Archive: September, 2014

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Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Y Combinator and the negative externalities of Hacker News | Danilo Campos

When I wrote about Reddit and Hacker News, criticising their lack of moderation, civility, and basic decency, many people (invariably men) responded in defence of Reddit. Nobody defended Hacker News. Nobody.

Oh, and all of you people (men) defending Reddit? Here’s your party line …I find it abhorrent.

Laughing out loud throughout @Davatron5000’s @ArtifactConf talk. It is quite literally a LOLfest.

Ducking out of the conference to grab a coffee ’round the corner, remembering to remove my lanyard so I don’t look like a douchebadge.

Introducing Universal SSL

Great news from Cloudflare—https endpoints by default!

This means that if you’re planning on switching on TLS for your site, but you’re using Cloudflare as a CDN, you’ve got one less thing to change (and goodness knows you’re going to have enough to do already).

I really like their reasoning for doing this, despite the fact that it might mean that they take a financial hit:

Having cutting-edge encryption may not seem important to a small blog, but it is critical to advancing the encrypted-by-default future of the Internet. Every byte, however seemingly mundane, that flows encrypted across the Internet makes it more difficult for those who wish to intercept, throttle, or censor the web. In other words, ensuring your personal blog is available over HTTPS makes it more likely that a human rights organization or social media service or independent journalist will be accessible around the world. Together we can do great things.

Keep ’em Separated — ericportis.com

I share the concerns expressed here about the “sizes” attribute that’s part of the new turbo-powered img element (or “the picture element and its associates”, if you prefer). Putting style or layout information into HTML smells bad.

This is a concern that Matt Wilcox has raised:

Change the design and those breakpoints are likely to be wrong. So you’ll need to change all of the client-side mark-up that references images.

I can give you a current use-case: right here on adactio.com, you can change the stylesheet …so I can’t embed breakpoints or sizes into my img elements because—quite rightly—there’s a separation between the structural HTML layer and the presentational CSS layer.

Responsive Images: If you’re just changing resolutions, use srcset. | CSS-Tricks

Following on from that post of Jason’s I linked to, Chris also emphasises that, for most use cases, you probably only need to use srcset (and maybe sizes), but not the picture element with explicit sources.

It’s really, really great that people are writing about this, because it can be quite a confusing topic to wrap your head around at first.

Medicating with spicy kimchee chicken ramen.

Medicating with spicy kimchee chicken ramen.

Spent the afternoon holed up in my hotel room when I should have been listening to the excellent @ArtifactConf talks.

Airplanes; public transport; hotel room air-conditioning …all these factors seem to have conspired to give me a dose of the sniffles.

Monday, September 29th, 2014

15 Lessons from 15 Years of Blogging - Anil Dash

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.

“Photoshop is the most effective way to show your clients what their website will never look like.”

@StephenHay

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Hello, Providence.*

*the place, not the state of having supernatural protection for future eventualities

My gracious hosts, @beep and @drinkerthinker.

My gracious hosts, @beep and @drinkerthinker.

Rory, short for Rorschach.

Rory, short for Rorschach.

Listening to @StevenBJohnson on NPR.

For once, I’m listening live; not huffduffing.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Hello, Boston.

Beginning a two-week US tour: London to Boston to Providence to San Francisco to New York to London.

Here I go…

Sitting in the lounge of a nascent spaceport, patching my servers against Shellshock.

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Here’s @MandyWongDesign’s collection of Books Apart.

Here’s @MandyWongDesign’s collection of Books Apart.

Ladies and gentlemen …Mr. Dan Cederholm.

Ladies and gentlemen …Mr. Dan Cederholm.

It’s @Huffduffer on a Nintendo DS, as demoed by @AnnaDebenham.

It’s @Huffduffer on a Nintendo DS, as demoed by @AnnaDebenham.

Websites that have been going for at least 15 years: Metafilter, Craigslist, Internet Archive, LiveJournal, Kottke …what else?

Listening to @JaffaTheCake share everything he knows.

Listening to @JaffaTheCake share everything he knows.

Listening to @DeniseJacobs kicking off #GenerateConf.

Listening to @DeniseJacobs kicking off #GenerateConf.

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

There are three web conferences happening in England tomorrow: WXG in Guildford, RevolutionConf in Shropshire, and Generate in London.

Loving my new http://analog.is notebooks. Cheers, @briansuda!

Loving my new http://analog.is notebooks.

Cheers, @briansuda!

On tour

I’ve just returned from a little European tour of Germany, Italy, and Romania, together with Jessica.

More specifically, I was at Smashing Conference in Freiburg, From The Front in Bologna, and SmartWeb in Bucharest. They were all great events, and it was particularly nice to attend events that focussed on their local web community. Oh, and they were all single-track events, which I really appreciate.

Now my brain is full of all the varied things that all the excellent speakers covered. I’ll need some time to digest it all.

I wasn’t just at those events to soak up knowledge; I also gave a talk at From The Front and SmartWeb—banging on about progressive enhancement again. In both cases, I was able to do that first thing and then I could relax and enjoy the rest of the talks.

I didn’t speak at Smashing Conf. Well, I did speak, but I wasn’t speaking …I mean, I was speaking, but I wasn’t speaking …I didn’t give a talk, is what I’m trying to say here.

Instead, I was MCing (and I’ve just realised that “Master of Ceremonies” sounds like a badass job title, so excuse me for a moment while I go and update the Clearleft website again). It sounds like a cushy number but it was actually a fair bit of work.

I’ve never MC’d an event that wasn’t my own before. It wasn’t just a matter of introducing each speaker—there was also a little chat with each speaker after their talk, so I had to make sure I was paying close attention to each and every talk, thinking of potential questions and conversation points. After two days of that, I was a bit knackered. But it was good fun. And I had the pleasure of introducing Dave as the mystery speaker—and it really was a surprise for most people.

It’s always funny to return to Freiburg, the town that Jessica and I called home for about six years back in the nineties. The town where I first started dabbling in this whole “world wide web” thing.

It was also fitting that our Italian sojourn was to Bologna, the city that Jessica and I have visited on many occassions …well, we are both foodies, after all.

But neither of us had ever been to Bucharest, so it was an absolute pleasure to go somewhere new, meet new people, and of course, try new foods and wines.

I’m incredibly lucky that my job allows me to travel like this. I get to go to interesting locations and get paid to geek out about web stuff that I’d be spouting on about anyway. I hope I never come to take that for granted.

My next speaking gig is much closer to home; the Generate conference in London tomorrow. After that, it’s straight off to the States for Artifact in Providence.

I’m going to extend that trip so I can get to Science Hack Day in San Francisco before bouncing back to the east coast for the final Brooklyn Beta. I’m looking forward to all those events, but alas, Jessica won’t be coming with me on this trip, so my enjoyment will be bittersweet—I’ll be missing her the whole time.

Thank goodness for Facetime.

Tech’s tunnel vision (Phil Gyford’s website)

I really like Phil’s braindump of conference ideas. Frankly, many of these ideas work just as well as watchwords for building on the web:

  • Different models for start-ups. Co-operatives. Employee ownership. Normal, slowly-growing, profit-making businesses.
  • Technology for people who don’t live in the first world. (There’s a lot of them and they have a lot of technology, but most of us know nothing about it.)
  • Websites that make the whole Web better.
  • New services that work fine on technology that’s been around for years.
  • Services designed for people who have little money.
  • Services designed for people who aren’t fully able.
  • Models for keeping services running over the long-term. (What happens when your company closes, or to your personal projects when you die?)

Lillian Karabaic: The Indie Web is the new Zines

I really like this comparison:

As a zinester and zine librarian, I see the Indie Web as a pretty direct correlation to 1980’s and 1990’s zine culture. The method of production may be completely different (photocopiers and direct mail vs web posts and servers) but the goals are almost identical – controlling the way in which your message and identity are displayed, crafted, and stored while avoiding censorship that corporate media might impose. The end goal of both zine and indieweb technologies is ownership of your own identity without a filter.

But there also challenges:

The key issue right now for diverse populations utilizing the Indie Web is accessibility. As long as the tools for creating & controlling your own identity online are still relatively obtuse & technical to implement, we won’t have great diversity within the Indie Web.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Back in the UK after an enjoyable and productive trip to Freiburg, Bologna, and Bucharest.

Using ServiceWorker in Chrome today - JakeArchibald.com

It’s very early days for ServiceWorker, but Jake is on hand with documentation and instructions on its use. To be honest, most of this is over my head and I suspect it won’t really “click” until I try using it for myself.

Where it gets really interesting is in the comments. Stuart asks “What about progressive enhancement?” And Jake points out that because a ServiceWorker won’t be installed on a first visit, you pretty much have to treat it as an enhancement. In fact, you’d have to go out of your way to make it a requirement:

You could, of course, throw up a splash screen and wait for the ServiceWorker to install, creating a ServiceWorker-dependant experience. I will hunt those people down.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Watching @TheBabyDino blowing some minds with CSS.

Watching @TheBabyDino blowing some minds with CSS.

Listening to @CSSwizardry talk about “curd blurt” in CSS frameworks (probably the result of their glurbel scurp).

The Tink Tank » Understanding screen reader interaction modes

Léonie gives a great, clear description of how screen readers switch modes as they traverse the DOM snapshot.

» Don’t use <picture> (most of the time) Cloud Four Blog

Jason points out that the picture element might not be needed for most responsive image use cases; the srcset and sizes attributes will probably be enough—that’s what I’m doing for the photos on my site.

Awaiting my introduction by renowned raconteur @brucel to kick off #SmartWebConf in Bucharest.

Awaiting my introduction by renowned raconteur @brucel to kick off #SmartWebConf in Bucharest.

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

[this is aaronland] upload.js

A really handy bit of code from Aaron for building a robust file uploader. A way to make your web-based photo sharing more Instagrammy-clever.

