Archive: March, 2009


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Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 » Blog Archive » The Lovelace Adventures Pt 2

I think this has to be my favourite contribution to Ada Lovelace day. Brilliant!


The first European Accessibility Forum in Frankfurt was a resounding success. I had fun moderating the panel on Accessible Web Applications. Paul, Christian and Saqib were all excellent. We could’ve talked all day.

The rest of the day featured a mixture of technical, governance and legal panels. Personally, I enjoyed diving into the technical stuff. I really enjoyed listening to the mighty Steve Faulkner talking about .

A question from the audience brought up the subject of the crossover between HTML5 structural elements and ARIA landmark roles. There seems to be a lot of opposition—even downright hostility—from the HTML5 group towards WAI-ARIA. I’m sensing a lot of thinking; a conclusion documented by Sam Ruby as already having been reached by the Technical Architecture Group:

The HTML5 community would define themselves as encompassing all Web technologies, i.e., if it’s not HTML5 and implemented in a browser, it’s not the Web.

Part of the opposition to ARIA is based around a perceived conflict with HTML5 structural elements:

For example, if ARIA defines a feature to say that something is a header, this will conflict with the HTML5 header algorithm.

So there’s an ARIA landmark role of banner that appears to align with the HTML5 header element. But if you look more closely at the specs, they’re actually defined in different ways. A banner is a region that contains the primary heading or web site title whereas a header is the header of a section. One is unique per document whereas the other can be used multiple times in the same document. To put it another way, banner is like an ID and header is like a class name.

Steve pointed to another false clash. HTML5 contains a value of search for [the type attribute of the input element. ARIA has a search landmark role. Sounds like a duplication, right? But the landmark role is typically applied to a form element, not an input element.

So on an HTML5 site like Huffduffer, I should be able to write:

<form method="get" action="/search" role="search">
<label for="query">Search</label>
<input type="search" name="q" id="query">
<button type="submit">Go!</button>

Alas, the HTML5 validator will throw an error (although it is using an experimental HTML5+ARIA schema). Ah, well.

Still, there’s no reason not to start using ARIA roles today: browsers, libraries and screenreaders already offer a good level of support and it’s only going to get better. If we start adding ARIA roles to our websites—and in our CMS themes—then if the HTML5 community stays true to its stated principal of paving the cowpaths, the pragmatic here-and-now solution should triumph.


Typographically thoughtful themes for NetNewsWIre. Even if you don't use the RSS reader, check out the gorgeous design of this site.

Monday, March 30th, 2009

FeraLabs » Blog Archive » Where the world’s first transatlantic email was sent from

The start of a campaign to get a blue plaque for Sussex Uni, site of the world's first transatlantic email.

Sunday, March 29th, 2009 MP3 Downloads: Free Indie Sampler Bonanza

Indie compilations for you to download for free.

WebAIM: Screen Reader Survey Results

This list of screenreader survey results is required reading. Conclusion: "there is no typical screen reader user."

Kai Chan Vong - script snippets

Kai has written a handy little CSS diagnostic script to help you identify problems with your markup.

Thursday, March 26th, 2009


Dave wrote a while back about an experiment he conducted in paperless air travel. Today I travelled from Heathrow to Frankfurt without wasting a drop of ink.

I flew with Lufthansa who are now offering mobile boarding passes. You can get a test boarding pass sent to your phone by SMS or email if you want to see how it works. In my case, I went to the boarding pass URL in a desktop browser, saved the page as a PDF and slapped that onto my iPod Touch using FileMagnet.

It worked a treat. When I was going through security and when I was boarding the plane, I showed my passport and my iPod. They took the iPod, put it under the same scanner they were using for paper boarding passes and scanned the QR code on the screen.

I like paper as much as the next dead-tree fetishist but this was one instance where I was happy to go digital.

Mobile boarding pass

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009


A Cederholm-designed site for tracking trends on Wikipedia. Check out the HTML5-based class names.

Noah Stokes - Front End Developer and Other Crap

Best. Portfolio/resumé. Site. Ever.

Is Spec Work OK?

A single-serving blindingly obvious answer.


I seem to be spending a lot of time in German-speaking countries these days. That’s good. It means I get to practice my rusty German.

In a few weeks from now, I’ll be in Berlin for a . A few weeks ago, I was in Austria to meet some clients—I had to bite my tongue not to answer every greeting of Grüß Gott! with a response of Grüß Wissenschaft!

