Diary Archive 2011

Atheist Christmas

Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus. Source: Wikipedia

Yesterday I went to Brussels for a meeting which once again saw me heading to St Pancras Station to board the Eurostar. An eye catching feature of the station at the moment is the enormous Lego Christmas tree. That got me thinking about Christmas and it's so called 'true meaning.'

I felt compelled to write a few of those thoughts…

Twenty Years of W3C Mailing List Archives

W3C logo

It was Gerald Oskoboiny, one of the W3C's systeam, who noticed that today is the twentieth anniversary of an e-mail. Not a particularly special e-mail — it's just a test — but it has the distinction of being the oldest e-mail in the W3C archives. The fact that it was sent by TimBL from an address ending in cern.ch gives you some idea of its age.

Gerald is going to be carrying out a little activity next week around the topic of the W3C mailing list archives but they're such a fundamental part of what the W3C does and the way it does it that I wanted to mark the anniversary itself today.

Mobile Web Physician, Heal Thyself

Mobile Web Flip Cards front

In June 2005, the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group had its kick off meeting at Vodafone's then London office in the Strand and I am proud to say I was there. I remained a member of the Working Group throughout most of the rest of its life and did my best to contribute to several documents.

In February 2009 I began teaching the W3C Introduction to Mobile Web Best Practices online course. At the time of writing, working with others, I've run that course 6 times and am heading for run 7, thus helping many hundreds of people learn more about developing Web content for mobile.

Guess what I've never done until now?

Made this site mobile-friendly.

OK, I have now. There's still more to do but as of now this site uses a variety of techniques to try to present content in a way that can be read on desktop, tablet or mobile. Doing so has made me think long and hard about some of the things I've been teaching over the last three years and putting them into practice has been very instructive.

I plan at least one more article about this site but here are the first three to be getting on with.

Still to come: Optimisation and Caching and I should probably say something about mobileOK having been so involved in its definition. As of today, I only score 59% which is far from good!

Europeana Tech 2011

Europeana Tech 2011

One of my colleagues on the Paths Project, Runar Bergheim of Avinet, is chairing a session at Europeana Tech in early October and kindly asked me to take part. Although Runar and fellow pannelist Kate Fernie are both 'Paths people', and I take part in Paths for i-sieve, I'm going to this conference wearing my W3C hat to talk about different metadata standards. schema.org has certainly provoked a lot of discussion and W3C has just launched a couple of new Task Forces, one on Web Schemas and another on HTML Data, at least in part as a response to the establishment of schema.org. Europeana itself is something of a flagship project for the Semantic Web (it brings together collections from many differnet European cultutural heritage institutions) so there should be a lot ot talk about.

At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymbal

Alan Freeman in classic pose in the studio

Last night I spent an hour grinning from ear to ear listening to a terrific documentary by Tim Rice about Pick of the Pops. First broadcast on it's the quintessential chart show. It's forever associated with the incomparable Alan Freeman although I was surprised to learn that even before the recent outings with Dale Winton and Tony Blackburn, not the only one. I remember not that many years ago hearing Andy Kershaw presenting Radio 4's Pick of the Week in which he, rightly, pointed out that local and hospital radio DJs up and down the country did their utmost to copy the slick style of Alan Freeman which he illustrated with a truly incredible clip from that week's Pick of the Pops. Kershaw was right — no one could touch him. He was brilliant, the ultimate radio DJs' DJ.

If you love music radio from the 60s-80s, it's a fantastic programme full of jingles, back story, memories, and the history of its iconic theme tune At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymbal from its original by Brian Fahey (freely available on YouTube) to the one arranged by Barbara Moore, performed by Brass Incorporated, that you can't get your hands on but always wish you could. Sadly copyright forbids me from being kind enough to include the MP3 I made of it so as I write, you have 4 days to head over to the BBC iPlayer.

Towards Open Government Metadata

ISA: Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations

It's often hard for me to describe what I actually do for a living. I'll throw around acronmys like W3C and EU Projects but day to day, how do I earn a living when I barely leave the house? Well, a big part of my return to the W3C Team recently is to work on EU projects around Open Government Metadata. And since the project officer, Vassilios Peristeras, has just published a short and very readable summary of the subject, it seems only right that I highlight it.

The particular bit of the Commission responsible for this work is the Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations programme (ISA) and it's through them, and PwC, that I'm contributing W3C expertise to work on developing Core Vocabularies. Dublin Core provides the basic terms for describing publications, but there are other areas less well served. FOAF was designed to describe people and relationships — which is not quite the same as describing a person for uses in eGovernment so there may be some work to do there, for example. Time will tell.

