Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable, and I sometimes find that I can combine portions from two or more puzzles to make a surreal picture that the publisher never imagined. I take great pleasure in “discovering” such bizarre images lying latent, sometimes for decades, within the pieces of ordinary mass-produced puzzles.
Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
Saturday, September 1st, 2018
I share many of Cole’s concerns. I think we’re in fairly similiar situations. We even share the same job title: Technical Director …whatever that even means.
I worry about our over-reliance and obsession with tools because for many these are a barrier to our discipline. I worry that they may never really make our work better, faster or easier and that our attention is increasingly focussed not on the drawing but on the pencils. But I mostly worry that our current preoccupation with the way we work (rather than necessarily what we work on) is sapping my enthusiasm for an industry I love and care about immensely.
Saturday, July 28th, 2018
“It’s almost too easy now, and too unsatisfying that you only can put your work in a community full of advertisements and full of tracking,” she said. “I think there will be this urge, on the one hand, to have a local internet of small communities, and, on the other hand, a decentralized internet again.”
“You can still make websites nowadays,” Heemskerk said. “People think it’s complex, but it isn’t —you just register your domain and make your website and that’s about it.”
Tuesday, July 10th, 2018
The ideas and images that come to mind when you think of technology as an instrument are more useful than if you think of it as a tool. Instruments — I’m specifically talking about musical instruments — are a way to create culture.
You approach instruments with a set of expectations and associations that are more humane. It’s built into their very purpose. Instruments are meant to make something for other people, not making things. When you use an instrument, you have an expectation that it is going to take effort to use it well. Using an instrument takes practice. You form a relationship with that object. It becomes part of your identity that you make something with it. You tune it. You understand that there’s no such thing as a “best” guitar in the same way that there’s not necessarily a “best” phone.
Monday, July 9th, 2018
Browser implementations of Sol LeWitt’s conceptual and minimal art, many of which only exist as instructions like this:
Vertical lines, not straight, not touching, covering the wall evenly.
Sunday, July 8th, 2018
The title is quite clickbaity, but this is a rather wonderful retelling of web history on how Content Management Systems may have stifled a lot of the web’s early creativity.
Also, there’s this provocation: we like to rail against algorithmic sorting …but what if the reverse-chronological feed was itself the first algorithm?
Tuesday, May 29th, 2018
The transcript of a talk that is fantastic in every sense.
Fans are organised, motivated, creative, technical, and frankly flat-out awe-inspiring.
Friday, March 30th, 2018
I’m soooo excited that Mandy is speaking at Ampersand here in Brighton in June!
Be there or be square.
Saturday, March 10th, 2018
An astoundingly great piece of writing from Paul Ford, comparing the dot-com bubble and the current blockchain bubble. This resonates so hard:
I knew I was supposed to have an opinion on how the web and the capital markets interacted, but I just wanted to write stuff and put it online. Or to talk about web standards—those documents, crafted by committees at the World Wide Web consortium, that defined the contract between a web browser and a web server, outlining how HTML would work. These standards didn’t define just software, but also culture; this was the raw material of human interaction.
And, damn, if this isn’t the best description the post-bubble web:
Heat and light returned. And bit by bit, the software industry insinuated itself into every aspect of global enterprise. Mobile happened, social networks exploded, jobs returned, and coding schools popped up to convert humans into programmers and feed them to the champing maw of commerce. The abstractions I loved became industries.
Oof! That isn’t even the final gut punch. This is:
Here’s what I finally figured out, 25 years in: What Silicon Valley loves most isn’t the products, or the platforms underneath them, but markets.
Friday, February 2nd, 2018
Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
Frank has published the (beautifully designed) text of his closing XOXO keynote.
Thursday, May 19th, 2016
The newest Kirby Ferguson video looks at remixing through the lens of the newest Star Wars film.
Wednesday, August 19th, 2015
A wonderful collection of treasures excavated from GeoCities. Explore, enjoy, and remember what a crime it is that Yahoo wiped out so much creativity and expression.
Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Steve Albini’s barnstorming keynote address at Melbourne’s Face the Music conference.
Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
It seems like the world wide web is forever playing catch-up. Back in the ’90s, the web was competing with CD-ROMs and coming up short …at least in terms of what could be technically accomplished. CD-ROMs offered richer interactivity, better visuals, and the possibility of using audio. But in the long run, that didn’t matter. CD-ROMs just couldn’t compete with the sheer vastness of the world wide web.
Later on, Macromedia (and later, Adobe) Flash went toe-to-toe with the web. Once again, it seemed like the web couldn’t match its competitor for animation, audio, and video. And yet, once again, the web outlasted its flashier counterpart.
More recently, we’ve seen a re-run of this same story in the world of mobile. Compared to native apps, the web just doesn’t appear to offer the same level of rich interactivity. But even here, I suspect that the web will still be stronger than ever long after the craze for native apps has faded away.
Each one of these proprietary technologies—CD-ROMs, Flash, native apps—could be interpreted as a threat to the open web, but I prefer to see them as the web’s R’n’D department. There’ll always be some competing technology that superficially appears to be gunning for the web’s dominance. In reality, these technologies demonstrate what kind of features web developers are looking for from browsers and standards bodies. If it weren’t for Flash, would we even have CSS animations? If it weren’t for native apps, would there be so much work put into providing access to device APIs?
