What, then, is a personal website? It is precisely that, personal. It is a new kind of self-portraiture done not with pencils, charcoal, ink, or paint. Instead it is self-portraiture done in markup language, code, prose, images, audio, and video.
Monday, February 14th, 2022
There’s a sort of joy in getting to manually create the site of your own where you have the freedom to add anything you want onto it, much like a homemade meal has that special touch to it.
Thursday, January 13th, 2022
Partnering with Google on web.dev
When the web.dev team at Google contacted Clearleft about writing a course on responsive design, our eyes lit up.
This was clearly a good fit. For one thing, Clearleft has been pioneering responsive design from day one—we helped launch some of the first responsive sites in the UK. But there was another reason why this partnership sounded good: we had the same approach to writing and sharing.
Ever since Clearleft was founded in 2005 we’ve taken on board the motto of the World Wide Web itself: let’s share what we know. As well as doing the work, we enjoy sharing how the work gets done. Whether it’s case studies, blog posts, podcasts, or conference talks, we’re always thinking about ways to contribute to the web community.
Many other great resources have contributed to our collective knowledge: A List Apart, CSS Tricks, Smashing Magazine, Mozilla Developer Network, and more recently web.dev, which has become an excellent resource for front-end developers. But they wanted to make sure that designers were also included. Una described her plan for a fifteen-part course on modern responsive design aimed at web designers.
It was ambitious. The plan included some cutting edge technology that’s just shipping in browsers now. It sounded daunting and exciting in equal measure. Mostly it sounded like far too good an opportunity for Clearleft to pass up so we jumped on it.
With my fellow Clearlefties otherwise engaged in client work, it fell to me to tap out the actual words. Fortunately I’ve had plenty of experience with my own website of moving my fingers up and down on a keyboard in attempt to get concepts out of my head and onto the screen. I familiarised myself with the house style and got to work.
I had lots of help from the Chrome developer relations team at Google. Project management (thanks, Terry!), technical editing (thanks, Adam!), and copy editing (thanks, Rachel!) were provided to me.
Working with Rachel again was a real treat—she wrote the second edition of my book, HTML5 For Web Designers. Every time she suggested a change to something I had written, I found myself slapping my forehead and saying “Of course! That’s so much better!” It felt great to have someone else be a content buddy for me.
We had a weekly video call to check in and make sure everything was on track. There was also an epic spreadsheet to track the flow of each module as they progressed from outline to first draft to second draft.
Those were just the stages when the words were in a Google doc. After that, the content moved to Github and there was a whole other process to shepherd it towards going live.
Take note of the license in that repo: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. That means that you—or anyone—is free to use and reuse all the material (as long as you include a credit). I think I might republish the fifteen articles on my site at some point.
If you’d like to peruse the outcome of this collaboration between Clearleft and Google, head on over to web.dev and learn responsive design. Then feel free to share it!
Sunday, January 9th, 2022
From Patrick Tanguay:
A list of small micro-publishers — most of them run by one person — putting out great content through their websites, newsletters, and podcasts.
Saturday, January 8th, 2022
The books I have written are created from words invented by others, filled with ideas created by others. Even the few new ideas that are new depend on older ideas to work. What I had to say would probably be said by someone else not long after me. (More probably there have already been said by someone I was not aware of.) I may be the lucky person to claim those rare new ideas, but the worth of my art primarily resides in the great accumulation of the ideas and works of thousands of writers and thinkers before me — what I call the commons. My work was born in the commons, it gets its value by being deeply connected to the commons, and after my brief stewardship of those tiny new bits, it should return to the commons as fast as possible, in as many ways as possible.
Monday, January 3rd, 2022
A blog is just a journal: a web log of what you’re thinking and doing. You can keep a log about anything you like; it doesn’t have to be professional or money-making. In fact, in my opinion, the best blogs are personal. There’s no such thing as writing too much: your voice is important, your perspective is different, and you should put it out there.
Thursday, December 30th, 2021
2021 in numbers
I posted to adactio.com 968 times in 2021.
March was the busiest month with 118 posts.
