XTech 2008, Dublin, Ireland – The Web on the Move

I attended the XTech conference at the beginning of May, and have just blogged my thoughts and notes on my own blog, so rather than reproduce those meanderings here, I will make like with the traditional web, and link to the posts. You can read these at:

A cracking conference, very engaging and stimulating, and from reading the posts on here about the Eduserv Symposium, it appears many themes cropped up in both conferences. I look forward to keeping an eye on this landscape to see what comes to pass, and what disappears along the way, and what gets bought by Microsoft.


1 May is RSS Awareness Day

Get involved

Edit by Martin: and for anyone who still doesn’t know what the fuss is about, watch this video from Commoncraft.com: “RSS in Plain English”.

Wiki-isation of a static web site

From a presentation at HE Academy Technical Away Day, Newcastle, 7 February 2007

Most of our site content is in databases or in dedicated applications such as a blog or wiki. However, we still have a lot of content in static XHTML pages. We occasionally need to make corrections to this archive material, but I can’t justify the effort of slurping it all into a CMS, with attendant information architecture/URL design issues. This page describes a small project to allow authorised people to edit that content in a wiki-like way.


  • Make changes immediately from the browser
  • Restrict editing only to the page content, not the other things on the page like breadcrumb trail, Server Side Includes etc.
  • Word-processor-style editing, but with option to edit source directly
  • Ability to paste from Word
  • Minimal effect on source formatting
  • Live spell-check
  • Multiple users with logging of their activity
  • Deployable on multiple sites
  • Secure
  • No money- must use only free software
  • Relatively small amount of new code: this is primarily supposed to be a time-saving exercise Read the rest of this entry »

What you can do with JavaScript

It seems there’s an ongoing explosion of things that JavaScript can be made to do. Here’s a quick, non-evaluative round-up to prompt people to think of what pieces might be put together.

When you first encountered JavaScript, it was probably in the context of manipulating web forms and adding content to pages with the document.write function.

As browsers have standardised, it has become possible to dynamically style HTML, including making chunks of page appear and disappear. It gets more modern and interesting after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

XForms in Minutes

My gratitude to Chris Bailey in the Internet Development group of ILRT for his permission to pass on the PowerPoint slides from a short (six-minute) talk he gave this afternoon.

XForms is a higher-level language for describing the interactions done by web forms. It abstracts the data model from the presentation, gets you away from coding the form inputs and behaviours individually, and makes data validation a whole lot easier. Presently, XForms is not supported natively by browsers, so either you need to do server-side conversion or the user needs a suitable plug-in.

In a remarkable forward-looking move, XForms are recommended by the UK Government’s e-government interoperability framework (pdf link).

Wikibooks has an XForms Tutorial and Cookbook which shows, amongst other things, how XForms can be used to make simple applications such as a calculator.

Paul Downey on “Web APIs”

Via Danny Ayers via planetrdf, a very nice presentation from Paul, on the simple but massively under-appreciated theme: Web APIs Are Just Web Sites.

I’ve said the same about “Web Services” before. The SOAP and WS-* industry ignored what we already had — the Web — and shoehorned something alien into use instead. We can go a nice long way simply using the good old Web. Paul gives a short example but his example “protocol” users completely application-specific markup. A “weatherml” and some SIP/call markup.

This is the point at which both XLink and RDF people step in and say, “hey, what do these markups have in common? At least give us a cross-domain way of knowing which portion of each document is a hyperlink.” If Web APIs are Just Web Sites, you’d expect it to be easy to find the links between the pages, at least. Well, RDF people don’t shut up at that point (just as well, since you can figure it out by looking at an XML Schema, in theory at least). We then start banging on about cross-domain classes and properties, eg. if the weather markup wanted to talk about cities and locations, … or the call markup wanted to mention people … or the Atom feed wanted a bit of each of those, … why not just mix together domain-specific element names using some shared structural conventions? Which is exactly what RDF does.

How would this change Paul’s story? Well on the one hand, … the markup examples are less fragmented: you don’t have to understand an entirely new XML markup language for each application or domain. On the other, it ops us out of some usefulness from HTTP, since the granularity switches from document-typing to the level of individual properties and statements, meaning that saying things like “Accept: application/weatherml+ml” isn’t so easy to do, since the same bunch of markup might have bits of weatherml, bits of RSS/Atom, bits of Geo markup, bits of FOAF etc.

Perhaps we need some convention for sending HTTP Accept headers for application/rdf+xml where we can also optionally mention some specific RDF vocabularies, or indirectly mention a bundle of them to be used together (an ‘application profile’ in Dublin Core-speak). More on which maybe another time.