Archive for the 'ephemera' Category

Full Frontal 2011 notes

Full Frontal is organised by my co-author, Remy Sharp and his wife Julie (who both juggled recent parenthood with conference running – respect!). I’ve been unable to attend in previous years due to being out of the country but was looking forward to this one, even though I was a little worried that the JavaScript content would be well over my head.

I needn’t have been too scared. The first talk was on CoffeeScript which seemed to me quite intriguing as it (seems to) encourage you to continue thinking of JS as JS (rather than turning it into Java or some such horror) but smooths away some of the syntactical gotchas that get on my moobs. (See Mike Davis’ write-up.) However, I’m a great believer in not cheating until you know the rules properly, so I’ll be delaying CoffeeScript until I’m more confident in my JS.

The second talk was Phil Hawksworth “Excessive Enhancement – Are we taking proper care of the Web?”, which wittily harangued developers to ensure there is proper semantics underneath the JS shizzle and CSS bling – a subject dear to my heart recently. (And he even quoted me, which is nice!)

I skipped talk #3 “Respectable code-editing in the browser” for some synergy-leveraging as I thought it would be too advanced for me. Only afterwards did I realise that the talk was by Marijn Haverbeke, the author of Eloquent JavaScript that I was greatly enjoying on the train coming down on the recommendation of Noo Yoik JS lovegod Mike Taylor.

The talk on Cloud9 IDE by Rik Arends was a bit of a product pitch, but interesting. I wonder if it works across all browsers?

“Scalable JavaScript Application Architecture” by Nicholas Zakas was the tech highlight for me. He discussed a method of structuring an application so that everything was controlled by a main control app with messages passed into it and back out, with everything else being a black box to everything else. This means the programmer must spend a lot of time at the start of the project, designing the sandbox, controller and APIs. This may not be revelatory to most JS coders (or it may be, I don’t know) but it reminded me of learning Jackson Structured Programming in the late 80s when a systems analyst at AT&T. I’d like to see Zakas do a follow-up talk on how to design the sandbox and controller.

Glenn Jones’ “Beyond the Page” talk discussed – and demoed – techniques and emerging standards/ idioms to make Web sites less separated from other apps. We saw Drag and Drop, Web Intents etc. Some evil hackery, too!

Brendan Dawes always scrubs up nice and today was no exception. Although he’s a quivering Flash-lovin’ aesthete (albeit with a Northern accent), he had the techy crowd warming to him and then in stitches with a stream-of-consciousness talk about creativity, new interfaces and expensive pencils.

Last on was Marcin Wichary from Google, who talked of Google Doodles. Who knews that they user-test them? It was a fascinating talk and the good news is that he’ll be blogging about them in the future.

FullFrontal was a super day. The after party had lavish quantities of free grog. The venue was quirky and fun, with free coffee all day. Each talk was handpicked – in fact, everything about the event was curated by Remy and Julie. I’ll be going next year (although not staying in the Travelodge, Preston Road, which was a dump, and nothing to do with the event).

Reading list

Here are some links I’ve tweeted recently, for those without time, inclination or access to read them on Twitter. And why would you, when I’ve categorised them here for you?

Web Development

  • That clever Doug Schepers of the W3C has a cunning plan to make html5 <canvas> more accessible:

    a simple graphics API that will allow either 2D Canvas (immediate-mode) or SVG (retained-mode) images with the same set of methods and parameters, with the only difference being which “mode” the author selects to have as the instantiated form. If the author draws a circle to the canvas context, it would simply be drawn to the screen with no structure; if the author draws that same circle to the SVG context, it creates a element with the appropriate attribute values and style and inserts it into the DOM

    This would allow authors to learn only one API for 2D graphics for the Open Web Platform. With this ease of learning and use, the author could decide on a case-by-case basis, even within the same application, which mode works best.

