Sunday, August 30th, 2015
Heading out to spend the day exploring Baltimore.
There will be crabs.
Saturday, August 29th, 2015
Friday, August 28th, 2015
Thursday, August 27th, 2015
Going to Baltimore. brb
A nice combination of style guide and pattern library, with plenty of documentation.
Wednesday, August 26th, 2015
We become obsessed with tools and methods, very rarely looking at how these relate to the fundamental basics of web standards, accessibility and progressive enhancement. We obsess about a right way to do things as if there was one right way rather than looking at the goal; how things fit into the broader philosophy of what we do on the web and how what we write contributes to us being better at what we do.
Looking forward to Homebrew Website Club downstairs in @68MiddleSt this evening, starting at the slightly earlier time of 6pm.
Whatever works for you
It’s an interesting idea that I could certainly imagine being useful in certain situations such as dynamically updating an interface in real time (it feels a bit more “close to the metal” to reflect the state updates directly rather than doing it via class swapping). But there are many, many other situations where the cascade is very useful indeed.
In short, my response was “hey, like, whatever, it’s cool, each to their own.” There are many, many different kinds of websites and many, many different ways to make them. I like that.
I find that a little disheartening. Chris has written about the confidence of youth:
Discussions are always worth having. Weighing options is always interesting. Demonstrating what has worked (and what hasn’t) for you is always useful. There are ways to communicate that don’t resort to dogmatism.
There are big differences between saying:
- You can do this,
- You should do this, and
- You must do this.
My take on the inline styles discussion was that it fits firmly in the “you can do this” slot. It could be a very handy tool to have in your toolbox for certain situations. But ideally your toolbox should have many other tools. When all you have is a hammer, yadda, yadda, yadda, nail.
Like I said on the podcast, it’s a big web out there. The idea that there is “one true way” that would work on all possible projects seems unlikely—and undesirable.
“A ha!”, you may be thinking, “But you yourself talk about progressive enhancement as if it’s the one try way to build on the web—hoisted by your own petard.” Actually, I don’t. There are certainly situations where progressive enhancement isn’t workable—although I believe those cases are rarer than you might think. But my over-riding attitude towards any questions of web design and development is:
For almost a century and a half the West Pier has been Britain’s most iconic pier. Renowned for its wonderful architectural style, it has been visited and enjoyed by millions. Even today with its sculptural remains casting an eerie beauty over the seafront, the West Pier is still the most photographed building in Brighton.
Very thoughtful and sensible thinking from Paul.
Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
A collection of cli-fi and cli-fact.
Alex recounts the sordid history of vendor prefixes and looks to new ways of allowing browsers to ship experimental features without causing long-term harm.
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Brian David Johnson
The newest dConstruct podcast episode features the indefatigable and effervescent Brian David Johnson. Together we pick apart the futures we are collectively making, probe the algorithmic structures of science fiction narratives, and pay homage to Asimovian robotic legal codes.
Brian’s enthusiasm is infectious. I have a strong hunch that his dConstruct talk will be both thought-provoking and inspiring.
dConstruct 2015 is getting close now. Our future approaches. Interviewing the speakers ahead of time has only increased my excitement and anticipation. I think this is going to be a truly unmissable event. So, uh, don’t miss it.
Grab your ticket today and use the code ‘ansible’ to take advantage of the 10% discount for podcast listeners.
Building the dConstruct 2015 site
I remember when I first saw Paddy’s illustration for this year’s dConstruct site, I thought “Well, that’s a design direction, but there’s no way that Graham will be able to implement all of it.” There was a tight deadline for getting the site out, and let’s face it, there was so much going on in the design that we’d just have to prioritise.
I underestimated Graham’s sheer bloody-mindedness.
I love that. Even with the focus on the gorgeous illustration and futuristic atmosphere of the design, Graham took the time to think about the absolute basics: marking up the content in a logical structured way. Everything after that—the imagery, the fonts, the skewed style—all of it was built on a solid foundation.
There’s plenty of CSS trickery going on:
opacity. But for the icing on the cake, Graham reached for
canvas and programmed space elevator traffic with randomly seeded velocity and size.
Oh, and of course it’s all responsive.
So, putting that all together…
The dConstruct 2015 site is gorgeous, semantic, responsive, and performant. Conventional wisdom dictates that you have to choose, but this little site—built on a really tight schedule—shows otherwise.
Monday, August 24th, 2015
Come to the 2nd Homebrew Website Club meetup in Brighton this Wednesday:
The video of my talk at this year’s Beyond Tellerrand. I was pleased with how this went, except for the bit 16 minutes in when I suddenly lost the ability to speak.
Sunday, August 23rd, 2015
I was a guest on the Boagworld podcast—neither Andy nor Richard were available so Paul and Marcus were stuck with me. We talked boring business stuff, but only after an extended—and much more interesting—preamble wherein we chatted about sci-fi books.
When prompted for which books I would recommend, I was able to instantly recall some recent reads, but inevitably I forgot to mention some others. I’m not sure if I even mentioned William Gibson’s The Peripheral, an unsurprisingly excellent book.
I’m pretty sure I mentioned The Girl In The Road. It has a magical realism quality to it that reminded me a bit of Lauren’s Zoo City. Its African/Indian setting makes for a refreshing change. Having said that, I still haven’t read Ian McDonald’s Indian-set River Of Gods or Cyberabad Days, both of which are sitting on my bookshelf alongside McDonald’s Out On Blue Six, which I have read and can heartily recommend—its imagining of a society where the algorithm decides the fate of all feels very ahead of its time.
One book I recommended without hesitation was Station Eleven. Maybe it was because I read it right after reading a book I found to be so-so—Paul McAuley’s Something Coming Through—but the writing in Station Eleven sucker-punched me right from the first chapter. Have a listen to the Boagworld podcast episode for some more ramblings on why I liked it.
Somehow I managed not to mention Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. That’s unforgivable. They are easily amongst the best works of sci-fi I’ve read in a read long time. It feels quite exciting to be anticipating the third part in what will clearly be a long-time classic series, right up there with the all-time greats.
I first came across Ancillary Justice through some comparisons that were being made to Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels. I was reading his final work, The Hydrogen Sonata, trying to take it slow, knowing that there would be no further books from that universe. But I ended up tearing through it because it was damned enjoyable (not necessarily brilliantly-written, mind; like most of Banks’s books, it’s a terrific and thought-provoking romp but missing the hand of a sterner editor). Anyway, I heard there were some similarities to the Ship Minds to be found in Leckie’s debut novel so I gave it a whirl. As it turns out, there are very few similarities and that’s all for the best. The universe that Leckie is describing has a very different but equally compelling richness.
I read Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy—Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance—and while I can’t say I enjoyed them as such, I can recommend them …though they are insidiously disturbing, dripping with atmosphere. I’m very intrigued by the news that Alex Garland is working on a screenplay.
So if you’re looking for some good recent speculative fiction, try:
- The Peripheral by William Gibson,
- The Girl In The Road by Monica Byrne,
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel,
- Ancillary Justice and
- Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie and
- The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer.
Alongside the newer stuff, I’ve been catching up with some golden oldies in the form of tattered second-hand novels like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, Stanisław Lem’s The Futurological Congress, and Brian Aldiss’s Hothouse. I’m currently working my way through Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves and loving every minute of it.
An old-school styleguide.
Feeling a bit stiff today after yesterday’s fun kayaking trip.
What a lovely bit of progressive enhancement—styling data tables to display as charts.
Friday, August 21st, 2015
Still giggling over the best mistyped CSS declaration ever, shared by @LotteJackson…
Anyone else ever done that?
Fire up Firefox and try out these demos: the CSS
element value is pretty impressive (although there are currently some serious performance issues).
To put it simply, this function renders any part of a website as a live image. A. Live. Image!
A lesson on the importance of handling each state of an interface:
- the blank state,
- the loading state,
- the partial state,
- the error state,
- and the ideal state
…instead of just focusing on that last one.
I kind of want to link to every one of John’s post chronicling his 90 days at Clearleft, but this one is particular good, I think: how narrative ideas from the world of storytelling can help unlock some design problems.
Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Will the Big Think piece you just posted to Medium be there in 2035? That may sound like it’s very far off in the future, and who could possibly care, but if there’s any value to your writing, you should care. Having good records is how knowledge builds.
This is nifty little piece of CSS for numbering nested lists. I don’t think I’ve come across the
counter value or the
counter-increment properties before (or if I did, I’ve completely forgotten about it).
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Carla Diana
The dConstruct podcast episodes are coming thick and fast. The latest episode is a thoroughly enjoyable natter I had with the brilliant Carla Diana.
We talk about robots, smart objects, prototyping, 3D printing, and the world of teaching design.
And don’t forget to use the discount code ‘ansible’ when you’re buying your dConstruct ticket …because you are coming to dConstruct, right?
