothly. I’m excited, and slightly intimidated, to be involved in such an intense, intimate three-day event. If you’re thinking about going, I suggest you sign up by February 25th, when the early bird pricing ends.

Shortly after UX London, I’ll be popping over to Boston to speak at An Event Apart, a conference where the bar is set scarily high. I’m already panicking about meeting the event’s very high standards.

Then, literally right after that I’ll be going straight back to London for @media. I’ll be fulfilling my now-traditional duty as moderator of the closing hot topics panel—always a good opportunity for some mischievous fun.

I know that looks like quite a hectic schedule but compared to last year, it’s positively relaxed. And most of those events are reachable by train rather than plane.

I do have one other long-distance flight lined up but it’s for pleasure, not business. Tomorrow Jessica and I are flying to Seattle. It’s going to be a short trip but I hope to meet up with some of my Seattle-ite buddies while I’m there. Get in touch if you’re going to be around.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009


An iPhone game that mashes up Sudoku with Tetris. "Drop numbered discs into the grid. Whenever the number on a disc matches the amount of discs in its row or column it disappears. Keep the board open to keep scoring, and survive as long as you can. Clear the board or set off huge chains for big bonus points."

To protect and to preserve

I’m gratified to see that my thoughts on archiving my data—prompted by the shutdown of Pownce, Magnolia, Ficlets, etc., etc., etc.,—are shared by others. But it’s all well and good for me to talk about how I’m backing up by using APIs, RSS, PHP and other non-trivial technologies. As David said when he bookmarked my post:

Now if someone would build a backup-to-local system that I could use…

Paul has been thinking about how to build it:

Now I’m wondering: is there a space for a piece of user-installable software, like Movable Type or Wordpress, that aggregates their data from sites across the web, and then presents it as a site? If there is, is it even possible to write it in a way that anyone who couldn’t have written it themselves can even use it? Can I write it just for myself in the first place?

Meanwhile, Mike points me to an impassioned post by Jason Scott prompted by the callous, heartbreaking closure of AOL Hometown. That’s right; AOL.

And before you sneer at AOL people, these people who trusted AOL: how about your Flickr? Your Facebook? Whatever the hot new wig-wag that you’re dumping hours into without thinking about it? What, you’re paying for something? Check this recent event out, paying subscriber: you have shit. Because of a cascade of EULA and Best Practices, and most importantly, a complete disregard for the importance of this data, we’re going to let it happen again. And again. And again.

Read his post and then read the follow-up: Datapocalypso! wherein he proposes an A-Team for rescuing data:

They’d go to a site, spider the living crap out of it, reverse engineer what they could, and then put it all up on or another hosting location, so people could grab things they needed. Fuck the EULAs and the clickthroughs. This is history, you bastards.

It’s still early days, but Archive Team now exists.

Crowd-sourcing a "fair use" case (Lessig Blog)

The Fair Use Project needs your help in defending Shepard Fairey. Have you seen other photographs similar to the iconic Obama "hope" pose? Send 'em to

Making the most of hereish and nowish on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The Possibility Jelly lives on the hypersurface of the present.

this is a working library

I love the design of this site almost as much as I love the content.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Brighton Girl Geeks

Geek girls of Brighton: don't miss Natalie's CSS talk in The Eagle on March 4th. Nat is the best front-end developer I know. chaff. Aggregation and the Edge.

Paul Mison shares his thoughts on moving towards a decentralised web of services rather than silos of data. "Now I'm wondering: is there a space for a piece of user-installable software, like Movable Type or Wordpress, that aggregates their data from sites across the web, and then presents it as a site? If there is, is it even possible to write it in a way that anyone who couldn't have written it themselves can even use it?"

Part 1/5, My Favorite Graph: at the Equator

"I love this graph because in one small space, it shows the time of Sunrise and Sunset across the entire world throughout all Latitudes throughout the entire year of this tilted planet."


Since Magnolia went down, taking everyone’s bookmarks with it, I’ve been through a mild cycle.

  1. Denial. “It can’t be that all the data is gone. They’ll recover it.”
  2. Anger. “I want my freaking bookmarks!”
  3. Bargaining. “Isn’t there something I can do? Maybe there’s some API hacking that would help.”
  4. Depression. “Why do I bother contributing to any social websites. Our data is doomed in the end.”
  5. Acceptance. “C’est le Web.”

I also experienced déjà vu at every stage. The only difference between the end of Pownce and the end of Magnolia was that just one of those pieces of plug-pulling was planned. From the perspective of the people running those services, that’s a huge difference. From my perspective as an avid user of both services, it felt the same.

