Nine people came together at CERN for five days and made something amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.
My first job in technology, working on the computer support desk at Coventry University (back in 1995… eek!), involved looking after a number of NeXT machines. So even outside of the Web angle, this project is full of all sorts of nostalgia and memories for me. And how incredible is it that they’ve built the browser inside a browser!
I’m extremely pleased about how this site renders in WorldWideWeb, a testemant to the resilience of plain old semantic HTML
If you want to have a play with any of your own sites, getting started is a little different to these days:
- Launch the WorldWideWeb browser.
- Select “Document” from the menu on the side.
- Select “Open from full document reference”.
- Type a URL into the “reference” field.
- Click “Open”.
And remember, you need to double click on links to activate them.
Rachel Andrew addresses a certain gatekeeping that is happening around web development, and what that means for people getting started:
When we talk about HTML and CSS these discussions impact the entry point into this profession. Whether front or backend, many of us without a computer science background are here because of the ease of starting to write HTML and CSS. The magic of seeing our code do stuff on a real live webpage! We have already lost many of the entry points that we had.
Like many of the “old guard”, I got started by viewing source (and can we just take a second to reflect on how amazing that feature of the Web is), hanging out in forums, and reading books like this.
The first site I ever built is still available via the Wayback Machine. It isn’t pretty, but it still works.
There is something remarkable about the fact that, with everything we have created in the past 20 years or so, I can still take a complete beginner and teach them to build a simple webpage with HTML and CSS, in a day. We don’t need to talk about tools or frameworks, learn how to make a pull request or drag vast amounts of code onto our computer via npm to make that start. We just need a text editor and a few hours. This is how we make things show up on a webpage.
That’s the real entry point here and yes, in 2019 they are going to have to move on quickly to the tools and techniques that will make them employable, if that is their aim. However those tools output HTML and CSS in the end. It is the bedrock of everything that we do, which makes the devaluing of those with real deep skills in those areas so much more baffling.
In her post Rachel highlights a recent Twitter thread from Betsy Haibel that points to a more pernicious reason behind this gatekeeping:
HTML+CSS dev vs JS-first dev Discourse MUST take into account how gender & seniority intersect or they WILL be harmful.— betsythemuffin (@betsythemuffin) 29 January 2019
The divide between how senior women engs frame it and how newer women frame this is NOT a coincidence, and is ESSENTIAL to understanding the debate.
Betsy’s points were eye opening for me, and were something I hadn’t really considered. It made me realise how naive I was back in the day, and how much more I still have to learn.
I was lucky enough to travel to Nottingham last week for the return of New Adventures.
New Adventures holds a very special place in my heart. Along with dConstruct it exposed me to a community of practitioners who cared as much as I did about the possibilities of the web, and through both, I met people who are friends to this day.
So I was hugely excited when I found out that New Adventures was coming back. So much so, I asked my new boss for the time off, while I was on holiday in Berlin, before I’d even started my new gig (thanks John!).
Digital experiences are forming in new ways, requiring us to think smarter, be more efficient and collaborative. In the face of uncertainty, we must ask tough questions about labour and ethics, education and inclusivity, and rediscover ambition through weirdness and fun. Let’s reconvene, recalibrate, and re-energise digital design.
Entering the Albert Hall on Thursday morning brought back a flood of memories. The gorgeous setting (it really is a stunning room), seeing familiar faces milling around, the excellent coffee. Sense memory is a powerful thing. So much so I found myself drawn to the same seat I occupied back during the original run (I know, I’m odd).
I won’t recap every talk as they were videoed, and the recordings will be released in the future, but I did want to share some of my highlights.
Jeremy Keith opened the day with yet another excellent talk, putting the architecture of the Web, the materials we work with, into the wider context of time and rates of change. Pace layers. Showing that if we work with the different layers, our creations are by their very nature more resilient.
This is something I’ve always believed and practised, but Jeremy’s ability to clearly articulate the reasoning why always gives me new ways of talking to others. And as usual, my reading list has grown because of his talk.
Clare Sutcliffe talked about her journey of becoming an overnight CEO for Code Club, going from its inception to eventual merger with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Clare also talked more personally about what New Adventures meant to her, and how she met her husband there.
