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Bulletin Butter and Jelly

If I set up a BBS would you want in? What would you want to BBS about?”

Texting Means Never Having to Say Goodbye

I thought about the last time I’d actually typed ttfn. I imagine it was at least 18 years ago, on my family’s Gateway desktop during the era of dial-up AOL. And then I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I said g2g,” or even bye,” in an online conversation.

The medium is the message, and the message is nearly always deliverable. So easy to be alone when you can’t ever be apart. Never say good bye,” but are you then always alone?

Go! Make a game — play a game.

Report on Anthem’s development woes draws terse response from BioWare

Also see Jack de Quidt on this.

here’s the wild thing that it feels almost impossible to say in the games industry: the game doesn’t mean shit! it’s lights and colours! it’s nice to play one and it’s nice to make a good one, sure

but — and i mean this very sincerely — if the production of the object ruins the lives and health of the people making it, the object doesn’t mean shit! what — you shipped a fun mech game? or a good cowboy game? great. who’s taking medical leave?

All games are a mess

I love that strange homemade games like The Frogs Of War and Legacy Of The Golden Hammer exist, these unpolished mishmashes of ideas and design as a form of creative expression. Enjoying these games is a way to enjoy all games, to accept that everything is from the same cloth, a different flawed piece of creativity, a different glimpse into what can be created.

On Flooding: Drowning the Culture in Sameness

And how much discovery can there be, really, with the same critics occupying the same space?

Hard left turn to allow me to insert a different conversation/question at this point on algorithmic curation.

Does algorithmic curation cutout the human element in what would elsewise be an artistic effort of mixing, or does it simply push the person a little further away — algorithm programmer as space builder, and us the viewing audience” as participant in a shared effort of consumptive curation…

So, you know, Derrida?

\_(ツ)_/

The Roundups of SHACKLESHOTGUN

Also see @kicks on roundups. (Thanks for the link-love, btw! (I enjoy collecting things, and this exercise is a good way of scratching that itch. My favorite part of collecting is making the collage at the end — by putting disparate things in proximity to one another making a new thing. These posts are my trying to do that. If you are interested in the unfiltered stream oh-links that are eventually paired down to become this, check out my profile on reading.am))

Why there is so little left of the early internet

Sometimes the sites that are lost echo even more seismic changes; the deaths and births of nations themselves. It happened with Yugoslavia; .yu was the top-level domain for Yugoslavia, and that ended when it collapsed. There’s a researcher who is trying to rebuild what was there before the break-up,” she says.

Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System

Parameters are dead last on my list of powerful interventions. Diddling with the details, arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Probably 90, no 95, no 99 percent of our attention goes to parameters, but there’s not a lot of leverage in them.

Can we truly think about climate change at all?

Object Oriented Ontology says no. Enter the Hyperobjects.”

Make it hard to screw up driven development

This is the request web dev resources link.

ttfn

Is pagination broken on my website?

Why is the most recent page 1? Shouldn’t the oldest, or first?” page be 1 — working up, towards the present? This way paginated urls could remain consistent. If something shows up on page 4, it’ll always be on page 4 forever and ever.

After having conducted a very brief and very unscientific survey of a handful of websites I can’t find any examples of pagination as I have described here.

Theory: this is Google’s fault. Folks see how Google’s search results start at page 1 and work back” from there, and mimic the design pattern. The issue here being that Google’s implementation of pagination is actually solving for a different problem than pagination on my blog.

Proposal:

  • Blogs, or any sort of chronological timeline should link the concepts of pagination and date, so that the older the date, the lower the page number
  • Search results, or any sort of weighted results should prioritize for relevancy, associating the most relevant results with the lowest page number (in other words, the pages closest to the user should be the most relevant to the search term)

Link logging

Me, On The Screen: Race in Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I am a big fan of Austin Walker — I love his writing, and the way he GMs games on Friends at the Table. In this piece from 2013 he explores and contextualizes the importance of inclusive representation in games and play through the lens of Animal Crossing. Seeing this is even cooler being familiar with the hundreds of hours of actual-play he has coordinated and helped to produce since it almost all highlights the importance and power of representation.

Other people’s weeknotes

A list of people’s weeknotes. Weeknotes may be peak-blog. I adore them.

10 Nonhumans That Are Legally Humans

A list of things that are legally recognized as humans but that aren’t actual humans.

The ultimate guide to DuckDuckGo

A list of all the things DuckDuckGo can do for you.

Application Holotypes: A Guide to Architecture Decisions

A list of holotypes which help to form the basis of a taxonomy for web applications.


