March 2008 Archive

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March 25, 2008

Highland Fling 2008

@ 10:59 AM

I should have posted about this ages ago when it was announced, but better late than never. The second Highland Fling is taking place on 3rd April at Edinburgh's Symposium Hall, and I'm chuffed to have secured a ticket. Kudos to Alan White for taking on the task once again.

Like last year's event it's got a great line-up of speakers and a theme which is refreshing and just a little bit different:

In the world or modern web development we can no longer consider the browser as the end point of our product which is our content. More and more devices and applications are being released that can access our information and more importantly do not even require a browser to do so.

For The Highland Fling 2008 we're bringing into focus how the landscape is changing. API's, desktop apps, ambient devices, mobile and much more are helping us break out of the browser and potentially reaching an entire new audience as a result.

How do we embrace this, how do we take our existing skill set and transpose it into new mediums? How do we expand our skill set? What is our skill set going to be? Where is it all going?

There are still tickets left (at only 125 quid, a veritable bargain) so if you're anywhere near Edinburgh or an airport you owe it to yourself to attend.

March 22, 2008

Coming soon: betMooch

@ 7:36 PM

betMooch screen
Although I've been busy doing work for a lot of companies and organisations, I'm trying to make time for some projects of my own. One such is betMooch, the idea for which was hatched late last year, and is now being produced by Cole, my brother Mark and myself.

Planning started in earnest a few weeks ago, and we're having a lot of fun with it. Development is now underway, and we hope to have a launch in the early summer. Before then there will be a lot of internal testing to be done - we'll be looking for testers in a month or two.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about what the site will offer. Let's just say we're trying to create an environment where betting can be a fun, safe and free activity for anyone.

If this has piqued your interest you can register over at the betMooch site, have a read of the blog, or track our activity on Twitter.

March 17, 2008

Customer Service Excellence not excellent

@ 1:01 PM

I told myself a while ago that I'd retired from bashing government websites. The DTI apart it never seemed to do much good, and I was getting reputation for being a zealot (which couldn't be further from the truth - I'm really a very pragmatic developer and know that at every turn in a web development project there are compromises to be made).

When the Cabinet Office's Customer Service Excellence website appeared last week I had a dig around, wasn't very impressed by what I saw and left it at that. But since then there's been a nagging voice at the back of my mind, urging me to think a little harder about this.

This bit of the site I found particularly hard to swallow:

The Government wants public services for all that are efficient, effective, excellent, equitable and empowering - with the citizen always and everywhere at the heart of public service provision.

So, let's consider the evidence and you can help me decide whether the Cabinet Office deserve to be hauled over the coals for the CSE website.

Firstly this is the same Cabinet Office that last year issued a consultation document, Delivering Inclusive Websites, which suggested that any government website that failed to conform to WCAG level AA by December 2008 could have its domain withdrawn, and that all new government websites should conform on launch.

So, as you'd expect, being brand spanking new the CSE website states proudly on its accessibility page:

In general, the site conforms to WAI double AA rating where HTML is used. Where documents are made available in other formats, conformance has not been achieved.

I think it's reasonable to have some documents in other formats which don't conform, so we'll overlook that.

Sadly, as you may have guessed, the rest of the site falls some way short of level AA conformance, and indeed some way short of level A conformance. I spent 15 minutes testing a few of the pages and found enough to satisfy me it was a bit short of the required standard. For example the home page features not a single HTML heading and lots of pictures of text without alt attributes. There are lots of other failings but the developers clearly need an accessibility 101 refresher.

The site isn't very good, and when you consider that:

…you can probably understand why I've come out of retirement.

I've made enquiries to the FOI team at the Cabinet Office. If you're tempted to do the same please don't - we had problems with the DTI dodging difficult questions because too many people were interested, it would be a shame if that were to happen again.

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