Archive: January, 2018

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Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Putting a coin in the “container queries would solve this problem” jar.

Reading Traction by Gino Wickman.

Stimulus 1.0: A modest JavaScript framework for the HTML you already have

All our applications have server-side rendered HTML at their core, then add sprinkles of JavaScript to make them sparkle.

Yup!—I’m definitely liking the sound of this Stimulus JavaScript framework.

It’s designed to read as a progressive enhancement when you look at the HTML it’s addressing.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Famous first words

Monday, January 29th, 2018

GDPR and Google Analytics

Enforcement of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is coming very, very soon. Look busy. This regulation is not limited to companies based in the EU—it applies to any service anywhere in the world that can be used by citizens of the EU.

It’s less about data protection and more like a user’s bill of rights. That’s good. Cennydd has written a techie’s rough guide to GDPR.

The Open Data Institute’s Jeni Tennison wrote down her thoughts on how it could change data portability in particular. While she welcomes GDPR, she has some misgivings.

Blaine—who really needs to get a blog—shared his concerns in the form of the online equivalent of interpretive dance …a twitter thread (it’s called a thread because it inevitably gets all tangled, and it’s easy to break.)

The interesting thing about the so-called “cookie law” is that it makes no mention of cookies whatsoever. It doesn’t list any specific technology. Instead it states that any means of tracking or identifying users across websites requires disclosure. So if you’re setting a cookie just to manage state—so that users can log in, or keep items in a shopping basket—the legislation doesn’t apply. But as soon as your site allows a third-party to set a cookie, it’s banner time.

Google Analytics is a classic example of a third-party service that uses cookies to track people across domains. That’s pretty much why it exists. We, as site owners, get to use this incredibly powerful tool, and all we have to do in return is add one little snippet of JavaScript to our pages. In doing so, we’re allowing a third party to read or write a cookie from their domain.

Before Google Analytics, Google—the search engine business—was able to identify and track what users were searching for, and which search results they clicked on. But as soon as the user left google.com, the trail went cold. By creating an enormously useful analytics product that only required site owners to add a single line of JavaScript, Google—the online advertising business—gained the ability to keep track of users across most of the web, whether they were on a site owned by Google or not.

Under the old “cookie law”, using a third-party cookie-setting service like that meant you had to inform any of your users who were citizens of the EU. With GDPR, that changes. Now you have to get consent. A dismissible little overlay isn’t going to cut it any more. Implied consent isn’t enough.

Now this situation raises an interesting question. Who’s responsible for getting consent? Is it the site owner or the third party whose script is the conduit for the tracking?

In the first scenario, you’d need to wait for an explicit agreement from a visitor to your site before triggering the Google Analytics functionality. Suddenly it’s not as simple as adding a single line of JavaScript to your site.

In the second scenario, you don’t do anything differently than before—you just add that single line of JavaScript. But now that script would need to launch the interface for getting consent before doing any tracking. Google Analytics would go from being something invisible to something that directly impacts the user experience of your site.

I’m just using Google Analytics as an example here because it’s so widespread. This also applies to third-party sharing buttons—Twitter, Facebook, etc.—and of course, advertising.

In the case of advertising, it gets even thornier because quite often, the site owner has no idea which third party is about to do the tracking. Many, many sites use intermediary services (y’know, ‘cause bloated ad scripts aren’t slowing down sites enough so let’s throw some just-in-time bidding into the mix too). You could get consent for the intermediary service, but not for the final advert—neither you nor your site’s user would have any idea what they were consenting to.

Interesting times. One way or another, a massive amount of the web—every website using Google Analytics, embedded YouTube videos, Facebook comments, embedded tweets, or third-party advertisements—will be liable under GDPR.

It’s almost as if the ubiquitous surveillance of people’s every move on the web wasn’t a very good idea in the first place.

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Keeping aspect-ratio with HTML and no padding tricks

A clever little hack to preserve an aspect ratio for any HTML element.

We use two important attributes:

  • SVG knows how to maintain aspect ratio
  • CSS grid knows how to make overlapping items affect each other’s size

A Tale of Two Rooms: Understanding screen reader navigation | The Paciello Group

A nice analogy to help explain what it’s like to navigate with a screen reader—and how much well-structured markup can help make it easier.

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Checked in at China China. Dim sum — with Jessica map

Checked in at China China. Dim sum — with Jessica

Friday, January 26th, 2018

HTML templating with vanilla JavaScript ES2015 Template Literals – Ben Frain

Ben makes the very good point that template literals allow you to do a lot of useful stuff that previously would’ve required a library:

Template Literals afford a lot of power with no library overhead. I will definitely continue to use them when complexity of handlebars or similar is overkill.

Chris made a similar observation a little while back. Throw in a little script like lit-html and now you’ve got DOM-diffing too. You might not need insert-current-framework-name after all.

Kinda cool that these mini-libraries exist that do useful things for us, so when situations arise that we want a feature that a big library has, but don’t want to use the whole big library, we got smaller options.

How to use variable fonts in the real world | Clagnut

The gorgeous website for this year’s Ampersand conference might well be one of the first commercial uses of variable fonts in the wild. Here, Richard documents all the clever things Mark did to ensure good fallbacks for browsers that don’t yet support variable fonts.

The Power of Serverless

Chris has set up a whole site dedicated to someone-else’s-server sites with links to resources and services (APIs), along with ideas of what you could build in this way.

