Elly Williams' Weblog

Caught Between Industries

Small Surfers

While stumbling around the BBC News, Technology Section I came across this piece from about 6 months ago. Someone has created an email client and browser for toddlers.

The idea is to protect them from sex and drugs spam and other unsavoury aspects of the internet, while at the same time give them access to the web’s more useful and entertaining sides.

OK, so that’s all very nice but I’m wondering, If children are being taught to use a mouse, before they use a pen, taught to use a virtual paintbrush, before they learn to use a real one, how long will it be before computer literacy tests are usurped by ‘paper literacy’ tests….?

Accessible Greasemonkey’ing

I must admit, I only installed Greasemonkey last week and I haven’t had much of chance to play with it.

Anyway, I found this through Simon’s Blogmarks and all I can say is … ooooh.

Greasemonkey is the perfect tool for client-side accessibility enhancements, because any changes you make through the DOM will be exposed to assistive technologies. . . .Accessible Greasemonkey’ing is going to be huge.
Mark Pilgrim

Mapping the Digital Divide

Map showing the percentage of households with broadband throughout the ukPoint Topic, a company who “provide focused information on broadband communications services”has combined a mass of data and new market models to show for the first time how many business and residential broadband users there are in each constituency in England and Wales. And then they made this map

So that’ll be London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, the M4 and the M1 then.


Protesters on the Roof

Imagine the Eddie Izzard version. We come in peace, Deputy Prime Minister, and we bring you solar panels… roof insulation and ….er… low energy lightbulbs

Up to 20 Greenpeace campaigners climbed on to the roof of the deputy prime minister’s home in Hull on Tuesday and tried to install solar panels….A Greenpeace spokesman said the panels were being left as a present, along with roof insulation and low-energy light bulbs.

Update – Later on the day of posting
BBC NEWS | Prescott roof activists arrested

[Prescott] called the protest a “deplorable” publicity stunt and said the protesters had terrorised his wife….[The Protesters] were then handcuffed and taken to a waiting police van where they were arrested for “harrassment of a person in a dwelling”.Supt Gavin Collinson said they would be interviewed at a nearby police station. He said “It’s not pleasant to be invaded in the privacy of your own home and it is being treated seriously….She’s very distressed but she’s pleased with the happy outcome.”

Fixed Width Layout – The Desire for Pixel Precision

Following on from a couple of Fixed vs Liquid discussions last week (notably from Jeremy, Molly and Jeremy (again)) I did a quick (ish) litmus test of my own using the fantastic CSS Zen Garden.

Of the 160-something Official Designs, only 13 are liquid (that’s 8%). 4 of these are from Dave Shea‘s original examples. Of those remaining 9 the most recent is from April 2004.

Jeremy Keith has a strong suspicion that many people are choosing fixed width layouts simply because it’s the done thing.And while I agree with him, I also have a strong suspicion that people are choosing fixed width layouts simply because they are easier to ‘draw’ in Photoshop.

School creates its own Sim City

No, really.

Fair View Junior School, in Gillingham, Kent, teamed up with the makers of Sim City, which lets users play around with computer-generated cities.

A special Medway version was created to include recognisable local landmarks.

Children use the game to learn about environmental and transport issues while redesigning their home town.

The education-by-computer-game is part of a Medway Children’s University course called Design A Town.

The four-day courses have been run at Medway schools since 1998. BBC

I’ve always loved the Sim City games (ever since I was little and had to go round a friends house to play because we didn’t have a copy) Every aspect from terraforming to laying out nice little strips of land to watching the little cars whizzing about. And it’s highly addictive because stuff always goes wrong. The fire station catches fire, the nuclear power plant blows up, people complain about you putting up taxes to build the schools that they’re complaining they don’t have (there’s a political lesson there… take heed) … and then just when you think you’ve got is sorted, aliens land and start zapping things.

While I there’s a great deal of value in teaching children about city planning/government/attack-by-aliens (yes children, if you want a National Health/Education Service, you’re going to need some money from somewhere) I have to say I’m not wholly sure where the value in a special version showing local landmarks is. Beyond the initial “I can see my house from here” gimmickry, surely the class is just going to elect to put a sewage plant on top of the headteacher’s house…

Nothing for ages….


After a slow period on BBC Tech News , there’s now a whole load of stuff.

Browser Stats

While having a quick look at my stats (because I haven’t in a while) I noticed this….

Top Ten Browsers Statisics for ellythompson.co.uk - Internet Explorer at 44.8%, Firefox at 40.0%

Firefox is fast catching up as the browser-of-choice people are using to view my site. And if you add up Firefox, Mozilla, Opera and Safari, then the total is higher than IE.