These next two items go hand-in-hand and absolutely fascinate me. Things like this make me want to go for a PhD just because I’d love the time to write thousands of words about what it takes to bring the physical to the digital…and exploring what it then takes to physically maintain the digital” replication of the physical object.

Hand Job Zine and Mass Digitization Files

A collection of zines exploring the labor of digitization (and who does that labor).

Dancing the flip-flop

flip-flop (n.) the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back, often more than once.

That’s pretty abstract. Here’s an example recipe:

  1. Carve a statue out of stone. PHYSICAL
  2. Digitize your statue with a 3D scanner. DIGITAL
  3. Make some edits. Shrink it down. Add wings. STILL DIGITAL
  4. Print the edited sculpture in plastic with a 3D printer. PHYSICAL AGAIN

Meet the Maker: Sissy Moon Ceramics. I went to undergrad with Sinda. I want to make things on the web like she makes cermamics.

PN: One of the defining features of your work and Sissy Moon in general is the playfulness. That playfulness feels quite deliberate. Why is playfulness so important?

SK: Playfulness is important because life is crazy. Seriousness is bland at best and suffocating at worst. There’s a lot of heaviness in our lives. Humor and fun help us breathe.

PN: Based on your own experience, is there any advice can you pass along to other artists and makers?

SK: Make high quality work and make it from your own heart.

Link logging

Explaining Code using ASCII Art

People tend to be visual: we use pictures to understand problems. Mainstream programming languages, on the other hand, operate in an almost completely different kind of abstract space, leaving a big gap between programs and pictures.

Cyberfeminism ~1990s - present, Cyberfeminist Index by Mindy Seu

I’m currently working on a printed publication, a la the Whole Earth Catalog and the New Woman’s Survival Catalog, that will provide an overview of cyberfeminism and its evolution into networked feminism (like social media activism), xenofeminism (gender-abolition), and posthumanism/bio-hacktivism. It will be a resource guide: a sampling of books, essays, collectives, online communities, hackerspaces, etc.”

This article does a bonkers good job laying out how quickly and how much China’s urban and suburban areas are growing.

Networking - 🚂 Choo Documentation

I’ve been exploring alternatives to React lately, and keep coming back to Choo. I very much like this bit from its documentation:

A fun way to think about browsers, is as a standardized Virtual Machine (VM) that includes high-level APIs to do networking, sandboxed code execution and disk access. It runs on almost every platform, behaves similarly everywhere, and is always kept backwards compatible.

What if JavaScript Wins?

Technology has always existed in a social context, and evaluations of the risk or reliability of a tech platform have always relied on social indicators. But the acceleration of these patterns, and the extending of the social networks around code to include the majority of working coders, means that institutional indicators (like which company funds its development?”) now come second to community-based signals.

Similarly, top-down indications of technical maturity like documentation (often an artifact of outside investment in making a technology accessible to a new audience) are complemented, or even eclipsed, by bottoms-up indicators like how many people have bookmarked a framework, or how many people answer comments about a toolkit.

Tbh, I wasn’t all that interested in this pieces discussion of the pros and cons of JavaScript, but the author, Anil Dash of Glitch does an excellent job articulating the squishier side of why this and such system prevails over that and which thing-a-ma-bob that may be technically” better.

The piece reminds me of something I recently heard John Siracusa talk about on a podcast — he speculated that software may be the most complicated non-biological thing that humans have ever built. At first I thought it was hubris, but then, as he continued to make his point and draw a line from software to hardware to physics and the physicality of computing I was swayed.

What we often think of as being ethereal and digital” is, at the end of the day, still in meatspace…

See also Being Popular” by Paul Graham.

Why I Write CSS in JavaScript

I’m skeptical of CSS in JS for a few reasons, but this article softened my views. I still don’t love it, but my reasons for not loving it aren’t technical, really.

Pragmatic rules of web accessibility that will stick to your mind

Good high-level intro. I could see this being valuable for someone trying to convince management” of accessibilities value.”

Time to Panic. The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. And fear may be the only thing that saves us.

Our little brown rat’: first climate change-caused mammal extinction

RIP. Expecting more news of this sort in the coming years is terrifying, but also, hopefully, key to catalyzing change.

A Journey Into the Animal Mind

Crows are among the most sophisticated avian technologists.

That is a solid sentence. I read it allowed to myself a few times when I came across it.

Cisco Trash Map, On railroads, oil rigs, uranium mines, 7-11 pizzas, Thelma and Louise, ruination, salvage, and the limits of the garbage gaze.

…I absorbed the common critique of ruin porn — that it tends to erase history and inspire myth. It’s true that as a high schooler I had a pretty vague sense of the politics that made Milwaukee’s ruins. But mythmaking has always shaped the U.S. landscape…

…Ruins are the idealized structures of a vaguely defined past; rubble is the aftermath of specific events that people live in, reuse, and form material relationships to…

Medieval trade networks v.4

A map of ancient trade networks

A detailed map of medieval trade routes. I always find this sort of thing fascinating and, in my experience lacking from contemporary historical education in the U.S. History is often presented as vignettes, as specific narratives, that are disjointed from a large context. I love how a map like this helps to contextualize the ecology, or maybe society? of history.

Five Lessons From Seven Years of Research Into Buttons

The first point is interesting, and click bait-y 1. Buttons Aren’t Actually Easy to Use”

I think it may be better presented as buttons require context.”

Or, perhaps The value of a good label.”

Link logging

Mark’s bookmarklets

I like bookmarklets. I like that these are bookmarklets made by Mark. See also Mark’s Learn2JS.

Pixaki for iPad

This is an app that I have not tried, but that looks groovy if you are into creating pixel art.

Bad ethernet cable

Reminding us that it is important to remember that the medium is the message…especially when the message relies on a medium for transference.

SQL: One of the Most Valuable Skills

Leave your ORM at the door. SQL fo’ lyfe!

Opportunity did not answer NASAs final call, and it’s now lost to us

RIP. You were the best robot adventurer. You will be missed.

I’ve gone full Apocalypse Dad

I read this. It caused me to panic. Living in blissful ignorance and being busy with work and not having the money to actually really stockpile anything of usefulness is what keeps me from being a full on doomsday hoarder.

But responding to the possibility of the worst, by pursuing mere survival, seems a bit limited — even to the point of being paradoxical. Survival is conservative by nature: however bad the world might be, my best chances of surviving in it are by learning and respecting its rules. My best hopes at riding out any given disaster are if things, as far as possible, continue to follow laws and norms I already understand. And yet, the possibility of disaster is inherent to the world as it presently exists, as long as the world remains the same, that possibility will be there. In a way, then, the best thing to do would be to throw caution to the wind, to forget [mere] survival and embrace — as far as possible — radical change. Only then might we achieve a world in which we are genuinely safe, without ever needing to rely on mere survivalism again.

Hello. By the Way. Whatever.

Nora Ephron on blogging.

…one of the most delicious things about the profoundly parasitical world of blogs is that you don’t have to have anything much to say. Or you just have to have a little tiny thing to say. You just might want to say hello. I’m here. And by the way. On the other hand. Nevertheless. Did you see this? Whatever. A blog is sort of like an exhale.

Virginia Woolf on a similar topic:

Of all forms of literature, however, the essay is the one which least calls for the use of long words. The principle which controls it is simply that it should give pleasure; the desire which impels us when we take it from the shelf is simply to receive pleasure. Everything in an essay must be subdued to that end. It should lay us under a spell with its first word, and we should only wake, refreshed, with its last.

SPUDwrite is a DIY E Ink typewriter… with a printer… and an LCD display

An E Ink typewriter.

O Uommibatto”: How the Pre-Raphaelites Became Obsessed with the Wombat

I had no idea that wombats were so beloved by the Pre-Raphaelites!?

Wombat sketch by Edward Burne-Jones featured in Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones (1904) by Georgiana Burne-Jones

TYPE DESIGN, TYPOGRAPHY, TYPEFACES AND FONTS: An encyclopedic treatment of type design, typefaces and fonts. This site is also known as on snot and fonts.

Need I say more than this title?

Link logging

Whoops! This post is a wee bit longer than previous link-logging posts. I’ve broken it up into a few sections to make it more easily skim-able. Granted, all barriers and edges are illusory at a certain point, so I recommend looking for connections rather than demarkation and separation. Do not tare along the dotted line. Personal pizzas are best when shared. 🍕

Creativity and capitalism

On Godzilla and the Nature and Conditions of Cultural Success; or, Shedding the Skin

I’ve got a quick confession: I love Godzilla. This post encompasses all the things I like about Godzilla. You’ve got some cultural production stuff, you’ve got climate and ecology stuff, with a smattering of socio-political stuff all wrapped up in a rubber dino-monster suit. What isn’t to like!? Also, this picture…

Just the legs of Godzilla

It could be that Godzilla is successful in 1950s Japan and in 2010s USA because it happened to fit two very different but very specific cultural niches — the trauma of defeat culminating in nuclear war, on the one hand; and (to make something up) a compulsive desire for re-enactments of 9/11 on the other hand. But explaining wide-spread success by a series of particular fits falters as we consider all the many other social contexts in which Godzilla has been popular. Maybe it happened, by chance, to appeal narrowly to one new context, but two? three? ten?

