Steven Pemberton



Projects: web, programming languages, interactive documents


Coming and Recent Talks


Blatant Self Promotion: awards, the press, radio/tv, film

Other Stuff



Group DIS
Science Park 123
P.O. Box 94079
1090 GB Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Email: Steven.Pemberton (at)

Tel: +31 20 592 4138
Mobile: +31 624 671 668

Home Address

Bloemgracht 129
1016 KL Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Home phone: +31 20 6385568

Instant messengers

Skype: stevenpemberton

Projects Past and Present

If there is one thread that runs through these projects, it is about people. In particular, what are the changes that need to be made to the system architecture to make the resulting system more human oriented.

The Web

In the late 80's I built a system with my group, Views, that if you saw it now you would call a browser. It had extensible markup, stylesheets, vector graphics, client-side scripting, everything you would recognise as the web now (though it didn't run over TCP/IP). So when the web came along, we understood what it was about, and we got involved. In 1993 Jakob Nielsen, Scooter Morris and I wrote a white paper for ACM/SIGCHI on visions for electronic publishing, where we recommended using the web; it's nice to see we got most of it right. In 1994 I organised two workshops at the first web conference at CERN (one on electronic publishing, one on client-side computation). In 1995 I designed and built an early online journal, the SIGCHI Bulletin. I chaired the European World Wide Web Working Group W4G, and then got involved with the fledgling W3C. As a consequence I became involved with CSS and HTML, and ended up chairing the HTML and Forms working groups.

XHTML, the new HTML: I was chair of the W3C Working Group that developed the next generation of HTML as an XML application with a clean migration path from HTML 4.0. Our specifications include:

XForms, The Next Generation of Web Forms: I was activity lead and co-chair, and am now chair, for the W3C Activity developing the next version of Forms for the Web. By splitting traditional XHTML forms into three parts – data model, instance data, and user interface – XForms separates presentation from content, allows reuse, gives strong typing (reducing the number of round-trips to the server) as well as offering device independence and a reduced need for scripting.

Correspondents report that an application in XForms is about one quarter the size of the equivalent Javascript. One company reported that a large project that normally took 30 people 5 years, had been done by a team of 10 in one year using XForms.

I wrote XForms for HTML Authors Part 1 and Part 2, the XForms 1.0 Quick Reference and the XForms 1.1 Quick Reference. There is a revised XForms Tutorial in progress (which shows a simplified Google maps-style application).

RDFa, interoperable web metadata: If the Semantic Web is going to reach the browser, there needs to be a straightforward way of adding semantics to XHTML. RDFa is a way of leveraging existing parts of XHTML (principally the meta and link elements) to add semantics, that makes it easy to extract RDF from the content without requiring an author to understand how RDF works.

RDFa allows a page to be machine-readable as well as human-readable. For instance, if a page is about a conference, the browser can see that it is an event, where it is, and when it takes place. So it could offer to show you a map of the location, to add the event to your agenda, to look for flights or hotels, without you having to re-enter the place and dates at every different flight ot hotel booking site.

Search engines like Google and Yahoo already use RDFa to identify certain types of content, such as product listing and reviews, in order to improve search results. Best Buy in the US reported that it increased traffic by 30% and the click-through rate by 15%. Facebook, Newsweek, Flickr the UK Government, the US Goverment, and many others now use RDFa. Research has shown that in 2010 RDFa was the fastest growing data markup format on the Web, accounting for 3.6% of all Web pages.

I am an editor of the RDFa Syntax document; there is also an RDFa Primer, and I have written a tutorial RDFa for HTML Authors.

"One of the most sensible things that the Semantic Web Activity did was to put the question of defining an attribute-oriented RDF spec in the hands of Steven Pemberton and Mark Birbeck, both of whom have extensive experience working with modularizations of HTML.

To me, RDFa is pure brilliance, because it actually mollifies two distinct camps - the Semantic Web purists who seem to have trouble understanding why HTML people dislike RDF so much, and the Microformats crowd who seem to believe that any taxonomy at all can be expressed as microformats, so long as it's their taxonomy.

It also makes it possible for both groups to realize that they are essentially working on the same fundamental problems but in completely incompatible ways. I see RDFa as being the compatibility bridge." Kurt Cagle.

"RDFa is not the product of any European research funding, but it might be highest impact" Guus Schreiber

WAI-ARIA: This was a technology proposed by a handful of people including me, which finally became a Web standard. Now in use by Google and Facebook amongst others.

ODF: I am on the technical committee for ODF (Office Document Format) which is the standard format for office-suite programs like OpenOffice. It is an extensible format, and apart from including SVG, and some things from XHTML, it also includes two other technologies I have worked on, XForms, and RDFa. ODF 1.2 was approved as a standard in October 2011.

Rich Web Application Backplane: XML (and XHTML Modularization) offer an extensible syntactic mechanism for building multi-namespace documents, but if you are going to build applications by combining different markup languages, it would be good if they use a common semantic underpinning for events, data-submission and so on. A number of representatives of different W3C markup languages got together to start defining such a thing, and named it the backplane.

CSS – Style Sheets for the Web: HTML was designed as a structure definition language. HTML specifies for instance that something is a top-level heading, but not how such a thing should look on the screen. Adding tags to define fonts and the like, such as Netscape did, is therefore the wrong approach, since that has nothing to do with the structure of a document. Style sheets let you define how an HTML or XML document, or group of them, should look. It has a number of advantages too, such as letting you define a house style for all your documents. If you change the house style, you only have to change the style sheet in one place and all your pages immediately take on the new look. Work I have been doing with the World Wide Web Consortium. I chaired the first W3C Style Sheets Workshop, and wrote the Quick Reference on CSS1, which according to the great links2go before it disappeared, is a Web "key resource". I helped design CSS1, CSS2, and parts of CSS3.

Most people of people surfing the Web now use a CSS empowered browser, so there's no excuse not to use CSS, or to use the <font> tag!

If you really want to see the power of CSS, then the place to go is Zen Garden, a breathtaking collection of dozens of beautiful CSS styles all applied to the same XHTML document.

UWISH: HCI and the Web. Forrester Research did some research in why people return to web sites. There were 4 main reasons: good content (thank goodness this was number one!): 75%, usability: 66%, download speed: 58%, frequency of updating: 54%. All other reasons were noise compared with these 4.

So usability is important. But the supply of usability experts isn't growing as fast as the web. Jakob Nielsen has calculated that shortly the existing supply of usability experts will have to spend one hour per web site in order to keep up. This project investigated usability over a number of different types of web site, in order to produce awareness, tools and techniques for usability of web sites.

Some web resources for CSS, XML and XHTML: I give a course Styling the New Web that teaches CSS and how to use it with HTML, XML, and XHTML, and how usability is consequently improved. These are supporting resources for that course.

Proceedings of WWW Conferences: Since no one else seems to have done it, here are the links to the online proceedings of all WWW conferences.

Programming Languages

ABC: A Simple but Powerful Interactive Programming Language and Environment. We did requirements and task analysis, iterative design, and user testing. You'd almost think programming languages were an interface between people and computers. Now famous because Python was strongly influenced by it.

Pascal Implementation: A book and sources. I'm not particularly a fan of Pascal, but on giving a course on compiler writing to final year degree students, I noticed that they didn't really come away with the ability to write a compiler. So the following years I gave the course based on a real compiler, and the best one available for such study was the Pascal P4 compiler. Since the compiler wasn't documented anywhere, a colleague and I wrote this book together. Included here is the complete text of the book and source of the compiler.

Enquire: Everything you wanted to know about your C Compiler and Machine, but didn't know who to ask. I wrote this originally for a piece of software (ABC, above) that had to run on any hardware, and require no particular knowledge from the person installing it. One day Richard Stallman passed by, and mentioned that they needed such a program for GCC. So I rewrote it and donated it. It produces the file float.h for the GCC compiler (check the float.h on your machine, and see if it mentions CWI). The version here is a slightly more up to date version.

Dhrystone: Measuring the speed of your machine/C compiler. Although this program has fallen out of fashion, SPECmarks having taken its place for a standard measure of speed, SPECmarks costs money, and dhrystone is free. With earlier versions of dhrystone, you had to edit the sources, and compile and run it by hand. This version does all the work for you. All you do is "sh dry.c". A VAX 780 was about 1500 dhrystones (and 1 SPEC); an original IBM PC XT was 400 dhrystones. In 1987, when Dhrystone was new, and people were prophesying that "one day we will all have a Cray on our desk", the very fastest machines (Crays, Amdahl, etc.) weren't faster than 30k dhrystones. Now a typical workstation is more than 4 million – so you now have 120 Crays on your desk! In fact I recently discovered that my mobile phone has the power of 700 VAX 780s, which means I have 35 Crays in my pocket....

Executable Semantic Definition of Programming Languages Using Two-level Grammars (Van Wijngaarden Grammars): Aad Van Wijngaarden was director of the CWI when it was still called MC (Mathematical Centre or Mathematisch Centrum). He invented two-level grammars that turned out to be extremely powerful: with one very simple mechanism you can define both the syntax and semantics of a programming language. This is a piece explaining how they work, and how you can even use them to prototype a language.

Interactive Documents

Views: Moving the User Interface from the Application to the System. We did a task analysis at the complete computing environment level, rather than at the application level. Everyone benefits.

Hot Links and Cool Sites: How Do You Make an Electronic Journal Readable?: In 1995 ACM/SIGCHI decided to put its main publication, the SIGCHI Bulletin, online. I analysed the needs of readers of online journals, and produced a design and then implemented it, discovering on the way a nice way to keep links up-to-date using make (see Management of a Large Website with Make).

Acela: An Interactive Book and Authoring System.


"[You are] the number 20 most published HCI author according to our stats" – a publisher writing to me.

Future Web: A special edition of ERCIM News, that I edited with Lynda Hardman.

Views and Feelings: Articles that I have published from time to time. If I have a blog, then this is it...

The SIGCHI Bulletin: Of which I was Editor-in-chief 1993-9.

interactions: "New Visions of Human-Computer Interaction". An ACM publication, of which I was Editor-in-chief 1998-2004.

HCIBib: Gary Perlman's HCI Bibliography lists me as a 'Hot Author'. Here is my listing there.

Other listings of my publications: DBLP,, ResearchGate,,

Coming and Recent Talks


Invited Talk: The Second Enlightenment at Freelance Factory, Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, January 9. "Really enjoyed the flaming privacy talk by @stevenpemberton". There is a short video of one funny moment of the talk.

Talk: The Second Enlightenment (short version) at ISOC Internetnieuwjaarsreceptie 2015, De Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, January 8. "Good talk".


Invited Talk: The Hidden Pearls of ODF at ODF Plugfest 10, UK Cabinet Office, London, UK, December 8-9. "Energetically delivered". "Jolly good stuff about RDFa (about which I am now excited)...XForms ditto".

Keynote: The Open, Usable City at Smart City Ground Up, The European University, St. Petersburg, Russia, November 21.

Invited Talk: HTTP must die! at Hackers and Founders, Amsterdam, November 6. "Very interesting stuff!". "Chuffed to be hearing [this]".

Keynote: Want do we want from the web? at Aarhus 14, Denmark, November 5. "A tour de force!". "Deep thinking at high speed from Steven Pemberton".

Talk: HTTP must die! at W3C20, Santa Clara, USA, October 29.

Invited Talk: Computer Generations (and the Coming of the €1 Computer) at Science Park Open Dag 2014, Amsterdam, October 4.

Talk: Live XML Data at XML London, London, UK, 7 June. The paper. "Fun romp through live interaction with XML". "Great talk!".

Invited talk: Small Data at PiLOD, Waag Society, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 19 May.

Demo: The Programming Language as Human Interface at CHI Sparks 2014, The Hague, Netherlands, 3 April; Paper (pdf).

Invited talk: Internet - the next 25 years at IT School, Yerevan, Armenia, 20 March.

Talk: The Computer as Extended Phenotype at Interaction 14, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 6-8 February 2014. There is a video of the talk. "Steven Pemberton is basically a web legend."

Invited talk: Declarative Web Applications at CWI Scientific Meeting, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 31 January 2014. There is a video of the talk, including the demo, and a separate video of just the demo. "Impressive!"

Invited talk: The True Cost of Content at Freelance Factory, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 10 January 2014. "Excellent lecture! I loved every minute of it.".

Talk: Communications, Content, Copyright at New Year's Event, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 9 January 2014.


Talk: XForms: The Big Picture at XForms Today voor CIO’s en CTO’s, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 22 November.

Demo: Maps with XForms at XML Amsterdam 2013, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 23 October. Won 3rd prize! "Great fun!". "Very very impressive!".

Keynote: Everything is XML, XML is Everywhere (we just couldn't know it) at XML Amsterdam 2013, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 23 October. "[Norm Walsh] is not the only XML rockstar."

Talk: Twenty-five Years of Internet at Opendag Science Park, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 5 October.

Keynote: Small Data at Open Data NEXT 2013 congres, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 27 September. "Pity Pemberton was not given more time". "Really interesting stuff". "Cool guy". "Great speaker!"

Talk: Invisible XML at Balisage 2013, Montréal, Canada, 7 August. Full paper; revised version. "This is clearly a submission that needs to be shredded, burned, and the ashes buried in multiple locations" – a reviewer. "I think the audience will eat him alive. But I want to be there to hear it." – another reviewer.

Invited Talk: Using XForms for interfaces to XML data at International Symposium on Native XML user interfaces, Montréal, Canada, 5 August.

Talk: Evolution, memory, sex, computers. at OHM 2013, 2 Aug, Geestmerambacht, The Netherlands.

Talk: What do we want from the web? at OHM 2013, 31 July, Geestmerambacht, The Netherlands. "Wow moment"

Tutorial: Web Applications with XForms 2.0 at WWW 2013, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 14 May.

Invited Talk: The Future and The Internet at Freelance Factory, Amsterdam, 11 January.

Talk: HTTP Must Die! at Nieuwjaarsreceptie, Amsterdam, 10 January.


Invited talk: Serialisation, Abstraction and XML Applications at Balisage 2012, Montréal, Canada, 7-10 August.

Talk: Treating JSON as a subset of XML at XML Prague 2012, Prague, CZ, 11-12 February.

Invited Talk: There is no yellow in this presentation (on Colour and Reality) at Freelance Factory, Amsterdam, 13 January.


Keynote: Declarative Applications at Kings of Code, Amsterdam, 19 September. "Cool"

Invited talk: The Computer as Extended Phenotype at UX Week, San Francisco, USA, 23 Aug. "It's like the TED talks of User Experience!". Watch the video.

Invited talk: XRX - Restful XForms at CWI, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 5 July.

Invited talk: Why Visualisation? at Data Visualisation Barcamp, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 7 May.

Talk: Multilingual Forms and Applications at Content on the Multilingual Web, Pisa, Italy, 4 April.

Keynote: Future Internet at Global Communications Network Conference, Amsterdam, 28 March.

Invited talk: The Computer as Extended Phenotype at Freelance Factory New Year's Event, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 14 January.

Invited talk: ODF and Authoring for the Web at Internet Society New Year's Event, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 13 January.


Invited talk: Functional Accessibility at Web Guidelines 2.0 and WCAG 2.0, Zeist, The Netherlands, 10 December.

Invited talk: XML and Applications at XML Holland 2010, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 11 November. "Wow".

Keynote: Open Source Is Not Enough at Transfer Summit, Oxford, United Kingdom, 24 June.

Talk: Social 3.0 at The Web and Beyond 2010, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1 June. "The most comprehensive (and funny) talk of #twab2010". The video is online.

Talk: XForms and Model-based User Interfaces at W3C Workshop on Future Standards for Model-Based User Interfaces, Rome, Italy, 13-14 May.

Invited talk: RDFa and Digital Cities at AR Dev Camp, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 17 April. "The most practical and useful info of the day"; "Steven Pemberton is a good speaker".

Invited talk: The Future from now... on the internet as part of the Solar Initiative Lecture Series, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 8 April.

Invited talk: The Ten Euro Computer: a Contemplation on Values at Freelance Factory, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 8 January.


Invited talk: Disintermediation through Aggregation: Making your Data your Own at Society of the Query, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 13-14 November. Report. Video. "Outstanding presentation"

Invited talk: Declarative Applications at FXPAL, Palo Alto, USA, 5 November.

Keynote: Dimensions of Openness at NLUUG Najaarsconferentie Het Open Web, Ede, The Netherlands, 29 October.

Invited talk: XForms and Device Independence at Hyves, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 11 September.

Invited talk: The Future of Code at Kings of Code, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 30 June. "Most intriguing talk of the day" "A really entertaining speaker".

Invited talk: The Standardisation Process at Pitney-Bowes Symposium, Shelton, CT, USA, 3 April.

Invited talk: The Power of the Declarative at Pitney-Bowes Symposium, Shelton, CT, USA, 2 April.

Invited talk: XForms and Declarative Applications at the Mozcamp, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 6 March.

Invited talk: Why you should have a website at the ISOC Nieuwjaarsreceptie, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 15 January.

Invited talk: Never is a long time (Disruptive technologies and the Web) at the Freelance Factory in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 9 January.


Keynote: Never is a long time (Disruptive technologies and the Web) at the jboye08 Web Conference in Aarhus, Denmark, 5 November.

Talk: Why you should have a Web Site at the W3C TPAC near Cannes in the south of France, 22 October. I had 150 seconds to get the essence of a 45 minute talk over... "Delightful".

Talk: Why you should have a Web Site at XTech 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, 8 May. The nice man from the BBC filmed it and put it online. "Provocative and contentious" said one reviewer, who later said "I should never have doubted Steven Pemberton" and "Steven Pemberton was right". Another said "The crowd completely disagreed. In hindsight he could not have been more correct." and "grows more relevant with each passing year". Text of the talk here.

Tutorial: XForms 1.1 at XTech 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, 6 May.

Invited talk: Why you should have a Web Site (and other Web 3.0 issues) at "Freelance Friday" in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 11 January.


Invited talk: A Declarative Approach to Services at the "Service Oriented Computing Platform Seminar" in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 15 November.

Invited talk: Open Standards Rich Internet Applications at W3C Day 2007 - Rich Internet Applications in Berlin, Germany, 26 September.

Talk: Loading the Silver Bullet at W3C Workshop on Declarative Models of Distributed Web Applications in Dublin, Ireland, 5 June.

Tutorial: XForms 1.1 at XTech 2007 in Paris, France, 15 May.

Keynote: Abstraction and extraction: in praise of at Apachecon 07 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2 May.

Invited talk: W3C technologies for information dissemination and interaction at the W3C European Symposium on eGovernment in Gijón, Asturias, Spain, 1 February.


Invited talk: Web 4.0: Start planning now! at Séminaire X/Aristote "Du Web 2.0 au Web 3.0 et au-delà", in Paris France, 7 December.

Talk: What is XHTML Modularization, and Why is it Useful? at the W3C AC meeting in Tokyo, Japan, 30 November.

Talk: XHTML and the W3C Architecture at the W3C AC meeting in Tokyo, Japan, 29 November.

Invited talk: The Future of Web Applications at the Origo Standards Strategy Meeting in Edinburgh, UK, 23 November.

Keynote: Form – Content – Essence: Designing Markup for Information Representation at EuroIA 2006 in Berlin, Germany, 1 October. Someone recorded it and put it online, and there is a video. "Intriguing" said a reviewer.

Keynote: Web n+1: The Future of Web Interfaces at The Next Web in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 7 July.

Keynote: Web 4.0: Now's the Time to Plan at The Web and Beyond, 10th SIGCHI.NL Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 8 June. Review: "funny, intelligent and easy to listen to!".

Tutorial: XForms at The 15th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2006) in Edinburgh, Scotland, 26 May.

Talk: The Power of Declarative Thinking at The 15th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2006) in Edinburgh, Scotland, 24 May.

Talk: The Power of Declarative Thinking at XTech 2006 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 17 May. "A hell of a speaker, convincing, and, well... I liked his pose while talking."

Tutorial: XHTML2 and XForms at XTech 2006 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 16 May.


Talk: "The Power of Declarative Thinking" at W3C Advisory Committee Meeting in Montréal, Canada, 1 December.

Invited talk: "Usability, Accessibility and Markup Languages" at Fundamentos Web 2005 (Web Foundations 2005) in Gijón, Asturias, Spain, 24 November. If you have an hour to spare, watch it online in high bandwidth and low bandwidth versions.

Tutorial: "Advanced CSS Design" at User Experience 2005 in Boston, USA, 28 October, and London, UK, 18 November.

Tutorial: "Styling the New Web" at User Experience 2005 in Boston, USA, 27 October, and London, UK, 17 November.

Tutorial: "XHTML and XForms" at W3C Benelux and ISOC Belgium in Antwerp, Belgium, 3 October, at W3C Germany and Austria in Munich, Germany, 21 October, and at Fundamentos Web 2005 (Web Foundations 2005) in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain, 25 November. Watch it online in high bandwidth and low bandwidth versions.

Keynote: "The Future of Web Interfaces" at Interact 2005 in Rome, Italy, 16 September.

Talk: "W3C XForms: improving the user experience with accessible, device-independent e-forms" at The First Euro Conference on Mobile Government in Brighton, UK, 10 July.

Keynote: "Hypothesis: Programmers are Humans too" at EuroPython 2005 in Göteborg, Sweden, 28 June

Invited talk: "Metadata in XHTML2" at the 40th Annual General Meeting of the International Press Telecommunications Council in London, UK, 7 June

Talk: "XHTML2: Accessible, Usable, Device Independent and Semantic" at XTech 2005 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (With Mark Birbeck), 26 May

Keynote: "Metadata in XHTML2" at the News Standards Summit 2005 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 24 May

Talk: "XHTML2 and XForms" at the WWW 2005 Developers' Day in Chiba, Japan. (With TV Raman), 14 May

Talk: "The Semantic Browser: Improving the User Experience" at the W3C Track, The 14th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2005) in Chiba, Japan. (With Mark Birbeck), 13 May

Tutorial: "XHTML2 and XForms" on behalf of the German and Austrian W3C Office in Sankt Augustin, Germany, 19 April

Invited Talk: "Ineluctable Modality of the Visible" at A Decade of Webdesign in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 21 January. Watch it online. Read the transcript.


Keynote: "XML to the Desktop: XForms" at XML Holland 2004 in Hilversum, The Netherlands, 9 December

Tutorial: "Styling the New Web Using CSS" at User Experience 2004, Las Vegas, USA, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 8 Oct, 6 Nov

Tutorial: "XForms: Improving the Web Forms Experience" at User Experience 2004, Las Vegas, USA, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 6 Oct, 4 November

Keynote: "XHTML, XForms, and the Mobile Web" at the Nokia Technical Conference, Helsinki, Finland, 14 September

Talk: "Web Forms – XForms 1.0" at the W3C Track, The 13th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2004) in New York, USA, 19 May

Invited talk: "XForms Unplugged" at the Seybold eForms Summit, in Amsterdam Netherlands, 20 April

Keynote: On the Design of Notations at XML Europe 2004 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 19 April

Tutorial: "XForms" at XML Europe 2004 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 18 April

Keynote: "XForms: What and Why" at the Industry XForms Briefing in London, UK, 6 April


SIGCHI.NL: "Mens-Machine Interactie in Nederland", of which I was a founding member, and which is now the second largest SIGCHI local group in the world (the larger one is the one for Silicon Valley...)

The Amsterdam New Media Association: of which I am a founding member.

CHI 97: The primary conference on Computer-Human Interaction, in Atlanta, USA, March 22-27, of which I was Conference Co-Chair.

The European WWW Workgroup W4G: Of which I was Chair.

Blatant Self Promotion


I have been awarded the ACM CHI Lifetime Service Award in 2009. (CHI= computer human interaction)

"CHI Lifetime Service Award
The CHI Lifetime Service Award goes to individuals who have contributed to the growth of SIGCHI in a variety of capacities. This award is for extended services to the community at large over a number of years. Criteria for this award are: service to SIGCHI and its activities in a variety of capacities; extended contributions over many years; influence on the community at large."

The Press and Internet

Aartsvaders (m/v) van het Nederlandse internet (Patriarchs (m/f) of the Dutch Internet): So, there you have it, I have been added to the official canon of Patriarchs of the Internet. This is one of a series of interviews with various Dutch and European internet pioneers. Nice photos. (PDF, in Dutch)

The risks of using the internet: An interview in AkzoNobel's A Magazine (from page 30, despite what the table of contents says) (PDF).

Walled Gardens, Semantic Data and the Open Web: An interview in KDE News after my keynote at the NLUUG conference on the Open Web.

De dimensies van het open web (The dimensions of the Open Web): An interview in Techworld about my then forthcoming keynote at the NLUUG conference about the Open Web (in Dutch).

Bing wil zich onderscheiden van Google en Yahoo (Bing wants to differentiate itself from Google and Yahoo): A Dutch article on Microsoft's Bing search engine, featuring commentary from an interview with me, where I claim that Bing isn't different enough from Google to cause people to change, and talk about search engines that I use apart from Google that do offer new functionality.

Web 2.0: What does it constitute?: It looks like it's based on an interview with me, but they just pulled the quotes from the slides of a talk I had given. If you think the quote about CSS doesn't seem to make sense, it was because I was actually talking about RDFa, not RDF.

Codebesparing: An article in the Dutch Emerce, based on an interview with me about my "Declarative Thinking" talk (above). Doesn't get everything right, but the author invents "Pemberton's Law" that proposes that every 12 years computers become powerful enough to allow the use of programming languages that take more work out of the programmer's hands, giving around an order of magnitude more productivity for the programmer. No online link I'm afraid (what is it with these publications without an online archive?)

Profile: Steven Pemberton: An interview with me in the Dutch informatie, around the 25th anniversary of the CHI conference, and the relationship between HCI and my work. No online link I'm afraid. (For the record, as you can guess, I didn't say my home page was the first internet site in Europe...)

"Öpna program måste bli enklare": An article in Computer Sweden about my keynote at Apachecon, in Swedish if you hadn't guessed.

XHTML2: An interview with me at

Top 5 Consumer Trends for 2007:'s round-up puts "Web n+1" at number 3, a term which they claim was "cleverly coined" by me...

De Toekomst van het Web (The Future of the Web): An interview in Computable. (In Dutch.)

W3C Gelooft in XForms (W3C Believes in XForms): An interview in Computable. Spot the X Files reference. (In Dutch.)

W3C Web Initiative based in Usability Research and Analysis: An interview in Usability News.

The Interview: Steven Pemberton

An Expert's View on XHTML 1.0: An interview with me on Cnet

Spreading the Word on XHTML: An interview with me in Computerworld

Internet pioneer wants more: So there you have it, official: I'm an internet pioneer! They interviewed me for more than an hour in order to produce these two sentences. Either I didn't say much of interest, or they ran out of space... Nice photo though.

On Convergence: An interview with me in The Feature, on XHTML Basic, XHTML Modularization, and the chances for convergence of markup languages.

Xml on vielä raakile (XML is not ripe): An interview in the Finnish "Tietoviikko", which I am reliably told is "Computerweek" in Finnish. (PDF, in Finnish).

HTML is geen presenteertaal (HTML is not a presentation language): An interview with me by netprofessional magazine (Nov. 2002), that despite its name, doesn't publish its articles on the Web...

Derfor skal vi bruge XHTML 2.0 (Why use XHTML 2): An article in the Danish PC World.

Metamorfose: html wordt xhtml (Metamorphosis: html becomes xhtml): An interview with me by the Dutch PC Active magazine (Mar 2003). Again, no Web link alas.

Radio and TV

The new Volunia search engine: An interview on the Dutch news program Het Oog op Morgen. Starts at around 34 minutes in, and lasts about 6 minutes. In Dutch.

Interview at the Kings of Code Conference: Video, in English.

BBC Backstage Interview at XTech 2008: The second in the series. Now I have to go next year. There was a technical blip during filming that meant to we had to stop, and restart. Here is part 2. Spot the continuity errors.

BBC Backstage Interview at XTech 2007: Ian Forrester of BBC Backstage did a video interview with Mike Smith of W3C and me about directions the Web is taking. A photo of it happening.

The Next Web: The Dutch Business News Radio (BNR) boldly decided to do a live broadcast from the speakers' dinner the evening before The Next Web conference. It includes an interview with me about my vision of the future of Web Interfaces starting at 8:51 into the broadcast. (mp3; in English!). A photo of it happening.

A personal interview: in a special end of year program, the Dutch Telescoop program interviewed several regular contributors to find out more about the person behind the voice. I talk about how webcams improve communication, and making computer systems more human-friendly (RealAudio; in Dutch)

XForms: an interview on the release of the XForms recommendation (RealAudio; in Dutch)

So big, so bad!: Chosen as "5th Columnist" for Telescoop, the Dutch Technology programme, (some months have five Wednesdays in them) i got to give a 4 minute talk on a topic of my choice, this time on why the bad design of current programming languages means that we get more viruses than we should. (RealAudio; in Dutch)

The plug-in patent: A Dutch radio interview about the possible effects on the Web of the patent. (RealAudio; in Dutch)

The Kiss of the Spiderbot: Another talk on a subject of my choice. This time the economic value of making websites accessible. Recorded by phone from San Diego, at midnight. (RealAudio; in Dutch)

Time for website builders to support diversity: Another 4 minutes on the subject of my choice. I chose to rant against websites that only work for a select few browsers. (RealAudio; in Dutch)

W3C and P3P: A Dutch radio interview with me on the phone from the Web conference in Hawai'i. (RealAudio; in Dutch)

XHTML, XForms and Accessibility: Dutch radio interview (RealAudio; in Dutch)

The Demise of the Book: An interview with me on Radio Austria International (A SMIL document using RealAudio, in English)

A German Newsclip about XHTML: featuring inaudible but visible interview with me (RealVideo, in German)


My Beautiful Movie Career: I can't of course let it pass unremarked that I have a page on the Internet Movie Data Base. Even more impressive: I have a Kevin Bacon index of only 3! (If you don't know what that is, do a search for "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon".) I was credited alongside Ellen ten Damme in The Tears of Maria Machita (her first film!), which won a Golden Calf, and she played in The Summer of My Deflowering with Mark Margolis, who was in Diner with Kevin Bacon (thanks to Lloyd Rutledge for pointing this out). (This also means that since I have an Erdős number of 3 (Erdős-Molloy-Kranakis-Pemberton), I have an Erdős-Bacon number of 6.)

I am also in Soof, but that won't be out until the end of 2013 (and doesn't improve my Kevin Bacon index alas).

Other Stuff

An Englishman's Problems with the Dutch: Ostensibly an analysis of Dutch spelling, I posted this once to the net with the message "Read this and weep". However, they only laughed or raged. You need to know Dutch and English to understand it.

Twenty five years, and then a bit, at the MC CWI: Mainly of interest to people at the CWI, on how times have changed.

A Contribution to the Computational Theory of Big Game Hunting: The Dijkstra Approach: In August 1938 H. Petard published in the American Mathematical Monthly A Contribution to the Mathematical Theory of Big Game Hunting. In July 1988 I published on a newsgroup an addition to this seminal work, which got reposted without attribution and subsequently has been copied around the web (still without attribution; the 'linear search' method is by me as well). The problem is that the people who have copied it missed some of the intended humour and edited several parts out (this also happened with the version that got published in a book). Here then is the version as it should have been.

The use of 'they' etc. as a singular pronoun: When it comes to language I am a descriptivist not a proscriptivist: I believe that a language is defined by how it is used, and not by what some self-selected group of experts says it should be. A case in point is the use of the word 'they' and its relatives as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun. Shakespeare used it, the Bible uses it, Chaucer used it, Thackeray, Swift, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bowen, Lawrence Durrell, Doris Lessing, C. S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde, in fact it has been used in English constantly since at least the year 1300. And yet there are still people who claim that it is 'wrong'. This is a news article I posted in 1986 that someone kept and posted on the Web.

Non-vegetative reproduction: An on-going project. With a followup.

Amsterdam: A Newcomer's Guide. Originally written for attendees at a conference (INTERCHI '93), it was designed using classic user-interface methods: task and requirement analysis, user testing, iterative design. According to Google it is the most relevant visitor's guide to Amsterdam. See also London.

Some useful spreadsheets for Psion hand-held computers: After trying a couple of different PDAs (including one where you input by writing on the screen) I ended up with a Psion Siena, which ended up as an essential resource; is was really noticeable that the software was mature, and typing on a keyboard, even if it's with your two thumbs, is faster than writing on the screen. When I bought it I thought that I would be using it principally for the agenda and the to do lists, and maybe for an occasional note; in fact I had 13 database files, 28 to do lists, 56 word processor files, and 58 spreadsheets. I would now never buy a PDA without a good spreadsheet program. I later moved to a Psion Revo (same software), and then a Nokia 9300i (also same software, though mysteriously and regrettably missing the database), and now the Nokia E90 (with new, less mature, less complete software; why?). Here are a half-dozen spreadsheets I have developed. One day when I have free time again, I will update these to Nokia 9300 format.

Student Volunteers' Handbook: I was SV Chair for CHI '95 in Denver. This is the handbook for the Student Volunteers.

"Let us go then you and I/while the night is laid out against the sky/like a
smear of mustard on an old pork pie"
Nice poem Tom. I have ideas for changes though, why not come over? – Ezra

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