My travel map for the year includes one transatlantic trip: Christmas in Arizona, where I’m writing this end-of-year wrap-up before getting back on a plane to England tomorrow, Omicron willing.
Tuesday, December 7th, 2021
James is featuring a different blog every day of Christmas and he chose mine for day three. What a lovely project!
I love writing this series. For the last three days, one of the first things on my mind after waking up is “what blog am I going to feature today?” I have seen so many interesting websites in the last few years. If you ever feel like the web is all the same, I’d recommend checking out the IndieWeb or clicking through the websites I feature in this series. You’ll realise there is still a great deal of creative content on the web written by independent bloggers: you just have to know where to start looking.
Writing has been essential for focus, planning, catharsis, anger management, etc. Get it down, get it out. Writing is hard, but it’s also therapy: give order to a pile of thoughts to understand them better and move on.
I concur! Though it’s worth adding that it feels qualitatively different (and better!) to do this on your own site rather than contributing to someone else’s silo, like Twitter or Facebook.
Wednesday, December 1st, 2021
Prompted by my talk, The State Of The Web, Brian zooms out to get some perspective on how browser power is consolidated.
The web is made of clients and servers. There’s a huge amount of diversity in the server space but there’s very little diversity when it comes to clients because making a browser has become so complex and expensive.
But Brian hopes that this complexity and expense could be distributed amongst a large amount of smaller players.
10 companies agreeing to invest $10k apiece to advance and maintain some area of shared interest is every bit as useful as 1 agreeing to invest $100k generally. In fact, maybe it’s more representative.
We believe that there is a very long tail of increasingly smaller companies who could do something, if only they coordinated to fund it together. The further we stretch this out, the more sources we enable, the more its potential adds up.
Wednesday, November 24th, 2021
This is an intriguing idea for a content management system: write words on paper and then take a picture of the page. Artisinal retro vintage blogging.
Sunday, November 21st, 2021
This is the best description of what my own website feels like to me:
A search engine for my mind
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021
I love reading about how—and why—people tinker with their personal sites. This resonates a lot.
This website is essentially a repository of my memories, lessons I’ve learnt, insights I’ve discovered, a changelog of my previous selves. Most people build a map of things they have learnt, I am building a map of how I have come to be, in case I may get lost again. Maybe someone else interested in a similar lonely path will feel less alone with my documented footprints. Maybe that someone else would be me in the future.
Oh, and Winnie, I can testify that having an “on this day” page is well worth it!
Sunday, October 10th, 2021
I like this advice: write for you, not for others. And if you can’t think of what to “write”, document something for yourself and call it writing.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the mystery of blogging, it’s that the stuff you think nobody will read ends up with way more reach than anything you write thinking it will be popular.
So write about what you want, not what you think others want, and the words will spill out.
I couldn’t agree more!
Thursday, September 30th, 2021
Twenty years of writing on my website
On this day twenty years ago I wrote the first entry in my online journal. In the intervening two decades I’ve written a further 2,817 entries.
I am now fifty years old, which means I’ve been blogging for two fifths of my lifetime.
My website has actually been around for longer than twenty years, but its early incarnations had no blog. That all changed when I relaunched the site on September 30th, 2001.
I’m not quite sure what I will be saying here over the coming days, weeks, months and years.
Honestly I still feel like that.
I think it’s safe to assume an “anything goes” attitude for what I post here. Being a web developer, there’s bound to be lots of geeky, techy stuff but I also want a place where I can rant and rave about life in general.
That’s been pretty true, although I feel that maybe there’s been too much geeky stuff and not enough about everything else in my life.
I’ll try and post fairly regularly but I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep. Hopefully, I’ll be updating the journal on a daily basis.
I made no promises but I think I’ve done a pretty good job. Many’s the blogger who has let the weeds grow over their websites as they were lured by the siren song of centralised social networks. I’m glad that I’ve managed to avoid that fate. It feels good to look back on twenty years of updates posted on my own domain.
Anyway, let’s see what happens. I hope you’ll like it.