An alternative is that Godzilla has managed to spread because it appeals to tastes which are not very context-specific, but on the contrary very widely distributed, if not necessarily constant and universal. In the case of Godzilla, we have a monster who breaks big things and breathes fire: an object of thought, in other words, enduringly relevant to crude interests in predators, in destruction, and in fire. Since those interests are very common across all social contexts, something which appeals to them has a very good source of pull”.

What’s inside a brand?

… When your customers are active partners in making” and managing” the brand, policing who is allowed to shop at your store is, weirdly enough, a hiring decision like any other. We’re used to thinking of production and consuming as separate activities, but, as Jefferies shows, in modern branding, they are one and the same. Making sure the right” person consumes your clothes is a way to enhance a brand’s value. Like it or not, then, modern life gives you little choice but to work” for a brand, putting all of our social lives in the service of capital. What branding offers is belonging (for a price).

This entire article walks right up to the edge of likening brand based marketing to fiction, but doesn’t bridge the gap. This isn’t my faulting the piece by any means…I think it is a stretch, or at least a stretch in the context of the article, but I couldn’t stop noticing how similar the discussion of self-policing brands looks to the discussion about fandom, and who is or isn’t a fan of some particular thing. Who gets entrance into the narrative, be it Apple’s or Star Trek.

Ursula K. Le Guin Was a Creator of Worlds

Traveling to an unfamiliar place often has ethical implications in Le Guin’s fiction

She also resisted the approach to writing that emphasized that fiction must have a hero, a conflict, a storyline.

Civic

Washington Will Decriminalize Fare Evasion. Better Idea: Free Transit

The idea of free public transportation isn’t as crazy as it may sound. Prompted by concerns over congestion and pollution, the European countries of Estonia and Luxembourg already offer it, and Germany is considering it. Removing fares clearly makes transit more desirable; when Talinn, Estonia’s capital, adopted free public transportation in 2013, ridership immediately spiked 10 percent. Such ridership gains would certainly be welcome in the United States, where 31 of the 35 largest transit agencies saw passenger counts dip in 2017. Unlike most goods, transit gets better with heavier usage because more frequent bus and train service will reduce wait times.

Journalism should be free

This is a depressing moment for… well, everything, but also journalism. Watching talented reporters get laid off is heartbreaking, infuriating, and despair-inducing. Out of the ashes, new ideas for sustainable, impactful journalism are bound to emerge. The best ones will acknowledge that journalism should be free.

How to Design Playgrounds for the World’s Most Vulnerable Kids

Designing systems (specifically public systems) with children not just in mind, but at the forefront pretty much always seems like a very good idea.

Math and astronomy

How a Strange Grid Reveals Hidden Connections Between Simple Numbers

Sharing this piece specifically because I think it does a really solid job explaining something that is rather complicated (at least for me) in a clear way that also doesn’t come off as being dumbed down.

Far side of the Moon photographed by amateurs

Moon Minute Monday

Learn something new about our Moon every Monday.

Webby techy stuff

A new interview with Manton Reece of Micro.blog for 2019

I enjoy participating in the micro.blog community, and appreciate Manton’s persistence in going it slow, making intentional design choices. While the source code of micro.blog itself isn’t open source, it is refreshing that Manton’s process is, through posts and interviews like this one. Manton is practicing a different sort of Calm Technology with micro.blog.

The Ethics of Web Performance

Poor performance can, and does, lead to exclusion

And comes at a higher environmental cost.

Web Browsers and Privacy in 2019

Google Chrome, destroyer of worlds? Defo eater of RAM. See also Browser diversity starts with us.

You are in a maze of deeply nested maps, all alike [TALK]

All be honest. I was into this mostly for its title. It sounds like a line straight out of a Robbe-Grillet story.

Also, shout out to Eric Normand for almost always including a transcript alongside video and audio content.

Literate Programming against REST APIs

Starts with a tl;dr:

TL;DR Other HTTP Clients aren’t that great. Here we use Emacs and restclient, with public APIs, to identify plants and share on Twitter. Emacs and restclient offer a great user experience and workflow when documenting and exploring APIs.

