Filtered #2

22 July 2014

Here’s a medley of curious threads we have pulled into our browsers this week.

  1. Una found a kind of a morbid one but fascinating article about what happens to your online identity after you die.
  2. She also discovered the world’s first light art museum, the digital art renaissance and redesigned parking sign. Yes, finally!
  3. Rob’s discovered Longplayer, a one thousand year long musical composition. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill made it through parliament in the UK despite lots of people (myself included) writing to their MPs. Ho hum. We’ll have to find other ways to defend our rights to privacy, such as this online privacy pack courtesy of Reset The Net.

Making the ICC's Rome Statute a core part of the site

21 July 2014

I spent a while converting founding documents to HTML so they would be easy to read on any device. Working with one of the lawyers at the court, we put together a plan for including references and relevant documents within the main document.

The idea was to treat the legal texts in a similar way to scribes with religious texts in medieval times: glossary, annotations, marginalia as well as related documents and court records.

We would have definitions of legal terms, short explanations of various areas and links to relevant decisions (building upon earlier keywords projects at the ICC). This approach puts the legal texts at the heart of everything - which is how lawyers at the ICC actually work - whereas at the moment they get sidelined. That area could also have explanations and stories about how the law has affected people’s lives.

You can see it in action here, but this idea (which I thought was pretty good) never made it to live.

Image showing the Rome Statute idea

Filtered #1

04 July 2014

Here’s a selection of what’s sparked our curiosity, piqued our interest and made us shudder (almost) with delight this week.

Una liked the way the Arrels Foundation have created a collection of typefaces based on the handwriting of homeless.

She also enjoyed this talk about the story of Airbnb and the growth of the sharing economy.

And finally from Una: a video of Tina RothEisenberg talking about side projects which turned into “labors of love”.

The Internet with a Human Face

I found much to chew over in this great talk by Maciej Cegłowski (of Pinboard) from Beyond Tellerrand in Düsseldorf, Germany. Here’s a few choice morsels:

a lot of what’s wrong with the Internet has to do with memory. The Internet somehow contrives to remember too much and too little at the same time, and it maps poorly on our concepts of how memory should work. […]

One reason there’s a backlash against Google glasses is that they try to bring the online rules into the offline world […] Google’s answer is, wake up, grandpa, this is the new normal. But all they’re doing is trying to port a bug in the Internet over to the real world, and calling it progress. You can dress up a bug and call it a feature. You can also put dog crap in the freezer and call it ice cream. But people can taste the difference. […]

These big collections of personal data are like radioactive waste. It’s easy to generate, easy to store in the short term, incredibly toxic, and almost impossible to dispose of. Just when you think you’ve buried it forever, it comes leaching out somewhere unexpected. […]

One of the worst aspects of surveillance is how it limits our ability to be creative with technology. It’s like a tax we all have to pay on innovation. We can’t have cool things, because they’re too potentially invasive.

I also enjoyed this talk on generalists and trans-media by Frank Chimero which gave me hope as a incurably curious generalist lurching from interest to interest and feeling inadequate in the face of specialists.

I still believe that:

Major innovation comes from the unexplored no-man’s-land between the disciplines

– Norbert Weiner

and point anyone in doubt in the direction of James Burke’s dConstruct talk from 2012.

Finally, here’s a great article about “Bots of conviction” with some interesting guidance on creating Twitter bots which have meaning and are effective for protest.

End of transmission

Agility not agile

18 March 2014

What to do:

  • Find out where you are
  • Take a small step towards your goal
  • Adjust your understanding based on what you learned
  • Repeat

How to do it:

When faced with two of more alternatives that deliver roughly the same value, take the path that makes future change easier.

From Agile Is Dead (Long Live Agility) via Russell Davies

On a device-agnostic approach

17 March 2014


Only a few years ago, most people went online using a desktop or a laptop.

A desktop computer

CC Image courtesy of Rakesh Ashok on Flickr

Today and beyond

Now people use a myriad of devices over a varying connections summed up as “hostile browsers, tiny screens, slow connection speeds, touch inputs

Many mobile devices

CC Image courtesy of Jeremy Keith on Flickr


Tablets and smartphones will make up most of the sales of connected devices

Graph of mobile device growth

Image from IDC

A mobile world

Mobile is often the only point of internet access in some parts of the world

Map of mobile share of web views

Image from We Are Social

Are we building a digital product for yesterday or tomorrow?

Projected mobile device growth

See this post for lots more stats

Traditional approach

Design and build desktop site first – consider this the “complete version”. Then consider a mobile site – slimmed down version of desktop version – either as separate site or using media queries – “responsive design”

  • Bad for users – Penalise them for visiting site on a smaller device when most people want full access.
  • Painful to maintain – No easy or coherent evolution of design

What if we turn it around?

Make the product:

  • Work well at many different screen sizes
  • Built for speed and performance on many devices / connection speeds
  • Work for touch screen and even “no-screen” (accessibility/APIs etc)
  • Promote content over navigation

Mobile first is a bit misleading

It’s really about starting to design from the content outwards.

Device agnostic

Content, presentation, interface – Reduce to the minimum amount necessary

  • Forces you to focus and prioritize by embracing constraints
  • Ensures you don’t have to maintain separate sites
  • Serves your users in countries with poor connections by default

Different devices and poor connections are not after-thoughts: they are at the heart of the product.

Progressively enhance for particular devices only when evidence of demand exists.

Data structures and editorial / content decisions are the biggest issues. Technical and design issues are secondary.

If we think about the content first, working on any device, all other considerations slot into place.

Hierarchy of content needs

Some ways of prioritising and thinking about content in a device-agnostic project:

  1. Access
  2. Legibility
  3. Ease of comprehension
  4. Relevance – to the need, moment, interests, behaviour, and personal history
  5. Everything else: Later access, ease of reference, etc</ul>

See this post on responsive web publishing for more details.

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