Category Archives: internet

barCampSydney4, fragrantly remarkable day at U of NSW

Sydney is one of those cities that carries its own perfume, one you get a whiff of from open bus windows, moments stuck in traffic jams, or just walking down the street. It is the unmistakeable scent of gum trees, the eucalypt sweet-citrus that is as much a part of the city as the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House.

I thought about this as I got my coffee with @neilphillips the morning of barCamp Sydney 4, hosted at the Roundhouse, University of New South Wales, my partner’s alma mater, and wondered how I got to this place, something I regularly do since migrating here only a few weeks ago.

I already noted, I’m sure, how friendly and open I find this city, and it was very evident at BarCamp, where even passionate and aggressive debate was accompanied by true camaraderie and mutual respect. This was my first barCamp, 160 people concentrated in a strangely cat-litter scented music/meeting venue, and I am definitely going to the next one, and definitely presenting something having gotten over my initial shyness and wariness.

For those not in the know, barCamp is a unique type of dedicated conference focussing on web applications, open source platforms and next generation web environments, roughly speaking. I was attracted to it as it is a real User Generated Content (UGC) environment, where you show up and add your topic of interest, what you want to lead a discussion or presentation on, to a schedule board first thing in the morning, or even hijack a rebuttal space later in the day, as happened in the Roll your own / Don’t roll your own CMS debate I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s open to whomever adds their name to the wiki roll call, fantastically dynamic, and thoroughly free to boot! There is some sponsorship but corporate presentations are not permitted and, it is a participatory, not spectator environment.

I enjoyed the entire day, but had to mention some highlights. (great pictures by JJ Halans available on flickr) There are hashtags feeds at #bcs4 and #barcampsydney for those interested in the copious chatter.

The speed networking was very helpful to this new soul trying to meet like-minded people in my industry, everyone friendly and open and engaged. Then the “Why it make sense to create your own CMS” session from Tom Voirol (as well as the impassioned rebuttal from Plone and Drupal experts) and Mick Liubinskas from Pollenizer talking about focus was gratifying to hear. Journo Katherine Small’s talk on how to get media attention (hope she distributes her presentation online!) and Scott Drummond’s discussion, “WTF is a Community Manager” were well presented, inspiring and enlightening. The passions around Dave Field’s presentation on “HCI failure” showed real insight and cross-platform passion.

And that was all before lunch! (hope to post a picture here once I debug my image upload issues with WordPress). in the meantime check out these two pictures of me: and from JJ Halans. Yes, it is a truly frightful Movember I’m sporting. Also found a pic on ZDNet’s bootstrappr site if you’re interested.

The afternoon session contained a great talk about the OLPC project from Pia Waugh and what is in the damned thing, both hardware and software, as well as availability and upcoming deployments in Australia. Calling it a collaboration and education tool is about right. There was show-stopping mind-hacking session, A.K.A hypnotism, from Melinda Hall @headwellred that, among other things, showed us that it doesn’t have to be digital to be both fascinating and powerful. Nic Hodges led an interesting talk about idea generation and as the late afternoon fast approached, we wound up with an open discussion on how to battle the government’s desire to implement an unworkable, expensive, ill-considered blanket content filter across all Australian ISPs. It sounds like there is now a URL: and some real activity around it. It was discussed that talking about #nocleanfeed wasn’t helping and we need to speak to non-techie people about it, not the “preaching to the converted” we now have.

So now it’s back to networking and job-hunting, looking for dynamic companies who might be interested in, in conversations about strategy, User centred design, end-to-end iterative project planning and management, future-focussed website creation and good places to have coffee. Hope to see some of you at WordCamp Sydney at the end of the month and please try to remember I am fundraising for Movember, raising awareness about men’s health issues like Prostate cancer and Depression, so your generous donation will be very appreciated and help justify me having to grow this ludicrous ‘tash.

Now off for a cycle round Sydney Park to clear my head and recirculate the blood round these laptop bearing knees.

My First STUB

Had a lovely social in The Beresford Hotel in Sydney Wed night, thanks to a tip-off from the lads at Happener, with some charming ad interesting bods. I really love this friendly city and the open warm connections it is possible to make here. Anyway, the group is called a STUB, is for Sydney twitterers and is a great way to place-a-face with the people we exchange messages with through Twitter on a daily basis. if you’re in Sydney, and you tweet, consider following @STUB, who also have a site with more info.

