Tuesday, June 4, 2024

when usability misthinks and security nightmares go hand in hand


Why is Microsoft so hell bent on making this security nightmare?

Like, even putting the security dangers aside, it's such a weird usability misthink (IMO; I'm sure some segment of users would appreciate it.) Like, you sort of need to embrace the ephemeral nature of day-to-day digital, and take steps to recognize what you want to preserve, and come up with a mechanism and structure that works for you to preserve it. Leaning on the computer playing "Little Big Brother" as a convenience feature is no way to live.

I think of parallel examples from a simpler age: bookmark managers. Every browser would like to be your main bookmark repository, since that increase the browsers value (and "stickiness") to you. But early on, I took the HTML page that Netscape Navigator was using internally to store your bookmarks (yes I'm old) and put that on my rented webspace. (yes I'm an old geek) Then I could use any browser at work or home and do my own conscious curation of what bookmarks were worth keeping.

(As an old geek aside: I am appalled at the universality of linkrot. A Good URL can and should live forever, us old school geeks thought, and I try to live up to that with my personal sites - but this seems to be an increasingly rare approach, and maybe one in fifteen links I have on my old 90s bookmarks page still works)

Similarly, a lot of product lines try to lure users with being able to pick up on one device where another one leaves off - like handing off from a phone's browser to the laptop or vice versa. I'm not a purist against cross-device sharing - I rely on Apple's shared clipboard fairly often - but making a "seamless" handoff seems like a fool's errand to me, and as likely to startle the user as to be helpful - they are different devices with different use modes, and when the need to transfer does occur.... I mean that's what URLs have always been for.

This isn't a black and white issue. There are some kind of "ease of use" features I depend on - like I don't usually need my browser to record my bookmarks, but I DO lean on autocomplete for website URLs pretty heavily, and if i switch to a completely new machine it's a pain in the butt for a few days. But recording all my activity via screengrabs (and recording lots of stuff as plain text?) What a disastrous mixup of "can" and "should", one of the most idiotic paths in the current AI arms race.

css gives html new options for whitespace

Back in the day, one of the hardest things to get used to with HTML was how it treated white space; any linebreak in the source code wouldn't show up in the final page, and in fact its only concept of white space was "none" "a space" or "some linebreak caused by a <br> or <p> tag"

Different content systems aspiring for some flavor of WYSIWYG had to decide how treat carriage returns - the simplest, like what my homebrew CMS for my blog does, is replace "\n" with "<br>\n". More typographically elegant systems would use <p> tags - BUT - there was always some xhtml-days guilt about having to wrap paragraphs in "<p></p>", and then ambiguity about when you wanted a single line break vs a full on paragraph break.

(Also there was always the <pre></pre> tag for preserving ALL line breaks and other white space- but this was like the opposite of responsive design)

But these days CSS offers another good option:

white-space: pre-wrap;

This seems to do a great job of preserving both carriage returns as they are in the text, as well as preserving collections of spaces (where you used to have to use convert &nbsp; to get the same effect). You can use the mere "pre" setting to get back to full <pre>-tag like behavior without having to use non-semantic" tags

I probably can't retrofit my blog with this... too much of my old content was too free with the whitespace in general, but it's good to know about for future projects.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

o'reilly on building with LLMs

Good article on building with LLMs. Ironically I think ChatGPT or similar is going to be a help for some people unfamiliar with the terms of art used in the article - ("n-shot prompting", "Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG") etc.

Heh, I remember when O'Reilly was the first line of defense for coding (I especially loved their "Cookbook" and "Phrasebook" formats.) It shifted to sites like experts-exchange, and then Google + Stackoverflow, and now ChatGPT.

Monday, May 27, 2024

backlog review...

 AI for Web Devs - In this blog post, we start bootstrapping a web development project using Qwik and get things ready to incorporate AI tooling from OpenAI.

Nice intro to WebComponents - I do love the advent calendar format...

https://tiiny.host/web-hosting-free-sites/ or https://glitch.com/ for static hosting of HTML?

WildAgile: just enough process

 It's probably meant half tongue-in-cheek but WildAgile is a minimalist approach to scrum, one that attempts to somewhat codify (or possibly "legitimize") the process many companies kind of land on - a pragmatic (and sprintless) approach.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

on being dense

Smart article on UI Density - I'm a sucker for anything that cites Edward Tufte. 

Its summary quote is:

UI density is the value a user gets from the interface divided by the time and space the interface occupies.

I think that's good at advancing the art, but it might be falling into the trap of only considering things that can be readily quantified. A UI will live or die based on the mental headspace it takes to understand it. A compacted interface can be off-putting because it requires to much external knowledge to grok it, and so just appears overwhelming.

lifehacks to stay afloat

 I've been floundering with email for a few weeks now.

This morning I came up with an idea to try and gate things a little better: no tumblr (my favorite way of keeping up with the memes) til I'm at just about Inbox Zero. We'll see how it goes.

But one of the things that trip me up are these newsletters - Frontend Focus, Javacript Weekly , ui.dev's bytes. Like on the one hand I'm grateful for these, 5 or 6 years ago I was really feeling out of the loop where frontend tech was heading - React sort of crept on to me - and now I feel much better informed.
But I still am disheartened, and a bit suspicious of the extreme complexity flavor of the month stuff. I think this video puts it kind of well: