What’s that silver thing again?

I’ll confess that, when I’m wearing my “just a user” hat, I’ve (mostly) made my peace with Flash — usually, these sites tend to redner as intended, and plugin support in Firefox 2 was good enough to take care of my installation needs without me t…

I’ll confess that, when I’m wearing my “just a user” hat, I’ve (mostly) made my peace with Flash — usually, these sites tend to redner as intended, and plugin support in Firefox 2 was good enough to take care of my installation needs without me thinking much. Which means that flash sites are mostly noticeable for being annoyingly noisy (so much fun when you skype into a telephone conference), or maybe unusable — as my bank’s pretty new login form. (I’m back to paper when they make that thing mandatory for online banking customers.)In Silly season, Mark Pilgrim gives a fine rant, and a survey of the latest attempts to rebuild the Web by breaking its core design principles. Seems like the system I use is non-mainstream enough again to simply show me those “plugin not supported” errors for a while, as a reminder that some sites use proprietary technology at their own peril.Thanks to Microsoft and Adobe for the nice demonstration (again) of why proprietary just doesn’t work on the Web!(Found via Silverfish and Appallingo by Paul Downey.)

Towel day

May 25 is pangalactic Towel day. In memory of the late Douglas Adams, please carry a towel around all day, and put it to some appropriate use. The flickerati also mark the day by posting photos of themselves and their towel. The tag is, obviously,…

May 25 is pangalactic Towel day. In memory of the late Douglas Adams, please carry a towel around all day, and put it to some appropriate use. The flickerati also mark the day by posting photos of themselves and their towel. The tag is, obviously, towelday.For technorati:

ICANN At-Large – Time to Reconsider?

In a prior life, I’ve been a member of ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee from 2003 through 2004. I was one of the folks who, back then, were seeing ALAC as an advocacy platform, and focused on the policy side of its work, pushing for what, in ou…

In a prior life, I’ve been a member of ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee from 2003 through 2004. I was one of the folks who, back then, were seeing ALAC as an advocacy platform, and focused on the policy side of its work, pushing for what, in our judgment, were Individual Internet Users’ best interests. Honestly, I can’t claim a whole lot of tangible success for that, despite hard work by a number of people.To this day, I still occasionally dangle my feet into these waters, though I’ve again and again promised myself not to do it again.To say I’m disappointed by what I’ve seen recently would be an understatement: While I’m happy there is a number of people who, presumably, really want to move things, I’m appalled to see how discussions among both European and North American participants take on an increasingly divisive tone. There isn’t much to be seen of a common goal to advocate users’ interest in ICANN — rather, a lot of fighting for table scraps (when there’s more than enough work for anybody who wants to gamble some of their time on ICANN and its at-large activities!). ALAC’s ICANN staff support seems most interested in staging pretty signing ceremonies and press events, one per ICANN General Meeting.The result? Artificial and rushed time lines, premature consensus calls, and a lot of bad blood and mistrust among participants who really ought to be working together (and have been able to talk reasonably to each other before they got into fights around ICANN). Also, the ability for ICANN to pretend that there’s real end user participation and representation, when there are really very few ways (if any) for ALAC to make a real difference in policy decisions — even though the committee has some limited power to help shape ICANN’s policy agenda.Here’s a Gedankenexperiment for you: Imagine ALAC was simply shut down. Would things change for the better? Or for the worse? Would we maybe see more thinking about what accountability in ICANN’s processes might really mean? (And no, the sometimes surreal ombudsman doesn’t provide that.) Would we see the organization really be any less sensitive to users’ needs?2007-05-21 edited to add: Relevant comment threads are in Wendy’s and Patrick’s blogs.

Antal Szerb: The Queen’s Necklace

The story of the tastelessly overloaded diamond necklace that had been allegedly ordered by Marie Antoinette (and subsequently led to a major public scandal in 1780s France) can be found at Wikipedia. Antal Szerb’s version, written in 1943, howeve…