Tomorrow, I’m off to Franfurt for the European Accessibility Forum which takes place on Friday.

I’ll be moderating a panel on accessible web applications. I’ve made no secret of how much I enjoy moderating panels. I’m hoping that this one will be fun and informative. Alas, I don’t think my German language skills are up to the task of conducting the questioning auf Deutsch.

If you’re going to be at the conference and you’ve got a question you’d like to put to my distinguished panelists, let me know on Twitter. If the connectivity at the conference allows, I’ll keep a browser tab with Twitter open during the panel too. I’ll keep an eye on everything with the string “eafra”, so—much as I hate hashtags—I guess posting a remark with #eafra will be the best way to speak your mind.

northtemple - Accessibility to the Face

An excellent rumination on the meaning of accessibility, prompted by real world experiences.

Derek Powazek - Now is a Great Time to Be a Media Maker

Derek weighs in with his view on the current state of publishing. I agree with his conclusion: "There has never been a better time to be making media. There are more tools to help than ever. There are more media consumers and media producers than ever. The world is more literate and media savvy than it’s ever been."

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Psychic Origami » Blog Archive » A Huffduffer Widget

John Montgomery has created an embeddable Huffduffer widget that you can add to your own site with one line of JavaScript. Hurrah! ...I really need to get 'round to documenting the (somewhat primitive) Huffduffer API.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

When is the right time for accessibility? » box of chocolates

Prompted by the Bespin fuss, Derek shares his thoughts on *when* accessibility should be integrated into products.

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Multicolr Search Lab - Idée Inc.

A beautiful use of the Flickr API that allows you to browse photos with a colour picker.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Bruce Sterling - Prophet and loss

I know this sound uncharitable but there's a good chance that the reason why Bruce Sterling's books aren't selling is because he's just not a very good writer. And I say that as a big sci-fi fan. I mean, really... have you read Distraction? I tried ...and failed.

openhacklondon | Open Hack 2009: London

The next Yahoo hackday will be on May 9th and 10th in Covent Garden. I've registered my interest. You should too.

Scenes from 30,000 meters above - The Big Picture -

This is the dictionary definition of awesome: schoolkids send a camera into space.

The Austin Report

South by Southwest Interactive is over for another year. Leaving Austin is always a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand, I’m so exhausted from almost a week of non-stop activity that I relish the chance to get home and unplug for a while. But saying goodbye to all my friends who have gathered together in Texas doesn’t get any easier.

Southby has been growing year on year. This year was no exception. I didn’t think it was possible for more people to come this year than last year but come they did. Economic crisis, my arse. Once you know to expect these kinds of crazy numbers, it becomes manageable. You can either go with the flow or you can sit on your front porch, complain about how it isn’t like the old days, and wave your fist shouting Get off my conference! at all those crazy kids. I went with the flow.

Alas, the sheer size of the festival meant that there were some people I saw far too briefly. Others, I didn’t see at all. That’s a crying shame. But that was offset by the quality time I spent with some fantastic people; friends old and new. As usual, my South by Southwest highlights happened beyond the structure of panels and presentations. Booze ups and barbecues are where my most cherished memories are forged.

That said, I didn’t spend all my time eating tex-mex and drinking margaritas. I plucked some tasty morsels from the conference schedule and had fun savouring their delights. I talked to a few people who were complaining about the subject matter and quality of the panels this year, Too much social media douchebaggery and not enough meaty tech stuff. Actually, I think there was plenty of both. The problem was finding the good stuff. The physical schedules—both the big book and the smaller pocket guide—were laid out in a way that made it really hard to quickly find out who was speaking and what they were speaking about. Most people ended up choosing panels based on a description in the pocket guide that often consisted of three words plucked randomly from the longer description.

If I had a gripe about the panels, it wasn’t about the quality. Quite the opposite. The problem was that oftentimes there was a slew of really good things happening simultaneously.

Take the first day, for instance. On my way to the conference centre to register, I ran into Glenda who told me I ought to come to her How To Rawk SXSW panel because it would melt my face. Then, while I was registering, I was chatting with Steven Johnson who was telling me about the talk he would be giving at exactly the same time on Old Growth Media And The Future Of News. It sounded great. Both were on at the same time as Paul was giving his talk on putting delighters into web design. How could I possibly choose between them all? Paralysed by indecision, I went off to the Whole Foods mothership instead and stocked up on cheese and wine to ensure that the hotel room track of South by Southwest went smoothly this year.

