Archive for April, 2012

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Web Development


Heartwarming stuff

This is why I love working with Norwegians. The ultra-nationalist terrorist mass-killer Anders Behring Breivik hates the children’s song “Children of the Rainbow” that describes a “World where every sister and every brother shall live together like small children of the rainbow”. So 40,000 Norwegians got together to sing it, just to annoy him.

It’s a great example. The UK and USA are intent on showing how much we value democracy and liberty by clamping down on what people can say, see, think, and clap them in prison without trial. Norwegians, conversely, reaffirm their values of tolerance and open-ness when they’re under attack.

Lyrics of Lillebjørn Nilsen’s Barn av regnbuen (Children of the Rainbow), lifted from

En himmel full av stjerner (A heaven full of stars)
 Blått hav så langt du ser (Blue seas as far as you can see)
 En jord der blomster gror (A world where flowers grow)
 Kan du ønske mer ? (Can you ask for more?)
 Sammen skal vi leve (We shall live together)
 hver søster og hver bror (Every sister and every brother)
 Små barn av regnbuen (Small children of the rainbow)
 og en frodig jord. (And a blossoming world.)

Noen tror det ikke nytter (Some don't think it matters)
 Andre kaster tiden bort med prat (Others waste time with small talk)
 Noen tror at vi kan leve av (Some thing we can live on
 plast og syntetisk mat. (plastic and synthetic food.)
 Og noen stjeler fra de unge (And some steal from the young)
 som blir sendt ut for å sloss (who are sent off for a fight.)
 Noen stjeler fra de mange (Some steal from the masses)
 som kommer etter oss (who come after us.)

 Si det til alle barna! (Tell all the children)
 Og si det til hver far og mor: (And tell every father and mother)
 Ennå har vi en sjanse (That we still have a chance)
 til å dele et håp på jord. (to share hope for the world.)

Reading List


  • HTML5 gets a new <dialog> element which behaves as top-layer in the fullscreen spec. If the dialog is modal, it makes the rest of the document inert:

    A subtree of a Document can be marked as inert. When a node or one of its ancestors is inert, then the user agent must act as if the element was absent for the purposes of targetting user interaction events … Note: When a node or one of its ancestors is inert, it also can’t be focused.

    An entire Document can be marked as blocked by a modal dialog dialog. While a Document is so marked, every node that is in the Document, with the exception of the dialog element, its ancestors, and its descendants, must be marked inert.

    The great thing about a built-in <dialog> element, even with its egregious mis-spelling, is that it will make a lot of websites more accessible. For example, many sites use pseudo-dialogs that they either write themselves or get from JavaScript libraries. Many of these don’t allow modal dialogs and lightboxes to be closed using just the keyboard, for example (see Lightboxes and keyboard accessibility for more). Building accessible dialogs into the language is far better than expecting every developer to bolt it on.

    There’s already the beginnings of a shim for it.

  • Let’s Talk about Semantics on HTML5 Doctor
  • Flexbox and CSS Grids have too many alignment properties, suggests Fantasai, and attempts to harmonise them.
  • Content order on touch screens by Henny Swan
  • HTML5 Accessibility Chops: real world’ ARIA landmark use – “From an initial analysis the correct use of ARIA landmark roles is surprisingly high. Developers are generally using ARIA landmark roles as intended. Although use is low, there is an major upward trend in use as sites switch to HTML5.”

Open Formats, Open Standards

Proprietary lobby triumphs in first open standards showdown – the UK government is consulting on how it can use “open standards for software and systems are required to ensure interoperability between software systems, applications and data”. Simon Wardley of Leading Edge Forum has more on how the lobbyists of the Big Proprietary Vendors are changing the definitions of “Open” to favour them.

Mobile development

Webdev tools and services


The perils of dressing as Satan

It was my privilege to present at Dibi Conference in Gateshead this week, where I performed as the Web Devil against Chris Mills’ Web Angel. This photo by @fuselagetown shows that I looked menacing and rather dashing:

Bruce, dressed as a devil, poking a pitchfork into Chris Mills' stomach, who's dressed as an angel

This was the second time I’ve dressed as the devil. The first time was as a young man, and I used to do volunteer work at my local theatre. In order to raise money, we would offer a singing telegram service by volunteering our time for free and using the theatre’s extensive costume store.

That’s how I found myself in a car, fully-costumed as Satan with red makeup on my face and a false goatee beard, driving to a pub in the Worcestershire countryside to sing Happy Birthday to a woman in a pub.

I stopped to ask a somewhat puzzled local where the pub was – a mile down there, on the right – and raced into the pub, desperate for a pee.

As I was wrestling with my costume (you try standing at a urinal in a one-piece jumpsuit with a zip up the front) the man at the next pot asked me, “Are you with the church?”. Of course I am, I replied, to help his joke along. “They’re in that door across the corridor” he told me.

Naturally assuming he was part of the party who had booked a singing devil for their friend Lisa’s birthday, I flung open the door, roared and waved my pitchfork – to find about 20 vicars in dog collars sitting behind remains of a meal and listening to a speech by one of their number, with facial expressions ranging from amused, to shocked, to angry.

I was unsure quite what had happened – but it was evident that the room was Lisa-less, so I apologised repeatedly and obsequiously and backed out of the room with considerably less gusto that I had entered it.

In the public bar, the barman (who was the helpful man in the toilet) told me that the pub I was supposed to be at was a quarter of a mile further down the road. I quickly got back in the car and completed my journey.

(Last Updated on 19 December 2012)

Why the “gay cure” bus advertisments should run

This is where I get myself in to trouble for being a racist homophobe: I believe that a Christan group advertising its “therapy” to make gay people straight should be allowed to run its adverts. I tweeted “The ‘gay cure’ loonies have every right to to advertise on buses just as the atheists did. Free speech is for those I disagree with, too”, and many disagreed with me, so here’s a justification of my position with more than 140 characters.

The gay activist charity, Stonewall, recently ran some advertisements on 1,000 London buses which featured the slogan: “Some people are gay. Get over it!”.

A Christian group called Core Issues Trust attempted to book ads on buses in top tourist routes that read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!”. The adverts were banned by the Mayor of London.

Core Issues says

CORE is a non-profit Christian initiative seeking to support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression. It respects the rights of individuals who identify as ‘gay’ who do not seek change…

CORE is a Christian initiative seeking to support men and women who struggle with homosexuality, and related issues. Of particular concern to us are people who struggle to find a useful place within the church, either because local congregations find it difficult to get alongside people who haven’t yet resolved their issues, or because the church has taken a liberal perspective which undermines their desire to move away from homosexual practice and preference.…The initiative is educational in nature offering some therapeutic support as capacity to do so allows.

Homosexuality isn’t a ‘disease’ so we’re not looking for a ‘cure’.

Personally, I find this stuff pretty offensive and it seems to me that if people are struggling to balance their homosexuality and their church, they should look at changing their church rather than change their sexual orientation.

But my finding it offensive doesn’t matter at all. I support free speech— and in doing so, I must support free speech for those I disagree with.

None of the arguments for banning the Core Issues ads seem to justify censorship.

If the ads were a direct incitement to hurt gay people, then they shouldn’t be allowed. Recently three muslim men were jailed for distributing a leaflet calling for gay people to be executed.

But the Core Issues advert isn’t “hate speak”. It is certainly homophobic – which I find offensive – but you can’t ban people saying something just because other people will find it offensive. By that logic, intolerant people could have asked for the original Stonewall advert to be banned on the grounds that they find promotion of gay equality offensive.

Others suggest that the ads should be banned because it promotes a “therapy” which doesn’t work. The equivalence with homeopathy was drawn: don’t ban the practice, but forbid it being advertised as a medicine.

The trouble with that argument is that no-one knows whether the “therapy” works or not, because nobody knows whether homosexuality is nature, nurture, or conscious choice. We all know people who have experimented with homosexuality in adolescence, but subsequently settled into being straight (and one of my oldest friends is a gay man who briefly flirted with straight sex). So in this sense, it’s possible for a homophobe with a crude mode of expression to say that those people were going through a “phase” and they can “get over it”.

There are stories in the press about people like Peterson Toscano who’ve had counselling to “cure” them of being gay and it’s caused them years of psychological misery. But there are others who claim that the therapy worked – and who is anyone else to say they’re lying?

Estelle said on Twitter “think of the pain those posters will cause to closeted kids” and she’s absolutely right. Similarly, I have a daughter and I worry about what advertising does to a young woman’s body image. But you can’t ban something because it might upset someone else.

What I find most worrying is that so many people are happy to ban or censor people saying things that offend them. Everyone has a right not to be physically hurt by other people. No-one has a right to be protected from hurt feelings.

Added 16 April:

It seems that I’ve mis-expressed myself, so just to be absolutely clear: I do not support the Core Values Trust and believe its “therapy” to be poppycock. But I can’t agree with stopping them advertising. As far as I can tell from the news reports, Boris Johnson didn’t ban the adverts because they are against any rules about truthfulness in advertising, but on ideological grounds. The Telegraph quotes him as saying

London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance.

It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.

The Independent wrote

But London Mayor Boris Johnson ordered them to be pulled at the last minute arguing that they were offensive. He was backed by Transport for London who said the adverts were not “consistent with TfL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London.

I stand by my opinion: although I completely disagree with the message that being gay is somehow morally wrong, or that it can be “cured”. By all means, ban the advertising because it contravenes a code, but it is wrong to withdraw such advertising simply because it might upset people.

A couple of other examples of the law protecting people from being a bit upset:

  • Tweeter prosecuted for swearing – “A blogger and tweeter Olly Cromwell was found guilty on Friday, 13th April, simply for swearing at a Bexley, London, councillor in a Twitter message. The prosecution alleged he called a senior Bexley councillor a cunt’ and are seeking a custodial sentence of 45 days for each letter of the word.
  • Student jailed for racist Fabrice Muamba tweets – “A student has been jailed for 56 days for posting offensive comments on Twitter about the on-pitch collapse of Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba … District judge John Charles told Stacey: “It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life. At that moment, not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world but the whole world were literally praying for his life. Your comments aggravated this situation.”

    It’s difficult to see how a racist tweet “aggravated this situation”? Did it cause the heart attack to be more severe? Did it somehow reduce the efficacy of the “literal” prayers? It seems odd that one racist can outweigh the prayers of “the whole world”. The man’s a racist idiot. But being a racist idiot isn’t against the law. His opinions are offensive. But so what? He didn’t incite anyone to hurt other people, so what does sending him to prison achieve? Unless the judge has seen American History X and believes damascene conversions happen in real life, the custodial sentence sends a message: keep your opinions quiet. And that is highly undemocratic and dangerous to a free society.

Reading List

HTML5 <dialog open>

“There’s no markup or API for dialog boxes, tool palettes, hovering tooltips, the contents of popup widgets, and the like.” says Hixie, and begins collecting examples and code snippets to start a specification.


HTML5 Canvas 5 Gets New Features, including hit regions, SVG-style paths.

Mobile development