  • WebRTC is real-time communication in the browser (think: video-conferencing). Google open-sourced their code. “we expect to see WebRTC support in Firefox, Opera, and Chrome soon!”
  • Make-super-CSS3-Gradients-o-matic! Super tool for making gradients with all the lovely vendor prefixes
  • Some links on writing HTML5 games
  • Dr Oli Boblet has done research in how blockquotes are attributed in the print world
  • Trygve Lie has some cool Orientation API demos: Using a mobile phone as a remte conrtrol for a video on a desktop, and a remote / receiver demo that captures the orientation events from a device and transfers these over a WebSocket to the receiver to create a rotating image in the receiver. The image in the receiver will rotate depending upon how the remote is rotated.
  • PDF.js: rendering PDF with JavaScript

What’s the opposite of “to develop”? That’s right – “to inhibit” or “to retard”. So after the “Web Development” section, stuff that inhibits the Open Web:

Web Retardation



Startup Britain!

We live in economically uncertain times. The Keynsian nonsense of the State ensuring crade-to-the-grave social care for its citizens, providing and maintaining an infrastructure so the country can function, and other socialist claptrap is discredited.

The way to economic prosperity is for entrepreneurs – like you! – to start up businesses, make a fortune and trickle down all over everyone else.

Fortunately, for the self-starter – like you! -who can’t be arsed to get up and do some research, there is a new website to help you on your path. Like the cartoon God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, David Cameron’s disembodied head gazes down at you from his celestial home, squinting inspiration at you. And as if that were not energising enough, there’s a picture of Richard Branson doing his best double-thumbs-up orgasm face.

This fabulous resource is

Designed to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK, it has the full backing of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and HM Government. This is a response from the private sector to the Government’s call for an ‘enterprise-led’ recovery. We believe that many of the important functions and services necessary to foster and champion new enterprise can be open-sourced, instead of provided by government directly.

Hopefully you are by now inspired and accelerated?

There are, sadly, defeatists who cling to the old politics of envy and deface such rallying cries:

trickle-down economics? Head in the bloody clouds

Kettle them all. They’ll be moaning about the Royal Wedding next.

Conference jargon-busting

After three conferences back-to-back, here’s my start of a conference jargon-busting dictionary. Please add your own.

“Enterprise solution” = ludicrously over-priced bloatware
“turnkey” = turkey
“ecosystem” (as in “Apple ecosystem”) = vendor lock-in
“keynote speech” – content-free flatulence from a bigwig
“inspirational speech” = content-free flatulence with nice pictures taken from Flickr creative commons, and attributed in tiny, tiny type
“party” = purgatory
“panel” (as in “SxSW panel”) = the only way to pleasure your best friends under a desk in public without breaking the law
“Awesome!” = yawn
“paradigm” = punch me

Yearly roundup and festive charidee

What a year it’s been. My employer, Opera, went from 100 million users to 150 million, released Opera Mini for iPhone, Opera Mobile for Android and we went up to eleven on desktop.

I’ve had a the first HTML5 book published with my marvellous co-author, Remy Sharp, which is now in its third printing. Other personal highlights include an invitation from Martin Kliehm to speak with him at South By South West; our panel was voted joint third best of the whole conference.

I’ve travelled to Sweden, Poland, Japan and Australia and met many fabulous people. Special shout outs go to my fellow HTML5 Doctor Oli Studholme, whom I met for the first time last month and who shares the mantle of Nicest Guy On The Planet with Roger Hudson, who organised and guided Steve Faulkner and me for our Australian tour, and who has a fascinating store of traveller’s tales from his days in the movies; he was a scriptwriter for the legendary Aussie soap The Young Doctors (here’s a photo of one his original scripts) and now works in accessibility. From screenwriters to screenreaders; what a career trajectory!

Personally I’ll be glad to see the end of 2010. My Dad had heart surgery. I got sick. My two much-loved grandmothers died; they were both very old, and died without pain and without lingering which is the way to do it, but it’s odd not buying those Xmas presents this year. Tragically, a friend’s baby daughter died.

Festive charidee

Regular readers might recall that I don’t send Christmas cards: polluting the planet to transport someone else’s pre-prepared greetings to be stuffed in a landfill seems like a bad way to spend my money, so I give donation to a charity instead. This year, that charity is Amnesty International because we need freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom from cruelty.

