The existential angst of unfeeling feedback.
Friday, May 31st, 2013
I like the idea of a /purpose page: I should add one to The Session and Huffduffer.
I need to get Matt to an Indie Web Camp.
Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Here’s a nifty trick: using text-align: justify to get a nice responsive grid layout.
Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
A wonderful essay about type on the web by Jessica.
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
This slipped past me somehow: a review of Huffduffer by Jason Snell for Macworld.
Thanks, Jason! Glad you like it.
A profile of Tom’s house.
It’s weird how normal this is.
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.
Monday, May 20th, 2013
An acquisition, or an aqui-hire, is always a failure. Either the founders failed to achieve their goal, or – far likelier – they failed to dream big enough. The proper ambition for a tech entrepreneur should be to join the ranks of the great tech companies, or, at least, to create a profitable, independent company beloved by employees, customers, and shareholders.
Ben proposes an alternative to archive.org: changing the fundamental nature of DNS.
Regarding the boo-hooing of how hard companies have it maintaining unprofitable URLs, I think Ben hasn’t considered the possibility of a handover to a cooperative of users—something that might yet happen with MySpace (at least there’s a campaign to that effect; it will probably come to naught). As Ben rightly points on, domain names are leased, not bought, so the idea of handing them over to better caretakers isn’t that crazy.
Sunday, May 19th, 2013
A fascinating look at the history of cookies …from the inventor of cookies.
Saturday, May 18th, 2013
The litany of open standards that Google has been abandoning: RSS, XMPP, WebDav…
Friday, May 17th, 2013
A nice description of progressive enhancement by Norm, as applied at GDS.
A handy walkthrough of using icon fonts. The examples here use the excellent IcoMoon service
Joking aside, this is a useful resource for keeping track of the current spread of Android versions.
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
By any other name
I’m not a fan of false dichotomies. Chief among them on the web is the dichotomy between documents and applications, or more broadly, “websites vs. web apps”:
Remember when we were all publishing documents on the web, but then there was that all-changing event and then we all started making web apps instead? No? Me neither. In fact, I have yet to hear a definition of what exactly constitutes a web app.
I’ve heard plenty of descriptions of web apps; there are many, many facets that could be used to describe a web app …but no hard’n’fast definitions.
One pithy observation is that “a website has an RSS feed; a web app has an API.” I like that. It’s cute. But it’s also entirely inaccurate. And it doesn’t actually help nail down what a web app actually is.
Like obscenity and brunch, web apps can be described but not defined.
I think that Jake gets close by describing sites as either “get stuff” (look stuff up) or “do stuff”. But even that distinction isn’t clear. Many sites morph from one into the other. Is Wikipedia a website up until the point that I start editing an article? Are Twitter and Pinterest websites while I’m browsing through them but then flip into being web apps the moment that I post something?
I think there’s a much more fundamental question here than simply “what’s the difference between a website and a web app?” That more fundamental question is…
Why do you want to make that distinction? What benefit do you gain by arbitrarily dividing the entire web into two classes?
In the case of “web app”, I’m genuinely curious to find out why so many designers, developers, and product owners are so keen to use the label. Perhaps it’s simply fashion. Perhaps “website” just sounds old-fashioned, and “web app” lends your product a more up-to-date, zingy feeling on par with the native apps available from the carefully-curated walled gardens of app stores.
That’s a good point. A lot of tools, frameworks, and libraries pitch themselves as being intended for web apps even though they might be equally useful for good ol’-fashioned websites.
In my experience, there’s an all-too-common reason why designers, developers, and product owners are eager to self-identify as the builders of web apps. It gives them a “get out of jail free” card. All the best practices that they’d apply to websites get thrown by the wayside. Progressive enhancement? Accessibility? Semantic markup? “Oh, we’d love to that, but this is a web app, you see… that just doesn’t apply to us.”
I’m getting pretty fed up with it. I find myself grinding my teeth when I hear the term “web app” used without qualification.
We need a more inclusive term that covers both sites and apps on the web. I propose we use the word “thang.”
“Check out this web thang I’m working on.”
“Have you seen this great web thang?”
“What’s that?” “It’s a web thang.”
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!
A fascinating analysis of a super-cheap phone from another world.
Welcome to the Galapagos of Chinese “open” source. I call it “gongkai” (公开). Gongkai is the transliteration of “open” as applied to “open source”. I feel it deserves a term of its own, as the phenomenon has grown beyond the so-called “shanzhai” (山寨) and is becoming a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem of its own.
Just as the Galapagos Islands is a unique biological ecosystem evolved in the absence of continental species, gongkai is a unique innovation ecosystem evolved with little western influence, thanks to political, language, and cultural isolation.
This time Brighton’s superb Maker Faire will span two days: the two days right after dConstruct.
This is going to be one helluva weekend.
