Journal tags: 2010



Publishing Paranormal Interactivity

I’ve published the transcript of a talk I gave at An Event Apart in 2010. It’s mostly about interaction design, with a couple of diversions into progressive enhancement and personality in products. It’s called Paranormal Interactivity.

I had a lot of fun with this talk. It’s interspersed with videos from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Alan Partridge, and Super Mario, with special guest appearances from the existentialist chalkboard and Poshy’s upper back torso.

If you don’t feel like reading it, you can always watch the video or listen to the audio.

Adactio: Articles—Paranormal Interactivity on Huffduffer

You could even look at the slides but, as I always say, they won’t make much sense without the context of the presentation.

Twenty Ten

…another year over, and what have you done?

Well, quite a bit actually, Mr. Lennon.

In 2010 Jessica and I moved into our new home in the Elm Grove area of Brighton. It’s a really nice place in a quiet neighbourhood and it lies at the top of a fairly steep hill, which may be of benefit to my physical condition. This is also the first place that we’re not renting. We’ve got a mortgage now, which technically puts us in the category of being homeowners …although it’s actually the bank that owns it.

In 2010 I became a cyborg. I’ve been wearing glasses since September. They’re especially handy for conference halls and cinemas.

In 2010 Salter Cane released their second album, Sorrow. Modesty forbids me naming it album of the year. That accolade undoubtedly goes to High Violet by The National (and film of the year undoubtedly goes to Inception).

In 2010 my third book was published. I’m very proud of it.

In 2010 I spoke at An Event Apart five times in five different cities in the US. I loved every minute of it.

In 2010 I compèred dConstruct. It was the best yet.

In 2010 I attended the wedding of Simon and Nat and officiated at Cindy and Matt’s wedding. They were joyous occasions.

In 2010 I organised the world’s first Science Hack Day in London and attended the world’s second Science Hack Day in San Francisco. Both events were indescribably excellent.

Bring on 2011.

dConstruct 2010

Well, what a week that was! The start of September is dConstruct time here in Brighton—one of the focal points of Clearleft’s calendar. Things get hectic in the office in the days and weeks beforehand. Then Brighton becomes the centre of web geekdom for a few days.

Things got rolling with a few workshops, one of which this year was my HTML5 For Web Designers workshop. I think it went pretty well.

A funny thing happened after the workshop…

I was walking from the workshop venue (Lighthouse) into town to meet up with Jessica—we were going to see Anthony Bourdain speak in his inimitable, somewhat gauche way. As I was strolling along, a young man approached me. He was carrying a small package. Excuse me, he asked. Are you Jeremy Keith?

I determined that he was an unlikely hitman and anyway, I had committed no crimes grievous enough to warrant a contract on my life, so I answered in the affirmative. It turned out that the package in his hands was a delivery from A Book Apart. He wanted to know if I would sign the contents of the package. I agreed on the condition that we document the unboxing right then and there in the street.

Jack and his box Jack opens the box I am Jack's new book on HTML5

That doesn’t happen very often.

That was a pleasant start to an excellent few days. The geeks began to arrive in Brighton from far-flung destinations: Brian from Iceland, Tantek from California, Andy from Belfast. From Belgium, they came. From Portugal, from France. It was like a little mini South by Southwest …or South by Southwest as it used to be a few years back before it mushroomed in size.

The day itself was wonderful, really wonderful. I know I’m biased and I’m bound to say that, but really, I think this may have been the best dConstruct yet.

I had the honour of introducing the speakers. I thought I might be quite nervous about that but actually, I had a lot of fun. The quality of the speakers and their talks was astoundingly high so I simply spent the day wallowing in the excellence and occasionally exclaiming How cool was that? or words to that effect.

All of the talks have been recorded, thanks to Drew. You can subscribe to the podcast or listen to each talk individually on Huffduffer:

  1. The Designful Company by Marty Neumeier
  2. Boil, Simmer, Reduce by Brendan Dawes
  3. Information Is Beautiful by David McCandless
  4. The Power and Beauty of Typography by Samantha Warren
  5. The Auteur Theory Of Design by John Gruber
  6. Jam Session: What Improvisation Can Teach Us About Design by Hannah Donovan
  7. The Value Of Ruins by James Bridle
  8. Everything The Network Touches by Tom Coates
  9. Kerning, Orgasms And Those Goddamned Japanese Toothpicks by Merlin Mann

Such a great line-up! It felt great to introduce John Gruber for the first time in the UK. Finally meeting Merlin Mann was a real pleasure—his affable, off-the-cuff talk sans-slides was hilarious. And I’m particularly happy that the audio from Hannah’s presentation is available. She started with a little bit of a musical number, playing her cello with myself on mandolin and Matt on piano. I think it sounds pretty good.

