Archive for June, 2009

Meffys, @media,

Corblimey what a week and no mistake guv. (Sorry, still getting the last Lahndahn molecules out of my system.)

The Meffys

Firstly, on Tuesday, I attended a formal event on behalf of Opera as our Opera Mini mobile web browser was up for Best Mobile Application at the Mobile Entertainment Forum‘s Meffys awards. I’m not really a suit-and-tie business dinner type person, but duty called so I went along in my wedding-and-funeral suit for the onerous task of drinking free mojitos while listening to the host Hardeep Singh Kohli. (Lots of people said they found him too abrasive, but I thought he was a good choice.)

Lo and behold – we won! Feeling very proud and, forgetting my acceptance speech that our PR types had prepared, I clambered onto the stage and made an impromptu thankyou speech which would have the PR team having palpitations were it recorded anywhere, did a quick video interview for a journalist and took the coveted award home back for a couple of relaxed tie-less beers with David Storey and Chris Mills in the hotel bar.


At media was primarily a great gathering of the clans—I thought that the line up was playing it safe (entirely understandable in the current climate). I [particularly enjoyed persuading 30 people away from some poncey overpriced South Bank bistro in favour of a Waterloo greasy spoon where they stayed open especially to serve us snake and pygmy pie with beans and chips and a pint of lager for under a tenner.

The best speech for me was Robin Christopherson’s, in which he discussed ARIA and CAPTCHA as well as phone accessibility. I made an unscheduled appearance on stage as the HTML 5 cowboy during Molly’s presentation and donated the backless faux-leather chaps to Chris Wilson of Microsoft who’s the co-chair of the W3C‘s HTML 5 working group. He said that he would pass them onto Ian Hickson. I hope that they do the rounds of HTML 5 movers-and-shakers.

On Saturday the first informal emerging tech bootcamp took place. I was delighted how it went, having co-organised it with Henny Swan. We cajoled a stellar line-up of speakers to sit in a friendly (but very hot and sticky) atmosphere and really get under the skin of HTML 5. I humbly thank every one of them.


I over-ran on time without finishing my slides, discussing some myths that are causing unnecessary FUD and doing a basic demo of markup for a blog.

Remy Sharp

Remy demoed the state of play with the new JavaScript APIs. You can check out his HTML 5 JavaScript APIs slides and try his HTML 5 JavaScript demoes, or watch the HTML JavaScript: video of his presentation.

Dean Edwards

For the first half of Dean Edwards’ HTML5.js talk, most people couldn’t grasp the magnitude of what they were seeing. Dean was showing his new JavaScript library that plugs the holes in browsers’ HTML 5 implementations. If a browser does do something natively, ther library does nothing; otherwise it fills that gap—so now you can have Web Forms with all browsers, canvas in IE. As a bonus, it’s all keyboard accessible, everything looks like native UI controls and it even inherits the native Windows themes. I’m looking forward to helping beta test this baby.

Martin Kliehm

Martin showed several demoes of the new canvas element that blew my mind. I’d rather assumed that it was just for wiggly graphics and maybe on-the-fly graphing but Martin showed some combinations of canvas interacting with video (because once everything is in the browser rather than plugins, they can all talk to each other).

There is real potential for new interaction models for people with learning disabilities, older people and kids.

Steve Faulkner

Steve discussed the accessibility issues of the HTML 5 spec and its relationship with ARIA. I came away from Steve and Martins’ talks convinced that the biggest barrier will be the lack of real support for canvas accessibility and commend Steve for fighting this in the Working Group. I shall be standing with him in future.

I want to thank all the speakers who volunteered to share their knowledge, passion and expertise with us, and thanks to all who attended, and interacted with all the speakers to help us firm up our knowledge.

Although there were some problems (heat, pillars in the way), the event went exactly as Henny and I hoped: a relaxed pub (£1.95 a pint of bitter and you can take your own sandwiches in!), short focussed speeches of 30 minutes so speakers don’t feel the need to pad and a genuinely interested crowd who participated rather than passively absorbed the information. This lady is an excellent example:

Stephanie (?) have a riveting time at

HTML 5 Doctor

I plugged it at @media and (and forgot to give out the moo cards), and we’ve launched the bare bones of it today – HTML 5 Doctor (named in homage to an early Zeldman feature called “Ask Dr. Web”).

High Standards t-shirts

If you got a freebie High Standards t-shirt from us at, please post a picture of you wearing it to Flickr and tag it highstandards, because I want to remember how lovely you are.

Alternate text in HTML 5

For a while now there has been a battle raging between accessibility advocates and those who are most closely involved in drafting the HTML 5 specification.

I’ve bravely kept out of much of it as it’s been quite acrimonious and I am, as you might have realised, a delicate flower. (Actually, since I’ve been working from home on my own, I do take things much more to heart than I used to. Silly me).

