Tom is running a Node School at 68 Middle Street on the evening of March 27th. I plan to attend and finally wrap my head around all this Node stuff.
If you picked up the Guardian this weekend, you’ll have seen some brilliant work by Kyle on the cover (and inside) the magazine section.
This tool for building ScrAPIs is an interesting development—the current trend for not providing a simple API (or even a simple RSS feed) is being interpreted as damage and routed around.
The annual round-up.
A blog covering the conservative dinosaur readiness movement.
Some excellent research from Chris, canvassing opinions on whether there’s a difference between web “apps” and web “sites”. His conclusion:
Almost none of the points above ring true for me. All I see are exceptions and gray area.
If nothing else, the fact that none of the proposed distinctions agree with one another show how pointless the phrase “web app” is—if people have completely differing ideas on what a phrase means, it is completely useless in furthering discussion …the very definition of a buzzword.
This leads me to think perhaps the “web app” moniker (certainly the newer of the two) is simply just a fashionable term. We like the sound of it, so we use it, regardless if it truly means anything.
But all of this is, I think, missing the more important point: why? Why would you want to separate the cornucopia of the web into two simplistic buckets? What purpose does it serve? That’s the question that really needs be answered.
If we could pin down a super accurate definition that we agreed on, even then it might not be particularly useful. And since we can’t, I argue it’s even less useful.
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”.
This is the talk I gave at the border:none event in Nuremberg last month. I really enjoyed it. This was a chance to gather together some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while about how we approach front-end development today …and tomorrow.
Warning: it does get quite ranty towards the end.
Also: it is only now that the video is released that I see I spent the entire talk looking like a dork with a loop of wire sticking out of the back of my head.
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.
This is absolutely delightful, nicely weird, and thoroughly entertaining.
From the lovely people behind Editorially comes STET:
A Writers’ Journal on Culture & Technology
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.
From CERN to singularity - the digital pioneer and cofounder of the WWW on 20 years of webscapades.
Michael Chabon muses on The Future, prompted by the Clock of the Long Now.
Iain M.Banks and dConstruct, together at last.
A timeline of technology.
Honor’s piece for The Guardian on this year’s dConstruct.
A smart and thoughtful write-up of dConstruct from Lee, pulling together three emergent themes:
- how we interact with machines and each other,
- how we co-evolve with machines, and
- making the invisible visible.
A great, thought-provoking day that proved, once again, that there are many brilliant, generous minds working in or around the future of technology and human experience today.
This is a terrific write up of this year’s dConstruct, tying together all the emergent themes.
Omni returns with a Bruce Sterling short story that marries alternative history and satire with a dash of digital preservation.
Go ahead, just wait a year, or two years, or maybe five years. Then try to find this, later. There will be no sign of this website, because it’s just made of pixels. No remains of the machine that you read it with, either.
A little sojourn around the Victorian internet.
Some of the more idiotic, harmful, stupid and nasty things said by the thought leaders of Silicon Valley.
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.
I’m not sure how I managed to miss this site up until now, but it’s right up my alley: equal parts urban planning, ethnography, and food science.
We shouldn’t be protecting ourselves. We should be protecting each other.
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.
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.
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.
You can download the PDF of Anton’s graphic novel Gather for free.
On the one hand, this is yet another Snowfall clone. On the other hand, the fact that it’s responsive is impressive.
Stuart nails it: the real problem with delegating identity is not what some new app will do with your identity details, it’s what the identity provider—Twitter, Google, Facebook—will do with the knowledge that you’re now using some new app.
This is why I want to use my own website as my identity provider.
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.
A good ol’ fashioned rant.
This sounds like it’s a going to be a good: a new TV series by Steven Johnson on the history of technology and innovation. Sounds very Burkian, which is a very good thing.
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.
The Victorian Internet indeed.
A gorgeous interactive visualisation of our local galactic neighbourhood.
A wonderful article looking at the influence that Vannevar Bush’s seminal article As We May Think had on the young Douglas Engelbart.
Not The Onion.
