My scrapbook of others’ fine content from books, videos,
or around the web.
I’m currently reading Christopher Alexander’s (et al.) A Pattern Language, so this essay from Erin Kissane was timely — she turns her attention to how these ideas of patterns affecting the spaces we build and live in apply to our online homes as well, and the ways that these spaces haunt us (and we haunt them):
Maybe for you, it didn’t start on Twitter. Maybe was forums or the blogosphere or Reddit. Maybe it was Facebook with terrible people from high school or TikTok with people who hate you for liking a thing, or not liking it enough. But we built the machines around our weird amygdalas and then we went inside them and now the machine is no longer confined to a stack of software + policy + vibes; we carry it in ourselves. We haunt each new place we enter. We can feel this happening in our bodies, which is why touch grass is so accidentally real.
We shape our structures and afterward our structures shape us, but the we of the first clause and the us of the second are not the same.
The secret heart of every panopticon is not the all-seeing-eye, but the confessional.
A great read, and the side anecdote about engineer Vic Tandy‘s linking of 19hz infrasound to ghostly sensations is a rabbit hole worth pursuing!
In contrast to the flood of hyperbolic pieces about ChatGPT and other LLM-based AI (“It will revolutionize productivity!” / “It will destroy all creative fields!”), I appreciate Dave Karpf’s pointing out that these things are really best thought of as cliche generators, and that in some contexts it’s OK for the results to satisfice:
The AI isn’t going to give you the optimal Disney World itinerary; It’s going to give you basically the same trip that everyone takes. It isn’t going to recommend the ideal recipe for your tastes; it’s just going to suggest something that works.
And that sounds great, because both of those tasks are obnoxious time-sinks. (Yes, please, recommend a basic meal that my kids might eat! Offer me the same bog-standard Disney vacation that everyone else eventually settles on!)
What a nicely-designed resource for information about color theory along with some material about its use in UX and data visualization!
The folks over at the Thoughtbot agency wrote a timely (for me) post about the risks of organizational reformers wanting to tear down code, business processes, etc. without fully understanding (or perhaps not even investigating) the history or prior reasons for existence. In G. K. Chesterton’s own words:
There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
This is some Grade A (or Triple-A?) trivia about the Oscar-winning director Todd Field:
Soon they were experimenting in the kitchen of Candy Field, Todd’s mother, who still lives in the Portland, Ore., home where Big League Chew was pioneered. To imitate the brown color of chewing tobacco, Nelson ordered a root-beer-flavored, gum-making kit from a company in Texas, which he discovered in the pages of People magazine, and they sliced their first batch of homemade gum with a pizza cutter.
Better than the origin story of the shredded gum itself is the plot twist: Field feels he’s much better off not having found wealth, fame, and success as a teenager bubblegum magnate, as it would have wrecked his later creative career!
See also this unexpected connection between Jelly Belly jellybeans and 1970’s sitcom Sanford and Son.
Good :focus indicators for keyboard and other assistive technology users is a must, and so often overlooked (including by me). The new WCAG 2.1 and 2.2 standards are more strict about how your UI needs to reveal the current tab focus, with the newer spec going beyond what browsers implement in their default user agent stylesheets — thankfully Sara Soueidan has written this excellent guide that breaks down the details!
Color nerdery ahead: I’ve been a fan of the CIELAB color space ever since I discovered Lab mode in Photoshop 20-ish years ago — it’s so awesome and useful to be able to manipulate color channels separate from luminosity! — and so I’m thrilled that web design is heading that direction as well with the new OKLCH color space in CSS Color 4.
This article from Evil Martians about why they’ve made the switch to OKLCH is a great read on the ins and outs of the new color space and why you should consider using it over the more familiar ancient standards. The TL;DR: unlike hexadecimal or RGBa values, Lab/LCH is much easier to read and adjust directly in CSS as well: want to make a color more saturated? Just adjust the middle value, chroma! Oh, and contrast is preserved between different colors so long as the Luminosity remains the same, which makes conforming to the WCAG-compliant color contrast accessibility guidelines that much easier.
I also learned from this in-depth article that Adobe Photoshop has adopted the OKLab space as a “perceptual” option when generating color gradients. Look at how ugly that “classic” gradient is in their screenshot! Gradients in Photoshop have always been messed up, so this is a pretty huge change that they’ve made.
From Andrew Somers, a great primer on how color vision works and how illuminated display technology maps perception to luminance contrast, color gamut, etc. Especially useful is his writeup of not only WCAG 2’s limitations for determining proper contrast for meeting accessibility needs but also the upcoming standards like APAC (Accessible Perceptual Contrast Algorithm) that will pave the way for more useful and relevant a11y standards.
Another from the recent boggling demoscene demos, here’s a bonkers one pulling off tricks on vintage IBM 8088 PC hardware that the 16-color CGA graphics adapter shouldn’t be capable of doing. Remember this is a computer setup from circa 1981!
My favorite part of these kind of demos is when the audience goes wild (well, relatively) for the breakdancing elephant animation, even more than for the psuedo-3D graphics and psychedelic color scanline gimmicks.