Fortunately all the talks were recorded and the audio for some of them has already been released. Paul’s highly visual talk—including a real world re-enactment of the Silverback parallax effect, complete with gorilla—probably doesn’t translate so well to audio but Steven’s talk, which he wrote out beforehand, makes for great listening. It has already been huffduffed.

The morning of the second day was my time to get on stage. Once again, there was just too much good stuff going on at the same time. Sitting in the green room, I saw Lawrence Lessig getting ready for his talk. Of course, the reason we were both in the green room at the same time was because we were both going to be presenting at the same time. Balls! His talk was the one I had mentally marked down as being unmissable. Then there was the Dawes/Coudal/Hustwit triple bill that I was missing. As a consolation prize, I got some lovely Field Notes notebooks from Jim and introduced myself to Gary Hustwit.

The panel I was on, Microformats: A Quiet Revolution, was a lot of fun. This was a demo-driven talk. Rather than talking about theoretical benefits, we were showing practical applications. I gave a run-down of the microformats-based features on Huffduffer profiles and Karsten ran through all the neat stuff that can do. But the highlights came from Glenn. Despite some technical difficulties with his laptop, he succeeded in blowing people’s minds showing the awesome Social Graph API hacking he’s been doing. His newly-launched Firefox plugin was the pièce de résistance.

The panel finished up with an important announcement from Tantek. Not just one answer to the abbreviation datetime accessibility concerns but two different solutions. They’ve both been thoroughly tested from the authoring perspective so the call has now gone out to parsers to test and implement them.

Once the panel was done, the microformats chatter continued. Panelists and attendees adjourned for a lunch of tacos and semantics. I wasn’t about to hurry back for any keynote presentation. I was having too much fun hanging out with smart and friendly people.

Later in the afternoon, I managed to make it along to the web typography panel that Richard was speaking on. It was clearly a popular topic. I arrived too late to snag a chair so I sat on the floor at the front of the room along with Jessica and Håkon, enjoying the lively debate.

I stayed in that room once the panel was over. Even though most of the official daytime programming was finished, I had one other obligation. Paul had asked me to join him on a live recording of Boagworld. It turned out to be a lot of fun. It was certainly opinionated and irreverent. You can hear the result for yourself.

Next morning, I went along to the third annual Browser Wars panel, featuring representatives from Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera and Google (an Apple representative was, once again, absent). Despite excellent moderation by Arun, the panelists were being far too nice and lovey-dovey. So once the mic was free, I threw some shit at the fan. I’ll cover the subject matter—font linking—in more depth in a later post but suffice to say that my question, when it finally came, was something along the lines of, Does the panel believe that it’s the job of a browser to uphold existing or outdated business models or should it remain true to the vision of the twenty year old web and just render the damn content it’s given? My shit-stirring had the desired effect but the fighting talk was sadly cut short by time constraints.

I didn’t have the luxury of hanging around for a good post-panel debate as I had to run off to play my part in the bloggies. I was providing a little musical interlude on the mandolin. The awards ceremony itself was really good fun with the undoubted highlight being Dan Rubin’s singing performance. You can catch some of the atmosphere in a great video reportage put together by Time (although you’ll have to be advertised at first; I apologise).

I finished the day with a superb presentation entitled Make it So (Sexy): Lustful Design in Mainstream Science Fiction, a sequel to last year’s presentation on interfaces in science-fiction. This year’s presentation was even more narrowly focused, dealing with sex in sci-fi (and sci-fi in sex). Packed full of information, delivered at a good clip and presented in a beautifully put together Prezi format, this was a real highlight.

I spent the next day doing a little bit of grazing: a good core conversation by Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone, a dash of the WaSP annual meeting, a dab of Andy doing his own shit-stirring in Trammell’s Tools To Know Your Users panel …all good stuff. The big announcement of the day was WaSP’s InterAct curriculum. It’s quite a tremendous achievement.

On the final day, I attended Thor’s presentation on our post-human future in which he pitched a fictional neural implant. Interestingly, he began the presentation with audience interaction, asking who in the room would get an implant. I said I’d get one but I’d wait ‘till version two. After the presentation, I was still willing to buy it for a dollar but I did point out what I felt were some shortcomings I found in the device. Thor kept comparing the implant to the iPhone, saying he was only proposing an internalised version of what we’re already doing. But the implant, like the iPhone, is very focused on consuming data rather than publishing content. That’s why the iPhone isn’t doing so well in Asia and that’s why I would jailbreak my implant. I want read/write access to my brain. I want a dreamblog …as long as marketroids don’t go and spoil my dreams with product placements.

