Building for the web checklist

January 31st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Here is a good checklist of what to think about when designing for the web. Some highlights:

  • Assume that people won’t read the instructions.
  • Redundancy is a useful design technique. Labels+icons, color+width, etc.
  • Use loading indicators for XHR requests, even if they’re likely to be very fast. You never know how slow or broken it might be for a user. They should know if something is missing.
  • Don’t give someone 20 equally interesting things to do right off the bat. Give them a more focused presentation upfront before turning them loose.
  • Get live data into your visualization early. If you can’t, use historical data or something else a little bit representative. Visualizing random test data will lead you astray.
  • Clean and transform your raw data stepwise. Make it a repeatable process. Use Makefiles or shell scripts if you can.
  • Assume your page will be one of user’s dozen open tabs. Use short, descriptive page titles and a favicon.
  • Have a recovery plan, and test it.

France is distrustful, suspicious and xenophobic (IPSOS poll)

January 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

France, according to an IPSOS poll, is not in a good mood:

  • 73% lack confidence in the Senate, 72% in the National Assembly, 77% in the media
  • 63% think Islam is incompatible with the values of French society
  • 66% think there are too many foreigners in France

The only institutions which are trusted are the Army (79%) and the Police (73%)

[via Art Goldhammer]

The end of the 60s dream

January 29th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Within the US counterculture, the comedown from the 60s high was debilitating. Sheila quotes the teenage Lester Bangs in 1968, coming to terms with the shootings of Warhol and Robert Kennedy:

America, which is essentially our universe, is having earthquake-sized convulsions, choking, spitting up blood, reeling dizzily into some crumpling limp falldown of terminal disease, weaving back and forth on its knees moaning and clutching itself tightly in one wounded area after another, raving like a wood-grain-alcoholic crashing in the Bowery on his Last Go-Round, and I don’t have any answers, or even very many opinions right now

It’s a beautiful speed-freak preview of the despair which would, over the next 4 years, overcome much of the counterculture. I’ve mentioned it before in the context of Hunter S Thompson. His best writing is shot through with bewilderment and disappointed hope, all sublimated into rage and excess.

We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the Sixties. Uppers are going out of style. This was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling “con sciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meathook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him too seriously

If Hunter and Lester’s intensity is unusual, the pattern of gloom is pretty evident.

Much of the world is in a similar position now. The difference is that we’re not coming down from a quick hippie high, but slogging through many years of featureless gloom. Here’s how Bruce Sterling opened his annual State of the World comment thread:

An extraordinary atmosphere of sullen, baffled evil, as the year opens. I don’t know what to compare 2014 to — except for many other glum post-revolutionary situations, when the zealots succeeded in toppling the status quo, then failed to install a just and decent form of civil order. The world in 2014 is like a globalized Twitter Egypt.

As Bruce suggests, the same gloom is present in the Middle East. Still, it was expected — every Arab activist I heard from in 2011 realised the “Arab Spring” was just the beginning of a long struggle with many setbacks. It was only the Europeans and North Americans who looked at the first wave of change and thought Mission Accomplished. Still, there’s plenty of gloom here: Europe, North America, the Middle East are all having a rough time, while the Balkans remains in its perennial stew of unhappiness.

Changing views on marijuana

January 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Despite the growing push for legalization of marijuana in the US, I had never realised the speed at which public opinion had changed. This graphy from the Pew Center is striking:

In 1969, 12% of the population supported legalization. By 1991 it was only 17%. But from the early 90s attitudes softened massively, until by this year 52% of Americans wanted marijuana legal.

I have no idea what changed in the 90s, and Pew don’t give many hints. I’d be intrigued to find out, though, and also to see whether attitudes in Europe have changed along similar lines.

Tory Britain, you make me despair

January 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Stories like this make it seem that the UK has flipped 150 years back through a time warp.

A pregnant woman isn’t paid the benefits she is entitled to. Desperate, she steals food worth £13.94. She is caught, and sentenced to 10 months in jail.

The jail she is sent to is privately-run. There she suffered a miscarriage, at which point she says the foetus was left with her afterwards and that she had to clean up the blood

Her barrister, Philip Gibbs, told Leicester Crown Court: “There was blood everywhere and she was made to clean it up.

“The baby was not removed from the cell. It was quite appalling. It was very traumatic. She only received health care three days later, after the governor intervened.”

How many American men get arrested

January 26th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Wow. The headline news from this survey is that 49% of black American men have been arrested by age 23. I’m also pretty shocked by the figures for other groups:

By the time they reached 23 years old, 49 percent of black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males, and 38 percent of white males had been arrested for something other than a minor traffic violation.

Africa without Colonization

January 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

 

What would Africa look like if it had not been colonized? This maps attempts to show African political units around 1840.

alkebu-lan-1260

Rachel Strohm speculates how this might have developed, in the absence of European intervention:

The most densely populated areas in west and central Africa might have grown into something approaching Westphalian sovereignty, controlling clearly defined territories (as per Jeffrey Herbst’s thesis on state formation in States and Power in Africa). Coastal and riverine areas may have done well off of trade, encouraging the development of stronger local authorities. Places rich in natural resources would have had to fend off various external claimants to their territories, if not from Europe (or India) then perhaps from neighboring kingdoms, and might have developed into stronger states if successful or faced the imposition of external institutions if not.

