The Web’s Grain by Frank Chimero
Superb. Absolutely superb.
A magnificent tour-de-force by Frank on the web’s edgelessness.
Read. Absorb. Read again. This is the essence of responsive web design, distilled.
Superb. Absolutely superb.
A magnificent tour-de-force by Frank on the web’s edgelessness.
Read. Absorb. Read again. This is the essence of responsive web design, distilled.
Objects that talk are useful, but objects that tattle aren’t.
There’s a whole bunch of great events happening in Brighton this March: Codebar, Curiosity Hub, She Codes Brighton, 300 Seconds, She Says Brighton, and Ladies that UX. Lots of these will be downstairs from Clearleft in Middle Street—very handy!
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.
A profile of the wonderful Internet Archive.
No one believes any longer, if anyone ever did, that “if it’s on the Web it must be true,” but a lot of people do believe that if it’s on the Web it will stay on the Web. Chances are, though, that it actually won’t.
Brewster Kahle is my hero.
Kahle is a digital utopian attempting to stave off a digital dystopia. He views the Web as a giant library, and doesn’t think it ought to belong to a corporation, or that anyone should have to go through a portal owned by a corporation in order to read it. “We are building a library that is us,” he says, “and it is ours.”
Designing primarily in a laptop web browser and testing with a mouse rather than fingers may come to look very out of date soon.
An important clarification from Stephen:
You don’t actually design in the browser
When I speak of designing in the browser, I mean creating browser-based design mockups/comps (I use the terms interchangeably), as opposed to static comps (like the PSDs we’re all used to). So it’s not the design. It’s the visualization of the design—the one you present to stakeholders.
Personally, I think it’s as crazy to start in the browser as it is to start with Photoshop—both have worldviews and constraints that will affect your thinking. Start with paper.
Like an Enid Blyton adventure for the 21st century, James goes out into the country and explores the networks of microwave transmitters enabling high-frequency trading.
If you think that London’s skyscraper boom is impressive – the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie, the Cheesegrater, the Gherkin – go to Slough. It is not height that matters, but bandwidth.
How to get Yosemite to display five-digit years. It’s a bit of a hack, but we’ve got another 7,985 years to figure out a better solution.
A look at long-term cultural and linguistic preservation through the lens of Egyptology.
Seb will be running this workshop again at the start of February—details here. I can’t recommend it highly enough—it’s so, so good!
Tim Carmody on James Cameron’s meisterwerk (and technology in sci-fi films in general).
James takes a tour through the English countryside, while venturing into areas of the electromagnetic spectrum that may as well be labelled “Private Property. No Trespassing. Keep Out.”
Typeset In The Future is back with another cracking analysis. This time—following on from 2001 and Moon—we’ve got Alien.
In her final recorded message before hypersleep, Ripley notes that she is the sole survivor of the Nostromo. What she forgets to mention is that she has not once in the past two hours encountered any Eurostile Bold Extended.
We’re going back to the moon. With a robot. So we can take sublunarean samples.
You can help fund it on Kickstarter.
Language death and digital preservation.
I mentioned this a little while back, but it’s worth remembering just how many people are using Opera Mini …and how many more are about to join them.
Bring it on!
An epic braindump by Dan, covering connected devices, product design, co-creation, DIY, and knopening stuff up. That’s right: knopening.
Knopen, a fairly obvious portmanteau of know and open, can be a verb (to knopen something) or an adjective (e.g. a knopen tool).
James walks the site of London’s old wall, documenting the instruments of London’s new wall.
He wrote about his experience in “All Cameras Are Police Cameras.” It is a history lesson, a present lesson, and a future lesson, all in one.
Focus on what you want to learn; not what you think you should learn.
There is a lot of pressure out there: to learn new things, to spend all your time coding, to be the super developer. I now believe that to be impossible and unhealthy. It means you aren’t living a balanced life and it also means that you’re living under constant stress and pressure.
My name is Jeremy and I am a boring front-end developer.
Companies go out of business, get bought and change policies, so what if you had one place to originate all of your content then publish it out to those great social services? And hey, why not pull comments from those services back to your original post?
That’s the idea behind Indie Web Camp: have your own website be the canonical source of what your publish. But right now, getting all of the moving parts up and running requires a fair dollop of tech-savviness. That’s where Known comes in:
It’s similar to the WordPress model: you can create a blog on their servers, or you can download the software and host it on your own.
This post is a good run-down of what’s working well with Known, and what needs more work.
How the printing press led to the microscope, and chlorination transformed women’s fashion—Steven Johnson channels James Burke.
When I wrote about Reddit and Hacker News, criticising their lack of moderation, civility, and basic decency, many people (invariably men) responded in defence of Reddit. Nobody defended Hacker News. Nobody.
Oh, and all of you people (men) defending Reddit? Here’s your party line …I find it abhorrent.
I really like Phil’s braindump of conference ideas. Frankly, many of these ideas work just as well as watchwords for building on the web:
- Different models for start-ups. Co-operatives. Employee ownership. Normal, slowly-growing, profit-making businesses.
