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January 2019

  1. HTML, CSS and our vanishing industry entry points
    rachelandrew.co.uk

    Fighting words from Rachel Andrew, defending the ease of learning HTML and CSS from scratch:

    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!

    Yes! The instantaneous feedback when editing HTML or CSS on a live webpage is, to me, one of the most important characteristics of the web as a medium. Having no layers of abstraction between creative input and final output is one of the web’s miracles.

    I might be the “old guard” but if you think I’m incapable of learning React, or another framework, and am defending my way of working because of this, please get over yourself. However, 22 year old me would have looked at those things and run away. If we make it so that you have to understand programming to even start, then we take something open and enabling, and place it back in the hands of those who are already privileged. I have plenty of fight left in me to stand up against that.

    I couldn’t agree more. It really was the ease of getting started that got me into web development, and kept me away from native app development. Easy to learn, hard to master is a wonderful trait that the web should fight to keep.

  2. Fyre

    Watched 30 January 2019

    I try to avoid schadenfreude as much as I can, but this was too good to pass up. Not a brilliant documentary, but seemingly does a good job of talking to the right people and painting a full picture of what happened.

  3. Paddington 2

    Watched 27 January 2019

    Really great, improves on the original in every way.

    Hugh Grant’s character was brilliant as the antagonist. Well written, both captivating and funny. Unlike Nicole Kidman’s character in Paddington 1, he adds to the story instead of just existing in it as an archetypal, irredeemable villain.

    I like how Paddington isn’t framed as a can-do-no-wrong saint just getting caught up in bad situations. Some scenes (like the barbershop one) show him messing up and struggling to come up with excuses instead of admitting his fault. It’s subtle, but is a nice touch that makes him more sympathetic.

    The writing and editing were once again economical and effective. Art direction was even sharper. The pop-up book fantasy scene that takes place early on stands out — it’s especially memorable and affecting, doing so much emotional work with so few ingredients.

    I can see now why this has received such high praise. It’s well deserved.

  4. A Simple Favor

    Watched 25 January 2019

    Kind of fun, but weird. And not weird in a good way — weird in a “not sure what it wants to be” way. It tries to be a thriller, but the plot is way too messy and clichéd to be interesting. It tries to be a comedy, but there is no real intent to the humor; just a residual layer of silliness, no courage about it. I guess this tone was intentional, but it simply did not work for me. The longer it went on, the less satisfying it became.

  5. Fyre Fraud

    Watched 30 January 2019

    Felt rushed and incomplete. The interview with Billy McFarland did not really add much depth, and several of the more interesting people featured in the Netflix documentary were missing altogether. The poorly-edited-in internet memes and patronizing attitude detracted from the experience and eroded the point being made. Meh.

  6. The 500-Year-Long Science Experiment
    theatlantic.com

    The human factor of keeping a science project going for 500 years seems a lot more complicated than the actual science:

    Opening vials, adding water, and counting colonies that grow from rehydrated bacteria is easy. The hard part is ensuring someone will continue doing this on schedule well into the future. The team left a USB stick with instructions, which Möller realizes is far from adequate, given how quickly digital technology becomes obsolete. They also left a hard copy, on paper. “But think about 500-year-old paper,” he says, how it would yellow and crumble. “Should we carve it in stone? Do we have to carve it in a metal plate?” But what if someone who cannot read the writing comes along and decides to take the metal plate as a cool, shiny relic, as tomb raiders once did when looting ancient tombs?

  7. Paddington

    Watched 24 January 2019

    I expected the charm and fuzzy feelings, but not the nuanced, topical take on immigration, delivered with the utmost efficacy. Bravo!

    It’s all very wholesome and hard to criticize, though I think it could have benefited from some more Spirited Away-style bittersweetness, and a more complex antagonist. But hey, it works.

    Sidenote: the wonderful art direction somehow reminded me of Spielberg’s Tintin and, in contrast, how much of a disappointment that was.