Anne’s Blog

Anne is documenting his process of going https:

  1. TLS: first steps
  2. TLS: issues with StartSSL
  3. TLS: issues with DreamHost
  4. TLS: deploy HSTS
  5. TLS: next steps

I’m really glad he’s doing this.

Perennial Design, by Wilson Miner · Issue 4 · The Manual

A deeply thoughtful piece (as always) by Wilson, on the mindset needed for a sustainable way of working.

When we start with the assumption that optimizing for rapid, unbounded growth is a goal, we immediately narrow the possibility space. There are only so many choices we can make that will get us there. The same choices that made annual monoculture and the shopping mall the most efficient engines for short-term growth and profit are the same qualities that made them unsustainable in the long term.

There are more ways to scale than growth. There are more ways to deepen our impact than just reaching more people. What if we put just as much effort into scaling the impact of our work over time? Can we build digital products around sustainable systems that survive long enough to outlive us, that are purpose-built to thrive without our constant cultivation?

Against Sharing | Jacobin

But under the guise of innovation and progress, companies are stripping away worker protections, pushing down wages, and flouting government regulations. At its core, the sharing economy is a scheme to shift risk from companies to workers, discourage labor organizing, and ensure that capitalists can reap huge profits with low fixed costs.

There’s nothing innovative or new about this business model. Uber is just capitalism, in its most naked form.

Thoughts on Winding Down Ficly and Updates on Its Future — sixtwothree.org

Jason writes about the closing of Ficly. This is a lesson in how to do this right:

We knew as soon as we decided to wind down Ficly that we wanted to provide users with continued access to their work, even if they couldn’t create more. We’re still working on some export tools, but more importantly, we’re guaranteeing that all original work on the site will live on at its current URL far into the future.

Stopping for a flat white at Origo. http://origocoffee.ro

Stopping for a flat white at Origo.

http://origocoffee.ro

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Salut, Bucharesti.

Salut, Bucharesti.

Blending in.

Blending in.

Sunday morning in Bologna.

Sunday morning in Bologna.

Wandering through the porticoes of Bologna.

Parma.

Parma.

Dancing.

Dancing.

Making flour.

Making flour.

Medieval music in Parma.

Medieval music in Parma.

A Fundamental Disconnect, From the Notebook of Aaron Gustafson

I think Aaron is spot-on here. There’s a tendency to treat web development these days as just the same as any other kind of software development—which is, on the one hand, great because it shows just how far JavaScript and browsers have come …but on the other hand, that attitude is missing a crucial understanding of the fundamental nature of the web’s technology stack (that we should be treating HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as layers; not as one big ball of webby, timey-wimey stuff).

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Extensible Web Summit Berlin 2014: my lightning talk on Web Components | soledad penadés

Soledad Penadés also went to the Extensible Web Summit in Berlin, where she gave a lightning talk. Sounds like it was really good.

This also includes some good advice that, again, Alex might want to consider before denouncing any disagreement on Web Components as “piffle and tosh”:

If the W3C, or any other standardisation organisation wants to attract “normal” developers to get more diverse inputs, they/we should start by being respectful to everyone. Don’t try to show everyone how superclever you are. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t scare people away, because then only the loud ones stay, and the quieter shy people, or people who have more urgent matters to attend (such as, you know, having a working business website even if it’s not using the latest and greatest API) will just leave.

Bruce Lawson’s personal site  : Reflections on Extensible Web Summit, Berlin

Bruce went to the Extensible Web Summit in Berlin and wrote up his notes.

Sounds like he shares my excitement, but also my nervousness.

I’m not yet entirely convinced that we’re not heralding a new era of JavaScript-only web development. I don’t want to see the fossilisation of the declarative web and a new Programmer Priesthood (re-)emerge.

There’s also this important point, that Alex would do well to remember before crying “Piffle and tosh!”:

We need to ensure that all devs who want to can participate by allowing ease of collaboration, courteous discourse.

High Street Shops In Sci Fi Films

I’m not quite sure why this is funny, but I am quite sure that it is.

The Scourge of Helvetica Neue Light | Clagnut

Richard never rants.

Here’s Richard ranting.

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Listening to @SaraSoueidan effortlessly overcome tech issues.

Listening to @SaraSoueidan effortlessly overcome tech issues.

Lunch at Diana.

Lunch at Diana.

Tagliatelle al Ragú.

Tagliatelle al Ragú.

Dishing up the pasta.

Dishing up the pasta.

Antipasti.

Antipasti.

Getting ready for another day in The Temple of DOM.

Getting ready for another day in The Temple of DOM.

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

The giant floating head of @aWorkingLibrary invoked by @FullCreamMilk. Editor love.

The giant floating head of @aWorkingLibrary invoked by @FullCreamMilk.

Editor love.

Linguine for lunch.

Linguine for lunch.

Loving @klick_ass’s ideas for drumming up support for device testing.

My little part: https://vimeo.com/63637733

Humbled and amazed by how far the Open Device Lab idea has spread since https://adactio.com/journal/5433

Humbled and amazed by how far the Open Device Lab idea has spread since https://adactio.com/journal/5433

All mic’d up and ready to kick off @FromTheFront.

