A Lazy Sequence


Design machines

Travis Gertz looks at the design process on the web, the mechanical and repetitive way modern sites are designed, and contrasts it with older models of design.

Design systems still feel like a novelty in screen-based design. We nerd out over grid systems and modular scales and obsess over style guides and pattern libraries. We’re pretty good at using them to build repeatable components and site-wide standards, but that’s sort of where it ends.

Look familiar? Wireframes and prototypes are used for designing magazines too—but there’s an important difference. Unlike the web, editorial systems are designed for variation, not prescription. They are a starting point, not a final deliverable.

The wireframe boxes are flexible enough to accommodate variation. There’s no labelling. No prescriptive text. No explicit details. There’s room for interpretation in each section of the layout.

His contrast between bespoke designed sites and SquareSpace is great, and more than a little damning.

25 October 2015

Mozilla continue to phase out support for SHA-1 certificates in Firefox

In Firefox 43 we plan to show an overridable “Untrusted Connection” error whenever Firefox encounters a SHA-1 based certificate that has ValidFrom after Jan 1, 2016. This includes the web server certificate as well as any intermediate certificates that it chains up to. Root certificates are trusted by virtue of their inclusion in Firefox, so it does not matter how they are signed. However, it does matter what hash algorithm is used in the intermediate signatures, so the rules about phasing out SHA-1 certificates applies to both the web server certificate and the intermediate certificates that sign it.

We are re-evaluating when we should start rejecting all SHA-1 SSL certificates (regardless of when they were issued). As we said before, the current plan is to make this change on January 1, 2017. However, in light of recent attacks on SHA-1, we are also considering the feasibility of having a cut-off date as early as July 1, 2016.

Via Oliver Hunt.

20 October 2015

Relationship roll advice for 13th Age

Because of the role the Icons play in the world, the Relationship Rolls have a LOT of power. Or they should. The Icons are really the movers and shapers of the world and the PCs end up being their proxies or their enemies or both. And so those relationships write the story on a fundamental level. The adventures should be ABOUT those relationships.

But that’s tough to pull off if you’re asking your players to roll these dice at the beginning of the game. Because, really, to do it right, to do it justice, you should come with a blank sheet paper, roll the relationships, and make up the session or adventure on the fly based on those die rolls.…

The key is in a throwaway remark at the bottom of page 179. If you’re not comfortable improvising whole adventures out of nothing, roll Relationship Rolls at the end of your sessions.

That’s the trick.…

Via Douglas.

26 August 2015

Who won science fiction's Hugo awards, and why it matters.

Amy Wallace for Wired:

Just before 8 PM, in a vast auditorium packed with “trufans” dressed in wizard garb, corsets, chain mail and the like, one question was on most everybody’s minds: Would the Puppies prevail?

… Not a single Puppy-endorsed candidate took home a rocket. In the five categories that had only Puppy-provided nominees on the ballot—Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Editor for Short and for Long Form—voters instead preferred “No Award.”

Via John Siracusa.

23 August 2015

Why everyone gets Robocop but nobody gets Starship Troopers

John Perich:

These were all people who’d seen RoboCop and Verhoeven’s other works. They knew how the man thought. Yet they didn’t give Starship Troopers the benefit of the doubt. They admitted, begrudgingly, that the pseudo-fascist future might be satirical, but perhaps wasn’t satirical enough.

In short, the critics got it wrong.

So the critics were right and they still got it wrong. Starship Troopers is fascist propaganda – for a fascism that does not yet exist. The problem isn’t that Verhoeven got his fascist propaganda all over your action movie. The problem is that your action movie springs directly from fascist propaganda.

Via Mallory Ortberg.

5 August 2015

Premier Guitar interviews Brent Paschke, Pharrell’s go-to guitarist

“With Pharrell, time is very limited,” says Paschke. “We can be bouncing from room to room quickly, so I have to adjust to his workflow. If I had to tell him I need five or 10 minutes to adjust mics and check out different amps, I’d totally kill his vibe—and that’s the first thing to keep intact.”

