A post by Clearleft on LinkedIn
This is design engineering.
This is design engineering.
This time last year when I was looking back on 2021, I wrote:
2020 was the year of the virus. 2021 was the year of the vaccine …and the virus, obviously, but still it felt like the year we fought back. With science!
Science continued to win the battle in 2022. But it was messy. The Situation isn’t over yet, and everyone has different ideas about the correct levels of risk-taking.
It’s like when you’re driving and you think that everyone going faster than you is a maniac, and everyone going slower than you is an idiot.
The world opened up more in 2022. I was able to speak at more in-person events. I really missed that. I think I’m done with doing online talks.
There was a moment when I was speaking at Web Dev Conf in Bristol this year (a really nice little gathering), and during my presentation I was getting that response from the audience that you just don’t get with online talks, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh, I’ve really missed this!”
But like I said, The Situation isn’t over, and that makes things tricky for conferences. Most of the ones I spoke at or attended were doing their best to make things safe. CSS Day, Clarity, State Of The Browser: they all took measures to try to look out for everyone’s health.
For my part, I asked everyone attending dConstruct to take a COVID test the day before. Like I said at the time, I may have just been fooling myself with what might have been hygiene theatre, but like those other events, we all wanted to gather safely.
That can’t be said for the gigantic event in Berlin that I spoke at in Summer. There were tens of thousands of people in the venue. Inevitably, I—and others—caught COVID.
My bout of the ’rona wasn’t too bad, and I’m very glad that I didn’t pass it on to any family members (that’s been my biggest worry throughout The Situation). But it did mean that I wasn’t able to host UX London 2022.
That was a real downer. I spent much of 2022 focused on event curation: first UX London, and then dConstruct. I was really, really proud of the line-up I assembled for UX London so I was gutted not to be able to introduce those fabulous speakers in person.
Still, I got to host dConstruct, Leading Design, and Clarity, so 2022 was very much a bumper year for MCing—something I really, really enjoy.
Already I’ve got more of the same lined up for the first half of 2023: hosting Leading Design San Francisco in February and curating and hosting UX London in June.
I hope to do more speaking too. Alas, An Event Apart is no more, which is a real shame. But I hope there are other conferences out there that might be interested in what I have to say. If you’re organising one, get in touch.
Needless to say, 2022 was not a good year for world events. The callous and cruel invasion of Ukraine rightly dominated the news (sporting events and dead monarchs are not the defining events of the year). But even in the face of this evil, there’s cause for hope, seeing the galvanised response of the international community in standing up to Putin the bully.
In terms of more personal bad news, Jamie’s death is hard to bear.
I got to play lots of music in 2022. That’s something I definitely want to continue. In fact, 2023 kicked off with a great kitchen session yesterday evening—the perfect start to the year!
And I’ve got my health. That’s something I don’t take for granted.
One year ago, I wrote:
Maybe 2022 will turn out to be similar—shitty for a lot of people, and mostly unenventful for me. Or perhaps 2022 will be a year filled with joyful in-person activities, like conferences and musical gatherings. Either way, I’m ready.
For the most part, that played out. 2022 was thankfully fairly uneventful personally. And it was indeed a good year for in-person connections. I very much hope that continues in 2023.
I posted 1057 times on adactio in 2022.
That’s a bit more than in 2021.
November was the busiest month with 137 posts.
February was the quietest with 65 posts.
That included about 237 notes with photos and 214 replies.
I published one article, the transcript of my talk, In And Out Of Style.
I watched an awful lot of television but managed to read 25 books.
Elsewhere, I huffduffed 130 audio files and added 55 tune settings on The Session in 2022.
I spoke at ten events.
I travelled within Europe and the USA to a total of 18 destinations.
Here’s a highlight reel of some of my blog posts from 2022:
I also published the transcript of my conference talk, In And Out Of Style, a journey through the history of CSS.