I’ve got a soft spot for literate programming. I haven’t done much of it, but as I gain confidence writing LISP, I think a little side project may invite it. 🤷‍♂️

The big DNS Privacy Debate at FOSDEM

You all. DNS is baffling. I’ve been migrating some client sites and I set up (again) a pi-hole and, while I feel cozy with the basics of DNS config, the underlying architecture is both fascinating and…terrifying? Maybe the wrong word. Obtuse.

Hacker tools

A neat resource. I dipped right into the lesson about Virtual Machines and Containers.

Saving time with Emacs, or not.

Yes. I love emacs. I agree with Jack: Emacs does not typically save me time.

In reply to: Eli’s Pastel Bubbles

Thanks @kicks! The layout of your site, and wiki-like structure where some of my major design inspirations going into the website re-build. Also the music of Sylvan Esso and this song.

As for National Treasure, I think you speak truth. Alas…the world isn’t ready for a 3rd installation.

Link Logging

This metal is powering today’s technology—at what price?

The renewable” future — replacing one sort of extraction with another.

Life Without the Everything Store

Kottke’s digestion (always primo) or go straight to the source: I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.

tl;dr? Amazon. It is everywhere. It is hard to avoid. Really, really hard to avoid, most especially if you do pretty much nearly anything online. Amazon is legion.

WebSockets the UNIX way; Full duplex messaging between web browsers and servers

PIPES!

Five-minute Explainer: What Is Gravity?

What even is gravity? Learn in (about) five minutes! I very much enjoy Emily Sts science writing.

Designing for the web ought to mean making HTML and CSS

The medium is the message…and sometimes we use the wrong medium to communicate a message.

…regression is lurking, because the industry is making it too hard to work directly with the web. The towering demands inherent in certain ways of working with JavaScript are rightfully scaring some designers off from implementing their ideas at all. That’s a travesty.

Follow up! Paying tribute to the web with View Source

Make Your ARIA Labels Sing on Key

This article does a great job contextualizing aria-labels, and how best to implement them. The audio examples provided are perfect — I think it is interesting that I’ve never actually seen anyone else bother to create examples like this before. The audio examples bring aria-labels from an abstract concept, to a concrete interface element.

When To Buy Your Own ISBNs

Sharing this because I had no clue one could purchase ISBN numbers, let alone their power!

Twitter aliens

A story told on Twitter, in the first person, featuring aliens, a smart phone, and bananas.

Link logging

Magnet Fingers

I have magnets implanted in my hands

A person with magnets in 2 of their fingers. Why, how, and some more.

In China, the smiley face emoji does not mean what you think it means

WeChat has its own emoji vernacular.

Children Are Using Emoji for Digital-Age Language Learning

I wanted to find out not only whether kids were texting emoji but which emoji, and why? How do they organize emoji into sequences and ideas, and how do these early ramblings shift as kids learn to read?

Skipping to the conclusion

Kids still get picture books read to them. But now that we all communicate in writing so much more often, kids also are read text messages. For a kid to get a text message written directly for them, and read directly to them, which they can reply to in some fashion, it teaches them something powerful about the written word—that it can be used to connect with people you care about.

Privacy Is Not Dying, We’re Killing It

… Privacy may not be dead but it’s morphing, and it is doing so in part because of how we habitually conduct ourselves and how our tools mediate our perception.

So we say we value privacy, but we hardly understand what we mean by it. Privacy flourishes in the attention economy to the same degree that contentment flourishes in the consumer economy, which is to say not at all. Quietly and without acknowledging as much, we’ve turned the old virtue into a vice.

Packaging as Content | Box Vox

This is a weirdly fascinating and specific blog about packaging design. Keep an eye out for the series of posts all about Polyhedral Milk Cartons.

After years and years of using figma, I purchased a copy of Sketch today. Boy-howdy. I made mockups of an app in about 1/3rd of the time it would have taken me using figma.

In reply to: Anyone an Information Architect – Jorge Arango

Many of us who’ve used a greenfield Slack account to coordinate activities with a group larger than a couple of people have experienced this. The environment’s design makes it easy to spin up new channels. Without an agreed-upon ontology, the result is duplication and confusion. Eventually, someone in the team either self-selects or is assigned the role of Slack channel curator. Not quite a bottom-up structuring of the environment; rather, a bottom-up nomination for the top-down role.

