Tags: humour




The lovely and talented Paul and Kelly from Maxine Denver were in the Clearleft office to do some video work last week. After finishing a piece I was in, I suggested they keep “rolling” (to use an anachronistic term) so I could do a little tongue-in-cheek piece about the Clearleft device lab, a la Winnebago Man.

Here’s the result.

It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Then I remembered.


I’m sure that by now you’ve already seen the infamous email from Richard Stallman—free software’s own worst enemy—detailing his somewhat eccentric approach to speaking at conferences.

I particularly like the memetic variation of The Stallman Dialogues. There’s a real genius in the way that it quotes passages from the email verbatim.

Y’know, I’m supposed to have a Skype call with Andy sometime next week about my upcoming talk and workshop at Build (tickets are still available for the workshop, by the way). I’m very tempted to channel my inner Stallman for the duration of our conversation.

Meeting that sad animal is not an agreeable surprise.

Team meme

I’m somewhat fascinated by the divisive spin on fandom taken by Twilight fans—you know; the whole Team Edward or Team Jacob debate. I wonder what it would be like to take the same approach to more important issues…

Get those T-shirts printed!

The secret, however, is knowing when to stop. I do not want to see “I’m with Team HTML5” vs. “I’m with Team Flash.”

Funny how?

There’s something about watching videos of unnecessary censorship—particularly of the Sesame Street variety—that cracks me up. Not content with simply finding them funny, I wanted to figure out why they tickle my funny bone so. It turns out that Matt has already figured it out, although he was referring to Nathan Barley:

It’s not funny because it’s rude, it’s funny because it looks like it’s funny because it’s rude.

That’s it! At first glance, it may seem over-complicated. After all, aren’t those videos of unnecessary censorship funny because they look like they’re rude? But no, they are funny because they look like they are funny because they are rude. That’s an important distinction.

Matt repurposes this sentence construction in an excellent post about the reports of the death of privacy being greatly exaggerated. He points out the huge danger in confusing the fact that technologies can be used to destroy privacy with the assumption that those technologies therefore will destroy privacy. If we fall into the trap of making that assumption then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy:

It’s not the end of privacy because of these new visibilities, but it may be the end of privacy because it looks like the end of privacy because of these new visibilities.

Here’s another example. A snapshot on Flickr of the TripLog iPhone app interface initially drew nought but scorn from designers deriding how complicated—and therefore, frustrating—it looked. But following a comment from the app’s designer and a subsequent analysis on the 37 Signals blog, things weren’t quite so straightforward. The initial criticism assumed that the app would be frustrating to use because it looks complicated but really…

It’s not frustrating because it’s complicated, it’s frustrating because it looks like it’s frustrating because it’s complicated.

Could it be that Matt has created a snowclone?

It’s not X because it’s Y, it’s X because it looks like it’s X because it’s Y.

Maybe I’ll add it to the queue and see what Erin thinks.



It all started with levels of CSS knowledge. Roger followed that up with levels of HTML knowledge (remember kids; that’s the most fundamental and important technology on the Web). Anne added his own take.

Dean came along with a tongue-in-cheek list of levels of JavaScript knowledge. I’m at about level 4.5 (I still attach events the old-school way but document.all? yuck!).

Then Joe contributed levels of accessibility knowledge. I started snickering by level two:

Has seen blind people on American TV shows, and knows the first thing they will ask you is “Can I feel your face?”

By level six, I was laughing out loud:

Coauthored Friends of Ed book; business partners have coauthored O’Reilly books and/or have colour deficiency… Has cooed at Zeldman’s baby… Speaks at Web-standards conferences. Hosts visiting fellow developers in spare bedroom.

Level seven was soya-milk-out-of-the-nose funny:

Author of minor star in gauzy firmament of accessibility books. Interested in subtopics so obscure even the actual disabled subgroups affected don’t really care. Overarching competence acknowledged, if begrudgingly, yet often viewed as subordinate to grating personality “quirks.” Difficult to feed, let alone have fun with, when staying over in spare bedroom. Viewed as derailing WAI process. Typically the only X in the village irrespective of village or value of X.

Ah, Joe! Come back to Brighton. We no longer have a spare bedroom but we do have a spanking new sofa-bed.

The bedroll may now resume. In fact, the idea has even spread to Denmark.

How to Be a Web Design Underwear Pervert

As noted by Cory Doctorow, Marvel and DC have filed for a joint trademark on the word “superhero”.

Meanwhile, over in Reykjavik, Andy Clarke has just finished a reprise performance of his hit presentation from South by SouthWest (where he shared the stage with Andy Budd). The presentation is entitled “How to Be a Web Design Superhero”.


Fortunately, Cory has a solution:

Here’s a proposal: from now on, let’s never use the term “super-hero” to describe a Marvel character. Let’s call them “underwear perverts” — as Warren Ellis is wont to — or vigilantes, or mutants.

