Ben made a music video of the recent Clearleft outing to New York.
Friday, February 17th, 2017
Sunday, February 12th, 2017
From New York to Porto
There were some really good talks at the event, but alas, the muti-track format made it difficult to see all of them. Continuous partial FOMO was the order of the day. Still, getting to see Christina Xu and Brenda Laurel made it all worthwhile.
To be honest, the conference was only part of the motivation for the trip. Spending a week in New York with a gaggle of Clearlefties was its own reward. We timed it pretty well, being there for the Superb Owl, and for a seasonal snowstorm. A winter trip to New York just wouldn’t be complete without a snowball fight in Central Park.
Funnily enough, I’m going to back in New York in just three weeks’ time for AMP conf at the start of March. I’ve been invited along to be the voice of dissent on a panel—a brave move by the AMP team. I wonder if they know what they’re letting themselves in for.
In this masterclass we’ll dive into progressive enhancement, a layered approach to building for the web that ensures access for all. Content, structure, presentation, and behaviour are each added in a careful, well-thought out way that makes the end result more resilient to the inherent variability of the web.
I must admit I’ve got a serious case of imposter syndrome about this. A full week of teaching—I mean, who am I to teach anything? I’m hoping that my worries and nervousness will fall by the wayside once I start geeking out with the students about all things web. I’ve sorta kinda got an outline of what I want to cover during the week, but for the most part, I’m winging it.
I’ll try to document the week as it progresses. And you can certainly expect plenty of pictures of seafood and port wine.
Sunday, January 1st, 2017
Maeve Higgins must’ve been back in Cobh (our hometown) at the same time this Christmas. Here she tells the story of Annie Moore, the first person to enter the doors at Ellis Island.
I stood on the darkening quay side in Cobh on Christmas Eve, and looked at a statue of Annie there. She seems small and capable, her hands lightly resting on her little brothers’ shoulders, gazing back at a country she would never see again. An Irish naval ship had returned to the harbor earlier that week from its mission off the Mediterranean coast, a mission that has rescued 15,000 people from the sea since May 2015, though 2016 was still the deadliest one for migrants crossing the Mediterranean since World War II.
Thursday, May 12th, 2016
Remember: life is ten per cent what happens to you, ten per cent how you respond to it, and eighty per cent how good your reflexes are when the Tall Ones come at your throat with their pincers.
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
Paul Ford’s potted history of web standards, delivered in his own inimitable style.
Reading through the standards, which are dry as can be, you might imagine that standardization is a polite, almost academic process, where wonks calmly debate topics like semicolon placement. This is not the case.
Friday, October 24th, 2014
A warm-hearted short story about a moonshot. By Tom Hanks.
Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
I went to the States to speak at the Artifact conference in Providence (which was great). I extended the trip so that I caould make it to Science Hack Day in San Francisco (which was also great). Then I made my way back with a stopover in New York for the fifth and final Brooklyn Beta (which was, you guessed it, great).
The last day of Brooklyn Beta was a big friendly affair with close to a thousand people descending on a hangar-like building in Brooklyn’s naval yard. But it was the preceding two days in the much cosier environs of The Invisible Dog that really captured the spirit of the event.
The talks were great—John Maeda! David Lowery!—but the real reason for going all the way to Brooklyn for this event was to hang out with the people. Old friends, new friends; just nice people all ‘round.
But it felt strange this year, and not just because it was the last time.
At the end of the second day, people were encouraged to spontaneously get up on stage, introduce themselves, and then introduce someone that they think is a great person, working on something interesting (that twist was Sam’s idea).
I didn’t get up on stage. The person I would’ve introduced wasn’t there. I wish she had been. Mind you, she would’ve absolutely hated being called out like that.
Chloe wasn’t there. Of course she wasn’t there. How could she be there?
But there was this stupid, stupid part of my brain that kept expecting to see her walk into the room. That stupid, stupid part of my brain that still expected that I’d spend Brooklyn Beta sitting next to Chloe because, after all, we always ended up sitting together.