The biggest arguments have been over the alt attribute for images. At some point, HTML 5 allowed alt to be optional; a huge flamewar erupted and now there is a massive lump of text in the spec discussing alternate text. I think this is wrong, and the spec should simply make alt mandatory (while noting that it may be blank) and point to WCAG for guidance; it is, after all, the authoring guide to accessibility from the W3C

On the debate on the summary attribute on table sees me side with my chums on the HTML 5 cabal. Now that we have ARIA attributes like aria-describedby, and HTML 5 elements like details (which “represents additional information or controls which the user can obtain on demand” – see the details element spec) I think there are better ways of doing it. (I feel the same about longdesc too.)

I’m suspicious of invisible screenreader-only elements. A long time ago, I worked with kids with learning difficulties—autism and Down Syndrome—and can’t help thinking that the information that’s usually in summary to provide a mental map of a data table to blind people would be as useful to those kids. (This discussion is taking place on Gez Lemon’s blog, in a very pleasant tone, I’m glad to report).

Anyway, yesterday Janina Sajka, the Chair of the W3C‘s Protocols and Formats Working Group pronounced on the two matters I discuss above in a document called WAI CG Consensus Resolutions on Text alternatives in HTML 5 which is worth a read (it’s neither long nor complex). I don’t know what happens now procedurally but hopefully it’ll put an end to those battles and everyone can have a lovely big group hug and a sing-song.

Until we get started on the accessibility of the canvas element, that is.

More of my brilliant observations on HTML 5 accessibility:

On the British National Party

So Britain elected two members of the “nationalist-but-not-racist” British National Party to the European Parliament in the last elections.

I’m shocked that anyone is shocked.

Racism has always been an undercurrent to British life, from the anti-semitism that George Orwell reported, and the huge support that the Nazis enjoyed amongst the British aristrocracy, to the man who called my children “mongrels” when we were out on the street (my kids are mixed race). Most of colonial history was based on the presumption that black Africans or brown Indians couldn’t possibly govern themselves without the civilising control of the white Englishman.

And, while we have the occasional race riot, we haven’t had any pogroms or systematised kirstallnachts but that’s not because we British are any less racist than any one else, it’s just that we have a long tradition of hating each other quietly.

But I have no wish to get the BNP morons silenced on Twitter, or their broadcasts banned from the BBC. Quite the opposite. I think making these people unite together as an oppressed minority encourages them. Let them speak out, and freely. They’ll soon reveal themselves to be one-issue thugs and will be returned back to their former lives by the majority of decent people as soon as the country gets over its entirely understandable wish to give a kicking to the mainstream parties who, it appears, have been robbing us blind for years.

(Last Updated on 12 June 2009)

Jokes that need Scottish accents

Well, it’s been a bit tech-heavy round these parts lately, so a bumper crop of four Friday jokes today. Do your best Billy Connolly accent and tell these to a loved one.

Joke 1:
Q: What’s the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?
A: Bing sings, but Walt Disney.

Joke 2:
Woman to Scotsman: What do you wear under your kilt?
Jock: Put your hand up and feel.
Woman: Oh! It’s gruesome.
Jock: Put your hand up again, it’s gruesome more.

Joke 3:
Short-sighted Scotsman to a baker: Is that a doughnut, or a meringue?
Baker: You’re right—it’s a doughnut.

Joke 4:
This one doesn’t really require a Scottish accent, but it fits with he Hibernian Caledonian theme:

Q: How can you tell a Scotsman’s clan?
A: Put your hand up his kilt. If he’s got a quarterpounder, he’s a McDonald.

Thangkyewverymuch. I’m here all week. Try the haggis.

(Last Updated on 8 June 2009)

CSS challenge

You, dear reader, are almost certainly one of the most talented CSS experts on the planet. No, don’t blush; everybody says it.

So here’s a challenge for you. I have a defintion list. It’s a glossary—a collection of terms and definitions. Semantically, therefore, it’s indisputably correctly marked up as dt and one or more dds, all wrapped in a single dl. (It’s not a naughty dl in a form or any misuse like that).

I want to style it in a way that’s very common for glossaries—term on the left, and all the different definitions on the right. Each new term starts a new “row” for want of a better word. It needs to be robust; some terms are longer than their definitions; some terms have multiple definitions.

I can’t do it.

If I add a non-semantic (and invalid) div around each term and its definition(s), then float:left; clear:left;, it works perfectly. But without that meaningless extra element, it looks minging. (Colours and the classes used to add those are just for illustration.)

Whichever way I try (absolute positioning, using display:table-*, inserting generated content and floating and clearing that), I can’t get it to look as I want it.

It’s obviously a common problem. The HTML 5 group declined to add a di (definition item) grouping element to solve this, rightly saying

This is a styling problem and should be fixed in CSS. There’s no reason to add a grouping element to HTML, as the semantics are already unambiguous.

So, dear reader: can you do it? There’s free entry to and a snog with tongues for the lucky winner.

Rules: you can’t change the markup. This would be easy to do with multiple dls, but it isn’t a series of lists: it’s one list of multiple terms. And, yes, it could be marked up as a table, but it isn’t a table, it’s a list of definitions and we all know that tables for layout is evil.

(This isn’t me just being lazy; Molly is attending the CSS Working Group’s face-to-face PARTAAAY!! meeting, and we were discussing things to bring up there.)