Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Responding

Last week I had responsive-themed tour of London.

On Tuesday I went up to Chelsea to spend the day workshopping with some people at Education First. It all went rather splendidly, I’m happy to report.

It was an interesting place. First of all, there’s the office building itself. Once owned by News International, it has a nice balance between open-plan and grouped areas. Then there’s the people. Just 20% of them are native English speakers. It was really nice to be in such a diverse group.

The workshop attendees represented a good mix of skills too: UX, front-end development, and visual design were at the forefront, but project management and content writing were also represented. That made the exercises we did together very rewarding.

I was particularly happy that the workshop wasn’t just attended by developers or designers, seeing as one of the messages I was hammering home all day was that responsive web design affects everyone at every stage of a project:

Y’see, it’s my experience that the biggest challenges of responsive design (which, let’s face it, now means web design) are not technology problems. Sure, we’ve got some wicked problems when dealing with non-flexible media like bitmap images, which fight against the flexible nature of the web, but thanks to the work of some very smart and talented people, even those kinds of issues are manageable.

No, the biggest challenges, in my experience, are to do with people. Specifically, the way that people work together.

On Thursday evening, I reiterated that point at The Digital Pond event in Islington …leading at least one person in the audience to declare that they were having an existential crisis (not my intention, honest).

I also had the pleasure of hearing Sally give her take on responsive design. She was terrific at Responsive Day Out 2 and she was, of course, terrific here again. If you get the chance to see her speak, take it.

There should be videos from Digital Pond available at some point, so you’ll be able to catch up with our talks then.

Monday, August 4th, 2014

dConstruct 2014 schedule

I’ve published the schedule for this year’s dConstruct. Curating an event like this doesn’t stop when the speakers have been finalised. Figuring out the flow of the day is another aspect that I really wanted to get right. It’s like making a mixtape.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got planned …but maybe I’ll add the “subject to change” caveat just in case I change my mind:

Registration
Warren Ellis
Jen Lowe
Break
Clare Reddington
Aaron Straup Cope
Lunch
Brian Suda
Mandy Brown
Leila Johnston
Break
Tom Scott
Cory Doctorow
After-party

Regardless of what order the talks end up in, I’m really excited about seeing every single one of them.

Warren’s talk is simply called “A Cunning Plan”:

Inventing the next twenty years, strategic foresight, fictional futurism and English rural magic: Warren Ellis attempts to convince you that they are all pretty much the same thing, and why it was very important that some people used to stalk around village hedgerows at night wearing iron goggles.

Jen’s is “Enigmas, not Explanations: a Speculative Nonfiction”:

A wander through indescribable projects, magical realisms, and the fantastical present. A speculation on resonances within the network and the good that can come from making questions without answers.

Clare will talk about “Memes for Cities”:

A giant water slide. A talking lamppost. A zombie chase game. These recent city interventions were enabled by networks of people, technology and infrastructure, making the world more playful and creating change. In this Playable City talk, Clare will take on the functional image of a future city, sharing how to design playful experiences that change our relationships with the places we live and work.

Aaron’s talk is intriguely titled “Still Life with Emotional Contagion”.

I love where Brian is going with “Humans Are Only a Self-driving Car’s Way of Making Another Self-driving Car”:

Over 10,000 years ago we lived in balance with the network. Since then we’ve tried to control, rule and bend it to our whims. In all that time, we’ve never asked ourselves if we’re building something that controls us?

Mandy will be talking about “Hypertext as an Agent of Change”:

Mandy Brown contemplates how hypertext has changed us, and what change is yet to come.

Leila’s talk will be the autobiographical “Running Away with the Circus”:

Lessons of launching your own magazine and event series, how to make it work, what not to do, and how to keep the right attitude and get interesting stuff done against the odds.

Tom will take us on a journey to 2030:

Privacy’s dead. What happens next?

And finally, Cory will declare “Information Doesn’t Want to be Free”:

There are three iron laws of information age creativity, freedom and business, woven deep into the fabric of the Internet’s design, the functioning of markets, and the global system of regulation and trade agreements.

You can’t attain any kind of sustained commercial, creative success without understanding these laws — but more importantly, the future of freedom itself depends on getting them right.

They all sound bloody brilliant!

There are still plenty of tickets left so if you haven’t got your ticket to dConstruct yet (what’s wrong with you?), you can grab one now.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Adactibots

I post a few links on this site every day—around 4 or 5, on average. If you subscribe to the RSS feed, then you’ll know about them (I also push them to Delicious but I don’t recommend relying on that).

If you don’t use RSS—you lawnoffgetting youngster, you—then you’d pretty much have to actually visit my website to see what I’m linking to. How quaint!

Here, let me throw you a bone in the shape of a Twitter bot. You can now follow @adactioLinks.

I made a little If This, Then That recipe which will ping the RSS feed and update the Twitter account whenever there’s a new link.

I’ve done same thing for my journal (or “blog”, short for “weblog”, if you will). You can either subscribe to the journal’s RSS feed or decide that that’s far too much hassle, and just follow @adactioJournal on Twitter instead.

The journal postings are far less frequent than the links. But I still figured I’d provide a separate, automated Twitter account because I do not want to be that guy saying “In case you missed it earlier…” from my human account …although technically, even my non-bot account is auto-generated: my status updates start life as notes on adactio.com—Twitter just gets a copy.

There’s also @adactioArticles for longer-form articles and talk transcripts but that’s very, very infrequent—just a few posts a year.

So these Twitter accounts correspond to different posts on adactio.com in decreasing order of frequency:

Indie Web Camp Brighton

If you’re coming to this year’s dConstruct here in Brighton on September 5th—and you really, really should—then consider sticking around for the weekend.

Not only will there be the fantastic annual Maker Faire on Saturday, September 6th, but there’s also an Indie Web Camp happening at 68 Middle Street on the Saturday and Sunday.

We had an Indie Web Camp right after last year’s dConstruct and it was really good fun …and very productive to boot. The format works really well: one day of discussions and brainstorming, and one day of hacking, designing, and building.

So if you find yourself agreeing with the design principles of the Indie Web, be sure to come along. Add yourself to the list of attendees.

If you’re coming from outside Brighton for the dConstruct/Indie Web weekend, take a look at the dConstruct page on AirBnB for some accommodation ideas at very reasonable rates.

Speaking of reasonable rates… just between you and me, I’ve created a discount code for any Indie Web Campers who are coming to dConstruct. Use the discount code “indieweb” to shave £25 off the ticket price (bringing it down to £125 + VAT). And trust me, you do not want to miss this year’s dConstruct.

It’s just a little over six weeks until the best weekend in Brighton. I hope I’ll see you here then.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Overcast and Huffduffer

Marco Arment has released his podcast app Overcast for iOS—you can read his introduction to the app.

It plays nicely with Huffduffer. If you want to listen to any Huffduffer feed in Overcast, it’s a straightforward process.

Step 1

Overcast Add podcast
Launch the app and tap on “add a podcast”. Then tap on “Add URL” in the top right.

Step 2

Add URL Huffduffer URL
Enter the Huffduffer URL e.g. huffduffer.com/adactio.

Step 3

All Podcast episode
That’s it! You’re all set.

It’s pretty straightforward to subscribe to Huffduffer URLs in other iOS apps too. Matt has written up the process of using Huffduffer and Instacast. And there’s also a write-up of using Huffduffer and Downcast.

Cory Doctorow at dConstruct 2014

This year’s dConstruct will be the tenth one. Ten! That’s a cause for celebration.

The very first dConstruct back in 2005 was a small affair. But we pulled off something off a coup by having the one and only Cory Doctorow deliver the closing talk. You can still listen to the talk—along with every dConstruct talk ever—at the dConstruct archive.

Cory Doctorow

It’s a great talk that still holds up a decade later. Cory’s passion for freedom and technology (and maintaining the intersection of both) is palpable.

Here we are in 2014 and the theme for dConstruct is “Living With The Network.” Who better to deliver a keynote address than Cory Doctorow?

That’s right—he’s back!

Cory Doctorow

I love the symmetry of having Cory at the first and the tenth dConstruct. Also: he’s absolutely bloody brilliant!

Get your ticket for dConstruct 2014 now. It’s going to be a magnificent day.

See you on September 5th!

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

The tide

Thank you to everyone who has donated—or is going to donate—to the Oregon Humane Society in Chloe’s memory.

Thank you to everyone who sent me words of comfort. I really, really appreciate it.

I’ve been surprised by where else I’ve found comfort:

Tomorrow is Monday, the start of the working week. Tomorrow I will go to work. Tomorrow I will, to all outward appearances, carry on as normal.

Except it won’t really be normal. It’s going to be very strange. The world feels very strange to me. A world without Chloe isn’t right. It isn’t normal. A world without Chloe feels wrong. Skewed. Off-kilter.

But I’m going to go into work. I’m going to do some hacking. I’m going to write about code. I’m going to post links related to web design and development. I’m going to get back to organising this year’s dConstruct. (Can you believe that the last time I was IMing with Chloe, I was bitching to her about lacklustre ticket sales? What a fucking joke.)

In short, I’m going to carry on. Even though the world feels wrong. I’m not sure if the world will ever feel right again.

I thought that grief was like a tsunami. It’s unstoppable. It washes over you completely. It flattens you and leaves you battered and bruised. But then it’s over, right?

It turns out that grief is more like the tide. The tsunami was just the first wave. There will be many more.

Over the course of a single day, many a wave will hit me unexpectedly and I’ll find myself weeping …again. Over time, those waves will abate. But grief is fractally tidal. There are longer waves—days, weeks, months, years.

Remy has endured four years of grief and counting:

Time won’t ever heal this hole in our lives. It shouldn’t either.

But he carries on, even though the world is wrong:

You just get stronger. You have to.

It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt anymore. It does. I’m just able to carry that pain and make it mine and part of me, because I’ve learnt how to.

Time doesn’t heal. It just looks that way from the outside in.

So tomorrow I’ll go back to work, and I’ll go back to writing and coding and talking and organising. Perhaps those activities might provide their own comfort.

I know that the tide will never stop, but I hope that it will at least weaken in strength over time.

A world without Chloe is wrong, but that’s the world I live in now. There won’t be a day goes by that I won’t be thinking of her.

Friday, July 11th, 2014

For Chloe

We all grieve in different ways. We all find solace and comfort in different places.

There can be solace in walking. There can be comfort in music. Tears. Rage. Sadness. Whatever it takes.

Personally, I have found comfort in reading what others have written about Chloe …but I know Chloe would be really embarrassed. She never liked getting attention.

Chloe must have known that people would want to commemorate her in some way. She didn’t want a big ceremony. She didn’t want any fuss. She left specific instructions (her suicide was not a spur-of-the moment decision).

If you would like to mourn the death—and celebrate the life—of Chloe Weil, she asked that you contribute to one or both of these institutions:

  1. The Oregon Humane Society. This is where Chloe found FACE, her constant companion.
  2. The Internet Archive. Chloe cared deeply about the web and digital preservation.

If you choose to make a donation; thank you. It’s what Chloe wanted.

I still can’t believe she’s gone.

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Chloe

I first started hanging out with Chloe at An Event Apart Boston in 2011. We bonded over a shared love of The Go-Betweens amongst other things.

Chloe and me

It was very easy to be in her company. She was inspiring. Literally.

We became conference buddies. Whether it was Build, Brooklyn Beta, Indie Web Camp or New Adventures, we’d inevitably end up sitting next to each other. It didn’t matter how long it had been since we had last seen each other, it always felt like no time had passed at all.

Jeremy and Chloe at lunch Chloe & Jeremy Chloe and Jeremy attendees Brooklyn Beta Jeremy & Chloeamused by Al's stories

Jessica and I spent a day with Chloe and her dad Julius as they showed us around the real Williamsburg when we were in Brooklyn a few years ago. “The Jew Tour” Chloe called it. It was clear that Julius and Chloe had a wonderful relationship—they weren’t just father and daughter; they were best friends.

Jessica, Julius and Chloe

Chloe and I hacked together at Science Hack Day San Francisco last year. It was so much fun, and I know that Chloe found it very empowering. She even gave a demo in public, which was quite an achievement for her; I remember how terrified she was at the thought of just having to introduce herself at Indie Web Camp in Portland a few years back.

IndieWebCamp 2011

I won’t see Chloe again. Chloe killed herself.

When I heard the news, I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.

Chloe and I would sometimes communicate online—email, IM, DMs on Twitter—but it was never quite the same as when we were together. I chatted with her just last week. I knew she was sad. I knew that she had many regrets. But I had no idea that she was contemplating suicide.

Now I wonder if there’s something I could have said. Or worse, what if I did say the wrong thing?

I think it’s only natural to look for these kind of causal relationships. “If only I had done X, I could have prevented Y.” But I suspect that the truth is not as simple as that. Still those questions haunt me.

But there’s also comfort. Seeing the overwhelming messages of grief and loss makes me realise how many people cared for Chloe. Even if you only met her briefly, you couldn’t help but be bowled over by her.

Smart, creative, funny, beautiful Chloe Weil.

I want to say how much I’ll miss her, but the truth is that I don’t think I’ve really grasped that she’s gone. I just can’t believe it.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

A new website for dConstruct 2014

dConstruct 2014 has a new website. Huzzah!

When I announced the original website two months ago, I was very, very excited about the line-up, but I was less excited about the design of the site itself. To be honest, it was a somewhat rushed affair. It did the job but it didn’t have much pizzazz. I had some design direction—colour, typography, texture—courtesty of Mikey, but I didn’t push it to do anything very interesting.

dConstruct original 320 dConstruct original 600 dConstruct original 768

So Mikey took some time to iterate and revise, and he came up with a gorgeous new design. I think this does a much better job of capturing the spirit of dConstruct.

As well as a revised colour palette and lusher textures, there was also opportunity to do something quite playful in the masthead. Making sites for our own projects always presents a nice opportunity to try out some whacky stuff that we might not get a chance to do on client work.

In this case, the plan was to play with the theme of this year’s dConstruct—Living With The Network—and use it as part of the visual design, literally networking up parts of the interface.

It was a nice chance for me to play around with canvas. But I didn’t dive into code straight away. I had a think about how I could add this an enhancement to the responsive layout.

My plan was to generate a canvas element under the existing elements in the header using z-index to keep them separated while maintaining the appearance of having everything connected up.

Sketching before coding

It worked out pretty well. But I wanted to push it further. How about making it an interactive element that responds to the user?

I know, I know. It’s very silly and frankly a bit wanky, but y’know, it felt like it would be nice and playful.

I had no idea how to do it though. At an internal code review here at Clearleft, I demoed what I had so far and asked for advice. The general consensus was that I should probably be using SVG rather than canvas for making interactive graphical elements. They’re probably right, but I distinctly remember learning about hit detection and mouse events in canvas during Seb’s excellent Creative JS workshop.

So I stuck with canvas and fiddled around with numbers until I got to something that felt lke it reacted nicely to hover events (or touch/clicks if hover isn’t available …or even if it is). requestAnimationFrame was a godsend when it came to getting smooth animations.

Have a play with it. It’s hard to miss. It’s not exactly a subtle easter egg.

The content of the site remains much the same. While I was disatisfied with the original visual design of the site, I’m still pretty chuffed with the copy.

One small change I made was to give the code of conduct its own page (and expand on it a bit). Previously it was included with terms and conditions but there was a good chance that it could’ve been overlooked there.

Anyway, I hope you like the new site. I think Mikey did a terrific job with the design and it was a lot of fun to put together …especially the silly wanky bit. The only slight disadvantage is that the page weight comes in slightly larger than the previous design. But I’ll keep optimising to see if I can shave off some bytes here and there.

Device testing dConstruct Device testing dConstruct

Oh, and you might notice one significant change on the home page. In addition to the speakers that are currently listed, there’s an addendum that reads “…and more”. That’s because the line-up for this year’s dConstruct, awesome as it is, is not yet complete. It’s going to get even better.

If you don’t have your ticket to this year’s dConstruct yet, what are you waiting for?

See you on September 5th.