I have taken the liberty of passing Joe’s transcript of Andy’s presentation through my transmogrifier. I give you:

How to Be a Web Design Underwear Pervert.


Thomas wrote about odd moments in technology after experiencing a moment of cognitive dissonance involving his iChat and my iTunes. I was listening to an interview with Thomas on Podleaders so that’s what was showing up in my iChat status. When Thomas noticed this, he pointed out via iChat how weird it felt. At that point I was listening to him time-shifted via iTunes whilst messaging with him in real time — itself a very odd moment.

Recently I’ve been experiencing some other odd moments whilst listening to podcasts. Specifically, I keep hearing my name, which is disconcerting when I’m not expecting it. I tend to listen to podcasts while I’m coding or Photoshopping so it’s weird to be snapped out of my “zone” by hearing my name.

It’s happened on two episodes of the Web 2.0 show; one with Dan and the other with Tantek and Ryan. Then it happened again while I was listening to Cameron’s talk about Ajax.

In the last two instances, I was mentioned because of Adactio Austin. I’m doomed to be known as the geek who mashed up Google Maps with beer.

Which reminds me of a joke…

Two gentlemen of whatever particular nationality you like to deride (Welsh, Irish, English; take your pick) are standing on a hill overlooking their peaceful harbour town. One of the men speaks:

See those boats out there in the harbour? I built those boats with my bare hands. But do they call me John the boat builder? No, they do not. And all of the nets on those boats… I made those nets. But do they call me John the net maker? No, they do not. And you see all of those houses down there in that valley? I built each one of those houses with my own sweat and blood. But do they call me John the house builder? No, they do not.

But I shag one lousy sheep…

Adactio, pour homme

Erik Sagen received a very tempting email out the blue, which he has posted on his website:

Dear Mr Sagen,

My sincere apologies for writing to you unannounced. My name is Arno Zimmerman and I am CEO of an Internet domain name acquisitions agency based here in Los Angeles, California.

My agency is currently engaged by a well-known Hollywood studio. The studio is producing a new action movie called The Kartooner. The movie has an all star cast, including Bruce Willis in the title role, and will be released in the fall. My client is therefore very keen to purchase the rights to the domain name kartooner.com from you.

And so on. Now, I found this particularly interesting because, just a little earlier, I found this in my inbox:

Dear Mr Keith,

My sincere apologies for writing to you unannounced. My name is Arno Zimmerman and I am CEO of an Internet domain name acquisitions agency based here in Manhattan.

My agency is currently engaged by a well-known fragrance manufacturer who will soon be launching a new product range under the brand of Adactio. Adactio is a new fragrance for men and will be marketed world-wide and on all media, including of course the Internet. My client is therefore very keen to purchase the rights to the domain name adactio.com from you.

But wait — the plot thickens. Mr. Zimmerman wrote back to Erik with some more information that movie project:

As I mentioned in my previous email, The Kartooner will star Bruce Willis in the title role. Bruce plays an impoverished artist in New York who pays his bills by drawing cartoons for the New York Times. Through a series of unfortunate accidents, Bruce’s character mistakenly becomes the target of a Mafia hit squad and must use all his wits (as well as his artistic skills) to stay alive. Needless to say I cannot divulge any further plot details.

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? I want in.

Here’s the email I sent back:

Hi Arno,

Thanks for getting in touch. And allow me to be the first to congratulate you on your move from Los Angeles to Manhatten — and in record time, too!

Y’know, I could never imagine letting go of my domain name but the idea of a fragrance called Adactio is almost irresistible. I’m not really very money-oriented so I’m not going to name some huge price. I am, however, a huge attention whore. Therefore, all I ask is that I am the “face” of the advertising campaign for the fragrance.

It’s a win-win situation. You get your domain name, I get my face on a billboard in Times Square and sales of the fragrance will undoubtedly skyrocket.

But what would really seal the deal would be the promise of some product placement. I think I should have a part in the upcoming Kartooner movie project. Clearly, it would boost the profile of the film to have the face of Adactio featured prominently. In exchange, the movie studio should probably offer an endorsement by Bruce Willis. I’m picturing a short TV ad with Bruce speaking the tagline:

“I love the smell of Adactio in the morning. Smells like… web standards.”

By the way, what did you say the name of your company was again?

Update: Oh, man! This keeps getting better. I got a reply:

You have asked to be considered as the face of the advertising campaign for the fragrance and I will pass on your request to the advertising agencies handling the Adactio campaign. Will you please email to me a selection of photographs of yourself? As the campaign concepts feature a bare chested man, I would be grateful if you would include photographs from the waist up and of your naked chest.

As the media buying for the campaign is not yet finalized, I cannot guarantee a billboard in New York. However I do know that the poster campaign for Adactio will run across the UK, so your image will appear on several thousand London buses.

This comedic genius continues in a similar vein for a while, which prompts me to ask… John — on second thoughts — Andy, is that you?

In other news: the Photoshopping has begun. Mike has already done the Vanity Fair spread.