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August 31, 2004

Web Standards as an employment asset

MyCareer, an Australian job listing site, is currently listing a role for a web developer. Not much interesting in that? Well, there wouldn't be, but for the fact that the position is described as a Web Standards Developer, and on top of a "background in the Microsoft web development arena" (goodness only know what that might be) candidates are required to "have gained previous commercial experience in the analysis and development of Intranet standards that comply with all useability, accessibility and application requirements (preferably to W3C regulations [sic])."

The employer is described as "a world leader in its delivery of technology solutions".
Get those standards based skills honed people, the future is arriving.

But where to start?

If you are a web developer, but need to up your standards skills, try westciv's learning center for many free, and a couple of for pay courses , guides, articles and tutorials, and links to plenty of other great sites. Even if you have never developed for the web, we have plenty there to get you started.

Need a standards based web developer?

Do you need a standards based web developer? If so, let me know, and I'll post your position here for free. Lots of web developers with an interest in web standards read this blog.

Not sure what makes a standards based developer? Need to vet potential developers? We can help you out there as well. But you might have to pay us for that :-)

Sorry I can't post your job wanted add, but there are plenty of places, such as CareerBuilder and of course Monster and if you are in Australia, MyCareer.

But get those standards skills up to speed and there will be plenty of opportunity over the coming months and years. And keep an eye here for developer jobs.


August 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2004

business as usual

OK, back to what I do.

This week, Web Essentials, the conference westciv is convening with Webboy and the Web Standards Group is holding the second of our free web standards "briefings", this time for Education and Government.

Co hosted with the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney, the evening features, Dean Jackson (editor of the SVG specification, among many other things) from the W3C, highly respected accessibility expert Roger Hudson, and Russ Weakley, a co-convener of Web Essentials and well known web standards pundit.

If you work with the web in Government or Education (or if your clients do) we'd love to see you on Thursday evening, 6 for 6.30pm, at UTS, Building CB02, Level 4, Room 10.

The evening is free, but please RSVP, as places are limited, and we are already close to being full.

Looking forward to seeing you there,


August 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 28, 2004

The party of spam

10 year ago, on March 5th 1994 to be precise, US law firm Canter and Siegel posted what is widely considered to be the first commercial spam.

Since then, spam has grown exponentially to become the single greatest threat to the extraordinary global commons called the internet.

Recognised as such, governments, companies and organisations around the world are passing laws, building systems, and doing almost anything in their power to stem the flow of this evil.

The Australian Government passed a law last year, providing for heavy fines for Australian companies sending spam. They left a loophole though, charities and political parties were exempt.
Now, why you might ask, this exemption? You might smell a rat. However there is an explanation. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that these provisions were to ensure charities and political parties did not accidently fall foul of these laws, not to give them a green light to spam.

The online policy manager of the government's National Office for the Information Economy, Lindsay Barton, confirmed ... in testimony to a Senate committee last year.

"The government was concerned about unintended consequences," he said.

"These provisions are certainly not intended to provide a licence to spam for those organisations that are listed."

Why is this an issue? Because, not only as I wrote yesterday is the Australian Prime Minister involved in a somewhat murky merry-go-round of payments that lead to his son's company to spam on his behalf, but more members of his government, among them Brendan Nelson and Tony Abbott are now using this same company to spam the electorate too.

Whatever else you think about this government, its policies and its attitudes, if you believe the internet is in any way important, it behoves you to think long and hard about your vote in the context of their cynical use of loopholes in legislation designed to decrease spam to spam their constituents.

August 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 27, 2004

A PM Spams

As you may be able to guess, despite being an entrepreneur, and a real capitalist (the term, coined in the middle of the 19th century was originally applied to those who risked their capital in developing industry) I am far from a fan of Australia's conservative (in reality reactionary) "Liberal" government. I should be their biggest fan. But quite the opposite

There is much wrong with our present government, but something that is pretty damn relevant to this blog and my concerns are confirmed reports that the Prime Minister is personally paying a company of which his son is a director to spam the electorate in the weeks leading up to a federal election here.

Recently Australia passed potentially punative anti-spam laws (with fines of up to 1 million dollars a day), but there is a loop hole. Charities and political parties are exempt. Apparently this means companies can for profit spam on behalf of a charity or political party.

Here is what sticks in my craw about this.

1. Either spam is a problem or it is not. The exemption for charities and political parties is a farce, and continues to demonstrate the complete technological ignorance of decision makers in this country. If it is OK for a politician to spam, why is it not OK for any one else? Now, I get 10,000 spam emails a day (count 'em, no exaggeration, 10,000 of them). I could claim to be the most spammed person on earth with some justification. I only just draw the line at spammers being shot summarily. It is not OK for anyone to spam.

2. It demonstrates that our Prime minister, on top of everything else (and there is plenty wrong with him) is a technological moron.
If you are so moronic to believe that spamming is a sensible use of the internet, you don't deserve to have a job, let alone run a country. No wonder we end up with such dreadful technology laws in this country, and a diabolical "free trade agreement" which foisters the US's dire intellectual property laws on Australia.