Here’s one way to think about it: you can take your front-end skills and do things that typically only a back-end can do. You can write a JavaScript function that you run and receive a response from by hitting a URL. That’s sometimes also called Cloud Functions or Functions as a Service, which are perhaps better names, but just a part of the whole serverless thing.

Arch Mission

Off-site backups of humanity’s knowledge and culture, stored in different media (including pyramidal crystals) placed in near-Earth orbit, the moon, and Mars.

We are developing specialized next-generation devices that we call Archs™ (pronounced “Arks”), which are designed to hold and transmit large amounts of data over long periods of time in extreme environments, including outer space and on the surfaces of other planetary bodies.

Our goal is to collect and curate important data sets and to install them on Archs™ that will be delivered to as many locations as possible for safekeeping.

To increase the chances that Archs™ will be found in the future, we aim for durability and massive redundancy across a broad diversity of locations and materials – a strategy that nature itself has successfully employed.

Robin Rendle › How to Read the Internet

The past, present and future of RSS.

If I had to choose my Twitter account over my RSS setup I wouldn’t hesitate for a second — I’d throw Twitter right into the ocean.

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Global Diversity CFP Day

Julie is organising the Brighton edition of the Global Diversity Call-For-Proposals Day (and I’m providing the venue) on Saturday, February 3rd from 11am to 3pm. If you’ve ever wanted to speak at a conference, please come along:

On Saturday 3rd February 2018 there will be numerous workshops hosted around the globe encouraging and advising newbie speakers to put together your very first talk proposal and share your own individual perspective on any subject of interest to people in tech.

Microblogging / Paul Robert Lloyd

Paul weighs up the pros and cons of using silos (like Twitter and Facebook) and using the Indie Web. This bit made me want to stand on my desk and cry, “Oh captain, my captain!”:

“The market has proven that consumers want freely available social networks that are easy to use, and used by everyone else. Only centralised services can provide this, not familiarity with a command line and a succession of acronyms and protocols”, says my not entirely fictional naysayer.

I’m not sure this argument follows. While the human desire to connect and communicate easily with each other has been proven many times over, it’s becoming clear that all-encompassing centralised networks are not the solution. That way lies algorithmically-skewed streams of consciousness, layered upon sordid business models and Californian ideology. Fuck that.

The web is agreement, but that doesn’t mean we agree to use the same websites.

Design ops for design systems

Leading Design was one of the best events I attended last year. To be honest, that surprised me—I wasn’t sure how relevant it would be to me, but it turned out to be the most on-the-nose conference I could’ve wished for.

Seeing as the event was all about design leadership, there was inevitably some talk of design ops. But I noticed that the term was being used in two different ways.

Sometimes a speaker would talk about design ops and mean “operations, specifically for designers.” That means all the usual office practicalities—equipment, furniture, software—that designers might need to do their jobs. For example, one of the speakers recommended having a dedicated design ops person rather than trying to juggle that yourself. That’s good advice, as long as you understand what’s meant by design ops in that context.

There’s another context of use for the phrase “design ops”, and it’s one that we use far more often at Clearleft. It’s related to design systems.

Now, “design system” is itself a term that can be ambiguous. See also “pattern library” and “style guide”. Quite a few people have had a stab at disambiguating those terms, and I think there’s general agreement—a design system is the overall big-picture “thing” that can contain a pattern library, and/or a style guide, and/or much more besides:

None of those great posts attempt to define design ops, and that’s totally fair, because they’re all attempting to define things—style guides, pattern libraries, and design systems—whereas design ops isn’t a thing, it’s a practice. But I do think that design ops follows on nicely from design systems. I think that design ops is the practice of adopting and using a design system.

There are plenty of posts out there about the challenges of getting people to use a design system, and while very few of them use the term design ops, I think that’s what all of them are about:

Clearly design systems and design ops are very closely related: you really can’t have one without the other. What I find interesting is that a lot of the challenges relating to design systems (and pattern libraries, and style guides) might be technical, whereas the challenges of design ops are almost entirely cultural.

I realise that tying design ops directly to design systems is somewhat limiting, and the truth is that design ops can encompass much more. I like Andy’s description:

Design Ops is essentially the practice of reducing operational inefficiencies in the design workflow through process and technological advancements.

Now, in theory, that can encompass any operational stuff—equipment, furniture, software—but in practice, when we’re dealing with design ops, 90% of the time it’s related to a design system. I guess I could use a whole new term (design systems ops?) but I think the term design ops works well …as long as everyone involved is clear on the kind of design ops we’re all talking about.

PonziCoin

Yet another cryptocurrency …except that this was meant to be satire.

This has gotten crazy out of hand, I apologize but we will no longer be selling PonziCoin on this site because this was a joke.

Buttondown

This looks like an interesting alternative to TinyLetter for writing and sending email newsletters, like all the cool kids are doing.

The King vs. Pawn Game of UI Design · An A List Apart Article

I love this analogy and I love this approach—starting with the simplest possible thing and building up from there. This article talks about taking that approach for UI design, but it’s pretty much the same thing I talk about for development in Resilient Web Design.

As Shakespeare once didn’t say, progressive enhancement by any other name would smell as sweet.

Safari 11.1

Squee! The next time there’s an update for OS X and iOS, Safari will magically have service worker support! Not only that, but Safari on iOS will start using the information in web app manifests for adding to home screen.

That’s an impressive turnaround.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Explore Georeferenced Maps - Spy viewer - National Library of Scotland

This is a fascinating way to explore time and place—a spyglass view of hundred year old maps overlaid on the digital maps of today.

