I’ve always loved Jeffrey’s writing.
Some nifty layout tricks using the
writing-mode property in CSS.
Fortunately there’s a back-up on the Internet Archive, but this tale of Google’s overnight destruction of fourteen years of writing is truly infuriating.
When we use their services, we trust that companies like Google will preserve some of the most personal things we have to share. They trust that we will not read the fine print.
When you pitch your tent in someone else’s walled garden, they can tear down your home whenever they want.
Two weeks ago, writer and artist Dennis Cooper was checking his Gmail when something peculiar happened: the page was refreshed and he was notified that his account had been deactivated – along with the blog that he’d maintained for 14 years.
This is why the Indie Web exists.
His advice to other artists who work predominantly online is to maintain your own domain and back everything up.
Charlotte outlines the process she used in creating her talk at Dot York. It was a real joy to see it come together.
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.
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?
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?
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
A good introduction to the Indie Web approach:
This post was primarily directed at friends and colleagues that already blog in other spaces, and wonder why/how they would re-post content to Medium or elsewhere.
Maciej’s first report from Antarctica is here. Put the kettle on and settle in for a grand read.
Remember: life is ten per cent what happens to you, ten per cent how you respond to it, and eighty per cent how good your reflexes are when the Tall Ones come at your throat with their pincers.
An engaging look at the history of word processing, word processed by Josephine Livingstone.
Mike’s blog is back on the Indie Web.
As someone who designs things for a living, there is a certain amount of professional pride in creating one’s own presence on the internet. It’s kind of like if an architect didn’t design their own house.
This looks like it could be a very nifty tool to have at your disposal while coding. I like that it’s editor-agnostic.
Now that Five Simple Steps has closed down, the individual authors are in charge of distributing their own books. This site links to all of those books.
The text adventure, like poetry, tends to attract a small band of devoted fans rather than hundreds of millions of casual players. And yet, those who care about writing know that they are where the form starts; and I can’t help feeling that videogames in general would be better if they took as much care over their words, and over their narratives, as text adventures do.
This could pair up nicely with the most dangerous writing app.
Markdown gets its own media type: text/markdown.
This is harsh …but surprisingly effective. Choose a time period—5 minutes, 10, 20—then start writing. If you stop for too long, you lose everything you’ve written.
It’s kinda stressful but it really works.
Fear and loathing in Houston.
- Humanity will never colonize Mars, never build moon bases, never rearrange the asteroids, never build a sphere around the sun.
- There will never be faster-than-light travel. We will not roam across the galaxy. We will not escape our star.
- Life is probably an entirely unexceptional phenomenon; the universe probably teems with it. We will never make contact. We will never fuck green-skinned alien babes.
- The human race will live and die on this rock, and after we are gone something else will take our place. Maybe it already has, without our even noticing.
- All this is good. This is a good thing.
A new publication from MIT. It deliberately avoids the jargon that’s often part and parcel of peer-reviewed papers, and all of the articles are published under a Creative Commons attribution licence.
The first issue is dedicated to Marvin Minsky and features these superb articles, all of which are independently excellent but together form an even greater whole…
When the cybernetics movement began, the focus of science and engineering was on things like guiding a ballistic missile or controlling the temperature in an office. These problems were squarely in the man-made domain and were simple enough to apply the traditional divide-and-conquer method of scientific inquiry.
Science and engineering today, however, is focused on things like synthetic biology or artificial intelligence, where the problems are massively complex. These problems exceed our ability to stay within the domain of the artificial, and make it nearly impossible for us to divide them into existing disciplines.
This essay proposes a map for four domains of creative exploration—Science, Engineering, Design and Art—in an attempt to represent the antidisciplinary hypothesis: that knowledge can no longer be ascribed to, or produced within, disciplinary boundaries, but is entirely entangled.
The designers of complex adaptive systems are not strictly designing systems themselves. They are hinting those systems towards anticipated outcomes, from an array of existing interrelated systems. These are designers that do not understand themselves to be in the center of the system. Rather, they understand themselves to be participants, shaping the systems that interact with other forces, ideas, events and other designers. This essay is an exploration of what it means to participate.