In the UK our government wishes to censor the Internet. In France, the home of chic, they have laws telling women what they can wear and, flushed with the success of that, the government has taken to rounding up members of an ethnic group for resettlement in the East.

Meanwhile, the junta that illegally controls Burma had a pretend election that – surprise! – they won again. Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, languishes in a Chinese jail as a political prisoner. Mad people in the USA are calling for the extra-judicial murder of Julian Assange over Wikileaks. Iran, jealous over the publicity that Sudan got for its superb theocratic misogyny video, sentenced Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to death by stoning although she was acquitted of any crimes. In Malawi, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were sentence to 14 years in prison for being gay and showing no remorse about it.

So instead of sending a card to you, I’m sending some cash to Amnesty; please consider doing the same for me.

Have a Happy Consumerfest. Best of luck for 2011.

Big down under

My global tour continues, and I’ve moved from Tokyo to Australia, where I’m touring Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane with organiser and all-round-great-bloke Roger Hudson and The Mighty Steve Faulkner, for the Web Industry Professionals Association. We’re talking HTML5 and WAI-ARIA. (So far, there are a few places left for Perth and Brisbane: book here.)

I’m very much enjoying Aus. It feels like England done right: good weather, laid-back attitude and fabulous hot-pants (not me, obviously). The only downside is the vast pantheon of comically venomous creatures that lurk round every corner. In Canberra I was even warned about evil swooping magpies.

The tour so far has been great; sell-out crowds and really, really clued-up (“cluey”) attendees and great people like Russ Weakley, Ruth Ellison who I’ve long admired but never met.

The flight from Canberra to Melbourne yesterday was somewhat fraught; we took off two hours late due to what was variously reported as “mechanical trouble”, “bad weather in Melbourne” and “a catering mishap that was particularly unpleasant”. (At least it wasn’t exploding engines.) On arrival the doors wouldn’t open and the fuselage rocked as the ground staff attempted to bash the doors open with the airbridge. We arrived at the venue with only minutes to spare.

Now I’m having a weekend (shifted forward by a day as I fly to Perth on Sunday morning) in Melbourne with my old and dear friend Pippa. We’ve already seen a park full of flying foxes and are off to see Kangawallabats at the zoo tomorrow. Tonight I’m cooking us pork stirfry noodles and gyoza and there is a case of beer to drink.

The oil’s sizzling. Gotta go.

5 feet 6 inches is the optimal height for a human

So, Mr Andy “Beanpole” Mabbett called me short. What he, and other lanky bastards don’t understand is that 5’6″ is the optimal height for a human being, and that is a fact proved by scientists.

The physics and biology are simple. If you are taller than the optimal height, not enough gravity reaches the top of the brain. This means that the blood tends to collect there, and not enough goes through the lower parts of the brain such as the hippocampus which controls things like spatial navigation. This is why tall people are often gangly and bump into things.

People shorter than 5’6″ have the opposite problem. Their heads are closer to the centre of the earth (where the gravity particles are formed in the base of volcanoes) so the blood tends to collect at the bottom of the brain and not flow so much at the top. This makes them more likely to commit suicide or suffer from an engorged hippocampus (which also controls long-term memory, which is why very short people like Hitler, Napoleon and Stalin never forgot grudges, for example).

However, at 5’6″, the distribution of gravity in the brain is perfect for optimal blood-flow around all areas, leading to high intelligence, superior wit, peak physical ability and extraordinary virility. Scientific fact.

Co-incidentally, I am five feet and six inches tall.

Friday 13th: 43rd birthday in Jakarta

The miserable bloody English weather has conspired to give me two colds more or less back to back, so it was with only minimal trepidation that I spent 24 hours travelling by plane to Indonesia, to spend my second birthday on the trot jetlagged in Jakarta where I’m embarking on a frenzied schedule of university visits to persuade Indonesian students of the value of Web Standards.

The kindly Indonesians laid on a huge rain storm just as I landed (so the 30 celcius sun they’d been enjoying didn’t make me too culture-shocked). Cue flooding and gridlock. The 30 minute drive from the airport took two and half hours of buttock-clenching frustration—but at least it didn’t end up like that other Friday 13th.