React, Redux and JavaScript Architecture

I still haven’t used React (I know, I know) but this looks like a nice explanation of React and Redux.

The IndieWeb outside of Facebook is full of opportunities - The Garage

A nice description of syndication via POSSEing.

(I never thought I’d find myself linking to quality content on Go Daddy.)

Doctype Brighton

A new webby meet-up in Brighton organised by Davs Howard. It’ll be one the first Thursday of the month at The Joker. I often find myself in The Joker on Thursday nights anyway (for the wings) so I’ll be heading along to the inaugural event on February 1st.

Very excited that @Julieanne is organising the Brighton edition of @gdcfpday (Global Diversity Call-For-Proposals Day) at @68MiddleSt on Saturday, February 3rd—come one, come all!

https://www.globaldiversitycfpday.com/events/60

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

This evening I discussed HTML from first principles with five brilliant @CodebarBrighton students, and I really, really, really enjoyed it.

Oh, no! Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ampersand Web Typography Conference | 29 June 2018 | Brighton, UK

Save the date! The best web typography conference in the world is back in Brighton on June 29th, and this time it’s at the best venue: The Duke Of York’s.

In fact, you can do more than saving the date: you can snap up a super early bird ticket for whopping £85 saving.

My feelings on spreadsheet abuse have prompted an escalation in office trolling from my colleagues.

My feelings on spreadsheet abuse have prompted an escalation in office trolling from my colleagues.

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Seedship

A thoroughly enjoyable adventure game in your browser. You are the AI of a colony starship. Humanity’s future is in your hands.

We need more phishing sites on HTTPS!

All the books, Montag.

If we want a 100% encrypted web then we need to encrypt all sites, despite whether or not you agree with what they do/say/sell/etc… 100% is 100% and it includes the ‘bad guys’ too.

Bad Month for the Main Thread - daverupert.com

JavaScript is CPU intensive and the CPU is the bottleneck for performance.

I’m on Team Dave.

But darn it all, I just want to build modular websites using HTML and a little bit of JavaScript.

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Book - Broad Band — Claire L. Evans

Coming to a bookshelf near you in March 2018: the untold story of the women who made the internet.

Small Tweaks That Can Make a Huge Impact on Your Website’s Accessibility | CSS-Tricks

What it says on the tin—a few suggestions to ensure the accessibility of your site.

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Needs must

I got a follow-up comment to my follow-up post about the follow-up comment I got on my original post about Google Analytics. Keep up.

I made the point that, from a front-end performance perspective, server logs have no impact whereas a JavaScript-based analytics solution must have some impact on the end user. Paul Anthony says:

Google won the analytics war because dropping one line of JS in the footer and handing a tried and tested interface to customers is an obvious no brainer in comparison to setting up an open source option that needs a cron job to parse the files, a database to store the results and doesn’t provide mobile interface.

Good point. Dropping one snippet of JavaScript into your front-end codebase is certainly an easier solution …easier for you, that is. The cost is passed on to your users. This is a classic example of where user needs and developer needs are in opposition. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Given the choice between making something my problem, and making something the user’s problem, I’ll choose to make it my problem every time.

It’s true that this often means doing more work. That’s why it’s called work. This is literally what our jobs are supposed to entail: we put in the work to make life easier for users. We’re supposed to be saving them time, not passing it along.

The example of Google Analytics is pretty extreme, I’ll grant you. The cost to the user of adding that snippet of JavaScript—if you’ve configured things reasonably well—is pretty small (again, just from a performance perspective; there’s still the cost of allowing Google to track them across domains), and the cost to you of setting up a comparable analytics system based on server logs can indeed be disproportionately high. But this tension between user needs and developer needs is something I see play out again and again.

I’ve often thought the HTML design principle called the priority of constituencies could be adopted by web developers:

In case of conflict, consider users over authors over implementors over specifiers over theoretical purity. In other words costs or difficulties to the user should be given more weight than costs to authors.

In Resilient Web Design, I documented the three-step approach I take when I’m building anything on the web:

  1. Identify core functionality.
  2. Make that functionality available using the simplest possible technology.
  3. Enhance!

Now I’m wondering if I should’ve clarified that second step further. When I talk about choosing “the simplest possible technology”, what I mean is “the simplest possible technology for the user”, not “the simplest possible technology for the developer.”

For example, suppose I were going to build a news website. The core functionality is fairly easy to identify: providing the news. Next comes the step where I choose the simplest possible technology. Now, if I were a developer who had plenty of experience building JavaScript-driven single page apps, I might conclude that the simplest route for me would be to render the news via JavaScript. But that would be a fragile starting point if I’m trying to reach as many people as possible (I might well end up building a swishy JavaScript-driven single page app in step three, but step two should almost certainly be good ol’ HTML).

Time and time again, I see decisions that favour developer convenience over user needs. Don’t get me wrong—as a developer, I absolutely want developer convenience …but not at the expense of user needs.

I know that “empathy” is an over-used word in the world of user experience and design, but with good reason. I think we should try to remind ourselves of why we make our architectural decisions by invoking who those decisions benefit. For example, “This tech stack is best option for our team”, or “This solution is the best for the widest range of users.” Then, given the choice, favour user needs in the decision-making process.

There will always be situations where, given time and budget constraints, we end up choosing solutions that are easier for us, but not the best for our users. And that’s okay, as long as we acknowledge that compromise and strive to do better next time.

But when the best solutions for us as developers become enshrined as the best possible solutions, then we are failing the people we serve.

