Writing

blog posts and announcements

17 November, 2017

Joining Netlify

I’m very happy to announce that I am joining the Developer Relations team at Netlify. From where you are, you can’t see me hopping from foot to foot with excitement, but feel free to imagine that. Because it’s happening.

I should probably explain why.

Netlify

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10 November, 2017

TTFN R/GA

The time has come to close a precious chapter of my career. Six years ago I joined R/GA, and by crikey, it has been quite a ride. I’ll soon be handing in my “R/GA badge and gun” to move on to my next adventure, and I’m incredibly excited about it. But more on that later. For now, I want to take a breath and reflect on six rewarding years.

My R/GA badge and gun

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27 March, 2017

Keeping a Jamstack Site Feeling Fresh With Recent Tweets

Having somewhere on your site to show a few of your recent tweets is a common requirement. Twitter provides some easy ways to embed tweets or twitter feeds onto your site via Javascript, but I’m keen to remove external javascript dependencies from my site. It helps the site to render more quickly, and lets me control exactly how it looks.

But for a static site, it would be a pain to need to compile and deploy after every tweet. Luckily, by stitching together some simple tools, this can all happen automagically whenever a new tweet is posted.

Fresh slice

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1 August, 2016

Isomorphic Rendering on the JAMstack

I have been experimenting with something that seemed obvious to me for a while. A web development model which gives a pre-rendered, ready-to-consume, straight-into-the-eyeballs web page at every URL of a site. One which, once loaded then behaves like a client-side, single page app.

The fact that so many frameworks set about this with all manner of complex add-ons and machinery gave me cause to think I was missing something big. So I built a simple proof of concept with a static site generator to see if this model could work. I’m pretty pleased with it. Let me talk you through the approach and show you the result.

comedyinthecrown.com

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1 February, 2016

Progressive Enhancement Design Smackdown

Seven years ago I picked a fight. It was during my first few months of working at an agency and I was full of pith and vinegar. I was entering a place where building for the open web was not traditionally valued as much as I felt it should be, and so I began making my case and being disruptive.

Feathers were ruffled. Debates were had.

Hawk vs Wall

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5 November, 2014

The Shapes of Web Views

A few nice folks around the web have been sharing visualisations of the most popular viewport sizes appearing in the analytics for their sites. I thought these were beautiful and useful and wanted to make it easier for people to create their own and highlight the need for responsive web design.

The most common viewports used to view this site

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22 July, 2014

Adding a Static Comments System to My Jekyll Build

I’m a big fan of simplicity when building web sites. That’s just one of the reasons I like using Jekyll, a static site generator, to build out this site. Sometimes though, it would be nice to gather content from the site visitors via a form, and hosting a site as a set of static assets doesn’t cater for that.

That’s why I decided to create a simple service which would provide that capability to any static sites. I’m using it to add comments to this site, and you can use it for yours too.

Poole

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6 January, 2014

Too Funky Didnt Read

The trend for ‘parallax’ or ‘scrolljacking’ web sites has long had me grumbling about their large page weight, slow rendering times and general accessibility black spots, but some are better than others. That got me thinking, do they ever do a good job?

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16 November, 2013

Using a Wiimote for Presentations

Over the last couple of years I’ve given a number of presentations. No matter what the subject matter of the talk, there is one question I always seem to get asked afterwards:

Was that a Wiimote controller you were using to control your slides?

The answer is yes. This is a quick post to explain why and how.

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14 November, 2013

On Hiring Developers

Recently, I made a comment on twitter about how I think developers can make it easier for employers to recruit them. It sparked a little discussion which has been hard to summarise in 140 characters, so here’s a short blog post to try to clarify my point.

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18 June, 2013

London Content Strategy Meetup

Last night I faced a bit of a fear of mine by giving a 5 minute lightning talk at The popular Content Strategy Meetup, hosted at The Book Club in London’s startup-rich Shoreditch.

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5 June, 2013

Oakleys Moto Diet

I recently blogged some crticism about a site which had an 85MB home page. At the time of writing, Oakley’s Moto site was the most dramatic example I had ever seen of an excessively enhanced, heavyweight single page site. Since then, the team at Oakley have responded by putting the site on a diet and dramatically improving its performance and footprint. Great stuff!

