Thursday, February 9th, 2017
Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
A weekly list of short, concrete actions to defend the weak, rebuild civic institutions, and fight right-wing extremism. For UK people.
Thursday, January 5th, 2017
So if AMP is useful it’s because it raises the stakes. If we (news developers) don’t figure out faster ways to load our pages for readers, then we’re going to lose a lot of magic.
A number of developers answered questions on the potential effects of Google’s AMP project. This answer resonates a lot with my own feelings:
AMP is basically web performance best practices dressed up as a file format. That’s a very clever solution to what is, at heart, a cultural problem: when management (in one form or another) comes to the CMS team at a news organization and asks to add more junk to the site, saying “we can’t do that because AMP” is a much more powerful argument than trying to explain why a pop-over “Like us on Facebook!” modal is driving our readers to drink.
But the danger is that AMP turns into a long-term “solution” instead of a stop-gap:
So in a sense, the best possible outcome is that AMP is disruptive enough to shake the boardroom into understanding the importance of performance in platform decisions (and making the hard business decisions this demands), but that developers are allowed to implement those decisions in standard HTML instead of adding yet another delivery format to their export pipeline.
The ideal situation looks a lot more like Tim’s proposal:
Saturday, October 8th, 2016
The 1978 short film Farewell, etaoin shrdlu documents the changeover from linotype to digital typesetting at The New York Times.
An evenhanded treatment of the unremitting march of technological progress, Weiss’s film about an outmoded craft is stylistically vintage yet also immediate in its investigation of modernity.
Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
Chris runs through the process and pitfalls of POSSEing a site (like CSS Tricks) to Apple’s News app, Facebook’s Instant Articles, and Google’s AMP.
Hey, whatever you want. As long as…
- It’s not very much work
- The content’s canonical home is my website.
I just want people to read and like CSS-Tricks.
Saturday, August 6th, 2016
On August 6th, 1991, Tim Berners-Lee sent a message to alt.hypertext newsgroup announcing his WorldWideWeb project.
Thursday, July 21st, 2016
A newsletter dedicated to all things related to design systems, style guides, and pattern libraries.
Monday, April 25th, 2016
A transatlantic cable, hurrah!
Saturday, October 17th, 2015
Why Atavist is betting on the web. See also:
Monday, March 30th, 2015
100 words 008
Some sea lions bellow,
Some crawl on top of others
As they crowd onto a raft
At the Astoria, Oregon
Municipal mooring docks.
What a beautiful poem! I found it captioning an image on the front page of The Seattle Times newspaper which was left outside my hotel room. The image illustrates a story about sea lions; how the sea lion population is doing great, and how that might spell trouble for the salmon population.
On a March morning,
Federal, state and university biologists
Clear space at the Astoria dock
For a day of research.
Animal news poetry.
Monday, March 23rd, 2015
The responsive BBC News site is live! Hurrah!
Here’s a look at the highs and lows of the site’s story, emphasising the importance of progressive enhancement and all that enables: feature detection (by “cutting the mustard”), conditional loading, and a mobile-first approach.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
The Guardian have hit the big red button and made their responsive site the default. Great stuff!
(top tip: don’t read the comments)
Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Dan has started writing up what he did on his Summer hols …on a container ship travelling to China.
It is, of course, in the form of an email newsletter because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.
Friday, November 14th, 2014
A friendly challenge from The Grey Lady for news sites to enable TLS.
Make a commitment to have your site fully on HTTPS by the end of 2015 and pledge your support with the hashtag #https2015.
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
When I wrote about Reddit and Hacker News, criticising their lack of moderation, civility, and basic decency, many people (invariably men) responded in defence of Reddit. Nobody defended Hacker News. Nobody.
Oh, and all of you people (men) defending Reddit? Here’s your party line …I find it abhorrent.
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Security for all
Throughout the Brighton Digital Festival, Lighthouse Arts will be exhibiting a project from Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev called Newstweek. If you’re in town for dConstruct—and you should be—you ought to stop by and check it out.
It’s a mischievous little hardware hack intended for use in places with public WiFi. If you’ve got a Newstweek device, you can alter the content of web pages like, say, BBC News. Cheeky!
