You see, diversity of rendering engines isn’t actually in itself the point. What’s really important is diversity of influence: who has the ability to make decisions which shape the web in particular ways, and do they make those decisions for good reasons or not so good?
Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
Saturday, September 1st, 2018
I love, love, love all the little details of HTML that Aaron offers up here. And I really like how he positions non-visual user-agents like searchbots, screen readers, and voice assisants as headless UIs.
HTML is a truly robust and expressive language that is often overlooked and undervalued, but it has the incredible potential to nurture conversations with our users without requiring a lot of effort on our part. Simply taking the time to code web pages well will enable our sites to speak to our customers like they speak to each other. Thinking about how our sites are experienced as headless interfaces now will set the stage for more natural interactions between the real world and the digital one.
Friday, July 20th, 2018
This is a great description by Chris of the problems that webmentions aim to solve.
If you use Twitter, your friend Alice only uses Facebook, your friend Bob only uses his blog on WordPress, and your pal Chuck is over on Medium, it’s impossible for any one of you to @mention another. You’re all on different and competing platforms, none of which interoperate to send these mentions or notifications of them. The only way to communicate in this way is if you all join the same social media platforms, resulting in the average person being signed up to multiple services just to stay in touch with all their friends and acquaintances.
Given the issues of privacy and identity protection, different use cases, the burden of additional usernames and passwords, and the time involved, many people don’t want to do this. Possibly worst of all, your personal identity on the internet can end up fragmented like a Horcrux across multiple websites over which you have little, if any, control.
Monday, May 21st, 2018
Chris weighs up the ethical implications of Google Duplex:
The social hacking that could be accomplished is mind-boggling. For this reason, I expect that having human-sounding narrow AI will be illegal someday. The Duplex demo is a moment of cultural clarity, where it first dawned on us that we can do it, but with only a few exceptions, we shouldn’t.
But he also offers alternatives for designing systems like this:
- Provide disclosure, and
- Design a hot signal:
…design the interface so that it is unmistakeable that it is synthetic. This way, even if the listener missed or misunderstood the disclosure, there is an ongoing signal that reinforces the idea. As designer Ben Sauer puts it, make it “Humane, not human.”
Tuesday, October 31st, 2017
JP Rangaswami also examines the rise of the platforms but he’s got some ideas for a more sustainable future:
A part of me wants to evoke Jane Jacobs and Christopher Alexander when it comes to building sustainable platforms. The platform “community” needs to be cared for and looked after, the living spaces they inhabit need to be designed to last. Multipurpose rather than monoculture, diverse rather than homogeneous . Prior industrial models where entire communities would rely on a single industry need to be learnt from and avoided. We shouldn’t be building the rust belts of the future. We should be looking for the death and life of great platforms, for a pattern language for sustainable platforms.
Monday, October 23rd, 2017
I love what Ben is doing with this single-serving site (similar to my design principles collection)—it’s a collection of handy links and resources around voice UI:
Designing a voice interface? Here’s a useful list of lists: as many guiding principles as we could find, all in one place. List compiled and edited by Ben Sauer @bensauer.
BONUS ITEM: Have him run a voice workshop for you!
Thursday, September 28th, 2017
Myself and Jessica were on our way over to Ireland for a few days to visit my mother. It’s a straightforward combination of three modes of transport: a car to Brighton train station; a train to Gatwick airport; a plane to Cork.
We got in the taxi to start the transport relay. “Going anywhere nice?” asked the taxi driver. “Ireland”, I said. He mentioned that he had recently come back from a trip to Crete. “Lovely place”, he said. “Great food.” That led to a discussion of travel destinations, food, and exchange rates. The usual taxi banter. We mentioned that we were in Iceland recently, where the exchange rate was eye-watering. “Iceland?”, he said, “Did you see the Northern Lights?” We hadn’t, but we mentioned some friends of ours who travelled to Sweden recently just to see the Aurorae. That led to a discussion of the weirdness of the midnight sun. “Yeah”, he said, “I was in the Barents Sea once and it was like broad daylight in the middle of the night.” We mentioned being in Alaska in Summer, and how odd the daylight at night was, but now my mind was preoccupied. As soon as there was a lull in the conversation I asked “So …what brought you to the Barents Sea?”
