fopenwhen you can write
throwVE. Call that name
fct. That’s German naming convention. Do this and your readers will appreciate it.
Sunday, June 9th, 2019
Friday, February 1st, 2019
I saw Daniel give a talk at Async where he compared linguistic rules with code style:
We find the prescriptive rules hard to follow, irrespective of how complex they are, because they are invented, arbitrary, and often go against our intuition. The descriptive rules, on the other hand, are easy to follow because they are instinctive. We learned to follow them as children by listening to, analysing and mimicking speech, armed with an inbuilt concept of the basic building blocks of grammar. We follow them subconsciously, often without even knowing the rules exists.
Thus began some thorough research into trying to uncover a universal grammar for readable code:
I am excited by the possibility of discovering descriptive readability rules, and last autumn I started an online experiment to try and find some. My experiment on howreadable.com compared various coding patterns against each other in an attempt to objectively measure their readability. I haven’t found any strong candidates for prescriptive rules so far, but the results are promising and suggest a potential way forward.
I highly recommend reading through this and watching the video of the Async talk (and conference organisers; get Daniel on your line-up!).
Friday, December 7th, 2018
Cassie and I went to a great Async talk last night all about code readability, which was well-timed because it’s been on our minds all week. Cassie explains more in this post.
Monday, October 8th, 2018
The fascinating results of Brad’s survey.
Personally, I’m not a fan of nesting. I feel it obfuscates more than helps. And it makes searching for a specific selector tricky.
That said, Danielle feels quite strongly that nesting is the way to go, so on Clearleft projects, that’s how we write Sass + BEM.
Monday, April 16th, 2018
Lesson learned: the discoverable and understandable web is still do-able — it’s there waiting to be discovered. It just needs some commitment from the people who make websites.
Wednesday, November 8th, 2017
An extract from Richard’s excellent book, this is a deep dive into styling tables for the web (featuring some CSS I had never even heard of).
Tables can be beautiful but they are not works of art. Instead of painting and decorating them, design tables for your reader.
(It also contains a splendid use of the term “crawl bar.”)
Great advice on writing sensible comments in your code.
Tuesday, September 5th, 2017
I’ve gotten a little tired of showing up to a Medium-powered site on a non-medium.com domain and getting badgered to Sign Up! or Get Updates! when I’m already a Medium user.
A Chrome extension to Make Medium Readable Again by:
- Keeping the top navigation bar from sticking around
- Hiding the bottom “Get Updates” bar completely
- (Optionally) hiding the clap / share bar
- (Optionally) loading all post images up front, instead of lazy loading as you scroll
Shame there isn’t a mobile version to get rid of the insulting install-our-app permabutton.
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Interface is a font for highly legible text on computer screens.
And it’s free!
Monday, February 6th, 2017
Here’s a nice little service from Remy that works sorta like Readability. Pass it a URL in a query string and it will generate a version without all the cruft around the content.
Monday, January 2nd, 2017
Saturday, December 10th, 2016
A fascinating piece by Eleanor on the typographic tweaking that the Wellcome team did to balance the competing needs of different users.
Thursday, July 14th, 2016
A handy tool for testing the legibility of different typefaces under all sorts of conditions.
Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
If you insist on having a fixed header on your site, please, please, please add this script to your site. I often use the spacebar to page down so this would be a life-saver.
Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
On the internet today, reading something twice is an act of love.
I’ve found a few services recently that encourage me to return to things I’ve already read.
Findings is looking quite lovely since its recent redesign. They may have screwed up with their email notification anti-pattern but they were quick to own up to the problem. I’ve been taking the time to read back through quotations I’ve posted, which in turn leads me to revisit the original pieces that the quotations were taken from.
We need to break out of the model where all these systems are monolithic and standalone. There’s art in each individual system, but there’s a much greater art in the union of all the systems we create.
…which leads me back to the beautifully-worded piece he wrote on Medium.
Not of This Earth is an early example of a premise conceivably determined by the proverbial writer’s room dartboard. In this case, the first two darts landed on “space” and “vampire.” There was no need to throw a third.