All of this NPM bruhaha has me wondering, what does a better solution look like? NPM has always been a reason I’m wary of modern JS dev. The whole ecosystem seems contingent on NPM as its central rail — what happens when it is bought, hacked, or just flakes? I pretend that quicklisp does it better, but I am really not sure, tbh. Is a centralized package manager always going to be a or even the central point of failure for a wider ecosystem? I regularly use a bunch of different package managers across a few different languages, is one better than the other? At the end of the day is their a better model to follow?

A few recycled thoughts on writing

I don’t think one needs to know where you are going to start writing. You don’t need an endgame, thesis, or goal. All you need is something to explore. Writing isn’t necessarily about the conveyance of specific information. Writing can be a design practice, or a way to learn something new.


A print isn’t a static thing—it isn’t a dead document, or just inked lines on paper—a print is an interface for connection. With technological innovation the immediacy and mode of that connection has changed, but I think at its heart had remained more or less the same.


I write because I don’t know. In writing I won’t necessarily come to knowing, but I’ll begin to move towards it. I write as an explorer seeking some understanding, and wanting to communicate. I write as a beginner…someone who is new to something, but eager to learn more and explore further.

In reply to: An Architectural Defense of D.C.'s Boxy Buildings - CityLab

Call it the virtue of architectural monotony: a relentless horizontality where commercial canyons recede into the distance. One stretch of cliff might be granite, another one concrete or tile or glass. But as the city’s core has filled up in recent decades, the materials have come to serve as seemingly interchangeable wrappings for squat containers of leasable space.

The result? An awkward yet oddly endearing terrain where, absolutely, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

In reply to: The Design of Childhood

I’m really excited for this book, The Design of Childhood. I frequently try to think about design in the context of children, and what various systems would look like if children were made the primary focus (note, focus is different from user”).

Bandai cracked the wearable tech code in 1996

Also, what do you call more than one Tamagotchi? Tamagotchis, Tamagotchi, Tamagotchus, Tamagotchya?

This is a response to an article from The Next Webs, What designers need to make wearable tech exciting again,” which is itself sort of a response to two articles, one on The Verge, and another in Forbes.

Question:

Were Tamagotchis wearable tech?

I think so, and I’d argue they got this whole wearable tech thing right! Wearable technology isn’t necessarily about sensors and personal metrics, and the term wearable” could be a misnomer. Maybe it isn’t about the technology being wearable, rather it is about its being unobtrusive enough to carry with you everywhere you go—it is about having a relationship with the tech—it is about devices that listen.


Whereas responsive” web design is the new standard, maybe responsive” technology is a better term than wearable technology. By responsivity, however, I mean something more like listening.” A responsive website can refactor to the device on which it is being rendered. A responsive website responds to the device on which it is displayed—wearable tech responds, or listens to the person who is wearing or using it…and does so in a manner tailored specifically to that person. Tamagotchi(s?) did this upside down by forcing their users to respond to their, the Tamagotchi’s, specific, seemingly unique, needs, and wishes. Perhaps fitness tracking wearables aren’t the end-all-be-all of wearable tech because they don’t do anything new? Folks have been exercising, and even charting their exercise for a lot longer than iPhones, touch screens, Bluetooth, and sensors have been around. The experience of exercising is one that isn’t dependent on, or even that enhanced, or enchanted by wearable technology. I think the key to wearable tech is in generating new experiences, or creating new relationships. That being the case, Bandai cracked the wearable tech code with Tamagotchi. So, what do designers need to make wearables exciting again? Designers need to look to Teddy Bears, action figures, dolls, and security blankets when designing wearable technology. They need to look at toys and those other objects that people, be they children or adult, form relationships with. Because most adults aren’t as freely able to connect with, and imaginatively animate inanimate objects as are children, designers need to create devices that form the relationship with their users…their people. When relationships are formed with a device, even if that device isn’t the most useful thing in the world (i.e. a Tamagotchi), people will be willing, and happy to carry or even wear that device wherever they go.


I originally posted this on Medium, May 19th 2014. It is a wee bit dated, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Tamagotchi lately, and thought it was time to liberate the piece from Medium.

In reply to: Black Panther's Maglev System Is the Transit We Deserve - CityLab

Among the many dazzling technologies in the new Marvel superhero film Black Panther—self-healing catsuits, holographic self-driving cars, indestructible woven capes—one technology is bittersweet to behold, at least for one subset of sci-fi nerd. That would be the trains.

Maglev, baby! But also no maglev 😭

But despite decades of development, maglev hasn’t spread widely across Asia, and it hasn’t taken off at all in the U.S. or Europe (excluding a now-shuttered airport line in the U.K., and a defunct test track in Germany.) That’s because traditional high-speed rail can run nearly as fast as maglev, is cheaper to build, and can connect to existing rail systems, whereas maglev guideways cannot. For many countries with rail networks already in place, it’s hard to justify spending billions of dollars on such a project.