5 August 2015

W3C contrast guidelines

The intent of this Success Criterion is to provide enough contrast between text and its background so that it can be read by people with moderately low vision (who do not use contrast-enhancing assistive technology). For people without color deficiencies, hue and saturation have minimal or no effect on legibility as assessed by reading performance (Knoblauch et al., 1991). Color deficiencies can affect luminance contrast somewhat. Therefore, in the recommendation, the contrast is calculated in such a way that color is not a key factor so that people who have a color vision deficit will also have adequate contrast between the text and the background.

30 July 2015

The recording guitrist: are you playing for the song, or for your butt?

Joe Gore for Premier Guitar:

Consider how most of us practice: with loud amps aimed at our butts. Yeah, it’s fun, but it can cultivate a warped sense of how parts should sound in context. Over time, that butt-thumping sensation becomes synonymous with “good tone.” Hearing ourselves from any other source—studio monitors, say, or the crappy little computer speakers and ear buds used by most of today’s music consumers—feels wimpy in comparison. That can make us play too loudly, mix ourselves too prominently, and monitor ourselves so deafeningly while recording that we can’t hear ourselves within the production.

21 July 2015

The Web We Have To Save

Hossein Derakhshan, a blogger who was jailed in 2008, writes about changes in the web.

Six years was a long time to be in jail, but it’s an entire era online. Writing on the internet itself had not changed, but reading — or, at least, getting things read — had altered dramatically. I’d been told how essential social networks had become while I’d been gone, and so I knew one thing: If I wanted to lure people to see my writing, I had to use social media now.

Even before I went to jail, though, the power of hyperlinks was being curbed. Its biggest enemy was a philosophy that combined two of the most dominant, and most overrated, values of our times: novelty and popularity, reflected by the real world dominance of young celebrities. That philosophy is the Stream.

Via Stuart Sierra

15 July 2015

Advice to a new DM

Matthew Colville:

A new edition of D&D came out last year and it seems like a lot of people are discovering the game for the first time. Possibly because of great shows like Critical Role showing everyone how much fun it is.

It is a lot of fun! But for a new Dungeon Master, it can seem daunting. Relax. I started when I was 15 and had no idea what I was doing. I sucked at it, but my players were also 15, so none of us had any frame of reference. We all sucked together!

Here’s some straightforward advice to make the process a little less intimidating. Take what you like from here, it’s not an assignment.

5 July 2015

Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world

Hari Kunzru for The Guardian

It has sold millions of copies, is perhaps the greatest novel in the science-fiction canon and Star Wars wouldn’t have existed without it. Frank Herbert’s Dune should endure as a politically relevant fantasy from the Age of Aquarius

4 July 2015

Redundancy vs dependencies: which is worse?

Yossi Kreinin:

Redundancy sucks. Redundancy always means duplicated efforts, and sometimes interoperability problems. But dependencies are worse. The only reasonable thing to depend on is a full-fledged, real module, not an amorphous bunch of code. You can usually look at a problem and guess quite well if its solution has good chances to become a real module, with a real owner, with a stable interface making all its users happy enough. If these chances are low, pick redundancy. And estimate those chances conservatively, too. Redundancy is bad, but dependencies can actually paralyze you. I say – kill dependencies first.

26 June 2015

I Made A Linguistics Professor Listen To A Blink-182 Song And Analyze The Accent

Dan Nosowitz:

The Bay Area community was goofier, sillier, more suburban, and more inclined to make happy, poppy music than any punk community that came before it. As an ode to the Clash, a lot of their singers adopted a sort of faux-British accent. “I'm an American guy faking an English accent faking an American accent,” Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 1994. Tim Armstrong, the (unrelated) lead singer of fellow Bay Area band Rancid, sings with an accent that varies song by song; sometimes it’s nearly featureless, other times it’s a Strummer-esque Brit inflection, other times it sounds nearly New York.

