BAR, the alternative to FOO

Today a bunch of us met to plan out Barcamp, an open invite alternative to O’Reilly’s Foo Camp. We don’t have much time, money or space at the moment, but we’re scrappy and committed to making this happen.

So check out the wiki and go sign up. While we’re not doing the whole invite thing, we are asking for RSVP’s in advance.

And yes, this should be a seriously good time. Really.

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New Internet Explorer logo… and product name?

IE7 Gets Rebranded Scant on details, the IEBlog announced that they’re updating the Internet Explorer logo for version 7: As part of this update, we’re refreshing our icon and logotype.

What’s most interesting about this “refresh” is the change from”Microsoft Internet Explorer” to the ominously embedded “Windows Internet Explorer”. The marketing folks will probably tell you that they changed it simply to “better reflect the fact that IE is so nicely integrated into the desktop” but I have strong doubts that the world’s largest software manufacturer makes such a change on a whim. What do you think this means?

More than likely there’s some legal reason for this, about which I can speculate little. However, while I’m pointing out curiosities, I noticed that the new typeface is anything but a normal font. I’m sure someone will point me in the right direction, but it’s none of the new Vista faces, so I have no idea what it might be. Seems to be some Helvetica/Calibri combination, but more than likely it’s something entirely different.

What’s so interesting about this — similar to Mozilla’s use of Font Shop’s proprietary Meta – is that it becomes nearly impossible for the community at large to make derivative works that look anything like the official logo. Convenient for the trademark holder, but rather inconvenient for folks wanting to promote the brand, non?

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Why microformats are the glue between web content and a richer online experience

Why microformats are the glue between web content and a richer online experience In response to my introduction, Andy Hume asked me on the Microformats-discuss list:

What kind of microformat support are you looking to get in to these publishing tools? Obviously wordpress has built in support for XFN. What else are you trying to get happening?

So now it’s time for me to put on my visionary cap and mention a couple ideas I’ve been stewing on about why microformats make good sense for web publishers and web tool builders. I won’t get too pedantic or preach to the choir. Rather, I’m just gunna outline some of the obvious things to me that make creating the lowercase “semantic web” worthwhile, assuming, of course, that certain enabling technologies and innovations occur.

First, let me point out that the cost of implementing microformats is less than minimal and in fact, in some cases, can give you a net gain given the reduction on time spent figuring out what CSS classes to use. As a former-web-developer-junkie, it was my job to come up with unoriginal ways of identity bits of content on webpages so that I or someone else could come back later and figure out what the heck I was doing.

This lead to me to do things like code lists of people with a container that specified that, indeed, I was working with a list of people and not dates, dogs or envelopes. Why would this be useful? Well, what if you wanted to use a different icon to denote a person, date, dog or envelope? You’d need to know what class of object you were working with. (Just bear with me here.) This becomes a pain when you have to do this over and over again and or work on someone else’s code. However, with a sufficient store of standard microformats at our disposal, such situations could theoretically be avoided. Rather than having to reinvent a classing system everytime, I could simply turn to the related microformat standard and call it a day.

So that’s great and all, but why do you bother touching code anymore anyway with such able CMS and blog tools available? Why not just bake it into those publishing tools and be done with it?

The short answer is that that’s happening, and we need to see more of this work get done. The problem seems to be related to chickens, eggs, carts and horses, in no particular order. And until they all get sorted out, there’s a great deal of developer apathy best captured in lines like, “Why should I care?”

Well, better than just spouting out about the practical benefits for web developers, there are functional benefits which I expect to see available in the coming months. As a prelimary example, check this out:

I created a Greasemonkey user script that will find those hCalendar events and provide a link to import them into any calendar program that supports the iCalendar format (most notably Apple’s iCal and Mozilla’s Sunbird). What does this mean? Well any time you see an event on the web that has hCalendar information, you can click a link and it’ll be added to your calendar so you don’t have to copy the information by hand.

unmediated: Greasemonkey and Microformats

So just imagine once this kind of support becomes native in the browser… that’s when really interesting things start to become possible. And soon, I’ll outline just how I see this happening.

The cult of the vagabond hacker

With the success of hacker meetups like SuperHappyDevHouse and HackNight, it dawned on me that there need not be a specific, pre-planned event in order for hacker-types to converge in a physical location to hack on problems that are of interest them. This can, and perhaps should, happen in a much more ad-hoc, spur-of-the-moment manner and be just as successful and integrative. Additionally, there is a role for folks (like David Weekly, host of SHDH) who want to encourage this kind of behavior, especially those who understand that they can benefit from it.