In reply to: Writing essays by formula teaches students how to not think | Aeon Essays

…as so often happens in subjects that are taught in school, the template designed as a means toward attaining some important end turns into an end in itself. As a consequence, form trumps meaning.

Continuing…

The form becomes the product. Teachers teach the format as a tool; students use the tool to create five paragraphs that reflect the tool; teachers grade the papers on their degree of alignment with the tool. The form helps students to reproduce the form and get graded on this form. Content, meaning, style, originality and other such values are extraneous — nice but not necessary.

The medium is the message, and the tooling shapes the product — but sometimes the tooling becomes the product, too.

On a similar note, i wonder if many applications (especially desktop applications) are laid out in a similar manner to IDEs because developers working on these applications spend the majority of their time in IDEs so know how to think within their boundaries and patterns?

Navigator -> Workspace -> Modifiers/Detail

In reply to: Why Paper Jams Persist | The New Yorker

Jams emerge from an elemental struggle between the natural and the mechanical. Paper isn’t manufactured—it’s processed,” Warner said, as we ambled among the copiers in a vast Xerox showroom with Ruiz and a few other engineers. It comes from living things—trees—which are unique, just like people are unique.” In Spain, paper is made from eucalyptus; in Kentucky, from Southern pine; in the Northwest, from Douglas fir. To transform these trees into copy paper, you must first turn them into wood chips, which are then mashed into pulp. The pulp is bleached, and run through screens and chemical processes that remove biological gunk until only water and wood fibre remain. In building-size paper mills, the fibre is sprayed onto rollers turning thirty-five miles per hour, which press it into fat cylinders of paper forty reams wide. It doesn’t take much to reverse this process. When paper gets too wet, it liquefies; when it gets too dry, it crumbles to dust.

In reply to: Designing Better Urban Spaces for Kids - CityLab

This is pretty much my dream article.

In grad school, I read this article about why kids in Japan are so independent right after having finished reading Yi-Fu Tauns Topophilia, I started to wonder, what would a public transit system designed specifically for children look like?” Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the idea. Fascinated not only by the potential design challenges, but also because I really think if more aspects of public, private, and digital life were designed with children specifically in mind the world would be a better place.

What if, instead of devising ways to deter kids from using public space, cities were built to encourage it?

Continuing,

Not only [would] better design help these children thrive and become healthier, more successful adults, but planning for children, with their more limited range and unhurried pace, means simultaneously planning for other vulnerable groups, such as the disabled and the elderly. And the well-being of children can have a way of uniting policymakers who disagree on most everything else.

Not only that, but I think design with children in mind would help to break most folks’ inability to comprehend hyperobjects, and other diffuse disasters that we generally struggle to address with any urgency (I’m lookin’ at you climate change…and debt crisis…)

So what does designing a city around kids mean? The Arup report’s authors are clear that it’s not just about building more playgrounds, however important such spaces are and will continue to be. The report focuses on two main aspects of design: everyday freedoms and children’s infrastructure….Everyday freedoms refer to children’s ability to travel safely on foot or bike and without an adult in their neighborhood—to school, to a rec center, to a park….Children’s infrastructure means the network of spaces and streets that can make a city child-friendly and encourage these everyday freedoms.

So, maybe a weird question — but how does the indieweb address children? Does it? Should it?

Dear fellow app developers and designers, I have a gripe: Login” Noun. Log in” Verb.

Cubist microservices

I’ve been reading about microservices lately. We’ve been talking about migrating some common features of our apps and services from impromptu shared libraries over to proper microservices at work.

Martin Fowler describes a microservice as a set of common architectural characteristics:

In short, the microservice architectural style [1] is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API. These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery. There is a bare minimum of centralized management of these services, which may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies.

Wanting to wrap my head around what these could look like and how they could be re-used across multiple projects I wrote two really tiny, sort of stupid microservices myself.

The UUID generator does just that. When called, it generates one UUID and returns that UUID as either plain text, or JSON. Check it out! smallandnearlysilent.com/uuid/

The password generator is just a tiny bit more complicated than the UUID generator. When called, it returns a set of random words. By default it returns 5 random words, but you can specify how many words you would like, and if you would like them as plain text or as JSON. Check it out! smallandnearlysilent.com/battery-staple/

If I end up using them in an actual project one day I’ll probably need to clean up the response formatting a bit.

