Archive: May, 2016

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

turbolinks/turbolinks: Turbolinks makes navigating your web application faster

I really, really like the approach that this JavaScript library is taking in treating Ajax as a progressive enhancement:

Turbolinks intercepts all clicks on a href links to the same domain. When you click an eligible link, Turbolinks prevents the browser from following it. Instead, Turbolinks changes the browser’s URL using the History API, requests the new page using XMLHttpRequest, and then renders the HTML response.

During rendering, Turbolinks replaces the current body element outright and merges the contents of the head element. The JavaScript window and document objects, and the HTML html element, persist from one rendering to the next.

Here’s the mustard it’s cutting:

It depends on the HTML5 History API and Window.requestAnimationFrame. In unsupported browsers, Turbolinks gracefully degrades to standard navigation.

This approach matches my own mental model for building on the web—I might try playing around with this on some of my projects.

Progressive Web Apps and our regressive approach | Christian Heilmann

So remember when I was talking about “the ends justify the means” being used for unwise short-term decisions? Here’s a classic example. Chris thinks that Progressive Web Apps should be made mobile-only (at least to start with …something something something the future):

For now, PWAs need to be the solution for the next mobile users.

End users deserve to have an amazing, form-factor specific experience.

I couldn’t disagree more. End users deserve to have an amazing experience no matter the form-factor of their device.

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Tim Brown: Making time to read

I know exactly how Tim feels. It’s hard not to feel guilty when you’re reading something instead of spending the time doing “real work”, but it always ends up being time well spent:

Reading time can be hard to justify, even to oneself. There is no deadline. It’s not going to move any immediate projects forward (most likely). And it often feels like a waste of time, especially if your interests are diverse. But it’s important. Most great work is the product of collaborative thinking.

marmelab/universal.css: The only CSS you will ever need

Ensure that your class names never go out of sync with your style declarations with this one simple trick:

Take any CSS rule you want to apply, replace : by -, and dots by -dot-, and you get the name of the corresponding universal css classname.

The only thing missing is immutability, so I would suggest also putting !important after each declaration in the CSS. Voila! No more specificity battles.

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Revision 263: Im Gespräch mit PPK, Chris Heilmann und Jeremy Keith | Working Draft

The Working Draft podcast is usually in German, but this episode is in English. It was recorded in a casual way by a bunch of people soaking up the sun sitting outside the venue at Beyond Tellerrand. Initially that was PPK and Chris, but then I barged in half way through. Good fun …if you’re into nerdy discussions about browsers, standards, and the web. And the sound quality isn’t too bad, considering the circumstances under which this was recorded.

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Responsive Product Comparison Tables - daverupert.com

Dave explains the thinking behind his responsive table pattern I linked to a while back. He’s at pains to point out that you should always make sure a pre-made pattern is right for you instead of just deploying it no-questions-asked:

Using prefabricated, road tested solutions from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, Google’s Material Design, Twitter’s Bootstrap, and Brad Frost’s Responsive Patterns is always a good place to start, but don’t settle there. My biggest advice would be to turn off the 27” display and use your sites and projects on your phone, there’s lots of low hanging fruit that could give way to new patterns, tailor-suited to your content.

State of the gap

Remy looks at the closing gap between native and web. Things are looking pretty damn good for the web, with certain caveats:

The web is the long game. It will always make progress. Free access to both consumers and producers is a core principle. Security is also a core principle, and sometimes at the costs of ease to the developer (but if it were easy it wouldn’t be fun, right?).

That’s why there’ll always be some other technology that’s ahead of the web in terms of features, but those features give the web something to aim for:

Flash was the plugin that was ahead of the web for a long time, it was the only way to play video for heavens sake!

Whereas before we needed polyfills like PhoneGap (whose very reason for existing is to make itself obsolete), now with progressive web apps, we’re proving the philosophy behind PhoneGap:

If the web doesn’t do something today it’s not because it can’t, or won’t, but rather it is because we haven’t gotten around to implementing that capability yet.

Friday, May 27th, 2016

CSS When/Else Rules

A really interesting proposal for more logic constructs in CSS: when/else conditions. At first glance, this looks like it would complicate the language (and one of the most powerful features of CSS is its simplicity), but when you dig a bit deeper you realise that there’s nothing new enabled by this extra syntax—it actually simplifies what’s already possible.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

No Really, For Everyone | Benjamin Listwon

A heartfelt call to web developers to consider the needs of the many and varied people trying to use what we build.

None of this is about Javascript. None of this is about CSS transforms or WebGL. None of this is about technology at all.

It is about making products that serve all users equally. It is about putting ourselves in others’ shoes. It is about trying to imagine the frustration and difficulty of using our products when the conditions aren’t what we’re used to. It is about being human.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Developing Dependency Awareness – Smashing Magazine

A typically superb article by Aaron. Here, he breaks down a resilient approach to building for the web by examining the multiple ways you could add a button to a page. There’s a larger lesson here too:

We don’t control where our web-based products go or how our users access them. All we can do is imagine as many less-than-perfect scenarios as possible and do our best to ensure our creations will continue to do what they’re supposed to do. One of the easiest ways to do that is to be aware of and limit our dependencies.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Building Web Apps for Everyone - O’Reilly Media

Here’s a fantastic and free little book by Adam Scott. It’s nice and short, covering progressive enhancement, universal JavaScript, accessibility, and inclusive forms.

Download it now and watch this space for more titles around building inclusive web apps, collaboration, and maintaining privacy and security.

Did I mention that it’s free?

ICONS #9: Jeremy Keith Tickets, Wed, 15 Jun 2016 at 16:00

I’ll be speaking to students in Vasilis’s class for Communication and Multimedia Design in Amsterdam right before CSS Day. There are (free) tickets available if you’re around. I’ll be talking about digital preservation and long-term thinking on the web.

This meetup is, like all other Icons Meetups, free to attend for everyone. For students and lecturers of CMD Amsterdam, of course. But also for all professional (digital) designers who want to be inspired.

Bad Character - The New Yorker

A fascinating thought experiment from Ted Chiang:

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be?

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Podcasting lock-in and the lesson from Penn Station | Manton Reece

While the open web still exists, we really dropped the ball protecting and strengthening it. Fewer people’s first choice for publishing is to start a web site hosted at their own domain. Like the destruction of Pennsylvania Station, sometimes you only know in hindsight that you’ve made a mistake. We were so caught up in Twitter and Facebook that we let the open web crumble. I’m not giving up — I think we can get people excited about blogging and owning their own content again — but it would have been easier if we had realized what we lost earlier.

Owning my words and photos and audio bits – Colin Devroe

By publishing to my own web site first…

  • I feel like I’m curating a library rather than throwing loose papers into a raging torrent.
  • I have the ability to quickly move to another platform if I so wish
  • I can choose how things look and feel
  • I can track, or not track, any metric I’d like to
  • I can publish several different types of media: photos, audio
  • I can turn discussion on or off

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Design systems and Postel’s law | Journal | The Personal Disquiet of Mark Boulton

Marvellous insights from Mark on how the robustness principle can and should be applied to styeguides and pattern libraries (‘sfunny—I was talking about Postel’s Law just this morning at An Event Apart in Boston).

Being liberal in accepting things into the system, and being liberal about how you go about that, ensures you don’t police the system. You collaborate on it.

So, what about the output? Remember: be ’conservative in what you do’. For a design system, this means your output of the system – guidelines, principles, design patterns, code, etc etc. – needs to be clear, unambiguous, and understandable.

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Not OK, Computer — Track Changes

Ah, how I wish that this were published at a long-lived URL:

The one part of the web that I believe is truly genius, and that keeps standing the test of time, is the URI. The Web gave us a way to point to anything, forever. Everything else about the web has changed and grown to encyclopedic lengths, but URIs have been killing it for decades.

And yet the numbers show we’re hell-bent on screwing all that up with link-shorteners, moving URIs without redirection, and so forth. As always happens in technology we’ve taken a simple idea and found expedient ways to add fragility and complexity to it.

Shane Becker - Dark Matter and the #IndieWeb

Shane gave a talk recently where he outlined his reasons for publishing on the indie web:

Most people reading this will probably have an account at most or all of these sites: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Tumblr, Wordpress. Many also had accounts at Friendster, Tribe, MySpace, Delicious, Magnolia, Gowalla, Geocities. But no one has an account at any of those (on the second list) anymore. And all of the content that we created on those sites is gone.