That doesn’t mean we must become hairshirt-wearing martyrs; developer convenience is important …but not as important as user needs. Start with user needs.

Checked in at Kouzina. Yovetsi — with Jessica map

Checked in at Kouzina. Yovetsi — with Jessica

People and tooling | susan jean robertson

I can’t help but also wonder if we’re using tools to solve problems they weren’t meant to solve, like how to communicate with or manage a team.

Fears of the IndieWeb

Most of my online friends and acquaintances will never understand or participate in the IndieWeb, and so I require a bridge between these worlds. On one side I choose what content to post and how it is stored, and it exists mainly on an island that few visit regularly. On the other side is nearly everyone I know, blissfully ignorant of my real home on the web and unable to see any content shared there without manual intervention or working plugins.

This does not all seem bad, though. Maintaining control will require more attention be placed on managing my content, and this time must come from somewhere. I imagine that I’ll slowly begin using social media less, writing more, and learning more about how to develop solutions to problems that arise within my setup.

Web Trend Map 2018 – iA

If you are one of those old or young bloggers, please join in. Drop Facebook, drop Twitter and drop Medium for original thought. Own your traffic. You can use them to engage in discussion. But don’t get lost in there. Write daily. Publish as often as you have something to say. Link to other blogs.

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Checked in at Snowdrop Inn. Post-walk pint — with Richard, Jon, Graham map

Checked in at Snowdrop Inn. Post-walk pint — with Richard, Jon, Graham

Out and about with the @Clearleft crew.

Out and about with the @Clearleft crew.

Checked in at Street Diner (Friday Street Food Market) map

Checked in at Street Diner (Friday Street Food Market)

Heisenberg

I wrote about Google Analytics yesterday. As usual, I syndicated the post to Ev’s blog, and I got an interesting response over there. Kelly Burgett set me straight on some of the finer details of how goals work, and finished with this thought:

You mention “delivering a performant, accessible, responsive, scalable website isn’t enough” as if it should be, and I have to disagree. It’s not enough for a business to simply have a great website if you are unable to understand performance of channel marketing, track user demographics and behavior on-site, and optimize your site/brand based on that data. I’ve seen a lot of ugly sites who have done exceptionally well in terms of ROI, simply because they are getting the data they need from the site in order make better business decisions. If your site cannot do that (ie. through data collection, often third party scripts), then your beautifully-designed site can only take you so far.

That makes an excellent case for having analytics. But that’s not necessarily the same as having Google analytics, or even JavaScript-driven analytics at all.

By far the most useful information you get from analytics is around where people have come from, where did they go next, and what kind of device are they using. None of that information requires JavaScript. It’s all available from your server logs.

I don’t want to come across all old-man-yell-at-cloud here, but I’m trying to remember at what point self-hosted software for analysing your log traffic became not good enough.

Here’s the thing: logging on the server has no effect on the user experience. It’s basically free, in terms of performance. Logging via JavaScript, by its very nature, has some cost. Even if its negligible, that’s one more request, and that’s one more bit of processing for the CPU.

All of the data that you can only get via JavaScript (in-page actions, heat maps, etc.) are, in my experience, better handled by dedicated software. To me, that kind of more precise data feels different to analytics in the sense of funnels, conversions, goals and all that stuff.

So in order to get more fine-grained data to analyse, our analytics software has now doubled down on a technology—JavaScript—that has an impact on the end user, where previously the act of observation could be done at a distance.

There are also blind spots that come with JavaScript-based tracking. According to Google Analytics, 0% of your customers don’t have JavaScript. That’s not necessarily true, but there’s literally no way for Google Analytics—which relies on JavaScript—to even do its job in the absence of JavaScript. That can lead to a dangerous situation where you might be led to think that 100% of your potential customers are getting by, when actually a proportion might be struggling, but you’ll never find out about it.

Related: according to Google Analytics, 0% of your customers are using ad-blockers that block requests to Google’s servers. Again, that’s not necessarily a true fact.

So I completely agree than analytics are a good thing to have for your business. But it does not follow that Google Analytics is a good thing for your business. Other options are available.

I feel like the assumption that “analytics = Google Analytics” is like the slippery slope in reverse. If we’re all agreed that analytics are important, then aren’t we also all agreed that JavaScript-based tracking is important?

In a word, no.

This reminds me of the arguments made in favour of intrusive, bloated advertising scripts. All of the arguments focus on the need for advertising—to stay in business, to pay the writers—which are all great reasons for advertising, but have nothing to do with JavaScript, which is at the root of the problem. Everyone I know who uses an ad-blocker—including me—doesn’t use it to stop seeing adverts, but to stop the performance of the page being degraded (and to avoid being tracked across domains).

So let’s not confuse the means with the ends. If you need to have advertising, that doesn’t mean you need to have horribly bloated JavaScript-based advertising. If you need analytics, that doesn’t mean you need an analytics script on your front end.

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Reading Time Travel: A History by James Gleick.

Thinking back on when @clagnut and I met up with @textism. Goodbye, Dean.

Thinking back on when @clagnut and I met up with @textism.

Goodbye, Dean.

Finding Dead CSS – CSS Wizardry

Here’s a clever idea from Harry if you’re willing to play the long game in tracking down redundant CSS—add a transparent background image to the rule block and then sit back and watch your server logs for any sign of that sleeper agent ever getting activated.

If you do find entries for that particular image, you know that, somehow, the legacy feature is potentially still accessible—the number of entries should give you a clue as to how severe the problem might be.

