Browser vendors now own the web?

On the face of it… W3C hands over development of HTML and DOM standards to browser vendors (WHATWG). Sounds like a good idea, right?

I mean the W3C was pushing for the semantic web, more rdf, more linked data and xml structuring.

Down with XML, down with linked data, rdf and the very idea of the semantic web – uggghhhh! (or something like that? I can hear you all say!).

Well hold on, remember how the web started? Remember the foresight which kept the web free and open. Insights like SVG when the proprietary alternative of flash was ruling the web. I for one really liked XML and the suite of technologies which came along with it. XHTML was a joy to use once browser vendors got on board and sorted there act out.

I was there during the fight from HTML4 to XHTML 1.0. Still remember fighting about Microformats vs RDF at BarCampLondon2 and to be fair WHATWG was likely right at the time but they didn’t have the foresight of looking further into the future. The semantic web was a big vision but whats the big vision of WHATWG now?

My fear is handing the web over to mainly browser vendors will lead us back to where the web was at during HTML 4.0. A mix of unspecified bits and bobs which rely on native browser capabilities. Whos fighting for accessibility, i18n, l10n, old systems, etc, etc? My only hope is because the w3c only handed over control of HTML and DOM, they will double down on CSS and ECMAscript?

I want the web to move forward and I know there was a lot of tension between the W3C and WHATWG but they kept each other honest. Handing the web over, I fear will ultimately make things worst for all?

New rules, decentralised really means decentralised…

I recently introduced a few friends to Mastodon and tried to explain why I think its a step forward. Others have hinted at this all too.

There are many issues they face and some are highlighted in a blog post I wrote a while ago when talking about mastodon. But recently I had a interesting discussion about a part of the decentralised web I’ve not had for a while. Lack of censorship of dangerous & in some places illegal content.

This might seem as quite a shock to a lot people use to the moderation/gatekeeping of centralised platforms, especially while browsing through the list of mastodon servers to join.

Generally a lot of the people in the Dweb (decentralised web) world understand the advantages and disadvantages of decentralised based systems including this. But it can come as a shock to others who have rarely come across anything like this. I would say this is like the red light district in Amsterdam. Its there if you want it, its better/safer for the those involved and its easier for law enforcement to do their job. Consider this happens regardless is important to note.

Of course it totally depends on the media, content, etc… Theres a sliding scale from stuff which is totally illegal to things which are more questionable depending on your culture, faith, etc. Mastdon has ways to not just filter but also block and ban things. The join an instance is ideal because it sets the tone and makes explicit the rules of whats tolerated and whats not. This gives transparency to the users and should stop things like the Facebook blocking breastfeeding policy.

I do understand its off putting to new Dweb users but like the Cloudflare daily stormer censorship or the British porn block, theres a serious lesson to be learned. Lets not kid ourselves, simply hiding it or pushing it underground will ultimately make things worst for everyone. Law enforcement works much better when there’s cultural and societal norm against the something. This is why the war on drugs has been and always will be a unwinnable war.

Updated 18th Feb

Mozilla’s IRL podcast has a episode which is along the same lines and worth listening to.

Some people believe that decentralization is the inevitable future of the web. They believe that internet users will start to demand more privacy and authenticity of information online and that they’ll look to decentralized platforms to get those things. But would decentralization be as utopian as advocates say it could be?

Shooting the Proscenium Arch

https://www.flickr.com/photos/charmainezoe/12387932253

I heard the term but never really understood what the Proscenium Arch actually was…

In his 1997 book “Architects of the Web,” Rhapsody founder Rob Reid calls this phenomenon “shooting the proscenium arch,” referring to the “proscenium” that frames a traditional stage. It’s the idea that when new technology arrives, the first thing people do is try and force old technologies onto the new format. He writes:

“The proscenium arch has many forms, and it lurks at the birth of all media. Early radio broadcasters whose announcers read directly from newspapers were shooting the proscenium arch. TV broadcasters who pointed their cameras at chitchatting radio announcers were shooting it as well. But the proscenium arch’s day always passes quickly, as famil­iarity with a new medium grows, and content evolves in directions that its earliest pioneers could not have foreseen.”