There’s one catch though. Newstweek works on
http:// domains, not
https://. This is exactly the scenario that Jake has been talking about:
SSL is also useful to ensure the data you’re receiving hasn’t been tampered with. It’s not just for user->server stuff
eg, when you visit http://www.theguardian.com/uk , you don’t really know it hasn’t been modified to tell a different story
There’s another good reason for switching to TLS. It would make life harder for GCHQ and the NSA—not impossible, but harder. It’s not a panacea, but it would help make our collectively-held network more secure, as per RFC 7258 from the Internet Engineering Task Force:
Pervasive monitoring is a technical attack that should be mitigated in the design of IETF protocols, where possible.
I’m all for using
https:// instead of
http:// but there’s a problem. It’s bloody difficult!
If you’re a sysadmin type that lives in the command line, then it’s probably not difficult at all. But for the rest of us mere mortals who just want to publish something on the web, it’s intimidatingly daunting.
It’ll cost you <$100/yr plus a half-hour of server reconfiguration. I don’t see any excuse not to.
…but then, he also thought that anyone who can’t make a syndication feed that’s well-formed XML is an incompetent fool (whereas I ended up creating an entire service to save people from having to make RSS feeds by hand).
Google are now making SSL a ranking factor in their search results, which is their prerogative. If it results in worse search results, other search engines are available. But I don’t think it will have significant impact. Jake again:
if two pages have equal ranking except one is served securely, which do you think should appear first in results?
Google will be promoting SSL sites above those without, effectively doing the exact same thing we’re upset about the lack of net neutrality.
I don’t think that’s quite fair: if Google were an ISP slowing down
http:// requests, that would be extremely worrying, but tweaking its already-opaque search algorithm isn’t quite the same.
Mind you, I do like this suggestion:
I think if Google is going to penalize you for not having SSL they should become a CA and issue free certs.
I’m more concerned by the discussions at Chrome and Mozilla about flagging up
http:// connections as unsafe. While the approach is technically correct, I fear it could have the opposite of its intended effect. With so many sites still served over
http://, users would be bombarded with constant messages of unsafe connections. Before long they would develop security blindness in much the same way that we’ve all developed banner-ad blindness.
My main issue—apart from the fact that I personally don’t have the necessary smarts to enable TLS—is related to what Ashe is concerned about:
Businesses and individuals who both know about and can afford to have SSL in place will be ranked above those who don’t/can’t.
It’s already too damn complex to register a domain and host a website. Adding one more roadblock isn’t going to help that situation. Just ask Drew and Rachel what it’s like trying to just make sure that their customers have a version of PHP from this decade.
I want a secure web. I’d really like the web to be
https:// only. But until we get there, I really don’t like the thought of the web being divided into the haves and have-nots.
There is an enormous opportunity here, as John pointed out on a recent episode of The Web Ahead. Getting TLS set up is a pain point for a lot of people, not just me. Where there’s pain, there’s an opportunity to provide a service that removes the pain. Services like Squarespace are already taking the pain out of setting up a website. I’d like to see somebody provide a TLS valet service.
(And before you rush to tell me about the super-easy SSL-setup tutorial you know about, please stop and think about whether it’s actually more like this.)
I’m looking forward to switching my website over to
https:// but I’m not going to do it until the potential pain level drops.
For all of you budding entrepreneurs looking for the next big thing to “disrupt”, please consider making your money not from the gold rush itself, but from providing the shovels.
Sunday, June 15th, 2014
Here in the UK, there’s a “newspaper”—and I use the term advisedly—called The Sun. In longstanding tradition, page 3 of The Sun always features a photograph of a topless woman.
To anyone outside the UK, this is absolutely bizarre. Frankly, it’s pretty bizarre to most people in the UK as well. Hence the No More Page 3 campaign which seeks to put pressure on the editor of The Sun to ditch their vestigal ’70s sexism and get with the 21st Century.
Note that the campaign is not attempting to make the publication of topless models in a daily newspaper illegal. Note that the campaign is not calling for top-down censorship from press regulators. Instead the campaign asks only that the people responsible reassess their thinking and recognise the effects of having topless women displayed in what is supposedly a family newspaper.
Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism project has gathered together just some examples of the destructive effects of The Sun’s page 3. And sure, in this age of instant access to porn via the internet, an image of a pair of breasts might seem harmless and innocuous, but it’s the setting for that image that wreaks the damage:
Being in a national newspaper lends these images public presence and, more harmfully for young people, the perception of mainstream cultural approval. Our society, through Page 3, tells both girls and boys ‘that’s what women are’.