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29 May, 2013

Data Viz at Digital Dumbo

This week, as the Digital Shoreditch festival draws to a close, a few of us from R/GA got the chance to attend an evening to talk with other London agencies and start-ups about data visualisation. We couldn’t resist the urge to build a little something to take along.

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9 May, 2013

Pathing the Gimmicky Cowpaths

I’ve ranted quite a bit about clumsy and excessive parallax scrolling effects on web sites recently. Following Adobe’s announcement that they are making this kind of effect simple to do via a WYSIWYG authoring tool, I’m bracing for another glut of sites with this effect. Some might be beautiful. Many will not.

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7 May, 2013

Talking at Jsday Verona

In a few days I’ll be speaking at JSDay in Verona. I’m lucky enough to have another chance to present a version of my Excessive Enhancement talk which I first gave in Brighton way back in November 2011. But isn’t it out of date?

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22 April, 2013

Oakleys Monster Page of Baubles

The ridiculous trend of giant, bloated web pages crammed with every visual bauble and gimmick imaginable seems set to continue. This time thanks to a site by Oakley.

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21 April, 2013

Reflecting on Txjs

I recently blogged that I’d be speaking at the annual Texas JavaScript conference in Austin. After a few days to reflect, I’d have to say that it was not only a privilege to speak at TXJS, but also that it was a pretty special event to attend.

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12 April, 2013

Excess CMS and Stink at Txjs

I’m rather excited to be speaking at Texas JavaScript in Austin this year. TXJS takes place on Monday the 15th of April at Austin’s rather beautiful Paramount Theatre. This talk will take from my Smelly CMS talk and also touch on aspects of another talk of mine called Excessive Enahnacement.

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28 March, 2013

Smelly CMS at HTML5DevConf

On April 1st, I’ll be speaking at the HTML5DevConf at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. I’ll be giving a version of my “I can smell yor CMS” talk which looks at how content managment systems can adversily effect performance and experience in the front-end.

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29 November, 2012

Simplicity and performance with static files

I’ve been beating a drum recently, and it has a lot to do with pursuing simplicity in technical architectures. I want to allow for optimizations where it matter most and avoid the kind of technical and functional bloat you can get through using some CMS platforms. So I was delighted when a colleague recently shared a link to Kyle Rush’s post which demonstrates some huge value in this approach on the Obama fund-rising campaign site.

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9 October, 2012

I can smell your CMS at Fronteers 2012

This year, I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at Fronteers, the very well regarded web development conference in Amsterdam. I was particular excited by this since the event had been high on my wishlist to attend for the last few years. I spoke about the negative impact that content management systems regularly have on the front-end development effort, and how we might try to combat this.

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25 July, 2012

Bootstrapping front-end development with Yeoman

Recently Addy Osmani posted a sneak peek at Yeoman.io, which is described as a client-side stack, comprised of tools and frameworks that can help developers build beautiful web applications. For me, this is incredibly timely as at R/GA we have been making some effort to build tools to help us streamline our front-end development efforts, and keep the quality high.

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24 July, 2012

Sketch.js adds convenient canvas rendering

Sketch.js is an open source javascript library which offers some animation utilities. Aimed at making animating with canvas or webgl easier, sketch.js is a lightweight piece of boilerplate code which streamlines a number of common tasks.

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18 November, 2011

Visiting BBC Online at Salford

Last week I travelled with some of my new R/GA colleagues to Salford near Manchester to visit the BBC’s new Media City development and talk to The Beeb about their continuing efforts to engage more openly and effectively with the online community. The BBC are keen to share their thinking and product plans for this and the event was kicked off by Ralph Rivera, Director, Future Media.

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13 November, 2011

Reflecting on Full Frontal 2011

The third installment of Full Frontal, the JavaScript conference hosted each year in Brighton by LeftLogic, was a great event once again. I was lucky enough to be a speaker this year, which perhaps gave me a slightly different perspective of the day, but as an enthusiastic attendee I also found it to be an excellent experience.