Why Ade should be at Mozfest

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/749985923597819904

I had a read of Adewale’s blog about Cargo cults and progressive web apps stores. While reading it, I thought this is perfect for the Mozfest space we are crurating this year. The tale of two cities: dilemmas in connected spaces.

What Ade is tackling is the notion that app stores or the walled gardens are bad and more native fuctionality is heading out on to the web. He ponders if this is a good thing or not?

I know the recent Web USB draft certainly got a few peoples noses out of joint; for good reason to be honest, especialy on security grounds. However I’m personally not convinced by the legacy background Adewale mentions.

It’s easy to forget that app stores emerged as a response to the difficulties of dealing with carriers to get your content ‘on deck’getting your apps preinstalled and the extremely closed nature of that ecosystem.

Yes that was then and this is now. I clearly remember the pain of installing apps on my PocketPC devices. It was painful and clearly early adopter like myself were the only ones who would put up with it. However legacy isn’t a good reason to back an closed garden model?  Its a call card for the open web right? I mean Adewale’s reasoning is good…

  • give an obvious place to find apps that have particular functionality (try searching for “games that don’t need wifi” in the Play Store)
  • give developers an obvious place to find large numbers of users.
  • give developers a structured mechanism for exposing the features of their app so that users can filter the set of available apps for apps that have those features.
  • give users an obvious place to review apps.
  • give developers an obvious place to accrue reputation for their apps.
  • give platform vendors a place to assert policies that drive developer behaviour.
  • give every app on a platform a canonical URL ( for example here are iOS and Android URLs for the same game).

But its merly a step in the right direction, and to be fair most these features are just merely cracks in a flaw model of the walled garden or the garden trying to emulate the web? However I do also think there are lessons which can be learned from them.

Instead of ‘cargo culting‘ the app stores we should be asking what web-centric solutions to the problem would look like. For me that means lots of competing and opinionated PWA directories rather than one central PWA Store or even a popular search engine.

This is the start of not only a good workshop at Mozfest, but also the start of a good exhibit/experience/dilemma. He (or someone) really needs to submit a proposal for Mozfest before August 1st.

https://twitter.com/ade_oshineye/status/749996138393112577

See a future in Dot Everybody…?

Following Paula Le Dieu’s talk at OpenTech 2015, I looked into the dotEverybody.org.uk.

We have an opportunity to make Britain brilliant at digital. We’ve been going too slow, being too incremental – in skills, in infrastructure, in public services. We need to be bolder.

A new institution could be the catalyst we need to shape the world we want to live in and Britain’s role in that world. Today, we’re letting big commercial technology platforms shape much of our digital lives, dominating the debate about everything from online privacy to how we build smart cities.

fact, I probably wouldn’t call it an institution at all. This is no normal public body. It’s time to balance the world of dot com so let’s create DOT EVERYONE.

I was impressed with the scope of the ambition. The Richard Dimbleby Lecture is a great starting point, just the audience alone was equally impressive with some seriously smart people including Tony Ageh, Tom Loosemore, Matthew Postgate all in the crowd along side the director general and many others. But its worth  reading the transcript, reading huffpost and watching the lost lecture which digs into the earlier thoughts including a mention of knowle-west in Bristol. Likewise the parliament speech is also worth watching.

Its strange that I heard about dot everybody and some how overlooked it, rather than having a proper look at it. They certainly are saying the right things…

Tim Berners-Lee started thinking about this with his recent Web We Want campaign.

Here’s a specific example: we wouldn’t make policy decisions about health care matters without consulting doctors and medical ethicists. According to the same logic, we shouldn’t make privacy and data policy without consulting technologists and encryption experts. The Snowden revelations and subsequent tribunal this year found that up to 2013, GCHQ had been undermining encryption and bulk collecting our data. Whatever you think about the effectiveness of executive oversight, everyone agrees that the legislation governing our data is woefully inadequate.

Right now, many of the people responsible for renewing that legislation don’t have all the technical knowledge required to do the best job possible. Surely this has to change.

There is no shortage of other issues to be explored.

Do children need different rights online?

What are the implications of wearable technology? Of an internet embedded in devices in your home?