Monday, May 13th, 2013
I occasionally get sent some devices for the Clearleft device lab (which reminds me: thank you to whoever at Blackberry sent over the “Dev Alpha B” Blackberry 10).
Last week, an interesting little device showed up.
I had no idea who sent it. Was it a gaming device ordered by Anna?
The packaging was all in Chinese. Perhaps some foreign hackers were attempting to infiltrate our network through some clever social engineering.
It’s an S18 Mini Pad. You can pick one up for about £30. For that price, as Chris pointed out, you could just use it as an alarm clock (and it does indeed have an alarm clock app). But it’s also a touchscreen device with WiFi and a web browser …a really good web browser: it comes with Chrome. It’s an Android 4 device.
It has all sorts of issues. The touchscreen is pretty crap, for example. But considering the price, it’s really quite remarkable.
We’ve got to the point where all the individual pieces—WiFi, touchscreen, web browser, operating system—can be thrown together into one device that can be sold for around the thirty quid mark. And this is without any phone company subsidies.
Crap as it is, this device really excites me. A cheap mobile web-enabled device …I find that so much more thrilling than any Apple keynote.
I have some dConstruct news for you. First and foremost, mark your calendar:
Tickets for dConstruct go on sale at 11am on Tuesday, May 21st.
That’s just eight days from now. In some previous years, tickets went very quickly. I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of those heady days of selling out within 24 hours this year, but it’s still worth grabbing your ticket nice and early. At £135+VAT, it’s a steal (as usual).
If you want to be all set next Tuesday, the Eventbrite page for tickets will be dconstruct2013.eventbrite.com. Speak, friend, and enter.
If you’re wavering about whether or not to come this year, dispel your doubts. Just look at how much people enjoyed last year’s dConstruct—it was truly awesome, as you can hear for yourself on the dConstruct archive. This year’s line-up continues the tradition of blowing minds with brilliance.
On the subject of this year’s line-up, it is now complete with the addition of Simone Rebaudengo who will share his tells of neurotic network-enabled toasters. He was a huge hit at this year’s UX London and it became clear to me that I had to have him for dConstruct. I mean, the theme is “Communicating With Machines”, for crying out loud!
I’ve also been rounding up the finest and brightest teachers for full-day workshops that will precede the conference. The workshop tickets also go on sale next Tuesday. A workshop costs £395+VAT and that includes a complementary ticket to the conference day as well. Your choices are:
- Seb: CreativeJS,
- Aaron: Planning Adaptive Interfaces, and
- Luke: Designing Mobile to Multi-Device Experiences.
(Speaking of workshops, if you fancy a full day of responsive design with me, I’m doing a workshop on a workshop right before Ampersand in June and you can grab a 20% discount before the end of this month—‘twould be lovely if you could join me.)
In case you can’t tell, I’m getting very excited indeed about this year’s dConstruct. It’s going to be a lot of fun! Hope to see you there.
This is a breath of fresh air: a blogging platform that promises to keep its URLs online in perpetuity.
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.
Fascinating fodder for Huffduffer:
Beginning in 1996, Radio Diaries gave tape recorders to teenagers around the country to create audio diaries about their lives. NPR’s All Things Considered aired intimate portraits of five of these teens: Amanda, Juan, Frankie, Josh and Melissa. They’re now in their 30s. Over this past year, the same group has been recording new stories about where life has led them for our series, Teenage Diaries Revisited.
Perhaps we are fetishising physical things because our digital creations are social media junk food:
It’s easy to fetishize Brutalist buildings when you don’t have to live in them. On the other hand, when the same Brutalist style is translated into the digital spaces we daily inhabit, it becomes a source of endless whinging. Facebook, for example, is Brutalist social media. It reproduces much the same relationship with its users as the Riis Houses and their ilk do with their residents: focusing on control and integration into the high-level planning scheme rather than individual life and the “ballet of a good blog comment thread”, to paraphrase Jane Jacobs.
Sunday, May 12th, 2013
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Mobilism hot topics panel
The programme for this year’s Mobilism conference in Amsterdam looks hot, hot, hot! It will wrap up with that hottest of hot things: a hot topics panel. Hot!
By the way, there are still tickets available. I suggest you grab one if you haven’t already. It’s a great gathering but for some reason it’s not selling as well this year, which means this could be your last chance to attend.
I’ve really, really enjoyed the previous two Mobilisms, and I always get a kick out of moderating panels so I’m pretty chuffed about getting the chance to host a panel for the third year running.
The first year, the panel was made up of Mobile browser vendors (excluding Apple, of course). Last year, it was more of a mixed bag of vendors and developers. This year …well, we’ll see. I’ll assemble the panel over the course of the conference’s two days. I plan to choose the sassiest and most outspoken of speakers—the last thing you want on a panel is a collection of meek, media-trained company shills.
Mind you, Dan has managed to buy his way onto the panel through some kind of sponsorship deal, but I’m hoping he’ll be able to contribute something useful about Firefox OS.
Apart from that one preordained panelist, everything else is up in the air. To help me decide who to invite onto the panel, it would be really nice to have an idea of what kind of topics people want to have us discuss. Basically, what’s hot and what’s not.
So …got a burning question about mobile, the web, or the “mobile web” (whatever that means)? I want to hear it.
If you could leave a comment with your question, ‘twould be much appreciated.
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
I’m in general agreement with this rousing defence of CSS. I think it does a pretty great job of balancing a whole ton of use cases.
Josh has been teaching HTML and CSS schoolkids. I love the pages that they’ve made. I really mean it. I genuinely think these are wonderful!
Zooniverse have done it again. Now you can help in the hunt for sources of gravitational lensing.
It’s informative. It’s fun. It has genuine scientific value.
I can’t see it myself. But I can’t guarantee that we weren’t somehow unconsciously influenced by these guys.
Just to set the record straight, I gave them a call.
Update: a few points of clarification:
- Garry from Kent Web Host is totally cool with me publishing our conversation.
- I’m not publishing this out of any spirit of schadenfreude. I’m publishing it because it was a fun conversation and Garry handled the situation like a true gent.
- Garry is a really nice guy. If you want to say unkind things about him on Twitter when you’re linking to this, don’t: you don’t know what you’re talking about.
A lovely little highlight reel that Craig put together from the Responsive Day Out.
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Colossus …in Lego.
Some good thinking from Jason here. In a roundabout way, he’s saying that when it comes to responsive images—as with just about every other aspect of web development—the answer is …it depends.
In a piece for Medium commissioned by Matter, Jon Norris describes a little-known aspect of the UK’s information technology history:
Gender equality is still a major issue in the technology industry, but 50 years ago one British company was blazing trails.
I’ll be speaking at this event in London on Thursday. It would be lovely if you could come along. It’s free!
Wow! The CSS Zen Garden is a decade old. Crazy! It’s a true piece of web history …and it’s back!
Monday, May 6th, 2013
Scott points out a really big problem with the current state of the “internet of things”: everyone is inventing their own proprietary walled-garden infrastructure instead of getting together to collaborate on standards.
The single biggest fallacy I want to blow up is this utopian idea that there is this SINGLE thing called ‘The Cloud’. Each company today reinvents their own cloud. The Cloud as a concept is dead and has been for years: we are living within a stormy sky of cranky clouds, all trying to pretend the others don’t exist.
As We May Link
This piece first appeared in issue 3 of The Manual, a thrice-yearly print publication.
First published in issue 3 of The Manual.
Sunday, May 5th, 2013
A really nice short film about the Willie Clancy Summer School. It makes me want to get back to Miltown Malbay this July.
This looks like it could be a handy app for synchronising a whole bunch of devices when testing. I’ll have to give it a whirl on the device lab.
Also, it has a perfectly fair one-off price, rather than the Mafia-style protection fee model that Adobe uses for Edge Inspect.
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
A look at how Huffduffer-style forms might improve “conversion”.
Whatever. Let’s face it: it’s just quite nice when a form isn’t just your typical form (which this article makes a good point of mentioning):
Where the traditional sign up form is a regular, everyday brown cow, the mad lib form is a purple cow - a shiny object. We’re naturally easily distracted by, and drawn to, what’s new or out of the ordinary! Take advantage of that.
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.
Personally, I had the time of my life. Literally. The one-two punch of Brighton SF and dConstruct was one of the best couple of days I’ve ever had in my life.
But the day after dConstruct 2012 I remember waking up and thinking “ah, shit …how am I ever going to top that?”
- The funny and geeky Adam Buxton,
- The cyborg anthropologist Amber Case,
- Hacker and tinkerer Dan Williams,
- Security cyberpunk Keren Elazari,
- The future-friendly Luke Wroblewski,
- My favourite writer on the web, Maciej Cegłowski,
- The queen of CSS, Nicole Sullivan, and
- Friend to the robots, Sarah Angliss.
I think you’ll agree that’s not your typical conference line up. It’s going to be great! And it’s going to be a lot of fun. Trust me.
Trust is something I feel I’ve earned after last year’s tour-de-force. Last year’s line-up was pretty unusual too, but it worked superbly. Now I’ve got to make sure that I don’t squander the trust I earned.
So if you came to dConstruct last year, I don’t need to tell you why you should come back this year.
If you didn’t make it to last year’s dConstruct, you can make up for it this year. You don’t want to miss out two years in a row now, do you?
Tickets will go on sale in a few weeks time. I’ll announce the exact date soon. I’ll also be updating the information about the workshops we’ll be running this year.
And if you’re planning to come to Brighton for dConstruct, make sure to stick around for the weekend. The Brighton Digital Festival is happening again this September. That means a Maker Faire, meetups, hack events, and art shows all around town.
See you on the first Friday of September!