Archive: June, 2012

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Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Vint Cerf: We Knew What We Were Unleashing on the World | Wired Business | Wired.com

I could listen to Vint Cerf all day.

I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to have packets raining down from satellites, IP packets just literally raining down from satellites and being picked up by hundreds, if not millions, of receivers at the same time.

Cables

After speaking at Go Beyond Pixels in St. John’s, I had some time to explore Newfoundland a little bit. Geri was kind enough to drive me to a place I really wanted to visit: the cable station at Heart’s Content.

Heart's Content Cable Station

I’ve wanted to visit Heart’s Content (and Porthcurno in Cornwall) ever since reading The Victorian Internet, a magnificent book by Tom Standage that conveys the truly world-changing nature of the telegraph. Heart’s Content plays a pivotal role in the story: the landing site of the transatlantic cable, spooled out by the Brunel-designed Great Eastern, the largest ship in the world at the time.

Recently I was sent an advance reading copy of Tubes by Andrew Blum. It makes a great companion piece to Standage’s book as Blum explores the geography of the internet:

For all the talk of the placelessness of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical places as any railroad or telephone system ever was.

There’s an interview with Andrew Blum on PopTech, a review of Tubes on Brain Pickings, and I’ve huffduffed a recent talk by Andrew Blum in Philadelphia.

Andrew Blum | Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet - Free Library Podcast on Huffduffer

Now there are more places I want to visit: the nexus points on TeleGeography’s Submarine Cable Map; the hubs of Hibernia Atlantic, whose about page reads like a viral marketing campaign for some soon-to-be-released near-future Hollywood cyberpunk thriller.

I’ve got the kind of travel bug described by Neal Stephenson in his classic 1996 Wired piece Mother Earth Mother Board:

In which the hacker tourist ventures forth across the wide and wondrous meatspace of three continents, acquainting himself with the customs and dialects of the exotic Manhole Villagers of Thailand, the U-Turn Tunnelers of the Nile Delta, the Cable Nomads of Lan tao Island, the Slack Control Wizards of Chelmsford, the Subterranean Ex-Telegraphers of Cornwall, and other previously unknown and unchronicled folk; also, biographical sketches of the two long-dead Supreme Ninja Hacker Mage Lords of global telecommunications, and other material pertaining to the business and technology of Undersea Fiber-Optic Cables, as well as an account of the laying of the longest wire on Earth, which should not be without interest to the readers of Wired.

Maybe one day I’ll get to visit the places being designed by Sheehan Partners, currently only inhabited by render ghosts on their website (which feels like it’s part of the same subversive viral marketing campaign as the Hibernia Atlantic site).

Perhaps I can find a reason to stop off in Ashburn, Virginia or The Dalles, Oregon, once infamous as the site of a cult-induced piece of lo-tech bioterrorism, now the site of Google’s Project 02. Not that there’s much chance of being allowed in, given Google’s condescending attitude when it comes to what they do with our data: “we know what’s best, don’t you trouble your little head about it.”

It’s that same attitude that lurks behind that most poisonous of bullshit marketing terms…

The cloud.

What a crock of shit.

The cloud is a lie

Whereas other bullshit marketing terms once had a defined meaning that has eroded over time due to repeated use and abuse—Ajax, Web 2.0, HTML5, UX—“the cloud” is a term that sets out to deceive from the outset, imbued with the same Lakoffian toxicity as “downsizing” or “friendly fire.” It is the internet equivalent of miasma theory.

Death to the cloud! Long live the New Flesh of servers, routers, wires and cables.

The Keymaster: Patrick Olwell’s story - YouTube

The trailer for a documentary on flutemaker Patrick Olwell. The film should be done later this year.

Friday, June 29th, 2012

[Guest post] Growing up in words « Sarah Ditum

Kids say the mindblowingest things.

Aegir Hallmundur, designer and maker of things.

Aegir’s portfolio is a thing of a beauty on every screen size.

Stretchy Pictures | Aegirscopic

Aegir is doing some very smart image enhancement in his (responsive) portfolio. Here’s the explanation.

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The Evolution of the Web

A nice timeline visualisation of recent history.

The Manual

I’ve written a piece for issue three of The Manual. Despite that, it’s well worth getting your hands on a copy.

September in Brighton

Last September was a pretty amazing time to be in Brighton: dConstruct followed by Maker Faire followed by Update followed by Flash On The Beach and Improving Reality.