  8. I’m a Web Designer
    andy-bell.design

    Still on the topic of web development job titles, Andy Bell hits the nail on the head. This paragraph describes my exact problem assigning a title to myself:

    I struggled with how to place myself when I went back to freelancing last year because I’m both a designer and a developer. I toyed with “Independent Designer & Developer” which worked out alright but did make me sound like a bit of a “Jack of all trades”. I’m also technically “Full Stack”, but I won’t use that as a title because in my head, a Full Stack Developer is a back-end developer who knows a bit of client-side JavaScript and CSS.

    I tried to avoid the issue altogether and go with a short description instead of a title — “design and code for the web” is what I ended up with. But when pressed for a title, I do fall back to “front-end web developer,” which feels lamer every time I say it.

    Andy suggests “web designer.” Despite the baggage, it does seem to fit the bill. I like it. I promptly added myself to Andy’s personalsit.es directory with that as my top tag.

  9. Getting Started

    It’s 2019, and I have a blog now. This party is just getting started, right?

    I managed to cheat the system and avoid kicking things off with an empty slate; I began collecting links about a year ago, and my notes go even further back. Looking at the whole feed, it’s beginning to look like something.

    I expect to continue posting small updates frequently, but I want to turn that momentum into more substantial writing. That’s the exciting (and scary) part of this endeavor — the part I’ve always put off, with the lame excuse of not having some place on the web I could call my own.

    If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. It took me over a year of overcomplicating it, but I now have a universe. Apple pie forthcoming.

  10. The Great Divide
    css-tricks.com

    Chris Coyier tries to make sense of what “front-end web developer” means now, and gets to the core of why I avoid calling myself one:

    When companies post job openings for “Front-End Developer,” what are they really asking for? Assuming they actually know (lolz), the title front-end developer alone isn’t doing enough. It’s likely more helpful to know which side of the divide they need the most.

    Two “front-end web developers” can be standing right next to each other and have little, if any, skill sets in common. That’s downright bizarre to me for a job title so specific and ubiquitous. I’m sure that’s already the case with a job title like designer, but front-end web developer is a niche within a niche already.

  11. How to Fix Social Media by Injecting A Chunk of the Blogosphere
    kottke.org

    Tim Carmody:

    Most of the proper publications I’ve written for, even the net-native ones, have been dense enough to hold an atmosphere.

    And guess what? So have Twitter and Facebook. Just by enduring, those places have become places for lasting connections and friendships and career opportunities, in a way the blogosphere never was, at least for me. (Maybe this is partly a function of timing, but look: I was there.) And this means that, despite their toxicity, despite their shortcomings, despite all the promises that have gone unfulfilled, Twitter and Facebook have continued to matter in a way that blogs don’t.

  12. Research Questions Are Not Interview Questions
    medium.com

    Erika Hall:

    (You can’t just ask people what you want to know. Sorry.)

    The most significant source of confusion in design research is the difference between research questions and interview questions. This confusion costs time and money and leads to a lot of managers saying that they tried doing research that one time and nothing useful emerged.

  13. Every little bit helps
    m.signalvnoise.com

    David Heinemeier Hansson:

    We don’t all need to quit Facebook outright, foreswear Uber entirely, and never shop at Amazon again to have an impact. All of these companies are already walking a precarious tightrope of towering expectations. They don’t need to miss a quarter by more than a few percent before it’s a calamity that’ll get everyone’s attention.

    So here’s what you can do: A little bit. It helps. Really.

  14. Signal v Noise exits Medium
    m.signalvnoise.com

    David Heinemeier Hansson:

    Traditional blogs might have swung out of favor, as we all discovered the benefits of social media and aggregating platforms, but we think they’re about to swing back in style, as we all discover the real costs and problems brought by such centralization.

    Dave Rupert comments:

    Blogging is back, baby! Awooo!

    I’m definitely feeling the momentum. I’ve been acutely aware of it as I’ve worked on getting this blog up and running over the past year, and it’s only getting stronger.

  15. Line breaking - Florian Rivoal at dotCSS 2018
    dotconferences.com

    Florian goes over a set of confusingly named properties and values from the css-text-3 specification that control what happens to white spaces when laying out text, and how line breaking works. He explains the logic of the system, different ways the properties can be used to achieve various results, and looks into some of the complication caused by incomplete implementations.

