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Reading Notes, February 2022

Article: “Five years of quitting Twitter”

[for many] I only exist when someone takes pity on me and links to my blog from Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News, or a big site like CSS Tricks...

For those people who are re-sharing my content on social media, I suspect most of them found it from their RSS feed. So RSS definitely still seems alive and well, even if it’s just a small upstream tributary for the roaring downstream river of Twitter, Reddit, etc

Article: “Before I go: When it comes to complaining about web browsers”

The best thing I’ve ever done in my career is blog about my specific problems with browsers (or any software you’re passionate about).

I’ve seen this too. Not necessarily in the same way but if nothing else as a coping mechanism. Write it out. You’ll feel better when it’s over. And others may read it and feel better too—“hey I’m not alone, someone else feels that way too”—and sometimes the train stops there. You don’t always need an outcome from a pressure point.

A single blog post is worth 10,000 tweets. It’s valuable because it shows you thought through your problem and narrowed it down to a set of specific issues.

Video: “Unmixing structure and presentation”

A short talk worth watching. Shows how we are the ones driving innovation because we need to make pragmatic choices in the things we build today.

The Abstraction Fallacy

Making a messy model a bit cleaner increases utility radically.

An infinitely pure model must therefore be infinitely useful.


Optimal representations are pragmatic.

They're only useful for a specific set of situations.

Article: “Comic Sans is a good typeface, actually”

Eric with a shakedown of comic sans jokes:

Even though I put a lot of effort into selecting typefaces, I’m not precious about it. If someone changes the typeface, its font size, line height, letter spacing, and color to meet their needs, I’m delighted! It means that they’re interested enough in the content to expend effort to make it legible.

Why do you care so much about setting and overriding (see: dictating) someone else’s preferences?

The thing is, you can’t know what works for someone’s access needs, but you can provide mechanisms for them to help themselves, and that’s totally fine.

Article: “What's Really Going On Inside Your node_modules Folder?”

I want to start by just pointing out that what we're trying to do here is kind of crazy. We want to:

  • Download code
  • from the internet
  • written by unknown individuals
  • that we haven't read
  • that we execute
  • with full permissions
  • on our laptops and servers
  • where we keep our most important data

This is what we're doing every day when we use npm install.

Well, when you put it that way…

Article: “Thoughts On Markdown”

I suspect that the prominence of Markdown has held back innovation and progress for digital content.

Ah, ok ok. As a lover of markdown, I’m here to see how my entire world might be upended. Lay it on me:

does [git + markdown] really represent the best workflow for people who are primarily working with content? Isn’t this a case where developer experience has trumped editor experience…?

Embedding specific presentation concerns in your content has increasingly become a liability and something that will get in the way of adapting, iterating, and moving quickly with your content. It locks it down in ways that are much more subtle than having content in a database.

I can agree with some of the sentiments in this article on a certain level.

But there’s another plane of understanding here where I could argue that digital content is cheapened by the promise of quick economical benefit. Much of the content on the web is prepackaged filler, not meant to sustain but merely fill.

What makes markdown compelling, to me, is less about the syntax and more about the focus on the content. Write good, interesting, compelling content and people will read it. You have to do that when all you have is, in essence, plain text.

That said, I can also get behind this idea:

I wish we could direct more energy into making accessible and delightful editorial experiences that produces modern portable content formats.

Article: “An incoherent rant about design systems”

The hard truth is this; your Figma docs should be treated like a sketch on the back of a napkin. It should be somewhat accurate but it’s a tool that reflects the front-end, but: it ain’t your design system.

Article: “My first impressions of web3”

software projects require an enormous amount of human effort. Even relatively simple apps require a group of people to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, every day, forever

I’m late to the party on this article, but everything in this piece is [chef’s kiss].

Article: “Maralinga bomb test”

It’s one thing to take a critical eye to things like personas, but it’s another to question the larger structures that facilitate and reinforce their use.

How have our histories and practices affected the way culture is manufactured? What decisions are being made for others without their input, or even awareness of their existence? What power structures inform our notions of frameworks, categorization, and cognition?

Representation is important, but it is also an output of a larger system.

Article: “Crypto: the good, the bad and the ugly”

The problem is that a DAO is not an employer or a legally binding contract. The DAO voting to do things has no legal weight. Even if you create a legal corporation to do the bidding of the DAO this doesn't get you out of the problem, because by law the people ultimately in charge must be a named set of human beings. Making it possible for software to employ humans as an independent legal entity is another neat idea but one that definitely does not exist right now.

That’s some pretty wild dystopian stuff if you think about it. Are we trying to make robots our overlords. And for what?

Why does playing a game, or making music, or watching a movie, or sending a message, or any of the millions of other things we spend time doing on the web make more sense or improve if modeled as a currency?

I don’t know. That’s a good question.

Article: “How to keep up with web development without falling into despair”

that’s how “keeping up” stops being a chore and becomes an interest-driven research activity that feeds your enthusiasm instead of draining it.

Lots of good stuff in here, including how I used to feel when I first started: I tried to read every single article smashing magazine put out. And 10 other publications. Realized I couldn’t.

Now I’m better at following blogs I want to, and letting their discourse spur ideas and reflections that I can write on my own. Writing engenders new ideas in my head while solidifying or breaking down whatever my current thinking is. A blog is a great notebook for synthesizing all the research you do as a web worker.

Article: “The people of the metaverse”

The reason we talk so much about authenticity now is because authenticity is no longer available to us. At best, we simulate authenticity: we imbue our deep fakeness with the qualities that people associate with the authentic. We assemble a self that fits the pattern of authenticity, and the ever-present audience applauds the pattern as “authentic.” The likes roll in, the views accumulate. Our production is validated.