Archive for June, 2022

The Story of React

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

This is a nicely done look at “the post jQuery era”. That’s Tyler McGinnis, right?

You know how I was just remembering that time I was I did a music video? That was March 29th, 2022 when I posted that. This video was posted on January 21st, 2022, two months prior, and yet at 21 seconds into the video, there I am with a tiny little clip from that music video. Strange!! I mean it was on YouTube all along but I can’t imagine it showed up in search results for me anywhere useful.

The Delta

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

Ooooo new super cool-looking cards for the Delta American Express cards. I like those big bold separator lines.

Got one just by “replacing” the card and saying it’s just because we want the updated design, not because it’s lost or anything.

I’ve been rocking this combo for a long time. I just like watching our miles accumulate, even though we never use them. We obviously don’t fly that much these days, so we’ll get our miles at the gas pump (and, ya know, through every other dollar we spend).

What really needs redesign though is printed boarding passes. Perhaps they are on the way out since so many people just use the mobile apps, but hey, I still like the printed ones too. If someone will go wrong with your phone, it will happen 2 seconds before you need it to board. Nothing can go wrong with a bit of paper in your back pocket.

Every time I’ve seen one of those “unsolicited redesigns” for boarding passes I’m like “yeah that’s better” even though normally unsolicited redesigns are utter garbage ignoring untold piles of knowledge the designer isn’t privy to.

In these cases, I would suspect the information the designers don’t have is…

There is no bar

Monday, June 27th, 2022

There is no bar for the quality of a blog post. Allow me to be an example. See… every blog post on this entire site. I’d like to write better individual blog posts, but something has always compelled me to punt out a thought early rather than wait until I have some perfect way to present it. And for the record, I don’t mind reading your posts like that either. We’re not shootin’ for the Pulitzer over here mmkay.

Why do people have a hard time with that publish button, even on ready-to-rock personal sites?

Here is a thought. Maybe, we are overthinking it. Maybe, the one thing we should care most about is just putting stuff out there. At least, this is the primary reason we have a personal website, right? We have it to document and share random thoughts, things we learned, and nuggets we found. If we don’t put stuff out there, why have a website in the first place?

Matthias Ott — Just Put Stuff Out There

Here’s Rach breaking free from a unique set of personal excuses.

The Medium Informs the Message

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

Jim talking about Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death:

… the form of any communication shapes its content. For example: you can’t use smoke signals to communicate philosophically. In today’s world, we have media forms that are well suited to fragmented conversation.

> Cultures without speed-of-light media… do not have news of the day. Without a medium to create its form, the news of the day does not exist.

Gosh that’s a brainworm.

If we lived in a town where the only news of the outside world arrived written on a sheepshide wrapped around a cannonball that fell from the sky every 3.7 weeks, the news would probably be rather sheepshide shaped, not contain soup of the day information, and have a weird skewing toward cannonball related drama.

The Platform Rant

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

Steve Yegge had (what he called) his Jerry Maguire moment when he published his “Google Platforms Rant”. It was originally published on Google Plus, which is long dead, and ironically what Steve was ranting about without specifically naming it. I’ll have to link to it via what I think has become the canonical Gist, somehow.

The overall point was about one thing: dogfooding. He makes the point incredibly strongly by saying that “Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right” except pretty much one thing, and that one thing is dogfooding their own services. That one thing is so important, that it means Amazon wins the services war. This concept came from Bezos himself circa 2002, which Steve paraphrases like this:

1. All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.

2. Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.

3. There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.

4. It doesn’t matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols — doesn’t matter. Bezos doesn’t care.

5. All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.

6. Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.

7. Thank you; have a nice day!

Ha, ha! You 150-odd ex-Amazon folks here will of course realize immediately that #7 was a little joke I threw in, because Bezos most definitely does not give a shit about your day.

You can tell by that last sentence that Steve meant this text to be for a limited internal audience, but he fumbled the permissions on Google Plus (yet another irony) and it went public.

The post itself is a juicy and interesting read, that feels like it could have been written in any of the last 10 years. I’ve seen this post talked about and quoted loads of times, and I’m just now seeing that Steve has posted a video of the story behind it:

It’s full of even juicier behind-the-scenes stuff. We don’t get all that much exposè stuff like this in tech. Probably everyone is too busy protecting their career. A final irony in that this nothing but helped Steve, it seems.

A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

What an ambitious project! It would surprise me if Andrew Hickey didn’t get a TV deal out of this work… unless maybe he just doesn’t want one because this is cool and successful enough on its own? I took Seth Godin’s advice and started with a song I know and love. It’s a 2-hour masterclass! Absolutely amazing connections between songs, bands, the scene, and how history all weaved together to get to this song.

“tampering with the public record”

Monday, June 20th, 2022

This was a pretty good call-out on Twitter for changing out Embedded Tweets work from Kevin Marks.

Twitter has always provided semantic HTML for Embedded Tweets, in the form of a <blockquote>, then a <script> to enhance it up into a fancy embed. It exhibited an interesting (and good) behavior: if the Tweet no longer existed, it would fall back to a standard HTML rendering of the <blockquote>. The change was that it wouldn’t do that anymore, it would always render the fancy embed, only show a “missing tweet” UI, in order to “better respect when people have chosen to delete their Tweets”.

I can understand that perspective, but I can better understand the perspective of a publisher. If I’m putting an Embedded Tweet into an article, it’s there for a reason. It’s there to provide context or perhaps be the content. Suddenly and without warning a bunch of articles now had contextual holes in them because tweets that used to just be showing some HTML of the original text were now showing an empty box.

It’s a trust problem. If we can’t trust that Embedded Tweets say what they say at the time of embedding, then we just won’t do it. We’ll use a <blockquote> without the script, or if we’re angling for the social proof, perhaps a screenshot of the tweet. I imagine some folks already do that, if they are strongly performance and/or privacy-focused and using Twitter’s third-party JavaScript isn’t on the table. But for all those sites out there that have used it, Twitter ought not mess with the content presented.

This whole thing will come up again if Tweets become editable. That, too, messes with the public record and absolutely ensures nobody will use Embedded Tweets. The second a major publication puts an Embedded Tweet that is editable in an article: boom, goatse.

No Fiddle Bluegrass

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

I love the fiddle. I bought one this year to see if I could battle my way up to having it be a fun side instrument (I have failed, so far). In the old-time music I normally play, fiddles are darn near required. It’s essentially fiddle music with accompaniment. You could argue the clawhammer banjo is a secondary requirement, but old-time can happen without a banjo easier than it can happen without a fiddle.

But with bluegrass, it feels less required to me, despite perhaps most bluegrass bands having one. And upon a little reflection of my own favorite bluegrass bands, they actually tend to not have one.

The Country Gentlemen only sometimes used a fiddle, and when they did it was called out as something additional, not core, like the record “The Country Gentlemen Featuring Ricky Skaggs on Fiddle“. Seldom Scene very rarely ever had a fiddle. Only now in their late years do they have Rickie Simpkins who plays fiddle, but he’s also the banjo player so I can’t imagine it shows up all that often. Hot Rize had Tim O’Brien who can certainly fiddle but was mostly a mandolin guy with them. Iron Horse has an uncanny ability to do cover songs that are great instead of cheezy (seriously, check out Pickin’ on Modest Mouse, it’s a masterpiece) and do so with a fiddle-less bluegrass ensemble. Those four bands are in my top 10 for sure.

So certainly no hate on the fiddle, quite the opposite really, but it’s not my favorite in classic bluegrass.

Fast Booze

Saturday, June 18th, 2022

First I missed this incredible creation:

Photo of glass of wine, chalupa, and bottle of Jalepeno Noir in a dark glass bottle.

Then I missed this damn masterpiece:

Screenshot of website for Arby's Vodka. Two bottles of the two flavors: Crinkle Fry, and Curly Fry, the bottles have large photos of each type of fry and a white arbys hat logo.

What do I gotta do around here for a Mcdonald’s Lager or a Chipotle Mesquite Tequila? Oh well, at least I have a Gweneth Paltrow vagina candle, which is basically my retirement plan.

A Different 10%

Saturday, June 18th, 2022

Interesting observation about software and features:

Every few months in the early 2000s, a startup would appear, promising a new office software package that’s “just the 10% of Microsoft Office that people actually use.” All of these products failed (for various reasons), but they all failed in part because their development and marketing teams failed to recognize a key fact: Yes, the vast majority of customers use less than 10% of the features of the Microsoft Office suite, but it’s a different 10% for each customer.

