Archive of December 2014

Marfa Journal

I’m posting this purely for the fact that it’s a fascinating website1, designed by Andrew McCarthy, who apparently also just helped finish up the redesign for the Django website.

There is something to this approach to design, perhaps an exploration of the medium itself, fascinating to see still going on even as the web has entered its third decade.

I may try to drum up some more examples later, but I’m starting to get excited that some new aesthetics are finally emerging, harkening back to some of my favorite elements of web design from the 90s. Maybe connected to the whole “Indie Web”2 thing?

At any rate, I’m hoping that the web finds ways to differentiate itself from the current aesthetics of iOS and Google’s efforts with Material Design. Don’t get me wrong—those aesthetics are both perfectly mature, well-adapted to their platforms and devices, and neutral enough that they adapt to a reasonably wide variety of applications.

But where platforms supporting graphical user interfaces (like Windows and Mac OS) prefer and benefit from a certain amount of uniformity3, the web has always struck as a home for greater levels of expression and experimentation. I have never heard of a “personal app”—but countless people around the world have a personal website.

  1. I have no idea about the magazine, and I know of Marfa itself only by reputation. 

  2. I really like Audrey Watters’ recent take on the potential of the Indie Web. Also worth a look: Jack Cheng’s The Slow Web 

  3. In 2011, Gruber made the case that iOS had cracked open a trend toward greater individuality in app design:

    There’s a conservative/liberal sort of fork in UI design, in the sense of traditional/non-traditional. The conservatives see non-standard custom UI elements as wrong. Liberals see an app built using nothing other than standard system UI elements as boring, old-fashioned, stodgy.

    At this point, nearly 4 years later, it feels more so to me that there is simply a new uniformity in mobile apps, as the experimentation stage died down. It’s that experimentation stage, though, that I feel is coming back to the web, for some reason. 

Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies

Mallory Ortberg:

“The Muppets Take Manhattan”

This movie was a disappointment. The Muppets do not take Manhattan at all. They merely visit it. —No stars.

The whole thing is genius, but at that point I lost it. And she had me all the way through to the end.

I’m gonna count this as my holiday treat.

The Internet With A Human Face

Maciej Cegłowski, worth a reread if you’ve already had the pleasure:

Recently, Quora raised $80 million in new funding at a $900 million valuation. Their stated reason for taking the money was to postpone having to think about revenue.

Quora walked in to an investor meeting, stated these facts as plainly as I have, and walked out with a check for eighty million dollars.

That’s the power of investor storytime.

Let me be clear: I don’t begrudge Quora this money. Anything that removes dollars from of the pockets of venture capitalists is something I favor.

But investor storytime is a cancer on our industry.

Because to make it work, to keep the edifice of promises from tumbling down, companies have to constantly find ways to make advertising more invasive and ubiquitous.

Investor storytime only works if you can argue that advertising in the future is going to be effective and lucrative in ways it just isn’t today. If the investors stop believing this, the money will dry up.

And that’s the motor destroying our online privacy. Investor storytime is why you’ll see facial detection at store shelves and checkout counters. Investor storytime is why garbage cans in London are talking to your cell phone, to find out who you are. (You’d think that a smartphone would have more self-respect than to talk to a random garbage can, but you’re wrong).

We’re addicted to ‘big data’ not because it’s effective now, but because we need it to tell better stories.