A profile of Chesley Bonestell. It’s amazing to think how much of his work was produced before we had even left this planet.
Snook has been on a roll lately, sharing lots of great insights into front-end development. This is a particularly astute post about that perennial issue of naming things.
Absolutely brilliant stuff from Mandy (again). A long hard at today’s tech industry’s narrow approach to bots and artificial intelligence compared to some far more interesting and imaginative approaches in fiction:
- Ann Leckie’s superb Imperial Radch series,
- Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, and
- Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.
So in addition to frightening ramifications for privacy and information discovery, they also reinforce gendered stereotypes about women as servants. The neutral politeness that infects them all furthers that convention: women should be utilitarian, performing their duties on command without fuss or flourish. This is a vile, harmful, and dreadfully boring fantasy; not the least because there is so much extraordinary art around AI that both deconstructs and subverts these stereotypes. It takes a massive failure of imagination to commit yourself to building an artificial intelligence and then name it “Amy.”
Discover exotic places with local hosts in a galaxy far, far away.
A look at the tools that AirBnB have made to help them in their design and development process. I hope they’ll share them.
Painters and Hackers: nothing in common whatsoever, but this are classical painters depictions of software engineering.
Seems like ages since I’ve seen Saqib. He’s been working on something very nifty indeed:
…Seeing AI, a research project that helps people who are visually impaired or blind to better understand who and what is around them. The app is built using intelligence APIs from Microsoft Cognitive Services…
This article on airships has my new favourite sentence in the English language:
During the First World War, Germany and its allies ceased production of sausages so that there would be enough cow guts to make zeppelins from which to bomb England.
Of course it was Simon who pointed me to this. Of course.
Enduring CSS (not int the sense of “put up with” but in the sense of “long-lasting”) is a new book by Ben Frain all about writing and maintaining modular reusable CSS.
You can read the whole thing for free online or buy an eBook.
Something to remember the next time someone describes an experience as “seamless” and means it to be positive:
This is the Amazon move: absolute obfuscation of labor and logistics behind a friendly buy button. The experience for a Sprig customer is super convenient, almost magical; the experience for a chef or courier…? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We’re just here to press the button.
I feel bad, truly, for Amazon and Sprig and their many peers—SpoonRocket, Postmates, Munchery, and the rest. They build these complicated systems and then they have to hide them, because the way they treat humans is at best mildly depressing and at worst burn-it-down dystopian.
What would it be like if you didn’t have to hide the system?
Even more intriguing than their vast distribution across three continents is their time depth. Acheulean hand axes have been found at sites spanning 1.5 million years of human existence, dating from roughly 1.6 million years ago to about 100,000 years ago. That makes the Acheulean ax the most sustainable technology that members of our genus (Homo) ever developed. Consider, in contrast, the amount of technological change that has occurred in just the last 150 years (since the first telephone call), one ten-thousandth the amount of time the Acheulean hand ax was made and used. Or consider the amount of technological change in just the last 10 years (since the first iPhone was introduced), one one-hundred-fifty-thousandth the amount of time that Acheulean hand axes were made and used. In the memorable words of my former professor Arthur J. Jelinek, hand axes represent “mind-numbing technological stability.”
A terrific analysis of industrial design in film and games …featuring a scene-setting opening that delineates the difference between pleasure and happiness.
This geography lesson makes a nice companion piece to Johnny Cash has been everywhere, man.
Harry packs a lot of great tips and tricks into one short video about performance troubleshooting. It’s also a great lesson in unlocking some handy features in Chrome’s developer tools.
A look at detecting, pinpointing, measuring, and fixing rendering performance issues.
The full text of Jason’s great talk at this year’s CSS Summit. It’s a great read, clearing up many of the misunderstandings around progressive enhancement and showing some practical examples of progressive enhancement working at each level of the web’s technology stack
Many believe we should leave the term “progressive enhancement” behind and start anew, but why not educate developers, clients and stakeholders and change many of the misconceptions surrounding it? Changing the name won’t change anything unless we address the real fundamental problems we have when describing the underlying concepts.
A superb illustration of why playing the numbers game and dismissing even a small percentage of your potential audience could be disastrous.
Stuart writes up his thoughts on progressive enhancement following the great discussions at Edge Conf:
So I’m not going to be talking about progressive enhancement any more. I’m going to be talking about availability. About reach. About my web apps being for everyone even when the universe tries to stop it.
Interstellar travel time dilation and status updates: a clever narrative combo.
Unleash your inner Jackson Pollock.
Tim Maughan reports on the same container ship trip that Dan W. is sending his postcards from.
I like the idea of there being an Apollo-sized project all around us, if you just know where to look.
First, towering above and over the ship, are the loading cranes. Vast structures mounted on huge, four-legged frames, they resemble the naked scaffolding of unbuilt skyscrapers, and trigger nostalgic reminders of Saturn V rocket launch towers from the 1960s.
Once in port at night I saw one suddenly fire into life next to the ship in a stroboscopic explosion of lights, before it tracked slowly above my high vantage point, bathing me in the orange glow of a dozen small halogen suns.
We hired Charlotte, our first junior developer at Clearleft recently, and my job has taken on more of a teaching role. I’m really enjoying it, but I have no idea what I’m doing, and I worry that I’m doing all the wrong things.
This article looks like it has some good, sensible advice …although I should probably check to see if Charlotte agrees.
I really like the self-examination that Ian and his team at Lonely Planet are doing here. Instead of creating a framework for creating a living style guide and calling it done, they’re constantly looking at what could be done better, and revisiting earlier decisions.
I’m intrigued by the way they’ve decided to reorganise their files by component rather than by filetype.
Rob Larsen was published a book with O’Reilly called “The Uncertain Web: Web Development in a Changing Landscape”. I like it:
A refreshingly honest look at the chaotic, wonderful world of web development, with handy, practical advice for making future-friendly, backward-compatible websites.
There’s more than a whiff of Indie Web thinking in this sequel to the Cluetrain Manifesto from Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger.
The Net’s super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.
It’s quite lawn-off-getty …but I also happen to agree with pretty much all of it.
Although it’s kind of weird that it’s published on somebody else’s website.
Dan has started writing up what he did on his Summer hols …on a container ship travelling to China.
It is, of course, in the form of an email newsletter because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.
Good advice from Chris, particularly if you’re the one who has to live with the CSS you write.
As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, “You must do what you feel is right, of course.”
A lovely Yuletide present from Brian and co.—an exploration of the proverbs embodied in Bruegel’s painting.
This is a nifty little service: if your site has a webmention endpoint, people can comment on your articles by sending an email.
That means you can comment on any post on my site by sending an email to email@example.com (in the email, include the URL of the post you’re commenting on).
Airships in the atmosphere of Venus. More plausible than it might sound at first.
This is an awareness project I can get behind: a Clarke-like Project Spaceguard to protect the Earth from asteroid collisions. This campaign will focus awareness of this issue on one single day…
Now if only the front page of this website actually said when that day will be.
Update: And now it does.
Aaron raises a point that I’ve discussed before in regards to the indie web (and indeed, the web in general): we don’t buy domain names; we rent them.
It strikes me that all the good things about the web are decentralised (one-way linking, no central authority required to add a node), but all the sticking points are centralised: ICANN, DNS.
Aaron also points out that we are beholden to our hosting companies, although—having moved hosts a number of times myself—that’s an issue that DNS (and URLs in general) helps alleviate. And there’s now some interesting work going on in literally owning your own website: a web server in the home.
A deeply thoughtful piece (as always) by Wilson, on the mindset needed for a sustainable way of working.
When we start with the assumption that optimizing for rapid, unbounded growth is a goal, we immediately narrow the possibility space. There are only so many choices we can make that will get us there. The same choices that made annual monoculture and the shopping mall the most efficient engines for short-term growth and profit are the same qualities that made them unsustainable in the long term.
There are more ways to scale than growth. There are more ways to deepen our impact than just reaching more people. What if we put just as much effort into scaling the impact of our work over time? Can we build digital products around sustainable systems that survive long enough to outlive us, that are purpose-built to thrive without our constant cultivation?
