Meet the new look, same as the old look

I’ve changed the look of this blog, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see any difference.

Most of the changes are ‘under the hood’ so to speak and only produce a different visual in certain browsing environments.

In the old theme (the part of the blog that determines the look) all dimensions were fixed. The new theme uses a so-called responsive design where the look of the site is determined by the width of the device you’re using to browse.

You will notice the changes the most on phones and in certain ancient web browsers, where the site will display as a single column. This has the advantage that on thin screens (phones) the browser won’t try to cram everything in, but will instead stack everything vertically.

Two other responsive features that you will see on mobile devices:

  1. Images will now take up the width of the screen regardless of the size in which I’ve uploaded them. (This only goes for recent images.)
  2. Some of the menus are rendered as big buttons so that you can tap them more easily with your finger.

Other changes:

  • The blog now uses HTML5 and CSS3.
  • The new theme is made from the ground up and no longer based on WordPress’ former default theme Kubrick.
  • Some of the background colours are gone.
  • I am using a new font for the headings, namely Permian by Ilya Ruderman (I used to use MS Trebuchet for headings).
  • Kubrick used quote marks as bullets for list items, I’ve returned to a more classic disc.
  • I have cut a lot of code.

The latter combined with the fact that I’ve released this redesign before it was ready means you’re probably going to bump into things that aren’t quite right. Please let me know when that happens.

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What the top 3 content management systems call themselves

In 2004 I predicted that the free content-management systems of the day would be supplanted by the blogging systems and ‘nukes’ that were emerging back then.

In 2010 my prediction had come true. Part of the supplantation process, as I noted back then, was that these systems would rebrand themselves as CMSes. Branding is a process that is never finished. Let’s take a look at what the three most popular free and open source (FOSS) CMSes of 2010 called themselves back then and now in 2014:

Name Started as a 2010 2014
WordPress Blog Semantic personal publishing platform Web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog
Drupal Blog Open source content management system Open source content management platform
Joomla Nuke Dynamic portal engine and content management system Content management system

Note that to this day, the three systems shown here are still the most popular FOSS CMSes. According to W3Techs today, WordPress has a market share of 60%, Drupal 8%, Joomla 5% and the market share of the most popular commercial off-the-shelf CMS, Bitrix, is so small it might as well be a statistical error.

See also:

Who owns this photo?

slaters-stolen-monkey-photo

Every time Englishman David Slater threatens to sue people over this photo, the press jump on it like rats on a granary.

I will tell the story therefore in just a few words, because you’ve probably already heard it. Slater goes on a photography trip to Indonesia, a macaque starts to play with one of his hugely expensive cameras and starts taking selfies. Zoom forward a couple of years and Slater seems to have changed his career from taking pictures to threatening people with lawsuits over using this photo.

(I expect he didn’t actually do the latter, but the only times I ever hear about him is when his legal team are ready to pounce.)

A couple of observations following the current brouhaha involving Wikimedia. Note that I am mostly responding to what internet commenters say underneath the articles—pretending anything an internet commenter (not you, of course!) has to say has intellectual merit, is a risky affair.

1) It pains me to see the way people take for granted how anything that is created, is owned by someone. The public domain, that area of human culture that is owned by all of us, used to thrive, and used to be a natural thing that existed as a peer alongside the area of things that were owned by individuals. These days the public domain seems to be a memory distant enough that people no longer realize the possibility of there being things that are owned by all of us.

That makes this a great era for copyright lawyers and no-one else.

2) Among all the arguments on whether this photo belongs to the world, to Slater, or even, as some would have it (cheekily?), the macaque, the thing that has been missing is a mention of the legal doctrine of sweat of the brow. People seem to argue that the picture should belong to Slater because he did all the hard work. Regardless of how questionable the assertion is that Slater did any work at all, for an argument like that to hold up in court (and Slater is indeed threatening to take this to court), it needs to have legal underpinnings.

The sweat of the brow doctrine states that if you put in a lot of work, you get a copyright. It partly adds to and partly opposes the much more common doctrine that holds that work needs to have some sort originality embedded into it in order to generate a copyright.

The Wikipedia article tries to list the jurisdictions in which the sweat of the brow doctrine applies but doesn’t get far. In the Netherlands and the USA for instance, the doctrine has been soundly rejected in the jurisprudence. In the Netherlands it is said (figuratively) a work requires “the stamp of the maker”, in other words it needs to be clear that the work is the result of choices its author made. (Generally these choices need to transcend the merely technical; setting an aperture on your camera or cropping a photo on your computer generally is not enough to cause a copyright to come into being.)

The one jurisdiction that seems to be the exception is … the UK, Slater’s home land. This is where things start to get interesting, because if Slater is going to sue anywhere, it’s likely to be the UK. Some commenters seem to think that since the Wikimedia Foundation is an American entity, it can only be sued in the USA. I’ll leave it is as an exercise for the reader why that is utter nonsense.

P.S. The rotten thing about writing these things is that you read so many sources that eventually you stumble upon the one that makes your points for you. Here that source is TechDirt, the site that knows about this case because it is the site that initially got attacked by Slater’s representatives—or maybe they’re just smart people.

(If you follow one link, follow that last one.)

The photo detective

Wat jij niet ziet

In this book former photographer Hans Aarsman tries to deduce the story behind a photograph from the photograph itself.

Hans Aarsman used to be a photographer until he realised that the essence of his job was to mimic old-fashioned paintings. He sold his cameras, gave away his photos to a museum and became somebody who writes about photography instead.

In the national newspaper of record De Volkskrant he got a weekly spread in which he got to play a photo detective. He would study the photos that came off the news wire and select one or a small series to study.

Wat Jij Niet Ziet (With My Little Eye, literally What You Don’t See) is a collection of 50 of these columns and the second book in the series. Each column consists of a spread containing the photo followed by a page that has a crop of an interesting detail, followed by a page describing Aarsman’s findings.

wat-jij-niet-ziet-1

Shown here is a sample of Aarsman’s detective work. On 20 November 2012 Palestinian photo journalist Adel Hana took this picture of an egg salesman just outside Gaza City. AP put it on the wire and accompanied the photo by a description that said something along the lines of ‘man selling eggs by the side of the road’.

wat-jij-niet-ziet-2

Aarsman had his doubts. The low, open bed of the vehicle forms an ideal platform both for displaying eggs and for selling them from, so why would a salesperson put most of his wares in the street like that? He pulled out his magnifying glass and noticed a tire standing against the truck. So that’s why the man had to unload the truck! He wanted to reach the spare. This salesman isn’t vending, he’s waiting. Why is he waiting when he’s got a spare tire? Well, a couple of crushed egg cartons suggest he had been kneeling on top of them—presumably he tried to remove the tire but had to give up in the end.

Not all the photos required closer inspection. Sometimes it is immediately clear what is going on, but Aarsman still ekes out a few details that lead to a greater understanding. He also included photos that are interesting without requiring detective work, such as the photo taken by politician Reynaldo Dagsa a fraction of a second after a deadly bullet entered his body. Dagsa had been focusing on his wife and daughter who were posing for him in the street, and failed to see or respond to the gunman appearing next to them.

Being a bit of an aspiring amateur photographer I find this approach very refreshing. It helps me understand what makes a scene, how subject and background work together to tell a story.

Rating by brankl: 3.5 stars
***1/2