Even the mistakes are fun

Anne Van Kesteren:

A new survey reveals that at least Microsoft and IBM think the HTML charter does not cover the canvas element.

I have to wonder, when reading the survey results, how much the people who voted actually used either SVG or the Canvas element. I covered both SVG and the Canvas Element in the book, but I focused more on SVG. Comparing the two–SVG and Canvas–is like comparing the old FONT element with CSS.

The Canvas element requires scripting. The SVG element doesn’t, even for animation if you use the animate elements. In addition, mistakes in SVG can be fun, as I found when I missed a parameter value in mistaken animation. A couple lines of markup. No script. Both Opera and Safari do an excellent job with the animation elements. I’m expecting Firefox to join this group in the next year.

If you use scripting, you can access each element in the SVG document as a separate element. You can’t do that with Canvas.

I still don’t think the Canvas element should be part of a new HTML 5, whatever the grand plans. However, since all but IE supports the Canvas element, it would be foolish to drop it. A better option would be to consider the Canvas element a bitmapped version of SVG and create a separate group to ensure it grows in a standard manner.

I did like what David Dailey wrote in the survey results:

I have considerable ambivalence about <canvas> as I have noted previously. If we were designing HTML 5 from the ground up , SVG and canvas ought to share syntax and ought not to duplicate so much functionality. <canvas> brings a few needed things with it, though it seems rather a bit of poor planning on the part of the advocates of <canvas> that has gotten us to this point. Those historically frustrated with W3C chose to ignore SVG and now seem to want W3C to ignore SVG in favor of a lesser technology. At the same time, <canvas> does enable client-side image analysis by giving the developer access to pixel values, and that alone allows for some tolerance of what otherwise seems to be a curious decoupling of reason from politics. Does it re-invent the wheel? — only about 95% of it is redundant with 20% of SVG.

As for all the discussion about semantic API…years ago I, and others, made a fight for a model and associated XML vocabulary, RDF, we said would stand the test of time and hold up under use. The road’s been rough, and few people are going to defend reification, but RDF fuels the only truly open social graph in existence. Five years ago. That was about the time when everyone believed that all we’d need for semantics was RSS. Including Microsoft.


Squid Scandal

It’s not often that I can report a scandal for Squid Friday.

Wednesday night, the History channel aired a program from its new series, Monster Quest, about a supposed ‘giant’ Humboldt squid, and whether it could be the famed Kraken of the past. Though the Humboldt typically are no more than a couple of meters long, they are aggressive, a closer match for Kraken behavior than other, larger squid.

Now, Monster Quest is a pure cryptozoology show, though they do engage scientists, or least seem to engage scientists. This particular show tried something I’ve never seen tried previously: attaching a ‘squid cam’ to a Humboldt squid, and then filming what it uncovers as it dives to deeper depths.

The squid sank down, down, down. Along the way, Humboldts would ‘mouth’ the camera, whether as attack or curiosity is open to interpretation. It was at a 1000 feet that we caught a glimpse that, frankly, had me sitting up and out of my chair.

It was a beautiful, graceful, and large, squid, barely seen in the murky water. How big is hard to say, but you knew as soon as you looked at it, that it was significantly larger than the Humboldt carrying the camera. Here’s a portion of the video, though it doesn’t do justice to the larger squid image.

I immediately located a Tonmo thread on the film and have been following the debate associated with this film. It especially got interesting when Scott Cassell, who assisted with the show, left a note debunking most of the supposed facts, including the squid measurements.

The original size proposed by the show writers was that this squid was 108 feet long. They came up with this value by measuring distances based on what they decided was an eye reflection. Well, few people in the Tonmo thread bought into this, including Scott, but he did propose that it could be a 25 foot, or more, Architeuthis. That’s Latin for my favorite, Giant Squid.

If the squid was an Architeuthis, then this is still a very exciting discovery. The only other film of a live Architeuthis was hooked on a fishing line, which is an unnatural environment for the creature. This film would show the squid in very realistic surroundings. In addition, show it in waters that I didn’t think had evidence of Architeuthis.

Dr. O’Shea is attempting to get a better copy of the video, and I imagine he’ll have excellent input into what the squid is. In the meantime, the cryptos are having fun.


A better video.

Social Media


Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I must seem like I’m filled with disdain for Twitter, Facebook, or any of these other jewels of social graphing, or whatever it’s called this week. However, I really don’t have anything against the tools, as much as I can’t stand the hyperbole.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using, and enjoying, Twitter, Facebook, GMail, or any other new darlings. But there’s a lemming like quality to the discussions surrounding these tools that brings out the Critic, the Cynic, and the Curmudgeon in me, almost as a counter balance to weigh down the mountains of fluff.

One would think that being a tech, I would be all over these new ‘forms’ of technology. However, as a tech, I recognize that there really isn’t anything particularly innovative about the technologies behind Twitter, Facebook, and the like. They’re more good examples of dealing with performance issues, and excellent marketing, more than something truly new in the field of technology. They enable social networking? We’ve had social networking through the internet for a half century forty years.

In the meantime, when something new, really new, does come along within the technology field, it’s lost in all of the fooflah about Facebook, Twitter, and so on. I worry, sometimes, that we’re at the end of innovation; that we’re caught up in a cycle of Silicon Valley marketspeak that will never allow anything exciting through.