I loved Jessica White’s talk on creating multi-disciplined teams by understanding the strengths and weaknesses in ourselves and others, and what we all have to bring to the conversation. Her request to create tiny bits of rebellion wherever we go is still scratching away in the back of my head.
Both Ashley Baxter and Brendan Dawes made me realise that I was spreading myself too thin and as a consequence I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. Time to cut back on some personal projects, and focus on others.
Helen Joy encouraged us to show compassion in our work. Through a series of examples from her own user research she demonstrated that empathy and understanding of social exclusion and situational disability is as important as permanent disabilities. A staggering statistic that I hadn’t heard before is that 11.3m adults in the UK are below point 5 of the Gov.Uk Digital Inclusion Scale. Basic digital skills, at point 7, is the minimum capability that people need to have in order to use the internet effectively.
She also drew attention to The Copenhagen letter. A Hippocratic oath for builders of technology:
To everyone who shapes technology today
We live in a world where technology is consuming society, ethics, and our core existence.
It is time to take responsibility for the world we are creating. Time to put humans before business. Time to replace the empty rhetoric of “building a better world” with a commitment to real action. It is time to organize, and to hold each other accountable.
Ethan Marcotte wrapped up the day talking about the inherent power in design, power that is increasingly being wielded by companies and governments who do not have our best interests at heart. Touching on Robert Moses’ racist architecture and examples of the freedoms promised but never delivered by technology of the past, it was a sobering look at the state of our industry today.
But, Ethan continued, there is hope, in us. There are challenges for sure, but together we can effect a change. It’s time for us to step up and take responsibility. I have no doubt this will go down as one of the most important talks I’ll see in my career.
Helen’s excellent round up of the day beautifully articulates the feelings that I took away from Nottingham, and that continue to resonate with me.
It seems we have finally started looking outwards: identifying our responsibility and the associated consequences of our actions. We’re pushing past our early egocentric selves and are moving towards maturity. We’re still making our way along this path, learning from each other as we continue to grow. Ethan, rightly, encouraged us to approach this with hope. The talks at New Adventures showed a significant shift in our thinking and from the feedback, this year’s themes seem to have struck a chord.
My hope is that we see New Adventures return next year so we can see what direction these messages have taken us in. The call to action from the opening of the conference was “Now is the time.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s up to us to shape and build our industry, to help it develop and to make the web a better place. Let’s get to it!
I am so happy that New Adventures decided to come back now. It couldn’t be more timely.
Someone wondered what would happen if the Earth was instantly replaced with an equal volume of blueberries. So Anders Sandberg worked it out:
The result is that blueberry earth will turn into a roaring ocean of boiling jam, with the geysers of released air and steam likely ejecting at least a few berries into orbit (escape velocity is just 4.234 km/s, and berries at the initial surface will be even higher up in the potential). As the planet evolves a thick atmosphere of released steam will add to the already considerable air from the berries.
It’s well worth reading for an example of how seemingly weird or frvialous questions can lead into areas you hadn’t even contemplated.
Irene Posch used historic gold embroidery materials and knowledge to craft a programmable 8 bit computer.
Solely built from a variety of metal threads, magnetic, glas and metal beads, and being inspired by traditional crafting routines and patterns, the piece questions the appearance of current digital and electronic technologies surrounding us, as well as our interaction with them.
Bryan Boyer built an e-ink device powered by a Raspberry Pi that displays films at 24fph (frames per hour).
Films are vain creatures that typically demand a dark room, full attention, and eager eyeballs ready to accept light beamed from the screen or projector to your visual cortex. VSMP inverts all of that. It is impossible to “watch” in a traditional way because it’s too slow. In a staring contest with VSMP you will always lose. It can be noticed, glanced-at, or even inspected, but not watched.
As a self-confessed film nerd I love this idea:
Can a film be consumed at the speed of reading a book? Yes, just as a car city can be enjoyed on foot. Slowing things down to an extreme measure creates room for appreciation of the object, as in Brasília, but the prolonged duration also starts to shift the relationship between object, viewer, and context. A film watched at 1/3,600th of the original speed is not a very slow movie, it’s a hazy timepiece. A Very Slow Movie Player (VSMP) doesn’t tell you the time; it helps you see yourself against the smear of time.