Neither of my microservices are all that grand, but it has been fun thinking of client/server architectures in terms of microservices. Generally speaking, I’m a fan of simple…or minimal…lightweight. Microservices can help to break a HUGE project into smaller chunks. This fragmentation of capabilities leads me to wonder if software development is entering a sort of cubist phase.

😐

…well, not truly cubist. We’re not talking abstract reconstruction, Gertrude Stein or Picasso here, but I’m intrigued by the way microservices can be used to disassemble a large piece of software and then be used to sort of reconstruct it from the outside. Projection v sculpture? Where microservices are used to project functionality that had previously been hewn into a single block of code.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. Mostly I miss being able to talk about critical theory and shared close reading, so I try to force that onto my rather non-theoretical worky-job. My coworkers mostly want to focus on the work at hand, which I suppose makes sense. :grimacing:

I’ve been day dreaming about going back to school, or joining a book club, or starting a podcast (which is also an intriguing idea because I like editing audio). In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying writing here, more, and I’ve been reading a lot.

Some things I’ve recently read/started to read/listened to:

  • Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 1, by a whole bunch of folks (the layout of the panels here is phenomenal)
  • Hellboy Vol 4: The Right hand of Doom, by Mike Mignola (I’m a sucker for Hellboy)
  • Valerian & Laureline Vol. 1: The City of Shifting Waters, by Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin (méh to bad, but supposedly a classic of sorts. I like the coloring, though. If they fall into my lap I’ll probably read more)
  • Space and place: the perspective of experience, Yi-Fu Tuan (for the millionth time)
  • Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, Derrida
  • Binged all 11 Saga Thing episodes on Njal’s Saga!

Boring fjords

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxys Slartibartfast won an award for designing the fjords of Norway. He enjoyed all the fiddly-bits around the edges.

Like Slartibartfast, I enjoy designing the little fiddly-bits, but not in a rococo sense. I like the boring, nitpicky details. I love to design settings screens! Not all apps have them, some have bad ones. Here are a few of my favorites.

iOS Settings App

The bar by which all other setting screens are judged!

iOS settings screen

iOS’ native settings app is all about organization. It outlines a clear taxonomy and is fairly straightforward to navigate (an impressive feat for something with such a sprawling reach).

From the home” screen of the settings app you can do one of three things:

  • Input text into the search field
  • Turn on airplane mode
  • Select a subcategory

Selecting a subcategory brings up a deeper detail view from where more can be accomplished. It seems like a relatively simple mechanic, but, I think it is rather genius. Generally speaking, the organization of all the subcategories is excellent…save for General.” What is going on there?

About, okay, that makes sense.

Software Update, I can dig that too.

Siri, Spotlight Search,Handoff & Suggested Apps` okay, I guess so…

CarPlay, Accessibility!? I’m just grumbling though, I understand why these would all be filed under General.”

Overcast

Straightforward, and opinionated.

Overcast settings screen

Overcast is hands down my most frequently used 3rd party app. I like Overcast’s setting screen so much I often refer to it while designing setting screens at work. It has a clear taxonomy and makes great use of explanatory text. I also like that the settings screen is broken into two levels:

The top most level (pictured above) includes all the marquee settings and features that the average user will care to fiddle with. Meanwhile, the second tier, labeled Nitpicky Details,” is how power users can access another level of control. This tiered approach is sort of like a speed bump separating the buttons that are safe to push from the ones that you might want to have read the manual before pushing.

Overcast’s setting screen is opinionated — it communicates in an attention wrangling yet clear manner, and it weights what users should fiddle with.

Coda

Much like Batman, but far less likely to throw something at you.

Coda settings screen

BLACK BACKGROUND! Always exciting. Always exciting.

Nothing much to say about this one, but I like how it matches the overall aesthetic of the app. It doesn’t feel like it was glossed over during the design process.

I like that Coda’s settings screen follows iOS Settings’ lead. Nothing can actually be done from the initial screen, instead it offers a listing of subcategories with detail views. I wonder, though, could the same effect be made with the use of labeled sections?

Pedometer++

Descriptive.

Pedometer++ settings screen

This is probably the simplest settings screen of the lot. The primary reason I like this screen is its use of descriptive labels. There is little to no ambiguity about what these switches do because each has an companion description that details its purpose.

Because I’ve set a precedent of griping about the screens, though: Customary vs Metric!?” What is customary about the Imperial measurement system!? NOTHING!


Didn’t read, watch, or listen to much this week.