A genuinely interesting (and droll) deep dive into derp learning …for typography!
Tuesday, April 6th, 2021
Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
I don’t think I agree with Don Knuth’s argument here from a 2014 lecture, but I do like how he sets out his table:
Why do I, as a scientist, get so much out of reading the history of science? Let me count the ways:
- To understand the process of discovery—not so much what was discovered, but how it was discovered.
- To understand the process of failure.
- To celebrate the contributions of many cultures.
- Telling historical stories is the best way to teach.
- To learn how to cope with life.
- To become more familiar with the world, and to know how science fits into the overall history of mankind.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2020
I think that working on your own website can be a good Forever Project.
It’s an open-ended topic that you can explore for a long time without running out of challenges.
Also, this is spot-on:
Compare two different situations where you tell a story at a party. In the first situation, you tell the story in a corner to one or two people, who are totally interested and smiling. In the second situation, you tell the story in the center of the party with a large group of people around you, but they’re almost all bored and uninterested, talking amongst themselves and largely ignoring you. The first situation sounds better, right? Well, that’s the non-obvious benefit of blogging. There are a load of people out there blogging, and almost all of them are better writers and better looking than you. Nobody is going to read your blog about frabulizing widgets unless they really care about frabulizing widgets. So it’s not going to be a big audience, but it should be an interested audience. And I think you’ll find that you get 90% of the benefits of socialization from a handful of readers as you would get from a sea of readers.
Monday, December 14th, 2020
This is a truly wonderful web page! It’s an explanation from first principles of how cameras and lenses work.
Then you realise that every post ever published on this personal site is equally in-depth and uses the same content-first progressive enhancement approach.
Tuesday, December 8th, 2020
Tuesday, November 17th, 2020
Zonelets is a simple HTML blogging engine with scrappy, DIY spirit! I made it because I really want everyone to blog, but I felt that the existing options were generally overcomplicated and commercially-focused in a way that made web creativity feel intimidating and arcane.
I love the philosophy behind this blogging tool, which actively encourages you to learn a little bit of HTML:
Plenty of services can help you to “create a professional-looking website without writing a single line of code.” Now, thanks to Zonelets, you can create an UNPROFESSIONAL-looking website by writing NUMEROUS lines of code!
Sunday, November 1st, 2020
A people’s history of copying, from art to software.
Designers copy. We steal like great artists. But when we see a copy of our work, we’re livid.
Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
This is a nifty visual interactive explainer for the language of CSS—could be very handy for Codebar students.
Friday, July 17th, 2020
Having your independent blog is an excellent way to share what you think in a decentralized way, independent of any major company that may add a paywall to it (Medium, I am looking at you).
Friday, July 10th, 2020
An excellent and clear explanation of specificity in CSS.
Friday, June 12th, 2020
A really great one-page guide to HTML from Bruce. I like his performance-focused intro:
If your site is based on good HTML, it will load fast. Browsers incrementally render HTML—that is, they will display a partially downloaded web page to the user while the browser awaits the remaining files from the server.
Sunday, June 7th, 2020
There’s a voice inside your head that prevents you from sharing ideas—punch it in the face. - Airbag Industries
When I challenge the idea of topics—especially when I suggest writing about a design topic—the “I don’t know what to write about” excuse goes to level two: Someone has already written about [design topic]. And that might be true, but by Great Gutenberg’s Ghost, if that was a hard requirement for publishing, we’d have one newspaper, a few magazines, and maybe a thousand books. Hollywood would be a ghost town because we got to the end of all of the movie tropes by 1989. We’d have seventy-five songs with lyrics, but re-recorded in every music style and everyone would still hate Yanni. The point is you can’t let the people who have come before you be the excuse to stop you from writing or, frankly, creating.
Monday, June 1st, 2020
A great explanation of the curse of knowledge …with science!
(This, by the way, is the first of 100 blog posts that Matthias is writing in 100 days.)
Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
This is a lovely little interview with Cassie—it really is an honour and a privilege to work with her!
Note that John is a computer scientist that knows a fair bit about the Web: He had Node & npm installed, he knew what MIME types are, he could start a localhost when needed. What hope do actual novices have?
I think it’s even worse than that. Not only are potential new devs being put off ever getting started, I know plenty of devs with experience who have pushed out by the overwhelming and needless complexity of the modern web’s toolchain. It’s like a constant gaslighting where any expression of unease is summarily dismissed as being the whinings of “the old guard” who just won’t get with the programme.
John gives up. Concludes never to touch Node, npm, or ES6 modules with a barge pole.
(Just watch as Lea’s post gets written off as an edge case.)
Monday, May 4th, 2020
Thursday, April 30th, 2020
I was on the podcast A Question Of Code recently. It was fun! The podcast is aimed at people who are making a career change into web development, so it’s right up my alley.
I sometimes get asked about what a new starter should learn. On the podcast, I mentioned a post I wrote a while back with links to some great resources and tutorials. As I said then:
That’s assuming you want to be a good well-rounded web developer. But it might be that you need to get a job as quickly as possible. In that case, my advice would be very different. I would advise you to learn React.
Regardless of your initial route, what’s the next step? How do you go from starting out in web development to being a top-notch web developer?
I don’t consider myself to be a top-notch web developer (far from it), but I am very fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some tippety-top-notch developers at Clearleft—Trys, Cassie, Danielle, Mark, Graham, Charlotte, Andy, and Natalie.
They—and other top-notch developers I’m fortunate to know—have something in common. They prioritise users. Sure, they’ll all have their favourite technologies and specialised areas, but they don’t lose sight of who they’re building for.
When you think about it, there’s quite a power imbalance between users and developers on the web. Users can—ideally—choose which web browser to use, and maybe make some preference changes if they know where to look, but that’s about it. Developers dictate everything else—the technology that a website will use, the sheer amount of code shipped over the network to the user, whether the site will be built in a fragile or a resilient way. Users are dependent on developers, but developers don’t always act in the best interests of users. It’s a classic example of the principal-agent problem:
The principal–agent problem, in political science and economics (also known as agency dilemma or the agency problem) occurs when one person or entity (the “agent”), is able to make decisions and/or take actions on behalf of, or that impact, another person or entity: the “principal”. This dilemma exists in circumstances where agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals, and is an example of moral hazard.
A top-notch developer never forgets that they are an agent, and that the user is the principal.
But is it realistic to expect web developers to be so focused on user needs? After all, there’s a whole separate field of user experience design that specialises in this focus. It hardly seems practical to suggest that a top-notch developer needs to first become a good UX designer. There’s already plenty to focus on when it comes to just the technology side of front-end development.
So maybe this is too simplistic a way of defining the principle-agent relationship between users and developers:
user :: developer
There’s something that sits in between, mediating that relationship. It’s a piece of software that in the world of web standards is even referred to as a “user agent”: the web browser.
user :: web browser :: developer
So if making the leap to understanding users seems too much of a stretch, there’s an intermediate step. Get to know how web browsers work. As a web developer, if you know what web browsers “like” and “dislike”, you’re well on the way to making great user experiences. If you understand the pain points for browser when they’re parsing and rendering your code, you’ve got a pretty good proxy for understanding the pain points that your users are experiencing.
Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
I really enjoyed having a chat with Ed and Tom on their podcast. It’s aimed at people making a career shift into web development, but that didn’t stop me banging on about my usual hobby horses: progressive enhancement, resilient web design, and all that jazz.
Monday, April 20th, 2020
I love how Remy explains front-end development to his kids:
The bones are the HTML. Each bone has a name, we call them tags (or elements).
…the skin and the paint on the skin, this is CSS.
Sunday, March 15th, 2020
CSS only truly exists in a browser. As soon as we start writing CSS outside of the browser, we rely on guesses and memorization and an intimate understanding of the rules. A text editor will never be able to provide as much information as a browser can.