Sunday, October 13th, 2019
Saturday, April 6th, 2019
One evening last month, during An Event Apart Seattle, a bunch of the speakers were gathered in the bar in the hotel lobby, shooting the breeze and having a nightcap before the next day’s activities. In a quasi-philosophical mode, the topic of goals came up. Not the sporting variety, but life and career goals.
As I everyone related (confessed?) their goals, I had to really think hard. I don’t think I have any goals. I find it hard enough to think past the next few months, much less form ideas about what I might want to be doing in a decade. But then I remembered that I did once have a goal.
Back in the ’90s, when I was living in Germany and first starting to make websites, there was a website I would check every day for inspiration: Project Cool’s Cool Site Of The Day. I resolved that my life’s goal was to one day have a website I made be the cool site of the day.
About a year later, to my great shock and surprise, I achieved my goal. An early iteration of Jessica’s site—complete with whizzy DHTML animations—was the featured site of the day on Project Cool. I was overjoyed!
I never bothered to come up with a new goal to supercede that one. Maybe I should’ve just retired there and then—I had peaked.
Megan Sapnar Ankerson wrote an article a few years back about How coolness defined the World Wide Web of the 1990s:
The early web was simply teeming with declarations of cool: Cool Sites of the Day, the Night, the Week, the Year; Cool Surf Spots; Cool Picks; Way Cool Websites; Project Cool Sightings. Coolness awards once besieged the web’s virtual landscape like an overgrown trophy collection.
It’s a terrific piece that ponders the changing nature of the web, and the changing nature of that word: cool.
Perhaps the word will continue to fall out of favour. Tim Berners-Lee may have demonstrated excellent foresight when he added this footnote to his classic document, Cool URIs don’t change—still available at its original URL, of course:
Historical note: At the end of the 20th century when this was written, “cool” was an epithet of approval particularly among young, indicating trendiness, quality, or appropriateness.
Friday, March 22nd, 2019
An interesting way of navigating through a massive amount of archival imagery from NASA.
Everything you need to know about hyphenation on the web today, from Rich’s galaxy brain.
Hyphenation is a perfect example of progressive enhancement, so you can start applying the above now if you think your readers will benefit from it – support among browsers will only increase.
Wednesday, March 20th, 2019
Improve your word power:
Using ‘very’ + adjective makes your writing stale. This dictionary finds you a less dull, alternative word. It’ll help make your writing more convincing and engaging.
Thursday, February 28th, 2019
Onboarding. Reaching out. In terms of. Synergy. Bandwidth. Headcount. Forward planning. Multichannel. Going forward. We are constantly bombarded and polluted with nonsense speak. These words and phrases snag and attach themselves to our vocabulary like sticky weeds.
Words become walls.
I love this post from Ben on the value of plain language!
We’re not dumbing things down by using simple terms. We’re being smarter.
Read on for the story of the one exception that Ben makes—it’s a good one.
Saturday, February 2nd, 2019
Wheeee! Another fun experiment from Cameron.
Wednesday, January 16th, 2019
Exactly what it sounds like: a checklist of measures you can take to protect yourself.
Most of these require a certain level of tech-savviness, which is a real shame. On the other hand, some of them are entirely about awareness.
Monday, December 31st, 2018
2018 in numbers
I posted to adactio.com 1,387 times in 2018:
- 4 articles (two conference talks, a book chapter, and an article for 24 ways),
- 97 blog posts,
- 763 links,
- 523 notes.
In amongst those notes were:
In my blog posts, the top tags were:
- frontend and development (42 posts),
- serviceworkers (27 posts),
- design (20 posts),
- writing and publishing (19 posts),
In my links, the top tags were:
- development (305 links),
- frontend (289 links),
- design (178 links),
- css (110 links),
When I wasn’t updating this site:
- I made 1,542 Github contributions,
- I sent out 24 Clearleft email newsletters,
- I spoke at 19 events (in 11 countries), and
- I wrote 1 book.
Saturday, December 29th, 2018
Words I wrote in 2018
Here are some posts that turned out okay…
- Ends and means. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
- Thanos. Avengers are wizards; Thanos is a prophet.
- Frustration. Applying the principle of least power to tools and technologies.
- The Gęsiówka Story. Republishing a forgotten piece of history.