(I think it must be the same stupid part of my brain that still expects to see her name pop up in my chat client every morning.)
By the time the third day rolled around in the bigger venue, I thought it wouldn’t be so bad, what with it not being in the same location. But that stupid, stupid part of my brain just wouldn’t give up. Every time I looked around the room and caught a glimpse of someone in the distance who had the same length hair as Chloe, or dressed like her, or just had a bag slung over hip just so …that stupid, stupid part of my brain would trigger a jolt of recognition, and then I’d have that horrible sinking feeling (literally, like something inside of me was sinking down) when the rational part of my brain corrected the stupid, stupid part.
I think that deep down, there’s a part of me—a stupid, stupid part of me—that still doesn’t quite believe that she’s gone.
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
If you’re going to check out the New Yorker’s nice new responsive site, might I suggest you start here?
Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Some sleuthing uncovers an interesting twist in New York’s psychogeography:
All of the buildings have been demolished, and in some cases the entire street has since been erased. But a startling picture still emerged: New York once had a neighborhood for typography.
Saturday, December 28th, 2013
Lovely little graphics inspired by New York architecture.
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
I’ve just come back from a multi-hop trip to the States, spanning three cities in just over two weeks.
It started with an all-too-brief trip to San Francisco for Science Hack Day, which—as I’ve already described—was excellent. It was a shame that it was such a flying visit and I didn’t get to see many people. But then again, I’ll be back in December for An Event Apart San Francisco.
It was An Event Apart that took me to my second destination: Austin, Texas. The conference was great, as always. But was really nice was having some time afterwards to explore the town. Being in Austin when it’s not South by Southwest is an enjoyable experience that I can heartily recommend.
Christopher and Ari took me out to Lockhart to experience Smitty’s barbecue—a place with a convoluted family drama and really, really excellent smoked meat. I never really “got” Texas BBQ until now. I always thought I liked the sauced-based variety, but now I understand: if the BBQ is good enough, you don’t need the sauce.
For the rest of my stay, Sam was an excellent host, showing me around her town until it was time for me to take off for New York city.
To start with, I was in Manhattan. I was going to be speaking at Future Of Web Design right downtown on 42nd street, and I showed up a few days early to rendezvous with Jessica and do some touristing.
We perfected the cheapskate’s guide to Manhattan, exploring the New York Public Library, having Tiff show us around the New York Times, and wrangling a tour of the MoMA from Ben Fino-Radin, who’s doing some fascinating work with the digital collection.
I gave my FOWD talk, which went fine once the technical glitches were sorted out (I went through three microphones in five minutes). The conference was in a cinema, which meant my slides were giganormous. That was nice, but the event had an odd kind of vibe. Maybe it was the venue, or maybe it was the two-track format …I really don’t like two-track conferences; I constantly feel like I’m missing out on something.
I skipped out on the second day of the conference to make my way over the bridge to Brooklyn in time for my third trip to Brooklyn Beta.
This year, they tried something quite different. For the first two days, there was a regular Brooklyn Beta: 300 lovely people gathered together at the Invisible Dog, ostensibly to listen to talks but in reality to hang out and chat. It was joyous.
Then on the third and final day, those 300 people decamped to Brooklyn’s Navy Yard to join a further 1000 people. There we heard more talks and had more chats.
Alas, the acoustics in the hangar-like space battled against the speakers. That’s why I made sure to grab a seat near the front for the afternoon talks. I found myself with a front-row seat for a series of startup stories and app tales. Then, without warning, the tech talks were replaced with stand-up comics. The comedians were very, very good (Reggie Watts!) …but I found it hard to pay attention because I realised I was in a living nightmare: somehow I was in the front-row seat of a stand-up comedy show. I spent the entire time thinking “Please don’t pick on me, please don’t pick on me, please don’t…” I couldn’t sneak out either, because that would’ve only drawn attention to myself.
But apart from confronting me with my worst fears, Brooklyn Beta was great …I’m just not sure it scales well from 300 to 1300.