How do we make sure that ‘smart cities’ are projects for the public good not just private profit?

How should we prepare for the so called “second machine age” and the increasing use of robots?

How do we protect against increasing cybercrime?

I believe we should make sure that the original promises of the internet – openness, transparency, freedom and universality – are a national asset, as integral to our soft power as the Queen, singing superstar Adele, JK Rowling, Shakespeare, or dare I say it on this channel, Downton Abbey.

Of course, the cynical could say well thats nice but wheres the action?

Like the Open rights group in 2005, things need time to grow and mature. You also need to be there at the conception of the idea and be willing to shape it, not just sit there and watch it fall over. This is why I sign and put money towards the pledge at the Change.org site.

I want to see this happen very soon, and I’m happy to pay a little to insure it happens for sure.

Google reaches deeply into the app data

There is something special about the experience of Google now and now something extremely magical about Google now on tap.

I’ve just gotten a chance to play around with an early build of Now on Tap, Google’s wild new feature that, in essence, does Google searches inside apps automatically. It works like this: when you’re in an app — any app — you hold down the home button. Android then figures out what is on the screen and does a Google Now search against it. A Now search is slightly different from your usual Google search, because it brings back cards that are full of structured data and actions, not just a list of links.

When I first watched the keynote, I thought of the Tim Burners-Lee Semantic Web vision (paid pdf only now).

The real power of the Semantic Web will be realized when people create many programs that collect Web content from diverse sources, process the information and exchange the results with other programs. The effectiveness of such software agents will increase exponentially as more machine-readable Web content and automated services (including other agents) become available.

Its not the semantic web thats for sure, the problem is that its amazing and the user experience is magical but its all within Googles own stack. This rather bothers (even) me for many of the ethics of data reasons. I’m sure app developers may be a little miffed too?

Following my thought, Wired had a intriguing headline Google’s Ingenious Plan to Make Apps Obsolete.

What makes Google Now’s pull away from apps even more compelling is that it was joined at I/O by a series of gentle pushes in the same direction. Google’s doing everything it can to get us all back to the web.

Now if I think the Wired piece is interesting but they are shouting down from the wrong tree. Google are climbing another tree somewhere else. Ok enough with the analogies what do I mean?

If I saw Google on tap working in the browser instead of on top of apps I would be extremely impressed and be really making solid ties between Tim Berners-Lee’s agents in the semantic web. But instead we are left with something slightly disappointing, like a parlour trick of sorts.

Don’t get me wrong its impressive but its not the big deal which I first thought it was. I’m sure the Chrome team are already working on ways to surface semi structured data to Google now, and when they do… wow!

Blip.tv does good on its promise to archive

Mike Hudack of Blip.tv

A long while ago I talked about why I used Blip.TV over Youtube, Vimeo and other video uploading sites.

  • Upload video of any length
  • Download the archived original
  • Use there non branded flash player anywhere you like
  • Add a creative commons licence
  • Automatically add content to Internet Archive
  • Add advertising to your video (start or end)
  • Add alternative formats of the same clip

Although most of these features are now supported by the others, blip.tv was promising this in 2006!

It was a shame last year when I saw the message in my email saying blip.tv was removing my videos. I did try and download most of them, but remembered the promise of uploading everything to archive.org.

…If Blip.tv ever pulled a Yahoo/Flickr thing on its users. You could pipe them all to Archive.org and remove them from Blip. Metadata and all..

Well they didn’t exactly do a Yahoo/Flickr thing on us, but their business models changed when they got bought. But they nicely honoured their word and dumped everything requested on to archive.org. I was having a hard time finding stuff (archive.org’s search isn’t the best) but I found everything using this search. Including classics like Mike Arrington thinks the BBC should be dissolved. Remember the firestorm which came from that video and his lack of ignorant comment. Finally it was followed by this.

The only disappointment is the links around the web are now broken as redirection of blip links never happened… Maybe I should contact mike (if he’s still in CEO) to remind him, wonder if he remembers me?

Dataportability for the win…!

Is it our drugs are all digital now or digital is the new ecstasy?

My Generation by 0100101110101101.ORG

Sometimes I bite at these headlines written for maximum bite value. This one reads… Now All Drugs are Digital

Obviously this is a lie, there are many synthetic drugs hitting the market which are being sold through the web.  But its a  interesting concept nonetheless from Children of the Machine.

The PC is the LSD of the ‘90s,” stated Timothy Leary in his last book, Chaos and Cyber Culture. Your first-ever desktop was acid. Think about your iPhone. Think about Oculus Rift. These are the 21st century’s digital super-strains. Let’s get wired.

Interestingly when thinking about the headline I instantly linked it to my post from a while ago, computers are the new ecstasy.

Which one is it… our drugs are all digital or the digital is the new ecstasy? They sound similar but I would argue, the later is more true, if you watch people on their phones and online. But then again the software is crafted in a way which encourages lab rat like behavior… maybe thats the new ecstasy?

Feel inspired by, I am, I do…

The Hodge ping’ed me on gtalk today and pointed me at a hack He and Caius had done for Honda Hack day

Its called I am, I do…

What is this?
I am, I do is a user edited database of stories, advice and inspiration of people following their dream. We started by asking people we knew who are doing what they love to answer a few questions and put them in a nice database for you to read, sort, store and share but we now want to open it up to everyone who is doing what they love, it doesn’t have to be working for yourself, if you love your job then let us know! You might inspire others
Why did you do this?
I’m inspired everyday by the people in my social circle, when I have a question or want to try something new, I can reach out for advice and one of them has probably done something similar before, we think there are a lot of people in similar situations who want to do something but are just missing a bit of inspiration
Anything else?
We would love schools and job centres to point people at this website and show the stories of people who have switched jobs, careers, countries to do what they want and that if your dream is reasonable, your dream is possible, you’ve just got to work at it

Its a simple but a great/noble idea… No fuss, fill in the questions and attach it to your profile (which is tied to your Twitter account). I spent about 30mins filling out about 8 questions, and you can see the result here.

It weirdly reminds me of something like the early days of OK Cupid when you would fill in questions about yourself. Of course the aim was very different in that case, it was all about getting a date but underneath that, it was about defining yourself. The aim of I am, I do is purely to inspire others. I do expect if it became bigger, some would use it as a place to show off but why? There’s nothing to gain from lying or showing off… This is good!

Some will dismiss it, as pointless because it doesn’t have badges or scores but I say excellent… Its simply a place to read inspiring stories from people you may or may not know.

As I was saying previously, we are all amazing and opportunities to learn a little more about each other should be the end point. Its the richness of life…

Great work Dom and Caius… don’t be tempted to add achievements, metrics, scores or anything else like that… You only have to look at the mess something like Klout has gotten its self into.

On the question: What has been your biggest achievement to date and why was it special?

I don’t care to count my achievements by size… Some of the tiny discussions I’ve had, have changed peoples directions. It might only be one person but that person might do something incredible and become something they never thought they could be in the past… I’m happy that I can help inspire others to be the best they can be. Some of this might be through London Geekdinner, BarCampLondon/Manchester, my work at BBC Backstage including Hackdays, etc, etc. I expect there will be many more chances to inspire in the future.
I really mean it, our fascination with size and instant impact is like a drug (I guess it also feeds the ego). I’d certainly welcome quality over size in some cases.

Online Werewolf, the Manchester Chapter and the Thing

The Thing game

One of the sessions at BarCampBlackpool was the idea of playing werewolf, mafia or even the thing (which I will get into in a second) online. There’s been many attempts at this including the commercial ones. But every once in a while theres an attempt by someone to setup an open online version.

Werewolfapphb is one such example. Now to be honest I only walked in half way through the talk but from what I can see it was a lot like the IRC style werewolf games I’ve seen in the past. Seems perfectly fine but I started suggesting a whole bunch of things including status about players and leaderboards. All suggestions seemed to go down well.

I did also point out that there’s a trend towards playing werewolf using Google Plus Hangouts, which to be honest is a lot neater than doing it on IRC or even a Jabber/XMPP conference room.

I was introduced to a new style Werewolf game which seems to work well with a smaller number of people. Its called the Thing and has the advantage of people being involved through-out the whole game.

