As designers, with every new project we tend to leverage existing symbols and reinforce their meaning to be able to benefit from mental associations people will naturally make. But we also have the power to modify and repurpose those symbols, should that be our intention.
Thursday, September 15th, 2022
Wednesday, September 14th, 2022
Software quality is more the result of a system designed to produce quality, and not so much the result of individual performance. That is: a group of mediocre programmers working with a structure designed to produce quality will produce better software than a group of fantastic programmers working in a system designed with other goals.
This talks about development, but I believe it applies equally—if not more—to design.
And this is very insightful:
Instead of spending tons of time and effort on hiring because you believe that you can “only hire the best”, direct some of that effort towards building a system that produces great results out of a wider spectrum of individual performance.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2022
I believe we aren’t nostalgic for the technology, or the aesthetic, or even the open web ethos. What we’re nostalgic for is a time when outsiders were given a chance to do something fun, off to the side and left alone, because mainstream culture had no idea what the hell to do with this thing that was right in front of it.
Thursday, July 14th, 2022
The history of humanity in food and recipes.
The timeline of this website is equally impressive—it’s been going since 1999!
Monday, June 27th, 2022
Everything old is new again:
In our current “information age,” or so the story goes, we suffer in new and unique ways.
But the idea that modern life, and particularly modern technology, harms as well as helps, is deeply embedded in Western culture: In fact, the Victorians diagnosed very similar problems in their own society.
Sunday, June 5th, 2022
The Cello and the Nightingales: How the World’s First Fake News United Humanity in Our First Collective Experience of Empathy for Nature – The Marginalian
Decades before fiber optic cable spanned the bottom of the ocean to link continents, the airborne voice of a spring songbird did.
Mario Popova writes of an interspecies broadcast:
Those were the early days of broadcasting and recorded music, when the technology was both too primitive and too expensive to make the joy of music as ambient as air; the days before we made our Faustian deal with the technocrats who made music cheap and musicians poor so that we could stream it anytime anywhere with no recompense or thought of the souls from which the stream pours.
Saturday, June 4th, 2022
The web was born to distribute information on computers, but the technology industry can never leave well enough alone. It needs to make everything into software. To the point that your internet browser is basically no longer a magical book of links but a virtual machine that can simulate a full-fledged computer.
Wednesday, June 1st, 2022
How a writing system went from being a dream (literally) to a reality, codified in unicode.
Sunday, May 29th, 2022
Cardigans are not entirely necessary for a show or a film to fit within the Cardigan sci-fi subgenre (although they certainly help). It’s the lack of polish in the world, it’s the absence of technological fetishism in the science fiction itself. The science or the tools or the spaceships do not sit at the heart of Cardigan sci-fi — it’s all about the people that wear the cardigans instead.
Sunday, May 22nd, 2022
Trial, Triumph, and the Art of the Possible: The Remarkable Story Behind Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” – The Marginalian
An ode to an ode. Both of them beautiful.
Monday, April 25th, 2022
I went to TEDxBrighton on Friday. I didn’t actually realise it was happening until just a couple of days beforehand, but I once I knew, I figured I should take advantage of it being right here in my own town.
All in all, it was a terrific day. The MCing by Adam Pearson was great—just the right mix of enthusiasm and tongue-in-cheek humour. The curation of the line-up worked well too. The day was broken up into four loosely-themed sections. As I’m currently in the process of curating an event myself, I can appreciate how challenging it is.
Each section opened with a musical act. Again, having been involved behind the scenes with many events myself, I was impressed by the audaciousness, just from a logistical perspective. It all went relatively smoothly.
The talks at a TED or TEDx event can be a mixed bag. You can have a scientist on stage distilling years of research into a succint message followed by someone talking nonsense about some pseudo-psychological self-help scheme. But at TEDxBrighton, we lucked out.