Analysing analytics

Hell is other people’s JavaScript.

There’s nothing quite so crushing as building a beautifully performant website only to have it infested with a plague of third-party scripts that add to the weight of each page and reduce the responsiveness, making a mockery of your well-considered performance budget.

Trent has been writing about this:

My latest realization is that delivering a performant, accessible, responsive, scalable website isn’t enough: I also need to consider the impact of third-party scripts.

He’s started the process by itemising third-party scripts. Frustratingly though, there’s rarely one single culprit that you can point to—it’s the cumulative effect of “just one more beacon” and “just one more analytics script” and “just one more A/B testing tool” that adds up to a crappy experience that warms your user’s hands by ensuring your site is constantly draining their battery.

Actually, having just said that there’s rarely one single culprit, Adobe Tag Manager is often at the root of third-party problems. That and adverts. It’s like opening the door of your beautifully curated dream home, and inviting a pack of diarrhetic elephants in: “Please, crap wherever you like.”

But even the more well-behaved third-party scripts can get out of hand. Google Analytics is so ubiquitous that it’s hardly even considered in the list of potentially harmful third-party scripts. On the whole, it’s a fairly well-behaved citizen of your site’s population of third-party scripts (y’know, leaving aside the whole surveillance capitalism business model that allows you to use such a useful tool for free in exchange for Google tracking your site’s visitors across the web and selling the insights from that data to advertisers).

The initial analytics script that you—asynchronously—load into your page isn’t very big. But depending on how you’ve configured your Google Analytics account, that might just be the start of a longer chain of downloads and event handlers.

Ed recently gave a lunchtime presentation at Clearleft on using Google Analytics—he professes modesty but he really knows his stuff. He was making sure that everyone knew how to set up goals’n’stuff.

As I understand it, there are two main categories of goals: events and destinations (there are also durations and pages, but they feel similar to destinations). You use events to answer questions like “Did the user click on this button?” or “Did the user click on that search field?”. You use destinations to answer questions like “Did the user arrive at this page?” or “Did the user come from that page?”

You can add as many goals to your site’s analytics as you want. That’s an intoxicating offer. The problem is that there is potentially a cost for each goal you create. It’s an invisible cost. It’s paid by the user in the currency of JavaScript sent down the wire (I wish that the Google Analytics admin interface were more like the old interface for Google Fonts, where each extra file you added literally pushed a needle higher on a dial).

It strikes me that the event-based goals would necessarily require more JavaScript in order to listen out for those clicks and fire off that information. The destination-based goals should be able to get all the information needed from regular page navigations.

So I have a hypothesis. I think that destination-based goals are less harmful to performance than event-based goals. I might well be wrong about that, and if I am, please let me know.

With that hypothesis in mind, and until I learn otherwise, I’ve got two rules of thumb to offer when it comes to using Google Analytics:

  1. Try to keep the number of goals to a minimum.
  2. If you must create a goal, favour destinations over events.

Dude, you broke the future! - Charlie’s Diary

The transcript of a talk by Charles Stross on the perils of prediction and the lessons of the past. It echoes Ted Chiang’s observation that runaway AIs are already here, and they’re called corporations.

History gives us the perspective to see what went wrong in the past, and to look for patterns, and check whether those patterns apply to the present and near future. And looking in particular at the history of the past 200-400 years—the age of increasingly rapid change—one glaringly obvious deviation from the norm of the preceding three thousand centuries—is the development of Artificial Intelligence, which happened no earlier than 1553 and no later than 1844.

I’m talking about the very old, very slow AIs we call corporations, of course.

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Secure Contexts Everywhere | Mozilla Security Blog

I’m all in favour of HTTPS everywhere, but this kind of strong-arming just feels like blackmail to me.

All new CSS properties won’t work without HTTPS‽ Come on!

I thought Mozilla was better than this.

Laws of UX

  1. Fitts’s Law
  2. Hick’s Law
  3. Jakob’s Law
  4. Law of Prägnanz
  5. Law of Proximity
  6. Miller’s Law
  7. Parkinson’s Law
  8. Serial Position Effect
  9. Tesler’s Law
  10. Van Restorff Effect

Not listed:

  1. Murphy’s Law
  2. Sturgeon’s Law

How To Make A Drag-and-Drop File Uploader With Vanilla JavaScript — Smashing Magazine

A step-by-step guide to implementing drag’n’drop, and image previews with the Filereader API. No libraries or frameworks were harmed in the making of this article.

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Regarding the Em Dash - The Millions

I like a good em dash, me.

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

A techie’s rough guide to GDPR — Cennydd Bowles

In this excerpt from his forthcoming book, Cennydd gives an overview of what GDPR will bring to the web. This legislation is like a charter of user’s rights, and things don’t look good for the surveillance kings of online advertising:

The black box will be forced open, and people will find it’s full of snakes.

Meet the New Dialog Element

Move over, JavaScript alerts; HTML dialogs are here.

russellgoldenberg/scrollama: Scrollytelling with IntersectionObserver.

This looks like a handy JavaScript library for scroll-based events. But “scrollytelling?” No. Just …no.

TASAT – There’s a Story about That

An initiative by David Brin and the Arthur C. Clarke Center For Human Imagination at UC San Diego. You are confronted with a what-if scenario, and your task is to recall any works of speculative fiction that have covered it.

Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow.

Social Decay on Behance

If only our digital social networks were to exhibit this kind of faded grandeur when they no longer exist.

Asgardia - The Space Nation

Remember those offshore forts that would get taken over and repurposed as tax/data havens? Well, this is like that …but in space. Half design fiction, and half ponzi scheme, this will give those libertarian seasteaders a run for the money (in a made-up currency, of course).

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

Checked in at Goemon Ramen Bar. Ramen 🍜 — with Jessica map

Checked in at Goemon Ramen Bar. Ramen 🍜 — with Jessica

The Human Computer’s Dreams Of The Future by Ida Rhodes (PDF)

From the proceedings of the Electronic Computer Symposium in 1952, the remarkable Ida Rhodes describes a vision of the future…

My crystal ball reveals Mrs. Mary Jones in the living room of her home, most of the walls doubling as screens for projected art or information. She has just dialed her visiophone. On the wall panel facing her, the full colored image of a rare orchid fades, to be replaced by the figure of Mr. Brown seated at his desk. Mrs. Jones states her business: she wishes her valuable collection of orchid plants insured. Mr. Brown consults a small code book and dials a string of figures. A green light appears on his wall. He asks Mrs. Jones a few pertinent questions and types out her replies. He then pushes the start button. Mr. Brown fades from view. Instead, Mrs. Jones has now in front of her a set of figures relating to the policy in which she is interested. The premium rate and benefits are acceptable and she agrees to take out the policy. Here is Brown again. From a pocket in his wall emerges a sealed, addressed, and postage-metered envelope which drops into the mailing chute. It contains, says Brown, an application form completely filled out by the automatic computer and ready for her signature.

Friday, January 12th, 2018

clean-code-javascript

Opinionated ideas on writing JavaScript. I like it when people share their approaches like this.

Third-Party Scripts | CSS-Tricks

Hell is other people’s JavaScript.

Third-party scripts are probably the #1 cause of poor performance and bad UX on the web.

Saving Your Web Workflows with Prototyping · Matthias Ott – User Experience Designer

A well-written (and beautifully designed) article on the nature of the web, and what that means for those of us who build upon it. Matthias builds on the idea of material honestly and concludes that designing through prototypes—rather than making pictures of websites—results in a truer product.

A prototyping mindset means cultivating transparency and showing your work early to your team, to users – and to clients as well, which can spark excited conversations. A prototyping mindset also means valuing learning over fast results. And it means involving everyone from the beginning and closely working together as a team to dissolve the separation of linear workflows.

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

TNZ Pattern Library Docs

New Zealand has a pattern library (in Fractal, no less).

Turning Design Mockups Into Code With Deep Learning - FloydHub Blog

Training a neural network to do front-end development.

I didn’t understand any of this.

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Preparing to podcast.

Preparing to podcast.

Legends of the Ancient Web

An absolutely fantastic talk (as always) from Maciej, this time looking at the history of radio and its parallels with the internet (something that Tom Standage touched on his book, Writing On The Wall). It starts as a hobbyist, fun medium. Then it gets regulated. Then it gets used to reinforce existing power structures.

It is hard to accept that good people, working on technology that benefits so many, with nothing but good intentions, could end up building a powerful tool for the wicked.

My Pod

Merlin mentioned this service on a recent podcast episode. If you have an Amazon Echo, you can authenticate with this service and then point it at an RSS feed …like your Huffduffer feed, for example. From then on, Alexa becomes a Huffduffer player.

Tiny Wins

Making low effort/high impact changes to interfaces.

This reminds me of something we talk about at Clearleft a lot called “tiny lessons”—it’s the idea that insights and learnings don’t always have to be big and groundbreaking; there’s a disproportionate value in sharing the small little things you learn along the way.

Little UI details from @steveschoger, in HTML and CSS

Suggestions for small interface tweaks.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

The internet doesn’t suck - Mark Surman

We need to keep our eyes on the prize: making sure the internet does not suck for as many people as possible for as long as possible. That’s the work we need to be doing. And we should do it not from a place of fear or despair, but from a place of joy.

Checked in at The Joker. Wing night! — with Jessica map

Checked in at The Joker. Wing night! — with Jessica

And since we are speculating, we’ll use those powerful pseudo-laws, the Principles of Mediocrity and Minimal Assumption.

—A Fire Upon The Deep

The German word for that brief vertigenous moment between going to the toilet and remembering you ate beetroot.

AMP letter

I signed this open letter.

We are a community of individuals who have a significant interest in the development and health of the World Wide Web (“the Web”), and we are deeply concerned about Accelerated Mobile Pages (“AMP”), a Google project that purportedly seeks to improve the user experience of the Web.

Hypertext and Our Collective Destiny

The text of a fascinating talk given by Tim Berners-Lee back in 1995, at a gathering to mark the 50th anniversary of Vannevar Bush’s amazing article As We May Think. The event also drew together Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, Douglas Engelbart, and Bob Kahn!

Thanks to Teodara Petkova for pointing to this via the marvellous Web History Community Group.

Trends in Digital Tech for 2018 - Peter Gasston

Peter looks into his crystal ball for 2018 and sees computers with eyes, computers with ears, and computers with brains.

The Origin of Stimulus

I really like the look of this markup-driven JavaScript library from the same people who brought us the pjax library Turbolinks.

The philosophy behind these tools matches my own philosophy (which I think is one of the most important factors in choosing a tool that works for you, not against you).

Improving URLs for AMP pages – Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

Good news! Google will graciously allow non-Google-hosted AMP pages to get the AMP blessing in search results.

