Archive: December, 2014

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Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Finished my last cup of tea of the year.

Now drinking my last champagne cocktail of the year.*

*(Okay, yes, the only one of the year.)

Netherlandish Proverbs – Pieter Bruegel the Elder – An Analog Project

A lovely Yuletide present from Brian and co.—an exploration of the proverbs embodied in Bruegel’s painting.

It’s the end of the year as we know it.

It’s the last day of the year. I won’t be going out tonight. I’m going to stay in with Jessica in our cosy home.

The general consensus is that 2014 was a crappy year for human beings on planet Earth. In actuality, and contrary to popular belief, the human race continued its upward trend of improvement in almost all areas. Less violence, less disease, fewer wars, a record-breaking minimum of air crashes, and while the disparity between the richest and the poorest has increased, the baseline level of what constitutes poverty continues to increase throughout the world.

This trend is often met with surprise, or even disbelief. Just ask Matt Ridley and Steven Pinker. We tend to over-inflate the negative and undervalue the positive. And we seem to do it more and more with each passing year (which, in itself, can be seen as part of the overall positive trend: the fact that violence and inequality outrages us now more than ever is, on balance, a good thing). It seems to be part of our modern human nature to allow the bad to overwhelm the good in its importance.

Take my past year, for example. There was so much that was good. It was a good year for Clearleft and I travelled to marvellous places (Tel Aviv, Munich, Seattle, Austin, San Diego, Riga, Freiburg, Bologna, Florida, and more). I ate wonderful food. I read. I wrote. I listened. I spoke. I attended some workshops. I ran some workshops. I learned. I taught. I went to some great events. I organised Responsive Day Out 2 and dConstruct. I even wrote the occasional bit of code.

But despite all of that, 2014 is a year that feels dominated by death.

It started at the beginning of the year with the death of Jessica’s beloved Oma. The only positive spin I can put on it is that she had a long life, and she died surrounded by her family (Jessica included). But it was still a horrible event.

For the first half of the year, the web community was united behind Eric as he went through the unimaginable. Then, in June, Rebecca died. And the web community was united in sorrow. It was such an outrage against all that is good in this world.

I visited Eric that day. I tried to convey how much the people of the web were feeling for him. I couldn’t possibly convey it, but I had to try. I offered what comfort I could, but some situations are so far beyond normalcy that literally nothing can be done.

That death, the death of a child …there’s something so wrong, so obscene about it.

One month later, Chloe killed herself.

I miss her. I miss her so much.

So I understand why, despite the upward trends in human achievement, despite all the positive events of the last twelve months, 2014 feels like a year of dread and grief. I understand why so many people are happy to see the back of 2014. Good riddance, right?

But I still don’t want to let the bad—and boy, was it ever bad—crush the good. I’m seeing out the year as I mean to go on: eating good food, drinking good wine, reading, writing, and being alive.

It’s the last day of the year. I won’t be going out tonight. I’m going to stay in with Jessica in our cosy home.

Irish smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, onion, and capers on a homemade bagel.

Irish smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, onion, and capers on a homemade bagel.

Security for thesession.org

Security for thesession.org

Projectors don’t lie.

I’ve always liked testing on the crappiest mobile phones in the device lab—it feels like an honest stress test. I quite like the idea of using a crappy projector for the same reason.

The Humane Representation of Thought on Vimeo

Yet another brilliant far-ranging talk from Bret Victor.

I’ve tried to get him to come and speak at dConstruct for the past few years, but alas, with no success.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Life, crawling over death.

Life, crawling over death.

Mass grave of the Lusitania.

Mass grave of the Lusitania.

The old cemetery in Cobh.

The old cemetery in Cobh.

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Watching this year’s Royal Institution Christmas lectures—it’s hardware hacking all the way.

@Seb_ly would approve! http://richannel.org

Back in Brighton, sitting in a cafe, reading about @meyerweb’s blog post in the paper.

Back in Brighton, sitting in a cafe, reading about @meyerweb’s blog post in the paper.

Flying out of Cork’s nascent spaceport. Bye, bye, Ireland.

Flying out of Cork’s nascent spaceport.

Bye, bye, Ireland.

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Slow air on the flute.

Slow air on the flute.

Having a pint of Murphy’s and listening to some tunes.

Having a pint of Murphy’s and listening to some tunes.

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Lighthouse under the moon.

Lighthouse under the moon.

Jessica and Ballycotton lighthouse.

Jessica and Ballycotton lighthouse.

Ballycotton lighthouse at dusk III.

Ballycotton lighthouse at dusk III.

Ballycotton lighthouse at dusk II.

Ballycotton lighthouse at dusk II.

