Gentrification in progress on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. Fuji X-T1, 27mm f/2.8. Rediscovered this one sitting in a pile of unedited shots from a few years back (November 14, 2016, to be precise).
I missed this stat when it published last month, but it’s worth noting. No great surprise, but the U.S. still lags when it comes to mobile data speeds.
This article focuses on ways to fix that, but I’m more interested in the practical implications for web developers and app builders in the here and now. TL;DR: Even in one of the richest and most well-developed countries on the planet, you can make no assumptions about bandwidth.
Laura González’s post “The Web Without the Web” captures the spirit of what we’re losing with the React-ified internet. Passages like this feel bang on to me:
In elevating frontend to the land of Serious Code we have not just made things incredibly over-engineered but we have also set fire to all the ladders that we used to get up here in the first place.
And she continues:
I love React because it lets me do my best work faster and more easily. I hate React because the culture around it more than the library itself actively prevents other people from doing their best work.
An accessible learning path was key to the rise of the early web. Its foundation, HTML, became the most successful document format in history because it was open and intelligible.
But those document-based roots are being gnawed at by a growing app-centric mindset, one that prizes technical sophistication over plainspoken clarity. That’s building barriers to entry for new developers, especially those from non-technical backgrounds. Left unchecked, the result will be a less diverse, less vibrant web for us all.
Netflix released the first official trailer for “Unbelievable” today, a new series based on a 2015 investigation by ProPublica and The Marshall Project.
I was part of the team that worked on the visual editing and presentation of the original reporting by T. Christian Miller and Ken Amrstrong, along with Rob Weychert at ProPublica and Andy Rossback, Lisa Iaboni, and Gabriel Dance at The Marshall Project.
It’s humbling to see Marie’s story heading to a wider audience, one where it will hopefully have an even greater resonance and impact on the way police respond—and listen—to victims of sexual violence. Stories like this are the reason journalists need to do what they do.
The more humans click through CAPTCHAs the more training the algorithms involved receive. That makes the machines better at solving the very same CAPTCHAs they present to users, and hands bad actors the perfect tool for overcoming CAPTCHAs. The process eats its own tail.
“Year in review” posts are an annual journalism tradition. Come December, they pop up across news sites big and small, either remarking on notable events of the past year, celebrating achievements of their internal teams, or a bit of both.
ProPublica is no different. (Although I’ve posted ours in early January—hey, as the post attests, we were busy in 2018!) I’m immensely proud of the growing sophistication, scope, and ambition of our efforts. This past year also marked ProPublica’s tenth anniversary, so this is an especially poignant one. Check it out and see a little of what we’ve been up to!
New York City’s mass transit system is one of the biggest, busiest, and best in the world. But it’s been stricken by years of accelerating outages, delays, and all-around customer service hell. The New Yorker profiles Andy Byford, the executive charged with turning all that around.
Highlighting decades of neglect and feckless oversight by state and city politicians, this piece reads like the setup for a classic D-school case study. If Byford pulls it off, it surely will be. (And for more about the track signal issues discussed in the article, check out this concise graphic explainer from the the New York Times.)
Andy Clark’s podcast is back with an all-new season about art direction for the web. This latest episode features yours truly in a conversation about what that looks like inside a working newsroom.
We cover a bunch of different angles on the topic, including what it means to edit a story through art direction, the difference between art direction for editorial sites versus product shops, and whether art direction is a particular person’s job or an activity everyone on the team does whether they know it or not. (Spoiler: It totally is.)
Adrienne LaFrance, writing for the Atlantic on the fundamental incompatibility between Facebook’s approach to presenting information and how good journalism actually works:
Deciding what to believe based on other people’s opinions is not only not journalistic, it’s arguably hostile to the press as a democratic institution. The truth may be nuanced, but reportable facts are often quite straightforward. As any journalist can tell you, the best answer to the question “what happened?” is not why don’t you ask a bunch of your friends what they think, organize their views along a spectrum, and then decide where to plant yourself.
Benedict Evans has written a terrific piece walking through the evolution of Facebook’s News Feed. It’s also one of the clearest, most concise deconstructions I’ve read of the underlying mechanics of feeds in general and how they evolve as they scale. Put it all together and you get a clear roadmap of what Facebook’s near future looks like. And lest you think this is all-Facebook-all-the-time, there’s plenty here that applies to news and product design as well. Both are disciplines where the “feed” concept is a frequent and recurring organizing principle.
I was back on the Big Web Show with Jeffrey Zeldman earlier this month, talking about designing the news in an age when the media is under constant attack.
We also discussed an approach to story design that’s more like product design and less like traditional layout work. That is, treating individual news stories as discrete products, each with a set of goals beyond simply getting the user to read them. That part of the conversation spawned a separate post from Jeffrey, discussing the need for both “design that is faster and design that is slower.”
ProPublica Design & Production team member Rob Weychert has created a handy tool for building responsive, grid-based layouts in Sass. We’re calling it Column Setter.
There are a couple things that set Column Setter apart. First, you can use any grid proportions you want. Unlike some other tools, it doesn’t rely on a set of predefined grids you have to cram your content into. You get to pick what works best for your design. Even better, it’s not a framework, so you don’t have to junk up your page with lots of krufty markup. Lastly, layouts built with Column Setter work in older browsers. While the future of advanced layout on the web is clearly CSS Grid, Column Setter’s got you covered if you need to support the broadest possible audience without resorting to lots of hacks or workarounds.