Jam Session at dConstruct 2010 on Vimeo

But the highlight for me was James Bridle. I don’t just mean it was the highlight of dConstruct; it was one of the finest presentations I’ve ever seen anywhere. Ever.

A few months ago, I wrote of James’s forthcoming dConstruct appearance:

…mark my words: when this year’s dConstruct is done, his talk will be the one that everyone will be talking about at the after-party.

He didn’t just fulfil those expectations, he surpassed them. His thoughts resonated with my own obsessions but he took things to a whole new level with a physical piece of data visualisation that he constructed. You can get the details of the artefact on his site, where he writes On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony, and Historiography.

dConstruct 2010 wrapped up with my mind well and truly blown.

Jeremy Keith Jeremy Keith and James Bridle

Pictures are on Flickr. Audio is on Huffduffer. Elsewhere ‘round the web you can find:

Virtually speaking

I gave a presentation last week as part of the HTML5 Online Conference. There seems to be more and more of these virtual events in the style of Aral’s Head conference. This one involved desktop sharing and audio. Apart from some glitches with the Campfire backchannel, it all went pretty smoothly. Remy and I did our talks from the same physical location (my place), which made it a more enjoyable, social experience.

This weekend, I was supposed to be in Lisbon to give a presentation on Huffduffer at the SHiFT conference. Well, old man Eyjafjallajoekul put a stop to that. Luckily, I hadn’t yet set out for the airport when the volcanic ash disruption set in. For a few hours, I harboured some kind of hope that I could get on a later flight but as the news updates came in, it was clear that the airspace over the UK wasn’t going to be closed for days.

So I gave another virtual presentation. This time, I used iChat Theater, a feature of iChat whose existence I previously had no knowledge of. It went pretty smoothly, once I took all the transitions and videos out of my slides. The link-up worked okay right up until the end—I got cut off just as my presentation finished and I was about to take a question or two from the audience.

Technology saved the day but it wasn’t quite the same as being there. I was really looking forward to being in Lisbon, especially since Yaili very kindly sent me detailed recommendations of things to do there. I may just have to go there in a non-conference capacity as a tourist.

That’s assuming the Icelandic volcano gods finish their little tantrum first.

Article of doubt

A Day Apart in Seattle was more like a seminar than a workshop. Rather than being an intimate gathering in a small room, it was more lecture-like in an amphitheatre setting. But that didn’t stop me interacting with the attendees. There were plenty of great questions throughout, and I also had everyone complete an exercise.

I reprised the exercise I gave at dConstruct back in September. It isn’t a test of the audience. Rather, it’s a test of how well the new structural elements in HTML5 are described:

I then asked the attendees to match up the definitions with the element whose name sounded like the best match. To be clear: this wasn’t a test of knowledge. I was testing the spec.

The results from September’s test were quite revealing. There was some confusion between footer and details. Since then, the definitions in the spec have been updated and I’m happy to report that the Seattle audience—a much larger sampling—were almost unanimous in correctly matching element names to their definitions.

With one glaring exception.

The section and article elements were, once again, confused. This happened back in September at dConstruct. It happened again at A Day Apart in Seattle. I didn’t get exact numbers, but from the very web-savvy audience of about two hundred people, I would say there was a 50/50 split in matching up the definitions of section and article. About 50% of the attendees thought that the definition of section applied to article and visa-versa.

Historically, article and section were more distinct. The article element used to have optional cite and pubdate attributes. Now their content models are identical (apart from the fact that the article element can take an optional time element with a pubdate attribute).

The only thing that distinguishes the definition of article from the definition of section is the presence of the phrase self-contained. A section groups together thematically-related content. An article groups together self-contained thematically-related content. That distinction is too fine to warrant a separate element, in my opinion.