In a moment of l’esprit de l’escalier, I later realised that Thor’s talk would make a great companion piece to the sex and sci-fi presentation. In retrospect, I wonder now that the subject of sex didn’t came up in discussing our post-human future. Porn would probably be the killer app.

Speaking of killer apps, there was a distinct feeling at this year’s South by Southwest that entire tribes of social media bloodhounds were hunting in packs for this year’s Twitter. I feel sorry for them. If they would only stop and open their eyes, they would realise that South by Southwest is like the world wide web: the killer app is people.

Friday, March 20th, 2009

home | WaSP InterAct Curriculum

Announced at SXSW, this is the curriculum that the Web Standards Project has been working on. Education, education, education.

HOT SHOTS photography course with lomokev | Garage Studios

Lomokev is teaching photography in Brighton. Learn from the best.

Goodbye Google | stopdesign

Douglas explains why he's leaving Google. "I won’t miss a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data."

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Latest Videos from

A great video reportage of this year's bloggies featuring a bit of a mandolin performance by yours truly.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


For the fifth(!) year in a row, I’m going to South by Southwest Interactive. I leave for Texas tomorrow.

Going to a conference is usually like going to a concert. You’re with a bunch of like-minded people getting up close and personal with those people on the stage.

SxSWi is more like a music festival. Let’s face it, festivals aren’t the best place to hear music. But it’s still a lot of fun to go crazy for a weekend with a whole tribe of like-minded people. That’s how Southby feels to me although it isn’t exactly like a music festival because I don’t plan to spend the whole time sitting in a tent waving my hand in front of my face getting, like, totally wicked tracers.

There will be beer. I’ve updated Adactio Austin, my hCard, hCalendar, OpenStreetMap mashup of all the finest soirées, the finest of which is The Great British Booze-up. Alas, I’ll be ducking out of my own party at some stage but with good reason. I’m going to be appearing on The Heather Gold Show.

Apart from spending some quality time extracting the panda out of Paul during the Boagworld live recording, my only daytime obligation is a panel on Saturday morning called Microformats: A Quiet Revolution where I’ll be talking about some of the stuff I’ve been doing on Huffduffer. I would invite you to come along but it’s on at the same time as a presentation by Brendan Dawes, Jim Coudal, and Gary Hustwit—you’d be crazy to pass that up.

I’ll have a limited supply of Huffduffer badges, sorry… buttons, so if you want one, just ask. Even if you don’t, say Hi anyway. Much as I love going meeting up with all my friends in Austin, I really, really enjoy meeting new people. So if you’re going to there, let’s get together for a Shiner Bock or two.

Forever's Not So Long

Un film du Garrett Murray.

arc90 lab : experiments : Readability

An excellent bookmarklet designed to help you read more easily on the web (by hiding all that filthy, filthy advertising).

Identify - Firefox entension | Madgex Lab

Okay, I know I said "holy freakin' crap!" the last time I linked to one of Glenn's Social Graph API experiments but now he's gone and created a Firefox plug-in: press alt-i and you can see the social graph for anyone's site. Holy freakin' crap!


Sandwiches. Scanned.

Practical, maintainable CSS | Natalie Downe

Natalie has put up the slides and video from her excellent Girl Geek Dinner talk on CSS in The Eagle last week.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

"Social Media is Here to Stay... Now What?"

danah boyd addresses the Microsoft Research Tech Fest.

Data Store: Facts you can use |

The Guardian has released a shedload of data for us to play with. Go forth and hack.

Monday, March 9th, 2009


The current issue of A List Apart is the proud bearer of a superb article by Ethan called Fluid Grids. If the title isn’t enough of a hint, it’s all about grids …wot are fluid.

It’s an excellent tutorial. I’ve made no secret of my love for a good liquid layout and Ethan’s article is a great resource for anyone brave enough to take up the challenge.

Another excellent resource comes to us courtesy of Zoe Mickley Gillenwater. She’s written a book called Flexible Web Designs. Buy it now. You won’t regret it. I thought I knew my stuff when it came to wrangling CSS but this book had techniques that were new to me.

Both Zoe’s book and Ethan’s article are commendable for showing how to do something without wasting much time talking about why. Frankly, there’s been enough debate on issues like this. We don’t need more debate, we need more tutorials. This is something I struggle with myself. I’ve spent far too much time talking up the benefits of web standards, microformats, unobtrusive JavaScript, accessibility and, yes, liquid layouts. I think I’m done with that. If I haven’t convinced someone at this stage, I’m not sure I can muster the enthusiasm to pimp any more kool-aid.

