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January 26, 2006

Google web authoring statistics

A couple of months back I published Real World Semantics where I used a little custom crawler to investigate the use of class and id values in the real world, to have a little look at just how semantic (or otherwise) the HTML out there is. I slanted the crawling toward sites that were "close" to (within a few link steps) major standards based sites such as zeldman.com and stopdesign.com.

Now Google have published the results of a major web authoring analysis, of a billion pages (and I'm honored they mentioned my piece in their preamble). It goes far beyond just the use of class and id, to the use of headers, scripting, elements, and even editors.

Fascinating stuff!


January 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 25, 2006

four things

Eric ever so nicely "four thinged" me, and loving a meme as I do, I'll pay it forward.

Four jobs I’ve had

  1. Pizza Hut drone
  2. short order cook
  3. English Language Teacher
  4. Software Engineer

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. Dead Man (not Dead Man walking)
  2. The cook the thief his wife and her lover
  3. The good the bad and the ugly
  4. The ghost and Mrs Muir (guaranteed to make you weep!)

Four places I’ve lived

  1. Sydney
  2. London
  3. Milan
  4. Sydney (well, I grw up here, moved overseas for some time, and came back)

Four TV shows I enjoy

  1. Bargain Hunt
  2. Iron Chef
  3. South Park
  4. Simpsons

Four places I’ve vacationed

  1. China
  2. Cook Islands
  3. New Zealand
  4. Siberia

Four of my favorite dishes

  1. Lobster Surprise (Sara and I invented this dish one night when the local pizza place had closed - the surpirse is it has no lobster)
  2. Sushi
  3. real italian pizza, like in italy
  4. just about anything Thai

Four sites I visit daily

  1. Slashdot
  2. Salon
  3. juancole.com
  4. ars technica

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. snowboarding in NZ (if there was snow this time of year)
  2. Trader Jacks in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, drinking a Cook's Lager - sweet
  3. Venice
  4. Byron Bay

Four bloggers I am tagging

  1. Cam Adams (paying him back)
  2. Amit Karmaka
  3. Zoe Kate Allsopp Lander :-)
  4. Eris Free

January 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 24, 2006

webpatterns interview

John Lampard interviewed me recently for his new publication onvoiceover. John really got to the heart of webpatterns with his questions, and I think it might be the best effort I've made so far to describe the possible benefits of patterns for web development. Go and take a look.


technorati tags webpatterns

January 24, 2006 in webpatterns | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

PatternQuiz Ia

The latest installment of PatternQuiz is online now at webpatterns.org. This time we revisit site patterns, asking - what kinds of sites can you think of (no need to give afull description!)

See you there,


Technorati tags webpatterns

January 17, 2006 in webpatterns | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2006

Sydney Australia Web Development consulting work - good CSS skills required

If you are based in Sydney Australia, and are a web developer with good CSS skills, and would be interested in some freelance work with a CBD based IT company, please get in touch, and I'll send you in their direction



January 9, 2006 in Positions Vacant | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 07, 2006

harnessing creative anarchy - an abject lesson

The following is really a "just so" story - it probably contradicts facts and reality, but it "rings true" for me, and is my way of structuring my memories and experiences. It's also, I think, a parable.

I've lived in Bondi now for 12 years, ever since returning to Australia after living in England and Italy, and traveling throughout Asia and Eastern Europe for well over 3 years.

Back then Bondi was very different from the tourist hotspot, cafe strewn, expensive place it is today.

One big difference was the Graffiti wall along the kilometer long beach front promenade. Several hundred metres long, it featured world recognized graffiti. Writing came and went, styles changed and morphed, and although what the writers did was strictly speaking vandalism, there was clearly an internal rule of law - people respected good work, and in my memory there was little bombing of other people's work. Perhaps because the work was not largely a form of gang related territory marking, as graffiti often is elsewhere in the world, but closer to forms of "pure" artistic expression.

In the mid to late 90's, Bondi changed. Long the home to solid lower middle class families, its proximity to the city, cleaned up beach and ocean, and burgeoning restaurant and cafe offerings meant the "gentrification" of the suburb. Which typically means the excision of the things which makes a suburb attractive and interesting and vibrant in the first place, in order to appeal to people who want the disneyfied experience. Families in particular moved away, to less expensive suburbs.
Gentrification happens. It's a function of economics, so for all its faults, I am not going to criticize it. That would be Canute-like.

But sometime during this period, some "genius" at the local government in this area decided that while the idea of the graffiti wall was edgy and cool, and an interesting part of Bondi, we could not have just anyone doing unsanctioned graffiti. Oh no, that would lead to chaos, anti social behavior, gangs, you know, all the stuff that hadn't happened over the previous decade or so. So in their infinite wisdom they put up signs along the wall which said "Only authorized murals allowed on this wall" (or words to this effect). And they started a project to sponsor new graffiti projects along the wall.

And the effect?

The quality of the writing plummeted. Crude, unimaginative, sexist rubbish appeared, stereotypical crap, lacking freshness, technical excellence, significantly worse than previous efforts. And along with that, bombing started - people would tag new "state sanctioned" graffiti, I suspect as acts of defiance, with an impunity compared with how the previously respected "unlawful" graffiti was treated. The whole ecosystem of the graffiti wall collapsed, and ironically, the very thing the local government was trying to prevent, chaos, disorder, anti social behavior, which was not previously occurring, occurred.

Now, at the outset I said this was a parable. For what?

We humans, it seems to me, have a genius for community - we create it spontaneously, in response to needs, interests and desires. Very few if any of us really need to be coerced to obey most laws (and where we do, it probably pays to look long and hard at these laws, and their implications, as I suspect laws which are routinely broken by otherwise law abiding members of society are probably in general imposed in the interests of a small sub-section of the society, against the interests of the broader society - remind you of anything?)

So if we have a genius for community, then governments, and other sources of authority should, on the whole, keep out of the way of communities, particularly ones which work, and when trying to change community and individual practices, pay careful attention to the "cowpaths" - existing practices, mores, and so on.

A similar lesson can be drawn for business. Right now, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, News Ltd. and others are scrambling to buy communities (Flickr, LiveJournal, Delicious are not technologies, they are actually communities, as a very smart friend pointed out to me earlier last year.)

But I'll make a prediction based on my parable - these companies will really struggle to create new viable communities (Google, perhaps, has some chance, I think the others essentially will not be able to do it), and will also struggle to maintain communities they do purchase.

Why (and how does this relate to a graffiti wall in Bondi)?

Communities are emergent systems - they emerge from the needs, interests desires and connections between people - to meet those needs interests and desires. No one owns or governs them, they are not the function of an individual's or small group's will.

But companies are all about ownership and control - DRM, proprietary file formats, the balkanization of VOIP, with the mushrooming of competing, non interoperable systems - mirroring chat protocols, proprietary HTML extensions, and other rubbish foistered on the web during the last decade or so.

And so, these companies will establish "con-munities" ostensibly to fulfill the same functions as real communities, but always in the companies interests - to harness your creative output for their profit, to tax your drive for community to their profit. Not unlike the phenomenon of "astro turfing", the creation of bogus community groups (often harnessing the genuine passions of members of the community) to push for an outcome in a company's interest, which if they advocated for directly would doubtless roundly be defeated - it's extremely common by the way.

Now, I don't see anything wrong with gaining something in return for providing people with things they want or need - this to me is the essence of business - but that's not what we are talking about here. The "genius" of a company is to endeavor to maximize its profits in the short term, which is antithetical to the needs of a community. And to control whatever it owns.

I hope though, that genuine communities will find a way to continue to emerge and thrive online, and not find themselves, like the graffiti wall, destroyed by government regulation. For instance privacy and semi anonymity are often fundamental to communities, yet I can imagine the continuing erosion of privacy, and our right to anonymity online - all of course in the name of stopping "terror", or protecting children, or whatever other population control techniques you cynically care to name, and the attendant impact on communities.

To contradict Margaret Thatcher "there is no such thing as nation, only family and community". The things which bring us together truly are, in my experience, greater than those which divide us - we just haven't all worked out what they are yet. Which is the lesson the parable of the lost wall of Bondi teaches me.

technorati tags community graffiti business bondi govenment

January 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack