W3C Releases Mobility / Accessibility Draft

In June 2005, I wrote in these pages about an issue I knew we were going to have to grapple with in the Mobile Web Best Practices group that we were then kicking off. What is the intersection of mobility and accessibility when it comes to Web content? In fact, the initial approach and early work of the group that set the foundations for the Mobile Web Best Practices and for MobileOK was based on the work of the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative, and specifically the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines document.

This week, we have followed up the release of MobileOK with a new document that details exactly that: describe the relationship between Mobile Web Best Practices and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Why should you care? If you’re trying to provide a service on the Web, you need to care about both accessibility and mobility. Both of these topics require some investment in skills, tools, and development time, so understanding where the overlaps are should greatly help to reduce development costs and time to market. At the end of the day, it’s also about maximizing the potential audience for your service, regardless of a user’s disability or the device used to access that service.

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Posted in Mobile Web, W3C

The Industry Event Formerly Known as 3GSM

This year I’m more excited than ever about Mobile World Congress (née 3GSM). But the excitement at this year’s event won’t be at the event. It will be at two amazing side-events: the Mobile Monday Global Peer Awards happening on Monday the 11th and the Mobile Jam Session on the 12th.

At last year’s Global Peer Awards, we had 23 mobile start-ups from 23 Mobile Monday cities around the World presenting on stage. We had companies like Skyhook Wireless (which has recently achieved some fame as the technology behind the location awareness function in iPhone), RealEyes3D (which went on to be selected as a Red Herring top 100 companies in Europe as well as other accolades), and MobileComplete (which was also selected by Red Herring and took the world by storm with their DeviceAnywhere product). A full list of 2007 participants is available here. This year, it’s your chance to see more early-stage companies and innovative mobile services – before they become famous and stop returning your calls.

The Mobile Jam Session will be a unique industry event, bringing together a spectrum mobile developers for a kind of un-conference that will combine a “code camp” style with a creatively driven workshop structure. After hearing who has so far signed up, I’m more fired up than ever about this event.

W3C will also be out in force at the conference itself, promoting the release of MobileOK as a “Candidate Recommendation” and the release of an open source code library that allows content developers to more easily test their content for mobile friendliness. If you’re at the conference, go visit them in Hall 7, stand 7D56 and get the real deal on MobileOK and the future of the Mobile Web. We’ll also hopefully see W3C folks at the Mobile Jam Session.

See you in Barcelona!

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Posted in mobile 2.0, Mobile Web

The State of Mobile Blogging: It Ain’t Pretty

So I’ve been doing some research on mobile blogging, trying to find the best solutions out there. The situation is pretty dire. So far, it looks like the best solution out there is actually from Windows Live (née MSN) Spaces. Windows Live actually lets you register, create a blog and start publishing it all through the mobile browser.

In contrast, Blogger has some information on mobile blogging that involves a convoluted “email to post” (which only works with U.S. carriers by the way — HELLO PEOPLE – THE WEB IS GLOBAL). TypePad claims “industry leading” mobile features but doesn’t seem to have any way to sing up or create a blog from the mobile and it’s also e-mail based. You can use Nokia Lifeblog with Typepad but you need to have a Nokia phone to do this. WordPress is likewise a wash. Vox doesn’t have obvious mobile support either.

What’s going on here? It’s pretty easy to write a Web form that accepts a blog post. Even Microsoft can do it! I thought we were further along here, as a society I mean. Am I missing something? Are there other turn-key solutions out there for mobile blogging?

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Posted in Blogs, Mobile Web

Notes on Le Web 3

LeWeb3 StageSo unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out a timely blog post on Le Web 3 last week. Others have said a lot already but I just thought I’d write a brief post on it. It was a really great event and Loic and team deserve massive kudos for putting it together so well. First I have to rave about the near-flawless execution. The food deserves special mention because it was fantastic. Of course – what did I expect? This is Paris, after all. The production of the event itself, especially on the main stage, was fantastic, with a camera crew and staff that kept scurrying around keeping everything running smoothly. There was a fleet of BMW cars, sponsored by BMW, taking speakers back and forth from the conference site to the hotel. Very nice touch. The conference site itself was laid out very nicely with a chill-out “networking” lounge (where local artists were also working to add a bit of color). There were the usual sponsor booths but lots of space. There were a lot of people at this event but it never felt crowded. It was well produced but also managed to maintain a good community feel – no mean feat.

IMG_0234.JPGThe speaker line-up was really an all-star cast. I won’t go into too much detail here. I was lucky to be asked to participate on a panel on Mobile-Web convergence (chaired by Ouriel Ohayon) which was notable not only because I was on it, but because it was really well attended. I was a bit worried that the non-sexy name of the panel might put people off but we really packed the room – clearly an indicator that the mainstream “Web” community is eager to hear about mobile. We had a really good discussion on stage as well.

Apart from the panel thee was a lot of mobile interest at the event. French mobile widgets company Goojet won the start-up competition. Echovox’s Zong was out in force as a sponsor and David Marcus, Echovox’s CEO, was a great addition to the mobile panel. Of course, Nokia had a great presence there.

Other highlights?

Martin Varsavsky of Fon – a very entertaining speaker. Much more so than his appearance at Web 2 summit where he was incongruously sandwiched between Google and Verizon.

Jason Calacanis on why blog spam and paid search-engine “optimization” is destroying search in the same way that spam destroyed usenet. I especially enjoyed this presentation because it reinforced my view that trust and identity are going to have to play a role in the future of the Internet if it’s going to remain a useful medium.

Floor near the main stage at Le Web 3Talking to Scott Beaumont and Prashant of Refresh Mobile and hearing about their experiences deploying Mippin. Sounds like things are going really well!

Tom Raftery’s talk on green data centers and power demand management – though it was slightly far a-field for a Web conference. :)

Getting a demo of Mobiluck, a mobile social network. They are doing a great Web-based UI and they “get” what mobile adds to the social networking game. Must do a post on them later.

Meeting Lisa Sounio, CEO of Dopplr. If you’re not on Dopplr, go there and join.

Hanging out with my good friend Rudy De Waele.

Running into Paul Walsh wearing Sam Sethi’s badge.

Unfortunately I missed Philippe Starck’s presentation which I regret because it sounds like it was really good.

Lots more I won’t go into here.

There were a few negatives. Shahram Izadi from Microsoft research presented the Microsoft surface concept but I felt like I didn’t really see anything new here. Janus Friis talked about Joost but I really didn’t feel that he presented it in as good a light as Mike Volpi did at Web 2.0 Summit. Also, he kind of brushed off Paul (BT) Downy’s question about the proprietary nature of Joost (vs. the Web) which I think was a shame. He might have said (as Volpi did) that they are working on a browser-based version.

The Wifi was a problem. Wifi is always a problem at these kinds of events because it’s so easy to underestimate need. At Mobile 2.0 we got Swisscom to come in and build out a custom Wlan which was great and nobody complained. We only had 300 people there though. Le Web 3 (where Swisscom also did the wireless lan) was about 1700 to 1800 people – different kind of scale. And how many of those people were using iPhones as well as laptops? Plenty.

Marc Canter at Le Web 3Marc Canter had possibly left his lithium on the plane because he was even more rabid than usual. This had both positive (entertaining!) and negative (shut up and let someone else talk!) aspects.

So. All in all, it was a great way to spend two days. Great speakers. Great networking. Great city. Great work, Loic and team. Looking forward to next year!

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Posted in Web 2.0

What Time is It?


