Dispatches From the Internets

Lessons in Averaging

In the work that we do on the Web (as well as in our daily lives), we’re often confronted, informed, or judged based on averages. I never really stopped to think about it, beyond being bugged by the fact that averages aren’t truly representative of reality. Then I listened to 99% Invisible’s episode “On Average”. It was incredibly enlightening and the stories shared in that episode provide sage wisdom that is very relevant to the work that we do.

[Insert Clickbait Headline About Progressive Enhancement Here]

Late last week, Josh Korr, a project manager at Viget, posted at length about what he sees as a fundamental flaw with the argument for progressive enhancement. In reading the post, it became clear to me that Josh really doesn’t have a good grasp on progressive enhancement or the reasons its proponents think it’s a good philosophy to follow. Despite claiming to be “an expert at spotting fuzzy rhetoric and teasing out what’s really being said”, Josh makes a lot of false assumptions and inferences. My response would not have fit in a comment, so here it is…

Mac-like Special Characters in Windows

I am a bit of a geek for proper punctuation: Em dashes… en dashes… curly quotes… ellipses… I love them all! Prior to 2007, I was a long-time Windows user and was a master of the Alt + numeric code system of entering special characters on that operating system.1 For nearly a decade, however, I’ve been writing and developing on a Mac and I absolutely love how much easier it is to use special characters. When I started setting up my new Surface Book, I began searching for a way to bring Mac-like special character entry to Windows 10.

  1. I actually memorized a ton of the codes, much to my amazement. I still remember a few, but I am thankful to have reclaimed a bit of that memory space over the last few years. 

Progressive Misconceptions

Last week, my colleague1 Nolan Lawson wrote a lengthy post about his struggles with progressive enhancement. In it, he identified a key tension between the JavaScript community and the progressive enhancement community that has, frankly, existed since the term “progressive enhancement” was coined some 13 years ago. I wanted to take a few minutes to tuck into that tension and assure Nolan and other folks within the JS community that neither progressive enhancement nor the folks who advocate it (like me) is at odds with them or their work.

  1. Full disclosure: We both work at Microsoft, but on different teams. 

I’m Voting for Oscar

This is my son Oscar. In case you can’t see the picture, he looks nothing like me because he’s adopted. He’s also friggin’ adorable, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because my son is black and despite the fact that he will grow up in a family that has the means to provide him with a good education and far more opportunity than a lot of children in America—including me—the sheer fact that his skin is dark means he will grow up in a far different America than I did.

What Would You Do With 10kB?

Sixteen years ago, Stewart Butterfield conceived of a contest that would test the mettle of any web designer: The 5k. The idea was that entrants would build an entire site in 5kB of code or less. Its aim was to force us to get creative by putting a bounding box on what we could do:

Between servers and bandwidth, clients and users, HTML and the DOM, browsers and platforms, our conscience and our ego, we’re left in a very small space to find highly optimal solutions. Since the space we have to explore is so small, we have to look harder, get more creative; and that’s what makes it all interesting.

The Web Is Messy and Beautiful

In two back-to-back, potentially NSFW posts discussing web development vs. native development, Eran Hammer covered a lot of the pain points encountered in each. For instance, on the Web, you’ve got rendering and user interface inconsistencies between browsers. On the other hand, retention for native apps is notoriously crappy.