But under the guise of innovation and progress, companies are stripping away worker protections, pushing down wages, and flouting government regulations. At its core, the sharing economy is a scheme to shift risk from companies to workers, discourage labor organizing, and ensure that capitalists can reap huge profits with low fixed costs.
There’s nothing innovative or new about this business model. Uber is just capitalism, in its most naked form.
This year’s Maker Faire in Brighton was excellent as always.
Slides and transcript from Anab’s terrific dConstruct talk.
Harry has written down his ideas and recommendations for writing CSS.
The challenges of maintaining a living breathing front-end style guide for an always-evolving product (the Lonely Planet website in this case).
Mark Otto talks through the state of Github’s CSS and the processes behind updating it. There’s a nice mix of pragmatism and best practices, together with a recognition that there’s always room for improvement.
Photos from the first Science Hack Day in China which just wrapped up.
On the fifth anniversary of Pinboard, Maciej reflects on working on long-term projects:
Avoiding burnout is difficult to write about, because the basic premise is obnoxious. Burnout is a rich man’s game. Rice farmers don’t get burned out and spend long afternoons thinking about whether to switch to sorghum.
The good news is, as you get older, you gain perspective. Perspective helps alleviate burnout.
The bad news is, you gain perspective by having incredibly shitty things happen to you and the people you love. Nature has made it so that perspective is only delivered in bulk quantities. A railcar of perspective arrives and dumps itself on your lawn when all you needed was a microgram.
The transcript of Anab Jain’s talk from the FutureEverything Festival.
Guardian beta · The container model and blended content – a new approach to how we present content on the Guardian
This is what Oliver was talking about Responsive Day Out 2 — a new approach to information architecture.
Cast off your sidebars! You have nothing to lose but your grids!
Some good ideas from Matt on the importance of striving to maintain digital works. I find it very encouraging to see other people writing about this, especially when it’s this thoughtful.
A great article by Susan on getting started with creating a styleguide for any project.
I’ve seen firsthand how style guides save development time, make communication regarding your front end smoother, and keep both code and design consistent throughout the site.
Yaili is documenting the process of retrofitting ubuntu.com to be responsive. I’ll be avidly reading each post in this series.
I did some consulting with the Wellcome Trust on this new magazine-like project, and it’s great to see it go live—excellent stories of science, all published under a Creative Commons licence.
A superb bit of sleuthing by James:
From London to the Mediterranean, to Malta and back again, over multiple countries and jurisdictions, through airspace and legal space. The contortions of G-WIRG’s flight path mirror the ethical labyrinth the British Government finds itself in when, against all better judgements, it insists on punishing individuals as an example to others, using every weasel justification in its well-funded legal war chest. Using a combination of dirty laws and private technologies to transform and transmit people from one jurisidiction, one legal condition and category, to another: this is the meaning of the verb “to render”.
The markup for the patterns that Mailchimp use on their products. I love getting a glimpse of how companies handle this kind of stuff internally.
Maciej’s talk from this year’s XOXO—excellent stuff!
Have you tried turning it off and on again?
Speakers from this year’s UX Week conference provide career advice. I think my advice is clearly the best:
To be successful in today’s industry, UX professionals should have really killer paisley shirts. Some people will tell you that it’s more important to have good hair and straight teeth, but in my experience, a really good paisley shirt will really take you places.
A report from the BBC on this year’s Brighton Digital Festival including interviews with Honor, Timo, and Seb.
Iain M.Banks and dConstruct, together at last.
This history of hacking.
Information doth wish to be free.
Beautiful amalgamations of film characters:
A custom software detects faces from every 24 frames of a movie, and creates an average face of all found faces. The composite image reflects the centric figure(s) and the visual mood of the movie.
Scenes from a future Sweden.
James re-imagines the Barbican as an airship drifting free of central London.
I’ve linked to this before, but with the death of Iain M Banks it’s worth re-reading this fascinating insight into The Culture, one of science fictions’s few realistic utopias.
The brief mention here of The Culture’s attitude to death is apt:
Philosophy, again; death is regarded as part of life, and nothing, including the universe, lasts forever. It is seen as bad manners to try and pretend that death is somehow not natural; instead death is seen as giving shape to life.
James gets profiled in Vanity Fair …which is, frankly, kind of weird.
It’s also so bizarre to read about his SXSW New Aesthetic panel as being such a pivotal moment: there weren’t that many of us in the room.
The existential angst of unfeeling feedback.
An acquisition, or an aqui-hire, is always a failure. Either the founders failed to achieve their goal, or – far likelier – they failed to dream big enough. The proper ambition for a tech entrepreneur should be to join the ranks of the great tech companies, or, at least, to create a profitable, independent company beloved by employees, customers, and shareholders.
The litany of open standards that Google has been abandoning: RSS, XMPP, WebDav…
A fascinating analysis of a super-cheap phone from another world.
Welcome to the Galapagos of Chinese “open” source. I call it “gongkai” (公开). Gongkai is the transliteration of “open” as applied to “open source”. I feel it deserves a term of its own, as the phenomenon has grown beyond the so-called “shanzhai” (山寨) and is becoming a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem of its own.
Just as the Galapagos Islands is a unique biological ecosystem evolved in the absence of continental species, gongkai is a unique innovation ecosystem evolved with little western influence, thanks to political, language, and cultural isolation.
This time Brighton’s superb Maker Faire will span two days: the two days right after dConstruct.
This is going to be one helluva weekend.
These are mostly just mean …but kinda funny.
Keep it under your hat, but Paul has soft-launch his Project Portillo. And very nice it is too.
A really great interview with Nick Bostrom about humanity’s long-term future and the odds of extinction.
Jeff Noon and Markov chains—a heavenly match by Dan.
Revolutionising the way you revolutionise email.
A cute and fun way to put together a colour palette.
Trent and I answered a few questions for the Responsive Design Weekly newsletter.
Here’s a treasure trove of web history: an archive of the www-talk list dating back to 1991. Watch as HTML gets hammered out by a small group of early implementors: Tim Berners-Lee, Dave Raggett, Marc Andreessen, Dan Connolly…
The best review of The Hobbit.
There is an elephant in the Microsoft store.
A great in-depth explanation by Aarron on why Mailchimp dropped their Facebook and Twitter log-in options. Partly it was the NASCAR problem, but the data (provided by user testing with Silverback) also brought up some interesting issues.
CSSquirrel shares my feelings on the email notification anti-pattern.
This looks handy: a video-sharing service designed specifically to work with Silverback
Jason has set up a mailing list for open device labs. If you are running one, or thinking of setting one up, you should sign up to share ideas and knowledge.
My case for the obsoletion of longdesc (Was: 48-Hour Consensus Call: InstateLongdesc CP Update) from James Craig on 2012-09-15 (firstname.lastname@example.org from September 2012)
James Craig is a mensch. This is how you give feedback to a working group.
Honor compares next week in Brighton to Austin in March.
Natalia is as excited as I am about the first week of September in Brighton: Reasons To Be Creative, dConstruct, Improving Reality, BrightonSF, and Maker Faire, now with added speakers.
The Ballardian beauty of a dying Baikonour.
This is so crazy, it just might work. Matt wants the internet to buy Wardenclyffe and turn it into a Tesla museum.
I’m going to be attending Seb’s CreativeJS and HTML5 course in Brighton on September 13th and 14th …and I strongly suspect that it’s going to be great.
Lance Arthur uses a tweet from Paul Ford as a starting point for a text adventure.
Thoughts on artificial intelligence, computation and complexity.
Strangers on a train.
Vernor Vinge’s original 1993 motherlode of the singularity.
I thoroughly agree with Lea’s approach. It’s all about the craft.
Aaron should definitely skyblog more often if this is the result.
A spot-on analysis by Khoi of the changing perception of the value in product design, as exemplified by Apple.
Single-direction margin declarations — CSS Wizardry—CSS, Web Standards, Typography, and Grids by Harry Roberts
Some smart thinking from Harry Roberts on standardising the direction of your margins in CSS i.e. all top-margin or all bottom-margin declarations.
Some sensible ideas about having a consistent CSS writing style.
I am a mermaid.