Archive: August, 2016

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Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

The web is not print and other stories

Rachel takes a look back at twenty years of building on the web. Her conclusion: we’ve internalised constraints that are no longer relevant, and that’s holding us back from exploring new design possibilities:

Somehow the tables have turned. As the web moves on, as we get CSS that gives us the ability to implement designs impossible a few years ago, the web looks more and more like something we could have build with rudimentary CSS for layout. We’ve settled on our constraints and we are staying there, defined by not being print.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Monday, August 29th, 2016

How we made the RioRun progressive web app | Info | The Guardian

The devs at The Guardian walk through the process of building a progressive web app for the Olympics. There were some gotchas with the life cycle of service workers, but the pay-off was worth it:

Once you get there though, it’s quite magical when you load the page on a phone, switch it to airplane mode, reload, and continue using the app as though nothing was wrong.

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

The rise and fall of the Gopher protocol | MinnPost

A deep dive into the history of Gopher. For a while there, it looked like it was going to be bigger than the World Wide Web.

This article is filled with timely details:

The programmers were young guys, mostly in their 20s and, like McCahill, mostly huge Nirvana fans. Paul Lindner, a coding wunderkind from northern Minnesota who was dubbed the Gopher Dude for his evangelism, had long metal-head hair and signed Gopher emails with lyrics like “You have to spit to see the shine” from Babes in Toyland. Early Gopher servers were named Mudhoney, Danzig, and Anthrax.

Ah, Babes In Toyland! It’s like the soundtrack to my time in art college in the early 90s. I remember one of the best gigs ever being a triple bill of The Sultans Of Ping, Babes In Toyland, and Theraphy? at Sir Henrys in Cork.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Shadow DOM v1: self-contained web components | Web Fundamentals - Google Developers

An in-depth look at the current Shadow DOM spec. It’s well-written but I don’t think this will really click with me until I start playing around with it for myself.

It’s good to see that the examples have some thought given to fallback content.

There’s also a corresponding tutorial on custom elements

SPACEPLAN

I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game. On the face of it, it seems like little more than a cow-clicker, but the way that the plot and the gameplay unfolds is really delightful.

This feels like the kind of game that would only work on the web—keep it in a browser tab in the background, revisiting occasionally throughout the day.

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Writing Less Damn Code | HeydonWorks

I’m in complete agreement with Heydon here:

But it turns out the only surefire way to make performant Web Stuff is also to just write less. Minify? Okay. Compress? Well, yeah. Cache? Sounds technical. Flat out refuse to code something or include someone else’s code in the first place? Now you’re talking.

Just like the “mobile first” mindset, if you demand that everything must justify its existence, you end up with a better experience for everyone:

My favorite thing about aiming to have less stuff is this: you finish up with only the stuff you really need — only the stuff your user actually wants. Massive hero image of some dude drinking a latte? Lose it. Social media buttons which pull in a bunch of third-party code while simultaneously wrecking your page design? Give them the boot. That JavaScript thingy that hijacks the user’s right mouse button to reveal a custom modal? Ice moon prison.

10K Apart

The 10K competition—spiritual successor to Stewart Butterfield’s 5K.org—is back. This time there’s no escape clause with web fonts or jQuery. You can lazy-load in more content after the initial 10K payload …but whatever you’re building needs to be usable in that first 10K.

Give it a go. There’s nothing like having a constraint to really get the creative juices flowing.

What is React?

I’m in a similar position to Remy:

I don’t use React. I don’t really gravitate towards larger frameworks, only because my daily work doesn’t require it, and I’m personally more interested in the lower level techniques and parts of the web and JavaScript.

But, like Remy, I’m interested in knowing what are the ideas and techniques embedded within large frameworks that will end up making their way into the web stack:

What I want to know is: what should I be taking away from React into my own continued evolution as a web developer?

There are some good responses in the comments.

gmetais/sw-delta: An incremental cache for the web

Here’s an interesting use of service workers: figure out the difference (the delta) between the currently-cached version of a file, and the version on the network, and then grab only the bits that have changed. It requires some configuration on the server side (to send back the diff) but it’s an interesting approach that could be worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Formspree

There’s this really common use-case I’ve seen at Codebar and Homebrew Website Club, where someone is making a static site, but they just want a contact form that sends data via email. This looks like a handy third-party service to do just that. No registration required: it’s all done via the value of the action attribute in the opening form tag:

action="https://formspree.io/your@email.com"

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

The Forgotten Kaleidoscope Craze in Victorian England | Atlas Obscura

A wonderful investigation of a culture-shifting mobile device: the kaleidoscope. A classic Gibsonian example of the street finding its own uses for technology, this story comes complete with moral panics about the effects of augmenting reality with handheld devices.

(I’m assuming the title wasn’t written by the author—this piece deals almost exclusively with pre-Victorian England.)

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: AMP your content - A Preview of AMP’ed results in Search

Google’s search results now include AMP pages in the regular list of results (not just in a carousel). They’re marked with a little grey lightning bolt next to the word AMP.

The experience of opening of those results is certainly fast, but feels a little weird—like you haven’t really gone to the website yet, but instead that you’re still tethered to the search results page.

Clicking on a link within an AMP spawns a new window, which reinforces the idea of the web as something separate to AMP (much as they still like to claim that AMP is “a subset of HTML”—at this point, it really, really isn’t).

React Isomorphic Demo

It is possible to use React without relying completely on client-side JavaScript to render all your content—though it’s certainly not the default way most tutorials teach React. This ongoing tutorial aims to redress that imbalance.

Besides the main benefit of server rendering giving faster page loads, it also enables large amounts of the site to run without JavaScript. There are many reasons why you would want this, but my personal reasons are that it allows you to completely drop support JavaScript in older browsers, but still have the site function.

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Battery Status readout as a privacy risk

The security research that went into improving the spec for the Battery Status API. This is why it’s so important that the web holds itself to high standard.

Even most unlikely mechanisms bring unexpected consequences from privacy point of views. That’s why it is necessary to analyze new features, standards, designs, architectures - and products with a privacy angle. This careful process will yield results, decrease the number of issues, abuses and unwelcome surprizes.

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Web Components and progressive enhancement - Adam Onishi

Adam and I share the same hopes and frustrations with web components. They can be written in a resilient, layered way that allows for progressive enhancement, but just about every example out there demonstrates a “my way or the highway” approach to using them.

We were chatting about this in the Design Systems slack channel, and it helped clarify some of my thoughts. I’ll try to poop out a blog post about this soon.