Simply put, having this kind of objectification in a freely-available national newspaper normalises it. When it’s socially acceptable to have a publication like The Sun in a workplace, then it’s socially acceptable for that same workplace to have the accompanying air of sexism.
That same kind of normalisation happens in online communities. When bad behaviour is tolerated, bad behaviour is normalised.
There are obvious examples of online communities where bad behaviour is tolerated, or even encouraged: 4Chan, Something Awful. But as long as I can remember, there have also been online communites that normalise abhorrent attitudes, and yet still get a free pass (usually because the site in question would deliver bucketloads of traffic …as though that were the only metric that mattered).
Thx to Reddit & HN, “hacker" has moved away from its clever nerd (Wozniak) & rogue agent (Mitnick) connotations towards “misogynist asshole”— Jason Kottke (@jkottke) March 25, 2013
Some days Hacker News and Reddit are nothing more than the Westboro Baptist Church of the Internet.— Faruk Ateş (@KuraFire) March 21, 2013
I’m terrified every time I blog about anything even slightly controversial that someone will post it on Reddit or HN. That says something.— CultureOfFear & BEES (@juliepagano) March 19, 2013
In each case, the defence of the bad behaviour was always explained by the sheer size of the community. “Hey, that’s just the way it is. There’s nothing can be done about it.” To put it another way …it’s normal.
But normality isn’t an external phenomenon that exists in isolation. Normality is created. If something is perceived as normal—whether that’s topless women in a national newspaper or threatening remarks in an online forum—that perception is fueled by what we collectively accept to be “normal”.
Last year, Relly wrote about her experience at a conference:
Then there was the one comment I saw in a live irc style backchannel at an event, just after I came off stage. I wish I’d had the forethought to screenshot it or something but I was so shocked, I dropped my laptop on the table and immediately went and called home, to check on my kids.
Because the comment said (paraphrasing) “This talk was so pointless. After she mentioned her kids at the beginning I started thinking of ways to hunt them down and punish her for wasting my time here.”
That’s a horrible thing for anyone to say. But I can understand how someone would think nothing of making a remark like that …if they began their day by reading Reddit or Hacker News. If you make a remark like that there, nobody bats an eyelid. It’s normal.
So what do we do about that? Do we simply accept it? Do we shrug our shoulders and say “Oh, well”? Do we treat it like some kind of unchangeable immovable force of nature; that once you have a large online community, bad behaviour should be accepted as the default mode of discourse?
It’s hard work. I get that. Heck, I run an online community myself and I know just how hard it is to maintain civility (and I’ve done a pretty terrible job of it in the past). But it’s not impossible. Metafilter is a testament to that.
The other defence of sites like Reddit and Hacker News is that it’s unfair to judge the whole entity based purely on their worst episodes. I don’t buy that. The economic well-being of a country shouldn’t be based on the wealth of its richest citizens—or even the wealth of its average citizens—but its poorest.
@adactio if Reddit does something “good" it’s one community, it does something bad it’s “not all reddit”. It’s such a dull argument.— David Singleton (@dsingleton) June 10, 2014
That was precisely how Rebecca Watson was shouted down when she tried to address Reddit’s problems when she was on a panel at South by Southwest last year:
Does the good, no matter if it’s a fundraiser for a kid with cancer or a Secret Santa gift exchange, negate the bigotry?
Like I said, running an online community is hard—Derek’s book was waaaay ahead of its time—but it’s not impossible. If we treat awful behaviour as some kind of unstoppable force that can’t be dealt with, then what’s the point in trying to have any kind of community at all?
Just as with the No More Page 3 campaign, I’m not advocating legal action or legislative control. Instead, I just want some awareness that what we think of as normal is what we collectively decide is normal.
I try not to be a judgemental person. But if I see someone in public with a copy of The Sun, I’m going to judge them. And no, it’s not a class thing: I just don’t consider misogyny to be socially acceptable. And if you participate in Reddit or Hacker News …well, I’m afraid I’m going to judge you too. I don’t consider it socially acceptable.
Of course my judgemental opinion of someone doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to anybody. But if enough of us made our feelings clear, then maybe slowly but surely, there might be a shift in feeling. There might just be a small movement of the needle that calibrates what we think of normal in our online communities.
Thursday, April 24th, 2014
An astute takedown of the political language in a New York Times article.
George Lakoff would be proud.
Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
A great presentation from Brian Boyer on NPR’s mobile strategy. Spoiler: it’s responsive design.
Sunday, June 23rd, 2013