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3 November, 2011

Excessive Enhancement at Full Frontal

In a few days I will be speaking at Full Frontal in Brighton. This conference, now in its third year, has done a great job of capturing so much of what is important and exciting to many front-end web developers.

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2 November, 2011

Joining R/GA

While I was sad in my previous post to share that I was leaving The Team, I can now share with some excitement that I’ll be moving on to join the considerable talent present at R/GA.

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1 November, 2011

Time to move on from The Team

After a few great years at The Team, the time has come to move to new pastures. Leaving a job is always, I find, an exciting but difficult experience and this feels particularly true in this case.

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19 September, 2011

Value in a happy hack day

A few weeks ago at The Team, inspired by the Atlassian model of FedEx days which we have have successfully employed before, we managed to make some time for the development team to spend the day away from the office to work on something for themselves. No clients and no managers, just our own requirements and some time to work in new ways together. It yielded some valuable results.

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9 September, 2011

Expectations of web development at agencies

Recently I was involved in an very short bit of consultancy for an e-commerce company. We were focussing on the performance of their site in the browser, and they were more than a little surprised at the software engineering rigour that we exhibited given that we are just an agency. Perhaps we’re thought of us web development production lines who churn out web sites. That’s not my view.

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9 August, 2011

Social media did not cause the London riots

It seems to me that this is the time for some responsibility. In the face of the kind of civil unrest that we have witnessed in the UK over the last few days, starting in north London and spreading to many other areas across the city and then to other cities we must have a return to responsible behaviour. I’m not just talking about the people turning to criminal acts, young and old, men and women, but also about, specifically about, the media.

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27 May, 2011

Getting started with Node at AsyncJS

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking about Node at AsyncJS, a meetup of smart and motivated developers and tech enthusiasts in Brighton.

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9 May, 2011

Developing a side project

One of the nice things about being a web developer today, is that thanks to the incredibly low cost of resilient, scalable hosting infrastructure, and the abundance of free tools and technologies, you are empowered to create things and release them to the a huge audience. You can experiment with much less risk than ever before. We are seeing evidence of this with so many entrepreneurs and startups entering the market. Some more successfully than others.

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10 September, 2010

The next generation stack. Is NodeJS ready to go mainstream?

I’ve been building things with web technologies professionally for a little more than 11 years now. In that time, I’ve used a variety of technology stacks with varying degrees of success and comfort. While at university, I was making use of the faculty infrastructure and so was building the simplest of sites on top of Apache on their unix environment. Then as I moved into developing Web applications for a living, I found myself working on Windows NT servers with IIS and ASP. Later on I moved into using the LAMP stack, which after the initial shock to the system, was a revelation and I have never looked back.

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27 July, 2010

Hitched

After more than 14 wonderful years with my girlfriend, Verity, last weekend we finally tied the knot.

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15 February, 2010

Nodejs I just have to use it for something

A little while ago, inspired by Simon Willison’s demo of Nodejs at the FullFrontal conference, I felt the urge to make something, anything, using Nodejs. Nodejs gives lightening fast, event driven IO with Javascript running server-side in the rather nippy V8 Javascript engine. Until Nodejs, I hadn’t seen much need to bring Javascript to the server other than for testing and as a bit of a novelty. Nodejs changed all of that.

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10 August, 2009

In defense of IE6

No really! Read that title again. I’m about to argue against placing so much blame for painful Web development at the door of Internet Explorer 6. I’m not going try and claim that IE6 isn’t a huge pain in the arse of all good Web developers. Let’s face it, Web developers love to bitch about it, but I do think that it’s time for some accountability.

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7 August, 2009

Using Quicksilver to control Last.fm

For a while, I’ve been using handy Quicksilver triggers to control iTunes. I like not needing to switch my attention from what I’m working on, in order to skip a track, pause the playback, set a rating or whatever. You can find out how to create a trigger from one of the many great Quicksilver tutorials out on the Web.

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27 July, 2009

Flash v Web. Behind enemy lines

OK, I’m being over dramatic, but sometimes it does feel like I’m on a bit of a stealth mission. Pity that I forgot to bring any stealth! I’ve been working here at The Team for 3 months now and am enjoying myself greatly, but there is an issue that challenges me on a daily basis. That is that we do a lot of Flash work here, and yet I’m a big advocate of using Open Web Technologies.

