A terrific cautionary look at the history of machine learning and artificial intelligence from the new laugh-a-minute book by James.
Tuesday, June 19th, 2018
Saturday, June 16th, 2018
The focus of the A Book Apart series is what makes it great …and that means having to reject some proposals that don’t fit. Even though I’ve had the honour of being a twice-published A Book Apart author, I also have the honour of receiving a rejection, which Jeffrey mentions here:
In one case we even had to say no to a beautifully written, fully finished book.
That was Resilient Web Design.
So why did we turn down books we knew would sell? Because, again—they weren’t quite right for us.
It was the right decision. And this is the right advice:
If you’ve sent us a proposal that ultimately wasn’t for us, don’t be afraid to try again if you write something new—and most importantly, believe in yourself and keep writing.
Thursday, June 14th, 2018
Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
Refresh for a new design challenge.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2018
Monday, June 11th, 2018
If you don’t fancy watching this video, Eric Runyon has written down the salient points about what it means for developers now that websites can be viewed on the Apple Watch. Basically, as long as you’re writing good, meaningful markup and you’ve got a sensible font stack, you’re all set.
Or, as Tim puts it:
When we build our sites in a way that allows people using less-capable devices, slower networks and other less than ideal circumstances, we end up better prepared for whatever crazy device or technology comes along next.
Sunday, June 10th, 2018
¶, &, @, ‽, ☺, #, and ☛.
Thursday, June 7th, 2018
Tuesday, June 5th, 2018
A thorough explanation of the history and inner workings of Cross-Origin Resource Sharing.
Like tales of a mythical sea beast, every developer has a story to tell about the day CORS seized upon one of their web requests, dragging it down into the inexorable depths, never to be seen again.
Sunday, June 3rd, 2018
In my experience, there’s no casual mode within React. You need to be all-in, keeping up with the ecosystem, or else your knowledge evaporates.
I think Dave is right. At this point, it’s possible to be a React developer exclusively.
React is an ecosystem. I feel like it’s a disservice to anyone trying to learn to diminish all that React entails. React shows up on the scene with Babel, Webpack, and JSX (which each have their own learning curve) then quickly branches out into technologies like Redux, React-Router, Immutable.js, Axios, Jest, Next.js, Create-React-App, GraphQL, and whatever weird plugin you need for your app.
And, as Jake points out, you either need to go all in or not at all—you can’t really incrementally add Reactness to an existing project.
Friday, June 1st, 2018
A little while back, I showed Paul what I was working on with The Gęsiówka Story. I value his opinion and I really like the Bradshaw’s Guide project that he’s been working on. We’re both in complete agreement with Russell Davies’ call for an internet of unmonetisable enthusiasms. Call them side projects if you like, but for me, these are the things that the World Wide Web excels at.
These unomentisable enthusiasms/side projects are what got me hooked on the web in the first place. Fray.com—back when it was a website for personal stories—was what really made the web click for me. I had seen brochure sites, I had seen e-commerce sites, but it was seeing something built purely for the love of it that caused that lightbulb moment for me.
I told Paul about another site I remembered from that time (we’re talking about the mid-to-late nineties here). It was called Private Art. It was the work of one family, the children of Private Art Pranger who served in World War Two and wrote letters from the front. Without any expectations, I did a quick search, and amazingly, the site is still up!
Yes, it’s got tiled background images, and the framesetted content is in a pop-up window, but it works. The site hasn’t been updated for fifteen years but it works perfectly in a web browser today. That’s kind of amazing. We really shouldn’t take the longevity of our materials for granted. Could you imagine trying to open a word processing document from the late nineties on your computer today? You’d have a bad time.
When we talk about documents on the web, we usually use the word “document” as a noun. But working on The Gęsiówka Story, I came to think of the word “document” as a verb.
The World Wide Web is a medium that’s works for quick, short-term lightweight bits of fun and also for long-term, deeper, slower, thoughtful archives of our collective culture.
The web is a many-splendoured thing.
Wednesday, May 30th, 2018
The Gęsiówka Story
While I was in Warsaw for a conference last week, I sought out a commerative plaque in a residential neighbourhood. The English translation reads:
On 5th August 1944 “Zośka” the scouts’ battalion of the “Radosław” unit Armia Krajowa captured the German concentration camp “Gęsiówka” and liberated 348 Jewish prisoners, citizens of various European countries, many of whom later fought and fell in the Warsaw Uprising.
I knew about the plaque—and the incredible events it commemorates—thanks to a piece of writing called The Gęsiówka Story by Edward Kossoy, a relative of mine.
My ancestral lineage is an unusual mix. I’ve got generations of Irish on my mother’s side, and generations of Eastern European jews on my father’s side.