Following on from her great conversation with Jen on The Web Ahead podcast, Rachel outlines a strategy to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the deluge of tools, frameworks, libraries, and techniques inundating front-end developers every day:
Learn your core skills well. Understand HTML and CSS, be able to build a layout without leaning on a framework. Get a solid understanding of how a website actually gets from the server to a browser, an understanding of security and accessibility. These are the basics, the constants. These things change slowly. These things sit underneath all the complexity and the tooling, the CMSs and the noise of thousands of people all trying to make their mark on this industry.
She also makes this important point:
As you are doing this don’t forget to share what you know.
Wednesday, August 19th, 2015
24 years ago today…
Happy anniversary, @TimBerners_Lee!
Thinking it’s high time we had another Paper Camp. The first one was fun.
A wonderful collection of treasures excavated from GeoCities. Explore, enjoy, and remember what a crime it is that Yahoo wiped out so much creativity and expression.
“What colour is teal?”
“Like the duck.”
“No, a different duck.”
Tuesday, August 18th, 2015
I enjoyed chatting with Marcus and Paul on the Boagworld podcast …mostly because I managed to avoid the topic at hand by discussing sci-fi for half an hour before we settled to the boring stuff about work, business, and all that guff.
One day I’ll have my own pair of Slack socks.
Monday, August 17th, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: John Willshire
The latest dConstruct 2015 podcast episode is ready for your aural pleasure. This one’s a bit different. John Willshire came down to Brighton so that we could have our podcast chat face-to-face instead of over Skype.
It was fascinating to see the preparation that John is putting into his talk. He had labelled cards strewn across the table, each one containing a strand that he wants to try to weave into his talk. They also made for great conversation starters. That’s how we ended up talking about Interstellar and Man Of Steel, and the differing parenting styles contained therein. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to rid myself of the mental image of a giant holographic head of Michael Caine dispensing words of wisdom to in the Fortress Of Solitude. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light, Kal-el!”
The sound quality of this episode is more “atmospheric”, given the recording conditions (you can hear Clearlefties and seagulls in the background) but a splendid time was had by both John and myself. I hope that you enjoy listening to it.
I have a feeling that after listening to this, you’re definitely going to want to see John’s dConstruct talk, so grab yourself a ticket, using the discount code ‘ansible’ to get 10% off.
Saturday, August 15th, 2015
It’s months away but I’m already so excited about http://aneventapart.com/event/austin-2015
Everyone in the line up is one of my heroes.
A wonderful, wonderful history of the web from Dave at this year’s Beyond Tellerrand conference. I didn’t get to see this at the time—I was already on the way back home—so I got Dave to give me the gist of it over lunch. He undersold it. This is a fascinating story, wonderfully told.
So gather round the computer, kids, and listen to Uncle Dave tell you about times gone by.
Friday, August 14th, 2015
Enjoyed playing this Joy Division cover again during tonight’s @SalterCane practice.
Reading an article about the relative merits of the hamburger icon, and, well, now I think I know what I’m having at @StreetDiner.
Thursday, August 13th, 2015
It’s really great to see the performance improvements being made by the Vox team. This is the one that I think will make the most difference:
Our Revenue Team is increasing focus on the impact our advertising has on user experience and overall performance. One of their biggest initiatives has been to change the way ads load from synchronous to asynchronous, which has been underway for several months and is nearing deployment.
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Chriss Noessel
I enjoyed myself immensely geeking out with Chris about the technology presented in sci-fi films like Logan’s Run, Iron Man, X-Men, Metropolis, Under The Skin, and of course, Star Wars. I shared my crazy theory about Star Wars with Chris and he was very gracious in humouring me.
Oh, at the end of the episode, we reveal the special event that’s happening the evening before dConstruct:
The night before the conference, Chris Noessel, one of our fab speakers, will be hosting a very special screening of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’.
Don’t miss it. And don’t miss dConstruct. Remember, as a podcast listener, you get 10% off the ticket price with the discount code “ansible.”
Twenty-six letters of independent publishing building blocks.
Wednesday, August 12th, 2015
Benjamin documents his experience at the first Brighton Homebrew Website Club: a most pleasant evening.
Caught an ISS/Perseid double-whammy! Score!
Going to go outside in ten minutes and look up at the ISS flying over.
Then I’ll stay outside to see some Perseids (I hope).
Yes! Yes! YES!
Marco makes the same comparison I did between the dark days of pop-up windows and the current abysmal state of bloated ads and tracking on today’s web.
