Archive: January 9th, 2015

Less than Zero

I have to admit, my initial reaction to the idea of providing free access to some websites for people in developing countries was “well, it’s better than no access at all, right?” …but the more I think about it, the more I realise how short-sighted that is. The power of the internet stems from being a stupid network and anything that compromises that—even with the best of intentions—is an attack on its fundamental principles.

On the surface, it sounds great for carriers to exempt popular apps from data charges. But it’s anti-competitive, patronizing, and counter-productive.

The Perils of an All-Digital Movie Future

Dropping our films down the memory hole. Welcome to the digital dark age.

As a new developer | Charlotte Spencer’s Blog

I’m not a new developer, but I can definitely relate to this. In fact, when I’ve spoken to any developer about this, it turns out that everyone feels overwhelmed by how much we’re expected to know. That’s not good. We should open up and talk about this more (like Charlotte is doing here).

The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis - The Atlantic

As someone entering their mid 40s, I find this research into “the U-curve” immensely reassuring.


I’ve spoken at quite a few events over the last few years (2014 was a particularly busy year). Many—in fact, most—of those events were overseas. Quite a few were across the atlantic ocean, so I’ve partaken of quite a few transatlantic flights.

Most of the time, I’d fly British Airways. They generally have direct flights to most of the US destinations where those speaking engagements were happening. This means that I racked up quite a lot of frequent-flyer miles, or as British Airways labels them, “avios.”

Frequent-flyer miles were doing gamification before gamification was even a thing. You’re lured into racking up your count, even though it’s basically a meaningless number. With BA, for example, after I’d accumulated a hefty balance of avios points, I figured I’d try to the use them to pay for an upcoming flight. No dice. You can increase your avios score all you like; when it actually comes to spending them, computer says “no.”

So my frequent-flyer miles were basically like bitcoins—in one sense, I had accumulated all this wealth, but in another sense, it was utterly worthless.

(I’m well aware of just how first-world-problemy this sounds: “Oh, it’s simply frightful how inconvenient it is for one to spend one’s air miles these days!”)

Early in 2014, I decided to flip it on its head. Instead of waiting until I needed to fly somewhere and then trying to spend my miles to get there (which never worked), I instead looked at where I could possibly get to, given my stash of avios points. The BA website was able to tell me, “hey, you can fly to Japan and back …if you travel in the off-season …in about eight months’ time.”

Alrighty, then. Let’s do that.

Now, even if you can book a flight using avios points, you still have to pay all the taxes and surcharges for the flight (death and taxes remain the only certainties). The taxes for two people to fly from London to Tokyo and back are not inconsiderable.

But here’s the interesting bit: the taxes are a fixed charge; they don’t vary according to what class you’re travelling. So when I was booking the flight, I was basically presented with the option to spend X amount of unspendable imaginary currency to fly economy, or more of unspendable imaginary currency to fly business class, or even more of the same unspendable imaginary currency to fly—get this—first class!

Hmmm …well, let me think about that decision for almost no discernible length of time. Of course I’m going to use as many of those avios points as I can! After all, what’s the point of holding on to them—it’s not like they’re of any use.

The end result is that tomorrow, myself and Jessica are going to fly from Heathrow to Narita …and we’re going to travel in the first class cabin! Squee!

Not only that, but it turns out that there are other things you can spend your avios points on after all. One of those things is hotel rooms. So we’ve managed to spend even more of the remaining meaningless balance of imaginary currency on some really nice hotels in Tokyo.

We’ll be in Japan for just over a week. We’ll start in Tokyo, head down to Kyoto, do a day trip to Mount Kōya, and then end up back in Tokyo.

We are both ridiculously excited about this trip. I’m actually going somewhere overseas that doesn’t involve speaking at a conference—imagine that!

There’s so much to look forward to—Sushi! Ramen! Yakitori!

And all it cost us was a depletion of an arbitrary number of points in a made-up scoring mechanism.

Trying out the lovely scarf that @Wordridden made for me.

Jeremy clothed entirely in handknits

Wondering whether I should be writing the @Clearleft weeknotes after beer o’clock on a Friday.

Only just noticing now that @iamBevan7 is POSSEing his posts from to Twitter.

Nice one!

Abstractivate: Systems Thinking about WIT

As always, systems thinking makes a lot of sense for analysing problems, even if—or, especially if—it’s a social issue.

Internet Under Fire Gets New Manifesto

There’s more than a whiff of Indie Web thinking in this sequel to the Cluetrain Manifesto from Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger.

The Net’s super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.

It’s quite lawn-off-getty …but I also happen to agree with pretty much all of it.

Although it’s kind of weird that it’s published on somebody else’s website. | the world’s most simple monitoring service

A cheap’n’cheerful way of monitoring uptime for domains.

How we use web fonts responsibly, or, avoiding a @font-face-palm by Filament Group

Smart thinking here on the eternal dilemma with loading web fonts. Filament Group have thought about how the initial experience of the first page load could be quite different to subsequent page loads.