Archive for March, 2010

I survived a night drinking with Stuart Langridge

Hot on the heels of surviving South By SouthWest, I survived a night drinking with Stuart Langridge.

Stuart is a crazed ginger open-source commie and JavaScript geezer who works for Canonical, who make Ubuntu. He works from home, as do I, so we occasionally get together at the traditional Canonical-Opera Synergy Facility that is The Welly in Central Birmingham. This is a pub so hard-core they don’t serve food (though you can bring your own in and they’ll give you a plate). This is a pub without jukebox or one-armed bandit. Its one permanent concession to entertainment is a darts board and the occasional Cheese night (“bring your own exciting cheeses”). In short, this is a pub for beer and conversation.

So, over seven (or was it eight?) pints of real ale, we conversed. The topics included:

  • Why you can’t float table cells and rows around a page. I remember doing some tests years ago with absolutely positioning table cells, but if you float an element, it disregards the display:block rule that you need to use to remove its inherent “tableness”
  • The excellence of the Debenhams personal shopper service when taking daughters on shopping trips
  • Why CouchDB is splendid, and why it should be proposed to the WHATWG and Web Apps group as the in-browser database for “HTML5″
  • How you can’t completely divorce markup and styling, even in HTML5, largely because of inadequacies in CSS
  • Alexis Deveria’s jQuery implementation of the CSS Template Layout Module
  • Whether anyone will ever use hgroup
  • Why Apple fanboys are the most annoying type of fanboys
  • The nice people we know in the Web world
  • The licensing of H.666 H.264 and MP3 and how to reward innovation without absurd software patents
  • How to write RESTful APIs (Stuart wrote me an API earlier in the week)
  • The burden of book authoring and the pitfalls of book titles
  • Whether libraries are too much abstraction from native code, or whether it matters anyway
  • The marvels of the Sarissa library
  • The outrageous price of beer in London

A splendid evening.

I survived South By SouthWest

Other people have expressed surprise that I had never been to SxSW before (last year I had the chance to go to India so went there instead) and it was with some trepidation that I went to bring the good news about Opera, HTML5 and give the Texas ladies the chance of some hot lovin'.

I very much liked Austin - or "Steve" as I like to call it - and it's become my new favourite American city; I used to like San Francisco but against Steve, it feels a bit like Brighton - too self-consciously cool to be relaxing.

I didn't see many talks as I had to be a boothbunny, but (to be brutally honest) I wasn't terribly impressed with those I did make it to. The panel format seemed a bit like paying to watch at a circlejerk, with everyone agreeing and congratulating each other, although I was impressed with some. The parties were not my thing either; I'm decades past queuing for an hour for a chance to shout at people you want to talk to (bah humbug get off my lawn). The free drinks in the lobby of my hotel every evening was far more conducive to chatting, sharing a laptop and doing the things I like to do with interesting people.

Fortunately, the "interactive workshop" I presented (which was actually a traditional presentation; there's no workshop potential with 400+ people in a room) was on Sunday so I had a couple of days to relax afterwards. (Slides are available for your downloading pleasure). It was a full house, with some great feedback ("Bruce Lawson is like an open-source Steve Jobs") - thanks all! Special thanks to Martin Kliehm for inviting me to take part in the 3 hour extravaganza he curated.

One of the highlights was talking to real customers on the booth. Many challenged our "fastest browser" claim, and went away pleasantly surprised when they found their own sites rendering so speedily. It was also great to blow the "Opera has a bad UI" bullshit out of the water.

The other highlight was meeting so many people that I know on the Web, but rarely meet in real life—people like the unrepentant hardliner, John Foliot, baby-eating Matt May and lovely people who I'd never actually met before, like Allan Kent (on-line friend since 2003), Jared Smith of WebAim and the best-dressed lady in Web, Nimbupani.

That nice Dan Oliver from .net magazine did an interview with me:

I got to eat a burger (Whataburger!) for breakfast, hang in the Media Temple VIP room, wear a Mexican wrestling mask and a glittery camisole. There are a few photos, fewer memories and, apart from liver made of paté and terminal jetlag, I survived my first South By SouthWest.

