Postel’s Law also applies to human communication

by @edent | # # # # | 2 comments

Early Internet pioneer, Jon Postel, beautifully captured the “Robustness Principle” for networked communications. “Be strict in what you send, and generous in what you receive.” That is, any computer sending data to another, should stick closely to the specification for that communication channel. Any computer receiving data, should expect that the sender isn’t following the…

Continue reading →

Netizens or Webizens?

by @edent | # # # | 2 comments
Screenshot from a Guardian article about Chinese Webizens.

Way back in the 1990s, the word “Netizen” was coined. I always took it to mean “someone who lives on the Internet”. In modern times, the neologism has been superseded with “webizen”. I find this an interesting development. It is well known that people often confused the Net with the Web. Hence the need for…

Continue reading →

Christian Names (part 2)

by @edent | # #
Four points of identification must be written on the bottle i.e.: Christian name, Surname, DOB, and Hosp No.

This is a follow-up post to 2015’s “What’s Your Christian Name?“. tl;dr “Christian Name” used to be synonymous with “First Name” or “Given Name”. The majority of people in the UK are not Christian and, therefore, don’t have Christian Names. Yet there are lots of local Government forms which still insist on this archaic phrasing.…

Continue reading →

The law leaves skeuomorphs in language

by @edent | # #

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. Terry Pratchett The law leaves indelible traces in our…

Continue reading →

Diverse or Representative?

by @edent | # # | 6 comments | Read ~171 times.

Some casual thoughts about language. I recently received an invitation to a tech talk where all the speakers were blokes. As is normal for these sorts of things, I dropped the organisers an email saying I wouldn’t be attending because of the lack of diversity. I received a very polite email back protesting that the…

Continue reading →

The Revisionist History of Mad Magazine

by @edent | # # | 1 comment | Read ~433 times.

(Or, watching culture evolve in real-time.) I love Mad Magazine. My mother introduced it to me as a child. Although half the jokes flew over my head, I was hooked. I’ve spent years scouring bookshops for ancient Mad paperbacks, and picking through the discard pile at comic-book stores. One thing which always struck me was…

Continue reading →

The Gender Politics of Conference T-Shirts

by @edent | # # # | 6 comments | Read ~3,489 times.

I spent my Saturday crewing the reception desk at the amazing UK GovCamp Unconference. Part of our task was to check people in, hand them their name badges, schwag, and offer them a free conference T-Shirt. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got hundreds of conference Ts stuffed in a drawer somewhere. They’re all the…

Continue reading →

What's Your Christian Name?

by @edent | # | 4 comments | Read ~470 times.

I have a childhood memory of my father having a blazing row with a census-taker. It must have been around the 1991 census, the person collecting (or perhaps dropping off) the forms was determined to find out my father’s name. “But you must have a Christian name!” He cried. “And I tell you that I…

Continue reading →

It's Pronounced "Reading"

by @edent | # # # # | 8 comments | Read ~505 times.

English is a funny old language. That my mother tongue doesn’t bother with internal consistency doesn’t bother me much – except when it comes to Text-To-Speech. Using Google Maps to provide route guidance in the UK is a challenging affair. Driving through Reading, the computerised voice continually mispronounced is as “Reading”. Err… that is to…

Continue reading →

QRpedia – Custom URLs

by @edent | # # # # | 12 comments | Read ~337 times.

This blog post is designed to foster a technical and logistical discussion. In much the same way as the earlier QRpedia language discussion did. One of the most requested features in QRpedia is to have custom URLs. For example, the British Museum may want a URL of “”. This has two main advantages. Better analytics.…

Continue reading →