Being a Web Developer

Before I start blogging about some more technical matters I want to write a little about being a Web Developer.

I love it.

For me it is just about the perfect job, exactly the right mix of science and art to keep me interested and focused. Over time I have come to appreciate it in other ways as well, and this is what I really want to write about.

As a bit of a lefty socialist type I like to think that I can make the world a little bit better. When I started Web Development as a professional back in the year 2000 I felt that I had in some ways just become part of a machine. I was working at an agency (although they didn’t call themselves one) and more often than not my work was just a way for people with money to make more money. Such is capitalism.

Over time my skills improved, my knowledge of usability and accessibility increased, and I realised something. My work could dramatically improve people’s lives. And that is pretty damn cool.

I’m having problems with blogging

This blogging malarkey is not going well.

On the first day of this year I wrote that I hoped I could average a post for each week of the year. So far I have managed 3 posts. Including that first one. I did at least say it would be an average, but with 18 weeks already passed I need to up my game.

I have a few subjects I want to blog about, ranging from the last London BarCamp, and the experience I have had with speaking at BarCamps, to how to markup and style an accessible basic form (a seemingly simple topic, but something I still see people doing wrong).

However I’m not happy about the format. It feels a bit messy for me to write about a range of topics in one place. I think this might be part of why I haven’t posted much. Including this one, 3 of my 9 posts have been about politics in one form or another, 3 about BarCamps, and 3 about the blog itself. While I am fairly sure that most, if not all, of the people subscribed to my feed are also people I work with or have worked, with in general I don’t think that a combination of politics and BarCamps is going to appeal to many.

I’d like to write much more about politics, particularly human rights, but this is preventing me from wanting to post technical subjects, such as web development, in the same place.

I have a decision to make then. Either I leave everything as it is, and get over this idea of separation; or I create multiple sections to this blog each with their own feed; or, as I have alluded to before, I follow a Neil Crosby approach and have several separate places to blog and use this site as a portal to my presence on the web, which could host a combined feed for anyone who, for some reason, just wants to read what I have to type.

The latter feels more right, but involves thinking of names for the other domains or just subdomains ( for example), and I’m not certain that apathy won’t set in and I’ll just end up with multiple blogs with no activity.

This is the same over-thinking that stopped be from starting a blog years ago. I have to put up with it though, my mind just doesn’t seem to work any other way.

If any of the < 20 people likely to read this have any advice please comment. You'll be part of an exclusive group if you do - so far I've had five comments. Two of them were made by me.

ASA response to ‘There definitely is a God’ complaint

Like I’m sure many others did I filed a complaint with the ASA about the advert on London buses from The Christian Party.

Yesterday I received a letter:

Dear Mr Pouncey

Your complaint about The Christian Party

Thank you for your recent complaint.

It turns out that The Christian Party is a political party so I’m sorry to tell you that we’re unable to deal with the specific issues you raise: we’re unable to investigate complaints about advertising which aims to influence voters in elections or referendums. To do so would be to interfere with the democratic process. (The relevant clauses in our Code are 12.1 and 12.2 and you can find the Code at

The ASA Council has seen the ad and confirmed that because its primary purpose is to promote The Christian Party, it is electioneering material and therefore exempt from our Code.

You may be aware that there were similar bus ads appearing for the Trinitarian Bible Society (which stated “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalms 53.1”) and the Russian Orthodox Church (which stated “There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life”). The ASA Council assessed these ads but concluded that both were likely to be seen as simply reflecting the opinions of the advertisers and were unlikely to mislead readers.

Although we will not be pursuing your complaint, thank you for taking the time to contact us.

I’m quite pleased about this response. I’d rather the balance be towards freedom of speech than not. I am curious about how far the exemption of political parties from scrutiny goes, and I plan to ask for more information on this.

Ensuring Lawful Interrogations

Proof positive that President Obama is making changes for the good: Executive Order– Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.

This is a massively important step. Although Guantánamo is going to close this year we don’t yet know what will happen to the prisoners. Detention without trial on mainland USA is not very different to detention in Cuba.

I’m not so hopeful that this will mean the end of mistreatment of prisoners overnight, but while it may not be of much comfort to those suffering there I think there is a big difference between authorised and unauthorised abuse. When the ‘leader of the free world’ believes that torture is acceptable the moral high ground over what are considered terrorist groups is lost.

Happy New Year!(?)

To anyone who may actually read this blog, may I wish you a very happy 2009, and I hope you had a great Christmas.