HTML5 video, canvas accessibility, microdata

As I sit here in Austin, Texas munching a breakfast of bafflingly-termed foodstuffs like “eggs medium over-easy”, “white omlette” and incorrectly-pronounced tomatoes, I thought I’d update you on a few HTML5 tidbits.

The first is the news that Google will start indexing content marked up using microdata. No browser does anything with data it finds in pages, but the voodoo magicians that do SEO will presumably find the chance of extra googlejuice compelling.

You can have a play using @foolip‘s JavaScript microdata implementation (work in progress; the lad has other things on his mind). I was chatting to Tantek Çelik last night, and he said he’s looking to add some microdata support in microformats.

I’m a lurking member of two W3C subgroups that work on the accessibility of video and canvas. We recently had two internal votes. The first was on what type of captioning format should be supported, and asked us to choose between the .srt format (a plain text file with time markers and text) or the W3C standard DXFP which, although minging, allows markup. (.srt seems to me to be as limited alt text on an image; it can’t contain markup or styling information). I voted for DFXP because, at its most basic it doesn’t need to be more complex than plain .srt, but has the potential for extensibility when browser implementations become more sophisticated. (My vote was a personal opinion and not an official Opera vote, by the way.)

The second vote that’s taking place is about extensions to canvas. There are two main proposals, one is for a new attribute called adom (for “accessibility DOM”) that constructs a “shadow DOM” for assistive technologies can hook into – and which the author must ensure is in sync with the visual rendering. I’m uncomfortable with this proposal for reasons that I’m not quite able to articulate at the moment (but its author is at South By Southwest so I hope to be able to catch up with him for a chat).

The proposal that I like is to extend canvas is “Improve image maps, don’t use @adom” which I favour because it uses familiar markup and reuses ideas from (and browser implementations of) HTML4. (Disclosure: the proposal was made by Chaals, Head of Standards at Opera, but that’s not why I prefer it.)

The Mighty Steve Faulkner also has a proposal Provide accessibility implementation for focus rectangle and caret, which I haven’t read yet. But it’s Steve, and his shit is solid.

Anyway, gotta go and shower my pits before booth-bunnying the Opera South By Southwest booth. It’s in row 300 of exhibition room 4. Why not stop by a chat, especially if you’re a gorgeous Web Standards babe, or have a black coffee for me? Alternatively, I’m first speaker at an HTML5 extravaganza on Sunday from 2 to 6 pm.

South by Southwest HTML5 talks

Yikes. I remember when I used to blog at least once a week. I blame twitter. And the boss, for making me do some work.

Anyway, if you’re headed over to South By Southwest next week, and fancy learning about HTML5 on Sunday afternoon, please pop along for a three hour workshop with me and some lovely friends from the world of accessibility, Mozilla and Microsoft in Ballroom F (this is a rom change to one double the capacity of the origianal venue – gulp!).

The running order is

  1. HTML5: Tales from the Development Trenches

    2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

    Me ‘n’ Martin Kliehm. An overview of how HTML5 came to be, why we need it, what it can do: new structural elements, intelligent forms, scriptable images with <canvas> and a brief introduction to <video>.

  2. Wow, That’s Cool… Fun With HTML5 Video

    3:30 PM – 4:30 PM

    Chris Blizzard (Mozilla), Michael Dale

  3. HTML5 Accessibility

    5:00 PM – 5.30 PM

    John Foliot (Unrepentant hardliner and lovely bloke), Cynthia Shelley (Microsoft)

  4. Panel Q&A

    5:30 PM – 6:00 PM

    Ensemble

Why not add them to your schedule?

I ain’t never been to South By Southwest but everyone done told me that it’s awesome to the max (I’m a-larnin’ to speak American – yee har!). I don’t know much about Texas; is it the law that you must wear a JR Ewing stetson?

If you can’t make the talks, hopefully I’ll see you at the Opera booth and get a chance to love you up like the gorgeous canoodlebot that everyone tells me you are.

See you there?