Espresso time.

Espresso time.

Touristing in Bologna.

Touristing in Bologna.

The ball is in your courtyard.

The ball is in your courtyard.

Waking up.

Waking up.

Looking up.

Looking up.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Bikers.

Bikers.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Ciao, bella!

Ciao, bella!

Buongiorno, Bologna! (And, might I say, I’m quite liking this hotel balcony)

Buongiorno, Bologna!

(And, might I say, I’m quite liking this hotel balcony)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Had fun MCing two days of @SmashingConf in Freiburg. Now onwards to Bologna for @FromTheFront.

Drone over Freiburg.

Drone over Freiburg.

Eating Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte while @grigs wraps up @SmashingConf.

Eating Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte while @grigs wraps up @SmashingConf.

Freiburg’s Historisches Kaufhaus.

Freiburg’s Historisches Kaufhaus.

Flammkuchen AKA Tarte Flambé.

Flammkuchen AKA Tarte Flambé.

Neuer Süßer with @mezzoblue.

Neuer Süßer with @mezzoblue.

Currywurst!

Currywurst!

Introducing @mezzoblue to the sausages of Freiburg.

Introducing @mezzoblue to the sausages of Freiburg.

All conference venues should have turrets.

All conference venues should have turrets.

Revisiting the bread standards carved into the Freiburger Münster.

Revisiting the bread standards carved into the Freiburger Münster.

Under the eye of the clock.

Under the eye of the clock.

Monday, September 15th, 2014

A beautiful building on a beautiful day—the Freiburger Münster.

White wine in the sunshine.

White wine in the sunshine.

Forelle in Freiburg.

Forelle in Freiburg.

Listening to my mancrush @PhilHawksworth speaking at @SmashingConf.

Listening to my mancrush @PhilHawksworth speaking at @SmashingConf.

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Hypertext as an agent of change | A Working Library

The text of Mandy’s astounding dConstruct talk.

Marvellous stuff!

Packing a bag for a trip to Freiburg, then Bologna, then Bucharest.

Mushroom feast.

Mushroom feast.

Notes on notes (of smart people) about web components

Steve Faulkner responds to Alex’s response to my post about Web Components.

Steve shares my concerns …but he still refers to my post as “piffle”.

I can’t win.

Uncomfortably Excited – Infrequently Noted

Alex’s response to my post about Web Components, in which he ignores my excitement and dismisses my concerns as “piffle and tosh.”

I gotta say: I think cautious optimism and nervous excitement are healthy attitudes to have about any technology. For Alex to dismiss them so summarily makes me even more worried. Apparently you’re either with Web Components or you’re against them. Heaven forbid that you might voice any doubts or suggest any grey areas.

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Mmmm …oysters.

Mmmm …oysters.

Beer goggles. (Prospect ale goggles, to be precise)

Beer goggles. (Prospect ale goggles, to be precise)

Pork on a stick, squid on a stick.

Pork on a stick, squid on a stick.

Beef bahn mi at the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival.

Beef bahn mi at the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival.

Other days, other voices

I think that Mandy’s talk at this year’s dConstruct might be one of the best talks I’ve ever heard at any conference ever. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you really should.

There are no videos from this year’s dConstruct—you kind of had to be there—but Mandy’s talk works astoundingly well as a purely audio experience. In fact, it’s remarkable how powerful many of this year’s talks are as audio pieces. From Warren’s thoughtful opening words to Cory’s fiery closing salvo, these are talks packed so full of ideas that revisiting them really pays off.

That holds true for previous years as well—James Burke’s talk from two years ago really is a must-listen—but there’s something about this year’s presentations that really comes through in the audio recordings.

Then again, I’m something of a sucker for the spoken word. There’s something about having to use the input from one sensory channel—my ears—to create moving images in my mind, that often results in a more powerful experience than audio and video together.

We often talk about the internet as a revolutionary new medium, and it is. But it is revolutionary in the way that it collapses geographic and temporal distance; we can have instant access to almost any information from almost anywhere in the world. That’s great, but it doesn’t introduce anything fundamentally new to our perception of the world. Instead, the internet accelerates what was already possible.

Even that acceleration is itself part of a longer technological evolution that began with the telegraph—something that Brian drove home in in his talk when he referred to Tom Standage’s excellent book, The Victorian Internet. It’s probably true to say that the telegraph was a more revolutionary technology than the internet.

To find the last technology that may have fundamentally altered how we perceive the world and our place in it, I propose the humble gramophone.

On the face of it, the ability to play back recorded audio doesn’t sound like a particularly startling or world-changing shift in perspective. But as Sarah pointed out in her talk at last year’s dConstruct, the gramophone allowed people to hear, for the first time, the voices of people who aren’t here …including the voices of the dead.

Today we listen to the voices of the dead all the time. We listen to songs being sung by singers long gone. But can you imagine what it must have been like the first time that human beings heard the voices of people who were no longer alive?

There’s something about the power of the human voice—divorced from the moving image—that still gets to me. It’s like slow glass for the soul.