Bad news! It requires publishers to package up their AMP pages in a new packaging format that browsers don’t support yet.

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Careful Now | CSS-Tricks

Even more concerning than browser-specific websites is seeing browsers ship non-standardized features just because they want them, not behind any vendor prefix or flag. There was a time when web developers would have got out the pitchforks if a browser was doing this, but I sense some complacency seeping in.

Async + Await

Slides from a conference talk with a really clear explanation of how async + await works with promises.

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

I’m harvesting credit card numbers and passwords from your site. Here’s how.

This is a “what if?” scenario, but it’s all too plausible.

For site owners, the (partial) solution is to have a strong Content Security Policy.

For users, the solution is to disable JavaScript.

(In the wake of Spectre and Meltdown, this is now a perfectly legitimate action for security-conscious web users to take; I hope your site can support that.)

The HSB Color System: A Practicioner’s Primer – Learn UI Design

A nice clear explanation of specifying colour using HSB (not to be confused with HSL).

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

A Sliding Nightmare: Understanding the Range Input | CSS-Tricks

Ana goes into exhaustive detail on all the differences in the shadow DOM and styling of input type="range" across browsers.

I’m totally fine with browsers providing different styling for complex UI elements like this, but I wish they’d at least provide a consistent internal structure and therefore a consistent way of over-riding the default styles. Maybe then people wouldn’t be so quick to abandon native elements like this in favour building their own UI components from scratch—the kind of over-engineering that inevitably ends up being under-engineered.

Why So Many Men Hate the Last Jedi But Can’t Agree on Why | Bitter Gertrude

While not every white man who dislikes The Last Jedi overtly dislikes its gender balance or diversity, many feel a level of discomfort with this film that they can’t name, and that expresses itself through a wide variety of odd, conflicting complaints about its filmmaking.

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Owning My Own Content - TimKadlec.com

Hell, yeah!

I write to understand and remember. Sometimes that will be interesting to others, often it won’t be.

But it’s going to happen. Here, on my own site.

Introducing Web Payments: Easier Online Purchases With The Payment Request API — Smashing Magazine

A nice overview of the Payment Request API, which is getting more and more browser support.

Improving the Accessibility of 24 ways | CSS-Tricks

Paul walks us through the process of making some incremental accessibility improvements to this year’s 24 Ways.

Creating something new will always attract attention and admiration, but there’s an under-celebrated nobility in improving what already exists. While not all changes may be visual, they can have just as much impact.

Learn JavaScript with Zell

This JavaScript training course looks like it’s really well planned to take you from zero to hero—there’s a whole module on progressive enhancement.

Can Preload Cut the Mustard? | Filament Group, Inc., Boston, MA

Ooh, this is clever! Scott shows how you can use rel="preload" to conditionally load JavaScript (say, for screens above a certain size). The browser support isn’t quite there yet, but the thinking here is smart.

Herman: Automated Pattern Libraries | OddBird

A lightweight style guide generator. This one uses SassDoc to parse out the documentation for colours, type, etc.

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Checked in at Royal Opera House. Who ya gonna call? Nutcracker! 💃🏻 — with Jessica map

Checked in at Royal Opera House. Who ya gonna call? Nutcracker! 💃🏻 — with Jessica

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

How DIY communities are pushing the frontiers of science | Labs | eLife

A report on Science Hack Day Berlin (published on the excellent eLife website).

When I put together the first Science Hack Day back in 2010, I had no idea how amazingly far it would spread—all thanks to Ariel.

The Significance of the Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress | Dan Cohen

It’s a shame that this archiving project is coming to end. We don’t always know the future value of the present:

Researchers have come to realize that the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, transcriptions from London’s central criminal court, are the only record we have of the spoken words of many people who lived centuries ago but were not in the educated or elite classes. That we have them talking about the theft of a pig rather than the thought of Aristotle only gives us greater insight into the lived experience of their time.

Back to Bradshaw’s / Paul Robert Lloyd

I really like getting Paul’s insights into building his Bradshaw’s Guide project. Here he shares his process for typography, images and geolocation.

A Browser You’ve Never Heard of Is Dethroning Google in Asia - WSJ

I’m always happy to see a thriving market of competition amongst browsers—we had a browser monopoly once before and it was a bad situation.

(That said, UC Browser has its own issues.)

Truncation is not a content strate

Truncation is not a content strate

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Checked in at The Constant Service. Session night. map

Checked in at The Constant Service. Session night.

Dwitter

A social network for snippets of JavaScript effects in canvas, written in 140 characters or fewer. Impressive!

Annoying WiFi passwords in cafes:

itschanged

all one word

ALLLOWERCASE

alluppercase

easytoremember

Robust Client-Side JavaScript – A Developer’s Guide · molily

This is a terrific resource on writing client-side JavaScript without making too many assumptions.

It starts by covering some of the same topics as Resilient Web Design—fault tolerance, Postel’s law, progressive enhancement—but then goes deep, deep, deep into the specifics of applying that to JavaScript.

And the whole thing is available here for free under a Creative Commons licence!

The Golden Record

We asked you to tell us what you’d put on a new Golden Record. Here’s what you chose.

Ever thought about what you’d put on the Voyager golden record? Well, what are you waiting for? Your website can be your time capsule.

unDraw

Liberally licensed SVG illustrations by Katerina Limpitsouni with customisable colour schemes.

Building a webic community

The field of front-end has yet to be defined, because our industry moves too quickly and the range of skills required seems to grow with every passing day. We need to realise that it is impossible to be an expert in every one of those skills, and that’s perfectly fine.