Ballycotton lighthouse at dusk I.

Ballycotton lighthouse at dusk I.

Jessica by the sea.

Jessica by the sea.

Describe Me

A great Zooniverse-style project for the website of Australia’s Museum Victoria that allows you to provide descriptions for blind and low-vision people.

Dora

This cat believes in owning its own data.

Chloe would’ve loved this.

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Heading out to The Roaring Donkey for a pint.

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Sleepy doggie.

Sleepy doggie.

Dog tired.

Dog tired.

Roast potatoes.

Roast potatoes.

Christmas table.

Christmas table.

Clove-studded onions.

Clove-studded onions.

Ham.

Ham.

Thyme, rosemary, and sage: aromatics for Christmas dinner.

Thyme, rosemary, and sage: aromatics for Christmas dinner.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Fireplace.

Fireplace.

A dog’s life.

A dog’s life.

Lapdog.

Lapdog.

Cuddling a mogwai.

Cuddling a mogwai.

Murphy’s

Murphy’s

Sincerest thanks to the team at @24Ways for putting together yet another fantastic collection of articles on this—their tenth—year. Cheers!

All of my friends who have young children seem to be undergoing some kind of shared post-Frozen traumatic stress disorder this Christmas.

A good night out drinking with childhood friends, gently chiding me for turning out to be a complete fracking nerd.

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Off to Ireland.

Watched “Youth In Revolt” again …the only film to feature an acting appearance by my favourite astronaut, Michael Collins.

True story.

HTML5 Differences from HTML4

I just noticed that I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements of this most handy of W3C documents. This pleases me disproportionately.

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Poor Man’s Styleguide | A frontend styleguide for the pragmatic

A handy starting point for creating a front-end styleguide: a single document of HTML elements.

My haul of Brian Aldiss—or my Hauldiss, if you will—from today’s shopping trip to the Open Market.

My haul of Brian Aldiss—or my Hauldiss, if you will—from today’s shopping trip to the Open Market.

Egyptology can help us future-proof our culture – Grayson Clary – Aeon

A look at long-term cultural and linguistic preservation through the lens of Egyptology.

Taunus

I like the thinking behind this isomorphic JavaScript library: start with the (Node.js) server and then take over on the client side after the initial page load.

Tonight’s menu.

Tonight’s menu.

Skatepark at dusk.

Skatepark at dusk.

CryptoATM

CryptoATM

Send emails to any domain, receive messages at your domain@questo.email

This is a nifty little service: if your site has a webmention endpoint, people can comment on your articles by sending an email.

That means you can comment on any post on my site by sending an email to adactio.com@questo.email (in the email, include the URL of the post you’re commenting on).

A @SalterCane Christmas card, courtesy of @ChrisTT:

http://instagram.com/p/wye9QmKUBN

Coffee at home.

Coffee at home.

Friday, December 19th, 2014

NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities for Venus Exploration - IEEE Spectrum

Airships in the atmosphere of Venus. More plausible than it might sound at first.

Pizza.

Pizza.

Friday night is pizza night.

Friday night is pizza night.

The @Clearleft office temporarily empties while we step outside to wave at the people in space.

The next ISS flyover is in 90 minutes.

FirefoxOS/Pinned Apps - MozillaWiki

This page does a great job of explaining Mozilla’s thinking behind “pinned apps”—an idea that would be great for the whole web, not just Firefox users.

Immigrant Song just came on the office stereo, so I felt I had to share @SalterCane’s take:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjpbPY-TE2M

Implement Server-Side Rendering for SEO · Issue #9938 · emberjs/ember.js

The motivation seems entirely misplaced to me (SEO? Really?) but never mind: the end result could be the holy grail of JavaScript MVC frameworks — code that runs on the server and the client. That would get you the reach and initial rendering speed of progressive enhancement, combined with the power of client-side application logic once the page has loaded.

Watch this space.

Researching the Performance costs of JavaScript MVC Frameworks

The Filament Group run the numbers on how long it takes browsers to parse the JavaScript of popular MVC frameworks: Backbone, Angular, and Ember. The results—especially on mobile browsers—are not encouraging.

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Thank you so much to @ChrisTT for inviting @SalterCane to be part of his midnight campfire Christmas concert this evening. It was great!

Downing tools. Let the games begin.

Downing tools. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

“C’mon TARS!”

“C’mon TARS!”

TARS

TARS

To the untrained eye, the fact that I spent the afternoon sitting at my desk making a paper robot could easily be mistaken for time-wasting.

28 Months on Mars - NYTimes.com

Curiosity’s journey so far, nicely visualised.

State of Web Type

Like caniuse.com, but for typography features. Find out what’s supported in browsers today.

Open-Sourcing My Webmention Service — sixtwothree.org

If your site is written in Ruby (even if it’s made with a static site generator like Jekyll), you can add webmention support with Jason’s newly-open-sourced code.

You Don’t Need jQuery! – Free yourself from the chains of jQuery by embracing and understanding the modern Web API and discovering various directed libraries to help you fill in the gaps.

The tone is a bit too heavy-handed for my taste, but the code examples here are very handy if you’re weaning yourself off jQuery.

TARS, CASE & KIPP from Interstellar

Print out the plans, fold and glue/sellotape the paper together, and you’ve got yourself the best sci-fi robots in recent cinema history.

Say hello to my little friend.

Say hello to my little friend.

Making robots out of paper.

Making robots out of paper.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Back in @DukeOfYorks to watch Interstellar again, this time in glorious 35mm.

It’s always beer o’clock somewhere.

It’s always beer o’clock somewhere.

The Session trad tune machine

Most pundits call it “the Internet of Things” but there’s another phrase from Andy Huntington that I first heard from Russell Davies: “the Geocities of Things.” I like that.

I’ve never had much exposure to this world of hacking electronics. I remember getting excited about the possibilities at a Brighton BarCamp back in 2008:

I now have my own little arduino kit, a bread board and a lucky bag of LEDs. Alas, know next to nothing about basic electronics so I’m really going to have to brush up on this stuff.

I never did do any brushing up. But that all changed last week.

Seb is doing a new two-day workshop. He doesn’t call it Internet Of Things. He doesn’t call it Geocities Of Things. He calls it Stuff That Talks To The Interwebs, or STTTTI, or ST4I. He needed some guinea pigs to test his workshop material on, so Clearleft volunteered as tribute.

In short, it was great! And this time, I didn’t stop hacking when I got home.

First off, every workshop attendee gets a hand-picked box of goodies to play with and keep: an arduino mega, a wifi shield, sensors, screens, motors, lights, you name it. That’s the hardware side of things. There are also code samples and libraries that Seb has prepared in advance.

Getting ready to workshop with @Seb_ly. Unwrapping some Christmas goodies from Santa @Seb_ly.

Now, remember, I lack even the most basic knowledge of electronics, but after two days of fiddling with this stuff, it started to click.

Blinkenlights. Hello, little fella.

On the first workshop day, we all did the same exercises, connected things up, getting them to talk to the internet, that kind of thing. For the second workshop day, Seb encouraged us to think about what we might each like to build.

I was quite taken with the ability of the piezo buzzer to play rudimentary music. I started to wonder if there was a way to hook it up to The Session and have it play the latest jigs, reels, and hornpipes that have been submitted to the site in ABC notation. A little bit of googling revealed that someone had already taken a stab at writing an ABC parser for arduino. I didn’t end up using that code, but it convinced me that what I was trying to do wasn’t crazy.

So I built a machine that plays Irish traditional music from the internet.

Playing with hardware and software, making things that go beep in the night.

The hardware has a piezo buzzer, an “on” button, an “off” button, a knob for controlling the speed of the tune, and an obligatory LED.

The software has a countdown timer that polls a URL every minute or so. The URL is http://tune.adactio.com/. That in turn uses The Session’s read-only API to grab the latest tune activity and then get the ABC notation for whichever tune is at the top of that list. Then it does some cleaning up—removing some of the more advanced ABC stuff—and outputs a single line of notes to be played. I’m fudging things a bit: the device has the range of a tin whistle, and expects tunes to be in the key of D or G, but seeing as that’s at least 90% of Irish traditional music, it’s good enough.

Whenever there’s a new tune, it plays it. Or you can hit the satisfying “on” button to manually play back the latest tune (and yes, you can hit the equally satisfying “off” button to stop it). Being able to adjust the playback speed with a twiddly knob turns out to be particularly handy if you decide to learn the tune.

I added one more lo-fi modification. I rolled up a piece of paper and placed it over the piezo buzzer to amplify the sound. It works surprisingly well. It’s loud!

Rolling my own speaker cone, quite literally.

I’ll keep tinkering with it. It’s fun. I realise I’m coming to this whole hardware-hacking thing very late, but I get it now: it really does feel similar to that feeling you would get when you first figured out how to make a web page back in the days of Geocities. I’ve built something that’s completely pointless for most people, but has special meaning for me. It’s ugly, and it’s inefficient, but it works. And that’s a great feeling.

(P.S. Seb will be running his workshop again on the 3rd and 4th of February, and there will a limited amount of early-bird tickets available for one hour, between 11am and midday this Thursday. I highly recommend you grab one.)

One programming language with two demographics: JavaScript for kids, and JavaScript for grown-ups.

One programming language with two demographics: JavaScript for kids, and JavaScript for grown-ups.

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Green chili.

Green chili.

ST4I - Stuff That Talks To The Internet - workshop on Vimeo

Seb will be running this workshop again at the start of February—details here. I can’t recommend it highly enough—it’s so, so good!

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

RFID podcast radio-in-a-box (needs sound to make any sense) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

This is so nifty! A combination of the Radiodan, Huffduffer, and RFID, all wrapped up in a box.

Backstory here.

RFID podcast radio-in-a-box (needs sound to make any sense)

Revision 200: The Indie Web on Working Draft on Huffduffer

I had the great honour of being invited to speak on the 200th edition of the Working Draft podcast (there are a few sentences in German at the start, and then it switches into English).

I had a lot of fun talking about indie web building blocks (rel=me, indieauth, webmention, h-entry, etc.). Best of all, while I was describing these building blocks, one of the hosts started implementing them!

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

What colour is it?

This is quite beautiful in its simplicity: the hexadecimal colour value of the current time.

Watching the Geminids.

Getting festive with @ThePhysicalWeb.

Getting festive with @ThePhysicalWeb.

Carrots from the garden.

Carrots from the garden.

Rolling my own speaker cone, quite literally.

Rolling my own speaker cone, quite literally.

Watched the International Space Station fly by over to the west.

Now I’m wondering how @AstroSamantha’s espresso machine is working out.

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Why James Cameron’s Aliens is the best movie about technology

Tim Carmody on James Cameron’s meisterwerk (and technology in sci-fi films in general).

Fish’n’chips.

Fish’n’chips.

bramus/mixed-content-scan

A really handy command-line tool that scans your site for mixed content — very useful if you’re making the switch from http to https.

Perusing the new edition of @beep’s classic.

Perusing the new edition of @beep’s classic.

Playing with hardware and software, making things that go beep in the night.

Playing with hardware and software, making things that go beep in the night.

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Hello, little fella.

Hello, little fella.

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Cinema Space Tribute on Vimeo

Scenes of space from sci-fi films.

That’s well out of order, that is.

That’s well out of order, that is.

Responsive Enhancement

This article first appeared in 24 Ways, the online advent calendar for geeks.

Filing bugs on taco buttons (is a sentence that I just wrote).

https://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=27545

The Nor » Living in the Electromagnetic Spectrum

James takes a tour through the English countryside, while venturing into areas of the electromagnetic spectrum that may as well be labelled “Private Property. No Trespassing. Keep Out.”

Responsive Enhancement ◆ 24 ways

My contribution to this year’s edition of the web’s best advent calendar.

Entire Screen of One Game

You can’t win the game. It exists only to destroy your mind.

Monday, December 8th, 2014

It was an honour and a pleasure to be part of the recording of the 200th edition of the @WorkingDraft podcast this evening.

Vielen Dank!

Jellyfish RGB LED

Jellyfish RGB LED

Forest of wires.

Forest of wires.

Seb and his toys.

Seb and his toys.

Sebsplaining.

Sebsplaining.

Blinkenlights.

Blinkenlights.

Unwrapping some Christmas goodies from Santa @Seb_ly.

Unwrapping some Christmas goodies from Santa @Seb_ly.

The term “webinar” is a “shitiword”.

Getting ready to workshop with @Seb_ly.

Getting ready to workshop with @Seb_ly.

The Berocca must flow.

Writing a technical blog post right before going to bed ensured a night filled with mundane dreams of web components.

Websites of Christmas Past, Present and Future ◆ 24 ways

A superb article by Josh on planning for progressive enhancement—clearly laid out and carefully explained.

Responsible Web Components

Bruce has written a great article called On the accessibility of web components. Again. In it, he takes issue with the tone of a recent presentation on web components, wherein Dimitri Glazkov declares:

Custom elements is really neat. It basically says, “HTML it’s been a pleasure”.

Bruce paraphrases this as:

Bye-bye HTML; you weren’t useful enough. Hello, brave new world of custom elements.

Like Bruce, I’m worried about this year-zero thinking. First of all, I think it’s self-defeating. In my experience, the web technologies that succeed are the ones that build upon what already exists, rather than sweeping everything aside. Evolution, not revolution.

Secondly, web components—or more specifically, custom elements—already allow us to extend existing HTML elements. That means we can use web components as a form of progressive enhancement, turbo-charging pre-existing elements instead of creating brand new elements from scratch. That way, we can easily provide fallback content for non-supporting browsers.

But, as Bruce asks:

Snarking aside, why do so few people talk about extending existing HTML elements with web components? Why’s all the talk about brand new custom elements? I don’t know.

