Any sufficiently advanced hacking is indistinguishable from a haunting. In the same way that many Internet of Things objects are referred to as ‘enchanting’ or ‘magical,’ with an intervention, they can very quickly become haunted.
Kelli Anderson’s thesis on the Human Interference Task Force project set up to mark nuclear waste sites for future generations (a project I’ve referenced in some of my talks).
This infographic offers a visual way to explore the various stages of the Earth’s history using a 12 hour clock analogy.
It is a sad and beautiful world.
Thanks to their work, there was a moment in history when neuroscience, psychiatry, computer science, mathematical logic, and artificial intelligence were all one thing, following an idea first glimpsed by Leibniz—that man, machine, number, and mind all use information as a universal currency. What appeared on the surface to be very different ingredients of the world—hunks of metal, lumps of gray matter, scratches of ink on a page—were profoundly interchangeable.
A magnificent presentation from Maciej that begins by drawing parallels between the aviation industry in the 20th century and the technology industry in the 21st:
So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.
Unless we screw it up.
And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people.
But if that sounds too upbeat for you…
Too much of what was created in the last fifty years is gone because no one took care to preserve it.
We have heroic efforts like the Internet Archive to preserve stuff, but that’s like burning down houses and then cheering on the fire department when it comes to save what’s left inside. It’s no way to run a culture. We take better care of scrap paper than we do of the early Internet, because at least we look at scrap paper before we throw it away.
And then there’s this gem:
It finishes with three differing visions of the web, one of them desirable, the other two …not so much. This presentation is a rallying cry for the web we want.
Let’s reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
A fantastic piece by David Weinberger on the changing uses of the internet—apparently in contradiction of the internet’s original architecture.
Some folks invented the Internet for some set of purposes. They gave it a name, pointed to some prototypical examples—sharing scientific papers and engaging in email about them—shaping the way the early adopters domesticated it.
But over time, the Internet escaped from its creators’ intentions. It became a way to communicate person-to-person via email and many-to-many via Usenet. The web came along and the prototypical example became home pages. Social networking came along and the prototype became Facebook.
This is the way to approach building for the web:
I want to make as few of those assumptions as possible. Because every assumption I make introduces fragility. Every assumption introduces another way that my site can break.
It’s progressive enhancement, but like Stuart, Tim is no longer planning to use that term.
The full text of Aaron’s magnificent closing keynote from Responsive Day Out.
A fantastically-detailed write up of the whole day out. Each talk is described, and then the threads are tied together at the end. Great stuff!
As may have become clear from my notes above, Responsive Day Out 3 was a day full of variety. I had the feeling it could have easily been called Web Day Out, and I guess that makes sense, as responsive web design has naturally grown to be a pleonasm in the past few years.
Orde liveblogged every single talk from Responsive Day Out 3!
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.
Hillary, legendary for being the first to scale Mount Everest with teammate Tenzing Norgay, was on board, and Armstrong was, too, saying he was curious to see what the North Pole looked like from ground level, as he’d only seen it from the moon. Astronaut problems.
The controversial hamburger icon goes mainstream with this story on the BBC News site.
It still amazes me that, despite clear data, many designers cling to the belief that the icon by itself is understandable (or that users will “figure it out eventually”). Why the aversion to having a label for the icon?
Here’s a really nifty use of the
:checked behaviour pattern that Charlotte has been writing about—an interface for choosing a note from a piano keyboard. Under the hood, it’s a series of radio buttons and labels.
Here’s a lovely project with an eye on the Long Now. Trees that were planted last year will be used to make paper to print an anthology in 2114.
Margaret Atwood is one of the contributors.
I like this. It fills like a very webby way to explore a museum collection. Use any axis you like.
This is a sketch made quickly to explore what it means to navigate a museum catalogue made of over two million records. It’s about skipping around quickly, browsing the metadata as if you were wandering around the museum itself in Bloomsbury, or better yet, fossicking about unattended in the archives.
A PDF of Clarke’s classic essay on the follies of prediction. From the 1972 collection The Futurists, edited by Alvin Toffler.
Before there was radar, there were acoustic mirrors along the coast of England—parabolic structures designed to funnel the distant sound of approaching aircraft.
I love this talk.
Alex takes a long-zoom look at the web and our technology stacks, from ’60s counterculture to start-up culture, touching on open source and the indie web along the way.
This is a fascinating bit of web archeology: John has annotated the code from one of the earliest versions of jQuery.
Jo writes about hosting Codebar Brighton. I share her enthusiasm—it feels like a great honour to be able to host such a great community event.
Mike runs through the history of Flash. Those who forget the history of the web are doomed to repeat it:
The struggle now seems to be turning to native apps versus non-native apps on the mobile platform. It is similar to Flash’s original battle ground: the argument that the Web technology stack is not suitable for building applications with a polished user-experience.
Still a few days left to back this great project for Brighton:
Build, tinker, make and play! For anyone with imagination, The Brighton Makerlab lets ages 8 to 80 create cool stuff with technology.
Alternative histories of communication.
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!
As we may understand: A constructionist approach to ‘behaviour change’ and the Internet of Things by Dan Lockton
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).
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.
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.