I envision cults of traveling hackers, venturing from one city to the next, war driving and shacking up at homes and offices, seeking caffeine, a decent work environment and space for sleeping bags. Such places need not be permanant destinations, but rather convenient, temporary quarters for such hacking gatherings. Stay-overs may last as little as a day or may carry on over a week; indeed, it’s doubtful that more than a fortnight would even work for such a situation (for that, perhaps we would need hacker hostels).

Results from these events would be contributed back to a “code trough” where other intrepid hackers could either pick up the work or could remix it towards other projects, following the open source model. And the hosts would of course get some kind of working product out of the exchange or could continue to offer space in order to encourage the completion of the work should it not be finished in time.

Would hackers actually work on projects that they themselves didn’t come up with? Well, given the free room (and board, potentially), supply of caffeine (or other hacking supplement) and connectivity, the tradeoff seems more than fair for those hackers who want to work but also want to explore the world.

If such a networked, Meetup-like system were developed and I knew that I could plan a trip across Europe just stopping off at such hacker havens and not pay for anything but transportation, I would surely do so! Indeed, by pushing the social component and randomness of this kind of situation, you would be exposed to new and interesting people with diverse ideas, approaches and experiences that, it would seem, would contribute to creating fundamentally more interesting and valid products that solve more than just your own personal peeves. And if you happen to take a project with you on your travels, you get the compound benefit of having a myriad cross-section of the hacker subculture looking at and refining the ideas in your project as well as contributing effort hours towards getting something done!

I’d love to see such a system emerge and if anyone wants to offer up their home, office or… backyard? for this kind of event, let me know. Perhaps we could see something like this off-shoot from OSCON in August?

The advent of cellular music services

Cellular Music: the iPod iTunes iPhone

Every now and then, I see the convergence of a number of technological innovations coinciding that leads me to certain conclusions about where the industry is headed. It seems quite logical, given the recent press, that your cellphone will soon sport more than cameras, but full-featured iPod-like digital music players. It’s true that some phones already have this ability, but it’s much more of an after-thought today than an actual iPod competitor. But I have a feeling that that’s all about to change in the not-too-distant future.

Let’s take a few things into consideration (even if Om was all over this last October). First, we hear that Motorola has an iTunes-compatible phone coming. Then we hear thatNokia is going to be using Apple’s WebCore in its phones. Next, Ericsson teams up with Napster to offer digital music downloads to directly compete with Apple et al. Obviously, Apple is beefing up its distribution mechanism over mobile devices with WebCore… and at the same time, dumping podcasts into iTunes 4.9, which itself uses WebCore a great deal. See where this is going?

It certainly seems that the combination of downloadable mobile music through an excellent interface is around the corner… how podcasts fit into the picture isn’t clear yet, nor is it clear whether Apple will actually be designing its own phone. It is certainly an exciting time to be watching this segment of the industry… and probably not a good time to invest in a new phone, yet.

Safari coming to a cell phone near you

Nokia gets AppleIf anything leads one to conclude that Apple is making a move into the cellular telephony market, it’s the new deal that has Nokia dumping the newly open-sourced innards of Safari into its phones. A significant development for many reasons, not the least of which is the choice of Apple’s browser code instead of Mozilla’s…. or even Opera’s (a fellow Scandanavian company) for that matter.

Whether this will lead to the fabled iPod iPhone, one cannot be sure, but with the iPod Photo already out there, it’s only a matter of time before they toss a phone into the mix and make take the iPod to the obvious next level.

Moving on from CivicSpace

Round Two logoAfter much deliberation and careful consideration, I have decided to move on from CivicSpace.

Though there were many, many things that weighed in to my decision, the clincher came last week when I received an offer for a senior position within Round Two. The position puts me in a strategic position to advance the culture of open source as one of my duties will be to act as an ambassador of open source to other projects, organizations, officials and wider audiences, extending the work I started with Spread Firefox. I am very excited about this part of my duties as it will enable me to create allies and forge the kind of networks that open source will need to become the dominant development standard throughout the world (yes, big goals!).

Indeed, I see this new opportunity for me as both a necessary step forward for myself as well my work on CivicSpace. As such, I have every intention of maintaining a close relationship with CivicSpace and making sure that my work will continue to benefit the CivicSpace and Drupal communities.

It’s truly been a privilege to work for CivicSpace and to have made as many good friends as I have. I continue to believe that the CivicSpace concept will continue to grow, mature and empower communities the world over.