Which is nice

Sowing the Wrong Seeds

A thought that occurred to me while wandering around the technology section of a bookshop…

A book on CSS/HTML/XHTML/other-web-design that doesn’t mention web standards is like a book titled “DIY Loft Insulation” where the first chapter is all about asbestos.

Would you like a Biscuit?

Ok, so it’s a little contrived with lots of trick questions, but I’m still rather pleased with my score….

I am 97.5% British, just like
HRH Prince Charles
Though you’ll never be king you certainly know where your castle is.
Take the Brit Quiz at

Found via nslm.

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam!!

I finally got annoyed with WordPress storing all my spam, so I went and deleted it all manually. I don’t think I’m going to use “Mark as Spam” any more. It confuses my “Recent Comments” counter into thinking there are more comments than there are.


You might have noticed my site died a bit today. If not, you missed a rather persistent parse error message. Basically, I’ve been trying to ‘adapt’ the blogroll plugin I use (which pulls in stuff from blo.gs) to pull in my xfn data as well, as I couldn’t find a plugin anywhere which displayed how I wanted it to.

The last time I coded anything without someone sat next to me was when I was about 8. And that was in Basic. I don’t know php. So, naturally a few things went wrong, and something went so wrong I couldn’t fix it until about an hour ago because it wouldn’t let me log into WordPress.

But it all works now, and I’m xfn’ed and generally quite pleased with myself.

Silly Phishers

I keep getting phishing emails pretending to be from banks I don’t have accounts with…. am I meant to be fooled or am I eventually going to get one which would apply to me if it was real?

“Journalism” vs Bloggers

I used to like The Register. They used to be smart and witty and treated their audience like they were smart and witty too. But there have been a a couple of things recently that apart from displaying unusual amounts of bandwagondry seem to be written by people showing very little in the way of clue.

The frighteningly titled “Blog star ‘fesses up to payola spam scam” piece which attacked Matt Mullenweg and Jonas Luster, for example. I think their responses to the piece were much calmer than mine would have been in that situation, so hats off to them.

… horrible piece on the Register that not only got things wrong, but tried to mix my day job in with it in what I can only imagine is an attempt to cause me trouble there.Matt Mullenweg

Dear visitors from the Reg. I?d have a few choice words to say to Andrew Orlowski, but unfortunately he won?t talk to me, and hasn?t tried to before he posted his factually more than questionable piece. ?His partner in the spam caper was in denial today, and pleaded exhaustion.? he writes. Which goes to show a lot about Mr. Orlowski?s style of journalism, and his credibility in general.Jonas Luster

And all this only two weeks after they accused bloggers of Invading SXSW Music Fest – like this was the first year SXSWi had happened – or that there was the remotest possibility that it wouldn’t happen again! Personally I find the idea that “one blogger is plenty to describe the idea of an online journal” as ludicrous as suggesting that one musician is sufficient to describe the idea of music. I doubt that any of Mozart, Meatloaf, Eminem and Mariah Carey would give even remotely similar answers.

Where are the Women?

Women are a big deal in Architecture at the moment. January just gone BD launched its 50/50 Campaign for more Women in Architecture (The current percentage of architects who are female is 14%). Now, a few people have asked me if I have any insight on this. I’m not really sure if I do. Lack of role models (either in terms of famous female architects or university tutors (the token female in each year’s tutor batch was invariably seen as ‘the “nice” one’ during my course)) is certainly a factor. And the ‘boys club’ attitude (whether real or anticipated) on building sites probably has some bearing as well.

At SXSW I attended the Where are the Women of Web Design? Panel (Monday). I also attended the (stunningly mislabeled, but more on that later) How to Incorporate Stunning Multimedia Into Your Accessible Site, which was on the previous day (Sunday), and was suprised that most of the room was female. The “Women of Web Design”, it seemed, were quite happily getting on with their own thing and building Flash Sites. But anyway, I really enjoyed the Women of Web Design Panel. It was generally friendly and full of people going ‘so it’s not just me?’, which is always encouraging. I felt that the session could have benefitted from an extra hour for ‘so what can we do to help matters?’ but I felt that with a lot of sessions.

So here’s the thing – Molly wrote a similar piece the other day which is what got me thinking about it again – I don’t think the issue is that there aren’t women on the web. I think there aren’t enough VISIBLE women on the web. Take a look at a few blogrolls. There are usually significantly more male names than female names. Take a look at Technorati Top 100, take a look at RubHub Top 10. Now admittedly those two are somewhat skewed (the top 3 on rubhub are the xfn creators for example) but in terms of visibility, it’s what people see. And what I can see is an all male list of muses.

is an Architecture Student and Web Designer based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, (UK)