He paused. Then said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Then he told us.
“We were on a secret mission. It was the ’80s, the Cold War. The Russians had a new submarine, the Typhoon. Massive, it was. Bigger than anything the Americans had. We were there with the Americans. They had a new camera that could see through smoke and cloud. The Russians wouldn’t know we were filming them. I was on a support ship. But one time, at four in the morning, the Russians shot at us—warning shots across the bow. I remember waking up and it was still so light, and there were this explosions of water right by the ship.”
“Wow!” was all I could say.
“It was so secret, that mission”, he said, “that if you didn’t go on it, you’d have to spend the duration in prison.”
By this time we had reached the station. “Do you believe me?” he asked us. “Yes”, we said. We paid him, and thanked him. Then I added, “And thanks for the story.”
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
In which I have a conversation with a polar bear.
Very well-mannered species …I’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Sunday, June 5th, 2016
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an x-ray that could peer into the true intention behind words on a screen? Sadly we don’t have that x-ray yet (for most of humanity’s existence, we had body language to enrich our words and enhance understanding, but we live in interesting times where so much, perhaps even the majority, of our communication lacks body language) and so we have to be mindful of how our words might be perceived, and what the ramifications of publishing them might be. That’s not to say we should hold off completely, but it does mean we should be mindful if we’re to be most effective.
Sunday, April 24th, 2016
Psst… Jeremy! Right now you’re getting notified every time something is posted to Slack. That’s great at first, but now that activity is increasing you’ll probably prefer dialing that down.
Why does everyone always look at me? I know I’m a chalkboard and that’s my job, I just wish people would ask before staring at me. Sometimes I don’t have anything to say.
I’m Little MOO - the bit of software that will be managing your order with us. It will shortly be sent to Big MOO, our print machine who will print it for you in the next few days. I’ll let you know when it’s done and on it’s way to you.
It looks like you’re writing a letter.
Your quest is to find the Warlock’s treasure, hidden deep within a dungeon populated with a multitude of terrifying monsters. You will need courage, determination and a fair amount of luck if you are to survive all the traps and battles, and reach your goal — the innermost chambers of the Warlock’s domain.
Welcome to Adventure!! Would you like instructions?
I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.
ÆLFRED MECH HET GEWYRCAN
Ælfred ordered me to be made
I have marked up the protagonist of each conversation using the
cite element. There is a long-running dispute over the use of this element. In HTML 4.01 it was perfectly fine to use
cite to mark up a person being quoted. In the HTML Living Standard, usage has been narrowed:
citeelement represents the title of a work (e.g. a book, a paper, an essay, a poem, a score, a song, a script, a film, a TV show, a game, a sculpture, a painting, a theatre production, a play, an opera, a musical, an exhibition, a legal case report, a computer program, etc). This can be a work that is being quoted or referenced in detail (i.e. a citation), or it can just be a work that is mentioned in passing.
A person’s name is not the title of a work — even if people call that person a piece of work — and the element must therefore not be used to mark up people’s names.
In the examples above, it’s pretty clear that I, Pencil and Warlock Of Firetop Mountain are valid use cases for the
cite element according to the HTML5 definition; they are titles of works. But what about Clippy or Little Moo or Slackbot? They’re not people …but they’re not exactly titles of works either.
If I were to mark up a dialogue between Eliza and a human being, should I only mark up Eliza’s remarks with
cite? In text transcripts of conversations with Alexa, Siri, or Cortana, should only their side of the conversation get attributed as a source? Or should they also be written without the
cite element because it must not be used to mark up people’s names …even though they are not people, according to conventional definition.
It’s downright botist.
Sunday, February 21st, 2016
Cennydd speaks his brains on conversational interfaces—a refreshing counterpoint to Chris’s cheerleading.