I have one more thing to add to this list…
But publishers, advertisers, and browser vendors are all partly responsible for the situation we’re all in.
…developers. Somebody put those harm-causing
script elements on those pages. Like I said: “What will you be apologising for in decades to come?”
In a few years, after the dust has settled, we’re all going to look back at today’s web’s excesses and abuses as an almost unbelievable embarrassment.
The web – by its very nature – foregrounds the connections between different clusters of knowledge. Links link. One article leads to another. As you make the journey from destination to destination, all inevitably connected by that trail of links, you begin to tease out understanding.
It’s this drawing together, this weaving together of knowledge, that is the important part. Your journey is unique. The chances of another pursuing the same path, link by link (or book by book), is – statistically – impossible. Your journey leads you to discovery and, through reflection, comprehension. You see the connections others haven’t, because your journey is your own.
The death of the web has been greatly exaggerated.
There’s nothing else like it. It’s constantly improving. It’s up to you what you do with it.
Alla has taken the ideas she presented in her superb talk at Responsive Day Out and published them as a great article in A List Apart.
When you’re struggling to write something that sounds clear and sounds human (two of the essential basics of a good blog post, I’d argue), just use the words normal people would use. The best way to find out what those words are is to try talking the thing through to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. Remember what you just said, then write that.
Tuesday, August 11th, 2015
Sufficiently advanced technology is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.
The future is indistinguishable from magic.
Monday, August 10th, 2015
Any sufficiently advanced hacking is indistinguishable from a haunting. In the same way that many Internet of Things objects are referred to as ‘enchanting’ or ‘magical,’ with an intervention, they can very quickly become haunted.
It’s a real shame that Hannah and Matt are shutting down This Is My Jam—it’s such a lovely little service—but their reliance on ever-changing third-party APIs sounds like no fun, and the way they’re handling the shutdown is exemplary: the site is going into read-only mode, and of course all of your data is exportable.
Yahoo, Google, and other destroyers could learn a thing or two from this—things like “dignity” and “respect”.
Rosa has written an account of the third and final Responsive Day Out for the Codebar blog (I gave free passes to Codebar students).
As codebar is an event aimed at encouraging diversity in tech we were pleased that there were so many inspiring female speakers on the bill. To us it signifies women holding strong presence in this industry. It is encouraging for other women either starting out or further into careers, when it is actively projected that women should be present, seen, heard and their knowledge shared.
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Ingrid Burrington
The dConstruct podcast episodes are coming thick and fast. Hot on the heels of the inaugural episode with Matt Novak and the sophomore episode with Josh Clark comes the third in the series: the one with Ingrid Burrington.
This was a fun meeting of minds. We geeked out about the physical infrastructure of the internet and time-travel narratives, from The Terminator to The Peripheral. During the episode, I sounded the spoiler warning in case you haven’t read that book, but we didn’t actually end up giving anything away.
I really enjoyed this chat with Ingrid. I hope you’ll enjoy listening to it.
Oh, and now you can subscribe to the dConstruct 2015 podcast directly from iTunes.
And remember, as a podcast listener, you get 10% off the ticket price for dConstruct using the discount code “ansible.”
Sunday, August 9th, 2015
Saturday, August 8th, 2015
Friday, August 7th, 2015
Just as the ISS was dimming and fading from view, a separate streak of light sliced across the sky—a meteor; one of the Perseids.
Watching G R A V I T Y again.
Pausing it halfway through to go outside and watch the real ISS fly overhead.
The video of Richard’s great talk on responsive typography at the Up Front conference.
You can now subscribe to my dConstruct 2015 podcast directly in iTunes so you can have my natterings with the lovely speakers delivered straight to your ocular orifices.
Thursday, August 6th, 2015
Brighton Homebrew Website Club
I really enjoyed the most recent Indie Web Camp in Brighton. Some of us were discussing at the event how it’s a shame that it only happens once or twice year, considering how much everyone manages to accomplish at each one.
Well, to help keep the momentum going, Charlotte and I are going to start running a Homebrew Website Club meetup here in Brighton. It’ll take place every second Wednesday in the auditorium—or, if that’s not available, the Clearleft office—here at 68 Middle Street from 6:30pm to 7:30pm (although myself and Charlotte will be there from 6pm so feel free to show up early).
There’s no set agenda to these meetups. Simply put, it’s a chance to work on your personal site or side project while in the company of either people doing the same thing. We can help each other out, or just have a chance to chat and compare notes, very much in the spirit of the original Homebrew Computer Club …but applied to your own website.