All of those super emo feeling you posted to MySpace, they’re all gone. Some of the great web designers of our generation got started on Geocities. That stuff is gone forever. And sure, it was sparkling animated GIFs and neon colors. But that’s important history. Yahoo bought it, left it alone for a while, and then decided one day to turn it off.

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Archiving Our Online Communities — Medium

Now this is how you shut down a service:

  • Maintain read-only URLs for at least ten years.
  • Create physical copies etched in metal held by cultural institutions for ten thousand years.
  • Allow users to export their data (of course).

Web projects often lack hard edges. They begin with clarity but end without. We want to close Hi.co with clarity. To properly bookend the website.

And nary a trace of “We are excited to announce…” or “Thank you for joining us on our incredible journey…”

(Such a shame that the actual shut-down notice is only on Ev’s blog, but hopefully Craig will write something on his own site too.)

The inside story of Facebook’s biggest setback | Rahul Bhatia | Technology | The Guardian

The history of Facebook’s attempt to steamroll over net neutrality in India …and how they failed in that attempt, thanks to a grassroots campaign.

Crucially, Facebook itself would decide which sites were included on the platform. The company had positioned Internet.org as a philanthropic endeavour — backed by Zuckerberg’s lofty pronouncements that “connectivity is a human right” — but retained total control of the platform.

The Sonos Pattern Library — zdfs

There’s a lot I disagree with here. I don’t think this pattern library process is very elegant or scalable, and it certainly wouldn’t work for me.

But I’m still linking to it. Why? Because I think it’s absolutely wonderful that people share their processes like this. It doesn’t matter one whit whether or not it would work for me.

Frontend development may have gotten a lot more complicated, but the simple premise of sharing what you’ve learned hasn’t.

I couldn’t agree more!

Apple’s actual role in podcasting: be careful what you wish for – Marco.org

Marco is spot on here. The New York Times article he’s responding to is filled with a weird Stockholm syndrome—the one bit of the web that’s still free of invasive tracking and surveillance is where they wish a centralised power (like Apple) would come in and lock down. Madness!

John sums it up nicely:

Data data data. Publishers crave data — but one of the things I love about podcasts is that the format blocks the collection of most data, because there is no code that gets executed. JavaScript has brought the web to the brink of ruin, but there’s no JavaScript in podcasting. Just an RSS feed and MP3 files.

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Let’s Write Beautiful CSS Comments | Sparkbox

If you don’t comment your CSS, you’ll confuse other people looking at your code, and, more embarrassingly, you’ll confuse future you. If you do comment CSS, everybody will be less confused, and things will be accidentally broken less often. You will be popular and generally well-liked, and people will remember to send you cards on your birthday. Comment more.

Some good advice here on how to write better comments in CSS.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Bots | A Working Library

Absolutely brilliant stuff from Mandy (again). A long hard at today’s tech industry’s narrow approach to bots and artificial intelligence compared to some far more interesting and imaginative approaches in fiction:

  • Ann Leckie’s superb Imperial Radch series,
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, and
  • Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.

So in addition to frightening ramifications for privacy and information discovery, they also reinforce gendered stereotypes about women as servants. The neutral politeness that infects them all furthers that convention: women should be utilitarian, performing their duties on command without fuss or flourish. This is a vile, harmful, and dreadfully boring fantasy; not the least because there is so much extraordinary art around AI that both deconstructs and subverts these stereotypes. It takes a massive failure of imagination to commit yourself to building an artificial intelligence and then name it “Amy.”

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

IndieWeb Summit 2016 - Portland, Oregon

If you want to go to the Indie Web Summit on June 3rd to 5th (and you should), there’s a travel assistance fund:

If you are a member of a group that is typically underrepresented (e.g. if you are not straight, white, cis and male), and otherwise could not afford to travel to IndieWeb Summit on your own, an anonymous donor has established a $1000 fund to assist individuals from underrepresented backgrounds with travel and/or lodging costs for the Indieweb Summit in Portland.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Monday, May 2nd, 2016