Defending Earth against asteroids, just like the Spaceguard organisation described in Rendezvous With Rama.
Detect. Deflect. Defend.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vasilis considers the inherent flexibility and unknowability of web design.
I tried to come up with other fields that need to design things for a flexible canvas, in the hope of finding inspiration there. The only media types I could come up with was the art of balloon printing and the art of tattooing.
A well-written piece on the nature of work and value on the web, particularly in the start-up economy.
Zooniverse have done it again. Now you can help in the hunt for sources of gravitational lensing.
It’s informative. It’s fun. It has genuine scientific value.
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.
Scott points out a really big problem with the current state of the “internet of things”: everyone is inventing their own proprietary walled-garden infrastructure instead of getting together to collaborate on standards.
The single biggest fallacy I want to blow up is this utopian idea that there is this SINGLE thing called ‘The Cloud’. Each company today reinvents their own cloud. The Cloud as a concept is dead and has been for years: we are living within a stormy sky of cranky clouds, all trying to pretend the others don’t exist.
A history lesson from Vint Cerf. I can’t help but picture him as The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded.
When Tim Berners-Lee invented and released the World Wide Web (WWW) design in late 1991, he found an open and receptive internet in operation onto which the WWW could be placed. The WWW design, like the design of the internet, was very open and encouraged a growing cadre of self-taught webmasters to develop content and applications.
A design fiction video depicting technology that helps and hinders in equal measure.
A beautiful piece by James on the history of light as a material for communication …and its political overtones in today’s world.
What is light when it is information rather than illumination? What is it when it is not perceived by the human eye? Deep beneath the streets and oceans, what is illuminated by the machines, and how are we changed by this illumination?
A lovely description by Paul Ford of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
That simple handshake is the firmament upon which we have built trillion-dollar cathedrals and bazaars, the base upon which we construct other protocols and networks.
A lovely piece of writing from Richard on the nature of the web.
Who knew? The reissue of the classic thirteen-part Star Wars radio series was the first appearance of a proto-Proxima Nova.
Sorta sci-fi from Adam.
Consider this a shooting script for one of those concept videos so beloved of the big technology vendors.
A collection of those appalling doublespeek announcements that sites and services give when they get acquired. You know the ones: they begin with “We’re excited to announce…” and end with people’s data being flushed down the toilet.
Charles Arthur analyses the data from Google’s woeful history of shutting down its services.
So if you want to know when Google Keep, opened for business on 21 March 2013, will probably shut - again, assuming Google decides it’s just not working - then, the mean suggests the answer is: 18 March 2017. That’s about long enough for you to cram lots of information that you might rely on into it; and also long enough for Google to discover that, well, people aren’t using it to the extent that it hoped.
A truly fascinating and well-written article on how changes are afoot in the worlds of psychology, economics, and just about any other field that has performed tests on American participants and extrapolated the results into universal traits.
Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.
In case you missed it earlier…
Jeff Noon and Markov chains—a heavenly match by Dan.
Some bullet points from the Responsive Day Out to keep you going until the audio and video is ready.
I remember a talk and discussion at SxSW a few years back about trying to improve the efficiency of trade networks by making them more web-like: there are ships full of empty cargo containers, simply because companies insist on using the container with their logo on it. I really, really like the idea of applying the principles of packet-switching to physical networks.
But here’s the hard part:
The technology is not a problem. We could do it all in 10 years. It’s the business models and the mental models in people’s minds.
Now this looks like my kind of event:
A new micro-conference on science, technology, communication and fiction, organised by the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
Reviews based entirely on the feel of the knob.
What Dan said.
A great new site from Jenn and Yesenia: celebrating and supporting female speakers in technology.
A classic of writing on the fundamental differences between programming languages.
Lauren talks about The Shining Girls and the tools she uses to write with.
Now this is what I call tech reporting.
The women leave the stage, wet computer in hand, and a new man takes the stage. He plays a schmaltzy video where Portuguese children teach adults to use Windows 8 accompanied by a hyperloud xylophone soundtrack that slices through my hangover like cheesewire though lukewarm gouda.