3. While the PM claims to be paying this out of his pocket, London to a brick, it isn't coming out of his income. At the end of the day, the Australian taxpayer is paying to be spammed, by a company founded by the Prime Minister's son.
He continues to set a fine example for probity, intelligence, and honesty.

The Prime Minister claims to "get a real buzz out of the fact that [his son is] prepared to have a go in small business"
Well let me tell you something about small business Mr Prime Minister. I run one. I have spent 10 years competing with the best in the world to develop excellent technology and service. I have forgone a lot o income, taken financial and personal risks. I didn't get a hand out from my Dad to start it, and didn't rely on what looks a lot like pretty unethical business to grow my own.

We face an election is this country in the next couple of months. I can only hope Australian's finally come their senses, and get rid of what one respected political correspondent calls a "debauched" government.

August 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 26, 2004

Board witless

There is so much I could post about, but due to the amount of work I have on, I'll have to keep it brief.

For those who may no know, I love snow boarding. I only started three years ago, but am now an absolute fanatic. I blame my good mate Bennie for introducing me to this expensive vice.
Sadly my season has come to an end, because I simply have no time before October, when the Aussie season winds down. I hope to get some boarding in in Canada or the US early next year. Your suggestions would be much appreciated.

Last weekend I got two great days boarding in with some of the members of my lifesaving club. Much fun was had by all. I even got the courage up to ride the half pipe for the first time. Not bad for 37 I reckon.

I'll write soon about how Web Essentials is coming along (the short answer is amazingly well), as well as a little about Style Master 4, which, well, is to put it bluntly the best thing we have ever done, and then some.

Stay tuned


August 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2004

Inspire '04 wrap - Orkut invite anyone?

As mentioned earlier in the week, I spoke at Inspire 04, a 1 day cross media conference in Sydney on Friday.
It was well worth going to.

Mark Pesce, from the Australian Film Television and Radio School spoke intriguingly of pervasive media, and talked about social networks, and apps like Orkut and Friendster.

Now, I'd not thought they were anything other than fads like yo yos, and sucking chuppa chupps, but now I am not so sure. I went to Orkut, only to discover you have to be invited.
So anyone care to invite me? (Pathetic isn't it, what if no one does?)
It does remind me of one of my favourite lines from one of my favourite comedians though. "I'd never join a club that would accept me as a member". Any guesses whom?

Mark also ran a fun interactive session I got roped into. Well, I volunteered for. Um, sort of.
If I had the time I'd tell you how four really smart people as well as me, in 40 minutes came up with the idea for a virally marketed killer communications tool (we even came up with a new verb for communicating with it) that costs pretty close to zero to produce. We then had 10 minutes to pitch it to the rest of the conference. The producer of the Australian version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (if you have not seen that show, the US version at least, do yourself a favour, suspend any preconceptions, it is wonderful television) remarked that I had a job as a pitch man at my beck and call. Im not sure whether that is a compliment, but these days I'm not that fussy about compliments.

I also spoke later in the day on saving Time and Money with Standards. I saved time and money by repurposing (a buzz word du jour in the creative industries these days if the last two conferences I have spoken at are anything to go by) my "5 questions you should ask your development team".

I added a couple of metaphors to the beginning, which I'll work into an article as soon as I can.

Now no more speaking until the Web Essentials conference, only about 6 weeks away.
Well, except for hosting the upcoming Web Standards in Education and Government night at UTS in Sydney on September 2nd.

We are way ahead of expectations in terms of delegates for Web Essentials, the flights are booked for Joe, Doug and Dave, the programme is pretty much locked down, we've even chosen the conference satchels.

BTW if you use Style Master, and think we might be going slow there, well, just between you and me, in the next couple of months you'll see some stuff that will change the way you work with style sheets. But you'll have to wait for that.

Stay tuned,


August 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 11, 2004

Westciv's CSS Level 1 course for free

A quick note to let you know that we are running our widely respected CSS Level 1 (covers more than just CSS 1!) course online for free, starting this week.

Many web developer's knowledge of these issues is "a mile wide and an inch deep". Usually we pick up techniques and knowledge as we need them, to solve a problem, or implement a design.

This course is a little different. Its goal is to help you lay the foundations for a solid understanding of standards based web development, and covers CSS from the beginning, all the way to some pretty sophisticated concepts and techniques. Even if you are handy with CSS, you might find it helps with some of those tricky issues such as cascade and inheritance,

Usually it costs $29.99, but you can do it in installments for free over the next couple of months.

If you want to see the details of what will be covered, the details and a Table of Contents are here.
If you want to sign up for reminders, drop us an email, or subscribe to Maxine's blog.
If you want to be convinced, read some of the testimonials from the thousands of people who have taken the course.

See you there.

August 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So called free so called trade so called agreement

I have made it a bit of a point to avoid overt politics in this blog until now. The reality is of course that just about everything is about politics or power, so issues like open source and standards are very much political issues.

However, I make an exception today.