In the final year of her life, Chloe started publishing audio versions of some of her blog posts. I find myself returning to them again and again. I can look at pictures of Chloe, I can re-read her writing, I can even watch video …but there’s something so powerful about just hearing her voice.

I miss her so much.

Why You Want a Code of Conduct & How We Made One | Incisive.nu

A great piece by Erin on the value of a code of conduct for conferences, filled with practical advice.

Once you decide to create a code and do it thoughtfully, you’ll find the internet overflows with resources to help you accomplish your goals, and good people who’ll offer guidance and advice. From my own experience, I can say that specificity and follow-through will make your code practical and give it teeth; humane language and a strong connection to your community will make it feel real and give it a heart.

Digital Amnesia - YouTube

A documentary on our digital dark age. Remember this the next time someone trots out the tired old lie that “the internet never forgets.”

If we lose the past, we will live in an Orwellian world of the perpetual present, where anybody that controls what’s currently being put out there will be able to say what is true and what is not. This is a dreadful world. We don’t want to live in this world. —Brewster Kahle

It’s a terrible indictment of where our priorities were for the last 20 years that we depend essentially on children and maniacs to save our history of this sort. —Jason Scott

Friday, September 12th, 2014

On the hit parade at https://huffduffer.com/popular

@WarrenEllis at 3,

@Doctorow at 2,

But no. 1 with a bullet: @AWorkingLibrary

Worried that @SlightlyLate sometimes doubts my commitment to Sparkle Motion.

It’s @HarryBr!

It’s @HarryBr!

Beer on the beach with @Clearleft.

Beer on the beach with @Clearleft.

Going for a beer on the beach.

Ian Paisley’s death reminds me of the graffiti scrawled under “Ulster Says No!”:

“The Man From Del Monte Says Yes! And He’s An Orangeman”

Want Forward Secrecy on Apache? You need to upgrade to version 2.4.

Want SPDY on Apache? You need to downgrade to version 2.2.

Watching @OllysFishShack at work.

Watching @OllysFishShack at work.

Ordering the Pohawk at @StreetDiner.

Ordering the Pohawk at @StreetDiner.

Publishing a somewhat epic walkthrough of the steps I took switching to https:

https://adactio.com/articles/7435

Switching to https

A step-by-step guide to enabling TLS on Apache.

Indie Web Camp UK 2014

Indie Web Camp UK took place here in Brighton right after this year’s dConstruct. I was organising dConstruct. I was also organising Indie Web Camp. This was a problem.

It was a problem because I’m no good at multi-tasking, and I focused all my energy on dConstruct (it more or less dominated my time for the past few months). That meant that something had to give and that something was the organising of Indie Web Camp.

The event itself went perfectly smoothly. All the basics were there: a great venue, a solid internet connection, and a plan of action. But because I was so focused on dConstruct, I didn’t put any time into trying to get the word out about Indie Web Camp. Worse, I didn’t put any time into making sure that a diverse range of people knew about the event.

So in the end, Indie Web Camp UK 2014 was quite a homogenous gathering. That’s a real shame, and it’s my fault. My excuse is that I was busy with all things dConstruct, but that’s just that; an excuse. On the plus side, the effort I put into making dConstruct a diverse event paid off, but I’ll know better in future than to try to organise two back-to-back events. I need to learn to delegate and ask for help.

But I don’t want to cast Indie Web Camp in a totally negative light (I just want to acknowledge how it could have been better). It was actually pretty great. As with previous events, it was remarkably productive. The format of one day of talks, followed by one day of hacking is spot on.

Indie Web Camp UK attendees

I hadn’t planned to originally, but I spent the second day getting adactio.com switched over to https. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote:

I’m looking forward to switching my website over to https:// but I’m not going to do it until the potential pain level drops.

Well, I’m afraid that potential pain level has not dropped. In fact, I can confirm that get TLS working is massive pain in the behind. But on the first day of Indie Web Camp, Tim Retout led a session on security and offered up his expertise for day two. I took full advantage of his generous offer.

With Tim’s help, I was able to get adactio.com all set. If I hadn’t had his help, it probably would’ve taken me days …or I simply would’ve given up. I took plenty of notes so I could document the process. I’ll write it up soon, but alas, it will only be useful to people with the same kind of hosting set up as I have.

By the end of Indie Web Camp, thanks to Tim’s patient assistance, quite a few people has switched on TSL for their sites. The https page on the Indie Web Camp wiki is turning into quite a handy resource.

There was lots of progress in other areas too, particularly with webactions. Some of that progress relates to what I’ve been saying about Web Components. More on that later…

Throw in some Transmat action, location-based hacks, and communication tools; all-in-all a very productive weekend.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

This evening’s @AsyncJS here in @68MiddleSt looks like it will be fun: http://asyncjs.com/robocode-hackathon-part-1/

In lieu of actually being at #extwebsummit, I’m publishing my reckons on Web Components.

https://adactio.com/journal/7431

Web Components

The Extensible Web Summit is taking place in Berlin today because Web Components are that important. I wish I could be there, but I’ll make do with the live notes, the IRC channel, and the octothorpe tag.

