There’s a theory that you can cure this by following standards, except there are more “standards” than there are things computers can actually do, and these standards are all variously improved and maligned by the personal preferences of the people coding them, so no collection of code has ever made it into the real world without doing a few dozen identical things a few dozen not even remotely similar ways. The first few weeks of any job are just figuring out how a program works even if you’re familiar with every single language, framework, and standard that’s involved, because standards are unicorns.
Monday, October 29th, 2018
Sunday, February 28th, 2016
Aaaaand, once again, the Acheulean hand ax makes an appearance, this time in Jon’s rant about marketing.
A decade or more ago, digital marketing was more of a blunt instrument. It was like the first stone axe - crude, but it got the job done.
That’s three links in one day that reference the same prehistoric technology. What coincidental synchronicity!
Saturday, November 7th, 2015
Had anyone from the archive been in touch with ESPN? Was there any hope that the treasured collection of Grantland stories might remain accessible?
“We don’t ‘get in touch,’” Jason Scott, a digital historian at the Internet Archive, told me in an email. “We act.”
Thursday, June 18th, 2015
100 words 088
Tomorrow is the big day—Responsive Day Out 3: The Final Breakpoint.
All the speakers are in town, safely ensconced in their hotel. To welcome them to Brighton and to get them relaxed for tomorrow, we all went out for a magnificent meal this evening. I hired out the pop-up restaurant Isaac At. What better way to welcome people to Sussex than to sample local seasonal food (and drinks) prepared by an immensely talented team. It was really great—great food, great company; just right.
Now I will attempt to get a night’s sleep before tomorrow’s overload of responsive brilliance.
Saturday, April 11th, 2015
100 words 020
As I was making my way homeward through the North Laine last week I noticed that a building around the corner from The Skiff had changed somewhat. I saw kitchen equipment where previously no kitchen equipment had been.
Turns out it’s a new pop-up restaurant called Isaac At. It’s only open on Friday and Saturdays, and you have to book online ahead of time. “Why not?” I thought to myself, and booked a table for myself and Jessica.
We just got back and I’m happy to report that it was most excellent—five courses made from local ingredients, beautifully presented.
Sunday, December 7th, 2014
Sounds like a cute idea, right?
In fact it’s the best thing you’re ever likely to read on Peruvian ursine immigration.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
This is like Zooniverse’s Old Weather project, but for restaurant menus: help transcribe thousands of restaurant menus going back to the 1940s.
Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Ben calls bullshit on Microsoft's defence of Outlook's rendering. Ben, as usual, is correct.
Thursday, August 9th, 2007
The Benefits of Facebook "Friends:" Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online Social Network Sites
"In addition to assessing bonding and bridging social capital, we explore a dimension of social capital that assesses one's ability to stay connected with members of a previously inhabited community, which we call maintained social capital."
Saturday, June 30th, 2007
Danah Boyd's essay is required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in social networks.
Saturday, October 14th, 2006
Matt points out that we can get sidetracked by taking what matters most to us and assuming that it matters most for success.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006
A food blog based in Brighton. This is a woman after my own heart.
Saturday, July 15th, 2006
When I attended Reboot 8 earlier this year, it was my first time visiting Denmark. From the moment I left the airport in Copenhagen, I was struck by how smoothly everything seemed to work.
On the train journey into town, Tom and I found all sorts of nice usability features in our carriage. You can tell a lot about a country from its public transport system and, based on my experiences, Denmark was like a country that had been designed by Apple.
One week previously, I had been in Manchester delivering an Ajax workshop. There I saw a shockingly badly designed object.
I had heard about these new pedestrian signals but nothing could have prepared me for how awful they are.
Most pedestrian signals around the world work much the same way. The signal is positioned across the road from the user above head height. The control for the signal is on the same side of the road as the user. The exact design of the signal and the control can vary enormously from place to place but the basic principle is the same.