26 June 2015

A case against subwoofer

Damon Krukowski for Pitchfork:

Which is why it might surprise you that even a master of the low frequency universe like O’Malley [of Sunn O)))] doesn’t use subwoofers for his own listening. “Not in my home,” he says. “A properly set up hi-fi doesn’t need a separate sub. If you have well-designed speaker stacks and adequate headroom on the amplifier, it should cover everything. Usually this culture of bass boosting is at the cost of clarity in the rest of the spectrum.”

To my ears, the bass boosting of Beats and of home theater systems designed to mimic reality for movies and games doesn’t translate to a “real” experience of music. But my idea of real is based on the experience of physical instruments, acoustic and electric. And perhaps the reality of music itself has undergone a change.

26 June 2015

All Dwarves are Scottish

Wikipedia argues that the modern version of the ‘Scottish Dwarf’ originates from the book Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson (published in 1961, but originally a novella from 1953 ) which featured a Dwarf named Hugi with a Scottish accent and a man transported from WWII to a parallel world under attack by Faerie. The book was a major influence on Dungeons & Dragons, which introduced Dwarves as playable race in 1974 and helped disseminate a “standard” idea of what Dwarves were like.

Via Charles Miller.

13 June 2015

The secret history of Ultimate Marvel

Abraham Riesman writes about the Marvel comics Ultimate line of comics launched in 2000, its rise, eventual decline, and its impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and mainstream comics lines.

The history of Ultimate Marvel is, in a way, a story about warring approaches to a reboot: Bendis’s and Millar’s. Bendis wanted to polish the old archetypes; Millar wanted to aggressively critique them. Bendis sought timeless stories; Millar craved biting contemporary political critique. Bendis was looking to inspire; Millar aimed to disquiet. As Bendis put it: “I’m writing about hope and he’s writing about nihilism, and I know he doesn’t always think he is, but he is. Constantly.”

Bendis again:

… “The transition that we made was based on the fact that the concept of Spider-Man wasn't broken,” he told me. “The Spider-Man origin and its themes are pretty much perfect. So adaptations are much like a Shakespeare play: The trick isn't to fix it and say you know better than Shakespeare. It's to find the truth of it and keep the truth going for a new audience.”

Via Judd Karlman

27 May 2015

Web vs. native: let’s concede defeat

Peter-Paul Koch:

I feel we’ve gone too far in emulating native apps. Conceding defeat will force us to rethink the web’s purpose and unique strengths — and that’s long overdue.

I feel that our desire to take on native heads-on has given rise to unnecessarily complex toolchains that slow down what could be simple websites. I’m especially thinking of struggling news sites here, and will argue below that they should go native all the way and forget about the web.

27 May 2015

Microservice premium

Martin Fowler:

The fulcrum of whether or not to use microservices is the complexity of the system you're contemplating. The microservices approach is all about handling a complex system, but in order to do so the approach introduces its own set of complexities. When you use microservices you have to work on automated deployment, monitoring, dealing with failure, eventual consistency, and other factors that a distributed system introduces. There are well-known ways to cope with all this, but it's extra effort, and nobody I know in software development seems to have acres of free time.

17 May 2015

What is the appeal of dynamically-typed languages?

Erik Osheim:

Obviously the biggest problem with writing Python compared to Scala is that you have many fewer static guarantees about what the program does. I'm not going to sugarcoat this — it's a big disadvantage.

Most of the other advantages have to be understood in terms of this. If you value compile-time guarantees you may be tempted not to acknowledge the advantages. I think this is a mistake. If you really want to understand what makes writing Python appealing (or even fun), you have to be willing to suspend disbelief.

8 May 2015

Rarely reversible

Brandon Bloom:

React.js and its “IMGUI” inspired rendering model is exploding in popularity. After my talk at Clojure/West, several folks asked me about two seemingly separate discussion topics: Two-way Bindings and Cursors.

Both designs share a flaw born of a common desire: To automatically map user input back to data sources. When there’s a 1-to-1 mapping from data sources to user interfaces, this is appropriate. However, it’s not sufficient for the general case. In fact, it’s not sufficient for the common case.