The story of the tastelessly overloaded diamond necklace that had been allegedly ordered by Marie Antoinette (and subsequently led to a major public scandal in 1780s France) can be found at Wikipedia. Antal Szerb’s version, written in 1943, however, goes far beyond just telling this particular bit of history: In his uniquely ironic tone, we get an extraordinarily vivid introduction to the institutional and social history of the highest echelons of the ancien régime, right before its fall.Szerb brings this time to life brilliantly. Historical characters become tangible, among them Marie Antoinette, Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois (impoverished descendant of the royal Valois family, and chief villain of the story), Cagliostro (about whom Szerb notes that he didn’t know much less about medicine than any other physician of his time), the Cardinal Rohan (whose boundless naiveté contributed greatly to the general debacle), and finally the Count of Haga (also known as Gustav III of Sweden; his political aptitude serves as a stark contrast to the French royals’ political talent). Tangible, too, the court’s customs, the functions these customs had (many of them obsolete at the time), the reaction when Marie Antoinette (daughter of Empress Maria Theresia) comes in and stages a fashion rebellion — and the ways in which the Comtesse de Saint-Rémy social engineers her way through all that.Interesting, Szerb’s observations how the court attempted to get closer to the ordinary citizens, and at the same time demystified itself, thereby maybe helping the revolution along — a theme, incidentally, that resonates in The Queen‘s recent rendition of British monarchy’s crisis around the death of Lady Diana. “The ancien régime didn’t perish so much for its vices, but for its virtues,” Szerb writes.This book is a true treasure trove for the historically interested, but never boring or dry, but always fun, entertaining, ironic, colorful. If you know to read Hungarian or German or one of the other languages it has been translated to (I’ve been unable to find an English translation), go read it.

From WWW 2007: Mashing up the Mobile

One of the sessions at WWW 2007 that I’d really have loved to attend (but couldn’t) was Mashing up the Mobile, by Paul Downey and Uros Rapajic of British Telecom. Fortunately, their slides are now available online, and I got a quick intro to much …

One of the sessions at WWW 2007 that I’d really have loved to attend (but couldn’t) was Mashing up the Mobile, by Paul Downey and Uros Rapajic of British Telecom.Fortunately, their slides are now available online, and I got a quick intro to much of the content while playing booth babe at the W3C booth on another day of the conference. The work that Paul and Uros are doing essentially explores what happens when you connect mash-ups, RSS feeds, and mobile phones with each other in all kinds of ways, and then just let the ideas flow. The results are both playful and powerful.While talking to Paul, I also learned about Twittervision, Dapper, and what happens when you feed geotagged RSS into Google Maps (try it). Good stuff!

Trying Firefox 2

I’ve been a firefox user for a long while, and normally stuck with the version of the browser that came with my Linux distribution of choice (currently: Fedora Core 6). Recently, however, the Firefox 1.5 builds that are distributed by Fedora seeme…

I’ve been a firefox user for a long while, and normally stuck with the version of the browser that came with my Linux distribution of choice (currently: Fedora Core 6). Recently, however, the Firefox 1.5 builds that are distributed by Fedora seemed to suck up all the memory on my machine, and for good measure started crashing when they encountered complex web applications.I figured I could try Firefox 2 as well, so I finally installed the thing.Overall, I’m not noticing huge feature changes. However, some effects are worth it for me:

  • The RSS feed auto-detection is now able to redirect to web based feed readers’ subscription interfaces; I can subscribe to a feed in Google reader by clicking on the feed icon in the address bar. That’s a huge plus.
  • The tabbing UI has improved significantly. I’m finally able to manage my tabs reasonably (as opposed to just accumulating them until Firefox crashes, or until I close the window).
  • The entire thing feels faster and leaner. That might be related to my previous point above about tabs, though.

Overall, I’m still amazed how a graphical UI that lets me run a terminal, a graphical web browser, an HTML editor, (recently Skype, some other instant messaging software), and an office suite seems to consistently eat all of a PC’s memory, at any given point in the curve of PC and software development history.(Off to order a memory extension. 😉

Presentation styles (2)

In Presentation styles, I wrote about my first attempt at using Lessig style for a presentation. I’ve done it again since — once at the German anti-phishing symposion in Bochum (slides in German), where my point was that security technology can’t…

In Presentation styles, I wrote about my first attempt at using Lessig style for a presentation.I’ve done it again since — once at the German anti-phishing symposion in Bochum (slides in German), where my point was that security technology can’t really work if it ignores the constraints and possibilities of an underlying platform (and where I talked about some of the work of the Web Security Context Working Group) –, and at a panel at W3C’s AC meeting in Banff, where our theme was what the failure modes are that keep security technology from getting deployed.For that last talk, I’ll admit that I was about to do a “normal” powerpoint-like presentation (but using slidy, Dave Raggett’s XHTML + Javascript based presentation tool for once; authoring Lessig-style with that one is actually an uphill battle). After a while, I gave up in frustration: Turns out that, once you’ve done that other presentation style for a short while, you don’t go back to standard powerpoints that easily. The talk actually went reasonably well.I still expect to go back to usual powerpoint style for the next two or three talks that I’ll need to prepare, though — simply because they’ll be much more like lectures in character than the recent talks have been.