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Build a culture for better design – insights from the Leading Design Conference 2017

A great round-up of Leading Design—one of the best events I attended in 2017.

Data portability

2018 will be the year that GDPR hits the fan. Jeni has lots of thoughts about what data portability could mean for individuals.

Summarising a year of writing, eating, listening, and reading:

https://adactio.com/journal/tags/2017

Words I wrote in 2017

I wrote 78 blog posts in 2017. That works out at an average of six and a half blog posts per month. I’ll take it.

Here are some pieces of writing from 2017 that I’m relatively happy with:

Going Rogue. A look at the ethical questions raised by Rogue One

In AMP we trust. My unease with Google’s AMP format was growing by the day.

A minority report on artificial intelligence. Revisiting two of Spielberg’s films after a decade and a half.

Progressing the web. I really don’t want progressive web apps to just try to imitate native apps. They can be so much more.

CSS. Simple, yes, but not easy.

Intolerable. A screed. I still get very, very angry when I think about how that manifestbro duped people.

Акула. Recounting a story told by a taxi driver.

Hooked and booked. Does A/B testing lead to dark patterns?

Ubiquity and consistency. Different approaches to building on the web.

I hope there’s something in there that you like. It always a nice bonus when other people like something I’ve written, but I write for myself first and foremost. Writing is how I figure out what I think. I will, of course, continue to write and publish on my website in 2018. I’d really like it if you did the same.

All That Glisters ◆ 24 ways

I thought this post from Drew was a great way to wrap up another excellent crop from 24 Ways.

There are so many new tools, frameworks, techniques, styles and libraries to learn. You know what? You don’t have to use them.

Chris likes it too.

Why Web Developers Need to Care about Interactivity — Philip Walton

Just to be clear, this isn’t about interaction design, it’s about how browsers and become unresponsive to interaction when they’re trying to parse the truckloads of Javascript web developers throw at them.

Top tip: lay off the JavaScript. HTML is interactive instantly.

Food I ate in 2017

I did a fair bit of travelling in 2017, which I always enjoy. I particularly enjoy it when Jessica comes with me and we get to sample the cuisine of other countries.

Portugal will always be a culinary hotspot for me, particularly Porto (“tripas à moda do Porto” is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted). When I was teaching at the New Digital School in Porto back in February, I took full advantage of the culinary landscape. A seafood rice (and goose barnacles) at O Gaveto in Matosinhos was a particular highlight.

Goose barnacles. Seafood rice.

The most unexpected thing I ate in Porto was when I wandered off for lunch on my own one day. I ended up in a little place where, when I walked in, it was kind of like that bit in the Western when the music stops and everyone turns to look. This was clearly a place for locals. The owner didn’t speak any English. I didn’t speak any Portuguese. But we figured it out. She mimed something sandwich-like and said a word I wasn’t familiar with: bifana. Okay, I said. Then she mimed the universal action for drinking, so I said “agua.” She looked at with a very confused expression. “Agua!? Não. Cerveja!” Who am I to argue? Anyway, she produced this thing which was basically some wet meat in a bun. It didn’t look very appetising. But this was the kind of situation where I couldn’t back out of eating it. So I took a bite and …it was delicious! Like, really, really delicious.

This sandwich was delicious and I have no idea what was in it. I speak no Portuguese and the café owner spoke no English.

Later in February, we went to Pittsburgh to visit Cindy and Matt. We were there for my birthday, so Cindy prepared the most amazing meal. She reproduced a dish from the French Laundry—sous-vide lobster on orzo. It was divine!

Lobster tail on orzo with a Parmesan crisp.

Later in the year, we went to Singapore for the first time. The culture of hawker centres makes it the ideal place for trying lots of different foods. There were some real revelations in there.

chicken rice fishball noodles laksa grilled pork

We visited lots of other great places like Reykjavík, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Nuremberg. But as well as sampling the cuisine of distant locations, I had some very fine food right here in Brighton, home to Trollburger, purveyors of the best burger you’ll ever eat.

Checked in at Trollburger. The Hellfire! 🌶 Troll’s Fiery Breath and bolognese fries from @trollburger. Burning crusader. Having a delicious Nightfire burger from @trollburgerBN1.

I also have a thing for hot wings, so it’s very fortunate that The Joker, home to the best wings in Brighton, is just around the corner from the dance studio where Jessica goes for ballet. Regular wing nights became a thing in 2017.

Checked in at The Joker. Lunch break at FFConf. — with Graham Checked in at The Joker. with Jessica Checked in at The Joker. Wing night! — with Jessica

I started a little routine in 2017 where I’d take a break from work in the middle of the afternoon, wander down to the seafront, and buy a single oyster. It only took a few minutes out of the day but it was a great little dose of perspective each time.

Today’s oyster. Today’s oyster. Today’s oyster. Today’s oyster. Today’s oyster. Today’s oyster on the beach. Today’s oyster on the beach.

But when I think of my favourite meals of 2017, most of them were home-cooked.

Sirloin steak with thyme. 🥩 Sous-vide pork tenderloin stuffed with capers and herbs. Roasting pork, apples, and onions. 🐷🍏 Fabada Asturiana. Rib of beef with potatoes and broad bean, fennel and burrata. Grillin’ chicken. A bountiful table. Grilling lamb. Summertime on a plate. Rib of beef, carrots, carrot-top chimichurri, and kale. The roast chicken angel watches over its flock of side dishes. Ribeye.