Thursday, October 20, 2005

Does you does, or does you don't get access

I've just had an interesting conversation with one of the most experienced designers in the industry. He was talking to me about accessibility and the various standards which exist together with how to implement them. He challenged me to find a concrete piece of evidence that explains in full and complete terms exactly which tags and checkpoints need to be included in order to satisfy A, AA, and AAA compliancy. Now I know I have read these, and accessibility is one of my pet passions so off I went to find them. Fifteen minutes later I’m still sat here trying to find them. Given that this is a legal requirement, surely this information should be at fingertip access. It's not that I don't know what the guidelines and requirements are (I do), I just can't find a quick Google reference that I can print out and hand over. Surely this is very wrong.

If anyone can point me at this resource of course I would be interested to know.

Think Global, Act Google!

So Google has to drop the Gmail brand in the UK. I do find it amusing that an International Internet company can launch a brand without checking that it is available worldwide. You see this particularly with American companies and if I was uncharitable I would say that it was because a lot of American companies consider the world to consist of the US, Canada and Mexico. Of course I am not uncharitable and so I won’t say that at all.

It takes a special kind of arrogance to march into a new country and just demand the ownership of something in that country, purely based on the fact that you own it in the US. Surely a better approach would have been to properly research this before launch. Actually that's a given, and it would definitely have been better to research this before launch and the fact that it wasn't means that someone didn't do their job properly. We have been living in a world of global brands for a long time now, and this kind of thing should be second nature to any company. Google are apparently still talking to the courts and the size of the UK company which owns G-Mail does seem to be at least worth a thought inside Google HQ as to whether to buy the company in order to get the brand, but the underlying point here is that everyone should be thinking global when they launch a product on the Internet. The world is a big place and due diligence is a pre-requisite.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Where are the thinkers this time around? and where did they go?

It’s possible that I am giving this too much thought, but there is no denying that we are on the crest of another golden time for the Industry. Looking at the New Media Age Top 100 Agencies list there is definitely money around and that all important feel good factor is back.

There should however be lessons learned from last time and looking around, I’m not completely sure that they have been.

At the time of the last boom many of us had entered the industry from related industries between ’96 and 98, but we had also experienced the recession of the early 90s and our plans and aspirations were tempered against that economic background.

The team I joined has now passed into Internet folklore but the main thing that made Bluewave great was that there were a core group of people who had a lot of enthusiasm, complimentary skills and each was a thinker. We spent hours (after hours) sitting with a pint in one hand whilst we conversed, discussed and argued about what was going to happen and how each new invention or trend was going to fit into our overall business model. It gave us a sense of team which was pretty formidable but also gave each person an equal stage on which to put their thoughts and make their points.

The sad thing is that a lot of those people have now left the industry, either through choice or disillusionment through the lean times of 2002 / 2003. You cannot blame them really, but my point is that the industry is poorer for loosing them, and doubly poorer because in their stead are a group of people whose main criteria for being there was that they were young and work cheap. Things have picked up again this year and the same people have been promoted, but do not have any experience of how things were when it was going well. My observation is that very few them are ‘thinkers’ in the same way that the first generation web wizards were. I agree with an observation made on Alex Barnett’s Blog that ideas are cheap, but unless thought has been given and the idea conceived, there is no opportunity to implement it well.

Whether the Web Design industry realises it or not, it has lost a lot of thinkers. Using the same example as above, others of those thinkers have gone to software companies, which is also a loss, as software companies (with possibly the exception of Sun) have no interest, other than in selling software.

What I find myself wondering is what it would take to lure back those who have left, and whether we are going to see gatherings of thinkers in services based companies emerging through this new golden age, or whether it is going to be purely about churn and doing what was asked of you, rather than what will work best.

Sun and Google in bed together, but is it love or just sex

I’ve just been pointed at the Sun and Google Strategic Partnership announcement. Now this might be old news to some, but there are a few things of interest here.

First off there is quite clearly an Old Sun boys love in going on, and how much of that is hype, is anybodies guess, but these guys are thinkers and have proved time and time again that thought when implemented well, leads to things that can change the world.

What Microsoft will make of this is open to suggestion but one of the quotes I’ve seen on a British discussion list attributed some not to complimentary comments to Microsoft’s Steve Balmer.

I first heard the concept of a replacement for desktop applications run as thin clients via the web about 5 years ago. Now I’ve always believed in the thin client and so its natural that I would support this view, but the real question is how it will be implemented. Google are the experts at implementing web based services so if this is the case then Microsoft’s dominance could face a challenge. Of course the real question is whether this will be better for the customer or not.

I’ve used Open Office and it is very, very good (although I also note that I am currently typing this in Word for Windows so draw your own conclusions from that as well). Also a while ago I saw a piece attempting to predict what the web would become and what it would contain which featured Google very prominently.

I’m thinking I would be giving this more credence if Steve Jobs was on stage as well, and it does seem to have been staged so that Sun could rattle a few sabres rather than signifying something significant. Time will tell.

Another point that was made was the idea of looking at the web and services available online as an API which is of course the basis of Web 2.0 which I am seeing more and more reports and predictions on. It was curious though that when I walked around the office and asked a completely unrepresentative sample whether they knew what it was that nobody had a decent answer. Of course when the same question was asked in a pub with some deep tech friends of mine were around, it was a completely different story and a very good conversation ensued.

Edit: This is how the New York Times reported the announcement