• Encoding data in dubstep drops

    Dubstep songs are often criticized as sound extremely computer generated and often just too aggressive/“digital” for a lot of people to enjoy. It’s not uncommon for people to joke that they sound like someone had added a bassline and drums to modem noises

    For some tracks this is truer than others. After all, it’s a genre with more aggressive interpretations and more relaxed ones.

    But that had me thinking, how much effort would it be to actually embed machine readable data inside a dubstep track, while ensuring that the sound could be enjoyed by humans as well…

    Encoding data in dubstep drops.

    I want to call this something punny. Dubsteg? Dubsteganography? Dubstepanography?

    Via O’Reilly’s Four Short Links (which is well worth space in your RSS reader).

  • Ditching Google Analytics

    For the longest time I’ve had Google Analytics running on this site. On the occasions when a post got popular, it would be fun to look at the real-time data, see where visitors were coming from, understand how my words were making it around the web.

    As of today I’ve removed their analytics code, and will be going back to good old server side logs.

    A number of things have led me to this decision.

    One is my renewed interest in the Indieweb and wanting to be less reliant on outside parties.

    Another is performance, less scripting means less bytes.

    And finally, and most importantly, privacy. As seductive and interesting as it is watching people visit the site in real-time, and digging down into the paths they took, why do I need to know any of that? I’m not a business, I don’t have “funnels”, “conversions”, or “targets”. You come, you read, you leave.

    The server logs will still be grabbing some data. Specifically when you visited, what you visited, who referred you (if anyone), and your browser.

    It’s a blunt tool, but I’m okay with that.

  • JS Oxford Indieweb presentation

    Last night I attended the always excellent JS Oxford, and as well as having my mind expanded by both Jo and Ruth’s talks (Lemmings make an excellent analogy for multi-threading, who knew!), I gave a brief talk on the Indieweb movement.

    If you’ve not heard of Indieweb movement before, it’s a push to encourage people to claim their own bit of the web, for their identity and content, free from corporate platforms. It’s not about abandoning those platforms, but ensuring that you have control of your content if something goes wrong.

    From the Indieweb site:

    Your content is yours

    When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.

    You are better connected

    Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.

    I’ve been interested in the Indieweb for a while, after attending IndieWebCamp Brighton in 2016, and I’ve been slowly implementing Indieweb features on here ever since.

    So far I’ve added rel="me" attributes to allow distributed verification, and to enable Indieauth support, h-card to establish identity, and h-entry for information discovery. Behind the scenes I’m looking at webmentions (Thanks to Perch’s first class support), and there’s the ever-eternal photo management thing I keep picking up and then running away from.

    The great thing about the Indieweb is that you can implement as much or as little as you want, and it always gives you something to work on. It doesn’t matter where you start. The act of getting your own domain is the first step on a longer journey.

    To that end I’m interested in organising an IndieWebCamp Oxford this year. If this sounds like something that interests you, then come find me in the Digital Oxford Slack, or on Twitter.

  • Businessing II

  • Everything Easy is Hard Again

    Frank Chimero really nails something I’ve been feeling for a while now but have been unable to put into words (emphasis mine).

    Illegibility comes from complexity without clarity. I believe that the legibility of the source is one of the most important properties of the web. It’s the main thing that keeps the door open to independent, unmediated contributions to the network. If you can write markup, you don’t need Medium or Twitter or Instagram (though they’re nice to have). And the best way to help someone write markup is to make sure they can read markup.

    Learning to code through reading source was how I get started. The first site I ever built is still out there thanks to archive.org, and I delight in showing the ramshackle beginnings of my career to new students at Codebar and Code First:Girls.

    Frank continues (again, emphasis mine).

    As someone who has decades of experience on the web, I hate to compare myself to the tortoise, but hey, if it fits, it fits. Let’s be more like that tortoise: diligent, direct, and purposeful. The web needs pockets of slowness and thoughtfulness as its reach and power continues to increase. What we depend upon must be properly built and intelligently formed. We need to create space for complexity’s important sibling: nuance.


    As Jeremy has said in Resilient Web Design:

    Here’s a three‐step approach I take to web design:

    1. Identify core functionality.
    2. Make that functionality available using the simplest possible technology.
    3. Enhance!

    I continually go back to these three rules. I want to build things that others can learn from.

  • Ballet

    Last night I watched SpaceX launch Falcon Heavy and put their test payload (Elon Musk’s Tesla) into orbit. There were many highlights, not least the “Don’t Panic” on the Tesla’s dashboard, and the shot of a car in orbit around the earth, but for me, the synchronised landing of the outboard boosters sent a shiver up my spine. This was like something from the cover of the 70s science fiction novels I grew up with. It was balletic.

    Spacex falcon heavy landing

    You can watch the full launch, deployment, and landing here.

  • 10 New Principles of Design

    Suzanne LaBarre of Co.Design has come up with an update of Dieter Rams Ten Principles for Good Design list for 2018: 10 New Principles Of Good Design.

    Good Design Is Honest

    This is one of Rams’s tenets, but it bears repeating at a time when dark patterns abound and corporations treat UX like a weapon. Uber is the most flagrant example. The company built its business on a seamless front-end user experience (hail a ride, without ever pulling out your wallet!) while playing puppet master with both users and drivers. The company’s fall from grace–culminating in CEO Travis Kalanick’s ousting last year–underscores the shortsightedness of this approach.

    Good design “does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is,” Rams writes. “It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.”

    Lots to think about and absorb going into 2018.

    (via kottke.org)

  • Top albums and films of 2017

    Around this time last year I foolishly said

    Well, the less said about the state of 2016 in general, the better.

    … little did I know.

    Thankfully it was another cracking year for music and cinema. So here are my top ten albums and films of 2017. Film was especially difficult to narrow down to ten.



    (my full stats for 2017 can be seen on Letterboxd)

  • The origins of the Web

    The web is like the ship of Theseus—so much of it has been changed and added to over time. That doesn’t mean its initial design was flawed—just the opposite. It means that its initial design wasn’t unnecessarily rigid. The simplicity of the early web wasn’t a bug, it was a feature.

    Jeremy Keith on the origins of the web and the false idea that it was designed solely for sharing documents.

  • Devices

    Your website’s only as strong as the weakest device you’ve tested it on.

    Ethan Marcotte

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