After 5 posts in the space of a week or so I seem to have lost the initial impetus I had when this blog was shiny and new. On a more positive note I have more of an idea of where I would like to go with it, probably more along the lines of a central point for anything else I do online. As with much of what I have done online recently I’m stealing this idea from Neil Crosby. Thanks Neil.

Anyway, what better way to get some momentum back than a post of the first day of the year. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep this going in the same way that The Hodge has planned, but hopefully I’ll be able to average a post for each week.

BarCamp Liverpool – Day Two

Day two of BarCamp Liverpool started with ‘Let’s talk about sex’, an open discussion where, amongst other things Ian Forrester asked if geeks can talk about sex in an mature and adult way. The answer is ‘no’! This was probably the most entertaining part of the BarCamp, but possibly not for the right reasons.

In ‘How to pimp yourself’ Richard Quick talked about how to promote yourself as a freelancer, or as a company. He gave his 7 tips for success, and we then moved on to a discussion which expanded on his ideas. The information doesn’t directly apply to me these days, but there was plenty about how best to behave at conferences to make this a good session for me.

Cristiano Betta then talked about ‘Using wordpress for OpenID’. The WP-OpenID plugin allows you to use your WordPress blog to login to OpenID consumers. We followed this up with a general discussion on OpenID, particularly how to spread its use to the masses.

The last session I attended was ‘Don’t Just Change the World… Improve It!’ from Adrian McEwen. Adrian had returned to Liverpool late in the Capital of Culture year, and he talked about the changes he had seen, and his ideas on how we can make a difference in our communities.

With all that serious business out of the way all that remained was the obligatory game of Werewolf. I’d only played once before, and with a much smaller group, so this was great fun. I was killed while I peacefully slept, but it was almost as much fun to watch.

And with that, my first BarCamp was over. I will be back for more.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 1948-2008

Two days from now, 10th December 2008, is the 60th anniversary of one of the most important documents ever written, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Read it, and think about how well your nation measures up. Sadly I can’t say it makes me proud to be British.

You can can find out more about the anniversary at

BarCamp Liverpool – Day One

I’m waiting for the second day of BarCamp Liverpool, so I thought I’d take the time to write down my thoughts on day one.

I didn’t really know what to expect from a BarCamp, but whatever it was this event wasn’t it! Out of 200 places I guess about 100 people actually turned up, a sizeable number, but a little disappointing event even if you take in to account the inevitable wastage when tickets are free.

First job: book a slot to speak. My chosen subject: accessibility. I thought I’d stick to what I know. I’ll write about how that went in a separate post.

After an introductory speech from the organisers I moved on to a talk about ‘The 3D Web’ from Stephen Clibberly. I have to say I am not convinced by this technology, but it was interesting none the less.

Next, ‘How to be a dead good speaker’ from Phil Winstanley. As I would be speaking for the first time here I though that this would be a good subject for me. Realisation that I had done most of the things I shouldn’t have done in my slides didn’t help with my nerves at all, of course!

‘Readable Perl’ was after lunch (food for 200 people, eaten by 100!). Now I’ve disliked Perl for about 8 years, mostly because I had to work with badly written code. Seeing examples of how nice Perl can be might have changed a little bit, but I think I’ll stick to PHP and Python for now.

‘Getting started with Arduino – How to build a twitter monitoring Alertuino’ by Adrian McEwen has a fairly self explanatory title. Adrian modified a toy laser gun to activate whenever someone made a direct tweet to a particular address. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of Arduinos before. I may have to invest in a kit.

Then little me…

After this I took part in a ‘Privacy open discussion’ led by Alistair MacDonald. 4 of us spent 45 minutes giving our opinions on where the line is between personal and private when we blog, tweet, or otherwise post online.

Finally was a demo of Pacemaker form Ian Forrester. Now, I don’t share Ian’s taste in music, but this session was great fun. The Pacemaker is an impressive bit of kit, I don’t think it is the iPod killer that Ian would like it to be, but it is pretty cool.

And then on to the party. Free drinks courtesy of Microsoft, who also provided prizes for a raffle and startup competition. Their products are not entirely appreciated by an audience that seemed to be primarily Mac and Linux users, but I don’t suppose that is their fault.

And so day one came to an end.

First Post!

After many years of procrastination, I have finally started my first blog.

What it is going to be about remains to be seen, but I suspect I’ll be writing about web development, particularly accessibility and usability, and might include the odd political rant and my views on various human rights issues.

This is a weekend for firsts for me. First blog. First blog post. And also my first BarCamp, which will hopefully involve my first crack at technical public speaking. I’m attending BarCamp Liverpool, the first in the city and billed as the biggest in the UK so far. Post #2 will in all probability be about day 1.