A highlight for me was Dr James Mannion talking about implementation science—something that felt directly applicable to design work. Victoria Jenkins was also terrific, and again, her points about inclusive design felt very relevant. And of course I really enjoyed the space-based talks by Melissa Thorpe and Bianca Cefalo. Now that I think about it, just about everyone was great: Katie Vincent, Lewis Wedlock, Dina Nayeri—they all wowed me.
With one exception. There was a talk that was supposed to be about the future of democracy. In reality it quickly veered into DAOs before descending into a pitch for crypto and NFTs. The call to action was literally for everyone in the audience to go out and get a crypto wallet and buy an NFT …using ethereum no less! We were exhorted to use an unbelievably wasteful and energy-intensive proof-of-work technology to get our hands on a receipt for a JPG …from the same stage that would later highlight the work of climate activists like Tommie Eaton. It was really quite disgusting. The fear-based message of the talk was literally about getting in on the scheme before it’s too late. At one point we were told to “do the research.” I’m surprised we weren’t all told that we’re “not going to make it.”
A disgraceful shill for a ponzi scheme would’ve ruined any other event. Fortunately the line-up at TEDxBrighton was so strong that one scam artist couldn’t torpedo the day. Just like crypto itself—and associated bollocks like NFTs and web3—it was infuriating to have to sit through it in the short term, but then it just faded away into insignificance. One desperate peddler of snake oil couldn’t make a dent in an otherwise great day.
Monday, April 11th, 2022
Time and again, organizations have sought to contain software’s most troublesome tendencies—its habit of sprawling beyond timelines and measurable goals—by introducing new management styles. And for a time, it looked as though companies had found in Agile the solution to keeping developers happily on task while also working at a feverish pace. Recently, though, some signs are emerging that Agile’s power may be fading. A new moment of reckoning is in the making, one that may end up knocking Agile off its perch.
Monday, April 4th, 2022
Imagine a world without hyperlinks or search:
Take WeChat as an example. It is home to the vast majority of China’s original writing, and yet:
- It doesn’t allow any external links;
- Its posts are not indexed by search engines such as Google or Baidu, and its own search engine is practically useless;
- You can’t check the author’s other posts if open the page outside of the WeChat app. In other words, each WeChat article is an orphan, not linked to anything else on the Internet, not even the author’s previous work.
Search engine indexing is key to content discovery in the knowledge creation domain, but in a mobile-first world, it is extremely difficult to pull content across the walled gardens, whether or not there is a profit incentive to do so.
Again, the issue here is not censorship. Had China relaxed its speech restrictions, a search start-up would’ve faced the same level of resistance from content platforms when trying to index their content, and content platforms would’ve been equally reluctant to create their own search engines, as they could serve ads and profit without a functional search engine.
Tuesday, January 11th, 2022
Firefox as the asphyxiating canary in the coalmine of the web.
Monday, January 3rd, 2022
I sometimes imagine a chair made by someone who sits all twisted. Sitting in that chair yourself, you couldn’t help but to sit in the same way.
When a designer designs an object, their stance will be encoded and transmitted to the user. Imposed.
Is culture really passed on like this, not just with chairs or superheroes, but in a general sense?
Thursday, December 16th, 2021
So when it comes down to the root of the problem, perhaps it isn’t CSS itself but our unwillingness to examine our sexist ideas of what is worthy in web development.
Tuesday, December 7th, 2021
We are so excited by the idea of machines that can write, and create art, and compose music, with seemingly little regard for how many wells of creativity sit untapped because many of us spend the best hours of our days toiling away, and even more can barely fulfill basic needs for food, shelter, and water. I can’t help but wonder how rich our lives could be if we focused a little more on creating conditions that enable all humans to exercise their creativity as much as we would like robots to be able to.
Tuesday, September 7th, 2021
A profile of Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Friday, September 3rd, 2021
On the detail and world-building in 40 years of William Gibson’s work.
Tuesday, August 17th, 2021
Letters to a Young Technologist is a collection of essays addressed to young technologists, written by a group of young technologists.