Converting HTML5 to Kindle Format

This week, among the chinking of wine glasses, the nibbling of, well, nibbles and the pleasant company of the book club, I suddenly found that I needed to create a Kindle version of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Here's a quick guide to how I did it.

Letter From My MP

The proposed anti-abortion amendment to the NHS Reform Bill put forward by Nadine Dorries and Frank Field this week prompted me to write to my MP - but not particularly about abortion. I was pleased with his reply.

Rejoining the W3C Team

W3C Logo

For reasons that are best not put in the public domain, I made a massively stupid mistake last year and resigned my job at W3C. It is with a deep sense of not just relief but pleasure that I am able to reverse that mistake and re-join the W3C Team today.

Previously I worked in the Mobile Web Team, focussing on developing and delivering training. I've continued to do that this year with the Introduction to Mobile Web and Application Best Practice course that I've been running with Frances de Waal (we ran it in June and the new run begins on Monday). But Frances and I are doing that as contractors, not W3C employees. Today's new start on the actual Team is in a different department (Technology and Society) working on eGovernment. All sorts of legal discussions are going on so forgive me for not talking specifics just now. Quite how I'm going to fulfil this new (heavy) commitment alongside my work on PATHS at i-sieve and the training course, not to mention occasionally helping out at MetaCert remains to be seen. The next 7 months look very busy, but it's good to be back.

Evil Google+

I use this site and social media to project a positive image of everything I talk about. If you can't think of anything positive to say, don't say anything is a good maxim for life online.

Today I'm making an exception. I have been left speechless and deeply angry by the news that Google will delete your Google+ account if they think you're using a pseudonym. I explain why in this short piece.

CSS Media Queries on @import Rules

Follwing a question posed by a participant in the W3C Mobile Web and Applications Best Practices Course that I'm leading, I've been playing around with CSS @import rules. having done a few experiements it seems only right to put them online!

Launch of MetaCert

MetaCert (logo)

6 years ago last month I first met Paul Walsh. Then, as now, he was passionate about recognising and promoting Web sites that meet quality criteria. His latest initiative in this area is a big one: MetaCert. It's one I'm delighted to be part of.

Doctype and Viewport Tester

The current run of the Mobile Web and Application Best Practice course has thrown up a number of questions about the effect of declaring different doctypes and viewports. As ever on the Web, the answers are not straight forward and there's no substitute for emperical data. So I created a little tool that you can use to see the effect of various combinations in whatever device you have to hand.

I want to post some screenshots of different combinations which I hope to have time to do before long but for now I need to creack on with other things.

WAC and POWDER (again)


At the invitation of its editor, I made some comments on WAC's use of POWDER. They've updated the spec, I've updated my comments.

EU Cookie Directive/Google Analytics

You may have seen discussion of the "EU Cookie Directive", something I referred to, for example, in my post on Privacy and Do Not Track. Alerted by a tweet from Tom Griffola I read an article on the Irish implementation of the Directive. I am not sure whether Google Analytics really does fall foul of the Directive but the suggestion to add a few lines of code to the Google Analytics code seemed trivial enough to try out.

So that's what I've done. I've added:

_gaq.push(['_setCampaignCookieTimeout', 0]);
_gaq.push(['_setVisitorCookieTimeout', 0]);
_gaq.push(['_setSessionCookieTimeout', 0]);

just above _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); in my copy of the Google Analytics code.

I'll take a look at the results on my GA dashboard ina few days and report on whether I can see any appreciable difference. I expect there to be one around the number of unique visitors if nothing else.

httpRange-14… again

The rather inelegantly and cryptically named httpRange-14 issue refuses to go away. Not beause people don't want it to go away but simply because it's important and difficult to solve. There are pragmatists and practitioners, theorists and philosophers on all sides.

My work on POWDER, which is all about attributing properties to things based on their URI and about discovering those properties, means that I have an interest in the debate. I've therefore made a small update to a document I first wrote in November 2010.

Web Tracking Protection

MetaCert (logo)

I'm delighted to have taken up an additional role as an advisor for MetaCert, a startup company run by Paul Walsh who I've known for many years. He and his original company, Segala, provided important energy and support for the development of POWDER and MetaCert is going to be offering a number of services based on that technology.

An area that Paul's asked me to look at initially is privacy, an issue that is always on the agenda but that is very much a hot topic at the moment in the EU and the US. W3C has had 2 workshops on the topic and there are relevant emerging new standards. So, here's a look at the issues as they stand today.