Usually an end-of-year music round-up is a list of favourite recordings released in the year. But in 2022 I wasn’t paying very much attention to new releases. I bought a few albums on Bandcamp. They were mostly of—surprise, surprise—traditional Irish music.
Still, I had a very music-filled 2022. Mostly I was playing mandolin in sessions, both here in Brighton and wherever else my travels took me.
These moments were undoubtedly highlights of the year for me.
I read 25 books in 2022. I wish I had read more, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I think no matter how many books I read in any given year, I’ll always wish I had read more.
18 of the 25 books were written by women. I think that’s a pretty good ratio. But only 6 of the 25 books were written by Black authors. That’s not a great ratio.
Still, I’m glad that I’m tracking my reading so at least I can be aware of the disparity.
For the first half of the year, I stuck with my usual rule of alternating between fiction and non-fiction, never reading two non-fiction books or two fiction books back-to-back. Then I fell off the wagon. In the end, only 7 of the 25 books I read were non-fiction. We’ll see whether the balance gets redressed in 2023.
As is now traditional, I’m doing my end-of-year recap, complete with ridiculous star ratings.
I’m very stingy with my stars:
Even the author doesn’t think this is a particularly good book, and he’s not wrong. But I have a soft spot for it. This was a re-read. I had already read this book years before, and all I rememberd was “sci-fi with Irish music.” That’s good enough for me. But truth be told, the book is tonally awkward, never quite finding its groove. Still a fun romp if you like the idea of a teleporting bar with a house band playing Irish folk.
Stunning. I still don’t know whether it’s fiction, autobiography, translation, or some weird mix of all of the above. All that matters is that the writing is incredible. It’s so evocative that the book practically oozes.
A terrific follow-up to The Parable Of The Sower. It seems remarkably relevant and prescient. So much so that I’m actually glad I didn’t read this while Trump was in power—I think it would’ve been too much. It’s a harrowing read, but always with an unwavering current of hope throughout.
A great examination of history and colonialism through the lens of timekeeping. Even for a time-obsessed nerd like me, there are lots of new stories in here.
While I was reading this, I distinctly remember thinking “Oh, so this is what Philip K. Dick was trying to do!” And I say that as a huge fan of Philip K. Dick. But his exuction didn’t always match up to his ideas. Here, Le Guin shows how it’s done. Turns out she was a fan of Philip K. Dick and this book is something on an homage. I found its central premise genuinely disconcerting. I loved it.
When someone asked me what I was reading, I was honestly able to respond, “It’s a book about George Orwell and about roses.” I know that doesn’t sound like a great basis for a book, but I thought it worked really well. As a huge fan of Orwell’s work, I was biased towards enjoying this, but I didn’t expect the horticultural aspect to work so well as a lens for examining politics and power.
A solid sequel to the classic The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not more of the same: we get a different setting, and a very different set of viewpoints. It didn’t have quite the same impact as the first book, but then very little could. As with The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood stuck with her rule of only including shocking situations if they have actually occurred in the real world.
I wrote about this book in more detail:
For a book that’s about defending liberty and progress, On Tyranny is puzzingly conservative at times.
Astonishing. I know that a person’s reaction to a book is a personal thing, but for me, this book had a truly emotional impact. I wrote about it at the time:
When I started reading No One Is Talking About This, I thought it might end up being the kind of book where I would admire the writing, but it didn’t seem like a work that invited emotional connection.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I can’t remember the last time a book had such an emotional impact on me. Maybe that’s because it so deliberately lowered my defences, but damn, when I finished reading the book, I was in pieces.
An absorbing examination of the origins of international war crimes: genocide and crimes against humanity. The book looks at the interweaving lives of the two people behind the crime’s definitions …and takes in the author’s own family history on the way. A relative of mine ran in the same legal circles in wartime Lviv, and I can’t help but wonder if their paths crossed.
Just as good as A Memory Called Empire, maybe even more enjoyable. Here we get a first contact story, but there’s still plenty of ongoing political intrigue powering the plot. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!
