Tuesday, March 21st, 2023
Monday, March 20th, 2023
The AI hype bubble is the new crypto hype bubble
A handy round-up of recent wrtings on artificial insemination.
Monday, March 6th, 2023
I doubled-down on RSS – Eric Bailey
In which Eric says:
Jeremy Keith, you magnificent son of a bitch.
I’ll take it.
Appropriately enough, I read this post in my feed reader.
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023
Fujichia: Sayable Space
This game is hard:
Sayable Space is a television game for 1 or more people, it consists of saying “Space” out loud at the same time as Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) during the intro to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or actually that’s just half of the game. The second half is saying “Space”, and the first half is remembering that you are playing this game.
Friday, February 17th, 2023
Openly Licensed Images, Audio and More | Openverse
A search engine for images and audio that’s either under a Creative Commons license or is in the public domain.
Thursday, February 16th, 2023
This is an interesting little blogging tool: it turns a folder of notes on your Mac into a website.
- Create dedicated folder in the Apple Notes.
- Connect it to Montaigne.
- Add notes with your content.
- Everything will be published to the web automatically.
Wednesday, February 15th, 2023
I’ve already written about how much I enjoyed hosting Leading Design San Francisco last week.
All the speakers were terrific. Lola’s talk was particularly …um, interesting:
In this talk, Lola will share her adventures in the world of blockchain, the hostility she experienced in her first go-round in 2018, and why she’s chosen to head back to a technology that is going through its largest reputational and social crisis to date.
Wait …I was supposed to stand on stage and introduce a talk that was (at least partly) about blockchain? I have opinions.
As it turned out, Lola warned me that I’d be making an appearance in her talk. She was going to quote that blog post. Before the talk, I asked her how obnoxious I could be about blockchain in her intro. She told me to bring it.
So in the introduction, I deployed all the sarcasm I had in me and said:
Listen, we designers have a tendency to be over-critical of things sometimes. There are all these ideas that we dismiss: phrenology, homeopathy, flat-earthism …blockchain. Haters gonna hate.
I remember somebody asking online a while back, “Why the hate for web3?” And someone I know responded by saying “We hate it because we understand it.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that.
But look, just because blockchains are powering crypto ponzi schemes and N F fucking Ts, it’s worth remembering that it’s also simply a technology. It’s a technological solution in search of a problem.
To be fair, it’s still early days. After all, it’s only been over a decade now.
It’s like the law of instrument says; when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Blockchain is like that. Except the hammer is also made of glass.
Anyway, Lola is going to defend the indefensible and talk about blockchain. One thing to keep in mind is this: remember when everyone was talking about “The Cloud”? And then it turned out that you could substitute the phrase “someone else’s server” for “The Cloud?” Well, every time you hear Lola say the word “blockchain”, I’d like you to mentally substitute the phrase “multiple copies of a spreadsheet.”
Please give an open mind and a warm welcome to Lola Oyelayo Pearson!
I got some laughs. I also got lots of gasps and pearl-clutching, as though I were saying something taboo. Welcome to San Francisco.
Lola gave as good as she got. I got a roasting in her talk.
And just to clarify, Lola and I are friends—this was a consensual smackdown.
There was a very serious point to Lola’s talk. Cryptobollocks and other blockchain-powered schemes have historically been very bro-y, and exploitative of non-bro communities. Lola wants to fight that trend.
I get it. But it reminds me a bit of the justifications you hear from people who go to work at Facebook claiming that they can do more good from the inside. Whatever helps you sleep at night.
The crux of Lola’s belief is this: blockchain technology is inevitable, therefore it is uncumbent on us as ethical designers to ensure that the technology is deployed in a way that empowers people instead of exploiting them.
But I take issue with the premise. Blockchain technology is not inevitable. That’s the worst kind of technological determinism. It’s defeatist. It’s a depressing view of “progress” driven not by people, but by technological forces beyond our control.
I refuse to accept that anti-humanist deterministic view.
In any case, for technological determinism to have any validity, there needs to be something to it. At least virtual reality and machine learning are based on some actual technologies. In the case of cryptobollocks, there is no there there. There is nothing except the hype, which is why you’ll see blockchain enthusiasts trying to ride the coattails of trending technologies in a logical fallacy that goes something like this:
- There are technologies that will be really big in the future,
- blockchain is a technology, therefore
- blockchain will be really big in the future.
Blockchain is bullshit. It isn’t even very clever bullshit. And it certainly isn’t inevitable.
Tuesday, February 14th, 2023
God Did the World a Favor by Destroying Twitter | WIRED
Our smarter, richer betters (in Babel times, the king’s name was Nimrod) often preach the idea of a town square, a marketplace of ideas, a centralized hub of discourse and entertainment—and we listen. But when I go back and read Genesis, I hear God saying: “My children, I designed your brains to scale to 150 stable relationships. Anything beyond that is overclocking. You should all try Mastodon.”
