Trip Report WWW2006 - May 22-26 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland (UK)

[ WWW2006 - takes you to the official web site ]

  1. pre-conference activities (19..21-may 2006)
  2. conference at a glance
  3. first day: (workshops) (monday, 22-may-2006)
    • workshop on web accessibility
  4. second day: "business success" (tuesday, 23-may-2006)
  5. third day: "next wave" (wednesday, 24-may-2006)
  6. fourth day: "security" (thursday, 25-may-2006)
  7. fifth day: "society" (friday, 26-may-2006)
  8. documentation
  9. other trip report
  10. previous conferences

1. pre-conference activities:

zürich - london - edinburgh by plane (may 19, 2006)

an Airbus A321 of british airways brought us - my fellow worker philipp rütsche, his wife and his lovely daughter plus myself - from zürich to london (with about one hour delay due to heavy winds in london) and an Airbus A320 took us from london to edinburgh. scotland's capital greeted us with sunny and dry weather.

we stayed at the rather stylish and fancy point hotel, a guest house that won many awards for its very special interior, as you can tell from their website and the pictures below.

[ point hotel, edinburgh ] [ lots of colors inside the point hotel ] [ edinburgh castle ]
point hotel, edinburgh lots of colors inside the point hotel world famous castle of edinburgh
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see my picture book for more impressions from edinburgh

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2. conference at a glance:

the venue:
the conference took place at the EICC (edinburgh international conference center) which provided most of the services needed. even though there are some very nice rooms, some of the activities took place in very small, unplesant, overcrowded rooms. wireless Internet connectivity was sometimes very good, sometimes slow and even broke completely a couple of times. the authorization system obviously was totally overloaded so they had to turn it off during the conference.
lunch on monday was a disaster. the organizers were very surprised by the number of attendees and more than 100 people didn't get anything to eat at all. i was surprised that they were surprised because we all had to register for this conference and by counting the number of registrations, one would expect that the organizers could have guessed the number of attendees ... however, they solved the problem by announcing that we should get something to eat in a nearby restaurant and that they would refund GBP 10 to each person showing a receipt for their lunch. and they really did refund the money !
the social event didn't really met our expectations. of course, the castle was a beautiful site, but food and drinks were scarce, there was by far not enough room for all the attendees - luckily it did not rain, so we could stay outside - but most of all, the organizers completely missed the opportunity to show some of the scottish cultural traditions to the audience. according to some staff members we talked to, they usually would have some dancing and show tournaments during such events.

according to the printed attendee list, there were 1124 people at this conference, of which 12 came from switzerland, namely:
most popular topics:

the most popular topics were quite similar to those last year with the addition of the first in the list below:

  1. Web 2.0, also referred to as "the next wave": includes things such as "the collaborative Web" or "the interactive Web"
  2. search
  3. the semantic Web

messages i took home:
  1. i need to change: i need to change how i work with computers in terms of security. after what i have heard at the very interesting talks by David A. Thomas from FBI and Phillip Hallam-Baker from Verisign and taking into account the incidents we recently encountered with malicious software on our webservers, we completely have to reconsider how we work with our computers in terms of security and how we access them. we must come up with a new set of security standards - much more sophisticated and advanced standards than we had until now. this includes new and much stronger password policies, but also more restricted access without interfering with our customer's need to maintain their documents on our webservers. we must also start making use of encrypted and signed email and start storing sensitive information encrypted. most important, i must start with the man in the mirror ...

  2. think about mobile devices: so far, the ETH Zuerich didn't provide any content particularly designed or optimized for mobile devices, apart from the service we once set up for WAP devices. i think it would be a good idea to have at least the phone book available in a version optimized for mobile devices. also the events calendar and maybe the university calendar might be applications that could be helpful on a mobile device.

  3. accessibility is always an issue: a11y (a very imaginative abbreviation for the word "accessibility" - it means a word that starts with the letter "a", followed by eleven characters followed by the letter "n"; similar to "i18n" for "internationalization") has been an issue since at least 1999 when the W3C published version one of the WAG (Web Accessibility Guide) as part of the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative). this initiative is still continuing. version two of the WAG is now in the phase "last call review". as soon as the last comments have been reviewed, the guidelines will become a recommendation.

  4. search remains a hot topic: interestingly, searching has been a hot topic since the advent of the Web, it still is and it probably will be for quite a while. however, this time, it was not only about how to improve search results, but there were also talks about how to prevent search spam. "search spam" is a general term for different types of methods used to influence search results in favor of a particular site. if a company for example sells boots, they might be interested in getting listed at the top of search results for expressions such as "boots", "shoes", "wet feet" etc. there are various technics based on how search engines rank documents to support top ranking. on the other hand, search engine operators don't want the results of their search engines being compromised and therefore try to take counter measures against "search spam". even for "innocent" content providers, it is important to understand the technics of both sides in order to not get caught by the anti spam mechanisms of the prominent search engines.
[ edinburgh international conference center ] [ entrance to the edinburgh international conference center ] [ lines at the registration desk ]
edinburgh international conference center (EICC) entrance to the EICC lines at the WWW2006 registration desks
(click on the image for an enlargement) (click on the image for an enlargement) (click on the image for an enlargement)

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3. first day: workshop on web accessibility:

on monday, i attended the "international cross-disciplinary workshop on web accessibility 2006", a full day event taking place in a very small room crowded with many attendees. there were 16 talks on various topics, but all aimed to answer the following question:

"Is engineering, designing, and building for the mobile Web just a rehash of the same old Web accessibility problems?"

two years ago, the W3C tried to "sell" the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) with arguments such as: the mobile community will benefit from the same efforts as people with disability, because the small mobile devices have very similar characteristics as devices for people with disabilities, such as speech or braille browsers. today, these arguments have been somewhat changed. most people still think there are at least some similarities, but there are also some significant differences.