Transformations of source data in to views beyond trivial editable fields is almost never reversible or equational.

26 April 2015

Reductionem ad finem

An article by Kevin Downey highlighting what some under utilized capabilities of Clojure’s reduce

26 April 2015


Pysistence is a small library that provides three persistent (immutable) datastrucures: lists, dictionaies, and expandos. Expandos are simply record objects. There is also a facility to use expandos as the bases of imutable classes.

It's not a replacement for Clojure, but it does make a functional style of programming a little less onerous in Python.

9 April 2015

Ducksoup Dungeon

Ducksoup Dungeon is a platforming roguelike game that came out of a 7 Day Rogue-Like competition. Really amazing pseudo-retro pixel art graphics.

18 March 2015


File under: useful tools for understanding regular expressions.

16 March 2015

On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs

Anthropologist David Graeber:

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.)

20 February 2015

The Murder Hobo Investment Bubble

The Murder Hobos sit across the table from the Old Man in the darkened, road side Inn. The Old Man proposes a mission to the group: goblins infest the hills outside town. And goblins, as we know, are horrific fiends who steal babies and chew on children’s heads. Real nasty characters. They also gum up the place with goblin smell.

Emily Dresner has written an article about both economics and fantasy RPGs that is, turns out, interesting, informative, and hilarious. There is more great material on the rest of the blog too.

16 February 2015

Fear China

Craig Hockenberry:

But at the end of the day, every machine in China has the potential be a part of a massive DDOS attack on innocent sites. As my colleague Sean quipped, "They have weaponized their entire population."

22 January 2015

Night's Black Agents thoughts

Michael Prescott’s group has been playing Night’s Black Agents. He has written up a lot of thoughts and some actual play notes on the system.

We're playing Night's Black Agents, GMed by the ever-capable Stephen Shapiro. We're loving the campaign, but have very mixed feelings about the system.

22 January 2015

Why is vinyl not the best medium?

Sound on Sound Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns explains some of the fascinating characteristics and foibles of vinyl as a recording medium:

In theory, digital (especially 96kHz sample-rate digital, which takes any filter issues out of the way) should win hands down, because it is unquestionably superior in every measurable way. However, current mastering practice means that vinyl releases can often sound noticeably better from a dynamics point of view, bizarrely. Also, the whole LP-playing procedure, physicality and the 'mysticism' of vinyl does make it a more involving — and therefore pleasurable — experience. I love and use both regularly.

I particularly like the observation in his conclusion:

… Both appear (to the uninformed) to be highly improbable solutions to what seems like a very simple problem! [Vinyl] faces quite ridiculous mechanical problems, while [digital] faces unfeasibly complicated numerical ones! The difference is that most people can comprehend the basic mechanics of record players by eye, while the principle of digital audio are far from intuitive to most. … [Emphasis mine]

21 January 2015

Tradeoffs in server side and client side rendering

Malte Ubl:

For a long time there has been a debate in web development as to whether web apps and sites should be rendered on the server or the client — or, of course, both.

With a recent post by PPK the debate flamed up again and one thing that struck me as particularly unhelpful was the argument that where something is rendered would be automatically determine whether a given framework is (one dimensionally) good or bad. In my opinion such an simplistic view on things hides the real underlying tradeoffs that should drive decisions.

Via David Nolen.

21 January 2015

Wikipedia draft decision

Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee [ArbCom] on Gamergate has produced a draft decision. Mark Bernstein writes:

By my informal count, every feminist active in the area is to be sanctioned. This takes care of social justice warriors with a vengeance — not only do the GamerGaters get to rewrite their own page (and Zoe Quinn’s, Brianna Wu’s, Anita Sarkeesian’s, etc.); feminists are to be purged en bloc from the encyclopedia. Liberals are the new Scientologists as far as Arbcom is concerned.

(Taken directly from Brent Simmon’s great blog)

20 January 2015