So many gems in this piece by Paul Ford:
The Fediverse apps are all built on a set of rules called the ActivityPub standard, which is a little like HTML had sex with a calendar invite. It’s a content polycule. The questions it evokes are the same as with any polycule: What are the rules? How big can this get? Who will create the chore chart?
Saturday, February 11th, 2023
Streams of Consciousness · Matthias Ott – User Experience Designer
Your website is a way for you to share your stream of consciousness, that temporary and subjective and highly biased snippet of the universe, with everyone else, including your future self.
Friday, February 10th, 2023
Ben wrote a post a little while back about maybe organising his home page differently. It’s currently a stream.
That prompted Om to ask is “stream” as a design paradigm over? Mind you, he’s not talking about personal websites:
Across the web, one can see “streams” losing their preeminence. Social networks are increasingly algorithmically organized, so their stream isn’t really a free-flowing stream. It is more like a river that has been heavily dammed. It is organized around what the machine thinks we need to see based on what we have seen in the past.
Funnily enough, I’ve some recent examples of personal homepages become more like social networks, at least in terms of visual design. A lot of people I know are liking the recent redesigns from Adam and Jhey.
Here on my site, my home page is kind of a stream. I’ve got notes, links, and blog posts one after another in chronological order. The other sections of my site are ways of focusing in on the specific types of content links, short notes, blog posts in my journal.
Behind the scenes, entries those separate sections of my site are all stored in the same database table. In some ways, the separation into different sections of the site is more like tagging. So the home page is actually the simplest bit to implement: grab the latest 20 entries out of that database table.
I don’t make too much visual distinction between the different kinds of posts. My links and my notes look quite similar. And if I post a lot of commentary with a link, it looks a lot like a blog post.
Maybe I should make them more distinct, visually. Because I actually like the higgedly-piggedly nature of a stream of different kinds of stuff. I want the vibe to be less like a pristine Apple store, and more like a chaotic second-hand bookstore.
Going back to what Ben wrote about his site:
As of right now, the homepage is a mix of long-form posts, short thoughts, and links I consider interesting, presented as a stream. It’s a genuine representation of what I’m reading and thinking about, and each post’s permalink page looks fine to me, but it doesn’t quite hold together as a whole. If you look at my homepage with fresh eyes, my stream is a hodgepodge. There’s no through line.
For me, that’s a feature, not a bug. There’s no through line on my home page either. I like that.
Stories on the Road - UK 23 | Storyblok
I’ll be speaking at this free early evening event with Arisa Fukusaki and Cassie in Brighton on Monday, February 27th. Grab a ticket and come along for some pizza and nerdiness.
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
I hadn’t come across this before: a barebones blogging tool with built-in fediverse support—neat!
Sunday, January 22nd, 2023
Culture and style
Ever get the urge to style a good document?
No? Just me, then.
Well, the urge came over me recently so I started styling this single-page site:
A Few Notes On The Culture by Iain M Banks
I’ve followed this document across multiple locations over the years. It started life as a newsgroup post on rec.arts.sf.written in 1994. Ken McLeod published it there on Iain M Banks’s behalf.
The post complements the epic series of space opera books that Iain M Banks set in the anarcho-utopian society of The Culture. It’s a fascinating piece of world building, as well as an insight into the author’s mind.
I first became aware of it many few years later, after a copy had been posted to the web. That URL died, but Adrian Hon kept a copy on his site. Lots of copies keep stuff safe, so after contemplating linkrot, I made a copy on this site too.
But I recently thought that maybe it deserved a bit of art direction, so I rolled up my sleeves and started messing around, designing in the browser and following happy little accidents.
The finished result is still fairly sparse. It’s still entirely text, except for a background image that shows up if your screen is wide enough. That image of a planet originally started as an infra-red snapshot of Jupiter by the James Webb Space Telescope that I worked over until it was unrecognisable.
The text itself is the main focus of the design though. I knew I wanted to play around with a variable font. Mona Sans from Github was one of the first ones I tried and I found it instantly suitable. I had a lot of fun playing with different weights and widths.
After a bit of messing around, I realised that the heading styles were reminding me of some later reissues of The Culture novels, so I leant into that, deliberately styling the byline to resemble the treatment of the author’s name on those book covers.
There isn’t all that much CSS. I’ve embedded it in the head of the HTML rather than linking to a separate style sheet, so feel free to view source and poke around in there. You’ll see that I’m making liberal use of custom properties, the clamp function, and logical properties.
Originally I had a light mode and dark mode but I found that the dark mode was much more effective so I ditched the lighter option.
I did make sure to include some judicious styles for print, so if you fancy reading on paper, it should print out nicely.
Oh, and of course it’s a progressive web app that works offline.
I didn’t want to mess with the original document other than making some typographic tweaks to punctuation, but I wanted to break up the single wall of text. I wasn’t about to start using pull quotes on the web so in the end I decided to introduce some headings that weren’t in the original document:
- Legal System
I’m pretty pleased with how this little project turned out. It was certainly fun to experiment with fluid type and a nice variable font.