Eric Lawrence, “Batteries-Included” vs “Bloated”

Web Design with a Marker

Friday, June 17th, 2022

My kid Ruby (4) isn’t exactly a musician. She can’t really play an instrument. So when she wants to make music, sometimes she’ll hit a turned-over pot with a wooden spoon and shout words. But I suppose that kind of makes her… a musician? Who’s to say?

What makes a web designer? If you put an <img> of a JPG on a static HTML page, is that a website? Is there some line in the sand you have to pass in order to be a “real” web designer? I dunno. I don’t think so. Here’s some JPG’s as a website:

marker on fridge: OK, here I go. I'm going to make this whole website right now on this dry-erase board.
Miranda July’s book promo site for No one belongs here more than you.

It’s literally photographs of dry-erase marker on top of her fridge.

Photo pans out to show top of fridge. Text on fridge: Actually, I don't own a dry-erase board. This is just the top of my refrigerator.

They are missing alt attributes which is a little sad considering it has an <h1 class="content"> on each page as well, but it’s the same content on every page. Arrow key support would be nice too. This was 2007 though and I’d like to think these things are more clear requirements today than they were then. Like the site isn’t even HTTPS.

Also lol:

But doesn’t this make Miranda essentially a web designer? I’d say so! Well, almost:

This all reminds me of Jeff Bridges website, which is also a just images of marker drawings:

Homepage of Jeff Bridges site. Mostly a menu where all the links are hand drawn in scrawly marker, red ink over black ink.

Jeff’s site also has no alt text at all… rather unfortunate as I’m sure it could rather easily be done and seems likely it’s a lack-of-knowledge thing on the creator’s part (Jeff himself? Unlikely but who knows.)

Amy’s (aka sailor mercury aka sailorhg) Home Sweet Homepage is a completely wonderful story about coming up online and finding the web.

No such luck on alt text or any sort of accessibility tree, best I can tell, although there is some scrolling JavaScript stuff going on that might help that? I can’t quite tell.

Speaking of comics-as-a-website though, that makes me think of Contra Chrome I saw a while back.

Comic book layout for Contra Chrome. Blue and white panels. Narrator is Geoffrey Fowler.

It has a fully German version, but no alt text on any of the content-bearing images.

I didn’t even intend this blog post to be about missing alt text, it was supposed to be about how websites can be simple and low-tech and not only qualify as web design but actually be quite clever and interesting. But ooof, I certainly want to point out the fact that if you’re going to put a bunch of content in your images, you better describe that content in the alternative text as well.

Annnnddddd speaking of alt text, I was reading one of those “Critter” kids books to Ruby the other night, and I was noticing how much of the story was told via the image, not the words. Like the words will say something and then the image will almost contradict it.

Critter book, left side: We took a taxi to the train station. I got to ride in the front seat. The taxi driver drove real fast. That was cool. 

Image on left: Looking straight into Taxi with Taxi Driver. Critter looks happy. Mom is in back seat with eyes wide open, scared. Also a little frog that looks scared.

The funny part here is the contradiction between Critter thinking the taxi driver driving fast is fun, and his mom thinking it was scary. But you don’t get that from the text alone, so you gotta explain it. So if this was a straightforward “just read it” audiobook, that would be a bummer.

Fortunately, Miss Sofie on YouTube not only reads the story, but provides a lot of context into what is on the page and what is happening in the story:

Now that’s alt text.

Expanded San Francisco Typeface

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

I enjoyed seeing the WWDC video of the upcoming expansion of San Francisco, Apple’s everywhere typeface. It’s coming in some different widths now:

They all have the same height, which is a neat feature:

So with all that plus the rounded, plus the mono, plus sprinkling in the serif’d New York face, there are a ton of options:

This is a compelling example:

Hierarchy is so important to get right! You need options.

You can download the SF fonts free. My question is… what is the best way to use them on the web without having to @font-face anything. I know right now we can do font stacks like this to get our hands on San Francisco regular, San Francisco Mono, and New York (assuming you’re on a modern Mac):

html {
  --monospace: ui-monospace, SFMono-Regular, monospace;
  --sans: ui-sans-serif, system-ui, -apple-system, sans-serif;
  --serif: ui-serif, serif;

But it’s not year clear how we might tap into the condensed, compressed, and expanded varieties in CSS, or if there is even a plan to allow that. I suppose we can peek around eventually and see how they do it if they start using them there.

Doesn’t this make perfect sense to construct as a variable font and ship the whole kit and kaboodle that way?

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