Babek Zanjani

January 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

While oil-for-gold allegations are convulsing Turkey, there seems to be a counterpart on the other side of the border

Reports from Iran indicate that it has initiated a campaign to reign in its profiteering PEPs [Politically Exposed Persons]. Arrested this week was billionaire Babak Zanjani, for “financial crimes.” Zanjani, who engineered the sale of Iranian oil in global markets, notwithstanding international sanctions, is accused of failing to pay the government $1.9bn, that it is owed on the transactions. He alleges that international sanctions, in place against the Central Bank, and government-owned financial institutions, have prevented him from remitting payment.

RFE/RL gives some background:

Zanjani, who mainly resides in Dubai and Turkey, has insisted in the past he is not involved in politics, saying, “I just do business.” However, in December last year the European Union named Zanjani “a key facilitator for Iranian oil deals and transferring oil-related money.”

In April, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on Zanjani, along with several companies, accusing them of trying to evade the sanctions by moving billions of dollars on behalf of the government in Tehran.

I’m not sure how this many-pronged international scandal is going to develop, but I’m sure it will be fun to watch.

Be mutual. Be loud. Be clumsy

January 24th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

When sex becomes a production or performance that is when it loses its value. Be mutual. Be loud. Be clumsy. Make noises, be quiet, and make a mess. Bite, scratch, push, pull, hold, thrust. Remove pressure from the moment. Love the moment. Embrace it. Enjoy your body; enjoy your partners’ body. Produce sweat, be natural, entice your senses, give into pleasure. Bump heads, miss when you kiss, laugh when it happens. Speak words, speak with your body, speak to their soul. Touch their skin, kiss their goose bumps, and play with their hair. Scream, beg, whimper, sigh, let your toes curl, lose yourself. Chase your breath; keep the lights on, watch their eyes when they explode. Forget worrying about extra skin, sizes of parts and things that are meaningless. Save the expectations, take each second as it comes. Smear your make up, mess up your hair, rid your masculinity, and lose your ego. Detonate together, collapse together, and melt into each other.

— taken from tumblr

What divorce means

January 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Something I never imagined could end up in court. A woman sues her lawyers because they didn’t tell her that getting a divorce would end her marriage:

Much the most striking of Mrs. Mulcahy’s many allegations of negligence against her solicitors was that, having regard to her Roman Catholic faith, Mrs. Boots had failed to give her the advice which was requisite in view of her firmly held belief in the sanctity of marriage, either in terms of the alternative of judicial separation, or about the impossibility of pursuing divorce proceedings to a clean break settlement, without thereby inevitably bringing about the final termination of her marriage, which she wished to avoid.

Survey of muslim views on appropriate dress

January 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s a survey across 7 muslim-majority countries, asking what form of dress is most appropriate for women in public:

mideast_values

More here. The ultimate source is apparently the Middle Eastern Values Study at the University of Michegan, but I’ve not been able to track down fuller details. I’d love to see breakdowns by gender and age, and changes over time.

A domestic dispute over space aliens

January 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Somebody had fun writing this news report about Cormac McCarthy’s ex-wife:

A domestic dispute over space aliens escalated Saturday morning when a lingerie-clad New Mexico woman allegedly pointed a silver handgun at her boyfriend, a weapon she retrieved from her vagina, where it had been placed while the accused was performing a sex act, police allege.

While using the gat as a sex toy, McCarthy reportedly asked her boyfriend, “Who is crazy, you or me?” The probable cause statement, drafted by Deputy Chris Zook, does not indicate whether McCarthy’s boyfriend dared to answer that query.

If nothing else, the story makes this customs report from Jordan more understandable:

Jordan Customs Department (JCD) staff in Aqaba on Wednesday foiled an attempt to smuggle 69,000 pills of Viagra sexual enhancement, as well as 18,984 toy pistols.

Cory Doctorow: 2014 is the year we lose the Web

January 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Cory Doctorow is as pessimistic as can be about the web in 2014. He thinks a netflix-driven drive from DRM is going to turn most HTML5 interfaces unseeable and unmodifiable:

Try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling that 2014 is the year we lose the Web. The W3C push for DRM in all browsers is going to ensure that all interfaces built in HTML5 (which will be pretty much everything) will be opaque to users, and it will be illegal to report on security flaws in them (because reporting a security flaw in DRM exposes you to risk of prosecution for making a circumvention device), so they will be riddled with holes that creeps, RATters, spooks, authoritarians and crooks will be able to use to take over your computer and fuck you in every possible way.

As near as I can work out, there’s no one poised to do anything about this. Google, Apple and Microsoft have all built proprietary DRM silos that backed the WC3 into accepting standardization work on DRM

Ecology for Hackers

January 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink