ICCT Bloggies – 2007 Winner

As an exercise in one of my level one courses I get my students to write a blog on some research topic of their choosing. I then get them to assess each others’ blog and award each other marks for content. This blog on Spam in the Internet was the winning entry this year. The others were:

Place to record experiments with no-markup markup

As a first part in a series of experiments on [light-weight markup languages](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightweight_markup_language) (e.g. for blogs, wilkis, presentations etc) I have installed the [PyBlosxom](http://pyblosxom.sourceforge.net/) blogging tool. It tool a few minutes more than the 10 minutes claimed in the [user guide](http://pyblosxom.sourceforge.net/1.3.1/manual/x78.html). But it’s working now. For future reference the URL (or should that be [URI](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Resource_Identifier)) is [http://tinyurl.com/2gyqvx](http://tinyurl.com/2gyqvx). An advantage of PyBlosxom (and [Perl Blosxom ](http://www.blosxom.com/) that inspired it) is that the blog entries are just text files which can be edited in any text editor and kept under version control. A rich family of plug-ins allows various transformations to take place when the blog is rendered by the pyblosxom.cgi script. These include [reStructuredText](http://docutils.sourceforge.net/rst.html), [textile](http://textism.com/tools/textile/), [markdown](http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/), [wikitext](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikitext), etc.

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HTML Forms – the Next Generation

In which [Dave Raggett](http://www.w3.org/people/raggett) presents the state-of-the-art in Web Forms: that is HTML Forms versus the richer XML standard XForms. Most folks these days have to resort to clever, complex, JavaScript to achieve sophisticated UI effects in the current crop of HTML standards (with all the issues around cross-browser compatibilty that that implies). Dave is proposing a *transitional approach* based on HTML plus portable JavaScript that can provide XForms-like behaviour (declarative validation, rich data types, forms logic) in the current crop of browsers. As an example see and try out [this slide](http://www.w3.org/2007/03/html-forms/#(11)) (and others that follow it) in the presentation. He also has things to say about spreadsheets, particularly on-line spreadsheets. Dave’s actual presentation of this at Google HQ was videoed and is available as a [Google TechTalk](http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=-6347740793556865808). Incidently, in more *stumbled-upon* goodness, the presentation is coded in another [S5-like](http://meyerweb.com/eric/tools/s5/) HTML format called [*HTML Slidy*](http://www.w3.org/Talks/Tools/Slidy) which is also worth a look.

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Desktop mashups

This week I’ve been [dipping into and watching](http://crispyj2.blogspot.com/2007/04/educational-videos-from-google.html) a lot of Google TechTalks with the [engEdu tag](http://video.google.co.uk/videosearch?q=engedu) on Google video. I guess like visiting the library shelves and *browsing* (something I really ought to make time for!) as opposed to just hitting the catalogue for a specific title, this tends to throw up interesting things that you wouldn’t otherwise come across. One such was a TechTalk by [Mark Birbeck](http://internet-apps.blogspot.com) of [formsPlayer.com](http://www.formsplayer.com) who presented [Desktop Mashups: Combining Web Applications to Make Desktop Productivity Tools](http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=7466594705962010566).

Now this is really interesting because he describes [Sidewinder](http://www.formsplayer.com/project/swviewer) which is essentially a next-generation browser that has support for XHTML + other XML markups (MathML, SVG, etc) and [XForms](http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/Forms/), the W3C recommendation for Web UI (nice tutorial intro from Mark [here](http://www.formsplayer.com/introduction-to-xforms)) but with a twist! The twist is that with a little JavaScript, you can turn virtually any web page into a desktop *widget* (or *gadget*) that can be docked to the desktop à la *google gadgets*. Furthermore you can combine streams of XML to provide all kinds of useful mash-ups. An example given in the talk put Gmail into a Sidewinder window, docked it to the side of the desktop with auto-hide, and intercepted open window events from GMail (created by following a link in an email, for example) so that the opened pages appeared in another dockable Sidewinder window. This effectively makes Gmail into a desktop app rather than a browser app. Other use cases were also given, but it’s this one that I like the best. For example, it should be possible to have my [twitter](http://twitter.com/cpjobling)*tweeter* on the desktop rather than in a browser sidebar or, worse, an AIM client. Mark promised support for more sophisticated mash-ups like a form of [lifecasting](http://crispyj2.blogspot.com/2007/04/lifecasting.html).

I need to read (or [view](http://video.google.co.uk/url?docid=-6347740793556865808)) more about Xforms and give Sidewinder a try.

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Lifecasting on iStalkr

Just discovered [iStalkr.com](http://www.istalkr.com/): a *Lifecasting* site which allows you to add RSS feeds from all your stuff and creates a *time line* of your activities. I [signed up today](http://www.istalkr.com/users/cpjobling) and have added streams from my:

– [del.icio.us](http://del.icio.us/cpjobling) bookmarks

– [twitter.com](http://twitter.com/cpjobling) twitterings

– Starred [google reader items](http://http://www.google.com/reader/shared/user/12981735514196780717/state/com.google/starred)

– [Flickr photos](http://www.flickr.com/photos/51214457@N00/)

– And this blog…

So now, theoretically, I should be able to start to automatically build a complete record of my “*for public consumption*” activities just by *doing stuff*. Solves the problem of how do you blog, bookmark, twitter-on, announce new photos and new podcasts, etc etc and keep a record without doing any extra work! This smart web 2.0 web site does it all for you. All you need is to subscribe to and use web services that provide an RSS feed (and most do), register the RSS feed, and iStalkr does the rest. It also allows tracking of friends so that others can drop in on you.

Hopefully it doesn’t encourage real stalkers though….

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