Actually, things turned out okay for my Magnolia data in the end. I was able to recover all my bookmarks …and it wasn’t down to any API hacking either. My bookmarks were saved by two messy, scrappy, plucky little technologies: RSS and microformats.

Google Reader caches RSS feeds aggressively. As long one person has ever subscribed to the RSS feed of your Magnolia links, you should be able to retrieve your links using Google’s Feed API—‘though for the life of me, I cannot understand why Google insists on marketing all these APIs as “Ajax” APIs, hiding server-side documentation under “Flash and other Non-Javascript Environments”.

If that doesn’t work, there’s always the regular HTML as archived by Google and the Internet Archive. Magnolia’s pages were marked up with . Using tools like Glenn’s UfXtract, this structured data can be converted into JSON or some other importable format. As Chris put it, Microformats are the vinyl of the web.

Magnolia’s bookmark recovery page uses a mixture of RSS and XFolk extraction tricks. I was able to recover my bookmarks and import them into Delicious.

But what’s the point of that? Swapping one third-party service for another. Well, believe me, I did a lot of soul searching before putting my links back in another silo. Really, I should be keeping my links here on, maybe pinging Delicious or some other social bookmarking site as a back-up …what would Steven Pemberton do?

In the end, I decided to keep using Delicious partly out of convenience, but mostly because I can export my bookmarks quite easily; either through the API or as a hulking great hideous HTML bookmarks file (have you ever looked at the markup of those files that browsers import/export? Yeesh!)

But the mere presence of backup options isn’t enough. After all, Magnolia had a better API than Delicious but that didn’t help when the server came a crashin’. If I’m going to put data into a third-party site, I’m going to have to be self-disciplined and diligent about backing up regularly, just as I do with local data. So I’m getting myself into the habit of running a little PHP script every weekend that will extract all my bookmarks for safekeeping.

That’s my links taken care of. What about other data stores?

  • Twitter. This PHP script should take care of backing up all my inane utterances.
  • Flickr. I still have all the photos I’ve uploaded to Flickr so the photos themselves will be saved should anything happen to the site. But it would be a shame to lose the metadata that the pictures have accumulated. I should probably investigate how much metadata is maintained by backup services like QOOP.
  • Dopplr. Well, the data about my trips isn’t really the important part of Dopplr; it’s the ancillary stuff like coincidences that makes it so handy. Still, with a little bit of hacking on the Dopplr API I could probably whip an export script together. Update: Tom writes to tell me that in the form of an .ics file.
  • Again, like Dopplr, I’m not sure how valuable the data is outside the social context of the site. But again, like Dopplr, a bit of hacking on the API might yield a reusable export script.
  • Ffffound. I don’t use it to store anything useful or valuable. That’s what tools like are for. Update: Hacker extraordinaire Paul Mison has whipped up a Ruby script to scrape ffffound and he points me in the direction of ddddownload.
  • Facebook. It could fall off the face of the planet for all I care. I’ve never put any data into the site. I only keep a profile there as a communication hub for otherwise unconnected old friends.

As for my own sites—adactio, DOM Scripting, Principia Gastronomica, Salter Cane and of course The Session and Huffduffer—I’ve got local copies which are regularly backed up to an external hard drive and I’m doing database dumps once a week, which probably isn’t often enough. I worry sometimes that I’m not nearly as paranoid as I should be.

What happened to Magnolia was a real shame but, to put a positive spin on it, it’s been a learning experience not just for me, but for Larry too.

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Monument: Home

A beautiful video created on London's Monument. "The installation provides a live stream of continually modified time-lapse images 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. A computer controlled digital camera provides a 360-degree panoramic view from the top of the Monument."

Populating forms with YQL, jQuery and Microformats

Demo for a neat piece of code that will auto-populate form fields from an hCard-carrying URL.

polaroiderizer - a slideshow from your flickr tags

A great little Flickr slideshow from Phil Hawksworth.

Facebook's New Terms Of Service: "We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever."

Facebook's terms of service used to say that when you closed an account on their network, any rights they claimed to the original content you uploaded would expire. Not anymore.

Our Goal: No Guilt Upon Accusation Law — Creative Freedom Foundation (

New Zealand is enacting one of the most draconian unfair ISP policing policies in the Western world. "Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation and forces the termination of internet connections and websites without evidence, without a fair trial, and without punishment for any false accusations of copyright infringement."

Us Now - Home

A film project about the power of mass collaboration, government and the internet.

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Specify your canonical

There's a new rel value in town: "canonical". It looks like an awful lot like "bookmark".

