Here’s an interesting article on the unintended consequences of social networking. Basically, it is reported that the NSA is snooping social networking sites (with the juicy twist that it plans to do so using Semantic Web technology – more on that later). This seems to fit into the category of “examples of why it’s important to have some kind of user-controlled trust / privacy layer in the fabric of the Web.” Who should be able to see information you put online (including your links to others and the nature of these links) and who shouldn’t? P3P addressed some of these issues but it was never widely adopted. Liberty Alliance has built some interesting technology standards around federated identity, but they are not user-centric, they are provider-centric and they do not really cover privacy. An interesting effort called Dix seems to blend the two approaches, but after a quick read of some of their use cases, it doesn’t seem that they cover “prevent the government from snooping my network.” Or is laying ourselves open to government surveillance the price we pay for living more of our lives in the digital realm? Discuss! By the way, on the whole Semantic Web issue, I think the link they are drawing in this article is tenuous at best, but it is true that the Semantic Web architecture is likewise lacking a coherent identity and trust mechanism.

The experience my kids (2 and 4) have of media is radically different from my experience when I was growing up. Of course, they clamor to watch certain programs and it’s always a challenge to balance the “right” amount of television with their wants, what’s good for them, and the temptation that television can have for exhausted parents who just need some down time. But what’s different is what these kids expect from media. Of course, they want to watch what they want when they want — which is enabled by video-on-demand from Homechoice for us, but they’re also just as likely to want to play (Web-based) computer games associated with the characters they like (like Dora games on NickJr., Sesame Street or Teletubbies) as to want to passively sit there and watch things. In the case of Sesame street, this is rarely seen on UK TV so most of their knowledge of these characters is actually through the Sesame street Web site. Many of these sites also let them stream video clips. So they are beginning to “curate” their own experience of media in much the same way that adults are. They are demanding more from their media. And why not? Why sit there and passively watch Teletubbies when you can go play an interactive Teletubby game with lots of direct feedback?

So I managed to figure out how to use CSS media queries to make the Mobile version of the blog even better: I’ve hidden the ads, and correctly sized the images. CSS is cool. Really kooky, but cool. The ads are an experiment, by the way. If they turn out to be too annoying, they’re going. One good thing about signing up for Adsense though: I get some free pageview stats.

Well, tomorrow I’m off to Edinburgh for the WWW conference where I’ll be co-chairing a workshop (where they seem to have posted a bio from me that dates from 2001, but never mind) and participating in the W3C Advisory Committee meting and in the first (and last?) face to face meeting of the Web Content Labels working group. And when the work is done, I plan to sit down with a nice dram at the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society. It promises to be an interesting week.

So if you look at the New York skyline on Google Maps or Google Earth, it becomes aparant how some of these images are stitched together from different satellites. In particular, bits of Manhattan seem to have been taken at different angles. So if you zoom down on 50th street and 5th avenue, for instance, part of the map seems to bend upwards in an Escher-like fashion so that it looks like a huge office tower is looming alarmingly over St. Paul’s cathedral. Now I haven’t lived in New York for a while, but I’m fairly sure the buildings are mostly parallel to each other – unless there’s been a wave of postmodern architecture. The effect is actually very disturbing.

So I wrote a Wikipedia entry on – what else – the Mobile Web using – what else – the Mobile Web! Check it out and contribute to fleshing it out. The original entry was composed on a Nokia N70 using the Opera browser. The amazing thing was that it was possible – just. The text field on Opera was really buggy and couldn’t hold much text and the whole process of logging in was really cumbersome. Still, it’s a step. The entry itself was written partially out of a need to put a stake in the ground around the term “mobile Web.” Some have taken this to mean “a separate web for mobile devices” but the meaning taken in the majority of use (including the definition we are using in the W3C Mobile Web Initiative) is the use of the Web (cap W) on mobile devices.

I had the pleasure to take a test drive of Nokia’s new browser yesterday, while speaking at their XML conference. I just have to say — it’s good. If this technology gets into enough hands, it could really open up use of “The Web” from Mobile. The “back button” functionality is especially good — it lets you page back through a series of thumb-nail views of previous pages, which is a quantum leap beyond current user experience. I’m a bit less sure about the addition of the pointer — will adding a pointer to the mobile browser create a better or more confusing user experience over all, especially when users might be switching back and forth between mobile-friendly content and “raw Web” content?