articles tagged with: technology
We've all been impressed by a new website launched by the British Red Cross this week. Its main aim is to provide parents with free, simple, trustworthy advice on emergency first aid that could one day help to save their child or baby's life.
What struck us was the level of accessibility incorporated into such a media rich site. As well as including well-known text-resizing functionality, they have also added subtitles to videos and sensible title tags on navigational links.
It's clear that they have thought about the whole range of potential site visitors, from the visually impaired to dyslexic and hard of hearing users.
What's slightly disappointing is that they fail to meet the basic validation requirements set out by w3c. Hopefully this is just a 'work in progress' glitch - it is after all mentioned on their main website that accessibility is something they are constantly trying to improve.
At a time when all web developers should be getting to grips with the new WCAG 2.0 guidelines, this site is a lovely example of user inclusivity.
Created on Wednesday May 20 2009 04:32 PM
Microsoft reported last week that the internet will soon become the most popular medium for home entertainment in Europe, surpassing the TV by June 2010.
This certainly seems to ring true at Focus! A quick straw poll found that everyone here uses the internet to view video and TV content to some degree, ranging from YouTube clips of parrots dancing to full feature films from 4OD. Some don't even own a TV set, preferring to watch programmes provided online instead.
Apart from new media geeks, it's generally young people between 18 - 24 years old who will most likely eschew the TV screen in favour of their computer monitor, preferring on-demand video to live TV programmes.
Microsoft and New Media Age both agree that the web will be accessed more frequently via mobile phones. Games consoles such as the X-Box and PlayStation will also play a part in the decline of television use.
The real challenge will be how to effectively integrate all these different devices. Web developers will need to ensure their web applications are compatible across mobile, console and computer platforms.
Created on Monday May 11 2009 03:41 PM
A message from the Queen - if you've ever been lucky enough to receive one - would traditionally be in the form of posted letter. High quality paper, HRH watermark, the Royal seal encrusting the envelope, all that jazz. The kind of thing you'd frame, or put away for grandchildren to admire.
Now you can receive emails from the Queen! Fully embracing modern culture, our beloved HRH has recently sent a bunch of adoring fans a response to their various posts on the Royal website... electronically!
I suppose this makes sense. A number of them live in the farthest flung corners of the Commonwealth possible, making postal deliveries rather difficult. A 12-year old girl living in the Australian Outback received her email after inviting Queen Elizabeth to swap Buckingham Palace for a life on a remote cattle farm 200km from the nearest town. I'm sure Lizzy managed to deal with this offer with the greatest aplomb - having a lifetime's worth of polite engagements to attend you would rather hope so!
I like the idea of our Queen embracing modern technology, although the day we see her sitting at her Mac, tapping Her Royal Feet to iPod 'choons' and emailing Philip using txt speak is still very far away!
Created on Wednesday April 29 2009 11:20 AM
I wasn't overly surprised at seeing today's leading article on the BBC Technology page. Google's Streetview project has precipitated much debate on topics ranging from personal privacy to crime since its official launch two weeks ago. In this instance, residents of a small town in Buckinghamshire physically blocked the passage of a Google streetview car, insisting angrily that the invasion of their privacy was too much to bear.
I empathise, having felt a deep uneasiness at seeing my front garden two clicks into a Google search. We are all well aware of increased surveillance and presence of cameras within city centres, but for me this goes a bit too far.
There are benefits to the service though, that I shall no doubt take advantage of. It will make visits to unknown destinations much easier for a start, as you will literally be able to trace a virtual journey from your start point to destination.
The biggest question I have is what the real purpose of Streetview is. How do Google propose to monetise this new feature? I'm guessing a merge between Google Adwords and Local Business Centre (once they sort through their algorithm problems) will allow businesses to advertise their products and services from a virtual shop front, but surely this has already been done more effectively by Second Life?
With Microsoft's plans to launch a rival service later this year on beta, my head shakes with Luddite pensiveness. This new technology could either take off and thrive in a social networking fashion, or wither away under a backlash of suspicion. I'm not entirely convinced either way but will be interested to see what the general consensus will be once the launch hype has died down and people start experimenting with both Streetview and GeoSynth.
Created on Friday April 03 2009 01:53 PM
Windows 7 - Microsoft's beta version of the OS that will take over from Vista - has some promising features (easier ways to set up home networks, interact with external devices and a better toolbar to use along the bottom of the screen) but is essentially taking elements from the Apple iphone and making them available for use on a pc.
These links make interesting reading on the subject:
Created on Monday March 09 2009 04:25 PM
The W3C have recently brought out a new series of guidelines for web accessibility (WCAG 2.0) that we've been digesting here in the office. The most immediate change noticeable is the shift in how accessibility is defined. There are now four principles that all have to be adhered to for conformance, rather than a series of levels you can choose to comply with or not. The levels are whether your website is:
- Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable. (This means that the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
- Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Although there are several improvements, the language is still very jargony, and an attempt to simplify some of the terms has actually resulted in making some areas more vague.