As our technological and institutional creations have become more complex, our relationship to them has changed. We now relate to them as we once related to nature. Instead of being masters of our creations, we have learned to bargain with them, cajoling and guiding them in the general direction of our goals. We have built our own jungle, and it has a life of its own.
Science fiction as a means of energising climatic and economic change:
Fiction, and science fiction in particular, can help us imagine many futures, and in particular can help us to direct our imaginations towards the futures we want. Imagining a particular kind of future isn’t just day dreaming: it’s an important and active framing that makes it possible for us to construct a future that approaches that imagined vision. In other words, imagining the future is one way of making that future happen.
But it’s important that these visions are preserved:
It’s very likely that our next Octavia Butler is today writing on WattPad or Tumblr or Facebook. When those servers cease to respond, what will we lose? More than the past is at stake—all our imagined futures are at risk, too.
Continuing the topic of public speaking, Jenn has a really good technique for figuring out how to arrange the pieces of your talk without getting bogged down in designing slides.
Lena’s in-depth run-down of how she puts together a conference talk. If you’re new to public speaking, this is well worth reading.
I invite you not just to follow along here as I expand into topics beyond design and technology, but to start your own personal blog up again if you’ve been neglecting it for a while. I’m really interested in the things you are passionate about. I want to learn from you.
I got a little verklempt reading this.
I really, really want to like this article—it’s chock full of confirmation bias for me. But it’s so badly-written …I mean like, just the worst.
Here’s an actual sentence:
So with a capable, HTML-based platform and a well-designed program that makes good use of CSS, one site could support phones, tablets, PCs, and just about anything else with one site.
So, yeah, I’m still linking to it, but instead of it being for the content, it’s because I want to lament the dreadful state of technology writing.
Well, this is rather lovely!
I nodded along with host Jen Simmons and guest Jeremy Keith saying some very smart things about the web and its roots as the El train cut across Philadelphia. But at the 48-minute mark things got weird, because Jen and Jeremy basically started writing my column for me while I listened.
Read on for some great advice on conquering your inner critic.
Paul takes a look back at a time in his life one decade ago. This is a great piece of personal writing.
Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages Alex Dally MacFarlane | Interfictions Online
A fascinating look into the challenges encountered translating Anne Leckie’s excellent Radchaai novels into Bulgarian, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and Hungarian.
What is clear in all of these responses is that by examining the notions of ‘neutral’ and ‘feminine’ in grammar and gender through the lens of translation, we reveal their complexity – and some of their possible futures in languages, in both literature and speech.
There’s something about this that I really like: a message transmitted via a modern communications medium converted into the oldest form of writing.
Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.
Echoing Margaret Atwood’s observation:
If we abandon hope, we’re cooked. If we rely on nothing but hope, we’re cooked. So I would say judicious hope is necessary.
I concur with this sentiment:
If you are starting a new blog, or have one already, the best thing you can do is turn off all analytics.
Especially true for your own personal site:
Just turn them off now. Then, write about whatever the fuck you want to write about.
A short story by Ian McDonald set in the same universe as his new novel Luna: New Moon.
You read a lot and like the idea of writing. You know the best way to get better at writing is to write, so write!
Kyle Halleman completed one hundred days of writing one hundred words. Respect! I know how hard that is.
Have a read from the first entry onwards.
This is a wonderful, wonderful description of what it feels like to publish on your own site.
When my writing is on my own server, it will always be there. I may forget about it for a while, but eventually I’ll run into it again. I can torch those posts or save them, rewrite them or repost them. But they’re mine to rediscover.
This is the best moment to write a blog post:
I just had my responsive images epiphany and I’m writing it all down before I forget everything.
Writing something down (and sharing it) while you’re still figuring it out is, in my opinion, more valuable than waiting until you’ve understood something completely—you’ll never quite regain that perspective on what it’s like to have beginner’s mind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s something so beautifully, beautifully webbish about this: readings of blog posts found through a search for “no one will ever read this.”
