Tags: words

172

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Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Constellation

Language conjures the world into being.

Just type stuff.

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Words

I like words. I like the way they can be tethered together to produce a satisfying sentence.

Jessica likes words even more than I do (that’s why her website is called “wordridden”). She studied linguistics and she’s a translator by trade—German into English. Have a read of her post about translating Victor Klemperer to get an inkling of how much thought and care she puts into it.

Given the depth of enquiry required for a good translation, I was particularly pleased to read this remark by John Le Carré:

No wonder then that the most conscientious editors of my novels are not those for whom English is their first language, but the foreign translators who bring their relentless eye to the tautological phrase or factual inaccuracy – of which there are far too many. My German translator is particularly infuriating.

That’s from an article called Why we should learn German, but it’s really about why we should strive for clarity in our use of language:

Clear language — lucid, rational language — to a man at war with both truth and reason, is an existential threat. Clear language to such a man is a direct assault on his obfuscations, contradictions and lies. To him, it is the voice of the enemy. To him, it is fake news. Because he knows, if only intuitively, what we know to our cost: that without clear language, there is no standard of truth.

It reminds me of one of my favourite Orwell essays, Politics and the English Language:

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

But however much I agree with Le Carré’s reprise of Orwell’s call for clarity, I was brought up short by this:

Every time I hear a British politician utter the fatal words, “Let me be very clear”, these days I reach for my revolver.

Le Carré’s text was part of a speech given in Berlin, where everyone would get the reference to the infamous Nazi quote—Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning—and I’m sure it was meant with a sly wink. But words matter.

Words are powerful. Words can be love and comfort — and words can be weapons.

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

100 words, 100 days.

When I did my 100 days project, I found it really challenging. I’m so impressed that Amber has managed to do this: she wrote exactly 100 words every day for 100 days.

10,000 words, 10 megawords, 100 h-entries of hand-written HTML:

I can’t believe I have written ten thousand words. If I were to read everything out it would take me almost an hour. Yet, one hundred words seems like such a small amount. An amount that only takes a few minutes to write.

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Joe Coleman

Joe’s site is very clever …but is it as clever as Jon’s?

Fullstopnewparagraph — Freelance copywriter | London

Jon’s site is very clever …but is it as clever as Joe’s?

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Password Rules Are Bullshit

And here’s another reason why password rules are bullshit: you’re basically giving a list of instructions to hackers—the password rules help them narrow down the strings they need to brute force.

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Let them paste passwords - NCSC Site

Ever been on one of those websites that doesn’t allow you to paste into the password field? Frustrating, isn’t it? (Especially if you use a password manager.)

It turns out that nobody knows how this ever started. It’s like a cargo cult without any cargo.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

DiceWARE

This is a wonderful service! Handcrafted artisanal passwords made with a tried and trusted technique:

You roll a die 5 times and write down each number. Then you look up the resulting five-digit number in the Diceware dictionary, which contains a numbered list of short words.

That’s the description from the site’s creator, Mira:

Please keep in mind when ordering that I am a full-time sixth grade student with a lot of homework.

She’s the daughter of Julia Angwin, author of Dragnet Nation.

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Owning my words

When I wrote a few words about progressive enhancement recently, I linked to Karolina’s great article The Web Isn’t Uniform. I was a little reluctant to link to it, not because of the content—which is great—but because of its location on Ev’s blog. I much prefer to link directly to people’s own websites (I have a hunch that those resources tend to last longer too) but I understand that Medium offers a nice low barrier to publishing.

That low barrier comes at a price. It means you have to put up with anyone and everyone weighing in with their own hot takes. The way the site works is that anyone who writes a comment on your article is effectively writing their own article—you don’t get to have any editorial control over what kind of stuff appears together with your words. There is very little in the way of community management once a piece is published.

Karolina’s piece attracted some particularly unsavoury snark—tech bros disagreeing in their brash bullying way. I linked to a few comments, leaving out the worst of the snark, but I couldn’t resist editorialising:

Ah, Medium! Where the opinions of self-entitled dudes flow like rain from the tech heavens.

I knew even when I was writing it that it was unproductive, itself a snarky remark. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But I wanted to acknowledge that not only was bad behaviour happening, but that I was seeing it, and I wasn’t ignoring it. I guess it was mostly intended for Karolina—I wanted to extend some kind of acknowledgment that the cumulative weight of those sneering drive-by reckons is a burden that no one should have to put up with.

I knew that when I wrote about Medium being “where the opinions of self-entitled dudes flow like rain from the tech heavens” that I would (rightly) get pushback, and sure enough, I did …on Medium. Not on Twitter or anywhere else, just Medium.

I syndicate my posts to Ev’s blog, so the free-for-all approach to commenting doesn’t bother me that much. The canonical URL for my words remains on my site under my control. But for people posting directly to Medium and then having to put up with other people casually shitting all over their words, it must feel quite disempowering.