Read about it from ShiftedPixel‘s blog with pics included.

UX minds, futurists, start-up supporters, coders and recruiters, social networking tarts and generally switched on and locked-in people, not to mention a gerat discussion about fancy-shmancy Italian cooking. Thanks, mish!

Through the STUB (Sydney Twitter Underground Brigade BTW) I found out about BarCamp Sydney and am talking about Wordcamp Australia and hope to attend another webby meet shortly. There is plenty to get stuck into here but the next week will be catching up on exiting remote work for London, a new office space in Surry Hills, clearing out the garden (who thought planting bamboo was a good idea? 6ft in 2 weeks! ick!), follow up meetings with a few agencies and hopefully a steak ‘n’ beer with some mates, and a Laksa with my lovely (thanks for the recommendation Nick).

Now where’s that cat collar??? Mrow?

Where we touch

I was inspired today by being an inspiration.

I guess I should explain.

In the distant past, I used to be a photographer, before I took up the keyboard. My main forte was still life and small objects, nature isolated. You may recall at the start of this blog in the first posting, I wrote that my photography was why I got interested in the internet in the first place.

I have a  subscription to a tool that tracks any security breach on the internet with my name, so I can see if I am being spoofed anywhere; a useful security tool. This tool alerted me that I was being talked about and I found a student of photography who referenced me. Somewhere, somehow, this person found me in a book or publication and I gave them something to think about, and they turned to their camera to express it. I vaguely recall them emailing me and asking about my picture and I, grateful for the attention and immensely flattered, gave them the best response I could.

So this tool found their reference to me and I am doubly impressed, by A Phan and the image I had a part in helping to bring about, and that we connected through the world, brushed up against each other and contributed to each other’s creative energy. You and I, dear reader, have a similar relationship, via the tool we are now immersed in, me as the author of this piece, and you as the reader. Your presence, even silently, inspires me. This is one small part of the huge mesh of new connections that could not have existed without the internet, depends on it, and becomes the conduit for the types of connections humanity has always desired.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, this IS the new world, the new frontier where humanity will discover, support and reaffirm it’s interrelatedness. We don’t always need the deep soulful connections, like the ones we have with our friends, lovers, family, etc; sometimes it is the wonderful brushing-up against each other, where we share about some specific commonality, that draws us together and helps us understand each other.

See you out there!

Freedom and dependence

What I want when I want it and all for free or with transparent pricing.

We have not had a television in the house since about 2002, partly as it was a TV I acquired from a flat I moved into in 1991 (!) and it was a bit tired, partly because reception got a bit crap when they repaired our roof but left the aerial dangling (!!), and finally, because we were too busy doing other things to really relax enough in front of the idiot box at the same time that something good was on.

And timing is everything these days. We don’t like swapping our personal schedules for the vagaries of the advertising markets and may want to watch Little Britain at noon, or Sesame Street at 7PM. And what exactly is wrong with occasionally passing on the news and watching a film at 6PM?

Last night we watched three episodes of a comedy program on the BBC iPlayer because we liked it and wanted to see it right then. There are several Live TV over IP offerings available like Zattoo and Joost and they are starting to get somewhere but no-one really has got it right, as the iPlayer has a short expiry rate (one week) and the two latter ones occasionally fail on decent network support, leaving you with terrible compression artifacts or no connections at all partway through the program.

TV will have to wake up and become aware that people will find it if the originators don’t offer it. The consumer world is now aware that you can get what you want and should be able to get it when you want it. Those that are aware of this will be the respected suppliers (whinge all you like, but iTunes, even with it’s restrictive practices and weird pricing structure, gets it right enough to use) who deliver a good enough proportion of what we want.

The issue is not Intellectual Property, really, it is about milking us for something we already paid for (how anyone in the US watches television I don’t know as there seems to be the same amount of advertising as program, even without the blatant product placement!) and the consumers WILL find a solution that fits. TV companies should be cognizant of all the mistakes of the music industry and be aware…

get me outta here!

I just booked a romantic holiday for two, on a remote island in Fiji, where there’s no electricity, the food is local and the beach is all ours, literally.  There is only one Bura (we call ’em huts round here!) and one dining space and  the nearest village is a hike around the island. The sunsets will be for us alone, and the stars will be our evening light.

