Thursday, February 21st, 2019
Saturday, February 16th, 2019
Nine people came together at CERN for five days and made something amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.
Coming into this, I thought it was hugely ambitious to try to not only recreate the experience of using the first ever web browser (called WorldWideWeb, later Nexus), but to also try to document the historical context of the time. Now that it’s all done, I’m somewhat astounded that we managed to achieve both.
Want to see the final result? Here you go:
That’s the website we built. The call to action is hard to miss:
Behold! A simulation of using the first ever web browser, recreated inside your web browser.
Now you could try clicking around on the links on the opening doucment—remembering that you need to double-click on links to activate them—but you’ll quickly find that most of them don’t work. They’re long gone. So it’s probably going to be more fun to open a new page to use as your starting point. Here’s how you do that:
Documentfrom the menu options on the left.
- A new menu will pop open. Select
Open from full document reference.
- Type a URL, like, say
- Press that lovely chunky
You are now surfing the web through a decades-old interface. Double click on a link to open it. You’ll notice that it opens in a new window. You’ll also notice that there’s no way of seeing the current URL. Back then, the idea was that you would navigate primarily by clicking on links, creating your own “associative trails”, as first envisioned by Vannevar Bush.
But the WorldWideWeb application wasn’t just a browser. It was a Hypermedia Browser/Editor.
- From that
Documentmenu you opened, select
- Type the name of your file; something like
- Start editing the heading and the text.
- In the main
- Now focus the window with the document you opened earlier (adactio.com).
- With that window’s title bar in focus, choose
Mark allfrom the
- Go back to your
test.htmldocument, and highlight a piece of text.
- With that text highlighted, click on
Link to markedfrom the
If you want, you can even save the hypertext document you created. Under the
Document menu there’s an option to
Save a copy offline (this is the one place where the wording of the menu item isn’t exactly what was in the original WorldWideWeb application). Save the file so you can open it up in a text editor and see what the markup would’ve looked it.
I don’t know about you, but I find this utterly immersive and fascinating. Imagine what it must’ve been like to browse, create, and edit like this. Hypertext existed before the web, but it was confined to your local hard drive. Here, for the first time, you could create links across networks!
After five days time-travelling back thirty years, I have a new-found appreciation for what Tim Berners-Lee created. But equally, I’m in awe of what my friends created thirty years later.
Of course Mark wanted to make sure the font was as accurate as possible. He and Brian went down quite a rabbit hole, and with remote help from David Jonathan Ross, they ended up recreating entire families of fonts.
Through it all, Craig and Martin put together the accomanying website. Personally, I think the website is freaking awesome—it’s packed with fascinating information! Check out the family tree of browsers that Craig made.
Tuesday, December 18th, 2018
Well, this looks like it could come in handy—no more tedious time in Photoshop trying to select turn a person into a separate layer by hand; this does it for you.
Monday, October 1st, 2018
If you must add a rich text editor to an interface, this open source offering from Basecamp looks good.
Friday, August 3rd, 2018
This is an interesting tool: mess around with styles on any site inside Chrome’s dev tools, and then hit a button to have the updated styles saved to a URL (a Gist on Github).
Tuesday, April 17th, 2018
Two technical editors worked with me on Going Offline.
Jake was one of the tech editors. He literally (co-)wrote the spec on service workers. There ain’t nuthin’ he don’t know about the code involved. His job was to catch any technical inaccuracies in my writing.
I deliberately didn’t wait until I was an expert in this topic before writing Going Offline. I knew that the more familiar I became with the ins-and-outs of getting a service worker up and running, the harder it would be for me to remember what it was like not to know that stuff. I figured the best way to avoid the curse of knowledge would be not to accrue too much of it. But then once I started researching and writing, I inevitably became more au fait with the topic. I had to try to battle against that, trying to keep a beginner’s mind.
My watchword was this great piece of advice from Codebar:
Assume that anyone you’re teaching has no knowledge but infinite intelligence.
It was tricky. I’m still not sure if I managed to pull off the balancing act, although early reports are very, very encouraging. You’ll be able to judge for yourself soon enough. The book is shipping at the start of next week. Get your order in now.
Sunday, November 19th, 2017
A plug-in that lets multiple people collaborate on the same document in Atom. Could be useful for hackdays and workshops.
This is quite impressive—you edit the audio file by editing the transcript!
Thursday, May 18th, 2017
Lea has also written an introductory article on Smashing Mag.
Thursday, March 30th, 2017
Jon’s site is very clever …but is it as clever as Joe’s?