I hope you still like it.
Here are some of my handpicked highlights from the past twenty years of blogging:
- Hyperdrive, April 20th, 2007
Last night in San Francisco.
- Design doing, November 11, 2007
The opposite of design thinking.
- Iron Man and me, December 1st, 2008
The story of how one of my Flickr pictures came to be used in a Hollywood movie.
- Seams, May 12th, 2014
There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
- Web! What is it good for?, May 28th, 2015
Not absolutely nothing, but not absolutely everything either.
- Split, April 10th, 2019
Materials and tools; client and server; declarative and imperative; inclusion and privilege.
Thursday, September 16th, 2021
Writing the Clearleft newsletter
I think it’s a really good newsletter, but then again, I’m the one who writes it. It just kind of worked out that way. In theory, anyone at Clearleft could write an edition of the newsletter.
To make that prospect less intimidating, I put together a document for my colleagues describing how I go about creating a new edition of the newsletter. Then I thought it might be interesting for other people outside of Clearleft to get a peek at how the sausage is made.
So here’s what I wrote…
The description of the newsletter is:
A round-up of handpicked hyperlinks from Clearleft, covering design, technology, and culture.
It usually has three links (maybe four, tops) on a single topic.
The topic can be anything that’s interesting, especially if it’s related to design or technology. Every now and then the topic can be something that incorporates an item that’s specifically Clearleft-related (a case study, an event, a job opening). In general it’s not very salesy at all so people will tolerate the occasional plug.
You can use the “iiiinteresting” Slack channel to find potential topics of interest. I’ve gotten in the habit of popping potential newsletter fodder in there, and then adding related links in a thread.
Imagine you’re telling a friend about something cool you’ve just discovered. You can sound excited. Don’t worry about this looking unprofessional—it’s better to come across as enthusiastic than too robotic. You can put real feelings on display: anger, disappointment, happiness.
That said, you can also just stick to the facts and describe each link in turn, letting the content speak for itself.
If you’re expressing a feeling or an opinion, use the personal pronoun “I”. Don’t use “we” unless you’re specifically referring to Clearleft.
But most of the time, you won’t be using any pronouns at all:
So-and-so has written an article in such-and-such magazine on this-particular-topic.
You might find it useful to have connecting phrases as you move from link to link:
Speaking of some-specific-thing, this-other-person has a different viewpoint.
On the subject of this-particular-topic, so-and-so wrote something about this a while back.
The format of the newsletter is:
- An introductory sentence or short paragraph.
- A sentence describing the first link, ending with the title of the item in bold.
- A link to the item on its own separate line.
- An excerpt from the link, usually a sentence or two, styled as a quote.
- Repeat steps 2 to 4 another two times.
Take a look through the archive of previous newsletters to get a feel for it.
Currently the newsletter is called dConstruct from Clearleft. The subject line of every edition is in the format:
dConstruct from Clearleft — Title of the edition
(Note that’s an em dash with a space on either side of it separating the name of the newsletter and the title of the edition)
I often try to come up with a pun-based title (often a punny portmanteau) but that’s not necessary. It should be nice and short though: just one or two words.
Thursday, August 26th, 2021
Lara’s superb book on public speaking is now available in its entirity for free as a web book!
And a very beautiful web book it is too! All it needs is a service worker so it works offline.
Friday, August 20th, 2021
Your attentive kindness doesn’t get picked up by any analytical tool I’ve got other than my heart and my memory—however short lived.
Tuesday, August 17th, 2021
Letters to a Young Technologist is a collection of essays addressed to young technologists, written by a group of young technologists.
Monday, August 9th, 2021
I have no idea what the web will look like in another 30 years. But I am sure that we will look back at the first 30 years of the Web like we look back at the silent era in cinema today: as the formative years of a medium that was about to evolve to even higher heights.
The Web has always been about what each and every one of us contributes. And contributing is easier and more important than ever. So let’s not leave the future of the Web to big tech alone. Inclusiveness, accessibility, performance, security, usability, decentralization, openness – in almost all areas, the Web is far from done.