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.
Saturday, January 8th, 2022
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.
Thursday, December 23rd, 2021
Even more writing on web.dev
The final five are here! The course on responsive design I wrote for web.dev is now complete, just in time for Christmas. The five new modules are:
These five felt quite “big picture”, and often quite future-facing. I certainly learned a lot researching proposals for potential media features and foldable screens. That felt like a fitting way to close out the course, bookending it nicely with the history of responsive design in the introduction.
And with that, the full course is now online. Go forth and learn responsive design!
Saturday, December 11th, 2021
More writing on web.dev
Last month I wrote about writing on web.dev. At that time, the first five parts of a fourteen-part course on responsive design had been published. I’m pleased to say that the next five parts are now available. They are:
It wasn’t planned, but these five modules feel like they belong together. The first five modules were concerned with layout tools—media queries, flexbox, grid, and even container queries. The latest five modules are about the individual elements of design—type, colour, and images. But those elements are examined through the lens of responsiveness; responsive typography with
clamp, responsive colour with
prefers-color-scheme, and responsive images with
The final five modules should be available later this month. In the mean time, I hope you like the first ten modules.
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, 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
Sunday, November 7th, 2021
Ben is writing a chapter a day of this cli-fi story. You can subscribe to the book by email or RSS.
Thursday, November 4th, 2021
Writing on web.dev
Chrome Dev Summit kicked off yesterday. The opening keynote had its usual share of announcements.
There was quite a bit of talk about privacy, which sounds good in theory, but then we were told that Google would be partnering with “industry stakeholders.” That’s probably code for the kind of ad-tech sharks that have been making a concerted effort to infest W3C groups. Beware.
But once Una was on-screen, the topics shifted to the kind of design and development updates that don’t have sinister overtones.
My favourite moment was when Una said:
We’re also partnering with Jeremy Keith of Clearleft to launch Learn Responsive Design on web.dev. This is a free online course with everything you need to know about designing for the new responsive web of today.
This is what’s been keeping me busy for the past few months (and for the next month or so too). I’ve been writing fifteen pieces—or “modules”—on modern responsive web design. One third of them are available now at web.dev/learn/design:
The rest are on their way: typography, responsive images, theming, UI patterns, and more.
I’ve been enjoying this process. It’s hard work that requires me to dive deep into the nitty-gritty details of lots of different techniques and technologies, but that can be quite rewarding. As is often said, if you truly want to understand something, teach it.
Oh, and I made one more appearance at the Chrome Dev Summit. During the “Ask Me Anything” section, quizmaster Una asked the panelists a question from me:
Given the court proceedings against AMP, why should anyone trust FLOC or any other Google initiatives ostensibly focused on privacy?
(Thanks to Jake for helping craft the question into a form that could make it past the legal department but still retain its spiciness.)
The question got a response. I wouldn’t say it got an answer. My verdict remains:
I’m not sure that Google Chrome can be considered a user agent.
The fundamental issue is that you’ve got a single company that’s the market leader in web search, the market leader in web advertising, and the market leader in web browsers. I honestly believe all three would function better—and more honestly—if they were separate entities.
Monopolies aren’t just damaging for customers. They’re damaging for the monopoly too. I’d love to see Google Chrome compete on being a great web browser without having to also balance the needs of surveillance-based advertising.
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!
Tuesday, October 19th, 2021
Seb picks his top ten typefaces inspired by calligraphy.
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.
Wednesday, September 29th, 2021
TAKE MY MONEY!!!
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.
Monday, September 13th, 2021
I cannot wait for this book (apart) by Jeremy Wagner to arrive—it’s gonna be sooooo good!
Friday, September 3rd, 2021
On the detail and world-building in 40 years of William Gibson’s work.
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.