Archive for April, 2007

Microformats and accessibility

I’ve long been worried about the accessibility of microformats, so experimented and found that the way that dates are marked up is inaccessible to users of the big two screenreaders, and began writing an article to that effect.

James Craig, who is 97 times more helpful than I am, decided to research a better way to embed machine-parsable dates in content.

We jointly wrote up our results in an article called “hAccessibility“, which James published today.

Comment there, please.

The Friday joke

Q: What’s black and white and brown round the mouth?
A: A nun sucking a turd.

DTI: flushing tax money down the pan

Dan Champion asked more questions of the DTI and summarises:

  • The DTI is spending £60,000 on building templates for a website launched under a year ago at a cost of £200,000.
  • The £60,000 is part of the money to be spent ensuring that the DTI website meets the standards the department specified in the original requirements for their site, despite the suppliers of that site being made fully aware of those requirements and failing to deliver them.
  • The DTI is employing Fujitsu, the very same company that received the lion’s share of the £200,000 spent on the original site, to meet the standards they were contracted to deliver in the first place.
  • The £60,000 covers only one half of the first step in a three-step process.

Leave your comments on his site, where you can read the full story.

Ten reasons why England is great

It’s a tricky thing to say, because the English flag, St George’s Day and patriotism generally has long been hijacked by moron right-wingers, but isn’t England great?

  • Shakespeare

    Fittingly, his birthday is the same day as St George’s day, as he contributed so much to the richness of the English language – as well as doing his propaganda bit for unity under the Tudors by blackening the name of the last Plantagenet monarch and promoting feelings of English patriotism.

  • London

    Ah, London. Galleries. Theatres. Ethnic enclaves. Parliament and Big Ben, tourist traps, and carnivals; the Tube; Black taxis and red buses; medieval streets and hideous 1960s brutalist developments. Finest city in the World (if you don’t have to live there!)

  • the English countryside

    The English countryside is gorgeous. Across the Vale of Evesham in the spring, the beauty of the Yorkshire Moors, the Lake District, the Cornish coast, the Severn Valley in autumn, we don’t have towering mountains, glaciers, or rift valleys. The English countryside is varied, but moderate and dependable. Just like English people are.

    Even the animals that populate our countryside are the same. You don’t get malaria from our bugs. We have no poisonous spiders, and no large animals which can eat you. Our single venomous snake – the Adder – is only as nasty as a wasp sting (and I’ve never seen one, ever).

  • The Beatles, Stones, Sex Pistols and The Clash

    For a small country, we’ve produced a lot of world-changing music. We rock. Nothing more to say.

  • Broadway, Henley

    They’re chocolate box-perfect English towns. They’re a bugger to live in, as you can’t put a nail in the wall without someone from the local Council making sure you’re not damaging the character of the area, but they’re damn gorgeous. There are houses in Henley that are older than many countries.

  • Pubs and proper beer

    Pubs – not bars. They don’t need to be all thatched roof or horsebrasses. They don’t need to be picturesque, but do need to be authentic rather than brewery-mandated “English Pub Experience”. They need a sense of community, a character behind the bar, some grumpy regular drinkers, proper beer and probably a resident dog.

  • Food

    People think English food is just fish and chips or curry – and there’s nothing wrong with either of those. But real English food can’t be beaten, and is rarely encountered by visitors. Take great cuts of meat, fresh vegetables like parsnips, sprouts, roast them all and lightly season, serve with a rich gravy and a pint of proper beer and you’ve got the best Sunday family meal in the world.

  • World War 2

    We English bang on about the war a bit, it’s true – but it’s because it’s deeply embedded in our psyche. OK, it was sixty years ago, but the reason it stays there is because, for a couple of years until the yanks could be arsed to help out, England and our Gaelic cousins Scotland, Ireland, Wales stood alone: we mobilised our entire workforce, turned civilian factories to making armaments, ploughed up parks to grow food on, and tore down metal railings as raw material to make guns.

    We evacuated our children, split up our families and sacrificed our men, while the rest of the world sat on their hands or laid down their arms, because fascism so repelled us. And why shouldn’t we be proud of that?

    Jan 2 2007: It’s been pointed out to me that I may not know my history, and the UK may not have stood alone in quite the way I wrote. So don’t listen to what I say…

  • The National Health Service

    I’m always astonished when I read that in other, allegedly civilised countries, health care is based on ability to pay. God knows, our NHS isn’t perfect, but get this: if you fall sick in the UK you will get treatment of the highest possible quality that the NHS can provide, free at the point of delivery, regardless of whether you’re a millionaire or a vagrant. Now that’s a civilised idea.

  • Jane Austen and George Orwell

    Both used the English language perfectly to celebrate and satirise the England that they loved. Orwell, in particular, is a hero of mine with his fierce promotion of clarity of language, his love of fairness and his defence of the weak. I reckon he should be the eponymous St George today.

  • English people

    I’ve a mix of Scottish and English extraction with a dash of Italian too. My wife is a naturalised Brit, from Thailand, so my kids are utter mongrels, which is itself quintessentially English. Everybody is mixed race here.

    We live next door to Naz, a British-born muslim of Pakistani background, and our other neighbours are the Murphys, of Irish descent. Across the road are the Singhs and the Cohens and the Smiths. It’s a crappy grubby urban English proper street, full of proper English people.

Hurray for England. Have a good St George’s day.

Good Friday joke

Not particularly good, but it is Good Friday:

Jesus walks into a hotel, puts four nails down on the counter and asks “Can you put me up for the night?”

Why do you use this browser, not that browser?

A little while ago, Robert Nyman asked Why would anyone use Internet Explorer?

I don’t want to pick on poor old IE so I’d like to know, why do you use the browser that you currently use, whatever it is?

I use Firefox and Opera for developing – Opera because it’s fast, I believe it follows standards very well and is good for checking the increasingly important mobile market, Firefox because of the Web Developer and Firebug extensions, both of which are absolute must-haves.

On the Mac, I only use Safari for testing – I dislike it immensely for some weird reason (the odd way it renders forms, I think) and so use Opera/ Firefox for surfing there too.

Do you use your browser because of inertia (it’s a drag to move all your favourites), or because you love it?

WCAG 2 released

You wait ages for exciting stories about web accessibility, and then two come at once.

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s announcement about amazon.com reworking their site to be accessible, comes the news that the revised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) finally became a candidate recommendation today.

The news came as a bit of a surprise to the web accessibility community, as it was rumoured that the last draft received a considerable number of comments that needed addressing before the guidelines could become a recommendation.

The Swedish accessibility expert, Olaf Pirol was appointed by the the WCAG working group to go through them. After a 48-hour stint on the guidelines, checking comments, removing a couple of success criteria, and adding two or three others, Olaf declared WCAG 2.0 good to go.