A thoroughly enjoyable piece of long-form journalism. It’s ostensibly about the world of high-stakes poker, but there are inevitable life lessons along the way. The tone of this book is just right, with the author being very open and honest about her journey. Her cards are on the table, if you will.
I wonder how much of an influence this book had on Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle For Leibowitz? They’re both post-apocalyptic books of the Long Now. While this is no masterpiece, Brackett writes evocatively of her post-nuclear America.
A compelling and accessible examination of a big subject. It doesn’t shy away from inherently complex topics, but manages to always be understable and downright enjoyable. I liked this book so much, I asked Anil to speak at dConstruct.
A good fast-paced sci-fi story that acts as a vehicle for issues of identity and socialisation. It’s brief and peppy. I’ll definitely be reading the subsequent books in the Murderbot Diaries series.
Not in the same league as Station Eleven, but a solid work, looking at the events before and after the collapse of a Ponzi scheme. It’s not a ghost story, but it’s also not not a ghost story. And it’s not about crypto …but it’s not not about crypto.
I was really looking forward to reading this, but I ended up disappointed. All the stories about historical inventions were terrifically told, but then each chapter would close with an attempt to draw parallels with modern technology. Those bits were eye-rollingly simplistic. Such a shame. I wonder if they were added under pressure from the publisher to try to make the book “more relevant”? In the end, they only detracted from what would’ve otherwise been an excellent and accessible book on the history of materials science.
Looking back, I notice that The Alchemy Of Us was the last non-fiction book I read this year.
After reading this, I decided to read the rest of the Patternist series in one go. This scene-setter is almost biblical in scope. The protagonist is like an embodiment of matriarchy, and the antogonist is a frightening archetype of toxic masculinity.
All of Butler’s works are about change in some way (as exemplified in the mantra of Earthseed: “God is change”). Change—often violent—is at the heart of Mind Of My Mind. As always, the world-building is entirely believable.
This works as a standalone novel. Its connection to the rest of the Patternist series is non-existient for most of the book’s narrative. That sense of self-containment is also central to the tone of the novel. You find yourself rooting for stasis, even though you know that change is inevitable.
By the final book in the Patternist series, the world has changed utterly. But as always, change is what drives the narrative. “The only lasting truth is Change.”
I’ve read quite of few of Le Guin’s novels, but I don’t think I had read any of her short stories before. That was a mistake on my part. These stories are terrific! There’s the classic The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas to kick things off, and the quality is maintained with plenty of stories from the Hainish universe. I was struck by how many of the stories were anthropological in nature, like the centrepiece story, The Matter of Seggri.
The fourth and final book in the Wayfarers series was a satisfying conclusion. I still preferred Record Of A Spaceborn Few, but that’s probably just because I preferred the setting. As always, it’s a story of tolerance and understanding. Aliens are people too, y’know.
As a story, this is ludicrous and over the top, but that’s true of any near-mythological national saga. Even though this is an English translation, a working knowledge of Irish pronunciation is handy for all the people and places enumerated throughout. In retrospect, I think I would’ve liked having the source text to hand (even if I couldn’t understand it).
I’m less than half way through this, but I’m enjoying being immersed in its language and cast of characters. You’ll have to wait until the end of 2023 for an allocation of stars for this nautical tale of the Great Hunger.
There we have it. I think the lesson this year is: you can’t go wrong with Octavia E. Butler or Ursula K. Le Guin.
And now it’s time for me to pick one favourite fiction and one favourite non-fiction book that I read in 2022.
The pool is a bit smaller for the non-fiction books, and there were some great reads in there, but I think I have to go for Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses.
Now I have to pick a favourite work of fiction from the 18 that I read. This is hard. I loved The Lathe Of Heaven and Ghost In The Throat, but I think I’m going to have choose No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.