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
An examination of websites behaving conversationally, including Huffduffer.
Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
Weighing up the pros and cons of allowing comments on blog posts.
Monday, March 24th, 2008
Quotably offers a nice well-ordered interface onto Twitter conversations.
Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
I’m still thinking about blog comments so I thought I’d get a few hyperlinks and
blockquotes out of my system.
Dave Winer promotes the idea of blog-to-blog conversations rather than the easier solution of providing a comment form:
That’s what’s important about blogs, not that people can comment on your ideas. As long as they can start their own blog, there will be no shortage of places to comment.
That’s exactly what Tantek does on his blog by displaying any Technorati links (reactions) back to his posts.
They are a part of the problem, not the solution. You don’t have a right to post your thoughts at the bottom of someone else’s thoughts. That’s not freedom of expression, that’s an infringement on their freedom of expression.
When a blog allows comments right below the writer’s post, what you get is a bunch of interesting ideas, carefully constructed, followed by a long spew of noise, filth, and anonymous rubbish that nobody … nobody … would say out loud if they had to take ownership of their words.
This issue of taking responsibility for, and hosting your own words also lies behind Andy Rutledge’s attitude to feedback:
Anyone who feels the need to comment on what I write may send an email to me just as easily as writing a comment in some form on my site. Further, if someone takes issue with what I say, they may write about it from their own website and take responsibility for what they put forth, as everyone should.
I wanted to write a site for someone it’s meant for. That reader I write for is a second version of me. I’m writing for him. He’s interested in the exact same things I’m interested in; he reads the exact same websites I read… If I turn comments on, that goes away. It’s not that I don’t like sites with comments on, but when you read a site with comments it automatically puts you, the reader, in a defensive mode where you’re saying, “what’s good in this comment thread? What can I skim?”
The comments over on Digg are, of course, an extreme example of just how puerile comments can be but at least they’re quarantined over there. I’ve never understood why a site owner would actually want to get Dugg and invite those kind of people over to piss on the furniture. As Jason Kottke put it:
Digg sents lots of traffic but IMO it’s mostly useless. They usually read only one page, send stupid emails, and never visit again.
And yet, again and again, I see sites like Digg and YouTube held up as paragons of community and interaction. I was chatting with Andy at work about how many potential clients treat community as some kind of checklist; comments: check, ratings: check, tagging: check. Thomas Vander Wal has come up against the same attitude. His solution is to point people to this Kevin Federline page on Amazon and ask
Now, do you still want tagging?
I’m always impressed when site owners can provide a new, different way of fostering interaction. I really like the way del.icio.us uses the proto-machinetag syntax of
for:username to allow sharing between users. It’s so much more discreet than the pre-filled emails that most sites use for user-to-user communication. It allows for a network to develop in an understated, organic way.
Sunday, June 10th, 2007
Stephanie Sullivan has redesigned. Her site is now almost as smart and sassy as she is. Very nice work, Steph.
Friday, October 20th, 2006
Naked lunch conversations
Shel Israel and Rick Segal are doing a bit of a world tour. They’ve just been to Ireland and now they’re winging their way to Brussels. In between, they made time for a whistle-stop visit to Brighton.
Why Brighton? Ben gave ‘em the heads-up that it’s a happening place.
Andy reserved a table for lunch at Carluccio’s and rounded up a bunch of local geeks and entrepreneurs. Much excellent conversation ensued, much of it about social media and, more importantly, people.
It was a real pleasure to meet Shel and Rick. It’s a shame they couldn’t stick around longer: they were literally in town for just a few hours. We didn’t even have the opportunity to take them out on the pier for a stick of rock.
There’s always next time.
Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
This is a great way to deal with telemarketers.
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
This is an astoundingly brilliant mashup: Overheard in New York meets Google Maps. It's fan-bloody-tastic and remarkably fast for all the data it contains.
Tuesday, October 11th, 2005
Talking with the youth of today about how they spend their time online.