Edward wasn’t closely related to me. He was my grandfather’s cousin. My father’s father (from whom I got my middle name, Ivan) was driving ambulances in London during the war. Meanwhile his cousin Edward in Poland was trying desperately to get his family out. Separated from his wife and daughter, he was arrested by the Russians in Ukraine and sentenced to hard labour in a gulag. He survived. His wife and child were did not. They were murdered by the nazis during Operation Harvest Festival.
Edward was a lawyer. He spent the rest of his life fighting for reparations for victims of the Holocaust. He represented tens of thousands of jews, Poles, and Roma. He lived in Tel Aviv, Munich, and finally Geneva. That was where he met the Polish war hero Wacław Micuta who first told him about what happened at Gęsiówka. What he heard sounded implausible, but when he found Gęsiówka survivors among his own clientelle, Edward was able to corrobarate Micuta’s story.
(Micuta, by the way, had much to discuss with Edward’s second wife Sonia. She fought in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, escaping by being smuggled out in a suitcase.)
As well as being a lawyer, Edward was also an author. In 2004 he wrote The Gęsiówka Story for the journal Yad Vashem Studies. I came across it in PDF form while I was searching for more details of Edward’s life and legacy. I was completely astonished by what I read—if it were a Hollywood film, you would think it too far-fetched to be true.
I decided to transfer the story into a more durable format. I’ve marked it up, styled it, and published it here:
The subheading of The Gęsiówka Story is “A Little Known Page of Jewish Fighting History.” I certainly think it’s a piece of history that deserves to be more widely known. That’s why I’ve turned it into a web page.
When we talk about documents on the web, we usually use the word “document” as a noun. But working on The Gęsiówka Story, I came to think of the word “document” as a verb. And I think the web is well-suited to documenting the stories and experiences of our forebears.
Edward died six years ago, just one year shy of a hundred. I never got to meet him in person, which is something I very much regret. But by taking his words and working with them while trying my best to treat them with respect, I’ve come to feel a bit closer to this great man.
This was a little labour of love for me. I hope I did his words justice. And I hope you’ll read The Gęsiówka Story.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2018
Rachel gives a terrific explanation of CSS layout from first principles, starting with the default normal flow within writing systems, moving on to floats, then positioning—relative, absolute, fixed, and sticky—then flexbox, and finally grid (with a coda on alignment). This is a great primer to keep bookmarked; I think I’ll find myself returning to this more than once.
Saturday, May 26th, 2018
The bet to make is that we’re going to see more use of specialized languages. And HTML and CSS are the grandaddy specialized languages that have enough social consensus and capital investment to be the seeds of the next generation.
Friday, May 25th, 2018
Thursday, May 24th, 2018
Monday, May 21st, 2018
It is common to refer to universally popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest as “walled gardens.” But they are not gardens; they are walled industrial sites, within which users, for no financial compensation, produce data which the owners of the factories sift and then sell. Some of these factories (Twitter, Tumblr, and more recently Instagram) have transparent walls, by which I mean that you need an account to post anything but can view what has been posted on the open Web; others (Facebook, Snapchat) keep their walls mostly or wholly opaque. But they all exercise the same disciplinary control over those who create or share content on their domain.
Professor Alan Jacobs makes the case for the indie web:
We need to revivify the open Web and teach others—especially those who have never known the open Web—to learn to live extramurally: outside the walls.
What do I mean by “the open Web”? I mean the World Wide Web as created by Tim Berners-Lee and extended by later coders. The open Web is effectively a set of protocols that allows the creating, sharing, and experiencing of text, sounds, and images on any computer that is connected to the Internet and has installed on it a browser that can interpret information encoded in conformity with these protocols.
This resonated strongly with me:
To teach children how to own their own domains and make their own websites might seem a small thing. In many cases it will be a small thing. Yet it serves as a reminder that the online world does not merely exist, but is built, and built to meet the desires of certain very powerful people—but could be built differently.
I started a Twitter account, and fell into a world of good, dumb, weird jokes, links to new sites and interesting ideas. It was such an excellent place to waste time that I almost didn’t notice that the blogs and link-sharing sites I’d once spent hours on had become less and less viable. Where once we’d had a rich ecosystem of extremely stupid and funny sites on which we might procrastinate, we now had only Twitter and Facebook.
And then, one day, I think in 2013, Twitter and Facebook were not really very fun anymore. And worse, the fun things they had supplanted were never coming back. Forums were depopulated; blogs were shut down. Twitter, one agent of their death, became completely worthless: a water-drop-torture feed of performative outrage, self-promotion, and discussion of Twitter itself. Facebook had become, well … you’ve been on Facebook.