If you want to read any of the books I’ve mentioned, you can find them all in this list on Bookshop.org—support independent bookshops! I bought Octavia Butler’s Patternist books at Brighton’s excellent Afori Books, located in Clearleft’s old building at 28 Kensington Street. Do swing by if you’re in the neighbourhood.
Or try your local library. Libraries are like a sci-fi concept made real.
If you’re interested in previous installments of my annual reading updates, you can peruse:
A look at back at what wasn’t in the headlines this year.
Two weeks ago I was on stage for two days hosting Leading Design in London.
Last week I was on stage for two days hosting Clarity in New Orleans.
It was an honour and a pleasure to MC at both events. Hard work, but very, very rewarding. And people seemed to like the cut of my jib, so that’s good.
With my obligations fulfilled, I’m now taking some time off before diving back into some exciting events-related work (he said, teasingly).
Jessica and I left New Orleans for Florida on the weekend. We’re spending a week at the beach house in Saint Augustine, doing all the usual Floridian activities: getting in the ocean, eating shrimp, sitting around doing nothing, that kind of thing.
But last night we got to experience something very unusual indeed.
We stayed up late, fighting off tiredness until strolling down to the beach sometime after 1am.
It was a mild night. I was in shorts and short sleeves, standing on the sand with the waves crashing, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness.
We were looking to the south. That’s where Cape Canaveral is, about a hundred miles away.
A hundred miles is quite a distance, and it was a cloudy night, so I wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to see anything. But when the time came, shortly before 2am, there was no mistaking it.
An orange glow appeared on the ocean, just over the horizon. Then an intense bright orange-red flame burst upwards. Even at this considerable distance, it was remarkably piercing.
It quickly travelled upwards, in an almost shaky trajectory, until entering the clouds.
And that was it. Brief, but unforgettable. We had seen the launch of Artemis 1 on the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever launched.
Here’s the video of the talk I gave at Web Dev Conf in Bristol recently. I think you can tell that I had fun—it was a good audience!
I’ve had the opportunity to gather with my peers a few times over the past couple of months.
There was dConstruct, which I hosted. That was just lovely.
Then a few weeks ago, in spite of train strikes and travel snags, I went to Bristol to give a talk at Web Dev Conf, a really nice gathering.
This past weekend I was in London for State Of The Browser, this time as neither host nor speak, but as an attendee. It was really good!
I noticed something rather lovely. There was enough cross-over in the audiences for these events that I got to see some people more than once. That’s something that used to happen all the time but became very rare over the past two years because of The Situation.
None of the organisers of these events were pretending that Covid has gone away. Each event had different processes in place to mitigate risk. I wrote about the steps I took for dConstruct. For some people, those measures might seem to go too far. For other people, they don’t go far enough. This is a challenge that every in-person event is facing and from what I’ve seen, they’re all doing their level best.
None of these events were particularly large. Attendence was maybe somewhere between 100 and 200 people at each one. I know that there’s still a risk in any kind of indoor gathering but these events feel safer than the really big tech gatherings (like the one in Berlin where I got the ’rona—that was literally tens of thousands of people).
Anyway, all three events were thoroughly enjoyable. Partly that’s because the talks were good, but also because the socialising was really, really nice—all the nicer for being in relatively safe environments.
It’s not exactly an earth-shattering observation to point out that the social side of conferences is just as valuable as the content. But now that so many of us are working remotely, I feel like that aspect of in-person events has become even more important.
Or maybe I’m just appreciating that aspect of in-person events after spending such a long time with screen-mediated interactions only.
It’s a bit of a cliché to talk about living in the future. It’s also a bit pointless. After all, any moment after the big bang is a future when viewed from any point in time before it.
Still, it’s kind of fun when a sci-fi date rolls around. Like in 2015 when we reached the time depicted in Back To The Future 2, or in 2019 when we reached the time of Blade Runner.
In 2022 we are living in the future of web standards. Again, technically, we’re always living in the future of any past discussion of web standards, but this year is significant …in a very insignificant way.