Created on Thursday February 19 2009 05:25 PM
Last week, the BBC introduced a trial of a new web page linking technology, which enables links to be placed in the text of the article (like this one), but unlike their regular behaviour of taking you to a new page, or opening a new tab, the new method displays a summary of the article in an attractive pop-up region.
You can see a few examples in this story about NASA's Orion ship - at least until the trial finishes.
The BBC's primary reasoning for this, as far as I can tell, is to give the user relevant links in the text, without the possible distraction of finding yourself flying off to an external site in the middle of reading a sentence (possibly unlike Orion, which has been delayed.)
The technology the BBC are using (called Apture) is somewhat interesting: for example, Wikipedia articles are summarised into pages, and files such as PDFs are converted (to Flash in the case of PDFs) to retain the same look and feel as the regular links.
Whilst the overall appearance is quite "whizzy", some people have been complaining that there's nothing wrong with the traditional way of hyperlinking and that the Apture method causes (or may cause) problems with the site's accessibility, and/or older or more obscure web browsers.
The trial was announced on a blog article by Steve Herrmann last week, many people have commented, and Steve has replied, promising they will take all comments into account at the end of trial.
Whatever you may think of the technology itself, I applaud the BBC for the openness of the trial process, listening to the comments of the public, and for getting stuck into trialing new web technologies.
For the record, the links in this blog article are the good "old-fashioned" method!
Created on Friday August 22 2008 02:42 PM
or, more applicably:
These are just some of the potential urls that may come out of ICANN's latest announcement regarding top level domains.
Caving into stakeholder pressure, ICANN have agreed to open up the virtual real estate of the web by making it possible for people to select their own domain names.
Currently, internet users have a limited choice of 21 domain extensions, such as .com, .org, and .uk. By this time next year people may be able to apply for whatever they like.
A major factor behind this change was the pressure and influence exerted by non-English users of the web.
"One of the most exciting prospect before us is that the expanding system is also being planned to support extensions in the languages of the world," said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN's Chairman. "This is going to be very important for the future of the Internet in Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia." The present system only supports 37 Roman characters.
Many pundits see this move as an act of appeasement to the Chinese, who have made many moves to implement a separate internet (going further, even than their Great Firewall). Others see it as an inevitable solution to increasing web usage, much like the periodic extension of local telephone codes.
I'm personally hanging on to get first dibs at my own name extension - hands off all you other amy wilson's!
Created on Thursday July 10 2008 01:10 PM
If you've noticed your site stats going through the roof recently it may not be down to your 2nd quarter marketing efforts but an unexpected side effect of AVG's latest anti-virus software.
20 million users are estimated to have upgraded to version 8 over the past couple of months. One of the first things you'll notice upon installation is that for any search carried out in Google, Yahoo or MSN, a green tick or red cross appears by each returned result.
AVG searches all sites for malware, disguising itself as a 'real' visitor to fool the more sophisticated programmes. Which is good news for users but disastrous for website owners who rely on analytics packages to successfully measure 'real' traffic from which to base their online marketing budget.
By making an anti-malware 'probe' that is indistinguishable from a human visit, AVG may have accidentally created more problems than it intended to solve. Web developers may have to work hard to produce an answer to this mess or demand that AVG modify its package.
Source: The Register
Created on Monday June 16 2008 10:45 AM
All of us in the development team have recently had the unpleasant task of turning our attention to the dark underbelly of the internet – the world of online sexual predators.
Lisa's training with Tony Domaille certainly opened her eyes further to the full extent of the problem – and to what lengths professionals are going in order to monitor and control the situation. Most of us in the office have also watched the recent Panorama documentaries - One click from Danger and One click from Capture. The planned changes put forward by Justice Minister Maria Eagle to the The Obscene Publications Act therefore comes as welcome news.
The Act currently makes it illegal to sell or distribute photos of child abuse but it is still legal to own drawings and computer-generated images. The plans, if implemented, will criminalise the latter too, with a penalty of up to three years in prison for owning any images of child abuse.
Having spoken to a number of people about this I was surprised at how many dismissed the issue of online predation as an uncommon problem, hyped up by a media eager to sensationalise any story. Thinking back, I was as equally sceptical a few months ago before I began looking into the problem as part of my job.
Unfortunately I think that in this instance the stats don't lie – they only show the tip of the iceberg:
* Over 13 million child sex abuse images and videos have been assessed by the NCMEC since 2002.
* 5million of the above images were collected in the last year alone.
* An average of 400 reports a month of sexual abuse online are recorded by the CEOP.
To me, the link between the wide distribution of pornography via the internet, and the rise in sexual abuse – on and offline – seems too obvious to ignore. Explicit images and messages have become part of the irritating load of spam that collects in most people's junk email folders, yet the sheer weight of it is feeding a hungry market. In essence, the internet has normalised pornography to such an extent that individuals already at risk of sexually offending have a ready outlet for their desires.
This is why I believe that restricting the dissemination of child abuse images should be of utmost priority to the entire industry – ISPs, IM services, large file sharing companies like Pando and social networking sites to name but a few.
Created on Thursday May 29 2008 12:24 PM
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