The web will always be lagging behind some other technology …and that’s okay. Over time, the web’s feature set grows and grows, all the while maintaining backward-compatibility (something sorely missing from those competing technologies). The growth of the web’s feature-set might sometimes appear to be painfully slow, but it’s worth taking a step back every now and then to see how far we’ve come.
This book is like a snapshot of the cutting edge of what’s possible in web browsers today. The progress we’ve made might surprise you. It certainly surprised me. I’m somewhat flabbergasted by how much we can accomplish now with audio, video, and animations. And there’s no better person than Shane to do the flabbergasting. He’s like the Doogie Howser of web development. (Ask your parents.)
So settle in for a wild ride. Shane Hudson is going to take you to the edge.
Friday, January 27th, 2012
I loved this talk from Travis at New Adventures in Web Design, especially when he talked of the importance of Geocities and MySpace in democratising creative expression on the web.
We may have later bonded over that Ze Frank quote while in the toilet at the after-party …there may have even been hugs.
Sunday, December 25th, 2011
Steven Johnson describes the beautifully chaotic way that ideas collide and coalesce. Oh, and this bit…
Listening to Cerf talk about the origins of the Internet — and thinking about the book project — made me wonder who had actually come up with the original idea for a decentralized network. So that day, I tweeted out that question, and instantly got several replies. One of those Twitter replies pointed to a Wired interview from a decade ago with Paul Baran, the RAND researcher who was partially responsible for the decentralized design.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
This is your one-stop shop for envelope-pushing in the browser:
The Lost Lemonworld
When the always-excellent Radiolab podcast turned its attention to the subject of creativity and motivation in an episode called ‘Help?’, they spoke to Elizabeth Gilbert who reminisced about interviewing Tom Waits on this topic:
He was talking about how every song has a distinctive identity that it comes into the world with, and it needs to be taken in different ways. He said there are songs that you have to sneak up on like you’re hunting for a rare bird, and there are songs that come fully intact like a dream taken through a straw. There are songs that you find little bits of like pieces of gum you find underneath the desk, and you scrape them off and you put them together and you make something out of it.
And there are songs, he said, that need to be bullied. He said he’s been in the studio working on a song and the whole album is done and this one song won’t give itself over and — everyone’s gotten used to seeing him do things like this — he’ll march up and down the studio talking to the song, saying “The rest of the family is in the car! We’re all going on vacation! You coming along or not? You’ve got 10 minutes or else you’re getting left behind!”
Last year the New York Times ran a profile of The National, written while they were still recording the wonderful High Violet—my favourite album of last year. The piece circles around the ongoing problems the band were having trying to tame the song Lemonworld:
Since January they’d done it bright, done it drowsy, done it with violin parts overnighted from Australia by Padma Newsome, done it so many ways Bryce despaired, “It’s a riddle we can’t solve.”
This is exactly what we’ve been going through with Salter Cane. For about a year we had a song that had been defying us, stubbornly refusing to reach that breakthrough moment where it all seems to come together. We took a break from the song for a while and when we came back to it, we tried approaching it as a new piece. That seems to be working. It’s finally coming together.
In the end we realised that we trying to make the song into something bigger than it needed to be. Sometimes it’s okay for a song to be small and simple. That seems to be the case with Lemonworld:
Matt said afterward, “we tried so hard and it always seemed to fail as a rock song. It lost the charm of the ugly little demo. Now it’s the ugliest, worst-mixed, least-polished song on the record, and it took the longest to get there.”
I think that Lemonworld is a strong song. It even stands up to be being butchered by me on the bouzouki.
Thursday, July 14th, 2011
It’s hard to believe that it’s been half a decade since The Show from Ze Frank graced our tubes with its daily updates. Five years ago to the day, he recorded the greatest three minutes of speech ever committed to video.
In the midst of his challenge to find the ugliest MySpace page ever, he received this comment:
Having an ugly Myspace contest is like having a contest to see who can eat the most cheeseburgers in 24 hours… You’re mocking people who, for the most part, have no taste or artistic training.
Ze’s response is a manifesto to the democratic transformative disruptive power of the web. It is magnificent.
In Myspace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made templates that “work” in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool.
Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to make your Myspace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it’s possible that completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic ability.
That’s one of the reasons why I dread the inevitable GeoCities-style shutdown of MySpace. Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time. And when it does get shut down, we will forever lose a treasure trove of self-expression on a scale never seen before in the history of the planet. That’s so much more important than whether it’s ugly or not. As Phil wrote about the ugly and neglected fragments of Geocities:
GeoCities is an awful, ugly, decrepit mess. And this is why it will be sorely missed. It’s not only a fine example of the amateur web vernacular but much of it is an increasingly rare example of a period web vernacular. GeoCities sites show what normal, non-designer, people will create if given the tools available around the turn of the millennium.
Substitute MySpace for GeoCities and you get an idea of the loss we are facing.
Let’s not make the same mistake twice.