I had a chat with my dad today about technology. Whenever I see him we generally chat about technology, at the moment even more so because there is a slim chance I might be doing a website for something he is involved with. Fingers crossed for that. However this particular time we were talking about technology convergance, which sounds awfully posh, but it isn’t really.
He was admiring my USB memory stick and I was telling him about the wonderful things they are doing with MP3 players, portble memory and mobile phones. For instance, you can now buy memory chips with albums on for use in your mobile phone. Portable MP3 players can also be used to store files in much the same way I used to carry handfuls of floppy disks around with me a few years ago – or, more recently, handfuls of CD-Rs with 5-20mb data on each of them.
I also saw this picture (from this page, where Andrew Jones is wearing what is now affectionately known in my office as “geek bling” (probably; I know the picture isn’t very clear). Notice he also has a camera (probably a digital camera) in his hands. Technological convergence means that while yesterday he could take some pictures, today he can save those pictures to his portable memory stick, and tomorrow the digital camera will have a 200gb hard drive built in to save millions of picture. By next week he’ll be able to take professional quality photos with his mobile phone, save millions of them on the internal memory, share them with other phones, computers and cameras using WiFi, and upload them to his blog at super-fast speeds.
In fact, it’s taken me so long to write that paragraph that it’s probably possible already. Technology convergence means we’ll be able to pay less to get the same features, spawning a whole new “keeping up with the Joneses” race, and, obviously, making a mint for the technology companies that are clever anough and quick enough to come up with the Killer App. Technology convergence, it’s a wonderful thing. Perhaps one day this will all be possible with tiny implants in our heads.
I’m talking about validation. There you are with a lovely site, which works in all popular browsers on a raft of screen resolutions, and even on the dreaded Mac. It looks good, is graphically pixel perfect, and the code is a clean as your grandmothers kitchen sink. So you go to validate.
Ouch. I wasn’t expecting that. Oh well, back to the drawing board …. or maybe not. Let’s have a look at the errors. Hmm, darn DOCTYPEs, that’s one down. 204 to go…
It’s a terrible thing. To be honest I am more at home writing code, designing database schema, stretching the capabilities of HTML, PHP and ASP. Well, not really stretching, just doing what I’ve not seen done before. However part of my gainful employment involves me putting on my graphic designers hat. And, occasionally, I find that the hat must have shrunk in the wash. Perhaps I left it out in the rain.
I’m at that stage at the moment. Fortunately it’s not a major problem, the deadline isn’t for a couple of weeks yet, but still it’s annoying. Even more so when it’s a project I have loads of enthusiasm for, and lots of ideas – code and database ideas, that is. So tomorrow, among other things, I will be trawling the many many sites out there dedicated to releasing a tortured designers mind. Sites where, let’s be honest about it, you see something that looks good, start to copy it and somewhere along the way it mutates and evolves into something original. And, hopefully, something that fulfils your requirements.
So, here’s the list. Eventually they may find their way into this blogs Wiblink section, but for now they are just here.
I’ll add a lot more tomorrow when I get back to The Master List.
OK, as promised, a couple more links.
I know this isn’t traditionally geeky, at least it’s nothing (directly) to do with computers, but I had to say it. Today la inamorata and I went for a walk across the Humber Bridge, which is a huge suspension bridge (one of the biggest in the world I think) over the Humber estuary. We had a discussion about what constituted a river mouth, an estuary and a delta. I decided this was an estuary, mainly because I’ve heard people describe it as the “Humber estuary”.
Anyway, that’s beside the point. The walk itself was simply down one side of the bridge, cross over, and back over the other side. About 4.5 miles in total I think. I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I have an aversion to heights and this bridge is very high. It’s made slightly better, or perhaps worse, by the fact that the water seems not that far away. Perhaps it’s the nature of the ripples of the water, but they only seem a few yards away. But they’re not.
Anyway, here’s the geeky bit. This bridge is so huge that it couldn’t be built on site, it had to be contructed elsewhere and shipped in bit by bit. In fact the two main spans were “swung” out from level with the shore to their final resting place by huge cranes. It really is an awesome bit of engineering, and it’s easy to be awestruck by a monolith to human ingenuity of of such scale when you’re stood underneath one of those huge suspension towers. In fact it was frightening.
Are there parallels we can make in the internet industry? Of course, lots of them. However the best thing about working in this area is that it is, mainly and extensively, a grassroots operation. The public face of the web has been created by individuals and small groups of designers, not huge multinational corporations or teams of architects like the Humber Bridge. And that’s a good thing, because it means that no matter how powerful, rich, good-looking or influential you are, if your websites are rubbish you won’t get the respect from your peers. It constantly amazes me that for every BBC website (which is of course run by a large team of developers) there are dozens if not hundreds of quality sites developed by small teams working to tight budgets.
So what’s happening now, today? Standards compliance and open source are making big waves, with governments looking seriously into Linux, and people like Dave Winer and Jakob Nielsen influencing thousands and thousands of web developers – tomorrows developers of Google, BBC, Microsoft, Linux, XML. The web is continuing to be a grassroots operation, which I think it a great thing. Let’s not lose sight of the vision that, on the web, whether you’re building a 2-mile long bridge, or just jumping over a stream, that you are Somebody.