• "ASBOrometer is a mobile application that measures levels of anti-social behaviour at your current location (within England and Wales) and gives you access to key local ASB statistics… This app was created by Jeff Gilfelt and made possible by the data.gov.uk initiative, which is opening up UK government data for public reuse." What sensationalist rot; no number of pretty visualisations make this kind of fearmongering acceptable. It's nice that the data is open; it's a shame this is the best thing people can think to do with it. Whether you like it or not, this information is very, very loaded.
  • "It boils Digital Britain down to three Ms – media, music and movies – myopically ignoring the pioneers of new technology, and ?
    showing a blind spot for all creativity outside the so-called creative industries… Instead of empowering digital Britons, the bill follows the lead of music and movie corporations, who already apply a presumption of guilt to their customers. Instead of treating the web as a platform of possibilities, it recasts it as a tool for mass theft." Excellent, excellent leader from the Guardian on the frankly scandalous digital economy bill.
  • "…maybe this is the best of both worlds. An audience that, having crossed the barriers to entry, is by its nature more invested in our work; a public profile by which we have the means to occasionally reach into the mass consciousness, but which affords us the freedom to continue experimenting with subject, form, and style; an industry which is truly international; which is capable of producing both multi-million dollar blockbusters and single-creator labors of love (and releasing both on the same platform); which manages to be neither too big nor too small, and is the more vital, unique and exhilarating for it. We are a medium for us, and while there are more and more of us every day, we'll never be for everyone. In a way, that's beautiful." I think Steve's about right.
  • "Finally, if one can wrap a game around a complex issue like the national budget and engage that many young people, we should be able to do the same with other important policy issues, from climate change to health care. The budget was about the most boring issue one could take on compared to Lost, Heroes, World of Warcraft, or playing Moto Racer on the iPhone." Really interesting set of conclusions from a large-scale serious game.
  • "There was once a world of living robots. But one day a bad accident occured in the main power generator. The world fell into a deep sleep. Bring life back to the world!" Wonderful animation and art design, and a charming little game. It'll take you about 10-20 minutes. It's brilliant.
  • Dustin Curtis didn't like the American Airlines website, and complained on his blog; a UX architect from AA gets back to him and explains how things are; Dustin responds. I need to write something longer on this, but in a nutshell: I understand Dustin's position, but it feels naive, and I think he confuses corporate culture with business practice. I want my airline to have a corporate culture of conservatism and fustiness, just like I want my bank to be severe and serious. That doesn't meant their website has to suck, but it also doesn't mean that their sucky website is their CEO's fault.
  • "ART & COPY reveals the stories behind and the personal odysseys of some of the most influential advertising visionaries of our time and their campaigns, including Lee Clow (Apple Computer 1984, and today’s iPod); Dan Wieden (“Just Do It”); Phyllis K. Robinson (who invented the “me generation” with Clairol); Hal Riney (who helped President Reagan get re-elected); and George Lois (who saved MTV and launched Tommy Hilfiger overnight). Directed by Doug Pray (SURFWISE, HYPE!, SCRATCH), ART & COPY captures the creative energy and passion behind the iconic campaigns that have had a profound impact on American culture." Sounds good – Scratch was excellent.
  • "I hope you find this overview of the future timeline of Facebook Usernames useful to understand where this exciting feature is going in the future, how our industry will adapt and respond to this sort of innovation, and how our tech trade press will hold the powerful company's feet to the fire as this sort of capability becomes mainstream in the years to come." Meanwhile, Anil Dash drops the awesome.
  • "This is what Tim O’Reilly warned about in his definition of Web 2.0. He said that one of the new kinds of lock-in in the era of [cloud computing] will be owning a namespace." Chris Messina, being thoughtful about the Facebook Usernames issue…

The COI have recently published a draft of their browser guidelines for anyone developing a public sector website.

Frankly, I’m very unimpressed; they’re dangerous, vague in certain areas and over-specific in others, and promote some terrible ideas. I’d urge any designer or developer with an interest in this area to download the document and read it – it’s really not very long – and then leave feedback on the document with the COI through the appropriate form. The public have been asked for responses, and we have the scope to respond; if you feel as strongly about what’s in the document as I do, I hope that you will.

My own response follows.

As a web development professional, I’m very unimpressed with this consultation document, and would go as far as to suggest that some elements of it are actively harmful.

I appreciate the attempt to codify the need for effective browser-compatibility for all public sector websites. That said, the manner in which the document suggests which browsers to test is very poor.

All browsers are different, even though the HTML and XHTML specs remain the same. The purpose of browser-testing is not to ensure that sites look identical in all browsers; the purpose is to ensure that the site is usable in all browsers.

As such, lists of browsers to be tested in are dangerous; the best we can aspire to is to write good, valid code that is functional in all browsers, and priortise appearance for the most modern browsers.

I take exception to the notion that the browsers to be tested on are those which have >2% share of visits on a website. 2% of hits on a very popular public-sector website might account for a sizeable proportion of users, and to exclude them (especially if the lack of testing in their browsers leads to impared functionality) could well contravene the Disabilities Discrimination Act. Also, note that these statistics are not necessarily accurate, and may contain spoofed or inaccurate user data.

Going beyond the 2% hurdle, it would not be feasible to test in all browsers. The best solution is probably a form of graded browser support, much as Yahoo recommends, which itself is reviewed and updated over time, and which guarantees a minimum functionality in certain families of browsers, full support in others, and makes it clear which browsers simply are not supported. Browsers do not cost money; they are not complex tools to install, and developers should not be limited simply because a certain percentage of users on their website continue to user Internet Explorer 5.

Browser support should not be a series of boxes to check off, and it should not be specified retroactively based upon current users; it should be based upon accurate specifications and usage patterns, to ensure that public sector websites – many of which already have high production costs – are sustainable, maintainable, and functional for years to come.

As such, this preliminary draft has a long way to go before it accurately represents the state of web usage, not to mention web development, in 2008.