I have conflicting feelings about Web Components. I am simultaneously very excited and very nervous. That’s probably a good sign.

Here’s what I wrote after the last TAG meetup in London:

This really is a radically new and different way of adding features to browsers. In theory, it shifts the balance of power much more to developers (who currently have to hack together everything using JavaScript). If it works, it will be A Good Thing and result in expanding HTML’s vocabulary with genuinely useful features. I fear there may be a rocky transition to this new way of thinking, and I worry about backwards compatibility, but I can’t help but admire the audacity of the plan.

And here’s what I wrote after the Edge conference:

If Web Components work out, and we get a kind emergent semantics of UI widgets, it’ll be a huge leap forward for the web. But if we end up with a Tower of Babel, things could get very messy indeed. We’ll probably get both at once.

To explain…

The exciting thing about Web Components is that they give developers as much power as browser makers.

The frightening thing about Web Components is that they give developers as much power as browser makers.

When browser makers—and other contributors to web standards—team up to hammer out new features in HTML, they have design principles to guide them …at least in theory. First and foremost—because this is the web, not some fly-by-night “platform”—is the issue of compatability:

Support existing content

Degrade gracefully

You can see those principles at work with newly-minted elements like canvas, audio, video where fallback content can be placed between the opening and closing tags so that older user agents aren’t left high and dry (which, in turn, encourages developers to start using these features long before they’re universally supported).

You can see those principles at work in the design of datalist.

You can see those principles at work in the design of new form features which make use of the fact that browsers treat unknown input types as type="text" (again, encouraging developers to start using the new input long before they’re supported in every browser).

When developers are creating new Web Components, they could apply that same amount of thought and care; Chris Scott has demonstrated just such a pattern. Switching to Web Components does not mean abandoning progressive enhancement. If anything they provide the opportunity to create whole new levels of experience.

Web developers could ensure that their Web Components degrade gracefully in older browsers that don’t support Web Components (and no, “just polyfill it” is not a sustainable solution) or, for that matter, situations where JavaScript—for whatever reason—is not available.

Web developers could ensure that their Web Components are accessible, using appropriate ARIA properties.

But I fear that Sturgeon’s Law is going to dominate Web Components. The comparison that’s often cited for Web Components is the creation of jQuery plug-ins. And let’s face it, 90% of jQuery plug-ins are crap.

This wouldn’t matter so much if developers were only shooting themselves in the foot, but because of the wonderful spirit of sharing on the web, we might well end up shooting others in the foot too:

  1. I make something (to solve a problem).
  2. I’m excited about it.
  3. I share it.
  4. Others copy and paste what I’ve made.

Most of the time, that’s absolutely fantastic. But if the copying and pasting happens without critical appraisal, a lot of questionable decisions can get propagated very quickly.

To give you an example…

When Apple introduced the iPhone, it provided a mechanism to specify that a web page shouldn’t be displayed in a zoomed-out view. That mechanism, which Apple pulled out of their ass without going through any kind of standardisation process, was to use the meta element with a name of “viewport”:

<meta name="viewport" value="...">

The value attribute of a meta element takes a comma-separated list of values (think of name="keywords": you provide a comma-separated list of keywords). But in an early tutorial about the viewport value, code was provided which showed values separated with semicolons (like CSS declarations). People copied and pasted that code (which actually did work in Mobile Safari) and so every browser must support that usage:

Many other mobile browsers now support this tag, although it is not part of any web standard. Apple’s documentation does a good job explaining how web developers can use this tag, but we had to do some detective work to figure out exactly how to implement it in Fennec. For example, Safari’s documentation says the content is a “comma-delimited list,” but existing browsers and web pages use any mix of commas, semicolons, and spaces as separators.

Anyway, that’s just one illustration of how code gets shared, copied and pasted. It’s especially crucial during the introduction of a new technology to try to make sure that the code getting passed around is of a high quality.

I feel kind of bad saying this because the introductory phase of any new technology should be a time to say “Hey, go crazy! Try stuff out! See what works and what doesn’t!” but because Web Components are so powerful I think that mindset could end up doing a lot of damage.

Web developers have been given powerful features in the past. Vendor prefixes in CSS were a powerful feature that allowed browsers to push the boundaries of CSS without creating a Tower of Babel of propietary properties. But because developers just copied and pasted code, browser makers are now having to support prefixes that were originally scoped to different rendering engines. That’s not the fault of the browser makers. That’s the fault of web developers.

With Web Components, we are being given a lot of rope. We can either hang ourselves with it, or we can make awesome …rope …structures …out of rope this analogy really isn’t working.

I’m not suggesting we have some kind of central authority that gets to sit in judgement on which Web Components pass muster (although Addy’s FIRST principles are a great starting point). Instead I think a web of trust will emerge.

If I see a Web Component published by somebody at Paciello Group, I can be pretty sure that it will be accessible. Likewise, if Christian publishes a Web Component, it’s a good bet that it will use progressive enhancement. And if any of the superhumans at Filament Group share a Web Component, it’s bound to be accessible, performant, and well thought-out.