- Robustness and least power. A tale of two principles.
- Preparing a conference talk. The four steps I took in putting together a presentation.
- Prototypes and production. Don’t build prototypes with a production mindset. Don’t release prototype code into production.
A lot of my writing in 2018 was on technical topics—front-end development, service workers, and so on—but I should really make more of an effort to write about a wider range of topics. I always like when Zeldman writes about his glamourous life. Maybe in 2019 I’ll spend more time letting you know what I had for lunch.
I really enjoy writing words on this website. If I go too long between blog posts, I start to feel antsy. The only relief is to move my fingers up and down on the keyboard and publish something. Sounds like a bit of an addiction, doesn’t it? Well, as habits go, this is probably one of my healthier ones.
Thanks for reading my words in 2018. I didn’t write them for you—I wrote them for me—but it’s always nice when they resonate with others. I’ll keep on writing my brains out in 2019.
Sunday, December 2nd, 2018
Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018
When you’re struggling to write something that sounds clear and sounds human (two of the essential basics of a good blog post, I’d argue), just use the words normal people would use.
If we use jargon, we reveal our insecurity. If we use pretentious language, we expose our arrogance. But if we use language that anyone can understand, people are much more likely to value what we do.
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
A search engine for colours.
Tuesday, August 7th, 2018
Inclusive design is also future-proofing technology for everyone. Swan noted that many more developers and designers are considering accessibility issues as they age and encounter poor eyesight or other impairments.
Tuesday, July 10th, 2018
The ideas and images that come to mind when you think of technology as an instrument are more useful than if you think of it as a tool. Instruments — I’m specifically talking about musical instruments — are a way to create culture.
You approach instruments with a set of expectations and associations that are more humane. It’s built into their very purpose. Instruments are meant to make something for other people, not making things. When you use an instrument, you have an expectation that it is going to take effort to use it well. Using an instrument takes practice. You form a relationship with that object. It becomes part of your identity that you make something with it. You tune it. You understand that there’s no such thing as a “best” guitar in the same way that there’s not necessarily a “best” phone.
Friday, July 6th, 2018
Testing the theory that putting the word “total”, “complete”, or “absolute” in front of any noun automatically makes for an excellent insult.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2018
I’ve been wondering about this for quite a while: surely demanding specific patterns in a password (e.g. can’t be all lowercase, must include at least one number, etc.) makes it easier to crack them, right? I mean, you’re basically providing a ruleset for brute-forcing.
Turns out, yes. That’s exactly right.
When employees are faced with this requirement, they tend to:
- Choose a dictionary word or a name
- Make the first character uppercase
- Add a number at the end, and/or an exclamation point
If we know that is a common pattern, then we know where to start…
Thursday, March 29th, 2018
The answers to these questions about forms are useful for just about any website:
- Is It OK To Place A Form In Two Columns?
- Where Should Labels Be Placed?
- Can We Use Placeholder Text Instead Of A Label?
- How To Lessen The Cognitive Load Of A Form?
- Are Buttons Considered Part Of A Form’s UX?
- Is It Possible To Ease The Process Of Filling A Form?
- Does The User’s Location Influence A Form’s UX?
Monday, January 1st, 2018
Words I wrote in 2017
I wrote 78 blog posts in 2017. That works out at an average of six and a half blog posts per month. I’ll take it.
Here are some pieces of writing from 2017 that I’m relatively happy with:
Going Rogue. A look at the ethical questions raised by Rogue One
In AMP we trust. My unease with Google’s AMP format was growing by the day.
A minority report on artificial intelligence. Revisiting two of Spielberg’s films after a decade and a half.
Progressing the web. I really don’t want progressive web apps to just try to imitate native apps. They can be so much more.
CSS. Simple, yes, but not easy.
Intolerable. A screed. I still get very, very angry when I think about how that manifestbro duped people.
Акула. Recounting a story told by a taxi driver.
Hooked and booked. Does A/B testing lead to dark patterns?
Ubiquity and consistency. Different approaches to building on the web.
I hope there’s something in there that you like. It always a nice bonus when other people like something I’ve written, but I write for myself first and foremost. Writing is how I figure out what I think. I will, of course, continue to write and publish on my website in 2018. I’d really like it if you did the same.