The Blogroll: Week 15

If you’re asking “what the heck am I looking at?”, here’s a primer. Also, if you know of an article or blog I should be reading, let me know.

The Blogroll


Robin Rendle - I Don’t Believe in Full-Stack Engineering

Despite the evidence that front-end development is a focused activity that requires full-time effort I see a lot of companies hiring full-stack engineers and hiring designers without coding experience, and I see design teams focused intently on pixel pushing and making animations without understanding basic HTML structure. I constantly see wildly inaccessible interfaces that don’t have focus states and forms that don’t let you navigate effectively with a keyboard. I see unusable mobile interfaces and giant web apps that feel slow and clunky because no-one really considered how browsers function at the most basic of levels.

If you’re only hiring full-stack engineers then you should carefully consider why that’s the case and you should have a grasp of what you’re sacrificing for that lack of focus and expertise in that area.

Because there’s no such thing as a unicorn and there’s no such thing as a full-stack engineer.

We’re going to be hiring soon. My thoughts mirror these.


Taffy Brodesser-Akner - Jonathan Franzen Is Fine With All of It

“I’ve never been a big fan of society structured predominantly along lines of consumerism, but I had made my peace with it,” he said. “But then when it began to be that every individual person also had to be a product that they were selling and liking became paramount, that seemed like a very worrisome thing at a personal level as a human being. If you’re in a state of perpetual fear of losing market share for you as a person, it’s just the wrong mind-set to move through the world with.” Meaning that if your goal is to get liked and retweeted, then you are perhaps molding yourself into the kind of person you believe will get those things, whether or not that person resembles the actual you. The writer’s job is to say things that are uncomfortable and hard to reduce. Why would a writer mold himself into a product?

And why couldn’t people hear him about the social effects this would have? “The internet is all about destroying the elite, destroying the gatekeepers,” he said. “The people know best. You take that to its conclusion, and you get Donald Trump. What do those Washington insiders know? What does the elite know? What do papers like The New York Times know? Listen, the people know what’s right.” He threw up his hands.


Preston Gannaway - How the Startup Mentality Failed Kids in San Francisco

In Payne’s view, Brown was a “super-good-faith effort to build a state-of-the-art school that is still ongoing. The startup metaphor is a really good one,” he said, “where you have to iterate. You can’t expect everything to run perfectly on the first day. And I think, you know, that process of storming and norming and developing a community is going to be challenging under the best of circumstances.”

To be sure, Brown was the most ambitious new-school launch ever undertaken by the district, and is still populated by children and teachers who deserve encouragement and every chance to succeed. The allure of the startup metaphor is likewise understandable—except tech startups are launched by entrepreneurs backed by investors who understand the risks they are taking, while Brown was started by government employees with little personal stake in the outcome.

This, to me, is a real problem. We have politicians and community leaders around the world trying to run countries and institutions more like startups — but unlike businesses that can just close their doors with little consequence, you can’t just close the doors of a school. There’s no bankruptcy. There’s no investor on the other side expecting schools to fail because all they really want is a single unicorn from their portfolio. The people on the other end are families trying to give their children a chance. Failure isn’t an option.

Everyone involved in a public institution should know that and be held accountable.


Jason Smith - Domain registrations now total 333.8 million, new gTLD registrations decline 20.7% YoY

There are now also 3.2 million more .com and .net registrations than there were at the end of Q1 2017, which represents a 3.2 percent (4.6 million) increase. Of the 148.3 million .com and .net registrations, 133.9 million are .com domain names while 14.4 million are .net domain names.

Meanwhile, new generic top-level domain registrations (gTLDs) now total 20.2 million and registrations of gTLDs decreased by 0.4 million (2 percent) quarter-on-quarter and 5.3 million (20.7 percent) year-on-year.

These numbers aren’t super surprising — there haven’t been early as many new gTLD launches this year, so the buzz is down. But I do see it as a worrying trend, if it is indeed a trend.

To me, established brands and new brands in less tech-focused industries will naturally go with the safest option. And that — today — is either .com or a local country-code TLD (ccTLD). Growth there is fine. But blogs and portfolio sites have so much more room to experiment, and they’re often the ones pushing trends. So one way to interpret these stats is to assume would-be bloggers and portfolio owners are choosing closed platforms instead of the open web. Facebook and Instagram instead of Wordpress and Cargo.

It’s a choice people are making, and I would say it’s a bad one for the long-term health of the internet. I’ve said it before, but we need more polished tools in the open web. Lots of people are doing lots of neat things, but there’s still no better way than Instagram for a bakery to share a picture and see immediate results.

The argument for the open web can’t purely be a philosophical one, or even a security-focused one (I think we can safely assume that most people don’t care). It actually needs to be better.


Nicola Wood - Rest

It’s not possible to do everything at once. You just end up doing them badly. Important things - and people - may get lost along the way. There has to be time to chat to family and friends about their day. To play with Mufasa. To have a proper lunch-break. To go for walks. To blog twice a week. To keep the house clean … If there’s no room for those then I’ve got too much on and something needs to change. Locking myself in the toilet until it all goes away isn’t really an option … However tempting it sometimes is.

This might be a cultural thing, but in my corner of America, we call the room with the toilet the restroom for a reason.

I kid, I kid. (I really don’t… we all have far too many things going on.)


Jeremy Keith - Why Design Systems Fail by Una Kravets

At Digital Ocean, there was a design system called Buoy version 1. Una helped build a design system called Float. There was also a BUI version 2. Buoy was for product, Float was for the marketing site. Classic example of 927. Nobody was using them.

Una checked the CSS of the final output and the design system code only accounted for 28% of the codebase. Most of the CSS was over-riding the CSS in the design system. Happy design systems scale good standards, unify component styles and code and reduce code cruft. Why were people adding on instead of using the existing system? Because everyone was being judged on different metrics. Some teams were judged on shipping features rather than producing clean code. So the advantages of a happy design systems don’t apply to them.

This is a good post for people trying to implement anything as a standard. People have to really want it to be successful, and the goals of each team have to be unified. If priority one is getting a product out the door, standards that don’t seamlessly integrate into workflows just won’t get followed.

It’s much easier to say, “I shipped it, but it needs work” than spending the time trying to understand why something is the way it is.

The actual blogroll

(Blogs are ranked in order of appearances in these Blogroll posts. Also, I’m only listing blogs that don’t act as newspapers, because those are the ones I feel need the most support.)