24 ways to impress your friends

24 ways to impress your friends site

So I've been pretty quiet about 24ways to impress your friends this year. The reason why is because I've been writing a tip titled Making XML beautiful again to go into the 24ways collection for 2006. The tip centres around a client side XSL transformation on a ATOM feed. I thought this would be simplier that RSS because I would have to create templates to support RSS 0.91, 0.92, 1.0 and 2.0. ATOM 1.0 feeds are also very much a like so a safe ground to start on (although a lot of ATOM 0.3 feeds use a different date element).

The actual XSL took me all of about 5mins to write but the explaining took a good few weeks. I have spell checked it, grammer checked and run it past the eyes of Sheila (my XSL friend). Sheila helped a lot on making it sound less like me talking and more like me writing, but there is still bits of my twisted humour in there. I also wanted to explain the difference between client-side and server-side transformations but decided it was out of scope. As was spending 3 paragraphs on what XSL is, which I finally cut down to 1. There is also something else which has been bugging me while writing the tip. Firefox 2.0, I can not work out if its actually broken when it comes to client side transformations or not. Some people seem to think so, but I'm getting just odd results like the output escaping not working. I've tried to install Firefox 1.5 in a Virtual Machine but I can't get it online (for many reasons). So I'm currently loading up a old Ubuntu Boot CD on a spare machine. I'm sure the comments will come flooding in soon.

Anyway big thanks to Drew McLellan for thinking about me when relaunching the 24ways project this year. Maybe Drew took it to heart when (in a good way of course) I asked why he didn't use XSL for parsing Microformats at BarCampLondon. I was still amazed he used a non rules based language to parse Microformats. It shows talent. Thanks again Drew, I just hope it comes across as well, as the other excellent authors on 24ways..

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The challenges of validating cubicgarden


Its one of the dirty little secrets of my blog, I've never been able to get it to validate to xhtml because of a combination of things. So first up lets have a look at how many errors I currently recieve. 127 validation errors to be exact at the moment without this post. But its honestly not that bad, well it is but let me show you the better side first. If I just validate just one post with my current theme/style you will see there is only 4 errors and they all point towards my search box which actually links to Blogdigger.com.

form method=”get” action=”http://groups.blogdigger.com/groups.jsp?search=1″
input type=”text” size=”31″ name=”q”
input type=”hidden” name=”id” value=”1065″
input type=”hidden” name=”sortby” value=”date”

So to solve this problem I need to wrap the input elements in another element first. This is simple as I just added a div with a id around the input elements.

Ok so moving on, lets try another single post entry. The errors are varied, but the first one is Error Line 125, column 167: there is no attribute “border”. Yeah easy to fix, but why would I make some a school boy error? Well I dont its actually my blogging application which automaticly adds it when I make a image element. I just keep forgetting to remove it. So the easy thing to do would be to change blogging client, specially seeing how i've been meaning to change to something more powerful for quite some time. I tried to notify the author but had no reply and theres no forum or bug tracking. Worst still I cant actually change the element properties in wbloggar. So I'm going to try Performancing for Firefox and maybe even pay for Ecto. Till then I'm having to edit my posts to remove that border=0. Oh by the way Error Line 125, column 172: required attribute “alt” not specified is also because wbloggar puts the alt attribute as a title attribute instead. Another reason to move away from wbloggar.

My next error is my own fault. I've forgotten the fact that the Blockquote element should not contain text content only another block level element like a paragraph. So once again I need to go back through my entries and change that. I've also changed my wbloggar custom tag to add a paragraph element inside the blockquote element. When I change to ecto or something else, I hope it does this out of the box.

Ok so were almost there now. But wait here's the big problem. Lets take my last 5 entries including this one which I was typing at the same time as validating.

3. Warning Line 125, column 438: reference not terminated by REFC delimiter
If you meant to include an entity that starts with “&”, then you should terminate it with “;”. Another reason for this error message is that you inadvertently created an entity by failing to escape an “&” character just before this text.

4. Warning Line 125, column 438: reference to external entity in attribute value .
This is generally the sign of an ampersand that was not properly escaped for inclusion in an attribute, in a href for example. You will need to escape all instances of '&' into '&'.

5. Error Line 125, column 438: reference to entity “charset” for which no system identifier could be generated .
This is usually a cascading error caused by a an undefined entity reference or use of an unencoded ampersand (&) in an URL or body text. See the previous message for further details.

So basicly all the URLs need to be converted to include ampersands otherwise I will never be able to get a validating weblog. So I'm looking into my Velocity templates if there is anything which can be done. I thought I'd have a look around at other popular blojsom based blogs, see if the problem is the same. First up David Czarnecki, same problem. Ravensbourne's Mobile learning blog, same problem. IRIS at VeriSign, yep you guessed it same problem. A quick look across the web and the problem seems to be hit and miss. Ben Metcalfe, Robert Scoble, Jeremy Zawodny, Consuming Experience, etc. Geez, theres got to be a way to solve this without actually recrafting urls when blogging?

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Breaking the grid in the city and online

Grids and boxes

Molly has wrote a really good comparsion between the grid systems of most American cities and the grids of websites in an entry for Alist apart titled Thinking outside the grid. Thanks to Sheila for the heads up.

On the other hand, Tucson’s designers planned for only a certain amount of growth, and this has caused innumerable problems in maintaining the city’s ease of navigation and usability as the city grew beyond its planned limits. Furthermore, the constraints of Tucson’s grid do not encourage the emergence of alternative neighborhoods and communities. Many residents of Tucson will agree that the city lacks a vibrant center—or many unique communities—as a result, and that when those isolated spots do exist, they’re easy to get to, but people aren’t motivated to get out and find them.

London, unlike Tucson, is a maze. I know Londoners who carry around a London A-Z guidebook to help them navigate! The city’s transportation system is so challenging that would-be cab drivers must pass a test demonstrating that they possess The Knowledge in order to drive traditional black cabs. The city’s organic growth hasn’t exactly made it the easiest place to navigate.

Fantastic stuff, specially when you start thinking about the differences between the two cities communities and how blogs look compared to news sites.

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