We become obsessed with tools and methods, very rarely looking at how these relate to the fundamental basics of web standards, accessibility and progressive enhancement. We obsess about a right way to do things as if there was one right way rather than looking at the goal; how things fit into the broader philosophy of what we do on the web and how what we write contributes to us being better at what we do.
Will the Big Think piece you just posted to Medium be there in 2035? That may sound like it’s very far off in the future, and who could possibly care, but if there’s any value to your writing, you should care. Having good records is how knowledge builds.
The web – by its very nature – foregrounds the connections between different clusters of knowledge. Links link. One article leads to another. As you make the journey from destination to destination, all inevitably connected by that trail of links, you begin to tease out understanding.
It’s this drawing together, this weaving together of knowledge, that is the important part. Your journey is unique. The chances of another pursuing the same path, link by link (or book by book), is – statistically – impossible. Your journey leads you to discovery and, through reflection, comprehension. You see the connections others haven’t, because your journey is your own.
When you’re struggling to write something that sounds clear and sounds human (two of the essential basics of a good blog post, I’d argue), just use the words normal people would use. The best way to find out what those words are is to try talking the thing through to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. Remember what you just said, then write that.
There’s something so beautifully, beautifully webbish about this: readings of blog posts found through a search for “no one will ever read this.”
Listen to all of them.
Google Fonts aren’t renowned for their quality but this is a beautiful demonstration of what you can accomplish with them.
The text of Nicole’s excellent talk on writing helpful, human microcopy.
A heartbreaking tale of companionship, memory and loss.
I’m quite touched by this—I had no idea anyone was paying that much attention to my 100 words project.
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.
Grant, like Emma, has recently started blogging again. This makes me very, very happy. And he’s doing it for what I consider to be all the right reasons:
But this is mostly a place for me to capture my thoughts, and an excuse to consider them, and an opportunity to understand them more fully.
The Indieweb approach has a lot in common with Ev’s ideas for Medium, but the key difference is that we are doing it in a way that works across websites, not just within one.
The next Neal Stephenson book sounds like it’s going to be great.
This is nifty—Nicholas is also going for the 100 words exercise that I’ve been doing.
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.
Charlotte’s opening remarks at the most recent Codebar were, by all accounts, inspiring.
I was asked to give a short talk about my journey into coding and what advice I would give to people starting out.
Truly great literature not only tells us more about the human condition, it also tells us more about ourselves and does so in a beautiful way that changes us forever more.
So anyway, this is about Bruce’s nipples.
A look at the risks of relying on a purely graphical icon for interface actions. When in doubt, label it.
Slides of really great practical advice on writing clearly.
The Web is the printing press of our times; an amazing piece of technology facilitating a free and wide-scale dissipation of our thoughts and ideas. And all of it is based on this near 20-year old, yet timeless idea of the Hyper Text Markup Language.
A cute way of exploring a collection of classic works.
Ant told us this harrowing story in the office two weeks ago. I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like to be in this situation.
A short profile of Michael Moorcock’s Elric series (though, for me, Jerry Cornelius is the champion that remains eternal in my memory).
The transcript of Owen’s talk at The Web Is. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful meditation on writing, web design, and long-term thinking.
One of the promises of the web is to act as a record, a repository for everything we put there. Yet the web forgets constantly, despite that somewhat empty promise of digital preservation: articles and data are sacrificed to expediency, profit and apathy; online attention, acknowledgement and interest wax and wane in days, hours even.
This fracturing of context is, I suspect, peculiar to these early decades of online writing. It’s possible that, in the future, webmentions and the like may heal that up to some extent. But everything from the 90s to today is going to remain mostly broken in that respect. Most of what we said and did had ephemerality long before apps started selling us ephemeral nature as a positive advertising point. Possibly no other generation threw so many words at such velocity into a deep dark well of ghosts.
I’d go along with pretty much everything Anil says here. Wise words from someone who’s been writing on their own website for fifteen years (congratulations!).
Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. And if possible, save a copy of it on your own blog. Things disappear so quickly, and even important work can slip your mind months or years later when you want to recall it. If it’s in one, definitive place, you’ll be glad for it.
There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.
In the days before comments on blogs, you could generally have a thoughtful conversation online without everything degenerating into madness and chaos simply because responding to a post required that you wrote a post on your own blog and linked back. This created a certain level of default accountability because if someone wanted to flame you, they had to do it on their own real estate, and couldn’t just crap all over yours anonymously.
If you enjoy writing, or want to enjoy writing, just do it. You’ll probably worry that you have nothing to say, or that what you write is terrible, or that you couldn’t possibly write as well as Neil Gaiman. But silence those voices, get your head down and hit publish on something. Anything. And then do it again. And again.