Because—as is so often the case on the web—it’s not really about technologies at all. It’s about people.

And it’s precisely because it’s about people that I’m so excited about Web Components …and simultaneously so nervous about Web Components.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Remembering http://mirrorproject.com/

Remembering http://mirrorproject.com/

Laser Light Synths unedited footage on Vimeo

You can catch a glimpse of my Daft Punk impression in this video of Seb’s frickin’ lasers.

BBC World Service - Click, dConstruct Conference

This episode of Click on the BBC World Service does a great job of distilling some of the ideas and themes from this year’s dConstruct.

The Click podcast is available for your huffduffing pleasure.

Two years ago dConstruct’s theme was “Playing with the Future”. Last year it was “Communicating with Machines”. This year’s theme is “Living with the Network”. Click interviews artists, writers, hackers and coders about surveillance, connected devices, big data, and whether the ideals of the internet have been too far corrupted for them ever to be preserved.

Security and surveillance concerns aired at dConstruct | Deeson Creative

A round-up of the themes addressed at this year’s dConstruct.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

After much hoop-jumping: https://shaaaaaaaaaaaaa.com/check/adactio.com

Now to get Forward Secrecy working.

cc @jaffathecake

For BERG, My London Launchpad | MORNING, COMPUTER

BERG closed its doors today. Their work stands for itself and the agency will be greatly missed.

Warren Ellis shares his memories of the founding of this seminal group.

Updating http://archive.dconstruct.org/ with this year’s @dConstruct talks.

BERGoonies never say die!

Monday, September 8th, 2014

dConstruct 2014 | Laura Kalbag

Laura’s thoughts on this year’s dConstruct.

Hundreds of bright sparks head to Brighton Dome for the Maker Faire - YouTube

This year’s Maker Faire in Brighton was excellent as always.

Brainstorming some ISS-related @ScienceHackDay ideas with @t.

Crispy salmon.

Crispy salmon.

Meeting in the sunshine.

Meeting in the sunshine.

Clearlefties.

Clearlefties.

On the beach with @t. A seagull snatched his sandwich right out of his hand. Sad @t.

On the beach with @t.

A seagull snatched his sandwich right out of his hand.

Sad @t.

dConstruct : dconstruct2014 on Huffduffer

All the audio from this year’s dConstruct. Each and every one of these talks is worth listening to …more than once.

Thoughtful, mind-expanding, brain-blowing stuff.

dConstruct 2014

dConstruct is all done for another year. Every year I feel sort of dazed in the few days after the conference—I spend so much time and energy preparing for this event looming in my future, that it always feels surreal when it’s suddenly in the past.

But this year I feel particularly dazed. A little numb. Slightly shellshocked even.

This year’s dConstruct was …heavy. Sure, there were some laughs (belly laughs, even) but overall it was a more serious event than previous years. The word that I heard the most from people afterwards was “important”. It was an important event.

Here’s the thing: if I’m going to organise a conference in 2014 and give it the theme of “Living With The Network”, and then invite the most thoughtful, informed, eloquent speakers I can think of …well, I knew it wasn’t going to be rainbows and unicorns.

If you were there, you know what I mean. If you weren’t there, it probably sounds like it wasn’t much fun. To be honest, “fun” wasn’t the highest thing on the agenda this year. But that feels right. And even though it wasn’t a laugh-fest, it was immensely enjoyable …if, like me, you enjoy having your brain slapped around.

I’m going to need some time to process and unpack everything that was squeezed into the day. Fortunately—thanks to Drew’s typical Herculean efforts—I can do that by listening to the audio, which is already available!

Slap the RSS feed in your generic MP3 listening device of choice and soak up the tsunami of thoughts, ideas, and provocations that the speakers delivered.

Oh boy, did the speakers ever deliver!

Warren Ellis at dConstruct Georgina Voss at dConstruct Clare Reddington at dConstruct Aaron Straup Cope at dConstruct Brian Suda at dConstruct Mandy Brown at dConstruct Anab Jain at dConstruct Tom Scott at dConstruct Cory Doctorow at dConstruct

Listen, it’s very nice that people come along to dConstruct each year and settle into the Brighton Dome to listen to these talks, but the harsh truth is that I didn’t choose the speakers for anyone else but myself. I know that’s very selfish, but it’s true. By lucky coincidence, the speakers I want to see turn out to deliver the best damn talks on the planet.

That said, as impressed as I was by the speakers, I was equally impressed by the audience. They were not spoon-fed. They had to contribute their time, attention, and grey matter to “get” those talks. And they did. For that, I am immensely grateful. Thank you.

I’m not going to go through all the talks one by one. I couldn’t do them justice. What was wonderful was to see the emerging themes, ideas, and references that crossed over from speaker to speaker: thoughts on history, responsibility, power, control, and the future.

And yes, there was definitely a grim undercurrent to some of those ideas about the future. But there was also hope. More than one speaker pointed out that the future is ours to write. And the emphasis on history highlighted that our present moment in time—and our future trajectory—is all part of an ongoing amazing collective narrative.

