Archive: November, 2016

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Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Fix the internet by writing good stuff and being nice to people · Woman. Legend.Blog

Whereas before content used to be spread out on numerous domains in numerous ways, content now mostly makes its home on the three domains that are most hostile to thoughtful human discussion: Twitter, Medium, and Facebook.

So what? you may ask..

Think about how many times you’ve tweeted. Or written or commented on a Facebook post. Or started a Medium draft. These are all our words, locked in proprietary platforms that controls not only how our message is displayed, but how we write it, and even more worrying, how we think about it.

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Hey designers, if you only know one thing about JavaScript, this is what I would recommend | CSS-Tricks

This is a really great short explanation by Chris. I think it shows that the really power of JavaScript in the browser isn’t so much the language itself, but the DOM—the glue that ties the JavaScript to the HTML.

It reminds me of the old jQuery philosophy: find something and do stuff to it.

Turing Complete User

A superb 2012 essay by Olia Lialin. J.C.R. Licklider, Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Douglas Engelbart, Don Norman, Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, Douglas Rushkoff and Cory Doctorow all make an appearance.

There’s a lot to think about here. I’m particular struck by the idea that calling people “users” isn’t necessarily the dehumanising Lakoffian language we think it is; users have power and control. If we stop treating people like users, we may end up infantilising and disempowering them.

But when you read it in a broader context, the denial of the word “user” in favor of “people” becomes dangerous. Being a User is the last reminder that there is, whether visible or not, a computer, a programmed system you use.

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

CSS Inheritance, The Cascade And Global Scope: Your New Old Worst Best Friends – Smashing Magazine

A really terrific piece by Heydon that serves as a rousing defence of the cascade in CSS. It’s set up in opposition to methodologies like BEM (and there’s plenty of back’n’forth in the comments), but the truth is that every project is different so the more approaches you have in your toolkit, the better. For many projects, something like BEM is a good idea. For others, not so much.

Funnily enough, I’ve been working something recently where I’ve been embracing the approach that Heydon describes—although, to be fair, it’s a personal project where I don’t have to think about other developers touching the HTML or CSS.

Smithsonian 3D Apollo 11 Command Module

This is so wonderful! A 3D fly-through of the Apollo 11 command module, right in your browser. It might get your fan whirring, but it’s worth it.

Click through for lots of great details on the interface controls, like which kinds of buttons and switches were chosen for which tasks.

And there’s this lovely note scrawled near the sextant by Michael Collins (the coolest of all the astronauts):

Spacecraft 107, alias Apollo 11, alias ‘Columbia.’ The Best Ship to Come Down the Line. God Bless Her.

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Subscribe to change

A very smart way of matching up the amount of money you spend on entertainment to contributions to causes you care about.

Over 40 million Americans subscribe to Netflix, which means that ~$400 million dollars are taken out of our accounts monthly. Many Americans don’t even notice this. Imagine what could happen if we set up as many automatic contributions to help nonprofits do what they need to do.

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Tentacular: Douglas Coupland on Helvetica, clip art and the gangly beast that is the internet

Douglas Coupland on web typography.

When I discuss the internet’s feel and its random rodeo of fonts, I think of the freedom, naivety, laziness, greed, cluelessness and skill I see there — it’s a cyberplace as wondrous as the bubbling cradle of pea-soup goo from which life emerged. The internet has a rawness, a Darwinian evolutionary texture. It’s a place where metrics totally unrelated to print typography dictate the look and feel.

FormLinter—Detect common issues that hurt conversions

A little tool for testing common form issues.

  • Did we remember to give every input a label? (No, placeholders are not an adequate replacement)?
  • Do our labels’ for attributes match our inputs’ ids?
  • Did we take advantage of the url, email, and password input types, or did we forget and just use text?
  • Are our required fields marked as such?

Designing for new digital rights

A series of quick’n’dirty prototypes to illustrate some of the design challenges involved in handling personal data:

If we don’t start exploring what the General Data Protection Regulation means for people, the same thing that happened with the cookie law will happen again.

These new rights have the potential to improve how our digital products and services work.

You Are Not Paid to Write Code – Brave New Geek

Gall’s Fundamental Theorem of Systems is that new systems mean new problems. I think the same can safely be said of code—more code, more problems. Do it without a new system if you can

A cautionary tale of the risks involved with embracing new frameworks.

But when you introduce a new system, you introduce new variables, new failure points, and new problems.

almost anything is easier to get into than out of.

Is Dark Matter Hiding Aliens?

Here’s a fun cosmic hypothesis on the scale of an Olaf Stapeldon story. There are even implications for data storage:

By storing its essential data in photons, life could give itself a distributed backup system. And it could go further, manipulating new photons emitted by stars to dictate how they interact with matter. Fronts of electromagnetic radiation could be reaching across the cosmos to set in motion chains of interstellar or planetary chemistry with exquisite timing, exploiting wave interference and excitation energies in atoms and molecules.