I have a similar feeling with Twitter. I syndicate my notes there and if the service disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed any tears. There’s something very comforting in knowing that any snarky nasty responses to my words are only being thrown at copies. I know a lot of my friends are disheartened about the way that Twitter has changed in recent years. I wish I could articulate how much better it feels to only use Twitter (or Medium or Facebook) as a syndication tool, like RSS.

There is an equal and opposite reaction too. I think it’s easier to fling off some thoughtless remarks when you’re doing it on someone else’s site. I bet you that the discourse on Ev’s blog would be of a much higher quality if you could only respond from your own site. I find I’m more careful with my words when I publish here on adactio.com. I’m taking ownership of what I say.

And when I do lapse and write snarky words like “Ah, Medium! Where the opinions of self-entitled dudes flow like rain from the tech heavens.”, at least I’m owning my own snark. Still, I will endeavour to keep my snark levels down …but that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Shuffleboard At McMurdo (Idle Words)

Maciej’s first report from Antarctica is here. Put the kettle on and settle in for a grand read.

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

How Literature Became Word Perfect | New Republic

An engaging look at the history of word processing, word processed by Josephine Livingstone.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

what3words | Addressing the world

In this English language alternative to latitude and longitude coordinates, the Clearleft office is located at:

cross.rooms.quick

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Atomic Classification | Trent Walton

There is one truism that has been constant throughout my career on the web, and it’s this: naming things is hard.

Trent talks about the strategies out there for naming things. He makes specific mention of Atomic Design, which as Brad is always at pains to point out, is just one way of naming things: atoms, molecules, organisms, etc.

In some situations, having that pre-made vocabulary is perfect. In other situations, I’ve seen it cause all sorts of problems. It all depends on the project and the people.

Personally, I like the vocabulary to emerge from the domain knowledge of the people on the project. Building a newspaper website? Use journalism-related terms. Making a website about bicycles? Use bike-related terms.

Most importantly, make the naming process a collaborative exercise, as outlined by Alla and Charlotte.

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

The Pain With No Name · An A List Apart Article

This rousing call-to-arms by Abby the IA makes a great companion piece to her interview on The Big Web Show.

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Words of welcome

For a while now, The Session has had some little on-boarding touches to make sure that new members are eased into the culture of this traditional Irish music community.

First off, new members are encouraged to add a little bit about themselves so that there’s some context when they start making contributions.

Welcome! You are now a member of The Session. Now, how about sharing a bit more about yourself: where you're from, what instrument(s) you play, etc.

Secondly, new members can’t kick off a brand new discussion straight away.

Woah there! I appreciate your eagerness to post your first discussion, but seeing as you just joined The Session, maybe it would be better if you wait a little bit first. Take a look around at the existing discussions, have a read of the house rules and get a feel for how things work around here.

Likewise, they can’t post a comment straight away. They need to wait an hour between signing up and posting their first comment. Instead of seeing a comment form, they see a countdown.

Welcome to The Session, Testy McTest! You'll be able to add your first comment in forty-seven minutes.

Finally, when they do make their first submission—whether it’s a discussion, an event, a session, or a tune—the interface displays a few extra messages of encouragement and care.

Add a tune, Step 1 of 4: Tune Details. As this is your first tune submission, please take extra care. First, provide some basic details about the tune you want to add.

But I realised that all of these custom messages were very one-sided. They were always displayed to the new member. It’s equally important that existing members treat any newcomers with respect.

Now on some discussions, an extra message is displayed to existing members right before the comment form. The logic is straightforward:

  1. If this is a discussion added by a new member,
  2. who hasn’t yet added any comments anywhere,
  3. and this discussion has no responses so far,
  4. and anyone other than that member is viewing the page,
  5. then display a message asking for help making this new member feel welcome.

This is the first ever post by FourCourseChaos. Please help in making them feel welcome here at The Session.

It’s a small addition, but it makes a difference.

No intricate JavaScript; no smooth animations; just some words on a screen encouraging a human connection.

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Using System Fonts in the Browser

We have some new font keywords that are basically shortcuts to using the system fonts on a device. This article explains the details.

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Simplified JavaScript Jargon

An A-Z of JavaScript jargon (although some of the “explanations” could do with de-jargonifying themselves).

Monday, October 5th, 2015

“100 Words 100” by Kyle Halleman • Nineteen Twenty-Seven

Kyle Halleman completed one hundred days of writing one hundred words. Respect! I know how hard that is.

Have a read from the first entry onwards.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

A Good Writer Is a Good Thinker

The web – by its very nature – foregrounds the connections between different clusters of knowledge. Links link. One article leads to another. As you make the journey from destination to destination, all inevitably connected by that trail of links, you begin to tease out understanding.

It’s this drawing together, this weaving together of knowledge, that is the important part. Your journey is unique. The chances of another pursuing the same path, link by link (or book by book), is – statistically – impossible. Your journey leads you to discovery and, through reflection, comprehension. You see the connections others haven’t, because your journey is your own.