This September looks like it’s going to be equally amazing. The Brighton Digital Festival is back—an umbrella label for all the arts and technology events under one banner. There’s already some great stuff lined up.

September is going to kick off with Reasons To Be Creative, the conference formerly known as Flash On The Beach. It’s got a great line-up of speakers. I’m looking forward to having Dan, Meagan, Mark, Jon, Colly, Yaili and Hannah in town. Tickets go on sale in a couple of weeks.

With a one-two punch, Reasons is going to be immediately followed by dConstruct. A few quick notes about this year’s event…

  1. Tickets are still available. Not many, but they’re there. Grab one if you haven’t already.
  2. There are also still places available for most of the workshops. Remy’s HTML5 workshop is sold out but you can still grab a spot on Ethan’s responsive design workshop, Lyza’s mobile web workshop and Jonathan’s CSS workshop at the early-bird rate. Remember: a workshop also gets you complementary access to the conference day.
  3. If you work with a forward-thinking company and a bunch of you fancy coming to dConstruct, check out the sponsorship options. We’d love to have you on board.

And then, the day after dConstruct, it’ll be time for this year’s Maker Faire which promises to be bigger and even better than last year (and it was bloody brilliant last year).

I’ve also got a little something up my sleeve. I’m planning to put on an event the evening before dConstruct. It won’t be web-related but it will very much tie in to this year’s dConstruct theme, Playing With The Future.

Watch this space.

modl ∴ Malmö Open Device Lab

Now there’s a communal device testing lab in Malmö, Sweden too.

Are we in the future yet?

It’s not enough to have the same Photoshopped image from Back To The Future trotted out every. single. year. …now you can pass this meme around every minute of every day of every month of every year. Thanks a lot, Seb.

Rosetta on Vimeo

A beautiful short film about The Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Project.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Jess & Russ

This is so lovely! The story of Jessica and Russ’s romance, illustrated by fifteen of their friends.

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Conferencing

June is about to draw to close and I’ve spent the entire month within the borders of the UK. That’s quite a change from the previous month: I was at three different conferences in three different countries in May.

First off, there was Mobilism in Amsterdam. It was, unsurprisingly, very good indeed. Mind you, I was getting a little disheartened on the first day of the conference when there was talk after talk describing how to make web apps look and feel more like native apps. The question of why exactly this would be desirable never seemed to get asked. I was beginning to worry that we were going to enter a period of making the same mistakes we did a few years back when everyone was trying to slavishly imitate desktop interactions on the web. The result is a kind of uncanny valley of interaction where apps behave almost, but not quite, like their native counterparts.

My fears were allayed on the second day of Mobilism though, particularly when Scott blew everyone’s minds. There was a veritable feast of future friendly thinking from Lyza, Jason, Brad, and Stephen too.

Speaking of future friendliness, there was a second Mobilewood gathering recently and the Future Friendly site now sports a new section entitled Come Aboard.

By the way, thank you to everyone who provided questions for my panels at Mobilism. They went well, although in retrospect two panels were maybe a bit much. Still, it was fun trying to get a statement other than “no comment” out of the Google Chrome representative on the browser panel.

Mobilism 2012, Day 1

Later in May I was in Belgium for Multi-Mania, a grassroots event run by students. I enjoyed myself but there was definitely a problem with having multiple tracks—the usual feeling of missing out on something, especially when some of the rooms filled up really quickly. The main stage also suffered from being directly connected to the exhibition hall which meant there was a lot of sound leakage. A shame, really.

My last speaking gig in May, on the hand, was a very smoothly-run event. I was in St. John’s, Newfoundland for Go Beyond Pixels. The fact that the conference was really well put together is all the more surprising considering it was the first time that Levin had ever organised an event! I hope it won’t be the last. He put on a great show and gave all the speakers a very warm welcome.

Suzannah, Levin, and Jeremy

Oh, and Newfoundland was beautiful.

Since getting back, I’ve been enduring the English Summer. As nice as Brighton has been for a month, I’m looking forward to getting to sunnier climes.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do, starting with a trip to Barcelona in just over a week’s time for Webvisions. I’ll be doing a half-day workshop on responsive design and progressive enhancement.

If you’re thinking of coming, here’s a little tip: go to the registration page, scroll down to the bit where it says “enter promotional code”, click that link, type “KEITH”, and hit the “Apply” button …Boom! Now your conference and workshop pass has a 20% discount applied.