Monday, March 6th, 2017
Thinking of writing a book? Here’s some excellent advice and insights from Yaili, who only went and wrote another one.
Let me say this first: writing a book is hard work. It eats up all of your free time and mental space. It makes you feel like you are forever procrastinating and producing very little. It makes you not enjoy any free time. It’s like having a dark cloud hanging over your head at all times. At. All. Times.
Sunday, May 15th, 2016
I have a new role at Clearleft. It’s not a full-time role. It’s in addition to my existing role of …um …whatever it is I do at Clearleft.
Anyway, my new part-time role is that of being a content buddy. Sounds a little dismissive when I put it like that. Let me put in capitals…
My new part-time role is that of being a Content Buddy.
This is Ellen’s idea. She’s been recruiting Content Guardians and Content Buddies. The Guardians will be responsible for coaxing content out of people, encouraging to write that blog post, article, or case study. The role of the Content Buddy is to help shepherd those pieces into the world.
I have let it be known throughout the office that I am available—day or night, rain or shine—for proof-reading, editing, and general brain-storming and rubber-ducking.
On my first official day as a Content Buddy on Friday I helped Ben polish off a really good blog post (watch this space), listened to a first run-through of Charlotte’s upcoming talk at the Up Front conference in Manchester (which is shaping up to be most excellent), and got together with Paul for a mutual brainstorming session for future conference talks. The fact that Paul is no longer a full-time employee at Clearleft is a mere technicality—Content Buddies for life!
Paul is preparing a talk on design systems for Smashing Conference in Freiburg in September. I’m preparing a talk on the
A element for the HTML Special part of CSS Day in Amsterdam in just one month’s time (gulp!). We had both already done a bit of mind-mapping to get a jumble of ideas down on paper. We learned that from Ellen’s excellent workshop.
Then we started throwing ideas back and forth, offering suggestions, and spotting patterns. Once we had lots of discrete chunks of stuff outlined (but no idea how to piece them together), we did some short intense spurts of writing using the fiendish TheMostDangerousWritingApp.com. I looked at Paul’s mind map, chose a topic from it for him, and he had to write on that non-stop for three to five minutes. Meanwhile he picked a topic from my mind map and I had to do the same. It was exhausting but also exhilarating. Very quickly we had chunks of content that we could experiment with, putting them in together in different ways to find different narrative threads. I might experiment with publishing them as short standalone blog posts.
The point was not to have polished, finished content but rather to get to the “shitty first draft” stage quickly. We were following Hemingway’s advice:
Write drunk, edit sober.
…but not literally. Mind you, I could certainly imagine combining beer o’clock on Fridays with Content Buddiness. That wasn’t an option on this particular Friday though, as I had to run off to band practice with Salter Cane. A very different, and altogether darker form of content creation.
Monday, June 29th, 2015
100 words 099
This is the penultimate post in my 100 days project.
I’ve had quite a few people tell me how much they’re enjoying reading my hundred word posts. I thank them. Then I check: “You know they’re exactly 100 words long, right?”
“Really?” they respond. “I didn’t realise!”
“But that’s the whole point!” I say. The clue is in the name. It’s not around 100 words—it’s exactly 100 words every day for 100 days.
That’s the real challenge: not just the writing, but the editing, rearranging, and condensing.
After all, it’s not as if I can just stop in the
Saturday, May 9th, 2015
This is nifty—Nicholas is also going for the 100 words exercise that I’ve been doing.
Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
100 words 002
I want to know how it feels to write every day. But it’s not really just about writing. It’s about writing within constraints.
Design requires constraints. It’s a tired old cliché, but there’s something to it. Without constraints, is design even possible? Or is it then art? (not there’s anything wrong with art; I’m just trying to differentiate it from design: notice I didn’t say “just” art.)
The 140 characters of a tweet. The column inches of a newspaper story. The width of a button on an interface. These are all constraints.
It’s not just about writing. It’s about editing.
Thursday, May 15th, 2014
A truly wonderful piece by Mandy detailing why and how she writes, edits, and publishes on her own website:
No one owns this domain but me, and no one but me can take it down. I will not wake up one morning to discover that my service has been “sunsetted” and I have some days or weeks to export my data (if I have that at all). These URLs will never break.
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
From the lovely people behind Editorially comes STET:
A Writers’ Journal on Culture & Technology
Monday, February 11th, 2013
A collaborative writing tool built by a dream team. I’ve been using it for a while now and it’s very nice indeed.
Saturday, January 14th, 2012
A superb rallying cry from Mandy on the importance of markup literacy for professionals publishing on the web: writers, journalists, and most importantly, editors.