Ant—the latest super-smart addition to the Clearleft team—describes this year’s Hackfarm, which happened a couple of weeks ago.
It was Ant’s first week. Or, as he described it when we were wrapping up all the hacking, “Best first week at a job ever!”
Here’s a heartwarming tale. It starts out as a description of processing.js project for Code Club (which is already a great story) and then morphs into a description of how anyone can contribute to make a codebase better …resulting in a lovely pull request on Github.
John shares his concerns about the increasing complexity involved in developing for the web.
Some excellent practical advice on progressive enhancement.
Some excellent research for web developers: find out which unicode characters have the widest support—release useful for choosing icons.
A nice bit of markup archeology, tracing the early development of HTML from its unspecced roots to the first drafts.
I recognise some of the extinct elements from the line-mode browser hack days at CERN e.g. HP1, HP2, ISINDEX, etc.
A fascinating snapshot from 1995, arguing for the growing power of HTML instead of the siren song of proprietary formats.
I’m very happy that this is still available to read online 18 years later.
The authors of the Extensible Web Manifesto explain the thinking behind their …uh… thinking.
A beautiful exploration of the Star Axis sculpture—an artwork of the Long Now.
The ancients had pyramids to tame the sky’s mystery. We have Star Axis, a masterpiece forty years in the making.
Alex starts with a bit of a rant about the phrase “semantic HTML”, which should really just be “well-written HTML, but there then follows some excellent thoughts on the emergence of meaning and the process of standardising on vocabularies.
I despair sometimes.
Here’s a ridiculous Heath-Robinsonesque convoluted way of getting the mighty all-powerful Googlebot to read the web thangs you’ve built using the new shiny client-side frameworks like Angular, Ember, Backbone…
Here’s another idea: output your HTML in HTML.
Good luck getting that script updated for the thousands of sites and applications, you say to yourself, where it’s laying dormant just waiting to send devices the wrong content based on a UA substring.
This is a great idea from A Book Apart—the more different books you buy at the same time, the more of a discount you get.
Got to get ‘em all!
Hot on the heels of the Mailchimp styleguide, here’s the collection of patterns used by Mapbox. I’m not keen on some of their markup choices, but again, it’s great to see organisations publicly documenting this stuff.
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.
The definition of the cite element (and the blockquote element) has been changed for the better in HTML5 …at least in the W3C version anyway.
I hate carousels, but if you’re going to have one, this progressively enhanced approach looks pretty good.
A superb piece of hypertext from The Guardian.
This is absolutely delightful, nicely weird, and thoroughly entertaining.
I’m going to miss having Paul around at Clearleft …and it sounds like he’s going to miss us too.
In many respects, Clearleft can be regarded as a family. Andy and Rich are the parents while perhaps Jeremy is the fun uncle sending postcards from his adventures around the world.
By the way, we’re hiring (two roles, because that’s what it’ll take to fill Paul’s unicorn shoes).
A love letter to HTML, prompted by the line-mode browser hack event at CERN.
Henri gives an overview of the DRM-style encryption proposed for HTML. It’s a very balanced unbiased description, but if you have the slightest concern about security, sentences like this should give you the heebie-jeebies:
This is the worst idea for a W3C community group ever. Come to think of it, it’s the worst idea for an idea ever.
This gives me a warm fuzzy glow. The Mefites are using Radio Free Earth to find out which stars are receiving the number one hits from their birthdays.
Realistically, what happens when you detonate a large metallic satellite (about the the size of the second Death Star) in orbit around an inhabited world (like, say, the forest moon of Endor).
It isn’t pretty.
From CERN to singularity - the digital pioneer and cofounder of the WWW on 20 years of webscapades.
Once you get past the cheesy intro music, there are some gems from Robert Cailliau in here.
Jason provides some instruction in using the correct quotation marks online.
I took a little time out of the hacking here at CERN to answer a few questions about the line-mode browser project.
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.
Some lovely pictures from the Clearleft office-warming party last weekend.
Inspired by dConstruct, Ellen is going to start exploring the world of smart objects.
Some examples to illustrate the UK Border Agency’s latest campaign.
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.
Data visualisations that make no sense.
Go, Dan, go!
Scott gives us an excellent State Of The Web address, looking at how the web can be central to the coming age of ubiquitous computing. He rightly skips through the imitation of native apps and gets down to the potential of just-in-time interactions.
Scenes from a future Sweden.
I would love to have a ticker-tape machine for my tweets.
Don’t ever worry about not sharing again.
The internet never forgets? Bollocks!
We were told — warned, even — that what we put on the internet would be forever; that we should think very carefully about what we commit to the digital page. And a lot of us did. We put thought into it, we put heart into, we wrote our truths. We let our real lives bleed onto the page, onto the internet, onto the blog. We were told, “Once you put this here, it will remain forever.” And we acted accordingly.
This is a beautiful love-letter to the archival web, and a horrifying description of its betrayal:
When they’re erased by a company abruptly and without warning, it’s something of a new-age arson.
Executing console.log(“hello world”) or window.alert(2+5-20) brings immediate feedback, makes you feel as though you’re getting somewhere and that you are interacting directly with the computer as a programmer. For those of you old enough to own a Spectrum, C64 or Vic20 – BASIC (itself heavily derided) had the same benefit.
The semantics of the cite element are up for discussion again. Bruce, like myself, still thinks that we should be allowed to mark up names with the cite element (as per HTML 4), and also that cite elements should be allowed inside blockquotes to indicate the source of the quote.
Let’s pave that cowpath.
Oh, dear. An otherwise perfectly well-reasoned article makes this claim:
But the internet is peculiarly adapted to deftly pricking pomposity. This is partly because nothing dies online, meaning your past indiscretions are never yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
Bollocks. Show me the data to back up this claim.
The insidious truism that “the internet never forgets” is extremely harmful. The true problem is the opposite: the internet forgets all the time.
Geocities, Pownce, Posterous, Vox, and thousands more sites are very much yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
A very, very clever hack to provide fallback images to browsers that don’t support SVG. Smart.
How to think about drones—an in-depth and fairly balanced article by Mark Bowden on drone strikes and the politics behind them.
In the long run, careful adherence to the law matters more than eliminating another bad actor. Greater prudence and transparency are not just morally and legally essential, they are in our long-term interest, because the strikes themselves feed the anti-drone narrative, and inspire the kind of random, small-scale terror attacks that are bin Laden’s despicable legacy.
Molly Crabapple interviews Warren Ellis. Fun and interesting …much like Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis.
The story behind the classic arcade game Missile Command and the toll it took on its creator:
Theurer’s constant strides for perfection left him working his body to the point that Missile Command’s premise started to manifest itself in his subconscious, sneaking into his dreams and turning them to nightmares.
There was something about the sound of those explosions, the feeling of the trackball in your hand, and the realisation that no matter how well you played, you could only delay the inevitable.
A beauty of a post by Jason giving you even more reasons to donate to Archive.org.
Seriously. Do it now. It would mean a lot to me.
Related: I’m going to be in San Francisco next week and by hook or by crook, I plan to visit the Internet Archive’s HQ.
A state of the connected union address, with soundbites from smart people in the world of ubicomp, internet of things, everyware, or whatever it is we’re calling it now.
Trent proposes a way to avoid implementing dark patterns: take a leaf from the progressive enhancement playbook and assume the worst conditions for your user’s context.
WebKit nightlies now have support for
srcset. I’m pleased to see that it’s currently constrained to just handling the case of high-density displays; it doesn’t duplicate the media query functionality of
I’ve always maintained that the best solution to responsive images will be some combination of
picture: they each have their strengths and weaknesses. The “art direction” use case is better handled by
picture, but the “retina” use case is better handled by
A fascinating project to document markings from 1939—designed to be visible from the air—placed all around the Irish coast.
This is a really well-written and worrying piece that pokes at that oft-cited truism about kids today being “digital natives”:
The causes of this lack of digital literacy can be traced back to school:
We’ve mirrored corporate networks, preventing kids and teachers access to system settings, the command line and requiring admin rights to do almost anything. They’re sitting at a general purpose computer without the ability to do any general purpose computing.
Also, this article has the best “TL;DR” description ever.
Beautiful animated GIFs showing the lungs of our planet.
Jason pulls together some of the themes that emerged at An Event Apart DC this week.
Fodder for a Markov chain.
James re-imagines the Barbican as an airship drifting free of central London.
A terrific lighting talk by Scott on the need to think bigger. The solution to long-term issues is rarely “start a company”—we need to think more about creating a shared infrastructure …just like the internet.
Luke’s notes from my talk at An Event Apart DC.
Jason Garber took some nicely-hyperlinked notes during my presentation at An Event Apart DC.
A terrific long-zoom look at web technologies, pointing out that the snobbishness towards declarative languages is a classic example of missing out on the disruptive power of truly innovative ideas …much like the initial dismissive attitude towards the web itself.
A great call-to-arms from Tim, simply asking that we create websites that take advantage of the amazing universality of the web:
The web has the power to go anywhere—any network, any device, any browser. Why not take advantage of that?
Inevitably there is pushback in the comments from developers still in the “denial” stage of coming to terms with what the web is.
I like this theory!
Sit back, relax, and enjoy this classic documentary on graphic design, courtesy of its producer Edward Tufte.
This is why the Internet Archive matters. It is now the public record of Obama’s broken promise to protect whistleblowers.
I feel very bad for the smart, passionate, talented people who worked their asses off on change.gov, only to see their ideals betrayed.
A really terrific piece by George Dyson taking a suitably long-zoom look at information warfare and the Entscheidungsproblem, tracing the lineage of PRISM from the Corona project of the Cold War.
What we have now is the crude equivalent of snatching snippets of film from the sky, in 1960, compared to the panopticon that was to come. The United States has established a coordinated system that links suspect individuals (only foreigners, of course, but that definition becomes fuzzy at times) to dangerous ideas, and, if the links and suspicions are strong enough, our drone fleet, deployed ever more widely, is authorized to execute a strike. This is only a primitive first step toward something else. Why kill possibly dangerous individuals (and the inevitable innocent bystanders) when it will soon become technically irresistible to exterminate the dangerous ideas themselves?
The proposed solution? That we abandon secrecy and conduct our information warfare in the open.
A gorgeous interactive visualisation of our local galactic neighbourhood.
The transcript of a terrific talk by Harry on how dark patterns are often driven by a slavish devotion to conversion rates.
A call for developers to let standards bodies know what we want:
It is important that we as developers focus on the right things again. If you encounter a bug, you should not only fix it for your site; you should reach out to browser vendors and web standards people to fix this in a long-term solution. It might cost you a few minutes, but brings a lot of improvement to the whole developer community.
This a great proposal: well-researched and explained, it tackles the tricky subject of balancing security and access to native APIs.
Far too many ideas around installable websites focus on imitating native behaviour in a cargo-cult kind of way, whereas this acknowledges addressability (with URLs) as a killer feature of the web …a beautiful baby that we definitely don’t want to throw out with the bathwater.
A very handy starting point for creating a front-end style guide.
Dan’s blog is rapidly turning into one of my favourite destinations on the web.
I hope he comes to an Indie Web Camp.
A good article on Medium on Medium.
A beautiful eulogy for Doug Engelbart by Bret Viktor, not celebrating the laundry list of his inventions, but celebrating his intent in making the world a better place.
Engelbart had an intent, a goal, a mission. He stated it clearly and in depth. He intended to augment human intellect. He intended to boost collective intelligence and enable knowledge workers to think in powerful new ways, to collectively solve urgent global problems.
I kind of love the interaction design of this site.
A superb piece by Marco Arment prompted by the closing of Google Reader. He nails the power of RSS:
RSS represents the antithesis of this new world: it’s completely open, decentralized, and owned by nobody, just like the web itself. It allows anyone, large or small, to build something new and disrupt anyone else they’d like because nobody has to fly six salespeople out first to work out a partnership with anyone else’s salespeople.
And he’s absolutely on the money when he describes what changed:
RSS, semantic markup, microformats, and open APIs all enable interoperability, but the big players don’t want that — they want to lock you in, shut out competitors, and make a service so proprietary that even if you could get your data out, it would be either useless (no alternatives to import into) or cripplingly lonely (empty social networks).
I share his anger.
Well, fuck them, and fuck that.
There’s something fundamental and robust about being able to request a URL and get back at least an HTML representation of the resource: human-readable, accessible, fault tolerant.
I sense the hand of Tom Morris in this. Wikipedia has created a “nearby” page for browsers with geolocation, much like the Wikinear mashup that Simon created with Fire Eagle five years ago.
The closing hot topics panel I moderated at this year’s Mobilism conference in Amsterdam, featuring Remy, Wilto, Jake, and Dan.
A great history lesson from Dave.
Ah, I remember when the CSS Zen Garden was all fields. Now get off my CSS lawn.
Defending Earth against asteroids, just like the Spaceguard organisation described in Rendezvous With Rama.
Detect. Deflect. Defend.
The battle between web fonts and performance. Ian Feather outlines some possible solutions, but of course, as always, the answer is “it depends”.
This is what Medium is for.
If you want to read some of Dan Catt’s lesser thoughts, he has his own blog.
Pretty motherfuton funny.
The line-up for this year’s Improving Reality conference looks great (as always).
It’s the day before dConstruct so why not come on down to Brighton a day early and double your fun?
Dr Harry Halpin writing in the Guardian about the crucial crossroads that we have reached with the very real possibility of DRM mechanisms becoming encoded within HTML:
Most of us are simply happy to launch our browsers and surf the web without a second thought as to how the standards like HTML are created. These standards are in the hands of a fairly small set of standards bodies that have in general acted as responsible stewards for the last few years. The issue of DRM in HTML may be the turning point where all sorts of organisations and users are going to stop taking the open web for granted.
Google’s track record is not looking good. There seems to be a modus operandi of bait-and-switch: start with open technologies (XMPP, CalDav, RSS) and then once they’ve amassed a big enough user base, ditch the standards.
A terrific case study in progressive enhancement: starting with a good ol’ form that works for everybody and then adding on features like Ajax, SVG, the History API …the sky’s the limit.
A vision of neurotic network-enabled objects, as prototyped by dConstruct speaker Simone Rebaudengo.
This echoes what Scott Jenson has been saying: the current trend with connected devices is far too reliant on individual proprietary silos instead of communicating with open standards.
So instead of talking directly to one another, devices on today’s nascent Internet of Things now communicate primarily with centralized servers controlled by a related developer or vendor. That works, after a fashion, but it also leads to a bunch of balkanized subnetworks in which devices can communicate perfectly well with each other - but can’t actually talk to devices on any other balkanized subnetwork.
Ben is rightly worried by the blasé attitude in the tech world to the PRISM revelations. Perhaps that attitude stems from a culture of “log everything by default”?
I think there’s a deep rooted trait within this industry that sedates the outrage. That is the normality, complicity, and dependency on ‘surveillance’ in the software we make.
My presentation from the Industry conference in Newcastle a little while back, when I stepped in for John Allsopp to deliver the closing talk.
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.
An intriguing initiative to tighten up the loop between standards development and implementation.
A terrific quiz about browser performance from Jake. I had the pleasure of watching him present this in a bar in Amsterdam—he was like a circus carny hoodwinking the assembled geeks.
I guarantee you won’t get all of this right, and that’s a good thing: you’ll learn something. If you do get them all right, either you are Jake or you are very, very sad.
A great post by Stuart on the prospect of DRM-by-any-other-name in HTML.
The argument has been made that if the web doesn’t embrace this stuff, people won’t stop watching videos: they’ll just go somewhere other than the web to get them, and that is a correct argument. But what is the point in bringing people to the web to watch their videos, if in order to do so the web becomes platform-specific and unopen and balkanised?