    I care about this topic a lot, but it really tests my patience. If only browser support for these properties were consistent, I could start to build a mental model that takes them all into consideration. As it stands, it’s such a mess that I routinely have to spend time reading about it, and still not be super confident with the results.

  16. Why have humans never found aliens?
    economist.com

    The Economist reports on a recently published astronomy paper:

    Dr Tarter reckoned that decades of searching had amounted to the equivalent of dipping a drinking glass into Earth’s oceans at random to see if it contained a fish.

    Once the numbers had been crunched, the researchers reckoned humanity has done slightly better than Dr Tarter suggested. Rather than dipping a drinking glass into the ocean, they say, astronomers have dunked a bathtub.

    Huh. I wonder if that really is an apt comparison.

  17. T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T Are Selling Customers’ Real-Time Location Data, And It’s Falling Into the Wrong Hands
    motherboard.vice.com

    Joseph Cox, for Motherboard:

    In the case of the phone we tracked, six different entities had potential access to the phone’s data. T-Mobile shares location data with an aggregator called Zumigo, which shares information with Microbilt. Microbilt shared that data with a customer using its mobile phone tracking product. The bounty hunter then shared this information with a bail industry source, who shared it with Motherboard.

    This is crazy. Zeynep Tufekci said it best: we are building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.

    Follow-up: Hundreds of Bounty Hunters Had Access to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint Customer Location Data for Years

  18. Evaluating Technology
    aneventapart.com

    Jeremy Keith:

    Now when we look at new things added to HMTL, new features, new browser APIs, what we tend to ask, of course, is: how well does it work?

    How well does this thing do what it claims it’s going to do? That’s an excellent question to ask whenever you’re evaluating a new technology or tool. But I don’t think it’s the most important question. I think it’s just as important to ask: how well does it fail?

    Nothing like a full hour of Jeremy Keith to get the year’s work started.

  19. How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
    buzzfeednews.com

    Anne Helen Petersen:

    For the past two years, I’ve refused cautions — from editors, from family, from peers — that I might be edging into burnout. To my mind, burnout was something aid workers, or high-powered lawyers, or investigative journalists dealt with. It was something that could be treated with a week on the beach. I was still working, still getting other stuff done — of course I wasn’t burned out.

    But the more I tried to figure out my errand paralysis, the more the actual parameters of burnout began to reveal themselves. Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.

    That realization recast my recent struggles: Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it — explicitly and implicitly — since I was young.

    This hit home. My millennial brain kept trying to dismiss the whole article as millennial whining, but it won me over in the end.

  20. This clever AI hid data from its creators to cheat at its appointed task
    techcrunch.com

    Devin Coldewey:

    A machine learning agent intended to transform aerial images into street maps and back was found to be cheating by hiding information it would need later in “a nearly imperceptible, high-frequency signal.” Clever girl!

    But in fact this occurrence, far from illustrating some kind of malign intelligence inherent to AI, simply reveals a problem with computers that has existed since they were invented: they do exactly what you tell them to do.

  21. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

    Watched 3 January 2019

    Building it around the concept of “choose your own adventure” itself did not make any of the choices and outcomes anymore engrossing or thought-provoking — the experience of rewinding to take different paths made everything feel muddled and disconnected. I think the stakes should have been higher, giving the viewer fewer opportunities to fix mistakes.

    There is a glimpse of interestingness near the beginning when the medium-unique twist is revealed, but it gets lost as the narrative branches off and grows in possibility space, with some storylines dropping the idea altogether.

    It’s a fun ride, and then it’s over. Though I might have to give it another go. Also: the poster is really neat.

  22. Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist
    niemanlab.org

    Frank Chimero:

    If the watch can become people’s primary device, it may provide the opportunity to switch the media paradigm from an endless stream to a concentrated dispatch.

    I was reminded of Hodinkee’s Apple Watch Series 3 review:

    This image above is what I’ve carried with me the last three days. Not only is there no phone – which, let me tell you, is incredibly liberating – but also I’m now only carrying one AirPod with me at a time. I can make calls, listen to music, and use Siri all from just the single unit, which I throw into my pants pocket when I’m not using it.