Holden ze Gedatum

The postman has just delivered a "hold the date" letter from the media authority for Schleswig-Holstein.

It's in German, of course, and because I'm thick I need to rely on things like Yahoo! Babel Fish to help me out. Having typed in the guts of the letter and then hit "translate", here's the text:

Annual reception of mA HSH on "beautiful prospects" one can get accustomed — we would like it us also in this year not take not to let and above all together with you enjoy: In hope on one summer evening, which makes all honour for its name, we load you cordially for the annual reception of the institute for medium Hamburg. We would be pleased, if you noted the date today already. An invitation closes to you in time.

Never before have I been so honoured as to be cordially loaded.

If I understand this correctly, actually, it's very nice to be asked and I'll do what I can to get there. But automated translation has a way to go yet…

Paths Project Meeting

See caption
Bergen, as seen from the sea in autumn. The town's highest mountain, Ulriken, is in the background. Photographer Robin Strand, source.)

The greatest privilege of working on EU projects is that you get to travel around our ever-fascinating and varied continent. Paths Project partner Avinet is hosting our latest project meeting at its offices in Bergen.

i-sieve's role during the early stages of the project has been to carry out some sentiment analysis towards online cultural heritage, including a look specifically at attitudes towards Europeana. This complements work carried out by the University of Sheffied and (photographic archive) Alinari from which we're deriving user requirements.

SWIM 2011

SWIM 2011 logo My friend and colleague at NCSR Demokritos, Stasinos Konstantopoulos, is presenting a paper that he wrote and to which I made a small contribution at the 3rd International Workshop on Semantic Web Information Management — SWIM 2011.

Entitled POWDER and the Multi Million-Triple Store, it describes how POWDER has been used as a means to store large numbers of triples more efficiently as part of the Sync3 project.

I'll add a link to the paper as soon as it's published by SWIM.

Polyglot Documents

HTML5 Powered with Semantics My work on the W3C Mobile Web and Application Best Practice course brought to my attention a little bit W3C spec-ary that looked really interesting. It's a set of guidelines for how to create a single document that can be parsed as either HTML or XHTML.

The document is short (as W3C docs go!) and it also looked as if it would be reasonably easy to implement so I thought I'd give it a go — and it was!


screen grab of text: schema.org from that site The announcement last week of the launch of schema.org by Google, Yahoo! and Bing has prompted a lot of comment online. I was asked specifically about the possible relationship with online safety, following my talk a couple of weeks ago (see next entry but one).

Here's my reply!

Campsite Wi-Fi

close up of an outdoor chair anad a laptop outside a caravan I've spent the last few days on a campsite near Horsham. This was a holiday for the family but not for me: I spent the days working more or less as normal. At least, that was the plan. Unfortunately to do that I need a good internet conection, something that was promised but not delivered…

Online-Jugendschutz — geht's noch?

Online youth protection — is it still possible?

Graphic used by organisers of the event. Shows a reduced image of a map and a keyboard with a padlock and chain over it For many years it was my job to promote the idea of labelling of Web sites for child protection purposes. This was and remains a subject of much discussion in Germany with a variety of self-regulatory responses to, well, regulatory diktats.

These days I am happy to talk about the issue from an independent position, i.e. I can express ideas on the subject as I see it, not how someone is paying me to say it. Therefore I'm delighted to have been invited by the Hans Bredow Institute to speak at their event on 25 May Online-Jugendschutz — geht's noch? or Online youth protection — is it still possible? (I'm grateful to Katja Durrani for the translation).

What Exactly Is It That You do?

I've recently been making myself known in various networking groups such as the newly formed Ipswich BoB Club and the Digital Coffee Mornings, and Tweetups organised by Emma Jell and Steve Butterworth.

But I have a problem: people are kind enough to ask me what I do. It's a question I sometimes struggle to answer, especially when talking about my work for i-sieve Technologies. The problem is, there isn't a term for what i-sieve does. There's a similar term, sentiment analysis, but it doesn't convey much information. So I'm advocating the adoption of some new terms.

A Thank You for Exemplary Service

We often moan about receiving poor service, especially in Britain. Having received exemplary service from Jim Thomasson in California, I wanted to take up a bit of Web space to say thank you.

A Positive View of the Microsoft — Skype Deal

Yesterday's news that Microsoft has bought Skype for $8.5bn dollars generated a lot of comment online. Most of the comment was sceptical and otherwise negative. It reminded me of the comments made when Rupert Murdoch put the Times behind a pay wall. The general thrust was "that looks like a really stupid thing to do but Murdoch generally knows what he's doing so we'll wait and see what happens." The jury is still out on that one but I reckon there's at least one really good thing Microsoft could do with Skype: integrate it with Office as a conference call feature complete with tools for things like minute taking, action assigning and tracking and more… just like the W3C tools.

Beware: Twitter is comment without context

Following a number of Twitter-related stories recently, I have written a short piece on the dangers of reading too much into what a single Tweet means, especially if you're using social media monitoring tools.

W3C Mobile Web and Application Best Practice Course

Anonymous mobile devices wearing academic mortar boards I'm delighted to once again be leading the W3C's Mobile Web training course. Although I'm no longer on the team, I've been brought in to run an updated version of the course that will retain the best bits of the old course I ran during 2009 and 2010 and will add in new modules that draw on the Mobile Web Applications Best Practice document. And, er, I admit that we have yet to write that new material. We know what it's going to be, but we haven't actually written it yet. Ah well, that's life. It'll be alright on the night as they say.

At last, an HTML5 Page

HTML5 Powered with Semantics I've been meaning to get around to converting this site to HTML5 for a while — my guess is a lot of other people have been meaning to do the same. I also really must complete something I started ages ago and make it mobile-friendly too. No excuse on that given that I teach the W3C Mobile Web Course (hangs head in shame).

So this is my first HTML5 page, complete with the new elements <article> and <time>. I've been so determined not to use semantics-free <div>s that I've got rid of the ones that create the pale blue background outside the main white-background page content. I don't claim to be a designer but even I can see it looks pretty naff anyway, so it's no bad things it's gone.

It's noticeable that the amount of markup is reduced while the semantics have improved significantly. And yes, the page validates! The page works OK in IE8, just got to check it in IE6…

Incidentally, if you're planning on starting to work in HTML5 too, I recommend Introducing HTML 5 by Bruce Lawson and Remy Sharp.

Why I'm supporting AV

Yesterday I said on Twitter that as I live in a safe seat I effectively have no vote. @charlotteV of the No campaign challenged me by asking how AV would change that. Here's my (short) answer.

Suffolk Twestival

Suffolk Twestival logo

Thanks to the energy, enthusiasm and, er, Rolodex, of Emma Jell (one of the people behind Mashup Event), Suffolk is one of the places around the world where you can take part in this year's Twestival. This is a truly global event that brings together people who share one thing: Twitter. Each event will have its own flavour and focus. Here in Suffolk we're looking at social media marketing and the like, all the while raising money for the Suffolk Disability Care Fund at The Suffolk Foundation.

There are events all over the county and I wish I could get to more but, well, I have yet to find a way around the "can't be in two places at once" problem. So I'll be at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds from 10-12 for the Digital Strategy Pop-Up and at the Brewery Tap closer to home in Ipswich for the evening bash.

Astonishingly, Content Advisor survives into IE9

Internet Explorer 9

Thanks to a tweet by Paul Walsh of MetaCert, I was alerted to the fact that Internet Explorer 9 is shipping with Content Advisor, a PICS-based filter created for IE3. It is wholly unsupported and 100% ineffective, so this seems a little odd to say the least.

I couldn't fit all I wanted to say into 140 characters so I wrote a short piece about it instead:

Working on PATHS for i-sieve

i-sieve logo During 2010 I helped to put together a propsal for an EU project around ICT and cultural heritage. Called PATHS, it allows people to record their journeys from one subject to another so that they can create and share narratives through cultural collections. I'm very happy to say that I've been able to re-join the team at i-sieve Technologies and take up a role in the project. Not for the first first time, today is my first day as UK Project Manager at i-sieve!


W3C POWDER logo I had an e-mail exchange with Bryan Sullivan of AT&T, editor the WAC Core spec, concerning the use of POWDER in WAC 2.0. Since I'm not sure if it's publicly archived anywhere I've published it here.

Being Open

Screen grab of title for Being Open event

The folks at Mashup Event are behind Being Open, which is all about using open platforms (like the talis Platform) and open data (like that hosted on the Talis Platform) in commerce and marketing. Sounds good! So I'm pleased to be on the speaker list for this alongside some of the folk I see at events like UKGovcamp and that I keep trying to get to meet like Sam Sethi.

January Sailing

Thumbnail picture of the Yacht: Tiki Go sailing in January? Are you mad? Well, no. There was a good spring tide, the weather wasn't too cold and it was dry. With the boat going up and down twice a day on her pontoon, why not?…