Alas, I won’t be able to stick around for the conference day itself. I need to get over to Austin for An Event Apart.

I’m very excited to get to Austin when it’s not South by Southwest, but I’m also extremely nervous about my talk. I’ve spent most of this month at home trying to finish up my presentation. I fear I may be trying to squeeze an awful lot of stuff into one talk. I might have to speak very fast to fit it all in …or I suppose I could be sensible and try to trim the presentation down.

Anyway, there are still some tickets available for AEA Austin if you want to see me sweat …and I’m not just talking about the Texas heat.

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

mattdiamond/fuckitjs

This is possibly the most horrifying piece of JavaScript ever written. The license is good too.

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Jessica Hische’s Doodle Blog

Jessica’s doodles are quite lovely.

KyleBean.co.uk - Portfolio: Mobile Evolution

Kyle’s Matryoshka phones are as cool as they are cute.

The Slow Web – Jack Cheng

This resonates deeply with me. It is worth your heartbeats.

Turing

One hundred years ago today, Alan Turing was born.

I could claim that without him, we wouldn’t have computers; that without him, World War Two would have lasted another two years at least.

But the truth is that the history of innovation and invention is rarely as linear as that, and that if one genius hadn’t made the great leap forward, some other genius would have. The pieces were there, waiting in the adjacent possible.

And yet, in our timeline, history played out the way it did. So I can say that thanks to Alan Turing, we have computers; thanks to Alan Turing, World War Two was shortened by at least two years.

And I can, with absolute certainty, say that the way Alan Turing was treated after the war was absolutely shameful.

We can learn a lot from the life of Alan Turing. We can learn about computation, universal machines, and artificial intelligence. We can also learn about tolerance, compassion …and love.

10 Timeframes | Contents Magazine

I didn’t count how many heartbeats it took to read this, but it was worth every single one.

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Authentic Jobs ~ Ethiopia

Cameron’s travelling to Ethopia to help with Charity Water, thanks to the generosity of the users of Authentic Jobs.

A New HTTP Status Code for Legally-restricted Resources

I love Tim Bray’s idea for naming the response code for censored content on the internet in honour of Ray Bradbury.

Code Club - The Interview - YouTube

It’s kinda nuts that in the space of just a few months, Code Club has gone from being an idea by Clare and Linda into something with an all-star promo video.

Symbolset

It’s really good to see more providers of icon font sets. These look very nicely designed indeed.

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Fluid Type | Trent Walton

Trent shares his ideas on handling line lengths in fluid, responsive layouts.

LukeW | Off Canvas Multi-Device Layouts

Luke and Jason have put together some demos of various “off-canvas” navigation patterns for responsive designs.

Aio e Oio: Food for Friendship | Born Hungry

This beautiful piece of writing from Steph is making me hungry.

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Sound of Summer

This is sooo nifty: Chloe’s obsessive Summer music visualisation is a lesson in responsive design and progressive enhancement. It’s also pretty fascinating.

Satellite Eyes

A nifty little Mac app from Tom: it changes your desktop wallpaper to a satellite view of your current location.

Alas, it requires Lion, an operating system I’ve been trying to avoid installing.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

filamentgroup/Southstreet

This is excellent! Scott, Wilto, and the gang at Filament Group have released the tools they use to help them craft performant responsive sites. Lots of excellent resources for conditional loading here.

Subtraction.com: Built to Not Last

A spot-on analysis by Khoi of the changing perception of the value in product design, as exemplified by Apple.

Classes? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Classes! | Smashing Coding

This is a well-reasoned, thoughtful article on avoiding class names in CSS …but I don’t agree with it. That said, perhaps there’s a reasonable middle ground to be found between this extreme stance and the opposite (but in some ways just as extreme) stance of OOCSS.

Florian’s Compromise | Responsive Images Community Group

Wilto does an excellent job of summarising the current state of responsive images, highlighting Florian Rivoal’s compromise proposal that combines the best of the picture element with the best of srcset.

How We Improved Page Speed By Cleaning CSS, HTML and Images | Dyn Blog

Some good practical advice on improving performance. This should all be familiar to you, but it’s always worth repeating.

Single-direction margin declarations — CSS Wizardry—CSS, Web Standards, Typography, and Grids by Harry Roberts

Some smart thinking from Harry Roberts on standardising the direction of your margins in CSS i.e. all top-margin or all bottom-margin declarations.