You could look at this film superficially and see it as a robot gone mental chasing Farrah Fawcett around a moonbase trying to get it on with her and killing everybody that gets in its way. Or, you could see through that into brilliance of this film and see that is in fact a story about a robot gone mental chasing Farrah Fawcett around a moonbase trying to get it on with her and killing everybody that gets in its way.
The other service that is encouraging me to revisit articles that I’ve previously read is Readlists. I’ve been using it to gather together pieces of writing that I’ve previously linked to about the Internet of Things, the infrastructure of the internet, digital preservation, or simply sci-fi short stories.
Anthologies have the potential to finally make good on the purpose of all our automated archiving and collecting: that we would actually go back to the library, look at the stuff again, and, holy moses, do something with it. A collection that isn’t revisited might as well be a garbage heap.
I really like the fact that while Readlists is very much a tool that relies on the network, the collected content no longer requires a network connection: you can send a group of articles to your Kindle, or download them as one epub file.
I love tools like this—user style sheets, greasemonkey scripts, Readability, Instapaper, bookmarklets of all kinds—that allow the end user to exercise control over the content they want to revisit. Or, as Frank puts it:
…users gain new ways to select, sequence, recontextualize, and publish the content they consume.
I think the first technology that really brought this notion to the fore was RSS. The idea that the reader could choose not only to read your content at a later time, but also to read it in a different place—their RSS reader rather than your website—seemed quite radical. It was a bitter pill for the old guard to swallow, but once publishing RSS feeds became the norm, even the stodgiest of old media producers learned to let go of the illusion of control.
That’s why I was very surprised when Aral pushed back against RSS. I understand his reasoning for not providing a full RSS feed:
every RSS reader I tested it in displayed the articles differently — completely destroying my line widths, pull quotes, image captions, footers, and the layout of the high‐DPI images I was using.
…but that kind of illusory control just seems antithetical to the way the web works.
The heart of the issue, I think, is when Aral talks about:
the author’s moral rights over the form and presentation of their work.
I understand his point, but I also value the reader’s ideas about the form and presentation of the work they are going to be reading. The attempt to constrain and restrict the reader’s recontextualising reminds me of emails I used to read on Steve Champeon’s Webdesign-L mailing list back in the 90s that would begin:
How can I force the user to …?
How do I stop the user from …?
The questions usually involved attempts to stop users “getting at” images or viewing the markup source. Again, I understand where those views come from, but they just don’t fit comfortably with the sprit of the web.
And, of course, the truth was always that once something was out there on the web, users could always find a way to read it, alter it, store it, or revisit it. For Aral’s site, for example, although he refuses to provide a full RSS feed, all I have to is use Reeder with its built-in Readability functionality to get the full content.
This is an important point: attempting to exert too much control will be interpreted as damage and routed around. That’s exactly why RSS exists. That’s why Readability and Instapaper exist. That’s why Findings and Readlists exist. Heck, it’s why Huffduffer exists.
To paraphrase Princess Leia, the more you tighten your grip, the more content will slip through your fingers. Rather than trying to battle against the tide, go with the flow and embrace the reality of what Cameron Koczon calls Orbital Content and what Sara Wachter-Boettcher calls Future-Ready Content.
Both of those articles were published on A List Apart. But feel free to put them into a Readlist, or quote your favourite bits on Findings. And then, later, maybe you’ll return to them. Maybe you’ll read them twice. Maybe you’ll love them.
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
This looks like a really handy service from Readability: gather together a number of related articles from ‘round the web and then you can export them to a reading device of your choice. It’s like Huffduffer for text.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
A cute website that’s a call-to-arms against low-contrast text on the web.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
Jackson is gathering data to test on-screen readability. Sign up and join in.
Wednesday, March 11th, 2009
An excellent bookmarklet designed to help you read more easily on the web (by hiding all that filthy, filthy advertising).
Saturday, August 26th, 2006
A good, if somewhat dispiriting, overview of Artificial Intelligence. (There's some nice typesetting on this page)