Nick Online

Nick Kew's manifesto, and why I'm passionate about the 'Net.


Nick On the Net

Working from home, the 'net is my virtual office. I am in daily contact with colleagues around the world. Working like this is immeasurably more productive than a daily commute and a rat-race in a Dilbertian office environment. I should know: I spent 15 years working like that!

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Standards: Taming the Frontier

By design, the web is for everyone. Yet in 2004, it remains a frontier area, with large areas dominated by cowboys and unwelcoming to ordinary people.

Contrast your electrical appliances in the home. When you buy a fridge, a radio, etc you don't have to take it apart and make adjustments. You don't have to know anything about how it works - you just plug it in and turn it on. That's because both appliance manufacturers and electricians adhere to the relevant standards. So long as it is not subverted by ignorance or incompetence of developers and vendors, the Web is exactly the same.

My work with the Web Design Group, Site Valet, and W3C working groups is aimed at helping developers to do a good job, thus promoting standards compliance, interoperability and accessibility.

Commerce and Entertainment?

Apart from information, a few areas of the 'net have grown rapidly. Ecommerce, driven by heavy investment from commercial interests, is very welcome, and for some is already offering real benefits. But implementation today is dominated by charlatans who lack even a basic understanding of the medium, so that big-name commercial sites are overwhelmingly frustrating to use and are the worst on the 'net in terms of accessibility. Entertainment is also very welcome, though it's not my field and I know too little to comment on it.

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The Internet is all about communication and collaboration. We are no longer slaves to the opening hours of our reference library: it's always on, 24/7. Neither are we slaves to geography - at least not those of us in the 'knowledge economy'.

This is, for me, the realisation of a dream I've had since the time I suffered a miserable hours bus journey (each way) to school. We've had the technology since the 1980s. It matured and started to come to public attention in the 1990s, but in 2004 it is still only just beginning to change our lives.

My dream of the Internet is of a society liberated from the constraints of geography. The regular centralised office job of the 19th and 20th centuries should pass into history as the job moves primarily to the home, or to small local centres equipped with IT infrastructure. Our overburdened transport systems will be freed up for those who really need them - like manual workers and freight transport - and leisure use.

My dream is so strong that in 1997, I quit my previous Dilbertian job, and set up my own company to work full time on harnessing the potential of the medium. As a technology developer, probably the most useful contribution I can make is to develop the infrastructure of the medium, and tools for working with it. So that's basically what I do.

Off the Net

As this is my 'net manifesto, I'll keep my "life" brief. I have an old home page with lots of information for the interested.

I am addicted to the Great Outdoors. I live in what is (by English standards) a remote area, within the Dartmoor national park, and I get out there walking, cycling or (in season) swimming just about every day. When I get leisure time, I like to go with my backpack to more remote places and real mountains.

My other passions are music and theatre. As a singer, I perform regularly with an opera company (chorus and small roles) and a chamber ensemble (usually one voice per line). Though I don't have a regular choir now, I've sung with many in the past and am very familiar with the choral-orchestral repertoire.

Contacting me

Don't email me at htmlhelp: only spammers use my address here, and mail doesn't get read. You can mail me at my public address,

Note that this is heavily spam-filtered. I get (at last count - summer 2003) over 4000 spam messages every day arriving at the filter - and that's after the firewall has blocked a number of dedicated spam-factory sites. I can't delete that many by hand, so I have to filter aggressively. Unfortunately, that means there's a risk of your legitimate email being refused.

The contact form bypasses the spam filter, although it doesn't get checked as frequently as regular email.

Chat: I can often be found on where my handle is niq.

Not me

If you're feeling lucky, you might, but probably won't, want to visit the world's leading Terrorist and his poodle The Liar But if you're human, you probably don't want to go there.