It all goes back to 2008 and an interview with Hixie, editor of the HTML5 spec at the WHATWG at the time. In it, he mentioned the date 2022 as the milestone for having two completely interoperable implementations.
The far more important—and ambitious—date was 2012, when HTML5 was supposed to become a Candidate Recommendation, which is standards-speak for done’n’dusted.
But the mere mention of the year 2022 back in the year 2008 was too much for some people. Jeff Croft, for example, completely lost his shit (Jeff had a habit of posting angry rants and then denying that he was angry or ranty, but merely having a bit of fun).
The whole thing was a big misunderstanding and soon irrelevant: talk of 2022 was dropped from HTML5 discussions. But for a while there, it was fascinating to see web designers and developers contemplate a year that seemed ludicriously futuristic. Jeff wrote:
God knows where I’ll be in 13 years. Quite frankly, I’ll be pretty fucking disappointed in myself (and our entire industry) if I’m writing HTML in 13 years.
That always struck me as odd. If I thought like that, I’d wonder what the point would be in making anything on the web to begin with (bear in mind that both my own personal website and The Session are now entering their third decade of life).
I had a different reaction to Jeff, as I wrote in 2010:
Many web developers were disgusted that such a seemingly far-off date was even being mentioned. My reaction was the opposite. I began to pay attention to HTML5.
But Jeff was far from alone. Scott Gilbertson wrote an angry article on Webmonkey:
If you’re thinking that planning how the web will look and work 13 years from now is a little bit ridiculous, you’re not alone.
Even if your 2022 ronc-o-matic web-enabled toaster (It slices! It dices! It browses! It arouses!) does ship with Firefox v22.3, will HTML still be the dominant language of web? Given that no one can really answer that question, does it make sense to propose a standard so far in the future?
(I’m re-reading that article in the current version of Firefox: 95.0.2.)
Brian Veloso wrote on his site:
Two-thousand-twenty-two. That’s 14 years from now. Can any of us think that far? Wouldn’t our robot overlords, whether you welcome them or not, have taken over by then? Will the internet even matter then?
From the comments on Jeff’s post, there’s Corey Dutson:
2022: God knows what the Internet will look like at that point. Will we even have websites?
Dan Rubin, who has indeed successfully moved from web work to photography, wrote:
I certainly don’t intend to be doing “web work” by that time. I’m very curious to see where the web actually is in 14 years, though I can’t imagine that HTML5 will even get that far; it’ll all be obsolete before 2022.
Joshua Works made a prediction that’s worryingly close to reality:
I’ll be surprised if website-as-HTML is still the preferred method for moving around the tons of data we create, especially in the manner that could have been predicted in 2003 or even today. Hell, iPods will be over 20 years old by then and if everything’s not run as an iPhone App, then something went wrong.
Someone with the moniker Grand Caveman wrote:
In 2022 I’ll be 34, and hopefully the internet will be obsolete by then.
Perhaps the most level-headed observation came from Jonny Axelsson:
The world in 2022 will be pretty much like the world in 2009.
The world in 2009 is pretty much like 1996 which was pretty much like the world in 1983 which was pretty much like the world in 1970. Some changes are fairly sudden, others are slow, some are dramatic, others subtle, but as a whole “pretty much the same” covers it.
The Web in 2022 will not be dramatically different from the Web in 2009. It will be less hot and it will be less cool. The Web is a project, and as it succeeds it will fade out of our attention and into the background. We don’t care about things when they work.
Now that’s a sensible perspective!
So who else is looking forward to seeing what the World Wide Web is like in 2036?
I must remember to write a blog post then and link back to this one. I have no intention of trying to predict the future, but I’m willing to bet that hyperlinks will still be around in 14 years.
Playing Castle Kelly (reel) on bouzouki:
Playing The Earl’s Chair (reel) on mandolin:
Leaving Nürnberg after an excellent weekend of Indie Web Camping. Thanks to @OpenSUSE for sponsoring.