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23 April, 2009

Moving on from Osmosoft

Last week was both sad and exciting for me. Exciting because I was gearing up to start my new job at theTeam, a London-based communications agency with a slightly silly name. Sad because it was my last week working at Osmosoft (a company that created plenty of silly named things itself).

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13 March, 2009

Leveraging Jquery and Jquery Plugins in TiddlyWiki

The recent release of TiddlyWiki v2.5 included something rather exciting for me: jQuery, the popular Javascript library is now part of the TiddlyWiki core.

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15 February, 2009

Mashing up flickr in the client with jQuery

Recently I saw Tim Stevens post on Twitter about a slide show he had built using his Liveloom application. His slide show grabs some photos from Flickr tagged with ‘Osmosoft’ and then renders them with all manner of visual effects using Flex. While the visual effects available via Tim’s app are impressive, I’m a big advocate of open web standards and enjoy making things from HTML and Javascript, rather than using tools like Flex.

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5 January, 2009

Unobtrusify your Javascript

Recently Jon Lister, a colleague of mine at Osmosoft showed me a website made by his friend Joshua Bradley. The site, used some of the Javscript code from TiddlyWiki’s animation engine to create some nice visual effects. I loved the design, but could see some room for improvement in the implementation. I’m a big advocate of Unobtrusive Javascript and Progressive Enhancement and so I set about producing a quick demo of how a similar result could be achieved in the most Web-kind and accessible way available using jQuery for the behaviors.

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27 August, 2008

Enthusiasm and Good Food at Tiddlyparis

Yesterday I was fortunate to be able to make the quick trip over to Paris to attend a meeting of TiddlyWiki enthusiasts at TiddlyParis. Arranged by long time TiddlyWiki community member and Una Mesa stalwart Saq Imtiaz, this event was a great chance to put some faces to the names of some of the TiddlyWiki developers and users whose work I have been enjoying and benefitting from for some time.

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27 August, 2008

Announcing JigglyWiki. A TiddlyWiki experiment with jQuery

Once upon a time I was resistant to the idea of Javascript libraries. That was due to a couple of things. Firstly, I was comfortable with writing the Javascript for my projects myself and didn’t like the idea of relying on someone else’s code which I couldn’t easily inspect. Secondly, at the time there weren’t really any libraries. Then there were a few, but they were all, well, to be blunt, a bit pants.

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16 July, 2008

Get your Task Management wiki

After a bit of a hiatus, I’ve recently been concentrating on developing my pet project, teamtasks again. Teamtasks is a simple application built using Tiddlywik.

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19 May, 2008

Nba updates on twitter

Just in time for the 2008 NBA playoffs, and heavily influenced by Robbie Clutton’s marvellous UK football scores service, I have created NBA Results

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18 April, 2008

Jsspec Bundle for Textmate Helps With Writing

Recently, we at Osmosoft have been trying to make good on one of our pledges: To introduce a unit testing framework to Tiddlywiki development.

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28 March, 2008

How to create and distribute lovely screencasts

For a while I have been meaning to start posting screencasts of some of my work to spread the word, and to explain some of the details that are difficult to describe in text.

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7 January, 2008

Observing Twitter Behaviours

It seems that the Twitterverse is all of a flutter following recent blog posts from Phillie Casablanca and Paul Downey. I’m watching this with keen interest and it has been the subject of much impassioned discussion in our office.

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17 December, 2007

Osmosoft return from LeWeb3 intact

Last week the entire Osmosoft team visited Paris to attend the LeWeb3 conference. Initially, we had intended to be attending simply as delegates, but as time went by, we decided that we might be able to build something handy to use at the conference, and that perhaps, others might find it useful too.

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4 November, 2007

Opening a Finder window from the Terminal

I stumbled upon a simple method for opening a Finder window at your current Terminal session location recently. Since it is something that I have a regular need for, I thought that there might be other Mac users out there who might also find this useful from time to time.

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