I’ll take two.
Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
The new album from The Orchid—Beyond The Vast, Endless Sea—is rather excellent.
First we take Manhattan…
Berlin now has a communal device lab. Wunderbar!
Monday, July 30th, 2012
Some good database character-encoding advice from Mathias.
An in-depth look behind the scenes of the responsive relaunch of People Magazine’s mobile site that Josh, Karen, and Ethan were involved in. I love it when people share their process and build stories like this.
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
The truth about startups. Got a startup? Take the quiz. It’s harsh but fair.
This is an important subject (and one very close to my heart) so I’m very glad to see these data protection guidelines nailed to the wall of the web over at Contents Magazine.
- Treat our data like it matters.
- No upload without download.
- If you close a system, support data rescue.
How do I convince…?
When I was speaking at An Event Apart in Austin I gave a somewhat rambling presentation. As usual, I was hammering home the importance of progressive enhancement, a methodology that’s actually not that tricky once you accept that websites do not need to look exactly the same in every browser and neither do websites need to be experienced exactly the same in every browser.
I had some time after the talk to answer a question or two from the audience—something I always enjoy. One of the questions went something along the lines of “All of this sounds great, but how do I convince my boss…?”
I smiled because I had been having exactly this same conversation with Beth at the opening party the night before. Here’s what I told her (and what I repeated in answering the person who asked the question)…
Almost every time I gave a talk—no matter what the subject matter—someone would inevitably say “Yes, but how do I convince my boss?” or “That’s all well and good but how do I convince my clients?”
In fact, one time when I was giving a talk at From The Front in Italy, I made an extra slide that I kept in reserve after the final “thank you” slide. It simply read “How do I convince…?” Sure enough, when I was taking questions from the audience, someone asked that very question (and I advanced my slide deck and looked like a mind-reader).
The reason I mention this recurring trend is that I find it reassuring. We’ve been here before. What each one of my previous experiences has shown me is that things do change. Change might seem slow at times, but there’s a big difference between slow and static.
I remember the days of the web standards campaign. Trying to convince developers to use CSS for presentation instead of tables seemed like a Sisyphean task. But we got there.
I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness crying out in favour of liquid layouts for years, but now—thanks to the rise of responsive design—change has finally come. As for responsive design itself, I was sure it was going to be another uphill struggle to convince people of the benefits—and I was all set to take a hardline approach—but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that it’s an idea whose time has come.
I’m not the only one who has noticed this cyclical trend of new technologies and methodologies being pessimistically dismissed. Eric recently said:
The one consistent criticism I’ve gotten throughout my entire career is “that sounds cool, but we can’t use it in browsers today”.— Eric A. Meyer (@meyerweb) July 18, 2012
So take heart. All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.
But what about answering the question? How do you convince clients/bosses to adopt a new technique or technology?
I’m afraid that this is the point at which I tend to throw up my hands and say, “Don’t ask me! That’s not my job—I just make websites.” But it’s a perfectly valid question and I think it would be good to have resources we could all point to when we need some ammunition.
Luke doesn’t just rely on his wondrous wit and marvellous writing style to make an overwhelmingly convincing argument for designing the mobile experience first; he also hammers home all of his points with oodles and oodles of scrumptious data.
That’s a good tactic. As he once said to me, “If you torture data for long enough, you can get it to confess to anything.”
Something I’ve found useful in the past is the ability to point at trailblazers and say “like that!” Selling the idea of web standards became a whole lot easier after Doug redesigned Wired and Mike redesigned ESPN. It’s a similar situation with responsive design: clients are a lot more receptive to the idea now that The Boston Globe site is live. But of course if you only ever follow the trailblazers, you’ll never get the opportunity to blaze a new trail yourself. Frustrating.
Another tactic that I’ve used in the past is to simply not ask for permission, but go ahead and use the new technologies and techniques anyway. That isn’t always practical but it’s worth a try. Rather than spending valuable time trying to convince your boss or client that they should let you do something, just do it (if you’ll pardon the Nike-ian platitude).
Andy likens the “How do I convince…?” conundrum to having a plumber come ‘round to fix your sink, only to ask you “Is it alright if I use this particular wrench?” You’re the plumber—you decide!
Except we’re not in the plumbing business (and we’re clearly not in the metaphor business either).
I do sometimes wonder whether we use the big bad client or the big bad boss as a crutch. “Oh, I’d love to try out this technique, but the client/boss would never go for it. Something something IE6.” Maybe we’re not giving them enough credit. Given the right argument, they might just listen to reason.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
An evening with Lauren Beukes, China Miéville and Patrick Ness in London the week after dConstruct. Sounds like fun!
I’ve seen Heiko present with this gizmo at Mobilism and it worked a treat. I’m very tempted to get one for future presentations.
Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
I don’t agree with everything in this presentation—there’s a nostalgic bias to the non-existent “good ol’ days”—but this is still very engaging and thought-provoking.
Everything Frances has written here resonates with me.
I don’t really want a label. I hate labels. I loathe the term “user experience designer”, because I still believe that “user experience” is just a fundamental to what you’re doing, and shouldn’t need stating. There is nothing but user experience design if you’re building products for people.
Another beautiful timelapse video made from photographs taken from the International Space Station.
The music from Sunshine gets me every time.
This looks like a really handy tool for reducing the file size of JPEGs without any perceptible loss of quality (in much the same way that ImageOptim works for PNGs)—available as a Mac app or an installable web service.
Saturday, July 21st, 2012
A terrific little conspiracy theory short story from Charles Stross set at last year’s (very real) 100 Year Starship gathering.
A great talk on the nature of the web that Paul gave in Copenhagen recently.
A good recap of the recent online/offline/does-it-really-matter discussion …although it does lend a bit too much credence to the pronouncements of that king of trolls, Nicholas Carr.
A PDF to download and read that is both funny and fascinating.
Friday, July 20th, 2012
The Malmö Open Device Lab should prove very handy for inhabitants of southern Sweden (and Copenhagen too—just a short train ride away).
Here’s the Exeter device library.
Cole Henley is looking for devices that could be contributed to a communal device lab in Frome in Somerset.
Want a communal testing lab for your town? Do it. It doesn’t matter how small it is initially; it will grow once your fellow developers come out of the woodwork and start contributing their devices.
I guarantee you that every web developer out there is thinking the same thing: “I don’t have enough devices to test on.”
Start a device lab. Get the word out. Tell me about it and I’ll shout it from the rooftops.
Share and enjoy.
Update: Here’s a new device lab in The Netherlands.
London now has its own device lab (at the Mozilla offices).
If you’re in London and you have an old phone you could contribute, please, please add it to the contribution.
Thursday, July 19th, 2012
This is just wonderful! It combines almost all of my recent obsessions into one unified post: website performance (particularly on mobile) and the locations of undersea cables. The interactive map is the icing on the cake.
Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Mike compares the bandwidth usage of the sites he most frequently visits. The results are grim.
The worst sins of the Flash years are coming back with a vengeance, in the form of CSS Frameworks and the magic dollar sign. There has seriously got to be a better way to do this.
HP “On That Cloud Thing That Everyone Else Is Talking About” | The Onion - America’s Finest News Source | Onion News Network
Pitch-perfect parody from The Onion:
HP announced they’re making a new push into cloud computing and that they totally know what that is.
In related news, I’ve ordered my “the cloud is a lie” T-shirt from James.
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Frank has published his book online in HTML. Very lovely it is too.
Monday, July 16th, 2012
Remember when I linked to the story of Twitter’s recent redesign of their mobile site and I said it would be great to see it progressively enhanced up to the desktop version? Well, here’s a case study that does just that.
One of the perks of organising this year’s dConstruct is that I get to put together my dream line-up. Hence the presence of one of my favourite sci-fi authors and all-round lovely person, Lauren Beukes.
Now seeing as Lauren is coming to Brighton for dConstruct anyway, I started to wonder whether it might be possible to persuade some other authors to come to town for something specifically sci-fi to tie in with the Brighton Digital Festival. Myself and Kate started scheming together.
Here’s the result: Brighton SF.
I’ll be hosting the event. I’m simultaneously really excited and really nervous about that. I’m hoping that we’ll have a fun hour and a half of chat and readings. I’ll try to not to embarrass myself by being too much of a fan boy.
Brighton SF will take place from 6pm to 7:30pm on Thursday, September 6th—the day before dConstruct. Tickets are £7 but that includes a free drink at the bar beforehand, so get along early for that.
The venue is the Pavilion Theatre. That’s also the venue for this year’s Improving Reality during the afternoon. Last year’s Improving Reality was excellent and this year’s looks like it’s going to be another winner. Warren Ellis will be speaking along with a host of smart artists and thinkers.
Improving Reality will take place from midday to 5:30pm. Tickets are £15 (or £10 for students). If you’d like to go to both events (and who wouldn’t?), you can get a combination ticket for £20 (£15 for students).
This is going to be fun! Hope to see you there.
Quadrants created by two crossed lines in an X formation. Hardcore.
A blow-by-blow legal analysis of the second verse of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems.
Sunday, July 15th, 2012
Organized Wonder | Curated documentaries, interviews, short films, and other top videos from around the web.
This is like a video version of Huffduffer (without the timeshifting). It’s very nicely done.