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Google Transparency Report

Google’s datadump makes for a fascinating—and worrying—bit of data dumpster diving.

Mick O’Pedia: Bejaysis, ye can look up all kinds o’ shite now

Sure, this is a bleedin’ one-to-one copy of feckin’ Wikipedia. Give it an aul’ spin.

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Copywriting: a life-saving kit.

This is so good. On father’s day, Harry asks his father, an award-winning copywriter, for advice on writing. The result is an knowledge bomb of excellent advice.

Welcome to History Mesh

This is rather wonderful: a DevFort project for navigating interweaving strands of history, James Burke style.

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

New Internet Explorer 7 Tax :) -

Well, I guess this is one way of encouraging people to upgrade their browser.

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Responsive images: what’s the problem, and how do we fix it? - Dev.Opera

A nice round-up of the issues around responsive images and their potential solutions.

Officrèche: Flexible childcare and office space with parent community

A co-working space in Brighton combined with a crèche: such a great idea!

Science Hack Day Eindhoven 2012 winners compilation on Vimeo

Some of these hacks created at the Science Hack Day in Eindhoven are seriously nuts. That’s “nuts” as in “brilliant”.

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

CLANG by Subutai Corporation — Kickstarter

Neal Stephenson would like your help in making a video game about sword-fighting that doesn’t suck.

ISS Star Trails - a set on Flickr

Beautiful time-lapse photography from Don “we’ve got a Dragon by the tail” Pettit, taken from the International Space Station.

jsc2012e051507_alt

Monday, June 11th, 2012

xip.io: wildcard DNS for everyone

It took me a while to get my head ‘round it, but this routing service from 37 Signals is handy for testing local sites on multiple devices (kind of like showoff.io).

NoisePNG - Generate noisy PNG-images with alpha-transparency

If you’re adding some noise texture to your backgrounds, this little service might be handy. I usually base-64 encode these kinds of background images: it would be nice to see that added as an option here.

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury - Rachel Bloom - YouTube

In light of the recent death of Ray Bradbury, I think we should all honour his memory by revisiting this song (featuring some future-friendly headgear).

I’ll feed you grapes and Dandelion Wine and we’ll read a little Fahrenheit 69…

Friday, June 8th, 2012

necolas/idiomatic-css

Some sensible ideas about having a consistent CSS writing style.

Sketching A New Mobile Web - Smashing Mobile | Smashing Mobile

A great article on the importance of sketching for mobile-first responsive designs, complete with practical ideas for workshopping.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Build a smart mobile navigation without hacks | Tutorial | .net magazine

A really great markup and CSS pattern for “content first, navigation second” from Aaron.

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Quora eBooks

Markov-generated Quora questions …far more entertaining than actual Quora questions.

Super hero - a set on Flickr

History with a sprinkling of Photoshopped fiction.

Cherbourg-Normandy 1944

Monday, June 4th, 2012

I can tell you how I got from Deep Purple to Howling Wolf in just 25 moves. | Chloe Weil

The way that Chloe has catalogued her music over time is fascinating. It’s like the Long Now opposite of This Is My Jam.

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

IE-friendly mobile-first CSS with Sass 3.2

Jake demonstrates his technique for preprocessor-generated stylesheets for older versions of Internet Explorer (while other browsers get the same styles within media queries).

Issue #408: Generate a separate css with flattened media queries

This is an excellent idea from Jake: use a preprocessor to automatically spit out a stylesheet for older versions of IE that includes desktop styles (garnered from the declarations within media queries).

If you’re a dab hand with Ruby and you’d like to see this in SASS, you can help.

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Device expansion

Remy popped ‘round to the Clearleft office the other day with some more devices for the communal testing lab …although the Matrix-era Nokia is probably not all that useful.

Yay! More phones for the communal testing lab from @rem Getting more phone chargers and power strips for the communal device lab

The list of devices is starting to look pretty good. Of course there’s no such thing as “enough” devices, but this is at least beginning to look like a nice cross-section. I’ve been buying phone chargers and power strips in enough quantities that I’m starting to get bulk discounts.

If you’re in the neighbourhood, come on ‘round and try out your sites on these devices.

Welcome Clearleft • MATTER

I’m really pleased to be working with Bobbie on Matter.

FixMyStreet

Not only is FixMyStreet responsive, it’s using the “display: table-caption” trick I documented for adjustable “content first/navigation second” source order.