Saturday, July 23, 2011

Of reporters, readers, and browsers

The MozNewsLab got technical this week, with speakers including Chris Heilmann of Mozilla, John Resig from jQuery and Khan Academy, and Jesse James Garrett, who works on user experience design and other projects at Adaptive Path. All were recorded and are available on the course website

I see responses in the class gravitating towards closing the experience gap between "hacks and hackers" by sharing code and markup with journalists. Learning the basics, like what HTML5 is and how it can help visualize news and engage audiences, is feasible. But not everyone wants to be a programmer. Hackers should be finding the way to create services which appeal to journalists, in the same way Twitter appealed to celebrities, so it became a tool for them and their fans. Recent news stories drove journalists to try Google+. So a new service set up by hacker types could pop up and gain ground fairly quickly.

I think this week helped introduce two of hackers' best-kept secrets, the openness of HTML and the ease of jQuery. I use Dojo, a jQuery competitor, at work (go ahead, point and stare) and like jQuery it speeds up development of both the interface and the more icky parts of coding JavaScript. On mobile, it allowed me to create this map

which looks just like the iPhone/iPad interface, and switches to an Android look on Droids, by placing a few choice snippets of code. I was surprised at first to see how John Resig considered help, support, and the learning curve early in development of jQuery, but the result has been fantastic community and documentation which other frameworks (Dojo included) lack. It also makes me glad to know he's working with Khan Academy. I feel like if I search for "___ in jQuery" I will get a step-by-step blog post with someone explaining exactly how to do that. Sometimes even just when I search "how to __"

The openness of HTML, demonstrated by examples from Chris's presentation and taught in MDC, isn't just a tool of web developers but a step toward webpages that just work, on everyone's browser, with accessibility for people with disabilies. The WHATWG (though not mentioned in the chat) deserves a lot of credit for completing HTML5. I'm working on projects with canvas, geolocation, history, and open video. These technologies are everywhere and people don't pick up on them because they're often transparent in their ease of use. The draggable, animated circles in Google+, every web video on the iPad, the locator on Google Maps... all use HTML5. Yet there's no one system that supports it all. So we use back-ups. It's simple.

How does this tie into my project? I'll post a project idea later this weekend. But essentially, I see no need to go beyond HTML and JavaScript in the user experience. The media features are supported on most browsers, and I need the direct interaction with the video and video frames in order to grant users and journalists alike equal power over their video experience.

Project idea posted

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