Patrick leaves a comment with his answer:

The issue of not extending existing HTML elements is exactly the same that we’ve seen all this time, even before web components: developers who are tip-top JavaScripters, who already plan on doing all the visual feedback/interactions (for mouse users like themselves) in script anyway themselves, so they just opt for the most neutral starting point…a div or a span. Web components now simply gives the option of then sweeping all that non-semantic junk under a nice, self-contained rug.

That’s a depressing thought. But it might very well be true.

Stuart also comments:

Why aren’t web components required to be created with is=“some-component” on an existing HTML element? This seems like an obvious approach; sure, someone who wants to make something meaningless will just do <div is=my-thing> or (worse) <body is=my-thing> but it would provide a pretty heavy hint that you’re supposed to be doing things The Right Way, and you’d get basic accessibility stuff thrown in for free.

That’s a good question. After all, writing <new-shiny></new-shiny> is basically the same as <span is=“new-shiny”></span>. It might not make much of a difference in the case of a span or div, but it could make an enormous difference in the case of, say, form elements.

Take a look at IBM’s library of web components. They’re well-written and they look good, but time and time again, they create new custom elements instead of extending existing HTML.

Although, as Bruce points out:

Of course, not every new element you’ll want to make can extend an existing HTML element.

But I still think that the majority of web components could, and should, extend existing elements. Addy Osmani has put together some design principles for web components and Steve Faulkner has created a handy punch-list for web components, but I’d like to propose that a fundamental principle of good web component design should be: “Where possible, extend an existing HTML element instead of creating a new element from scratch.”

Rather than just complain about this kind of thing, I figured I’d try my hand at putting it into practice…

Dave recently made a really nice web component for playing back podcast audio files. I could imagine using something like this on Huffduffer. It’s called podcast-player and you use it thusly:

<podcast-player src="my.mp3"></podcast-player>

One option for providing fallback content would be to include it within the custom element tags:

<podcast-player src="my.mp3">
    <a href="my.mp3">Listen</a>
</podcast-player>

That would require minimum change to Dave’s code. I’d just need to make sure that the fallback content within podcast-player elements is removed in supporting browsers.

I forked Dave’s code to try out another idea. I figured that if the starting point was a regular link to the audio file, that would also be a way of providing fallback for browsers that don’t cut the web component mustard:

<a href="my.mp3" is="podcast-player">Listen</a>

It required surprisingly few changes to the code. I needed to remove the fallback content (that “Listen” text), and I needed to prevent the default behaviour (following the href), but it was fairly straightforward.

However, I’m sure it could be improved in one of two ways:

  1. I should probably supply an ARIA role to the extended link. I’m not sure what would be the right one, though …menu or menubar perhaps?
  2. Perhaps a link isn’t the right element to extend. Really I should be extending an audio element (which itself allows for fallback content). When I tried that, I found it too hard to overcome the default browser rules for hiding anything between the opening and closing tags. But you’re smarter than me, so I bet you could create <audio is=“podcast-player”>.

Fork the code and have at it.

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Watching Apollo 13 and following along on Spacelog:

http://apollo13.spacelog.org/02:09:36:12/#log-line-207372

Meanwhile… @NewHorizons2

An immigration lawyer reviews Paddington

Sounds like a cute idea, right?

In fact it’s the best thing you’re ever likely to read on Peruvian ursine immigration.

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

Tree droid.

Tree droid.

Feeling somewhat lurgysome, so giving @GlennJones’s Hapi.js workshop a miss, alas.

Asteroid Day

This is an awareness project I can get behind: a Clarke-like Project Spaceguard to protect the Earth from asteroid collisions. This campaign will focus awareness of this issue on one single day…

Now if only the front page of this website actually said when that day will be.

Update: And now it does.

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Watching G R A V I T Y.

Watching G R A V I T Y.

I have an overwhelming urge to re-watch Gravity now.

SPLASHDOWN!

Beautiful, Orion, beautiful.

Beer o’clock. All systems: Go!

Beer o’clock.

All systems: Go!

Fame at last!

Fame at last!

Responsive reading material.

Responsive reading material.

Another day, another beautiful @Clearleft site designed by @MhjAllan and built by @Gablaxian launches:

http://2015.uxlondon.com/

Deskbeers have been delivered to @Clearleft towers, which means they should be perfectly chilled for the 4:20pm Orion descent.

Desk space. Space desk.

Desk space. Space desk.

That. Was. AWESOME!

It’s back! Yay! Go #NASA_Orion!

Noooo …five minutes to go and @NASA’s @Ustream channel has crapped out. :-(

All systems are go and weather remains green.

http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

Resetting the clock.