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Usability Testing of Inline Form Validation: 40% Don’t Have It, 20% Get It Wrong - Articles - Baymard Institute

I saw Christian speak on this topic at Smashing Conference in Barcelona. Here, he takes a long hard look at some of the little things that sites get wrong when doing validating forms on the fly. It’s all good sensible stuff, although it sounds a bit medical when he takes about “Premature Inline Validation.”

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Yay, science! The 7th annual Science Hack Day SF roundup

Science Hack Day’s mission is simply to get excited and make things with science, and that’s just what everyone did. One of the remarks I made at the start of this year’s event was about how building community is one of the best things to be involved in right now after the election, and especially connecting different communities together as Science Hack Day does. Exploration is not a solo endeavor and thus it’s less about what you explore and more about the act of exploring. In community exploration, we build strength, support, and safe spaces.

kdzwinel/progress-bar-animation: Making a Doughnut Progress Bar - research notes

This is a thorough write-up of an interesting case where SVG looks like the right tool for the job, but further research leads to some sad-making conclusions.

I love SVG. It’s elegant, scalable and works everywhere. It’s perfect for mobile… as long as it doesn’t move. There is no way to animate it smoothly on Android.

Results of the 2016 GOV.UK assistive technology survey | Accessibility

The Government Digital Service have published the results of their assistive technology survey, which makes a nice companion piece to Heydon’s survey. It’s worth noting that the most common assistive technology isn’t screen readers; it’s screen magnifiers. See also this Guardian article on the prevalence of partial blindness:

Of all those registered blind or partially sighted, 93% retain some useful vision – often enough to read a book or watch a film. But this can lead to misunderstanding and confusion

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Bob Baxley: Don’t Judge. Just Observe. | Design.blog

The challenge of being in tech when you’re over 40 is the challenge of constantly setting aside your expectations of how things should work, repeatedly questioning your assumptions, and constantly re-evaluating your positions. It’s the challenge of being a lifelong learner; cultivating the humility of the beginner, the passion of the practitioner, and the joy of the master. It is the challenge of not being so quick to apply old analysis, rely on outdated experience, or expect what worked before to work again.

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

welcome.js | booktwo.org

See, view source is a human right. Since the beginning of the web, thousands, probably millions, of users have bootstrapped their way to technical understanding through exploring the way the existing web is put together. I did. You might have done. And you, we, should be able to. And more than that, we should be encouraged to. For fun, for experience, for education, for revolution.

James is right. And he’s made a script to encourage further exploration.

welcome.js adds a friendly message to the console when it’s first opened, as well as links for users to find out more about the console, and programming in general.

The Tragedy/Farce of the Open Web according to journalists – Baldur Bjarnason

Continuous web death.

The modern journalist is not an expert on the web. They and their colleagues have spent a large part of the last twenty-five years dismissing the open web at every stage. They are not the people you can trust to either accurately assess the web or to make usable websites. You can’t even trust them to make sensible decisions about web strategy. Just look at their damn websites!

Performance and assumptions | susan jean robertson

We all make assumptions, it’s natural and normal. But we also need to be jolted out of those assumptions on a regular basis to help us see that not everyone uses the web the way we do. I’ve talked about loving doing support for that reason, but I also love it when I’m on a slow network, it shows me how some people experience the web all the time; that’s good for me.

I’m privileged to have fast devices and fast, broadband internet, along with a lot of other privileges. Not remembering that privilege while I work and assuming that everyone is like me is, quite possibly, one of the biggest mistakes I can make.

Why I am a web developer | Seldo.Com Blog

I think it’s worth revisiting this post by Laurie on a regular basis for a shot of perspective and inspiration.

The web saved my life and then built me a new one. A single living entity, it touches everything in the world and is always getting better — and I can help. I owe it so much; if I can help it out, make it better in any small way, how can I possibly refuse? And if I can make it easier for other people to help make it better, then my efforts are multiplied.

Redesigning Waxy, 2016 edition – Waxy.org

Andy is sticking with the indie web.

Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.

I second that emotion.

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

What’s wrong with big data? | New Humanist

The view that more information uncritically produces better decisions is visibly at odds with our contemporary situation.

A superb piece of research and writing by James, skewering the technological determinism that underlies the current faith in “big data.” At best, this misplaced trust is inaccurate; at worst, it is deadly.

To the algorithmic imagination, the practice of journalism and the practice of terrorism appear to be functionally identical.

The Digital Transition: How the Presidential Transition Works in the Social Media Age | whitehouse.gov

Kori Schulman describes the archiving of social media and other online artefacts of the outgoing US president. It’s a shame that a lot of URLs will break, but I’m glad there’s going to be a public backup available.

Best of all, you can get involved:

In the interim, we’re inviting the American public – from students and data engineers, to artists and researchers – to come up with creative ways to archive this content and make it both useful and available for years to come. From Twitter bots and art projects to printed books and query tools, we’re open to it all.