Saturday, January 19th, 2019
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
Monday, November 26th, 2018
Paul was at the Material conference in Iceland too, and we had some good chats. Here, he speaks his brains with Deep Thoughts prompted by the event.
I really get where he’s coming from when he says that “certain websites feel more ‘webby’ than others”, but it sure is tricky to nail down.
Monday, October 8th, 2018
Maintaining an open source project is a rollercoaster ride with high peaks and very low troughs.
Release frequency is down. Questions increasingly go unanswered. Issues remain in a triage, unresolved state. Uncertainty and frustration brew within the community room.
Brian’s experience with Pattern Lab very much mirrors Mark’s experience with Fractal. The pressure. The stress. But there’s also the community.
A maintainer must keep the needs of their project, their community, and their own needs in constant harmony.
This is hard!
Monday, July 2nd, 2018
Here’s a treasure trove of eighties nerd nostalgia:
In the 1980s, the BBC explored the world of computing in The Computer Literacy Project. They commissioned a home computer (the BBC Micro) and taught viewers how to program.
The Computer Literacy Project chronicled a decade of information technology and was a milestone in the history of computing in Britain, helping to inspire a generation of coders.
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.
Monday, May 21st, 2018
Some ideas on the best of use of time in sprint zero of an agile project.
- Understand your context
- Identify risks
- Understand the business process
- Get testing infrastructure
- Understand quality attributes
- Get to know the people
- Prepare an initial product backlog
- Build a walking skeleton/spike
- Build a learning backlog
Saturday, May 19th, 2018
Agile itself provides us with the ability and opportunity to correct course, it allows us to steer, but it does nothing as such to help us steer correctly.
This observation about (some) agile projects is worryingly familiar:
I was suddenly seized by a horrible thought: what if this new-found agility was used, not teleologically to approach the right outcome over the course of a project, but simply to enshrine the right of middle management to change their minds, to provide a methodological license for arbitrary management? At least under a Waterfall regime they had to apologise when they departed from the plan. With Agile they are allowed, in principle, to make as many changes of direction as they like. But what if Agile was used merely as a license to justify keeping the team in the office night after night in a never-ending saga of rapidly accumulating requirements and dizzying changes of direction? And what if the talk of developer ‘agility’ was just a way of softening up developers for a life of methodologically sanctioned pliability? In short, what if Agile turned out to be worse than Waterfall?
Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018
Monday, May 1st, 2017
Dealing with Technical & Design Debt - Breakfast Session - Agile Swap Shop (Brighton, England) | Meetup
If you’re a project manager anywhere near Brighton, put this event in your calendar for the morning of May 30th.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
Incredibly impressive work from the CodePen team—you can now edit entire projects in your web browser …and then deploy them to a live site!
Monday, June 27th, 2016
On the side
My role at Clearleft is something along the lines of being a technical director. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it seems to be a way of being involved in front-end development, without necessarily writing much actual code. That’s probably for the best. My colleagues Mark, Graham, and Charlotte are far more efficient at doing that. In return, I do my best to support them and make sure that they’ve got whatever they need (in terms of resources, time, and space) to get on with their work.
I’m continuously impressed not only by the quality of their output on client projects, but also by their output on the side.
Mark is working a project called Fractal. It’s a tool for creating component libraries, something he has written about before. The next steps involve getting the code to version 1.0 and completing the documentation. Then you’ll be hearing a lot more about this. The tricky thing right now is fitting it in around client work. It’s going to be very exciting though—everyone who has been beta-testing Fractal has had very kind words to say. It’s quite an impressive piece of work, especially considering that it’s the work of one person.
Graham is continuing on his crazily-ambitious project to recreate the classic NES game Legend Of Zelda using web technology. His documentation of his process is practically a book:
- The Game Loop,
- Drawing to the Screen,
- Handling User Input,
- Scaling the Canvas,
- Animation — Part 1,
- Levels & Collision — part 1, and most recently
- Levels — part 2.
The process of building a pattern library or any kind of modular design system requires a different approach to delivering a set of finished pages. Even when the final deliverable is a pattern library, we often still have to design pages for approval. When everyone is so used to working with pages, it can be difficult to adopt a new way of thinking—particularly for those who are not designers and developers.
This talk will look at how we can help everyone in the team adopt pattern thinking. This includes anyone with a decision to make—not just designers and developers. Everyone in the team can start building a shared vocabulary and attempt to make the challenge of naming things a little easier.
Then she spoke at Dot York about her learning process:
As a web developer, I’m learning all the time. I need to know how to make my code work, but more importantly, I want to understand why my code works. I’ve learnt most of what I know from people sharing what they know and I love that I can now do the same. In my talk I want to share my highlights and frustrations of continuous learning, my experiences of working with a mentor and fitting it into my first year at Clearleft.
Altogether that’s an impressive amount of output from Clearleft’s developers. And all of that doesn’t include the client work that Mark, Graham, and Charlotte are doing. They inspire me!
Monday, April 25th, 2016
An ongoing photography project from Curtis:
Beyond Work tells stories about humans at work, with no judgement or glorification. It’s an attempt at unearthing the social, cultural and functional world of work, that’s become invisible in everyday life.
Friday, April 8th, 2016
I think the move away from side projects toward doing a startup day one is not all good. There was something great about the ability to experiment with an idea before committing to it and before sucking other people’s money into it.
Monday, March 21st, 2016
Making things happen
I have lovely friends who are making lovely things. Surprisingly, lots of these lovely things aren’t digital (or at least aren’t only digital).
A small conference based in Reykjavik, Iceland, looking into the concept of the Web as a Material — 22nd July 2016, https://material.is
Here’s the twist: there’s going to be a Machine Supply pop-up bookshop AKA a vending machine in Shoreditch. That’ll be rolling out very soon and I can’t wait to see it.
My friend Josh made a crazy website to tie in with an art project called Cosmic Surgery. My friend Emily made a limited edition run of 10 books for the project. Now there’s a Kickstarter project to fund another run of books which will feature a story by Piers Bizony.
An Icelandic conference, a vending machine for handpicked books, and a pop-up photo book …I have lovely friends who are making lovely things.
Monday, October 5th, 2015
Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
Friday, January 31st, 2014
Words of wisdom from Seb when it comes to personal projects: finish what you start.
Most people don’t finish their projects so simply by getting it done, you’re way ahead of the crowd.
Communication for America
But remote communication isn’t just something that’s important for startups and product companies—it’s equally important for agencies when it comes to client communication.
At Clearleft, we occasionally work with clients right here in Brighton, but that’s the exception. More often than not, the clients are based in London, or somewhere else in the UK. In the case of Code for America, they’re based in San Francisco—that’s eight or nine timezones away (depending on the time of year).
As it turned out, it wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, it worked out nicely. At the end of every day, we had a quick conference call, with two or three people at our end, and two or three people at their end. For us, it was the end of the day: 5:30pm. For them, the day was just starting: 9:30am.
We’d go through what we had been doing during that day, ask any questions that had cropped up over the course of the day, and let them know if there was anything we needed from them. If there was anything we needed from them, they had the whole day to put it together while we went home. The next morning (from our perspective), it would be waiting in our in/drop-boxes.
Meanwhile, from the perspective of Code for America, they were coming into the office every morning and starting the day with a look over our work, as though we had beavering away throughout the night.
Now, it would be easy for me to extrapolate from this that this way of working is great and everyone should do it. But actually, the whole timezone difference was a red herring. The real reason why the communication worked so well throughout the project was because of the people involved.
Right from the start, it was clear that because of time and budget constraints that we’d have to move fast. We wouldn’t have the luxury of debating everything in detail and getting every decision signed off. Instead we had a sort of “rough consensus and running code” approach that worked really well. It worked because everyone understood that was what was happening—if just one person was expecting a more formalised structure, I’m sure it wouldn’t have gone quite so smoothly.
So we provided materials in whatever level of fidelity made sense for the idea under discussion. Sometimes that was a quick sketch. Sometimes it was a fairly high-fidelity mockup. Sometimes it was a module of markup and CSS. Whatever it took.
Most of all, there was a great feeling of trust on both sides of the equation. It was clear right from the start that the people at Code for America were super-smart and weren’t going to make any outlandish or unreasonable requests of Clearleft. Instead they gave us just the right amount of guidance and constraints, while trusting us to make good decisions.
At one point, Jon was almost complaining about not getting pushback on his designs. A nice complaint to have.
Because of the daily transatlantic “stand up” via teleconference, there was a great feeling of inevitability to the project as it came together from idea to execution. Inevitability doesn’t sound like a very sexy attribute of a web project, but it’s far preferable to the kind of project that involves milestones of “big reveals”—the Mad Men approach to project management.
Oh, and we made sure that we kept those transatlantic calls nice and short. They never lasted longer than 10 or 15 minutes. We wanted to avoid the many pitfalls of conference calls.
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Well, this is nice: the Line-mode browser hack has been nominated in the Best Collaborative Project in the Net awards.
But 24 Ways has also been nominated, and let’s face it, that really is the best collaborative project.