sarah horton gave a very interesting introduction to the topic. she introduced the term "universal design" for a solution, that would serve anybody equally well, regardless of their capabilities. she argued for more markup tags that would give the author more control over the content and how it should be presented on different devices. i certainly agree that the content for all devices should come from the same source. however, instead of dynamically adopting the presentation to various target devices, i would rather prefer a system - such as a content management system - that should produce different documents from the same source optimized for various targets. in my opinion, it is not a good idea to produce the same set of documents dynamically over and over again. i rather have a system, that produces a new set of documents only when the source was modified.

benfeng chen presented a very interesting approach to fix invalid HTML-documents with a software called PURE (webPage cleanUp through Reverse Engineering). this software renders a give webpage and then tries to generate valid HTML and CSS code automatically which would render the same page as the original document.

there were a number of suggestions on how to improve documents for mobile devices with limited capabilities. an interesting approach are roles, which will be introduced with CSS3. roles describe part of the document in terms of their function, such as "navigation", "main content", "search" etc. the browser on the mobile device can then for example skip some of the content based on these roles.

yuki arase presented a different approach to solve the problem of limited capabilities of mobile user agents: she suggested what she called "a Web browsing system based on adaptive presentation of Web content for cellular phones". this system acts as a proxy server between the web server and the mobile phone. this system reduces and optimizes the content for small devices. one problem with such proxy server is security and privacy, because proxies tend to break security features such as encrypted data transfer and restricted access to resources.

at the ETHZ, we might consider a project to bring the phone book to mobile devices. today's rich pages are badly suited for mobile devices with small screens and limited capabilities. speedy access to the phone book from mobile devices might be very useful for members of the ETHZ as well as for visitors, who for example need to visit somebody at our institute, but don't know the location or need the phone number of the person they are going to see.

the proceedings of the workshop on Web accessibility are available from our Web server.

[ philipp rütsche (ETHZ) - roberto mazzoni (Uni ZH) - reto ambühler (ETHZ) ]
WebStaff of the ETH and university of zürich in front of the EICC
(click on the image for an enlargement)

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4. second day:

opening ceremony and key note:

the opening ceremony began with two bagpipe players and two charming dancers. then the conference was officially opened by leslie carr in a traditional scottish kilt, followed by a brief introduction by tim berners lee. the scottish first minister jack mc connell welcomed the approximately 1100 attendees from all over the world to edinburgh. the keynote titled "the new economy - an engineer's perspective" was given by david brown, chairman of motorola ltd.

[ WWW2006 opening ceremony at pentland plenary room at EICC ] [ scottish first minister jack mc connell ]
pentland plenary room at EICC welcome speech by jack mc connell
(click on the image for an enlargement) (click on the image for an enlargement)

workshop logging traces of web activities:

during this workshop, various technics and methodologies were presented to analyze the users behavior on the Web. on one hand, there are the well known log files produced by the web servers. these sources my provide information such as number of visits, most and least requested documents, performance etc. but they cannot provide information about the users behavior, such as what link she or he clicked on, how often the user scrolled up and down the page to find the information she or he was looking for and so on. various attempts to log such information were presented. one speaker presented a solution, where they introduced a proxy server between the user agent and the target web server. this proxy server added a small java script to the responds of the web server which logged all user activities to a separate server. the information logged included any mouse activities, the URLs the user followed, all keystrokes etc. this information helps to analyze the user's behavior and may help to increase the website's usability. however, most speakers stressed the point, that analyzing the log files is not sufficient, it is also important to talk to the users and to learn how they felt when they were using the website.
it was also discussed that logging the users activities introduces serious privacy issues. users must not only be informed about such logging, but they must also have the opportunity to disable logging and/or to review the logged information before it gets passed on for further analysis.

it was also suggested to combine the advantages of a content management system with logging technics, by adding - preferable automatically - additional tags to the documents that would allow to analyze the user's behavior in more details.
since WebTrends supports additional meta tags to increase accuracy of statistical analysis, it might be an interesting idea to extend our WCMS system to introduce additional meta tags to the web pages generated in order to get more detailed and more accurate statistical information.

see workshop documentation for details.

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5. third day:

fighting search spam:

i consider this a very serious topic. it is important to understand how search engines work and even more important how they fight search spam. getting into "bad neighbourhood" (that means being linked to by sites that are considered bad) can have a negative impact on the raking of our own website.

the next wave (W3C track):

Web accessibility guidelines (WAG) 2.0:

social event:

the social event took place at edinburgh castle, see impressions from the castle
[ edinburgh castle seen from princes street ] [ canon overlooking edinburgh ] [ edinburgh castle, home of the crown jewels ]
edinburgh castle canon overlooking edinburgh home of the crown jewels
(click on the image for an enlargement) (click on the image for an enlargement) (click on the image for an enlargement)

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6. fourth day:

tutorial on Internet crime:

Web mining with search engines:

new search paradigms:

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7. fifth day:

impact of the Web on society:

impact of the Web on intellectual property:

impact of the Web on society:

closing ceremony and handover to WWW2007:

the sixteenth WWW conference will be held in banff, canada from may 8 until may 12, 2007, see WWW2007

[ WWW2006 closing ceremony at pentland plenary room at EICC ] [ handover to WWW2007 ]
leslie carr closes WWW2006 officially WWW2007 is only 11 month away
(click on the image for an enlargement) (click on the image for an enlargement)

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8. documentation:

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9. other trip report:

Please check out this other trip report:

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10. trip reports from previous conferences:

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production note:

this trip report was written on a Dell Latitude D820 notebook with Softquad HoTMetaL. this document is supposed to be HTML V4.0 compliant.

index.html / 25-nov-2008 (ra) / reto ambühler