Through the Keyhole

I am travelling this week and in a location with no broadband or desktop computer. When travelling like this, I usually use a mobile device and 3G wireless access and limit myself to basic e-mail and a few low bandwidth browser operations. I make notes and lists of things to do on my return. But the period of absence from Edinburgh was longer than usual this time, and thing can start to build up quickly. After a few days I find I am spending longer making notes on what I must do when I return than actually working on something productive.

The (lack of) speed and (lack of) screen real estate becomes a serious problem for much of the type of work I do, but this week that was made more acute with the types of web pages and visual material in use on the MSc in e-Learning courses. The typical type of web page served by a CMS like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, and even Twitter, is filled with images, thumbnails, and other bandwidth hungry elements, and if usually designed with style layouts which do not allow for progressive rendering. A blank page is offered while many many elements download and then the page appears some time later. These sorts of sites are almost unusable on a typical 3G connection independent of screen size… and this becomes especially frustrating if this is the bulk of the material being accessed.

I quickly developed a sense that I was peering at the world through a very small key hole.