Listen to all of them.
Google Fonts aren’t renowned for their quality but this is a beautiful demonstration of what you can accomplish with them.
The text of Nicole’s excellent talk on writing helpful, human microcopy.
A heartbreaking tale of companionship, memory and loss.
I’m quite touched by this—I had no idea anyone was paying that much attention to my 100 words project.
It seems grossly unfair to refer to this as an article. It’s a short book. It’s a very good short book; lucid and entertaining in equal measure. A very enjoyable read.
It is, unfortunately, surrounded by some distracting “enhancements” but perhaps you can use your cleaner-upper software of choice to route around their damage: Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, whatever works for you.
‘That pig was a good influence’ with Jeremy Keith and Jeffrey Zeldman on Unfinished Business on Huffduffer
I had a lot of fun recording this episode with Andrew and Jeffrey. It is occasionally surreal.
Stick around for the sizzling hot discussion of advertising at the end in which we compare and contrast Mad Men and Triumph Of The Will.
Grant, like Emma, has recently started blogging again. This makes me very, very happy. And he’s doing it for what I consider to be all the right reasons:
But this is mostly a place for me to capture my thoughts, and an excuse to consider them, and an opportunity to understand them more fully.
The Indieweb approach has a lot in common with Ev’s ideas for Medium, but the key difference is that we are doing it in a way that works across websites, not just within one.
The next Neal Stephenson book sounds like it’s going to be great.
This is nifty—Nicholas is also going for the 100 words exercise that I’ve been doing.
Here’s a lovely project with an eye on the Long Now. Trees that were planted last year will be used to make paper to print an anthology in 2114.
Margaret Atwood is one of the contributors.
Charlotte’s opening remarks at the most recent Codebar were, by all accounts, inspiring.
I was asked to give a short talk about my journey into coding and what advice I would give to people starting out.
Truly great literature not only tells us more about the human condition, it also tells us more about ourselves and does so in a beautiful way that changes us forever more.
So anyway, this is about Bruce’s nipples.
A look at the risks of relying on a purely graphical icon for interface actions. When in doubt, label it.
Slides of really great practical advice on writing clearly.
The Web is the printing press of our times; an amazing piece of technology facilitating a free and wide-scale dissipation of our thoughts and ideas. And all of it is based on this near 20-year old, yet timeless idea of the Hyper Text Markup Language.
A cute way of exploring a collection of classic works.
Ant told us this harrowing story in the office two weeks ago. I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like to be in this situation.
A short profile of Michael Moorcock’s Elric series (though, for me, Jerry Cornelius is the champion that remains eternal in my memory).
The transcript of Owen’s talk at The Web Is. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful meditation on writing, web design, and long-term thinking.
One of the promises of the web is to act as a record, a repository for everything we put there. Yet the web forgets constantly, despite that somewhat empty promise of digital preservation: articles and data are sacrificed to expediency, profit and apathy; online attention, acknowledgement and interest wax and wane in days, hours even.
This fracturing of context is, I suspect, peculiar to these early decades of online writing. It’s possible that, in the future, webmentions and the like may heal that up to some extent. But everything from the 90s to today is going to remain mostly broken in that respect. Most of what we said and did had ephemerality long before apps started selling us ephemeral nature as a positive advertising point. Possibly no other generation threw so many words at such velocity into a deep dark well of ghosts.
I’d go along with pretty much everything Anil says here. Wise words from someone who’s been writing on their own website for fifteen years (congratulations!).
Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. And if possible, save a copy of it on your own blog. Things disappear so quickly, and even important work can slip your mind months or years later when you want to recall it. If it’s in one, definitive place, you’ll be glad for it.
There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.
In the days before comments on blogs, you could generally have a thoughtful conversation online without everything degenerating into madness and chaos simply because responding to a post required that you wrote a post on your own blog and linked back. This created a certain level of default accountability because if someone wanted to flame you, they had to do it on their own real estate, and couldn’t just crap all over yours anonymously.