The Verge has a great piece on the world of Amazon sellers, and the crazy Gilliam-esque world they operate in.
For sellers, Amazon is a quasi-state. They rely on its infrastructure — its warehouses, shipping network, financial systems, and portal to millions of customers — and pay taxes in the form of fees. They also live in terror of its rules, which often change and are harshly enforced. A cryptic email like the one Plansky received can send a seller’s business into bankruptcy, with few avenues for appeal.
And as the system gets more byantine, other business opportunities arise:
And what’s a seller to do when they end up in Amazon court? They can turn to someone like Cynthia Stine, who is part of a growing industry of consultants who help sellers navigate the ruthless world of Marketplace and the byzantine rules by which Amazon governs it. They are like lawyers, only their legal code is the Amazon Terms of Service, their court is a secretive and semiautomated corporate bureaucracy, and their jurisdiction is an algorithmically policed global bazaar rife with devious plots to hijack listings for novelty socks and plastic watches. People like Stine are fixers, guides to the cutthroat land of Amazon, who are willing to give their assistance to the desperate — for a price, of course.
The world today is a weird place.
It’s been a year hasn’t it.
What with all that going on out there (waves hand in general direction of the world), it’s felt like I haven’t had enough mental space for films or music during 2018.
I thought I’d seen very few films this year, but my Letterboxd stats only report a small drop on previous years. The same with music, I wasn’t sure if I could put together ten. I was very wrong on that front. I’d taken in more than I thought.
That’s the advantage of these posts, it’s an opportunity to take a step back and reflect.
So, in no particular order… (okay, alphabetical):
- Dream Wife - Dream Wife
- Goat Girl - Goat Girl
- Gwenno - Le Kov
- IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistence
- Low - Double Negative
- Lucy Dacus - Historian
- Lucy Leave - Look//Listen
- Our Girl - Stranger Today
- Shannon Shaw - Shannon In Nashville
- She Makes War - Brace For Impact
- Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe - Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe
(Updated 10th December to add the video)
Last night I took part in the final JS Oxford of the year, which consisted of a series of lightning talks on all manner of subjects, from lessons learned in Developer Relations, to an introduction to Kubernetes.
I gave a very brief talk on cat gifs… wait, I mean getting started with CSS Grid (It’s written in Reveal.js so you can view the speaker notes by pressing S). I started by explaining some of the terminology around Grid, and then ran through the case study of converting this site to a Grid layout.
As always, it was an absolute pleasure to present at JS Oxford. They’re always interested in new speakers, so if you’re thinking about giving it a go, they’re a lovely welcoming crowd.
As it was a lightning talk I didn’t get a chance to link out to further reading, but I can do that here.
- Rachel Andrew’s excellent Grid by Example is full of useful information, examples, patterns, and resources. She has literally written the book on Grid.
- Grid Garden is a fun way to get your head around some of the general concepts.
- Jen Simmons’ has been doing some amazing experiments with Grid, and has also collated a useful list of resources on her Learn CSS Grid page.
- I have a continually growing list of Grid resources on Pinboard.
Unfortunately the weather gods were against us on day 2, with some pretty horrendous downpours first thing in the morning.
Although a few of us made it in, it was more difficult for others, so I classed it as a “work-from-home” exercise, and we kept in touch through the #indieweb channel in the Digital Oxford Slack. Despite this, everyone was still enthused and carried on with their projects.
A few of the participants wrote up their experiences:
- Beverley Newing - 2018 Oxford Indie Web Camp.
- Marcus Povey - #Indiewebcamp Oxford.
- Henry Blyth - IndieWeb is seriously cool.
As for myself, I’m very pleased with what I achieved over the last couple of days. My webmentions are a lot tidier now, and I did a lot of cleaning up behind the scenes, bits and pieces that have been on the to-do list for a while.
Overall it feels like the first IndieWebCamp Oxford went well and people got a lot out of it. It was good to hang out with a group all working on something personal. It’s got me thinking that maybe we need something more regular. An Oxford chapter of the Homebrew Website Club perhaps?