Friday, July 13th, 2012
Thoughts on artificial intelligence, computation and complexity.
I think Derek is on to something here. Maybe online communities and profit are simply incompatible?
The bigger you go, the harder the road. Meanwhile, small, focused, and yes, exclusionary community sites flourish.
You know what? I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
We’ll tell you what you really want: Mobile context, top tasks, and organization-centric thinking | Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Content Strategist
An excellent follow-up to the recent posts on the myth of mobile context.
You often hear about cutting content to cut clutter. I support this—if you’re cutting the clutter from everywhere, not just a mobile experience.
Maybe the answer isn’t cutting. Maybe it’s learning better skills for designing and structuring complex information to be usable and enjoyable in small spaces.
Tim’s book is ready for pre-order. Looks like it’s going to be good one.
More on View Source, this time from Bruce.
The Web has thrived on people viewing source, copying and pasting, then tweaking until they get the page they want.
I wish more tech bloggers wrote like this.
Stuart on the importance of View Source.
Andy remarks on the same synchronicity I talked about at An Event Apart Austin:
Every An Event Apart conference feels special, but at this one the (unplanned) recurring themes were spooky.
Strangers on a train.
Yet another brilliant technique from Dave. The only caveat is that it uses background images rather than img elements, but it’s still very powerful (and very clever).
Leisa nails it. The real stumbling block with trying to change the waterfall-esque nature of agency work (of which Clearleft has certainly been guilty) can be summed up in two words: sign off.
And from a client’s perspective, this emphasis on sign-off is completely understandable.
It takes a special kind of client to take the risk and develop the level of trust and integration required to work the way that Mr Popoff-Walker any many, many other inhabitants of agency world would like to work.
This in-depth map tale really works as a way of exploring Kerouac’s most famous work.
I’ve just been to Austin for An Event Apart. This was my ninth visit to Austin but the first time that it wasn’t during South By Southwest.
I liked it. I did not miss the throngs of marketers. Also, I was able to actually do things that require a lot more effort during Southby, like going to see movie (whilst having dinner and a few beers) at an Alamo Drafthouse—an excellent experience that I highly recommend. They have a code of conduct that would make Mark Kermode proud.
The conference was, as always, excellent.
What was really great was seeing themes emerge and recur over the course of the two days. I remember this happening a couple of years back, when many of speakers started talking media queries (culminating with Ethan coining the term Responsive Web Design). This time, the recurring themes were pretty clear: process and workflow.
There was plenty of nitty-gritty design and development knowledge bombs too, but it was really great when Sarah, Andy, Ethan and myself all talked about the importance of style guides and pattern libraries in our work. Samantha’s style tiles got multiple shout-outs too.
The speakers at An Event Apart don’t collude and coordinate before the event, but I’m sure it must have looked as though we had been sent on stage with a mission to continue Anna’s excellent work.
Now that An Event Apart Austin is over, I’ll be heading back to England’s rainy shores. But before I do, I’m going to soak up another day or two of sunshine in Arizona, visiting the in-laws.
We were all set to spend yesterday evening watching the stars from one of Kitt Peak’s telescopes. Alas, the thunderclouds put paid to that. But we did get to have a look around Kitt Peak, which was quite marvellous.
I took some pictures. It would’ve been cool to have checked in on Foursquare there but a) there’s no reception way out there and b) they ask you to switch off your phone …not all the telescopes are optical.
Thursday, July 12th, 2012
When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers’ | Threat Level | Wired.com
A good long read that tells the story behind an art piece that used the built-in cameras on Macs in the Apple Store, and the subsequent visit from the Secret Service.
The Old Aesthetic. It’s eighties-tastic!
How about this for a trip down memory lane—a compendium of articles from over a decade of A List Apart, also available as a Readlist epub. It’s quite amazing just how good this free resource is.
The only thing to fault is that, due to some kind of clerical error, one of my articles has somehow found its way onto this list.
If this were Twitter, you’d be at-replying me with the hashtag “humblebrag”, wouldn’t you?
This is a really good initiative—a list of minimum expectations from conference organisers (although there’s clearly some differences between cheaper grassroots events and larger industry affairs).
This resonates a lot with me. It also hits very close to home: at Clearleft, we’ve definitely been guilty of taking the wrong approach as described here.
A great behind-the-scenes look at the redesign (and redevelopment) of Twitter’s mobile subdomain silo. Man, I would love to see this progressively enhanced up to the current widescreen view for “desktop” browsers without the need for separate URLs for any class of device.
But I digress …this is good stuff.
Nicholas is inside my head! Get out of my head, Nicholas!
