W3C XHR working draft – is it enough?

April 6th, 2006

Ajax Magazine points to the new W3C XMLHttpRequest Working Draft Specification.

While I’m all for standards, and the XMLHttpRequest object has become a defacto standard since it has been included in the leading browsers, I wonder if the effort to formalize the status quo is enough when the current object, while extremely useful, could benefit from a number of improvements. I suggest it’s time to also make some forward movement.

Douglas Crockford has addressed many of the restrictions and common criticisms of XMLHttpRequest in his recent abstract proposing a new JSONRequest object to be implemented in by browser makers.

I think JSONRequest (or something similar) is a natural next step in the evolution of browser interaction, building on the tremendous success of XMLHttpRequest and learning from the experiences it has given us.


Naked for a day

April 4th, 2006

April 5th is Annual CSS Naked Day, where websites drop their stylesheets and let their semantic structure hang out.

After learning about it via Stuart Langridge, author of the excellent book DHTML Utopia, I’ve disabled CSS here and on my main site too.

Of course, if you’re reading this after April 5th you’ll see everything styled up as normal again.


Camp, oh more than just Camp. You know you’re soaking in it.

April 3rd, 2006

Bart Dabek just launched his QuestionVille app, a rated community question-and-answer site. It’s been dug on Digg, so he’s getting tons of traffic.

I first saw Bart’s site when he demoed it recently in Toronto. I’ve attended the most recent Toronto DemoCamp and demonstrated BlogChat at the penultimate DemoCamp gathering, where people with an idea and an implementation can demonstrate their product and their passion to the local tech crowd.

David Crow is the catalyst behind TorCamp and its sibling DemoCamp, both of which are splendid examples of unconferences. I’ve managed to run into David a few times over the last week so I can attest that in the Toronto tech entrepreneur sphere, he’s everywhere.

There has been some feedback and discussion of late about where to draw the line between the technical and business aspects of these events. As a nerdy guy I’m much more interested in the tech aspect, however I’m not independently wealthy enough that I can’t understand the usefulness of bringing business into the equation.

It’s early days yet, so by all means, join in. Toronto’s tech and entrepreneurial community has the potential to make a big splash, and we can do it with your help.


Sociological Web

April 2nd, 2006

I participated in a Web 2.0 panel at iSummit this past Friday, chaired by the always entertaining and incisive Michael O’Connor Clarke, in which I shared the stage with James Walker of Bryght, Salim Ismail ex of PubSub, Albert Lai of BubbleShare (no doubt still digesting his lunch last week with BillG and Michael Arrington), and the always unforgettable whats-his-name.

Ostensibly, I was invited as an expert in Ajax techniques, however I found myself most compelled to join the sociological parts of the discussion.

We were observing how the sociological trend between the late 90s Web 1.0 technology wave and the current Web 2.0 wave is towards increased ability for each net participant to engage in two-way conversations, either one-to-one or one-to-many or many-to-one.

Peter Mosely, the what’s-his-name referenced above, lectures far and wide on the topic of the Cluetrain Manifesto. The first seven theses of the Manifesto are:

  1. Markets are conversations.
  2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
  3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
  5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
  6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
  7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

I truly believe that business and personal relationships work best when people are BEING, and not SEEMING TO BE. That is to say, the cards are on the table and there is no pretence or ulterior motive. I often recommend Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book How To Win Friends And Influence People as a manual for personal success.

Markets as conversations ring true to me too and remind me of Eric S. Raymond‘s The Cathedral And The Bazaar, wherein the heirarchy of monolithic software development has been subverted by the highly interconnected Open Source model, which would not have been possible without the new levels of communication enabled by the growth of the Internet in the early 90s. A new Cathedral/Bazaar comparison can be made with the established media publishing model being subverted by peer-to-peer interconnectedness.

I’m not sure that we had direct answers to the audience questions about how the new Web approaches will increase their bottom line, but I think any person or company that uses the Internet’s advances in communication to embrace the collected wisdom of these three books can’t help but increase their likelihood of success.


Too Hot to Hoot

February 24th, 2006

Michael O’Connor Clarke instigated a great get-together in Toronto last night with Stowe Boyd as the main attraction.

Sutha Kamal snapped a photo of me in my new geeky threads.

Toronto really does have quite a few cool internet folks. I’ve gotta find these things more often.



February 21st, 2006

A great time was had at TorDemoCamp3 last night. Maybe as many as 100 people crowded into the Tucows office and saw demos of some great projects, then progressed to the nearby Liberty Cafe for extended yappage.


  • DrProject: Wiki / Issue Tracking geared to academic use. This project comes out of University of Toronto. I’m impressed that they are actually teaching students how to use source control and project management tools, something that most people learn only after having entered the workforce. A tool made by academia for academia, tailored to fit.
  • OpenBlueNetworks Jewelry Search application. Robin Gambhir has used his family’s 40 years of jewelry business experience and knowledge to build a smart search service that really caters to the retailers.
  • Nuvvo: John Green is at the helm of a young dynamic team that is putting a Web 2.0 face on eLearning. Interestingly, this too is a web-facing extension of a successful family’s accumulated knowledge and experience in a particular field, with expert guidance from John’s parents, Norm and Kathy Green.
  • thelocalguru.com: Geoff Whittington turned his need to network and share with people of different skills and experience into a portal for knowledgeable and talented resources to share and to find each other.
  • BlogChat: I demonstrated the little blog-meets-chat application that I built in 2002 as a means to chat on my own blog, and then developed into a hosted service with my colleague Tim Aiello so like-minded bloggers could join the fun.
  • BlogWare: Tucows’ own hosted brandable blogging service is sold by resellers, much like the rest of Tucows Registrar and hosting business. With a dev team including A-list blogger Joey deVilla, this too is a tool built by the experts in the field.

Maybe you can see the trend here – these applications are all being built by people who know their intended audience, because they ARE the intended audience. In that way, they’ve all got a huge advantage, because the untold hours of toil necessary to make a startup work don’t add up to a minute of hard labour in their minds – it’s their passion.

You could see the passion spilling out of them at the Liberty afterwards. I look forward to getting involved again with the BarCamp gang. Thanks mucho to David Crow for organizing and Tucows for hosting.


Will chats on blogs ever reach critical mass?

February 17th, 2006

I’m going to go to DemoCamp on Monday to demo BlogChat and get a feel from the dev community whether there is any traction in “chat meets blogs”.

Tim and I have been running BlogChat as a free service for four years now and while it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it has had some consistent followers and users even though it hasn’t been promoted or marketed to any extent.

With some recent buzz about chats and blogs caused by 3Bubbles and Campfire, the tipping point may be on the horizon whereby enough people get to know about it that the minority of people who care to use it beyond the first day becomes a large enough pool to sustain a business model. It certainly hasn’t been that way so far.

What do you think? Will blog-based chat become de rigeur or will it forever remain a niche service? The jury’s out for me, I don’t know either way, I’d like your comments.


Don’t Squish Squash

February 17th, 2006

Hey, Phil, by all means, don’t squish Squash before it’s had a chance to play out.

I’ve been blogging for a long time now and I’ve been consistently inconsistent. Months of nearly streaming flow followed by weeks of silent ebb. Glorious moments of sharing and collaboration. Rants, observations, laments, odes, screeds.

It’s a bit like a marriage. Just because it changes after a while doesn’t mean that it’s no longer valid, it’s just progressed on to another stage. Stick with it and it will work out well for all concerned.

Phil’s finding new ways to collaborate to make it continue to work – he’s suggesting ensemble blogging. Sounds like a good idea to me.

I’d better not try to extend the marriage metaphor to cover it is all I can say.