Weblogs: Web Standards

Barcamp London 2 - Day 1

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm at Barcamp at the BT headquarters in central London. Less than a block away from St Pauls Cathedral. One hundred and sixty people spread over two floors and six tracks.

As with the first London Barcamp, I got my presentation out of the way by doing it in the first session. I'd been doing some research on Black Hat Search Engine Optimisation, and presented some of my surprising findings, for example that Black Hat automated scripts have largely broken CAPTCHA. I talked about how Black hats use blogs to generate money. I felt it was a decent session, with a nice discussion going.

I sat in on Tom Morris' RDF talk where he demonstrated eRDF, which is very reminiscent of Microformats. Which reminds me, I got to meet Brian Suda earlier today.

The Genius of Matthew Somerville

Matthew Somerville's talk was astounding. He's been working on a neighbourhood fix-it site that allows residents to submit reports of broken or missing services to their local councils. Because his project is government funded, he's been able to use the very expensive ordinance maps within the application.

As with modern web maps-based web applications, Matthew's does the draggable interface to perfection (using the YUI Drag and Drop component). What's astonishing is he's also managed to make the map accessible without JavaScript! Matthew has single handedly demonstrated something that Google, Yahoo and other map providers with their teams of experts fail to do - make a map usable without JavaScript.

Just the demonstration of it working without JavaScript - still fully functional - garnered a well deserved round of applause. I think Simon Willison's point was very pertinent - maps providers have absolutely no excuse for not ensuring their maps work without JavaScript.

Matthew got some time to demonstrate the marvelous hack he's done involving all the stories on the BBC website for the last two years. Involving tag clouds and timelines, its a compelling site to just dig around. Perfect for the worldly curious.

The day drags on...

I skipped most of the other sessions of the day, but saw bits and pieces of some Microformats sessions in the informal area. I did go to see Steve Marshall's story of video codecs where he demonstrates how the quality of the picture differs at different levels of compression. Its shocking to hear that DVD's don't do subtitles as plain text, but instead as a graphical mask.

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