June 2003

Where is the semantic web?

A couple of days ago I was at a W3C.org talk on the Semantic Web. Although I still can't say that I get all the finer aspects, I have a feeling the way we are trying to achieve a semantic web is wrong. The good old non semantic web succeeded largely because it was dirt simple to make, nobody in their right mind will ever write RDF documents by hand. The other problem the semantic web suffers from is no immediate reason to author it. Look at RSS, probably the most widespread use of RDF, even there, there a battle is still raging between the semantic version and plain XML version. And herein lies the two big problems to the wider use of the semantic web, its difficult and there are no immediate benefits.

The really sad thing is that in my opinion there are some low hanging semantic fruits waiting to be picked. The W3C has another standard XHTML that is struggling to get adopted and the reasons are even similar, there are very few compelling end user advantages to using it. Now, what if you added some semantic extensions to xhtml like identifying addresses in a semantic way, user agents could be programed to take advantage of these, maybe by right clicking them he would allow you to send it to your address book, mapping software, dial a phone number etc. What if you could semantically tag events, this would allow your user agent to forward an event to you agenda. Those are all compelling advantages for the end user, and anything that helps the end user experience is also good for the site author as long as they were not rocket science to implement.

I don't pretend to know how something like this could be achieved, and yes it recycling, I'm still just hoping that somebody will build it so I can play with it!

British Designer of the Year

Yesterday I saw the British Designer of the Year Award on the BBC. Not surprisingly Jonathan Ives from Apple won, but what caught my eye were two of the other nominees.

First of all the simple fact that Rockstar Games was short listed for Vice City was obviously a controversial choice for a design award but it was also very well deserved. Vice City is the first game where where I have really felt like I was in another place.

In my opinion the coolest thing was Tord Boontje's lamp shade. Made and delivered as single acid etched A3 brass sheet that you just wrap around a normal light bulb like hanging a garland on a xmas tree. Sadly none of the links on the web does it justice, The way it projects the light is as important if not more important that the look itself.

Usability.gov's guidelines

Discovered these web design and usability guidelines via a comment at 37Signals. I love the way each guideline is rated according to strength of evidence.

iTunes Music Store

I admit I have become a Music Store addict. Up to now my addiction has been tempered by the limited selection and high album price but after reading this:
Apple strongly recommends going even lower than $9.99 [Recommended Album Price]. They'd like to see that price drop to make the full-album purchase even more desirable.
and other notes from the Music Store Indie Event I think I am in trouble.

Acrobat, please anti-alias vector images!

anti-alias demoWho was the idiot at Adobe that turned off anti-aliasing by default in Acrobat. This puts designers in an impossible situation when they want to create a PDF that should look good on screen and good in print. If you use a vector image it will look like crap on the screen but if you use a raster image it will print like crap. Catch 22 until someone wakes up at Adobe.