For those not in Australia (where I was born, where I live) Australia is in the middle of a largely uninformed debate about a so called Free so called Trade so called Agreement between The US and Australia. This has been ratified by the US Congress, Senate and President, and is currently an issue in Australia's Parliament.

For mine, the biggest issue is about intellectual property. The "agreement" seeks to "harmonize" Australian and US intellectual property laws.
That means in essence to force Australia to adopt US intellectual property laws.

At present australian IP laws are problematic, but they sure aint as debauched as US laws, which are literally written by major US intellectual property holding companies like Disney.

Ross Gittins has been the Sydney Morning Herald's Economics editor since I was at high school (more than 20 years ago). In my youth my memory was of his conservative Reagan and Thatcheresque economics, and he made my blood boil. Perhaps he has changed, (the consensus of my peers is that this is so) or perhaps I have, but I find him eminently reasonable these days (much as I find Paul Krugman, one time economics advisor to Reagan very reasonable these days).

Gittins writes in this morning's Herald about IP and the FTA. I recommend it whole heartedly, particularly if you are Australian. Now when someone like me, whose entire life is bound up in intellectual property (apart from a mortgage, and a new freebord, it is all I can lay claim to) is opposed to what is happening with IP laws in the US, there sure must be something wrong with them.

And there is. Try Lawrence Lessig's blog as a starting point, this week hosted by US congressman Rick Boucher.

The right to monopolize ideas, through Trademark, copyright and patent is a profoundly important issue, that will effect business, culture, health, politics and education for decades to come. It affects everything from the availability of AIDS medicines in the developing world, to the right to protest the increasingly privatized functions of government.

Gittins concludes

I have a fear the Howard Government's wonderful trade agreement with the mighty United States may turn out to be a Trojan Horse.

This is serious. Remain ignorant at your peril.

August 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 10, 2004

Inspire '04

Quick note to say I'll be speaking at Friday's Inspire '04 conference, part of Sydney Design Week, on saving time and money with standards. It's a really reasonably priced, information packed event, with arange of fscinating speakers in design, photography, and other creative fields, and it's on at the PowerHouse. The day finishes with a cocktail party, so what more could you ask for?

So come along if you are in Sydney, and say hi,


August 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2004

Taking things for granted

Dominic von Stösser has been a customer of ours for some years now. Like many customers, we from time to time correspond on all kinds of things, from the state of Namibian Rugby and Cricket, to safaris in the Namibian wilderness (Dom runs these in his spare time) to of course web development issues.

Namibia is one of those places that has been brought much closer to the world through the web. But at the same time, those who live in such countries often have infrastructure which is not what we have all come to take for granted in the metropole.

Dom recently wrote to me with some responses to my "5 questions you should ask your web development team", which I thought would be great reading for us to get a better understanding of some of the issues we face from the perspective of those in the developing world.

I don't speak much about my beliefs/politics at this blog. Perhaps I should. At any rate one thing I believe in really strongly is fairness and equality. Regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, belief, financial status. We are all just people. We all love, breath, hurt, speak, smile, bleed. Looking back, why I have a great passion for the World Wide Web, and web standards is because embedded in the very technology is the basic idea of equality and fairness.

Of course we can misuse these technologies, but next time you cook up some beautiful, graphics heavy, large page, think of those in Namibia, Vietnam, or for that matter rural and remote Australia, and Canada where 14400 lines are still about as good as you can get, and ask yourself, is it worth excluding these people from the World Wide Web so my 250K flash intro gets an airing?

Dom has kindly given me permission to reproduce his article here. Enjoy.

5 concerns: a Namibian context

1. Device compatibility

Microsoft Internet Explorer is by far the most widely used browser in Namibia, and wireless and data-enabled cellphones and handhelds are a long way away. Judging by MTC's (Cellular provider in Namibia) performance, it's likely to stay that way for quite a while.
Nevertheless technology moves fast, even here, and it pays to think ahead. Designing a site to "1st-world" standards is a sound move. Not only will the site not have to be completely redesigned when these technologies arrive, but the site will actually be more efficient, meaning that it will work well even in our low-bandwidth communications environment.

2. Bandwidth Usage

This, which I've touched on above, is particularly relevant in Namibia. A large majority of internet users are on slow dial-up connections. A graphics-heavy, bloated and cluttered site will simply not perform in a satisfactory way.
A site designed with web standards in mind will load faster and more reliably and will give the user a better impression overall.

3. Accessibility

Since there is no provision for the type of legislation mentioned in the article, and since the government in reality does not actually seem to care at this stage, there does not seem to be much reason to be overly concerned with accessibility for the reasons mentioned in the article.
But: Suppose your website is not accessible to someone using a screen reader, and suppose your competitor's is. Now suppose that someone using a screen reader is looking for a service that you or your competitor offers. Which do you think that person will choose?
People with special browsing requirements are in the minority, but so are people in wheelchairs. No reputable architect would design a new public building without wheelchair access, even here. Why should your website be any different?

4. Upgradablility

This point applies in full in Namibia.

5. Search engine visibility

This point applies in full in Namibia.

August 4, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack