The ability to follow links down and around and through an idea, landing hours later on some random Wikipedia page about fungi you cannot recall how you discovered, is one of the great modes of the web. It is, I’ll go so far to propose, one of the great modes of human thinking.
I think that “Do we want to support users without JS?” is the wrong question. Progressive enhancement has benefits that reach far beyond that user group.
- Resilience—”If users can perform critical tasks when your JS breaks, it’s a minor inconvenience instead of a show stopper.”
- Business, Business, Business.
We’re about to start trying out OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) at Clearleft. It’s a terrible, jargony label, and a lot of the discussion around them is steeped in valleywank, but I think they could be a useful way of helping shared understanding within a company.
I’ll be having a read through the accompanying guide.
The prognosis for publishers is grim. Repent! Find a way out of the adtech racket before it collapses around you. Ditch your tracking, show dumb ads that you sell directly (not through a thicket of intermediaries), and beg your readers for mercy. Respect their privacy, bandwidth, and intelligence, flatter their vanity, and maybe they’ll subscribe to something.
In reality, ad blockers are one of the few tools that we as users have if we want to push back against the perverse design logic that has cannibalized the soul of the Web.
If enough of us used ad blockers, it could help force a systemic shift away from the attention economy altogether—and the ultimate benefit to our lives would not just be “better ads.” It would be better products: better informational environments that are fundamentally designed to be on our side, to respect our increasingly scarce attention, and to help us navigate under the stars of our own goals and values. Isn’t that what technology is for?
Given all this, the question should not be whether ad blocking is ethical, but whether it is a moral obligation.
I refuse to believe that this cramped, stifling, stalkerish vision of the commercial Internet is the best we can do.
I enjoyed chatting with Marcus and Paul on the Boagworld podcast …mostly because I managed to avoid the topic at hand by discussing sci-fi for half an hour before we settled to the boring stuff about work, business, and all that guff.
Yes! Yes! YES!
Marco makes the same comparison I did between the dark days of pop-up windows and the current abysmal state of bloated ads and tracking on today’s web.
I have one more thing to add to this list…
But publishers, advertisers, and browser vendors are all partly responsible for the situation we’re all in.
…developers. Somebody put those harm-causing
script elements on those pages. Like I said: “What will you be apologising for in decades to come?”
In a few years, after the dust has settled, we’re all going to look back at today’s web’s excesses and abuses as an almost unbelievable embarrassment.
When another company achieves success, there’s a lot of pressure to investigate what they did right and apply that to our own organizations.
But we still have a chance. As long as we run brave organizations made up of even braver souls who are willing to embrace expression, trust their intuition and experiences, and stand up when everyone else is sitting down, we will survive.
Jeffrey weighs on the post I wrote about The Verge. I still feel like there’s a false dichotomy being presented here though: either performance or advertising. But advertising can be performant too. There’s a competitive advantage to be had there.
It seems grossly unfair to refer to this as an article. It’s a short book. It’s a very good short book; lucid and entertaining in equal measure. A very enjoyable read.
It is, unfortunately, surrounded by some distracting “enhancements” but perhaps you can use your cleaner-upper software of choice to route around their damage: Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, whatever works for you.
‘That pig was a good influence’ with Jeremy Keith and Jeffrey Zeldman on Unfinished Business on Huffduffer
I had a lot of fun recording this episode with Andrew and Jeffrey. It is occasionally surreal.
Stick around for the sizzling hot discussion of advertising at the end in which we compare and contrast Mad Men and Triumph Of The Will.
Susan points out some uncomfortable truths. It’s all very well for us to try and create a culture of performance amongst designers and developers, but it will all be nought if we could change the minds of people higher up the chain …who currently just don’t care.
I think she’s spot on when she points to this possible solution:
I think what I’m asking is, who will be the game changer in this conversation? Who will be the large, bulky site that will work towards performance and make it happen and then we will all point to them and say, see they did it. It seems to me that that is what it takes. Much like we pointed to ESPN and being able to use CSS for layout or The Boston Globe and being able to do responsive at a large scale, who will we point to for the performance overhaul?
For once, Betteridge’s Law of Headlines doesn’t hold true, because the data in this article shows that the answer is a resounding “yes!”
Steve Albini’s barnstorming keynote address at Melbourne’s Face the Music conference.
Here’s a fun little interview I did recently, mostly about work stuff. It’s available for your huffduffing pleasure.
One thing that really bothers me is the way I repeatedly said “guys” to refer to my colleagues at Clearleft. I must stop doing that.
I don’t tend to be a “magic pill” kind of believer, but I can honestly say that embracing progressive enhancement can radically change your business for the better. And I’m glad to see Google agrees with me.
Stuart has written some wise words about making privacy the differentiator that can take on Facebook and Google.
He also talks about Aral’s ind.ie project; all the things they’re doing right, and all things they could do better:
The ind.ie project is to open source as Brewdog are to CAMRA.
Unfinished Business special: Rumpus On The Planet Of The Apes with Brendan Dawes and Jeremy Keith on Huffduffer
This was a lot of fun for us. It might even be fun to listen to.
If you haven’t seen Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, then listen ye not—this is a spoilerific podcast episode.
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.
When I’ve been banging on at conferences about digital preservation, personal publishing and the indie web, I’ve been at pains to point out that there are huge opportunities here for startups looking to build valet services to help people publish on their own domain.
Ben and Erin at Known are doing just that, with some backing from KQED, PRX and the Knight Foundation instead of the usual short-sighted Silicon Valley venture capitalism.
One of the jobs of a startup is to look at where the world is going, extrapolating from current trends and domain knowledge, and meet a future need with a product at exactly the right time. We think the time is right for an independent web that is owned by content creators and readers alike.
The transcript of Maciej’s talk from Beyond Tellerrand on how the web has become more and more centralised:
The degree of centralization is remarkable. Consider that Google now makes hardware, operating systems, and a browser.
It’s not just possible, but fairly common for someone to visit a Google website from a Google device, using Google DNS servers and a Google browser on the way.
This is a level of of end-to-end control that would have caused us to riot in the streets if Microsoft had attempted it in 1999. But times have changed.
The transcript of Mark’s talk from last week’s Handheld conference in Cardiff.
There are mountains.
Rachel talks about some of the old-fashioned technologies and business practices driving Perch.
This reminds of a talk by Marco Arment at Webstock a few years back when he described the advantages of not using cutting-edge technologies: most of the time, “boring” well-established technologies are simply more stable.
Maciej’s talk from this year’s XOXO—excellent stuff!
The apparent difficulty of living in my head, freelancing, working for large organisations and then descending in to paranoia.
I have a lot of admiration for Reverend Dan Catt.
I don’t want to be in a position where I say “Hey, I’m working at Google, no no, don’t worry, the good bit of Google”, because goodness knows I did enough of that at Yahoo.
For some reason, this article on domestic drones is illustrated with a picture of me.
I appear to have become the poster child for terrible business models. Fair enough.
I agree completely with Andy on this one:
Want more quality and diversity in your conferences? Pay your speakers.
By pure coincidence, Andy was at a SXSW event in Las Vegas this week.
Happy birthday, JS Bin!
Remy has some important news. No, it’s not the competition to recreate animated gifs with canvas; scroll down past that…
Remy will be working on JS Bin full time. To make this possible, JS Bin will have Pro accounts. But don’t worry; all the functionality available today will continue to be available in the future.
But Pro accounts will get a bunch of nifty extra features (and if you’re in education, you get Pro for free).
Sign me up!
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.
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.
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.
In a piece for Medium commissioned by Matter, Jon Norris describes a little-known aspect of the UK’s information technology history:
Gender equality is still a major issue in the technology industry, but 50 years ago one British company was blazing trails.
I’m going to miss having Harry around at Clearleft. Sounds like he might miss Clearleft too:
What I’ve loved about Clearleft is that it’s just so different to any other agency I’ve worked at. There’s no company process – everyone’s encouraged to experiment and try different techniques to suit the client’s needs. There’s hardly any internal meetings. I’ve never once had a conversation about my billing efficiency. The focus is on quality, and profitability is almost seen as a by-product. You’re encouraged to share your learnings externally rather than keep them in-house. Everyone’s trusted and given a lot of independence.
Yes, yes, yes!
In Toxic Title Douchebag World, titles are designed to document the value of an individual sans proof. They are designed to create an unnecessary social hierarchy based on ego.
Biting satire that hits its mark superbly. Ouch! Be careful — this is sharp …and funny.
The latest Clearleft product will be like having an intensive set of discovery, collaboration, and exploration workshops in a box. Perfect for startups and other small businesses short on time or budget.
It starts in Spring but you can register your interest now.
Some insane numbers on the return on investment that a bit of responsive optimisation can bring.
VC funding that actually makes sense, from the always-sensible Maciej Cegłowski.
Oh, my! This excellent, excellent post from Anil Dash is a great summation of what has changed on the web, and how many of today’s big-name services are no longer imbued with the spirit of the web.
Either you remember how things used to be and you’ll nod your head vigorously in recognition and agreement …or you’re too young to remember this, and you won’t quite believe that is how things worked.
This isn’t some standard polemic about “those stupid walled-garden networks are bad!” I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They’re amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.
In mobile-centric Africa, Responsive Web Design just makes business sense!Moses Kemibaro | Moses Kemibaro
Therefore, from a business perspective, and my excitement in doing this blog post is that RWD is especially important for mobile-centric markets such as Africa.
The truth about startups. Got a startup? Take the quiz. It’s harsh but fair.
I think Derek is on to something here. Maybe online communities and profit are simply incompatible?
The bigger you go, the harder the road. Meanwhile, small, focused, and yes, exclusionary community sites flourish.
You know what? I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
A satirical parody of post-singularity existence by Tom Scott inspired by Jim Munroe’s Everyone in Silico and Rudy Rucker’s Postsingular.
Time is money …especially when it comes to performance on the web.
A heartbreaking article about just how badly Yahoo fucked up with Flickr. It’s particularly sad coming out right as the Flickr devs roll out an improved uploader and a more liquid photo page …but it seems like band-aid development at this point.
This post by Jason Fried is three years old but it’s more relevant than ever.
What a loss. Is that the best the next generation can do? Become part of the old generation? How about kicking the shit out of the old guys? What ever happened to that?
Just copy and paste.
Dear soon-to-be-former user…
Glenn gives a rational thoughtful explanation of why he’s as pissed off as I am about Google’s destruction of the Social Graph API.
Yes! Charles Stross speaks the unspeakable: that advertising is fundamentally “wrong”.
He’s right, y’know.
An in-depth look at where Google is going wrong.
Matt has transcribed the notes from his excellent Webstock talk. I highly recommend giving this a read.
Now this is some prioritisation I can admire:
I’m going to build valuable, reliable, sustainable web services that will last forever.
I really enjoyed Matt’s talk from Webstock. I know some people thought it might be a bit of a downer but I actually found it very inspiring.
A superb scathing piece by Andy, who has a personal perspective on Yahoo’s massively dick move in deploying the patent nuclear option against Facebook.
A great article from David with some concrete proposals for media companies.
By the way, how nice is David’s new responsive design? Very nice. Very nice indeed.
Stef does some data-sleuthing and uncovers some shocking behaviour on the part of Google in Kenya.
Everyone has their bullshit. You can simply decide whose you’re willing to tolerate.
Another satisfied convert to the world of huffduffing, Joel has written some very kind words about the site.
Interestingly, the fact that Huffduffer is free worries him. In this case his fears are unwarranted but it’s a legitimate worry with free services: what if it gets bought out and shut down?
It’s funny and heartbreaking because it’s true.
There’s a good point buried in this tirade.
Here’s a more positive spin: with this much horseshit, there’s gotta be a horse in there somewhere.
Maciej delivers a rant worthy of Paul Robert Lloyd.
Clay Shirky takes a long hard look at the present (and future) of newspapers and—more important—of journalism. A good read.
A great presentation on contracts and payment by Mike Monteiro …and his lawyer.
Don Norman bemoans the seemingly-inevitable direction that the internet is taking; from an open system of exchange to a closed, controlled broadcast channel. I share his fear.
Jeffrey points out another point of failure in our online storage: the willingness of site owners to sell their product (and your data) to a big company for a quick payout.
Douglas Rushkoff on the repeating circle of life that all big online companies live through.
An excellent resource for deciphering corporate business-speak gibberish (I'm going to need this when I'm eavesdropping on Andy Budd making phone calls).
The companion website to Kevin Hoffman's IA Summit talk, this is a hugely valuable resource for an often-overlooked part of the design process: the kick-off meeting.
I believe it was the philosopher Conflicticus who said, "Only stupid bastards help EMI."
An interesting take on the business models of social networking sites.
A great article about the rising prevalence of "rough consensus and running code" in the real world.
Cory Doctorow: We must ensure ISPs don't stop the next Google getting out of the garage | Technology | guardian.co.uk
A superb call to arms on the importance of "fat pipe, always on, get out of my way."
A sobering article on the cost of being a truly global website. This gives some context to Last.fm's recent pricing model decision.
An excellent take on font-linking from someone who designs typefaces for a living.
There is now a dedicated Monty Python channel on YouTube, all legit like. Hurrah!
Excellent news: Valleywag is being shut down. If enough people shout "fuck off" together, miracles like this can happen. The web is a better place without Owen Thomas and his bilious spume.
Brian says what we're all thinking (or rather, what we would all be thinking if we actually wasted valuable brain cells thinking about TechC*nt).
The muisc "industry" is clearly populated by asshats who actively enjoy displaying their incompetence and malice.
Worst. Business Idea. Ever. A CD of office sounds so that homeworkers can impress clients on the phone with the sounds of industriousness. "Instant credibility for home businesses!"
A brilliant summation by David Byrne of the possible business models available to musicians today.
Ev Williams has some tips for evaluating business ideas, broken down by tractability, obviousness, deepness, wideness, discoverability, monetizability (ugh!) and the all-important "personally compelling" factor.
Excellent news from the New York Times: no more charging for content. Finally, I can link to NYT articles from blog posts (and del.icio.us).
Hail to the King... so says Business Week.
I suspect David Sleight was hovering over Catherine Holahan's shoulder while she wrote this.
I'm living on the cutting edge, apparently. This article is more like a press release meets an annual report, completely missing out the real reasons why Brighton is a cool place to live and work.
Matt points out that we can get sidetracked by taking what matters most to us and assuming that it matters most for success.
Make business cards with your Flickr pics. Got a pro account? You can order a test batch of ten for free. The process of creating the cards is fun and easy. I can't wait to see the results.
"Not only did the head of Waterstone's underestimate the internet. Even Rupert Murdoch was caught out"