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Webstock '08 Review - Part 2

Categories: Verity, Day to day
Meta-data: The revenge of the librarians

Thursday was the first day of the conference proper, and I started with the welcome. (My colleagues got a central table while I relaxed and enjoyed a latte over the road.)


The first speaker was Nat Torkington talking about Design for the Future. It was a great presentation and if I hear he's speaking again I'll try to attend. I'd love to work for a company that investigates future trends, and resist the effects of future shock. Learning from how others have reacted to change is one of the keys to understanding trends.


Following Nat was Molly Holzschlag talking about Why Web Standards Aren't. Today's talk wasn't any good for me. She detailed how the history of the web was best practices rather than standards. It was all historic and any web developer already knows about the lack of standards. There was nothing in her talk for me to take to the future. One of my colleagues had heard her speak in the past and recommended her. I later met her at the dinner on Friday night and really enjoyed chatting with her. If I'm ever in Tucson I'll look her up.


Morning tea was followed by streaming. I close Rachel McAlpine's Look Ma, No Quills. I read some of her online writing advice years ago. Today's talk included things I'd previously picked up, such as styles, and didn't add much to my current knowledge. I may get more when I review the notes I took and the links mentioned. She covered how content of all writings can and will be used outside of your control. You have no idea what part of your document will be used, or how, or why.

  • Graphs should have the captions in the image, and not in the surrounding text.
  • Readability should be about 70%
  • Plain language survives font morph
  • The document title is highly important, being data, meta-data, and link name.
  • Titles should have 4 or more words
  • Headlines in RSS must tell all, and the first few words of each post are critical
  • Links are power

Rachel mentioned problems but not solutions. The new hazards are:

  • Virtual: Content is cloned, plagiarised, reformatted, multiple versions, and filed badly. The date should be in the document, not stored as meta-data
  • Data: Messages are bit of data. Writing is a synthesis, not simply assembling bits of data
  • Toys: Knowledge workers are generally not interested in technology. People are not ready for the document as an application.

I wanted to know which of her books had the answers to these problems, but when I talked with her during the pre-dinner drinks on Friday she explained that she had no solutions. This is unfortunate as I am dealing with some of these issues now, with how content needs to be suitable for its audience. The part about how content is data, and meta-data, related to the following seminar.

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By Brian Logan   Mon 18-Feb-2008

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