Thai curry and chocolate heaven at

Detailed instructions for a delicious-sounding meal from a fellow Brightonian.

ZX81 BASIC Programming by Steven Vickers

The manual that came with the ZX81 has been lovingly converted to HTML. This was my first contact with programming (or computers, for that matter).

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Don't Give Your Account Passwords Away, a Mission on PMOG

A PMOG mission where players learn about the password anti-pattern.

Friday, February 13th, 2009

isolani - Web Standards: IE8 Blacklist: forcing standards rendering opt-in

Bend over 'cause Microsoft is about to stick it to us standards-savvy developers. Again.

Bespin » Code in the Cloud

An in-browser code editor from Mozilla Labs.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

The Particle Zoo: Subatomic Particle Softies

Handmade subatomic particle plushies from the standard model of physics ...and beyond!

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

BBC - Radio Labs - How we make websites

Michael Smethurst runs through the process used in his bit of the BBC. It's all good.

App Shopper: WhatTheFont (Reference)

Like Shazam, but for fonts. Snap a picture of some text on your iPhone and this app will phone home to the WhatTheFont mothership in order to identify it for you.

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

passive-aggressive (and just plain aggressive) notes — no, your mother doesn’t work here

Dear internet, Please keep throwing up sites like this because no, I don't have anything better to do with my time than scroll and click through the entire archive. Thank you.

Localization Problems: A Cellphone's Missing Dot Kills Two People, Puts Three More in Jail

When localisation attacks. This is like a more morbid Douglas Adams vignette.

[ws] Color Scheme Designer

A handy tool for putting colour palettes together.

Cooper Journal: One free interaction

Small interactions that serve no useful purpose but are nonetheless satisfying. "Design this interaction such that: It's “free,” i.e. having no significance to the task or content, It's discoverable in ordinary use of the product, It's quick and repeatable (Less than half a second.), It's pleasant"

Adam » Blog Archive » Twitter Export Script

Archive your Twitter updates with this PHP script.

This is why you're fat.

Looking at the pictures here feels like the gastronomic equivalent of rubbernecking. It's horrifying, I can't look away and I can't help thinking "that could be me..."

SitePoint : The Bushfire Relief Sale

For three days you can buy 5 PDF books for the price of 1 from Sitepoint and your money will go to the victims of the bushfires.

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Jacob Nadal

The blog of the preservation officer at the University of California.


In Soviet Russia, cat LOLs you.

Quantum Random Bit Generator Service

There's no such thing as a good CAPTCHA but if there were, these would be ...Best. CAPTCHAs. Ever!

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

A Postmodern Crime at TED2009 - James Duncan Davidson

Someone tried to mug James Duncan Davidson to get his TED pass.

Microprinter has a posse

One of the coolest things I saw when I was at PaperCamp was Tom’s microprinter:

…an experiment in physical activity streams and notification, using a repurposed receipt printer connected to the web.

Now there’s a wiki where people—like Roo Reynolds—can come together and share their experiments in microprinting:

Hackers across the country are buying up old old receipt printers and imaginatively repurposing them into something new.

It’s such a great little step on the way to a Web of Things. Here’s another such step, from Fluid Interfaces, built for less than $350 using a webcam, a 3M projector, a mirror and a mobile phone:

Students at the MIT Media Lab have developed a wearable computing system that turns any surface into an interactive display screen. The wearer can summon virtual gadgets and internet data at will, then dispel them like smoke when they’re done.

Sounds like a way of levelling up in the game of being Matt Jones:

He sees mobile as something of a super power device and described something he calls “bionic noticing” - obsessively recording curious things he sees around him, driven by this multi-capable device in his pocket.

Friday, February 6th, 2009

SugarDash Pocket Log

A paper app—like a web app, but for the papernet—that provides a DIY portable log book for diabetics.

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Bruce Lawson’s personal site : Is mobile web development compatible with the One Web?

An excellent write-up by Bruce of a talk he gave at the Betavine birthday party. Down with .mobi! One Web FTW!

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Quotes on Design

Like a crowdsourced version of Eno's oblique strategies.

Why you should have a Web Site (and other Web 3.0 issues)

This presentation by Steven Pemberton increases in value over time.

A daily diary of Depression-era life, told on Twitter.: The Social Path

This is wonderful: a line-a-day diary from the 1930s turned into a Twitter account. It's like a microblogging version of Pepys's journal via RSS.

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

neologasm: antfucker

I'm being credited with hauling this wonderful phrase over from the original Dutch.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

The entire text of this seminal work is online in HTML, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

140 Characters » How Twitter Was Born

Dom Sagolla tells the story of Twitter.