But I do have one last little piece of propaganda I’d like to promulgate…

In any discussion of liquid layouts—for or against—it’s common for the subject of the “horizontal scrollbar” to come up. The term is an oxymoron. If text is moving vertically—movie credits, for example—then it is scrolling. If text is moving horizontally (as seen on CNN, BBC, and every other news channel), it is crawling. Therefore, the term “scrollbar” can only correctly be applied to an interface element that allows content to be moved vertically. The correct term for a UI element that allows the user to move content horizontally is a crawlbar.

Say it with me: crawlbar. Sounds a bit more negative, doesn’t it? A negative-sounding term seems fitting for a very negative user experience.

If you like this bit of political language, start using the word “crawlbar” in your meetings and documentation. You might get some strange looks to start with, but if enough of us do it, we can perform a little piece of linguistic corrective surgery.

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Digital Web Magazine

With heavy heart, Nick announces the end of Digital Web magazine. It will be missed.

The original proposal of the WWW, HTMLized

This is the ur-spring: Tim Berners Lee's original proposal for "Mesh", later "World Wide Web."

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Social Graph Explorer | Madgex Lab

Holy freaking crap! Glenn's Social Graph Explorer is bloody brilliant!


Andy answers some questions about Clearleft's way of working.

Ariel Waldman » Blog Archive » pico projects

Ariel talks about labours of love; pico projects; £5 apps; call them what you will.

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Forget the mobile web: One site should work for all - at

Great article by Bruce defending the principle of One Web.

as days pass by, by Stuart Langridge — A WAI-ARIA “stylesheet”

Stuart has an interesting take on ARAI attributes. Why can't they be set declaratively in an external file in the same way as we set styles?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

£5 slides

I just got back from a geek event down the street: £5 App. I had fun talking about Huffduffer.

You can download the slides or see them on Slideshare. I was all set to record the presentation using Audio Hijack but, while I remembered to click “hijack”, I stupidly forgot to press “record.” Sorry.

The evening finished with a call for more entries to the 5K App competition. To spur us on, we were shown some pretty amazing lightweight demos. My demo has to be the python script that converts text to morse code which is then output to the LED on the caps lock key.

Yup: it’s an implementation of the Van Eck Phreaking circumvention from Cryptonomicon. Doubleplus awesome.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009


From BBC News at 15:07 GMT on Tuesday, March 3rd, Space rock makes close approach:

The object, known as 2009 DD45, thought to be 21-47m (68-152ft) across, raced by our planet at 13:44 GMT on Monday.

From Low Flying Rocks on Twitter at 13:45 GMT on Monday, March 2nd:

2009 DD45 just passed the Earth at 9km/s, approximately seventy-four thousand, eight hundred km away. Art of playing nice

Here's a great compromise solution for parents. Yes, your kids can play that violent video game but with one condition: they must abide by the Geneva Conventions.

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Click | Stevie Wonder interview

Stevie Wonder talks about assistive technology. I think this finally proves that yes, accessibility *is* sexy!

A List Apart: Articles: Fluid Grids

Superb article by Ethan on calculating percentages for liquid layouts. Read it. Do it.

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Volunteers Put The Economist Into Chinese -

Andy Baio gets his first by-line in a national newspaper (based on an article from

BBC Builders: Web developer Simon Cross on personalisation and the semantic web |

A lovely shout-out to Clearleft from the BBC: "Along with other awesome UK companies like ClearLeft, we hope the work we're doing influences more web companies to adopt more best practice, like following the principle of 'progressive enhancement'."

See me speak

While I was in Nashville for the Voices That Matter conference, I sat down for an enjoyable little chat with Nikki McDonald. It began with a discussion of my uncanny resemblance to Severus Snape before moving on to more webby matters.

I also had a great three-way chat with Christopher Schmitt and Steve Krug. Christopher has posted up a transcript of the conversation

If you’re not completely sick of hearing me natter on and you are in Brighton on Tuesday evening, come along to £5 App where I’ll be babbling about Huffduffer. I know it clashes with the Flash Brighton screening of Sita Sings the Blues but you can watch that online anytime, right?

StupidFilter :: Main / HomePage

Because the internet needs prophylactics for memetically transmitted diseases.