It’s hard to describe what’s happened in the UK in the last week (and a bit). Although many of us had kept half an eye on developments in China and around the world, the speed and scale of changes to life in this country came as a massive shock.
Seems like those ‘tin foil hat’ people might be right about a few things.
I think it may be useful, at least to me, to write a record of my thoughts and feelings at this unprecedented – a word that is currently being blared from every screen – time. In years to come this will be a memory, a historical event that people will study and ask each other ‘do you remember?’ I want to remember, and as my memory is lousy it’s better to write it down.
Except… I can’t. In some ways life is pretty normal, it’s just that I’m working from home all the time and the child is not at school. But there’s an eerie quiet everywhere due to much lower levels of traffic. Being put in a queue to access the Morrisons online shopping site is weird.
We’re tuning in pretty regularly to the nightly government press conferences, but I expect at this point in time there won’t be much happening as serious measures – a pretty strict lockdown – have already been put in place. We’ll just hear of COVID-19 cases climbing steadily higher. We’ve also found some good (and local) online faith resources. Mark Umpleby from Batley is doing night prayers at 9PM each night on Facebook which is very calming at the end of each fraught day. People are pulling together, it seems.
Not all people. My young friend Josh who is a security guard at a small supermarket told me he was assaulted yesterday trying to enforce a “only 5 people in the shop at once” policy. Still, it feels many people are being patient and kind – and the stories of individual acts of compassion and downright bravery (especially in the NHS) are humbling.
There is hope, although as I write it seems like a long way off.
So, the end of 2019 looms. It’s been a good year in general for me, with continued employment (always a bonus) and important family events happening. I got to visit “our” village in France again for the first time in several years, this time entirely by train.
Looking back on this blog, however, I’m not so happy. I thought it was about this time last year I decided to (try) to go full IndieWeb, but was slightly shocked to see it was January 2018. Where have the last 2 years gone?
Likewise my decision last May to strip this site back to just HTML and ‘design in the open’ resulted in just one thing: someone contacting me to ask if the site was broken. You’ll see there’s a bit more colour and layout implemented now, but a long way to go. And my skills – or rather, lack of skill – as a designer is painfully obvious.
So here’s to 2020. May I find more time to spend on this site, blogging about the many things I’ve been learning. Because, I have to admit it, I really miss the old days when I would blog more.
It’s been a while since I last redesigned (or should I say, realigned) this site. Six years, in fact. My regular visitor, if they are still regular, will have noticed that this site has been somewhat broked for a week or so.
I’m not sure what I did, but I clearly mangled something. Anyway, it’s an excuse to realign.
This time I have some simple requirements for myself:
Mobile first. The reality is that most browsing is done on a mobile device of some kind, so I want to primarily cater to those constraints. That means mobile-first CSS, Service Workers, small images only where necessary etc etc.
More emphasis on the IndieWeb. I’ve started doing this, by pulling in my tweets. But I want to go much further down that road.
And I’m doing all this in the open, live on the site. I may fail completely, in which case it will be a public humiliation. But maybe it will force me to get on with it!
Over the last few months there has been a surge of prominent web people – designers, developers, thinkers – questioning the current obsession with complex “web app” style frameworks. Perhaps this was prompted by Jeffrey Zeldman’s ‘The Cult of the Complex’ article from June 2018, or perhaps this is a natural reaction from people who deeply understand the web.
The general distinction between a dynamic web page of any kind and a “web application” is unclear.
Which chimes with my experience when I ask peers for a definition. They all but cry “You just need to feel the difference, man!”
So, horses. Back when the early automobile engineers were putting together the first cars, there was a clear distinction between the mode of transport widely used before – the horse – and what they were building. There was no confusion, no perplexed on-lookers asking “is that a horse, or an automobile?” There was a world of difference between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’.
A world of difference, but still much the same. The problem that horses and automobiles were solving was, essentially, the same: getting people from point A to point B. But the mechanism – the technology – used to achieve that goal was entirely different.
Except it has, or so the framework-fanboys would have you believe. I’ve heard developers talk about the more traditional ways of building websites to be akin to riding a horse, while using a Single Page Application framework is like driving a sports car.
I have bad news. A sports car works great in the circumstances for which it was designed. But take it out of its natural environment – take it off the track and onto a mountain pass, for example, and you’re in trouble. For harsh terrain you’ll need a horse, not a sports car.
You see, a horse might not be as quick on a flat race track. It might not have a heads-up 3D display to show you the turns ahead. It probably isn’t equipped with intelligent side impact protection systems. But you know what it does have? The ability to do the job in less-than-ideal conditions.
I’ve been a long-time user of WordPress, clocking up well over a decade both publishing on and building plugins for it. I love it – and I even tried to get a job at Automattic (but that’s a story for another time).
Recently I’ve been really impressed with the work done around privacy, mostly prompted by GDPR. Well done for ensuring the considerable effort this required was made, and that privacy now has a much more prominent place in WordPress.
However, the trolling of privacy standards which I saw (online) at WPEU this week threatens to undermine a nascent and fragile respect of data privacy. I understand there are cultural differences between the EU and the US regarding personal data, but the WordPress community should – has to – be better than this, in the same way that we should be, and are being, better than to engage in other damaging activities (GamerGate culture, for example).
A possible immediate fall-out of these unhelpful comments was that, while 80 people were registered for Heather’sDeveloping for Privacy and Data Protection workshop, fewer than 35 showed up. We need *more* designers and developers to care about data protection, so anything that puts them off learning has the potential to be massively damaging to the privacy of thousands, possibly millions, of users their work will touch.
Heather has done amazing work in the UK and beyond for years, banging the drum that as a web industry we must professionalise to be taken seriously by users, legislators, and other industries. She was instrumental in the setting up of an industry body for the web in the UK. A commitment to privacy and data protection is a huge part of professionalising the web industry, in the same way that a commitment to safety is a huge part of a civil engineer’s attitude to their profession. It would be a huge shame to see WordPress further the “we got all your data, lolz suckas!” attitude shown by other big online players (looking at you, Facebook).
Please can you consider whether trolling comments like that help or hinder important work, while you continue to do a great job leading Automattic.
Kind regards, and thanks for all you’ve done for the web community.