An account of the mother of all demos, written by Steven Johnson.
Friday, August 5th, 2022
Wednesday, July 27th, 2022
I really, really enjoyed this deep dive into practical HTML semantics. Sit back and enjoy!
Tuesday, July 19th, 2022
Monday, June 27th, 2022
Do you like the ideas behind Utopia? Do you use Figma?
If the answer to both those questions is “yes”, then James has made a very handy Figma community file for you:
This work-in-progress is intended as a starting point for designers to start exploring the Utopia approach, thinking about type and space in fluid scales rather than device-based breakpoints.
Friday, June 24th, 2022
Talking about style
I’ve published a transcription of the talk I gave at CSS Day:
The title is intended to have double meaning. The obvious reference is that CSS is about styling web pages. But the talk also covers some long-term trends looking at ideas that have appear, disappear, and reappear over time. Hence, style as in trends and fashion.
There are some hyperlinks in the transcript but I also published a list of links if you’re interested in diving deeper into some of the topics mentioned in the talk.
There are two videos of this talk. On Vimeo, there’s the version I pre-recorded for An Event Apart online. On YouTube, there’s the recording from CSS Day.
It’s kind of interesting to compare the two (well, interesting to me, anyway). The pre-recorded version feels like a documentary. The live version has more a different vibe and it obviously has more audience interaction. I think my style of delivery suits a live audience best.
Tuesday, June 7th, 2022
WebPageTest just got even better! Now you can mimic the results of what would’ve previously required actually shipping, like adding third-party scripts, switching from a client-rendered to a server-rendered architecture and other changes that could potentially have a big effect on performance. Now you can run an experiment to get the results before actual implementation.
Sunday, May 22nd, 2022
Trial, Triumph, and the Art of the Possible: The Remarkable Story Behind Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” – The Marginalian
An ode to an ode. Both of them beautiful.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2022
This is a great case study of switching from a framework mindset to native browser technologies.
Though this is quite specific to Jack’s own situation, I do feel like there’s something in the air here. The native browser features are now powerful and stable enough to make the framework approach feel outdated.
And if you do want to use third-party dependencies, Jack makes a great case for choosing smaller single-responsibility helpers rather than monolithic frameworks.
Replacing lit-html would be an undertaking but much less so than replacing React: it’s used in our codebase purely for having our components (re)-render HTML. Replacing lit-html would still mean that we can keep our business logic, ultimately maintaining the value they provide to end-users. Lit-Html is one small Lego brick in our system, React (or Angular, or similar) is the entire box.
We noticed a trend: students who pick a UI framework like Bootstrap or Material UI get off the ground quickly and make rapid progress in the first few days. But as time goes on, they get bogged down. The daylight grows between what they need, and what the component library provides. And they wind up spending so much time trying to bend the components into the right shape.
I remember one student spent a whole afternoon trying to modify the masthead from a CSS framework to support their navigation. In the end, they decided to scrap the third-party component, and they built an alternative themselves in 10 minutes.
This tracks with my experience. These kinds of frameworks don’t save time; they defer it.
The one situation where that works well, as Josh also points out, is prototyping.
If the goal is to quickly get something up and running, and you don’t need the UI to be 100% professional, I do think it can be a bit of a time-saver to quickly drop in a bunch of third-party components.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022
City of Women encourages Londoners to take a second glance at places we might once have taken for granted by reimagining the iconic Underground map.
I love everything about this …except that there’s no Rosalind Franklin station.
Friday, April 22nd, 2022
A cautionary tale on why you should keep your dependencies to a minimum and simplify your build process (if you even need one):
If it’s not link rot that gets you then it’s this heat death of the universe problem with entropy setting in slowly over time. And the only way to really defend against it is to build things progressively, to make sure that you’re not tied to one dependency or another. That complex build process? That’s a dependency. Your third party link to some third party font service that depends on their servers running forever? Another dependency.
Tuesday, April 12th, 2022
Starting and finishing
Someone was asking recently about advice for public speaking. This was specifically for in-person events now that we’re returning to actual live conferences.
Everyone’s speaking style is different so there’s no universal advice. That said, just about everyone recommends practicing. Practice your talk. Then practice it again and again.
That’s good advice but it’s also quite time-consuming. Something I’ve recommended in the past is to really concentrate on the start and the end of the talk.
You should be able to deliver the first five minutes of your talk in your sleep. If something is going to throw you, it’s likely to happen at the beginning of your talk. Whether it’s a technical hitch or just the weirdness and nerves of standing on stage, you want to be able to cruise through that part of the talk on auto-pilot. After five minutes or so, your nerves will have calmed and any audio or visual oddities should be sorted.
Likewise you want to really nail the last few minutes of your talk. Have a good strong ending that you can deliver convincingly.
Make it very clear when you’re done—usually through a decisive “thank you!”—to let the audience know that they may now burst into rapturous applause. Beware the false ending. “Thank you …and this is my Twitter handle. I always like hearing from people. So. Yeah.” Remember, the audience is on your side and they want to show their appreciation for your talk but you have to let them know without any doubt when the talk is done.
At band practice we sometimes joke “Hey, as long as we all start together and finish together, that’s what matters.” It’s funny because there’s a kernel of truth to it. If you start a song with a great intro and you finish the song with a tight rock’n’roll ending, nobody’s going to remember if somebody flubbed a note halfway through.
So, yes, practice your talk. But really practice the start and the end of your talk.
Monday, April 4th, 2022
In this piece published a year ago, Ted Chiang pours cold water on the idea of a bootstrapping singularity.
How much can you optimize for generality? To what extent can you simultaneously optimize a system for every possible situation, including situations never encountered before? Presumably, some improvement is possible, but the idea of an intelligence explosion implies that there is essentially no limit to the extent of optimization that can be achieved. This is a very strong claim. If someone is asserting that infinite optimization for generality is possible, I’d like to see some arguments besides citing examples of optimization for specialized tasks.
Sunday, March 27th, 2022
Whatever the merit of the scientific aspirations originally encompassed by the term “artificial intelligence,” it’s a phrase that now functions in the vernacular primarily to obfuscate, alienate, and glamorize.
Do “cloud” next!
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022
I found this to be thoroughly engrossing. An articulate composition, you might say.
I couldn’t help thinking of J.G. Ballard’s short story, The Drowned Giant.
Wednesday, February 9th, 2022
I wonder what kinds of conditions would need to be true for another platform to be built in a similar way? Lots of people have tried, but none of them have the purity of participation for the love of it that the web has.
Thursday, February 3rd, 2022
Simply put, the popups asking people for consent whenever they land on a site are illegal.
Remember when I said you should avoid third-party dependencies?
Saturday, January 8th, 2022
Tuesday, January 4th, 2022
In which Rob takes a deep dive into isometric projection and then gets generative with it.