What makes the web beautiful is precisely that there are multiple browsers and, if you build things correctly, your sites and applications work in them all. They might not necessarily work exactly the same in them all, but they should still be able to work. There is absolutely nothing preventing you from using new features in your web applications, that’s what progressive enhancement is all about.
Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
What Erin has written here makes me want to be a better person.
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
A cautionary tale from Dave Winer of not considering digital preservation from the outside. We must learn the past. We must.
This is how London looked on my birthday, as recorded by the stationary meatspace protrusion of James’s Ship Adrift.
Kellan explains the tech behind Old Tweets …and also the thinking behind it:
I think our history is what makes us human, and the push to ephemerality and disposability “as a feature” is misguided. And a key piece of our personal histories is becoming “the story we want to remember”, aka what we’ve shared.
Yes, yes, yes! Karen drives home the difference between mobile and local (and there’s more about the myth of the mobile context).
If you’re making an argument for delivering different content to mobile users, or prioritizing content differently based on their context of use, stop for a minute and ask yourself if you mean local content. And if you do mean local content, then say that. Claiming that your travel example extends to cover the “mobile use case” leaves out millions of tasks and users.
Just to belabor this point: people use mobile devices in every location, in every context. Just because you know what type of device someone is using or where she is doesn’t tell you anything about her intention.
Josh writes about the importance of using rules and systems as tools without being bound by them.
A really great article from Stephen on how we are mistakenly making assumptions about what users want. He means it, man!
Monday, July 9th, 2012
I’m in Texas right now.
These are the final statements of men and women who have been executed by the state of Texas.
Now you can proudly sport a Pixelworkers T-shirt of England’s finest seaside geek town.
A public service from Kellan: the ability to search through your oldest tweets.
Yet another piece of brilliance from Tom:
Click to make the Olympic Mascots fire their roof-mounted missiles! Aim for terrorists, protestors, and any illegal advertising!
Technology - Howard Rheingold - What the WELL’s Rise and Fall Tell Us About Online Community - The Atlantic
The history of the WELL, a truly remarkable community.
Sunday, July 8th, 2012
It’s worth remembering sometimes just how amazing Twitter can be.
People who don’t know us wanted to send their friendship to a 15 year old learning-disabled girl who was sad. For no reason other than their own humanity. This is a beautiful thing.
A fun bit of Markov chaining of your tweets. Some of mine:
Had a burrito in Barcelona. Thank you get the peacocks plumage.
Stand by to the most helpful. The Fuck Was That type shop and David Byrne walked into a Wikipedia entry?
Last Waltz again. This Is A demonstration of The office doors are they talk right now. Cool your plans.
Picking salad leaves from the people who own them. They’re just resting” at the communal testing lab is!
Heading out the standard option. Alas, there’s no signs of spending Bloomsday as constructive feedback?
Here’s a brainbuster for ya: a single file that renders both as HTML and as a JPEG. As an HTML page, it even contains an img element with a src of …itself!
Compare the “view source” output with the generated source output to see it’s being interpreted.
Thursday, July 5th, 2012
Anna reports on her experience testing on a device we don’t often think about: the Nintendo DS …very popular with the young ‘uns.
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
Vannevar Bush’s original 1945 motherlode of hypertext.
Vernor Vinge’s original 1993 motherlode of the singularity.
There is a there there after all.
The backlash against the backlash against connectivity.
I thoroughly agree with Lea’s approach. It’s all about the craft.
Another interview for the Sitepoint podcast.
Sunday, July 1st, 2012
I, for one, welcome our Manufactured Normalcy Field overlords.
Aaron should definitely skyblog more often if this is the result.
The thing I wrote is punnily titled As We May Link (and if you get the reference to what I’m punning on, I think you’re going to like it). It’s quite different to most of the other articles I’ve written. My usual medium is hypertext, but I knew that The Manual was going to be published by pressing solutions of pigments onto thinly-sliced pieces of vegetation.
There’s a lot of fetishisation around that particular means of production, often involving the emotional benefit of consuming the final product in the bathtub, something I’ve never understood—surely water is as unsuitable an environment for paper-based analogue systems as it is for silicon-based digital devices?
In any case, I wanted to highlight the bound—in both senses of the word—nature of The Manual’s medium. So I wrote about hypertext …but without being able to use any hyperlinks; an exercise in dancing about architecture, as whoever the hell it was so eloquently put it.
If you’d like to read what I wrote (and what Tiffani wrote and what Ethan wrote and what all the other contributors wrote), then you can order The Manual online …but you’ll have to wait until it is delivered to you over a network of roads and other meatspace transportation routes. The latency is terrible, but the bandwidth is excellent: when you finally have the book in your hands, you’ll find that it contains an astonishing number of atoms.
That’s assuming there’s no packet loss.