The first Brighton Homebrew Website Club meetup is on Wednesday, August 12th. It would be lovely to see you there.
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Josh Clark
On Monday, I launched a new little experiment—a podcast series of interviews with the lovely people who will be speaking at this year’s dConstruct. I’m very much looking forward to the event (it presses all my future-geekery buttons) and talking to the speakers ahead of time is just getting me even more excited.
If you want to have this and future episodes delivered straight to your earholes, subscribe to the podcast feed.
And don’t forget: as a loyal podcast listener, you get 10% off the ticket price of dConstruct. Use the discount code “ansible”. You’re welcome.
Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
(I like that the Cooper Hewitt entry for Powers Of Ten links out to Foursquare)
Kelli Anderson’s thesis on the Human Interference Task Force project set up to mark nuclear waste sites for future generations (a project I’ve referenced in some of my talks).
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
This looks like it’s going to be a great evening event. Charlotte and Rosa are both speaking at it, which makes it unmissable in my book.
The very affordable tickets go on sale on Friday, and all the proceeds go to charity.
Monday, August 3rd, 2015
Lara’s fantastic book is now available online in HTML for free. Have a read and then order a copy of the print book for your library.
Sounds like a good exercise for explaining just about anything. Smart.
Podcasting the future
I’m very proud of the three dConstructs I put together: 2012, 2013, and 2014, but I don’t have the fortitude to do it indefinitely so I’m stepping back from the organisational duties this year. So dConstruct 2015 is in Andy’s hands.
Of course he’s only gone and organised exactly the kind of conference that I’d feed my own grandmother to the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal to attend. I mean, the theme is Designing The Future, for crying out loud!
To say I’m looking forward to hearing what all those great speakers have to say is something of an understatement. In fact, I couldn’t wait until September. I’ve started pestering them already.
On the off-chance that other people might be interesting in hearing me prod, cajole, and generally geek out about technology, sci-fi, and futurism, I’m taking the liberty of recording our conversations.
That’s right: there’s a podcast.
The episodes will be about half an hour so in length, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. There’s no set format or agenda. It’s all very free-form, which is a polite way of saying that I’m completely winging it.
The first episode features the magnificent Matt Novak, curator of the Paleofuture blog. We talk about past visions of the future, the boom and bust cycles of utopias and dystopias, the Jetsons, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Apollo programme.
If you like what you hear, you can subscribe to the podcast feed.
Needless to say, you should come to this year’s dConstruct on September 11th here in Brighton. As compensation for listening to my experiments in podcasting, I’m going to sweeten the deal. Use the discount code “ansible” to get 10% off the ticket price. Aw, yeah!
Sunday, August 2nd, 2015
People of Brighton: step outside at 11:17pm tonight and watch the ISS fly past.
I’ll join you.
Salt of the Earth
It’s Summertime in England so Jessica and I are eating the bounty of the season. Now is the perfect time for lamb. Yesterday we went to the Open Market and picked up half a leg of lamb (butterflied) from Tottington Manor Farm. This evening, we marinated it with rosemary, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and lemon and then threw it on the barbecue.
While we ate, we listened to a podcast episode. This time it was a documentary about salt from my Huffduffer feed. It’s an entertaining listen. As well as covering the science and history of salt, there were some interesting titbits on salt-based folklore. There’s the obvious one of throwing spilt salt over your shoulder (in to the eyes of the devil, apparently) but there was also one that neither of us had heard of: that offering someone salt at the dinner table is bad luck and warrants the rebuttal “pass me salt, pass me sorrow!”
Well, you live and learn.
Then we started thinking about other salt-based traditions. I have something in the back of my mind about a new year’s eve tradition in Ireland involving throwing bread at the door and sprinkling salt in the doorway. Jessica remembered something about a tradition in eastern European countries involving bread and salt as a greeting. Sure enough, a quick web search turned up the Russian tradition: “Хлеб да соль!!” ( “Bread and salt!”).
This traditional greeting has been extended off our planet. During the historic Apollo-Soyuz docking, crackers and salt were used as an easy substitute. But now when cosmonauts arrive at the International Space Station, they are greeted with specially-made portions of bread and salt.
We finished listening to the podcast. We finished eating our lamb—liberally seasoned with Oregonian salt from Jacobson. Then we went outside and looked up at the ISS flying overhead. When Oleg, Gennady, and Mikhail arrive back on Earth, they will be offered the traditional greeting of bread and salt.
Citizens of the internet: I would very much like to see this video…
Make it happen