But it’s precisely because the future is ours to write that this year’s dConstruct hammered home our collective responsibility. This year’s dConstruct was a grown-up, necessarily serious event that shined a light on our current point in history …and maybe, just maybe, provided some potential paths for the future.

Valley of the Meatpuppets | superflux

Slides and transcript from Anab’s terrific dConstruct talk.

Putting the web to rights with @t.

Putting the web to rights with @t.

Bacon sarnie for breakfast.

Bacon sarnie for breakfast.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Looking forward to @GeekestLink this evening. @Gablaxian, are you in?

Adding the little green lock to https://adactio.com thanks to @timretout, a paragon of patience at Indie Web Camp.

At Indie Web Camp, adding webactions (a custom element) to my notes http://indiewebcamp.com/webactions e.g. http://adactio.com/notes/7408

2030: Privacy’s Dead. What happens next? - YouTube

Tom Scott’s energetic dConstruct talk.

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Listening to @t and @aWorkingLibrary argue about Markdown over cocktails. It’s like a civilised version of the internet.

Brighton rocks with @Seb_ly.

Brighton rocks with @Seb_ly.

The family that lasers together.

The family that lasers together.

Frickin’ lasers!

Frickin’ lasers!

Laser Light Synths, here we go!

Laser Light Synths, here we go!

Having a post-IndieWebCamp pint at the Hop Poles.

Having a post-IndieWebCamp pint at the Hop Poles.

Watching @GlennJones demo Transmat.io at Indie Web Camp UK.

Watching @GlennJones demo Transmat.io at Indie Web Camp UK.

dConstruct 2014 - an album on Flickr

Tom’s photos from dConstruct.

Warren Ellis at dConstruct

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Utterly exhausted at the end of @dConstruct 2014. It wasn’t exactly a laughfest, but boy, was it important!

Every speaker was phenomenal.

Cory Doctorow!

Cory Doctorow!

Tom Scott.

Tom Scott.

Taking a break.

Taking a break.

Anab Jain.

Anab Jain.

Mandy Brown.

Mandy Brown.

Brian Suda.

Brian Suda.

Tech-checking.

Tech-checking.

Brian prepares himself.

Brian prepares himself.

Aaron Straup Cope.

Aaron Straup Cope.

Clare Reddington.

Clare Reddington.

Georgina Voss.

Georgina Voss.

Warren f*cking Ellis!

Warren f*cking Ellis!

Colour coordination.

Colour coordination.

Kate and her crew.

Kate and her crew.

Clearlefties ready for @dConstruct.

Clearlefties ready for @dConstruct.

Up And Atom for @dConstruct.

Excited. Nervous. Giggly …and here. we. go!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

“The internet never forgets.” —21st Century folk myth.

Conference season.

Conference season.

Frickin’ laser beams.

Frickin’ laser beams.

Welcoming @BrianSuda and @t back to Brighton.

Welcoming @BrianSuda and @t back to Brighton.

This week in Brighton

This is my favourite week of the year. It’s the week when Brighton bursts into life as the its month-long Digital Festival kicks off.

Already this week, we’ve had the Dots conference and three days of Reasons To Be Creative, where designers and makers show their work. And this afternoon Lighthouse are running their annual Improving Reality event.

But the best is yet to come. Tomorrow’s the big day: dConstruct 2014. I’ve been preparing for this day for so long now, it’s going to be very weird when it’s over. I must remember to sit back, relax and enjoy the day. I remember how fast the day whizzed by last year. I suspect that tomorrow’s proceedings might display equal levels of time dilation—I’m excited to see every single talk.

Even when dConstruct is done, the Brighton festivities will continue. I’ll be at Indie Web Camp here at 68 Middle Street on Saturday on Sunday. Also on Saturday, there’s the brilliant Maker Faire, and when the sun goes down, Brighton will be treated to Seb’s latest project which features frickin’ lasers!

This is my favourite week of the year.

URL Design · by Kyle Neath

This is four years old, but it’s solid advice that stands the test of time.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Making notes for myself for MCing @dConstruct on Friday so I don’t forget any important announcements.

Making notes for myself for MCing @dConstruct on Friday so I don’t forget any important announcements.

Hello, Again — Craig Mod

Craig has redesigned and pulled various bits of his writing from around the web into his own site, prompting some thoughts on the indie web.

Welcome to Brighton, @aWorkingLibrary. Here’s your mackerel.

Welcome to Brighton, @aWorkingLibrary. Here’s your mackerel.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Passed by somebody busking in Brighton with a Guitar Hero guitar. It wasn’t plugged in or anything.

Having a pint in the sun betwixt The Eagle and The Basketmaker’s Arms.

Having a pint in the sun betwixt The Eagle and The Basketmaker’s Arms.

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Co(de)factory

Co(de)factory

Language, Code; Leibniz, Wilkins; Sapir, Whorf — I’m enjoying @toxi’s talk at #reasonsto a lot.