Archive of: society
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.
A fascinating and poignant Twitter thread from Marcin Wichary, about user interfaces that accidentally collect memories, and tell a story about the past.
Fascinated by UIs that accidentally amass memories. One of them is the wi-fi “preferred networks” pane – unexpected reminders of business trips, vacations, accidental detours, once frequented and now closed cafés. pic.twitter.com/r137dZI0r8— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) 14 May 2018
I wonder what I would see if I fired up any of the old social apps I don’t use any more, like Adium, or Textual.
Via this ongoing Metafilter post with more funny and sad stories of accidental memories.
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.
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.
I also know that any man who is uncomfortable with the empowerment of women is simply afraid that the only thing he has going for him is that he is a man.
I’m simultaneously horrified by the amount of shit women have to deal with, and in awe of their fortitude in the face of all that shit.
my take: you want opinions, but you also want committed opinions. Your poll/survey/vote will erect (or fail to erect) barriers to participation, and those barriers represent a measure of commitment. No barriers = lots of votes, but high risk of Boaty McBoatface. High barriers = few votes, but from those who care.
If the process insists that humans act more like machines/robots/spreadsheets than real human beings, challenge that process.
Progressive enhancement follows the Golden Rule because it is concerned with the “other”. That’s why accessibility is such a key part of building websites following the progressive enhancement philosophy. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes—someone whose abilities and situation probably differ from yours. We are a diverse lot after all.
One hell of a read from Aaron Gustafson on the Golden rule, egalitarianism and the philosophy of progressive enhancement in web design.
Text lasts. It’s not platform-dependant, you don’t just get it from one source, read it in one place, understand it in one way. It is not dependent on technology: it is what we make technology out of. Code is text, it is the fundamental nature of technology. We’ve been trying for decades, since the advent of hypertext fiction, of media-rich CD-ROMs, to enhance the experience of literature with multimedia. And it has failed, every time.
James Bridle – The New Value of Text.