L minus 60 minutes.

http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Watching @ChrisMessina on Newsnight on BBC 2.

Because of hashtags.

This reality is weird. I would like a new one please.

Mindcraft.

Mindcraft.

Going to the Hop Poles for a mulled cider to celebrate the launch of @WellcomeTrust’s Mindcraft:

https://adactio.com/journal/7943

Mindcraft

As something of a science geek, I’m a big fan of the work of the Wellcome Trust:

We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health.

I was very excited when Clearleft had the opportunity to work with them—we redesigned the Wellcome Library a while back. That was a fun responsive project, and an early use of a pattern portfolio as the deliverable.

We’ve been working with them on some other projects since then. We helped out with Mosaic, their terrific magazine site. I really enjoyed popping in to their fantastic building to chat with their talented designers.

The most recent Clearleft/Wellcome collaboration is something called Mindcraft. This started as a completely open-ended project—no one was quite sure what form the finished result would take. Over time it developed into a narrative-based series of historical events brought to life with browser technologies.

I didn’t work on this project but I loved watching it come together. The source material made for an interesting work environment.

Crazy wall Maps and legends.

Graham and Danielle did the front-end development, bringing Mikey’s designs to life, once Rich and Ben figured out the flow (all overseen by Jess).

The press release for Mindcraft describes it as “immersive” which immediately sets alarm bells ringing in expectation of big, scrolljacking pages …and to be honest, Mindcraft does have elements of that. It’s primarily intended to be visited on a large screen with a fast connection (although it’ll work on any sized-screen). But I think it manages to strike a pretty healthy balance of performance and “richness.” It certainly doesn’t feel gratuitous. The use of sound, imagery, and interaction is all in service to the story.

And boy, what a story!

Mindcraft explores a century of madness, murder and mental healing, from the arrival in Paris of Franz Anton Mesmer with his theories of ‘animal magnetism’ to the therapeutic power of hypnotism used by Freud.

I suggest you put on some headphones, make your browser window fullscreen, and start your journey.

It’s creepy, atmospheric, entertaining, and educational, all at the same time. I really like it. And I’m not just saying that because of Clearleft’s involvement. Like I said, I’m a science geek.

Scrubbed. :-(

Cutting it close! 2014-12-04T14:44:00Z

Ggggnnnnuuuunnnhhh!

New launch time: 2014-12-04T13:26:00Z

Thanks to @TheAvangelist for graciously offering to pick up some lunch for me so I don’t miss this.

The dawning realisation that I’m going to have to choose between lunch and launch.

Holding.

New launch time: 2014-12-04T12:55:00Z

Waiting for a new Orion launch time so that I can queue up the music from Sunshine accordingly.

Status: Green — cleared.

All holds removed.

“Race condition with the underscore S parameter…”

Sounds like launching a website.

Actually launching a rocket. #NASA_Orion

Hold! Hold! Hold!

Goosebumps: Go.

http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

#NASA_Orion

All systems: Go.

Weather: Go.

T-10 minutes.

Watching Florida from afar.

Counting down… http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

New launch time: 12:17

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Lamb with pomegranate seeds.

Lamb with pomegranate seeds.

Mandalorian Christmas.

Mandalorian Christmas.

Listening to a great interview with my hero, @Brewster_Kahle.

https://huffduffer.com/adactio/194141

He’s the Bruce Wayne of the web.

The Secret Life of Passwords - NYTimes.com

A fascinating look at how the humble password gets imbued with incredible levels of meaning.

It reminds me of something I heard Ze Frank say last year: “People fill up the cracks with intimacy.”

The Spirit of Flickr and the Problem of Intent - mor10.com

This is a superbly-written, empathetic, nuanced look at the issues around Creative Commons licensing, particularly the danger of inferring a “spirit” in a legal agreement.

“Spirit” as it’s being used in this conversation is a relative term. You have the spirit of the user, the spirit of the license, the spirit of the community, the spirit of the service, and the spirit of the law. All these can align and all these can diverge and that’s OK. It is also the reason we have a legal system that sets clear parameters for how things can be interpreted: Spirit is relative, legal decisions and documents are not (at least in theory). The whole idea of a legal contract (under which we can find CC licenses) is that there is no room for interpretation. The meaning of the document is singular, unambiguous, and not up for debate. Of course this is purely theoretical, but that’s the idea anyway.

The problem arises when the spirit – or intent – of the user when applying a license differs from the actual legal interpretation of that same license.

Tried out @TypedApp for writing my most recent blog post. It’s nice.

(the app, not my blog post)

Flickr Users Are Wrong by Tom Lee

The title is harsh, but this is a good summation of the issues involved in choosing a Creative Commons licence.