I can add this to my little collection of single-page websites I’ve whittled over the years:
Wednesday, January 11th, 2023
Colin Devroe - Blogging is alive and well
The past, present and future of blogs.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2023
I gave blood yesterday. It was my sixteenth donation.
Yes, that’s a humblebrag. I feel like the gamification of blood donation is entirely reasonable. Levelling up in blood donation feels like the opposite of frequent flyer points. Instead of a growing sense of shame at how your accumulated activity is destroying the planet, you get increasing affirmation that you’re helping others.
Besides, I don’t have Strava, or Peleton, or rings to close, or whatever. I don’t even do Wordle. So this is the only “streak” I can legitimately boast about.
The more I give blood, the more I enjoy it.
I know that sounds weird. Surely having a needle shoved in your arm isn’t meant to be enjoyable?
It’s true that the first or second time you do it, it can feel intimidating, maybe even a little scary. I’m lucky that I don’t have much of an aversion to needles—much respect to those who do, but donate anyway.
But once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes routine. Actually, it’s more than routine. It’s like a ritual.
Not to get all spiritual here when we’re talking about an entirely biological process, but there is something special going on…
You join together with other members of your community. Strangers. People from all walks of life, all of them gathered in one place to do the same thing: sacrifice a small portion of themselves for the greater good.
It’s like a more egalitarian version of most religious narratives. Instead of a single saviour making a grand sacrifice, you get many individuals partaking in their own mini crucifixations. A little discomfort and that’s it. Multiply that by the number of people gathered together and you’ve got a magnificent network effect. Less dramatic than the hero’s journey, but far more effective.
Usually in our society, if you want to do good, it’s tied to money. You inherit wealth or accumulate it through work and luck, and then you can choose to do good by redistributing some of that moolah. The more you’ve got, the more you can choose to give away. So the amount of potential good that can be done comes down to the whims of the people who have the most money.
Giving blood doesn’t work like that. We’ve all got the same amount of blood.
The memento mori that are scattered through the history of human culture are there to remind us that death is the great leveller. Prince or pauper, we all meet the same end. That also applies to our blood. Prince or pauper, we’re all equal when it comes to blood donation.
That’s one of the reasons I like returning to give blood every few months. It restores my faith in humanity. I look around the room and see all these people that I don’t know, but we’re all there to complete our individual rituals. We all contribute the same amount. It’s a very personal choice, but there’s a communal feeling that comes from being with all these strangers who have made the same choice.
Besides, it’s just a nice opportunity to step away from the day-to-day. Bring a good book to read during the waiting periods before and after donation. During the donation itself, you’ve got this time to think and reflect. It’s quite meditative, opening and closing your hand to help the flow. Almost trance-like.
And then you get free biscuits.
That isn’t quite the end though. A few days later you get a text message telling you where your blood will be used. I love that part. It feels like closing the loop.
It’s funny that we often use the language of blood to describe supply chains: arterial networks carrying goods in and out of hubs; the pumping systems that keep society alive. When that text message arrives, it’s like a little bit of you is part of an infrastructure for helping others.
You can find a donation opportunity near you on the blood.co.uk website.
Monday, January 9th, 2023
The Year of the Personal Website · Matthias Ott – User Experience Designer
Especially if you are a designer, an artist, a photographer, a writer, a blogger, a creator of any kind, owning your work is as important as ever. Social media platforms might be great for distributing your content and creating a network of like-minded people around you. But they will always be ephemeral, transient, and impermanent – not the best place to preserve your thoughts, words, and brushstrokes.
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023
Marcin’s book is coming along nicely—you just know it’ll be a labour of love.
You’ve never seen a book on technology like this. Shift Happens is full of stories – some never before told – interleaved with 1,000+ beautiful full-color photos across two volumes.
The Kickstarter project launches in February. In the meantime, there are some keyboard-based games here for you to enjoy.
Monday, January 2nd, 2023
We Live In The Age of The Bullshitter ❧ Current Affairs
We also have a culture in which arrogance is rewarded rather than kept in check, and people can see that with enough shameless bluster you might become the richest person in the world or the president of the United States. There is no quick fix for the problem—if I offered one, I would be the very kind of bullshitter I strive to avoid being—but we at the very least need to recognize what it is we are trying to change. We are trying to create a culture of thoughtfulness and insight, where people check carefully to see whether what they’re saying is true, and excessively egotistical people are looked upon with deep suspicion. With time and patient effort, perhaps we can create a world in which the people who rise to the highest offices and reap the greatest rewards are not also the ones who are most full of shit.
On the current decentralisation movement – Manu
The more I look at this “issue” the more I’m convinced the solution is already right there and it’s called the web. Want to have an unblockable, unbannable user profile? Buy yourself a domain and get a personal website. Want to have a space where you can say and do whatever the fuck you want? Get a webspace and put up a blog.
Saturday, December 31st, 2022
2022 in numbers
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.
- I blogged 91 times during the year.
- I shared 382 links.
- I posted 583 notes.
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.