Dali Clock

Why, in this day and age, when they can send a man to the Moon, is it so frickin’ difficult to tell what time it is? Specifically, what makes it so seemingly difficult for mobile devices, which are connected to a public network, to tell what time it is? Surely mobile connected devices should be our most trusted time sources. The network they’re connected to is constantly pumping out a time-sync. So what is the problem? Three examples:

I normally carry around a couple of devices. Most recently, these have been consistently unreliable sources of the time. The Blackberry has two time-sync options: network and “blackberry.” Neither of them ever yield a correct time (as measured by my Mac, whose time-sync works flawlessly when measured against the BBC).

The N73 also has a “network sync” option which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I have often found that the time is wildly off – by as much as a few hours. It also doesn’t help matters that a change of this setting requires a reboot.

I have to manually set the time zone on the Blackberry but the Nokia N73 somehow can figure that out for itself.

I just came out of the other end of the Channel Tunnel and my iPhone hasn’t picked up the fact that I’m now in Central European Time – so it’s still showing an hour behind.

In this fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever for your device to know the correct time. This becomes especially important when you’re sharing media (as, for example, a number of people are contributing camera-phone images into a photo pool which you then want to be able to view sequentially). I constantly find myself on conference calls with multiple people in different time zones and knowing the correct time can be extremely important in such situations (and don’t even get me started about how most software just does not know how to deal with meeting planning that happens across multiple time zones or meetings that are being scheduled in a time zone other than your own – the software on Blackberry is a rare exception – I often find myself using the Blackberry to schedule a meeting even when the PC is right in front of me). So what’s going on here and how do we fix it? I’m open to suggestions.

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Posted in Mobility, Travel

The Biggest Mobile Story of 2007 is not the iPhone Launch

Yes. Believe it or not, there is something that has overshadowed the launch of the iPhone around the world. It is the story of the developer community that has come together around the iPhone to create a whole ecosystem of applications and clandestine methods for loading these applications onto this platform. In a matter of months, loosely organized individuals and companies with names like Nullriver, Conceited software, drudge and “Erica,” have managed to unravel the turtleneck of iPhone security and in the process they have created something entirely new in the industry: a mass-market mobile phone platform that is completely open to the application developer community. They have also created application loading tools for over-the-air installation which have no rival in terms of their sophistication and ease of use. Indeed, there’s no tip-off, except for the author names, that the software you’re using wasn’t developed and pre-installed by Apple – they’re that good.

Along the way, we now have a few new words in our mobile lexicon. Of course, there’s “brick” as a verb, as in “to brick your phone.” Of course, most iPhone users who found their phones bricked after the first software update have since “de-bricked” their phones through various widely available methods. There’s also “jailbreak,” which has come to mean to enable third party software to be loaded onto an otherwise closed platform. A platform so prepared can be called “jailbroken.” The rest of the lexicon is still being worked out. The popular press can’t seem to figure out the difference between SIM-unlocked and “contractless” for example. One can Jailbreak and SIM-unlock their iPhone but still be locked into a 2 year contract.

When the first iPhone “jailbreak” method came out, people were a bit tentative. Surely Apple would “fix” this in a subsequent update. Indeed they did, resulting in the “great bricking.” But when the new firmware was broken as well, the developer community began to smell blood. We’re on our third firmware revision (which has also been broken) and I do not believe at this point that the community can be stopped.

Unfortunately this has all somewhat overshadowed what possibly should have been the biggest story of 2007 – the rise of sophisticated mobile browsers such as Safari for iPhone. I still believe the roll-out of these browsers will have a huge impact in the mobile Web space. But the overall impact on the industry of the iPhone jailbreakers, I believe, will be more important in pushing the industry towards openness, user choice and the wide deployment of connected mobile applications – in a word, Mobile 2.0.

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Posted in mobile 2.0

Yahoo! not “Mine” on Mobile

Just thought I’d note this. My Yahoo! doesn’t appear to be working on the iPhone. Same result on the S60 browser. To be fair, though, the kind of user experience that My Yahoo! provides isn’t particularly suited to the mobile browser. What would be much better would be to provide a mobile-specific experience of the same content (for example, tabs instead of columns, a-la the fantastic iPhone Facebook app).