Open licensing is about giving up control so that other people can benefit. That’s all it will cost you: control. Having control feels nice. But you should ask yourself what it really gets you. And you should think about what others might gain if you were able to let go.

Think carefully and decide what you need. No one is going to make you tick that Creative Commons box. But when you do, it’s a promise.

Commons People

Creative Commons licences have a variety of attributes, that can be combined together:

  • No-derivatives: the work can be reused, but not altered.
  • Attribution: the work must be credited.
  • Share-alike: any derivates must share the same licence.
  • Non-commercial: the work can be used, but not for commercial purposes.

That last one is important. If you don’t attach a non-commercial licence to your work, then your work can be resold for profit (it might be remixed first, or it might have to include your name—that all depends on what other attributes you’ve included in the licence).

If you’re not comfortable with anyone reselling your work, you should definitely choose a non-commercial licence.

Flickr is planning to sell canvas prints of photos that have been licensed under Creative Commons licenses that don’t include the non-commercial clause. They are perfectly within their rights to do this—this is exactly what the licence allows—but some people are very upset about it.

Jeffrey says it’s short-sighted and sucky because it violates the spirit in which the photos were originally licensed. I understand that feeling, but that’s simply not the way that the licences work. If you want to be able to say “It’s okay for some people to use my work for profit, but it’s not okay for others”, then you need to apply a more restrictive licence (like copyright, or Creative Commons Non-commercial) and then negotiate on a case-by-case basis for each usage.

But if you apply a licence that allows commercial usage, you must accept that there will be commercial usages that you aren’t comfortable with. Frankly, Flickr selling canvas prints of your photos is far from a worst-case scenario.

I licence my photos under a Creative Commons Attribution licence. That means they can be used anywhere—including being resold for profit—as long as I’m credited as the photographer. Because of that, my photos have shown up in all sorts of great places: food blogs, Wikipedia, travel guides, newspapers. But they’ve also shown up in some awful places, like Techcrunch. I might not like that, but it’s no good me complaining that an organisation (even one whose values I disagree with) is using my work exactly as the licence permits.

Before allowing commercial use of your creative works, you should ask “What’s the worst that could happen?” The worst that could happen includes scenarios like white supremacists, misogynists, or whacko conspiracy theorists using your work on their websites, newsletters, and billboards (with your name included if you’ve used an attribution licence). If you aren’t willing to live with that, do not allow commercial use of your work.

When I chose to apply a Creative Commons Attribution licence to my photographs, it was because I decided I could live with those worst-case scenarios. I decided that the potential positives outweighed the potential negatives. I stand by that decision. My photos might appear on a mudsucking site like Techcrunch, or get sold as canvas prints to make money for Flickr, but I’m willing to accept those usages in order to allow others to freely use my photos.

Some people have remarked that this move by Flickr to sell photos for profit will make people think twice about allowing commercial use of their work. To that I say …good! It has become clear that some people haven’t put enough thought into their licensing choices—they never asked “What’s the worst that could happen?”

And let’s be clear here: this isn’t some kind of bait’n’switch by Flickr. It’s not like liberal Creative Commons licensing is the default setting for photos hosted on that site. The default setting is copyright, all rights reserved. You have to actively choose a more liberal licence.

So I’m trying to figure out how it ended up that people chose the wrong licence for their photos. Because I want this to be perfectly clear: if you chose a licence that allows for commercial usage of your photos, but you’re now upset that a company is making commercial usage of your photos, you chose the wrong licence.

Perhaps the licence-choosing interface could have been clearer. Instead of simply saying “here’s what attribution means” or “here’s what non-commercial means”, perhaps it should also include lists of pros and cons: “here’s some of the uses you’ll be enabling”, but also “here’s the worst that could happen.”

Jen suggests a new Creative Commons licence that essentially inverts the current no-derivates licence; this would be a “derivative works only” licence. But unfortunately it sounds a bit too much like a read-my-mind licence:

What if I want to allow someone to use a photo in a conference slide deck, even if they are paid to present, but I don’t want to allow a company that sells stock photos to snatch up my photo and resell it?

Jen’s post is entitled I Don’t Want “Creative Commons By” To Mean You Can Rip Me Off …but that’s exactly what a Creative Commons licence without a non-commercial clause can mean. Of course, it’s not the only usage that such a licence allows (it allows many, many positive scenarios), but it’s no good pretending it were otherwise. If you’re not comfortable with that use-case, don’t enable it. Personally, I’m okay with that use-case because I believe it is offset by the more positive usages.

