Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith

Making websites. Writing books. Speaking at conferences. Living in Brighton. Working at Clearleft. Playing music. Taking photos. Answering email.

Journal 2401 sparkline Links 6731 sparkline Articles 66 sparkline Notes 3240 sparkline

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Writing Hacks: The Adafruit Guide to Being Excellent to Each Other in Emails « Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers!

Language is a technology. It’s a particularly strange one that’s made of squiggles and sounds and maps of meaning, but like any other technology, it’s hackable.

Good advice on reducing unintended stress via email.

Negativity bias is a tendency for negatives to have a greater effect than positives on our emotional state.

For email this can have radical effects: positive emails seem neutral, neutral emails seem negative, and even slightly negative emails can lead to actual, measurable pain.

Even with the best of intentions we can come off distant — or just plain mean.

The magical and the mundane

The iPhone—and by extension, the smartphone—is a decade old. Ian Bogost has written an interesting piece in The Atlantic charting our changing relationship with the technology.

First, it was like a toy dog:

A device that could be cared for, and conspicuously so.

Then, it was like a cigarette:

A nervous tic, facilitated by a handheld apparatus that releases relief when operated.

Later, it was like a rosary:

Its toy-dog quirks having been tamed, its compulsive nature having been accepted, the iPhone became the magic wand by which all worldly actions could be performed, all possible information acquired.

Finally, it simply becomes …a rectangle.

Abstract, as a shape. Flat, as a surface. But suggestive of so much. A table for community. A door for entry, or for exit. A window for looking out of, or a picture for looking into. A movie screen for distraction, or a cradle for comfort, or a bed for seduction.

Design dissolves in behaviour. This is something that Ben wrote about recently in his excellent Slapdashery series: “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.”

Technology tweaks our desire for novelty; but as soon as we get it we’re usually bored. There are no technologies that I can think of that haven’t become mundane.

This is something I touched on in my talk last year at An Event Apart. There’s a thread throughout the talk about Arthur C. Clarke, and of course I quote his third law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I propose an addendum to that:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic at first.

The magical quickly becomes the mundane. That’s exactly the point that Louis CK is making in the piece that Ben references.

Seven years ago Frank wrote his wonderful essay There Is A Horse In The Apple Store:

I have a term called a “tiny pony.” It is a thing that is exceptional that no one, for whatever reason, notices. Or, conversely, it is an exceptional thing that everyone notices, but quickly grows acclimated to despite the brilliance of it all.

We are surrounded by magical tiny ponies. I mean, just think: right now you are reading some words at a URL on the World Wide Web. Even more magically, I just published some words at my own URL on the World Wide Web. That still blows my mind! I hope I never lose that feeling.

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

ARP Observatory (@ArpObservatory) | Twitter

In July we started receiving audio signals from outside the solar system, and we’ve been studying them since.

Tweets contain sound samples on Soundcloud, data visualisations, and notes about life at the observatory …all generated by code.

ARP is a fictional radio telescope observatory, it’s a Twitter & SoundCloud bot which procedurally generates audio, data-visualisations, and the tweets (and occasionally long-exposure photography) of an astronomer/research scientist who works at ARP, who is obsessive over the audio messages, and who runs the observatory’s Twitter account.

CSS

Last month I went to CSS Day in Amsterdam, as an attendee this year, not a speaker. It was an excellent conference comprising the titular CSS day and a Browser API Special the day before.

By the end of CSS Day, my brain was full. Experiencing the depth of knowledge that’s contained in CSS now made me appreciate how powerful a language it is. I mean, the basics of CSS—selectors, properties, and values—can be grasped in a day. But you can spend a lifetime trying to master the details. Heck, you could spend a lifetime trying to master just one part of CSS, like layout, or text. And there would always be more to learn.

Unlike a programming language that requires knowledge of loops, variables, and other concepts, CSS is pretty easy to pick up. Maybe it’s because of this that it has gained the reputation of being simple. It is simple in the sense of “not complex”, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Mistaking “simple” for “easy” will only lead to heartache.

I think that’s what’s happened with some programmers coming to CSS for the first time. They’ve heard it’s simple, so they assume it’s easy. But then when they try to use it, it doesn’t work. It must be the fault of the language, because they know that they are smart, and this is supposed to be easy. So they blame the language. They say it’s broken. And so they try to “fix” it by making it conform to a more programmatic way of thinking.

I can’t help but think that they would be less frustrated if they would accept that CSS is not easy. Simple, yes, but not easy. Using CSS at scale has a learning curve, just like any powerful technology. The way to deal with that is not to hammer the technology into a different shape, but to get to know it, understand it, and respect it.

Reflections on Two Years of Indieweb

Alex Kearney looks back on two years of owning her own data.

With a fully functional site up and running, I focused on my own needs and developed features to support how I wanted to use my site. In hind-sight, that’s probably the most indie thing I could’ve done, and how I should’ve started my indieweb adventure.

This really resonates with me.

One of the motivating features for joining the indieweb was the ability to keep and curate the content I create over time.

Terrific post!

Here’s to two more years.

Starbuck. Breq Mianaai. Furiosa. Rey. Ghostbusters. Jyn Erso. Diana Prince. The Doctor.

It’s a good start.

Monday, July 17th, 2017

I am more excited about the return of University Challenge than I am about the return of Game Of Thrones.

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and red za’atar.

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and red za’atar.

If the local library switched to ISO-8601, it would help reduce my anxiety around overdue books.

If the local library switched to ISO-8601, it would help reduce my anxiety around overdue books.

Empathy Prompts

A series of small suggestions that anyone can try so that they can better empathise with people who experience digital products differently.

These prompts are intended to help build empathy, not describe any one person’s experience. These prompts are not intended to tokenize the experience of the individuals experiencing these conditions.