People also noted there was now a Leeds & Preston Werewolf Chapter which begs the question, what happened to the Manchester Chapter? Well fear not, it will be back and I’ve got ideas and scenarios… Watch this space…

 

Robert’s web? Another internet inspired show

Roberts Web

Robert’s web joins the long list of TV shows built around web based content. However this one is more a combination of Know your meme, Inst msgs and the digg reel. Got to say its certainly a lot more funny that Rude Tube and a lot more topical that the digg reel. Not quite up to the level of Rocketboom when it was still popular but it certainly works for a mainstream tv show.

Techgrumps – Angry people going on about technology

Microphone

I’ve been taking part in a new podcast for a while now. Its called Techgrumps and is basiclly a couple of us (@tommorris, @nicferrier and myself) ranting on about the bad side of technology and the internet.

@Abizer was kind enough to write the first review on the itunes music store.

Three guys who rant about computer technology. Pro Open Web, pro Open Source; Java, Scala, Ruby, Python. Not too hot on Apple and certainly not fans of “New Media”. They don’t sound like fans of non-technical computer users either. I see them as vertex on a triangle formed with the Angry Mac B******s and Leo Laporte’s podcasts. They’ll cling on to their command lines like a hipster hugs his iPhone.

If you’re an Apple fanboy, or someone who does little more than use their computer for FaceBook and Twitter then this podcast isn’t for you.

If you have opinions, and like listening to or talking with people who have different opinions – and you aren’t embarrassed to be caught swearing to yourself on public transport while listening to podcasts on public transport – then this is worth a subscription.

They aren’t always right (well, in not my opinion anyway) but they at least try to come to their conclusions with reasoned (and expletive seasoned) arguments. And it helps that they are technically proficient so these aren’t baseless discussions. But they are always entertaining. If you can get past the parts where you want to scream, there is plenty to be learned from them as well.

I see it more as the ruder and British version of Crankygeeks and Leo Laporte’s Twit podcast. I’m not so sure about us hanging to our command lines but you get the general idea. Its very rude with lots of swearing or explicit language. No one and no topics are taboo for us on techgrumps.

Our podcast isn’t very professional, in actual fact its not meant to be, we deliberately choose the low-tech approach to podcasting, hopefully encouraging others to either join us or setup there own.

I said a while ago at a barcamp and a social media cafe manchester, that there were not enough amateur British Podcasts. I know theres the BBC podcasts and the Guardian podcasts which both have got a lot of success in this area but theres nothing like TwiT or Revision3’s series of video podcasts. We need more podcasts like Techgrumps and I’m glad to say that we have in our own unique way convinced @cbetta and @thehodge to setup there own podcast called Padaddicts (not pdaaddicts as I first saw and called it).

If we can get more british podcasts then thats a good thing! Why not setup your own?!

One social web

Its so odd, the guys behind storytlr were at FOSDEM and I actually watched there presentation but didn’t put two and two together. So I marked down One social web as a project to watch for myself and the BBC but I didn’t twig it was the same guys. If I had known, I would have tracked them down at FOSDEM for some serious conversation about what I want to do with Storytlr and what I thought of the One social web project.

alardw or Alard Weisscher left a comment on my blog post about FOSDEM and then the Lifestreaming blog post talking about One social web, finally made me slap my forehead, oh yeah those two guys were Storytlr.

Anyway, what there aiming to do is impressive and is much more interesting that whats happening with Google Buzz or even Facebook’s XMPP opening.

Would I get a Google Nexus One?

Get your nexus here

I like what Google have done with there own mobile phone. Lots of nice software tweaks to a frankly great phone. There’s no doubt that HTC make the best mobile phones in the world, be them for Microsoft like the HTC HD2 or for Android in the form of the Droid or now the Nexus One.

Would I buy one myself? Well my contract does run out soon but the Nexus One doesn’t come on Orange or Tmobile in the UK which means I won’t get the data package it deserves. I’m still feeling the HD2 which has a even larger screen at 4.3 inches.

Anyway you can now buy the Google Nexus phone online today at Google’s own microsite.