And that’s an important point: this is a personal decision, and not one to be taken lightly. Personally, I’m not a professional or even amateur photographer, so commercial uses of my photos are fine with me. Most professional photographers wouldn’t dream of allowing commercial use of their photos without payment, and rightly so. But even for non-professionals like myself, there are implications to allowing commercial use (one of those implications being that there will be usages you won’t necessarily be happy about).

So, going back to my earlier question, does the licence-choosing interface on Flickr make the implications of your choice clear?

Here’s the page for applying licences. You get to it by going to “Settings”, then “Privacy and Permissions,” then under “Defaults for new uploads,” the setting “What license will your content have.”

On that page, there’s a heading “Which license is right for you?” That has three hyperlinks:

  1. A page on Creative Commons about the licences,
  2. Frequently Asked Questions,
  3. A page of issues specifically related to images.

In that list of Frequently Asked Questions, there’s What things should I think about before I apply a Creative Commons license? and How should I decide which license to choose? There’s some good advice in there (like when in doubt, talk to a lawyer), but at no point does it suggest that you should ask yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?”

So it certainly seems that Flickr could be doing a better job of making the consequences of your licensing choice clearer. That might have the effect of making it a scarier choice, and it might put some people off using Creative Commons licences. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I would much rather that people made an informed decision.

When I chose to apply a Creative Commons Attribution licence to my photos, I did not make the decision lightly. I assumed that others who made the same choice also understood the consequences of that decision. Now I’m not so sure. Now I think that some people made uninformed licensing decisions in the past, which explains why they’re upset now (and I’m not blaming them for making the wrong decision—Flickr, and even Creative Commons, could have done a better job of providing relevant, easily understable information).

But this is one Internet Outrage train that I won’t be climbing aboard. Alas, that means I must now be considered a corporate shill who’s sold out to The Man.

Pointing out that a particular Creative Commons licence allows the Klu Klux Klan to use your work isn’t the same as defending the Klu Klux Klan.

Pointing out that a particular Creative Commons licence allows a hardcore porn film to use your music isn’t the same as defending hardcore porn.

Pointing out that a particular Creative Commons licence allows Yahoo to flog canvas prints of your photos isn’t the same as defending Yahoo.

The New Yandex.Browser. Alpha version

A concept browser from Yandex that takes an interesting approach to URLs: on the one hand, hiding them …but then putting them front and centre.

But the main focus of this concept browser is to blur the line between browser chrome and the website it’s displaying.

Clicked on two different links to two different articles. Presented with two different popover ads.

Never did read those articles.

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

People who didn’t care when Yahoo deleted terabytes of content are now upset that Yahoo is making use of content people licensed for resale.

Alien | Typeset In The Future

Typeset In The Future is back with another cracking analysis. This time—following on from 2001 and Moon—we’ve got Alien.

In her final recorded message before hypersleep, Ripley notes that she is the sole survivor of the Nostromo. What she forgets to mention is that she has not once in the past two hours encountered any Eurostile Bold Extended.

Bruce Lawson’s personal site  : On the accessibility of web components. Again.

I completely share Bruce’s concern about the year-zero thinking that’s accompanying a lot of the web components marketing:

Snarking aside, why do so few people talk about extending existing HTML elements with web components? Why’s all the talk about brand new custom elements? I don’t know.

Hear, hear!

I’m a fan of web components. But I’m increasingly worried about the messaging surrounding them.

I’ve had this song stuck in my head ever since seeing Fahrenheit 451 the other night…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1IxOS4VzKM

Treating myself to the festive pulled pork from @TheTrollsPantry for lunch.

Treating myself to the festive pulled pork from @TheTrollsPantry for lunch.

It worked!

Demonstrating IndieAuth + Micropub to Jon and Charlotte.

A reign of shoe fascism has descended on the @Clearleft office.

Fa-shoe-ism, if you will.

On File Formats, Very Briefly, by Paul Ford · The Manual

A history lesson and a love letter to the early web, taking in HTML, Photoshop, and the web standards movement.

Those were long years, the years of drop-shadows. Everything was jumping just slightly off the screen. For a stretch it seemed that drop-shadows and thin vertical columns of text would define the web. That was before we learned that the web is really a medium to display slideshows, as many slideshows as possible, with banner ads.

as days pass by — Enabling Webmentions

Stuart has implemented webmentions on his site, which is great. It’s also fitting, as he is the inventor of pingback (of which webmention is a simpler reformulation).

Beautiful web type — the best typefaces from the Google web fonts directory

Many of the free fonts available from Google are pretty bad, but this site showcases how some of them can be used to great effect.

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Chicken with clementines and fennel.

Chicken with clementines and fennel.

Taking delivery of a second-edition @beep book.

Taking delivery of a second-edition @beep book.