I met Cesar at An Event Apart in San Diego earlier this year. We had a nice lunchtime chat and he suggested that I come on his show, Pencil vs Pixel. I was, of course, honoured and I accepted his invitation immediately.
If you were in any doubt that Warren Ellis is going to blow the roof off the Brighton Dome at dConstruct, this is what happens when he decides to write a little something every day.
If you’re going to check out the New Yorker’s nice new responsive site, might I suggest you start here?
A look behind the scenes of gov.uk. I like their attitude to Photoshop comps:
We don’t want a culture of designs being “thrown over a wall” to a dev team. We don’t make “high fidelity mock ups” or “high fidelity wireframes”. We’re making a Thing, not pictures of a Thing.
We don’t have a UX Team. If the problem with your service is that the servers are slow and the UX Team can’t change that, then they aren’t in control of the user experience and they shouldn’t be called the user experience team.
A new essay from Maciej on Idle Words is always a treat, and this latest dispatch from Yemen is as brilliantly-written as you’d expect.
A truly wonderful piece by Mandy detailing why and how she writes, edits, and publishes on her own website:
No one owns this domain but me, and no one but me can take it down. I will not wake up one morning to discover that my service has been “sunsetted” and I have some days or weeks to export my data (if I have that at all). These URLs will never break.
A short story set in a science-fictional future that just happens to be our present.
Craig recounts the time we visited the LHCb at CERN. It’s a lovely bit of writing. I wish it were on his own website.
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.
I love the thinking behind this plugin that highlights the weasel words that politicians are so found of.
This is a wonderful piece of writing and thinking from Frank. A wonderful piece of design, then.
A personal view on generalists and trans-media design
A useful text editor that analyses your writing for excess verbiage and sloppy construction. It helps you process your words, as it were.
A nice little cheat sheet for simple simple typography wins.
Brian Aldiss: ‘These days I don’t read any science fiction. I only read Tolstoy’ | Books | The Guardian
A profile of Brian Aldiss in The Guardian.
I still can’t quite believe I managed to get him for last year’s Brighton SF.
We were struggling, whether we knew it or not, to found a more fluid society. A place where everyone, not just appointed apologists for the status quo, could be heard. That dream need not die. It matters more now than ever.
From the lovely people behind Editorially comes STET:
A Writers’ Journal on Culture & Technology
Paris Review – “One Murder Is Statistically Utterly Unimportant”: A Conversation with Warren Ellis, Molly Crabapple
Molly Crabapple interviews Warren Ellis. Fun and interesting …much like Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis.
There’s a lot of very opinionated advice here, and I don’t agree with all of it, but this is still a very handy resource that’s been lovingly crafted.
H.P. Lovecraft meets James Bridle in this great little story commissioned by the Institute For The Future.
A good article on Medium on Medium.
I love this. I love this sooooo much! The perfect reminder of what makes the web so bloody great:
You and I have been able to connect because I wrote this and you’re reading it. That’s the web. Despite our different locations, devices, and time-zones we can connect here, on a simple HTML page.
This is what Medium is for.
If you want to read some of Dan Catt’s lesser thoughts, he has his own blog.
Francis Spufford—author of the excellent Backroom Boffins—writes a cover story for the New Humanist magazine remembering Iain Banks with the middle initial M firmly to the fore: it was Iain M Banks—and his creation, The Culture—that took the seemingly passé genre of space opera to new heights.
A lovely site with thoughtful articles on the long-term future of the web.
There’s audio too, which is unfortunately locked up in the unhuffduffable roach motel that is Soundcloud, but I’m hoping that might change.
This is nice lightweight writing tool, kinda like Editorially without the collaboration. Just right for working on a blog posts.
It authenticates with Twitter and doesn’t ask for write permissions. Bravo!
Yes! Yes! YES!
Tom is spot-on here: you shouldn’t be afraid of writing about yourself …especially not for fear of damaging some kind of “personal brand” or pissing off some potential future employer.
If your personal brand demands that you live your life in fear of disclosing important parts of your life or your experience, the answer is to reject the whole sodding concept of personal brands.
Do things I write about my personal life threaten my personal brand? Perhaps. Are there people who wouldn’t hire me based on things I write? Probably. Do I give even a whiff of a fuck? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.
Aw, my l’il ol’ book is three years old!
To celebrate, you can get 15% off any title from A Book Apart with this discount code for the next few days: HAPPY3RD.
The news is finally public: Bobbie’s Matter has been bought my Ev’s Medium. Fingers crossed that they don’t fuck it up.
Good writing. Good design. Good food.
A wonderful rallying cry from Drew.
