Web bloat

Dan Luu wrote an article some time ago about web bloat which I generally agree with and feel this is a problem. From a personal point of view I don't think I should see performance worse than I find in 3D games when reading text. Sometimes you can see this on websites that have massive JavaScript libraries to download and that's before considering the affects on mobile devices' performance and battery life.

While it's not ideal that my phone's battery won't last as long there is another issue which Dan touches on and I won't repeat. But it restricts who can view your site. Quite often people forget the internet is global and not everyone lives in San Francisco.

Another reason I dislike the bloat is more often than not it adds nothing. Share bars, flashing and moving content. These distract, constrict the viewing area and generally make reading much harder. Reproducing browser functionality is just bad programming. This is reinventing the wheel and often less efficiently and to not benefit to the user. As fun as it may be to add a new feature on your website please consider if it exists already. Especially if it's a back button.

On a lighter note, he's also plotted the performance of various terminals and Emacs does quite well.

Posted on 18 Jul 2017, 8:53 p.m. by toadwarrior

The website obesity Crisis

IdleWord's talk on the website obesity crisis was one of the best things I've read in some time and it sums up pretty much how I feel about where web development is heading.

As we enter 2016 I can look back on 2015 as the year I've embraced ad blockers. Part of that is because Apple and their content blocking system makes it work so well but that maybe covers 5% of the reason I've made the switch. I still prefer a free web and don't mind ads as such. However ads are becoming so bloated and so are the websites they're featured on.

In an increasingly mobile world that relies on slower battery powered hardware it's downright criminal what some web developers do so I feel it's in everyone's best interest to block them. Be fair and contact the website to let them know why.

Then hit up 1Blocker for iOS and Adamant for OS X Safari isn't too bad. It has some quirks on certain pages of sites like LinkedIn which lead to disabling and re-enabling it but the overall benefit from it makes it work it.

Posted on 1 Jan 2016, 11:40 p.m. by toadwarrior

The hamburger

Recently the hamburger button has taken off on the internet and mobile apps. While the button itself is quite old I would imagine part of the reason for its take-off has been the anti-Skeuomorph movement.

I get the point of that movement and to an extent I understand it. However while children now and in the future may not know what a floppy is I would then argue that its origin doesn't really matter. It just becomes the symbol that everyone understands what it does.

The problem with the hamburger is there is no definitive action for it. Ironically while not being skeuomorphic it's been associated with a real world item anyway and arguably in a way more confusing than a floppy disc.

I think it's quite a handy icon but it's ridges imply it should be draggable and pull something into view. If it does that it's often not in a direction that goes with the ridges. Horizontal ridges would imply a thumb should pull down.

I've recently seen the hamburger used for bringing up pop-up menus. It has no defined use so I would have to agree with the wikipedia entry which mentions poor design choice.

We do need new design ideas but let qualified designers work on it. Rather than it being something programmers use to cut costs on design (like flat design).

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 11:13 p.m. by toadwarrior

RIP Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird has been more or less on its death bed since 2012 but Mozilla has made it official that they don't care for it and they're dropping Thunderbird entirely. Now this could be a good thing for Thunderbird but I think it's unlikely. At least not anytime soon.

I've moved away from Thunderbird a couple months ago largely because I've felt the writing was on the wall for the program despite it being an excellent little email / newsgroup client.

What concerns me more is what will happen to Firefox which seems to be quite keen on going down the Opera route of becoming a Chrome clone. I didn't mind the little visual tweaks but the whole extension signing process among other things which will throw all their loyal add-on developers under a bus doesn't seem like the right move forward.

I'm not sure they understand why people use Firefox and if they're going to create a very Chrome-like browser then surely that means user's might as well just use Chrome.

Not surprisingly I've moved fully over to Safari too after so many years of Netscape / Firefox usage. Now that Firefox is on iOS I should be joyed that my preferred browser is there but I've simply lost any confidence in Mozilla understanding its users. I joined the internet with Netscape Navigator, I've got my donor shirt and now I'm just ignoring them.

It'll be interesting to see what happens on Linux. I will use Firefox there for the foreseeable future but we'll have to see what the future holds.

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 11:01 p.m. by toadwarrior

LastFM closes down RSS access

If you've been using RSS feeds from LastFM you'll probably have noticed that they quit working. I believe this was back in September. In October they implied it was coming back shortly.

So far it looks like LastFM RSS feeds still don't work despite being on the API page.

If they don't want to give people nice, easy, open access to their own data then to be honest what is the point of using LastFM? It's a bit rubbish as a source of music to be honest and it's not really growing in any meaningful way as far as I can tell.

I think they need to be more honest about their intentions so people such as myself can know if they should remove what is currently unused code / functionality based on their feeds.

This would appear to be yet another case towards proving that 'open data' APIs are anything but.

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 10:44 p.m. by toadwarrior

Musical regression

One of the promises of the early internet was having access to anything from anywhere. That's not really turned out to be the case. Take music. When you had to rely on a record shop you would have to wait a week or two if they didn't have something you wanted. However you could get imports and occasionally bootlegs. Anything you wanted could be had. The downside again was possibly the wait and if you really liked music the space.

If you use any digital music service you'll get only what your region is allowed to have. Imports are gone despite the zero cost of providing all music to anyone. You'll get music that is in a good enough format but it's still inferior and as it will likely be in a lossy format the idea of format shifting isn't ideal.

Searching music through any digital source requires that you know what you're looking for. Discovering new music is quite hard. With a record shop you could browse everything. You could ask someone for a recommendation based on some vague description of what you're feeling like listening to. Why can't I look through every single album in a given genre on iTunes? I wouldn't expect to ask amazon or iTunes for a recommendation based on a vague description. Search is largely smoke and mirrors. It's just not that intelligent. It could be quite good but that would require a lot of man hours populating metadata. So the best solution would be to let me look through everything without me needing to know the band's name in advance.

What I get is that when I want something right now I can have it now. Of course that requires paying a middle man for the internet connection and the internet connection being available. So I'm not sure I'm getting a good deal by sacrificing choice and freedom for satisfying impatience.

I'm not even going to factor in streaming. The selection is far worse and should I ever lose my job I lose all my music. Right when I might be down in the dumps and wanting music to cheer me up.

It should require no extra processing to browse the whole of iTunes should I choose to waste my time and surely it must be more cost effective to remove the regional restrictions so could we not get these things? We need someone to push for this just as Steve Jobs kept publicly speaking out against DRM on music in iTunes but the new digital companies are quite happy to not rock the boat. They're not about giving users freedom and being open but rather locking users in. So for now the best choice for getting music is still CDs. I just wish I had the space.

Posted on 6 Aug 2015, 10:37 p.m. by toadwarrior