If you enjoy writing, or want to enjoy writing, just do it. You’ll probably worry that you have nothing to say, or that what you write is terrible, or that you couldn’t possibly write as well as Neil Gaiman. But silence those voices, get your head down and hit publish on something. Anything. And then do it again. And again.
I met Cesar at An Event Apart in San Diego earlier this year. We had a nice lunchtime chat and he suggested that I come on his show, Pencil vs Pixel. I was, of course, honoured and I accepted his invitation immediately.
If you were in any doubt that Warren Ellis is going to blow the roof off the Brighton Dome at dConstruct, this is what happens when he decides to write a little something every day.
If you’re going to check out the New Yorker’s nice new responsive site, might I suggest you start here?
A look behind the scenes of gov.uk. I like their attitude to Photoshop comps:
We don’t want a culture of designs being “thrown over a wall” to a dev team. We don’t make “high fidelity mock ups” or “high fidelity wireframes”. We’re making a Thing, not pictures of a Thing.
We don’t have a UX Team. If the problem with your service is that the servers are slow and the UX Team can’t change that, then they aren’t in control of the user experience and they shouldn’t be called the user experience team.
A new essay from Maciej on Idle Words is always a treat, and this latest dispatch from Yemen is as brilliantly-written as you’d expect.
A truly wonderful piece by Mandy detailing why and how she writes, edits, and publishes on her own website:
No one owns this domain but me, and no one but me can take it down. I will not wake up one morning to discover that my service has been “sunsetted” and I have some days or weeks to export my data (if I have that at all). These URLs will never break.
A short story set in a science-fictional future that just happens to be our present.
Craig recounts the time we visited the LHCb at CERN. It’s a lovely bit of writing. I wish it were on his own website.
Eileen Gunn writes in the Smithsonian magazine on the influence of science fiction.
Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.
I love the thinking behind this plugin that highlights the weasel words that politicians are so found of.
This is a wonderful piece of writing and thinking from Frank. A wonderful piece of design, then.
A personal view on generalists and trans-media design
A useful text editor that analyses your writing for excess verbiage and sloppy construction. It helps you process your words, as it were.
A nice little cheat sheet for simple simple typography wins.
Brian Aldiss: ‘These days I don’t read any science fiction. I only read Tolstoy’ | Books | The Guardian
A profile of Brian Aldiss in The Guardian.
I still can’t quite believe I managed to get him for last year’s Brighton SF.
We were struggling, whether we knew it or not, to found a more fluid society. A place where everyone, not just appointed apologists for the status quo, could be heard. That dream need not die. It matters more now than ever.
From the lovely people behind Editorially comes STET:
A Writers’ Journal on Culture & Technology
Paris Review – “One Murder Is Statistically Utterly Unimportant”: A Conversation with Warren Ellis, Molly Crabapple
Molly Crabapple interviews Warren Ellis. Fun and interesting …much like Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis.
There’s a lot of very opinionated advice here, and I don’t agree with all of it, but this is still a very handy resource that’s been lovingly crafted.
H.P. Lovecraft meets James Bridle in this great little story commissioned by the Institute For The Future.
A good article on Medium on Medium.
I love this. I love this sooooo much! The perfect reminder of what makes the web so bloody great:
You and I have been able to connect because I wrote this and you’re reading it. That’s the web. Despite our different locations, devices, and time-zones we can connect here, on a simple HTML page.
This is what Medium is for.
If you want to read some of Dan Catt’s lesser thoughts, he has his own blog.
Francis Spufford—author of the excellent Backroom Boffins—writes a cover story for the New Humanist magazine remembering Iain Banks with the middle initial M firmly to the fore: it was Iain M Banks—and his creation, The Culture—that took the seemingly passé genre of space opera to new heights.
A lovely site with thoughtful articles on the long-term future of the web.
There’s audio too, which is unfortunately locked up in the unhuffduffable roach motel that is Soundcloud, but I’m hoping that might change.
This is nice lightweight writing tool, kinda like Editorially without the collaboration. Just right for working on a blog posts.
It authenticates with Twitter and doesn’t ask for write permissions. Bravo!