Ever since the halcyon days of Web 2.0, we’ve been netting our butterflies and pinning them to someone else’s board.
Hope that what you’ve created never has to die. Make sure that if something has to die, it’s you that makes that decision. Own your own data, friends, and keep it safe.
Jeff Noon and Markov chains—a heavenly match by Dan.
Just like in the Borges short story, you can now see everything at once …from Project Gutenberg, or from Twitter, or from both.
This may be the only legitimate use case for (truly) infinite scrolling.
A lovely new responsive(ish) website dedicated to science and the environment.
I like the sound of the book that Chris is writing for Smashing Magazine. It sounds like a very future-friendly approach to front-end development.
A collaborative writing tool built by a dream team. I’ve been using it for a while now and it’s very nice indeed.
A classic of writing on the fundamental differences between programming languages.
A really nice write-up of issue four of Offscreen magazine, wherein I was featured.
A fascinating discussion on sharecropping vs. homesteading. Josh Miller from Branch freely admits that he’s only ever known a web where your content is held by somone else. Gina Trapani’s response is spot-on:
For me, publishing on a platform I have some ownership and control over is a matter of future-proofing my work. If I’m going to spend time making something I really care about on the web—even if it’s a tweet, brevity doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful—I don’t want to do it somewhere that will make it inaccessible after a certain amount of time, or somewhere that might go away, get acquired, or change unrecognizably.
When you get old and your memory is long and you lose parents and start having kids, you value your own and others’ personal archive much more.
Lauren talks about The Shining Girls and the tools she uses to write with.
A beautiful project from Brendan and the Royal Shakespeare Company: the headlines of today preceded by quotes from The Bard.
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.
There’s an interview with me in the new issue of Offscreen Magazine. Some of sort of clerical error, I’m guessing.
The out-of-copyright books of Olaf Stapledon are available to download from the University of Adelaide. Be sure to grab Starmaker and First And Last Men.
Some of the past year’s best long-form non-fiction, gathered together into a handy readlist for your portable epub pleasure.
I heartily concur with Chris’s sentiment:
I wish everyone in the world would blog.
Excellent journalism combined with excellent art direction into something that feels just right for the medium of the web.
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.
Very smart thinking from Craig about digital publishing.
Laura explains the problems with hiding content for small screens, and uses this as an opportunity to elucidate why you should blog, even if you’re think that no-one would be interested in what you have to say:
The point I’m trying to make is that we shouldn’t be fearful of writing about what we know. Even if you write from the most basic point of view, about something which has been ‘around for ages’, you’ll likely be saying something new to someone. They might be new to the industry, you might just be filling in the holes in someone’s knowledge.
Just a few hours after launch, here’s the first review of Matter complete with some speculation on where it might go.
Celebrating the work of the tireless men and women who shorten headlines so they’ll fit on your iPhone.
Smashing Magazine are publishing a book on mobile and the web. I’m writing the foreword. I should really get on that.
I like this skewering of the cult of so-called-neuroscience; the self-help book equivalent of eye-tracking.
These short pocketbooks from Five Simple Steps look like they’ll be very handy indeed. Shame they won’t be available in dead-tree format: I bet they’d be really cute.
Excellent! Scott has his own URL now. If you haven’t read everything he has written so far, start from the start and read every single post.
Chris and Nathan’s book is finally out. I’m going to enjoy reading through this.
Quite a story.
Craig describes the many different ways he’s publishing his book, including putting the whole thing on the web for free:
Why do this? I strongly believe digital books benefit from public endpoints. The current generation of readers (human, not electronic) have formed expectations about sharing text, and if you obstruct their ability to share — to touch — digital text, then your content is as good as non-existent. Or, in the least, it’s less likely to be engaged.
I also believe that we will sell more digital and physical copies of Art Space Tokyo by having all of the content available online.
Amen, Scott, A-MEN:
You are not blogging enough. You are pouring your words into increasingly closed and often walled gardens. You are giving control - and sometimes ownership - of your content to social media companies that will SURELY fail.
I quite the look of Medium, but Dave Winer absolutely nails it with this feature request:
Let me enter the URL of something I write in my own space, and have it appear here as a first class citizen. Indistinguishable to readers from something written here.
I think it might get a tattoo of this:
There’s art in each individual system, but there’s a much greater art in the union of all the systems we create.
Maybe HyperCard is an idea whose time has come. Think about it: the size of mobile screens: perfect for a HyperCard stack.
Those articles about the “Internet of Things” I linked to? Here they are in handy Readlist form.
An evening with Lauren Beukes, China Miéville and Patrick Ness in London the week after dConstruct. Sounds like fun!
I’ve written a piece for issue three of The Manual. Despite that, it’s well worth getting your hands on a copy.