And with that, my American sojourn came to an end. I’m glad that the stars aligned in such a way that I was able to hit up four events in my 16 day trip:
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
A treat grows in Brooklyn
I hesitate to call it a conference. I guess it is a conference, but it’s a very different kind of conference. Yes, there are talks but the schedule is geared around getting people together to talk and hang out: the breaks are as long as the sessions. This year, there was also live music every day, including a performance from Ted Leo.
So it’s not really about the talks. But that said, there were some great talks.
Icon designer extraordinaire Aaron Draplin kicked things off with a rollercoaster ride of laughter and tears. Cory Booker, superhero mayor of Newark, made an appearance, as did Seth Godin. Rob—or should I say Windhammer—introduced us to the world of air guitar championships and snuck in some life lessons while he was at it. And, yes, Baratunde Thurston organised a Whiskey Friday for his hilarious presentation. The event closed with a theme song by Jonathan Mann and we all sang along.
Of course I was a complete fanboy with Ted Nelson. I could hardly believe it when I saw he was there; I made sure to shake his hand. But I was equally fanboyish with Kyle Kneath; I’ve admired his writing—particularly on URL design—for quite a while.
But I think the highlight for me was getting to hear Maciej Cegłowski give his talk. Idle Words is probably my favourite single collection of writings on the internet, and Maciej was equally brilliant in real life. Even though his talk (all about how Pinboard came to be) was in some ways the most cynical of all, I found it to be very inspiring; a refreshing antitode to the excesses of the cult of startup.
There was a thread running between Rob’s talk, Maciej’s story, and Chris’s lessons. That thread was about taking time. “Fail slowly,” said Maciej, in contrast to every other startup story you’ve ever heard. Rob made reference to the slow web by Jack Cheng (who was also there). And Chris told us, “It’s okay to miss out.”
I like that.
So if you missed out on this year’s Brooklyn Beta, don’t worry. It’s okay to miss out …but I’m glad I was able to make it.
Thanks, Chris and Cameron. I had a blast.
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Sheer brilliance: taking the street grid of Manhattan and extending it to cover the entire world. For the record, I live near the intersection of east 11,303rd avenue and 63,475th street.
Sunday, October 23rd, 2011
I’m on a bit of a sojourn in the United States right now, and I’m having a rather lovely time.
It all started with Brooklyn Beta which was a jolly gathering in New York. It reminded me a bit of the Reboot events of old: grassroots gatherings that may be rough around the edges but are put together with much love and affection. There were plenty of inspiring talks and repeated entreaties to go out there and change the world. As with Reboot, I think Brooklyn Beta is an excellent part of a balanced conference diet: other conferences will give you more detail on how exactly you can go out there and change the world.
In fact, my trip is perfectly balanced by two complementary events at either end. I’m in Alexandria right now for An Event Apart DC—the perfect hands-on, practical counterweight to Brooklyn Beta’s dose of inspiration.
Every time I’ve been to New York before now I’ve only ever been in Manhattan. I always said “I love New York but I could never imagine living there.” Now that I’ve spent time in the leafy streets of Brooklyn, I have revised that assessment—I could certainly imagine living there.
Thursday, May 5th, 2011
A profile of those whacky Brooklyn Studiomates.
Saturday, March 19th, 2011
Brian Eno’s original essay on the origins of The Long Now Foundation. It is ten years old—a long time on the web and 1% of a millennium.
Humans are capable of a unique trick: creating realities by first imagining them, by experiencing them in their minds. When Martin Luther King said “I have a dream…” , he was inviting others to dream it with him. Once a dream becomes shared in that way, current reality gets measured against it and then modified towards it. As soon as we sense the possibility of a more desirable world, we begin behaving differently – as though that world is starting to come into existence, as though, in our minds at least, we’re already there. The dream becomes an invisible force which pulls us forward. By this process it starts to come true. The act of imagining something makes it real.
Monday, January 31st, 2011
The New York subway schedule converted into sound by treating each line as a string.
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
This looks like the New York equivalent of The Bradbury Building.
Monday, March 8th, 2010
Nifty old-school 8-bit tiles superimposed on OpenStreetMap data.