The existence of two elements that are practically semantically identical isn’t a harmless addition to HTML5. It’s causing a great deal of confusion. I’ve spoken to authors who incorrectly assumed that articles had to be within sections or that sections could only be within articles. The truth is that you can have sections within articles, articles within sections, sections within sections, articles within articles, or any other combination you can think of.

This isn’t helpful. Authors are confused. Yet, according to the HTML Design Principle of Priority of Constituencies:

In case of conflict, consider users over authors over implementors over specifiers over theoretical purity.

I don’t understand why Hixie is still clinging to the addition of the article element when he has repeatedly stated that he wants to keep the number of new elements to a minimum. Here’s the perfect opportunity: merge section and article into one element. Personally, I would keep section, with its more generic-sounding name.

We’ve been here before. The abbr and acronym elements were responsible for years of confusion amongst authors unsure of which one to use. The use-cases and the definitions of both elements were just too similar. That particular problem has been solved in HTML5: the acronym element is now obsolete. The abbr element works well enough for both use cases.

Let’s not repeat the mistake of abbr and acronym with article and section.

That was the year, that was

Reading through the messages from my friends on Twitter, it sounds like a lot of people didn’t like 2009. At all. I’m feeling a lot of hate for Oh Nine.

Personally, 2009 was perfectly fine for me. Not superb, but not terrible either …kind of like every year, really. Good stuff happens. Bad stuff happens. Whatever.

I don’t like spending my time looking forward or looking back—I prefer to stay in the present. That said, this is the traditional time of year for a retrospective.

This time last year, I carried my resolutions from 2008 forward:

  • Reduce and/or offset your non-renewable energy output.
  • Give blood.
  • Lose some weight, you fat bastard.
  • Play more bouzouki.

Now, at the end of the year, I can say the results have been… mixed.

  • I did a lot less travelling in 2009. That transformed my Dopplr animal from a spritely squirrel into a more sedate butterfly. That trend will undoubtedly reverse in 2010. As well as the annual pilgrimage to Austin for South by Southwest, I’ll be speaking at five different cities for An Event Apart.
  • I gave blood regularly in 2009. I will continue to give blood in 2010. You should too.
  • I remained a fat bastard in 2009. I don’t intend to be a fat bastard in 2010. We’ll see how that works out. I may invest in a Wii Fit.
  • I didn’t play more bouzouki in 2009 but I have been noodling around on the mandolin a lot so that sorta counts.

Now let’s see what I consumed in 2009: some music, some films, some books.


There were some good albums released in 2009. Two Suns by Bat For Lashes is pretty good. There’s some good stuff on The Big Pink’s A Brief History of Violence too. I really like Reservoir by Fanfarlo and Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone is great. But I think my album of the year would have to be The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists, which I’ve written about before.


Despite my aversion to the typical cinema-going experience, I actually ventured out a few times in 2009. I enjoyed some good science fiction with Star Trek, Moon, and Avatar. My most memorable cinema-going experience was probably seeing Let The Right One In in a deserted Duke of York’s.


I’m not sure if I read any books that were published in 2009. As long as the publishing industry insists on first publishing only in hardback, I will continue to wait for the paperback …if I can maintain my enthusiasm that long. Honestly, I don’t know why they do it. It’s as idiotic as region-encoding in DVDs.

Fortunately, the tech-publishing industry, for all its faults, doesn’t adhere to the hardback/paperback time-shifting. That’s good because there were some great books published in 2009. Emily’s Microformats Made Simple and Handcrafted CSS by Dan and Ethan are just two excellent examples.


So that was 2009. I guess I’d better finish with some predictions for 2010. Here goes:

  • Good things will happen.
  • Bad things will happen.
  • There will be some cool music.
  • There will be some crap music.
  • Blogging will die.
  • Blogging will enjoy a resurgence.
  • The publishing industry will die.
  • The publishing industry will enjoy a resurgence.
  • There will be some good films.
  • There will be some bad films.
  • Websites will be created.
  • Websites will be shut down.
  • Celebrities will die.
  • Mike Arrington will be a dick.
  • In December 2010, you will read best of lists.
  • In December 2010, you will read predictions for 2011.

In short, 2010 will be perfectly fine. Just like 2009.

Happy new year!