- Technology for people who don’t live in the first world. (There’s a lot of them and they have a lot of technology, but most of us know nothing about it.)
- Websites that make the whole Web better.
- New services that work fine on technology that’s been around for years.
- Services designed for people who have little money.
- Services designed for people who aren’t fully able.
- Models for keeping services running over the long-term. (What happens when your company closes, or to your personal projects when you die?)
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.
The text of Mandy’s astounding dConstruct talk.
A documentary on our digital dark age. Remember this the next time someone trots out the tired old lie that “the internet never forgets.”
If we lose the past, we will live in an Orwellian world of the perpetual present, where anybody that controls what’s currently being put out there will be able to say what is true and what is not. This is a dreadful world. We don’t want to live in this world. —Brewster Kahle
It’s a terrible indictment of where our priorities were for the last 20 years that we depend essentially on children and maniacs to save our history of this sort. —Jason Scott
Slides and transcript from Anab’s terrific dConstruct talk.
How computers work:
One day, a man name Alan Turing found a magic lamp, and rubbed it. Out popped a genie, and Turing wished for infinite wishes. Then we killed him for being gay, but we still have the wishes.
Then we networked computers together:
The network is ultimately not doing a favor for those in power, even if they think they’ve mastered it for now. It increases their power a bit, it increases the power of individuals immeasurably. We just have to learn to live in the age of networks.
We are all nodes in many networks. This is a beautiful description of how one of those networks operates.
A bit of web history reacted by Paravel: the Microsoft homepage from 1994. View source to see some ooooold-school markup.
Cole Peters calls upon designers and developers to realise the power they have to shape the modern world and act accordingly.
It is in those of us who work in tech and on the web that digital privacy may find its greatest chance for survival. As labourers in one of the most pivotal industries of our times, we possess the knowledge and skills required to create tools and ecosystems that defend our privacy and liberties.
I don’t disagree, but I think it’s also important to recognise how much power is in the hands of non-designers and non-developers: journalists, politicians, voters …everyone has a choice to make.
Scott shares the code that Filament Group are using to determine which style declarations are critical (and can be inlined) and which are non-critical (and can be loaded asynchronously). It makes quite a difference in perceived performance.
By the way, I really, really like the terminology of “critical” and “non-critical” CSS, rather than “above the fold” and “below the fold” CSS.
This year’s collection of twelve sci-fi stories from Technology Review features three dConstruct speakers: Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, and Warren Ellis.
The image-stitching algorithm is trying its best.
Lighthouse are putting on their Improving Reality conference again this year. It’s the day before dConstruct. Come to both!
A profile of Norbert Wiener, and how his star was eclipsed by Claude Shannon.
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.
A short film about Claude Shannon and Information Theory — not exactly as in-depth as James Gleick’s The Information, but it does a nice job of encapsulating the fundamental idea.
We better get used to them…
This is quite exciting: the Endnote project is sponsoring Science Hack Day globally—not just an individual event.
Steven Johnson’s new television series will be shown on BBC in a few months time. Looks like it’s going to be good Burkian fun.
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.
A free PDF download from NASA on all things SETI, specifically the challenges of interspecies interstellar communication.
Today, a basic HTML/CSS site seems almost passé. But why? Is it because our new tools are so significantly better, or because we’ve gone overboard complicating simple things?
He’s right, y’know.
I guess it goes without saying at this point, but this piece from Frank is beautiful and thought-provoking.
This part in particular touched on some things I’ve been thinking about lately:
Design’s golden calf is simplicity. Speaking as someone who sees, makes, and uses design each and every day, I am tired of simple things. Simple things are weak. They are limited. They are boring. What I truly want is clarity. Give me clear and evident things over simple things. Make me things that presume and honor my intelligence. Shun seamlessness. It is another false token. Make me things that are full of seams, because if you give me a seam and I pull the thread, I get to see how the whole world is stitched together. Give me some credit. Show me you trust me.
A profile of Demetrios Matsakis, keeper of time at U.S. Naval Observatory, America’s equivalent to Greenwich in its importance for timekeeping in the modern world.
Eileen Gunn writes in the Smithsonian magazine on the influence of science fiction.
Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.
The GPS system is a monumental network that provides a permanent “YouAreHere” sign hanging in the sky, its signal a constant, synchronised timecode.
Some interesting thoughts that follow on nicely from Scott Jenson’s ideas around just-in-time interactions:
What if the technology was actually already in the room when we got there? Maybe that’s the kind of Internet-of-things that will be more sustainable and will win long-term.
I finally got around to reading Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua recently. It’s like Nick Harkaway crossed with Jeff Noon.
Here’s hoping that this short film will be developed into a full-length feature.
What a wonderful way to go online!
If your startup gets acquired and shut down by a larger company, this is the way to announce it—no “we’re excited to announce”; no “incredible journey”. Instead there’s an apology and regret (which is exactly what your users will be feeling).
So Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee walk into a panel…
This is a wonderful piece by Maciej—a magnificent historical narrative that leads to a thunderous rant. Superb!
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:
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.
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.
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.