I like this idea of slow journalism: taking seven years to tell a story.
I really like Mark’s idea of standardised “sparkicons” …for a while there, reading this, I was worried he was going to propose something like Snap Preview. shudder
I know have a visualisation of my public data in the form of 3D-printed snowflake, thanks to Medaler.
An excerpt from Mark’s forthcoming book, which promises to be magnificent.
A nice Readlist based on that excellent article by Craig on digital publishing:
This reader is made up of Craigmod’s essay “Subcompact Publishing” and essays linked to in the footnotes.
The fascinating story of how a dream team of geeks helped Obama to victory. Personally, I think it’s all about the facial hair. I mean, how could they lose with Trammell’s beard to guide them?
Man, I just love Scott Jenson.
Our brains have collectively gone startup-crazy, seeing the world through stock option colored glasses, assuming that if there is no money, there is clearly no value. This is madness. I’m so desperately worried that the internet will turn out to be a happy accident.
Turning his focus on “the internet of things” he makes the very good point that what we need isn’t one company or one proprietary service; we need an ecosystem of open standards that will enable companies to build services.
We all have to appreciate how we need a deep, open solution to solve this problem. If we don’t understand, demand even, that hardware devices need to be just as discoverable an open as web servers are today, we’ll never see the internet of things come to pass.
Some great thoughts from Mike Davies about the strengths of the web, prompted by some of the more extreme comments made by James Pearce at Full Frontal last week.
I should point out that James was being deliberately provocative in order to foment thought and discussion and, judging from this blog post, he succeeded.
The Web’s independence from the hardware and software platform people use is a feature. It’s better than cross-platform frameworks which are constantly criticised for not producing exact native-feeling apps on the multitude of platforms they run on. The Web is above that pettiness.
I know how Brad feels. I find it hard to muster any enthusiasm for any specific new device these days. But that’s okay. It’s more important to step back and see the trends and directions instead of getting caught up in the specifics of this particular phone or that particular tablet.
My remedy for device fatigue has been to take a step back and let my eyes go unfocused. Much like a Magic Eye, I can then see the hidden pictures behind the stippled noise that is the device landscape. This remedy helps me cope, gets me to stop caring about things that don’t really matter, and gets me to care about the broader trends the Magic Eye unveils.
Josh takes an-depth look at the navigation design implications of touch/keyboard hybrid devices, coming to a similar conclusion as Luke and Jason:
Unfortunately, the top-of-screen navigation and menus of traditional desktop layouts are outright hostile to hybrid ergonomics. Tried-and-true desktop conventions have to change to make room for fingers and thumbs.
Want to test for a hybrid device? Tough luck. Instead, argues Josh, the best you can do is assume that any device visiting your site could be touch-enabled.
This is a great free service for generating small subsetted icon fonts. Launch the app and have a play around — you can choose from the icons provided or you can import your own SVG shapes.
Nice touch: you can get the resulting font (mapped to your choice of unicode characters) base-64 encoded for your stylesheet.
There is an elephant in the Microsoft store.
Interaction dissolving into the environment.
Peter Saville talks about the enduring appeal of his cover for Unknown Pleasures.
I like to think of all the variations and mashups as not just tributes to Joy Division, but tributes to Jocelyn Bell Burnell too.
A lovely piece from Joanne on storytelling, identity and the internet.
This wouldn’t be appropriate for every site but I still think it could be a damned fine use of otherwise-neglected 404 pages: including information about missing children.
Well, this is quite something. Matt will be interviewing the creators of Bloom in London this Friday. You might have heard of that Eno chap.
A really enjoyable interview with Neal Stephenson.
Eva-Lotta’s sketchnotes from this year’s dConstruct.
The cloud is not only a lie, it’s a lie that everyone pretends to understand.
When asked what “the cloud” is, a majority responded it’s either an actual cloud (specifically a “fluffy white thing”), the sky or something related to the weather (29 percent).
The Ballardian beauty of a dying Baikonour.
Tim shows how to make a scalable three-line navicon in CSS.
A nifty service for creating a custom font with just the icons you need.