Category Archives: Opinion

Articles relating to subjective beliefs, and the arguments supporting those beliefs.

Don’t break the web or why html is important

I am a member of the advanced WordPress facebook group and its seems every few days someone posts and article on there waxing lyrical about the latest javacsript only theme they have built using the latest JavaScript framework and the rest api.

Dont get me wrong, I love javscript, and I think the rest api is one of the best things to happen to WordPress but every time I read about someone usea front end framework to build a theme I shake my head.

A wise man once said,

just because you can doesn’t mean you should

This applies to so many things, especially JavaScript when used to output content.  In order to explain we all need to be reminded of the way the web is traditionally designed namely:

  • HTML for con­tent
  • Css for pre­sen­ta­tion
  • Javascript for func­tion­al­ity

This combination might seem old hat but it was created by smart people with good reasons.

When done properly it has three major strengths

  1. It conveys meaning
  2. It is robust
  3. It has a clear separation of concerns

However it can be slow so today many advocate using JavaScript to interract with apis to replace this traditional paradigm. This has  major advantage in that can be substantially faster as the client side javascript can request only the information that it needs. However it also means that javascript is now the creating the content as well as the providing the functionality

However lets just compare how this compares to the traditional approach. Namely:

Conveying meaning.  Yes javascript can convey an experience that may be indistunguishable to the eye BUT the web is not just a visual medium for humans. Machine like search engines, and screen readers are important and in most cases a javascript front end is invisible to these agents

Being robust. Javascript is a not a fully standardized lanaguage and is notorious for conflicts and errors, and being browser depe3ndent. So an error on a javascript front end usually means the whole site falls over. In contrast a traditional semantic html front end degrades gracefully

Separating concerns. In a JavaScript front end you are tightly coupling functionality with content and potentially presentation as well. This actually if you change the api or you change your javascript the whole thing falls over. In contrast html is html and if the JavaScript stops working you still have the html.

Javascript is important but its not a replacement for html. Its future is in rproviing functionality, both in enhancing the reading experience and in making the eually important area of creating, updating and deleting content on the web.

Finally I’d like to urge you that is you need speed work on the basics like http caching, or look to modern technologies like http/2 and service workers.

WordPress development is apathetic

There has been a lot of discussion that WordPress is becoming less user friendly and indeed it has got some traction as the recent WordPress 3.8 is certainly aimed (amongst other things) around making the dashboard more user friendly. Given this I don’t think wordpress is becoming less user friendly, however it’s never been friendly to newbies.

Instead I think the area where Worpress has dropped the ball is that sensible projects that could make its so much better are not being tackled, instead development seems to be based on UI improvements and quick wins. These are great but a better WordPress platform would make these sort of improvements easier. Indeed a better platform would enable people to build their own UI. Thus rendering the rolling MP6 (and similar initiatives) into the core moot (because developers would be rolling their own version of the dashboard through plugins). Continue reading

The structural weaknesses of WordPress

WordPress is a great system for personal semantic publishing and is more than adequate for the vast the majority of websites. No other CMS can match it for simplicity, ease of use, breadth of plugins, and an active developer community.

However due to its blogging background it has one very substantial weakness. Namely there is no way of easily relating one post to another and detailing its realationship. Of course taxonomies can be used to group posts and provide some form of relationship. However this is not an elegant solution.
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Unethical thieves: localhero.com

Several months ago I received an offer to buy the domain I am currently using for the LocalHero. A price couldn’t be agreed

However I also pointed out to the domain name broker that given I have been using the name LocalHero in the area of local news are services for longer than 3 years I also have a common law trademark on the name in that category. She assured me she had passed this information on to her client.

A week ago I discovered that a Californian company LocalHero Inc offering local services are now trading under the name LocalHero (the same capitalization as my organization). This behaviour is likely illegal, being in contravention of my common law trademark to the term LocalHero in this category. More importantly this behaviour is definitely unethical and high hypocritical for a company for company dedicated to “helping people”.

It is likely i will be taking legal action however I have already started to prosecute this in the court of public opinion and therefore will be putting together a shame file of the people responsible. Stay tuned.

Democracy is not the highest ideal

The term undemocratic is one heard quite regularly in the media. Usually it means that the pundit in question disagrees with the government and thinks he or she has majority opinion on his or her side, usually they are wrong!

Still even when they are right the term always makes my stomach turn. It makes it turn because it equates good or even correct policy with majority opinion, something that has never been the case. In Australia we sometimes seem to hold out democracy as the highest ideal, yet close examination of our system of government and our constitution shows that democracy is only a limited part of ensuring we live in a free and prosperous society. Continue reading

Is University a waste of time

“You’ll learn more atop an open stage(coach) ’tween Oxford and Cambridge than from the universities of those fair cities.” –William Hazlitt

People have aked me why I sign my emails with the above quote. For those of you who know little of Hazlitt he was an essayist of Irish extraction with some pretty radical ideas, for his time.

Yet the reason I append the above to my epistles is twofold, admiration for the man more than his beliefs, and a strong belief in the statement itself. You see Hazlitt was that rare thing in the modern age, he was self taught, and whilst I disagree with many of his political opinions, his clear reasoning and assessment of human nature are unparalleled.

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Alone in the wired world

Sitting on the Number 8 tram on Melbourne’s St. Kilda Road certainly is an interesting experience. Trams catch the mood and feel of Melbourne like no ther form of transport. They amble down the middle of the street they are amongst the traffic, yet they are not a car or a bus. They are not just a tool of commuting but of travel, so are uniquely placed for the observation of humanity in its day to day endeavours.

Staring about as I often do I am amazed at the faces and manner of my fellow passengers. Most stare blankly, mutely, forward looking into space looking into nothing. I often wonder why? Maybe a hard day at work? But at 1.00 o’clock on a Friday afternoon! Continue reading

Public Morality

The thin veil of civilisation

Public Morality
Public Morality?

Basketball riots in Los Angeles, football riots in Belgium. The weekend seemed to be full of mob violence, destruction and thuggery. Grown men on rampages of destruction. In the modern world, it seems that for all our technical achievements, our ordered society, and our high culture, we have not come that far. Just below the surface, barbarism is always there.

 

Civilization, at least for some, is only skin deep. Continue reading