Thursday, July 20th, 2017
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
The magical and the mundane
The iPhone—and by extension, the smartphone—is a decade old. Ian Bogost has written an interesting piece in The Atlantic charting our changing relationship with the technology.
First, it was like a toy dog:
A device that could be cared for, and conspicuously so.
Then, it was like a cigarette:
A nervous tic, facilitated by a handheld apparatus that releases relief when operated.
Later, it was like a rosary:
Its toy-dog quirks having been tamed, its compulsive nature having been accepted, the iPhone became the magic wand by which all worldly actions could be performed, all possible information acquired.
Finally, it simply becomes …a rectangle.
Abstract, as a shape. Flat, as a surface. But suggestive of so much. A table for community. A door for entry, or for exit. A window for looking out of, or a picture for looking into. A movie screen for distraction, or a cradle for comfort, or a bed for seduction.
Technology tweaks our desire for novelty; but as soon as we get it we’re usually bored. There are no technologies that I can think of that haven’t become mundane.
This is something I touched on in my talk last year at An Event Apart. There’s a thread throughout the talk about Arthur C. Clarke, and of course I quote his third law:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I propose an addendum to that:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic at first.
The magical quickly becomes the mundane. That’s exactly the point that Louis CK is making in the piece that Ben references.
Seven years ago Frank wrote his wonderful essay There Is A Horse In The Apple Store:
I have a term called a “tiny pony.” It is a thing that is exceptional that no one, for whatever reason, notices. Or, conversely, it is an exceptional thing that everyone notices, but quickly grows acclimated to despite the brilliance of it all.
We are surrounded by magical tiny ponies. I mean, just think: right now you are reading some words at a URL on the World Wide Web. Even more magically, I just published some words at my own URL on the World Wide Web. That still blows my mind! I hope I never lose that feeling.
Friday, July 14th, 2017
This looks like a sensible way to detect if the user is offline, and provide appropriate feedback, like making certain links or forms inactive.
Thanks to jQuery, you probably don’t need jQuery. Just look at all these methods that started life in jQuery, that are now part of the standardised DOM API:
Thursday, July 13th, 2017
This primer on progressive web apps starts by dispelling some myths:
- Your thing does not have to be an “Application” to be a PWA.
- PWAs are not specifically made for Google or Android.
- PWAs are ready and safe to use today.
Then it describes the three-step programme for turning your thing into a progressive web app:
- The Manifest.
- Go HTTPS.
- The Service Worker.
Tuesday, July 11th, 2017
We don’t want the field to de-democratize and become the province solely of those who can slog through a computer science degree.
So we need new tools that let everyone see, understand, and remix today’s web. We need, in other words, to reboot the culture of View Source.
Wednesday, July 5th, 2017
A series of posts on the decisions and trade-offs involved in being a tech lead:
I think good tech leads spend a lot of their time somewhere in between the two extremes, adjusting the balance as circumstances demand.
Tuesday, July 4th, 2017
Dave explains how Jekyll Includes are starting to convert him to web components. The encapsulation is nice and neat. And he answers the inevitable “but why not use React?” question:
I like that Web Components are an entirely client-side technology but can be rendered server-side in existing tech stacks whether it’s Jekyll, Rails, or even some Enterprise Java system.
Monday, July 3rd, 2017
Paul has published the slides and transcript of his knock-out talk at Patterns Day. This a must-read: superb stuff!
Design systems are an attempt to add a layer of logic and reasoning over a series decisions made by complex, irrational, emotional human beings. As such, they are subject to individual perspectives, biases, and aspirations.
How does the culture in which they are made effect the resulting design?
If you feel you are being watched, you change your behavior. Big Data is supercharging this effect.
Some interesting ideas, but the tone is so alarming as to render the message meaningless.
As our weaknesses are mapped, we are becoming too transparent. This is breeding a society where self-censorship and risk-aversion are the new normal.
I stopped reading at the point where the danger was compared to climate change.
Steven Johnson dives deep into the METI project, starting with the Arecibo message and covering Lincos, the Drake equation, and the Fermi paradox.
He also wrote about what he left out of the article and mentions that he’s writing a book on long-term decision making.
In a sense, the METI debate runs parallel to other existential decisions that we will be confronting in the coming decades, as our technological and scientific powers increase. Should we create superintelligent machines that exceed our own intellectual capabilities by such a wide margin that we cease to understand how their intelligence works? Should we ‘‘cure’’ death, as many technologists are proposing? Like METI, these are potentially among the most momentous decisions human beings will ever make, and yet the number of people actively participating in those decisions — or even aware such decisions are being made — is minuscule.
You are on a website. There are exits to the north, south, east and west.
Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
This is a really great screencast on getting started with React. I think it works well for a few reasons:
- Sarah and Chris aren’t necessarily experts yet in React—that’s good; it means they know from experience what “gotchas” people will encounter.
- They use a practical use-case (a comment form) that’s suited to the technology.
- By doing it all in CodePen, they avoid the disheartening slog of installation and build tools—compare it to this introduction to React.
- They make mistakes. There’s so much to be learned from people sharing “Oh, I thought it would work like that, but it actually works like this.”
There’s a little bit of “here’s one I prepared earlier” but, on the whole, it’s a great step-by-step approach, and one I’ll be returning to if and when I dip my toes into React.
Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
Charlotte shares her thoughts on the elements of a fruitful mentorship:
- Learn from each other
- Find the right level of challenge
- Reach out
- Meet with intent
- Offer feedback and ask for feedback
Sunday, June 25th, 2017
A great collection of learned lessons from implementing service workers.
I really, really like it when people share their own personal experiences and “gotchas!” like this.
Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
A handy tool with some pre-made CSS clip paths that you can then tweak to your heart’s desire.
Analysing what the web is. It’s not the technology stack.
To count as being part of the web, your app or page must:
- Be linkable, and
- Allow any client to access it.
I think that’s a pretty good definition.
Mind you, I think this is a bit rich in an article published on The Verge:
The HTML web may be slow and annoying and processor intensive, but before we rush too fast into replacing it, let’s not lose what’s good about it.
Still, we can agree on this:
Preserving the web, or more specifically the open principles behind it, means protecting one of the few paths for innovation left in the modern tech world that doesn’t have a giant company acting as a gatekeeper.
Monday, June 12th, 2017
The transcript of Josh’s fantastic talk on machine learning, voice, data, APIs, and all the other tools of algorithmic design:
The design and presentation of data is just as important as the underlying algorithm. Algorithmic interfaces are a huge part of our future, and getting their design right is critical—and very, very hard to do.
Josh put together ten design principles for conceiving, designing, and managing data-driven products. I’ve added them to my collection.
- Favor accuracy over speed
- Allow for ambiguity
- Add human judgment
- Advocate sunshine
- Embrace multiple systems
- Make it easy to contribute (accurate) data
- Root out bias and bad assumptions
- Give people control over their data
- Be loyal to the user
- Take responsibility
Friday, June 9th, 2017