When the signal changes (red to green, “don’t walk” to “walk”, etc.), the pedestrian moves towards the signal. Because the signal is placed in the location that the user is trying to reach, it serves a dual purpose. It acts as an indicator of safety and as a goal.
The pedestrian signals I saw in Manchester are placed at waist height. As soon as two or more people are waiting to cross the road, the signal is blocked.
Worst of all, the signal and the control share the same space. Once the pedestrian begins walking, there is no safety indicator. When you’re halfway across the road, you have no idea whether or not it is safe.
Oh, and there’s no audio signal either. That’s a feature built in to most of the older pedestrian signals in England that has been removed from these newer models. If you’re visually impaired, you are well and truly screwed. Even if you’re not, you’re missing a valuable safety cue. As is so often the case, accessibility features end up benefiting everyone.
I cannot understand how these pedestrian signals made it off the drawing board, much less on to the streets of Manchester and other towns in the UK. It’s not just bad design, it’s dangerous design.
Richard once told me about a risk assessment from his previous incarnation as an engineer. He had to determine whether workers on a pipeline above the arctic circle would be safe from polar bear attacks. The results showed that there was a chance that 1.5 people could be killed every thousand years. That was deemed unsafe. Human life is valuable.
These pedestrian signals have clearly not been assessed for risks or tested for usability.
Let’s be clear about this. These signals are new. They are inferior to the old signals. It costs money to remove the old pedestrian signals and replace them with the newer, more craptactular ones.
It beggars belief.
Kathy Sierra wrote recently about differences between US and European design. This is something I’ve written about before. I don’t necessarily belief that design is better or worse on either continent, just that cultural differences underpin what is considered good design. It’s clear to me now that the design differences within Europe itself might be wider than the Atlantic ocean.
The attitude towards design in the UK seems to reflect the attitude towards life; a grumbling acceptance that putting up with inconvenience is all part of the human condition. Perhaps secretly it’s the grumbling that we enjoy. The weather may be beyond human control, but the queuing, the public transport and the quality of beer aren’t.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman would be a much shorter book had he never lived in England. Almost all of the examples of bad design are drawn from everyday life in this country, including the infamous slam-door trains.
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a wonderful dystopian vision extrapolated from the England of today. As well as the usual repressive regime of all Orwellian futures, it depicts a life filled with beaureacracy, inconvenience and unusable design.
Ray Bradbury once said of science-fiction:
We do this not to predict the future but to prevent it.
I want to find out who is responsible for designing the new pedestrian signals, who is responsible for — forgive the pun — giving them the green light, and who is responsible for deciding where they are implemented. I don’t want to see these things on the streets of Brighton.
Friday, July 14th, 2006
I’d like to buy the world an iPod
Specifically, I think these people should all discover the joys of listening to music on headphones:
The guys (and it’s always guys) who drive around with their car windows down, blaring out music that is invariably of the worst quality (this includes the estate agent I’ve seen in Winter time, bundled up in a large coat but still driving around with the windows rolled down blasting out Jamiroquai). I know that an iPod can never make up for the obviously miniscule size of their penises, so consider it a sympathy gift.
The guys (yup, guys again) who walk around town or along the seafront with honest-to-goodness old-fashioned ghetto-blasters. Do The Right Thing is showing its age. These people need to be brought up to date. An iPod would be just the thing to do that.
My upstairs neighbour. While I can’t understand why anyone would want to listen to the whiny vocal stylings of The Kooks, I try not to be judgemental. But I think it’s an activity that, like masturbation or defecation, is best practised alone. An iPod would really help.
Wednesday, April 5th, 2006
Derek hits the nail on the head. User-generated content is such a cold, cold term.
Friday, March 24th, 2006
A menu with some great Engrish translations like "burn the spring chicken", "domestic life beef immerses cabbage" and "a west bean pays the fish a soup".
Sunday, July 17th, 2005
A nice use of CSS.