Before you can say “where do you plug your laptop in?” I just realised that without the internet, my laptop is pretty useless to me. I use the computer to be connected to the world and the other people in it. I barely do anything that isn’t online anymore….. So a resort that doesn’t even have a telephone, never mind the internet is some how even more secluded than the concept of being on the other side of the world where there aren’t even roads.

And no, I’m not telling you where it is just yet, as we want to keep it to ourselves for just a bit longer.

But the webby thing about it was that we found it by watching an online video on a travel site on a completely random search, and discovered something we couldn’t have from one of the usual text-based searches. We found it wilfing!

C’mon sweetheart we’re goin’ skinny dippin’!


What’s in a standard

As mentioned earlier, I run the Web Standards Meetup London and really get a kick out of talking the semantics of web-page creation with the excellent people who come to these meetings. I like combining the ease of a digital meet-space like meetup or facebook or LinkedIn with the pleasure of actively listening or truly interacting with real people in meat-space. Some people might find it too geeky, but for me it’s a perfect example of what makes the internet so interesting, the people involved.

Last night for example, we had an hour long conversation about the relative merits of where and what you put in the h1 tag for particular pages in a site. I have seen (OK, read!) some very passionate but polite discussions in mailing lists and the like about issues like these and, personally, it is important to you and your granny that some people ARE passionate about these questions.

Imagine if the people who were responsible for maintaining their websites were not passionate about the lowly h1 tag, and, by extension, all the other tags involved in creating pages. Actually you don’t have to imagine, as it happens all too often and this lack of passion is the reason that visitors have trouble on their site. Badly formatted code or non semantically structured sites can decrease findability, reduce availability in web searching, and break the appearance of the site for people who use assistive technologies, like blind people with screen readers.

So, thankfully, there are some of us who care, and our clients and friends benefit from it. drop me a line if you want to hear more about it.

Standardistas Unite!

Carrying on from my theme about using the online world to support rather than supplant the physical world, I thought I’d tell you about these monthly meetings I have been holding since late 2007, in London.

Called the Web Standards Meetup London, they aim to allow practitioners to discuss problems and successes with implementing web standards. There are a few other groups in London that do this but none as casually as this one, in a loose, network style.

What’s the big deal, then with web standards, anyway?

Quite a bit actually, and it has to do with how people and computers “read” websites, what we want from websites, both as users and creators/commissioners, and how to create structure around meaningful content so everyone wins. I’ll be discussing aspects of web standards over the next few months in here and on other sites on occasion but in the short-term, the elevator-pitch, as it were, is simply:

Semantically structured, standards-compliant, gracefully accessible web content, created with all visitors in mind, makes a website better for everyone and everything that visits it, from web-crawling search-spiders to web-savvy cyber-surfers.

The big problem has always been that people think it costs extra to code in this way or that the site will be less functional or attractive than it could be, but the opposite is true, actually. Once you set compliance, usability and findability as your target, the rest of the issues fall into place and it becomes easier to build, if you know how to.

So several of us (the group numbers 90 at present, but about 10 – 15 of us meet monthly) gather round and discuss what we can do to progress these practices into the wider web community. We would never have been able to organise something like this so easily without a site like Meetup or Upcoming to help one manage people and meeting dates.

So even though you may spend a few hours a week catching up with friends and colleagues on the internet, don’t forget to meet them in the flesh, in “meat-space” to make sure you can really connect! There4 really is no point to social networking sites unless you use them to occasionally meet and network physically.

If you are interesetd in the topic by the way, join up and I may even buy you a beer! *

*first few actual meat-space attendees and to be taken with a grain of salt!

net neutrality is about open access

Net Neutrality.

Arguably one of the largest threats to open democracy and freedom of information and content at the moment as it is being decided upon by people who don’t “get it” and people who want to financially control it, particularly in the USA. If the large telcos like Verizon are permitted to throttle parts of the internet for their own benefit, it will have huge repercussions worldwide, both politically and socially.

Beyond the principle of a neutral and unfettered access to any part of the internet or www, issues of content or functionality or services become moot.

This explains it better than I could.

See also: and wiki/Network_neutrality