Posted in Misc

Pimp My Yahoo?

I have a confession. I have been a user of “My Yahoo!” since its original release. I was one of the early beta users when beta really meant beta. For some reason that I cannot comprehend, as more sophisticated personalized Web portals and more recently RSS aggregators have developed, I have stayed with the tried and true My Yahoo! – a site that has essentially not changed its look and feel since the last century.

Well watch out.

My Yahoo Screen Shot

My Yahoo! is back in beta, and it’s about time. What’s new? First of all, there are some outrageous new styles on offer, like this Leopard-print (incongruously named “faux fur” – as a colleague pointed out, why do they have to call it “faux fur” when it’s on a computer?). Unfortunately, many of the styles on offer are not very readable, and readability of text is pretty important in an application like this. It also offers a reader pane built into the application so you can read full blog entries (for those that publish a full feed) right in My Yahoo! This, and the UI tweaks are probably the nicest features. The other bits, such as a page-dominating animated ad (see upper-left-hand-corner) I am finding a little hard to swallow.

Even as a long time, user I was about to give up and move to Google Reader, Netvibes or Pageflakes. The new release is keeping my attention. I’ll definitely give it a spin around the block, but I’m thinking that what they’ve delivered, feature-wise, may be too little too late.

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Posted in Web 2.0

Future of Conference Badges

Future of Mobile BadgeSo I attended this Future of Mobile conference on Wednesday. In general it was a great event. The one criticism that was thrown around at the event after-party which I kind of agree with is that it may have been a little heavy on Web topics. That might sound surprising, coming from someone such as myself who spends his days (and increasingly his nights) working on Mobile Web stuff, but I actually think there should have been some more material outside the Web topic. I did really enjoy a number of the presentations, including Brian Fling’s fantastic presentation on how the iPhone is changing the mobile space and great presentation from David Burke from Google which included live Java coding on stage (which in any other circumstance is sure to put people to sleep).

Apart from all that, Carsonified just runs really great events. In particular, they seem to have an intuitive grasp of the user experience of the events. Everything down to the badges is meticulously designed with a professional sheen that nobody else seems to be able to manage. In the case of the badges, they are printed on both sides (how often are you at a conference and you realize the person you’re talking to has no idea who you are because your badge has turned itself around), they are clearly printed and color coded based on whether you’re a developer, designer, speaker, etc… It’s just one of the many Carsonified touches that makes their events so pleasant. Great work!

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Posted in mobile 2.0

Mobile Internet World

I just spoke at Mobile Internet World here in Boston (as part of the W3C Mobile Web Standards track). Being part of this event brought me back to the first “Internet World” conference I ever attended in, wait for it, 1993 in New York City. I had been invited up there because my magazine, Quanta. At the time, the Web was a fringe at best. The event was meager, at best, but there was a definitely a sense that something important was happening. Mobile Internet World, in Boston in 2007, was considerably more impressive, but yet I had the same feeling of excitement. People were coming to this W3C session to learn about mobile Web standards and development. This crowd was not mobile industry people – I did not get the idea that I was preaching to the choir. I think that’s signifigant in the “mainstreaming” of the Mobile Internet.

I’m interested to see if I get the same vibe at Future of Mobile tomorrow in London.

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Posted in Mobile Web, W3C

Who is Daniel K. Appelquist?

I'm an American Ex-Pat living in London. I'm a father of two and husband of one. I am the Open Web Advocate for Telefónica Digital, focusing on the Open Web Device. I founded Mobile Monday London, Over the Air and the Mobile 2.0 conference series.

The opinions expressed here are my own, however, and neither Telefónica nor any other party necessarily agrees with them.

My books:
Mobile Internet for Dummies
XML and SQL

For more info, see my Linkedin profile.

More (probably than you ever wanted to know) about Torgo.

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