Used a curved monitor at the office today for the first time. Seems silly/obvious now that I've used one, but it didn't really occur to me that horizontal lines on the screen are slightly curved and I'm not sure I like it. Won't be rushing out to buy one anytime soon.
I find engineering videos like this fascinating. But it was the video thumbnail that piqued my interest because it just looks so wrong.
In the 1950’s Robert Thomas Jones, a brilliant NASA engineer, began developing a radical new wing arrangement called an oblique wing (also referred to as a skewed wing). The wing design was characterized by a wing that could pivot into a unique angled configuration in relation to the aircraft’s fuselage. The design offered several advantages over more conventional swept wings. An oblique wing’s ability to pivot into a straight wing made it ideal for low speed flight (improving efficiency and take-off/landing performance), but at transonic and supersonic speeds, the angled orientation minimized both wave and induced drag, leading to improved overall aerodynamic efficiency. With lower drag at higher speeds, oblique wing aircraft would require less thrust to maintain a given speed, resulting in reduced fuel consumption and operating costs. Compared to other variable geometry wings, oblique wings would also be lighter, less complex and have fewer drawbacks like a shifting center of lift.
A shoutout to the production quality of the Mustard YouTube videos, too. Well worth a subscribe.
I love this recent note from Adam Stoddard about generalist designers because it describes me so accurately:
A generalist designer, axiomatically, is someone who doesn’t specialize in any particular area of design. They’re not UX designers, UI designers, content strategists, illustrators, product designers, copywriters, graphic designers, front-end developers, or animators, even though their work may touch every single one of those roles. The proverbial “jack of all trades, master of none”.
I'm curious to know if generalists suffer more regularly than specialists do from imposter syndrome. It's something that I have experienced a lot (and still do, to be honest) because when working with specialists I constantly think I'm less knowledgeable or skilled than they are.
However, as Adam mentions in his full post, working as a generalist is satisfying because of the variety of jobs that you get to do. I think one of the biggest benefits is that being a generalist also makes you more valuable to a company. I can think of many occasions during my career where being a generalist has allowed me to keep my job when specialists were losing theirs. For example, during COVID-19, a lot of the specialist designers I was working with were put on furlough and were eventually let go because there wasn't enough billable design work coming in for them to do. Fortunately, there was always plenty of dev work to do and I was able to switch to doing front end and keep myself busy.
Elon Musk has been in charge of Twitter for a week. In that time, he has axed nearly 3,500 jobs (50% of its staff) and removed entire teams, such as the vitally important accessibility team.
Many of those that I follow have already announced that they're leaving the platform. Cohost and Mastodon seem to be the most popular destinations and both sites are no doubt doing well from Twitter's current exodus.
Interestingly, those I see leaving aren't just talking about moving to another social platform, they've also said they'll be reinstating or focusing more on their personal sites and blogs, too.
That makes me happy. I believe we should all have our own little corner of the internet. A place to experiment and find our own voice. It doesn't matter if that site is popular or not, the important thing is that it's ours and the content that we put there is 100% our own.
Sites like Twitter will come and go, with some lasting longer than others - I joined Twitter in 2009 and didn't expect to still be using it in 2022! As users, we'll keep hopping to the next big shiny thing each time it emerges. However, our personal sites will always be there, living as long as we want them to.
This week, I reached a new streak milestone on Duolingo: 100 days of Spanish! 🇪🇸
According to my Duolingo profile page, I started using the language learning app in 2017. However, my usage in those first few years can only be described as 'sporadic' at best.
In 2022, I've made more of an effort to make learning Spanish part of my daily routine and try to do at least one lesson a day (usually before I go to bed). Attempting to spend more time using Duolingo, I put the app icon front and centre on my phone's home screen. Whilst that has made a difference, I still struggle to avoid reflexively opening Instagram, TikTok or Twitter each time I unlock my phone.
Frustratingly, I let a 60-odd day streak slip away from me earlier in the year. But, knowing that I've spent at least 160 days learning Spanish this year is a big step toward becoming fluent (however far away that may be).
A couple of weeks ago I received a cool email from Google saying that for the first time, my site reached 350 clicks from Google Search within 28 days.
That might not seem like a lot to some but my posts are basically notes for myself. So it makes me happy to know that people are finding them because hopefully, it’s helping them out, too.
Now, I don’t necessarily like having analytics on my site. I know that a lot of people refuse to include analytics on their own sites and I respect those that don’t. I just find some of the insights fascinating.
Most searched queries
For example, I had no idea that some of my CSS grid posts were performing so well for the following search queries:
And check out that average page view duration, too. People aren’t just clicking through to my posts, they’re also reading them too. That makes me happy.
Posting stuff online is daunting. So many of my posts never see the light of day because there's always that nagging thought that someone more knowledgeable than me has already written about this.
Whilst I’m not going to suddenly start reviewing my site analytics every day, seeing that some of my posts are performing well has been a great positive feedback loop for me.
I know that I need to post more and this is encouraging me to do so. I have a huge backlog of saved articles and tweets that I want to post about, so I best get crackin’.
As a huge fan of the Chris Sawyer Transport Tycoon games, I added Sweet Transit to my Steam wishlist as soon as I watched the trailer. Coming sometime in 2022, this strategic city building game from Team17 is no doubt gonna be a massive time sink for me.
This past month has been an absolute blur. Seriously, where has August gone? Part of me is glad that the weather has been pretty poor for this time of year, because I wouldn't have wanted to be that busy whilst also melting.
What's interesting is that today, the first day I've had in weeks without a deadline, has been a terrible one for productivity - It's like my brain never got out of bed this morning. "Diamonds are formed under pressure", as the saying goes. And now, without the pressure of a deadline my mind has completely switched off.
This is also my first post since 30th June, which is disappointing as prior to that I was on a bit of a roll, posting a couple of times each month. It'll be good to get back to writing about CSS again and finally (fingers crossed) start writing some longer articles about design.
Yesterday, 123-reg emailed to let me know that the domain bengammon.com was available to buy for £3,561.
It made me laugh. What an absurd amount of money for a domain that is clearly a name. I can only assume that the word 'gammon' is on a list of product keywords that the domain registrar, GoDaddy, uses to set aside words/phrases that they believe to be more desirable for businesses?
Is GoDaddy hoping there's a Ben out there somewhere, ready to launch a delicious line of flavoured gammons?
I don't have much experience with dot com domains, so I have no idea if this 'valuation' is likely to decrease over time or not. This is a shame because anything up to £100 I would have been seriously tempted by.
Maybe I should email them and make them an offer...
As of today, I have officially been working remotely for an entire year. It weirdly seems like a long time yet has somehow passed quickly.
Part of me always thought I would work remotely one day but the pandemic has made that a reality much sooner. It may have forced us all into remote working but for me that's the way it's going to stay, too, now Etch are a remote-first organisation.
Twelve months ago I started a remote working timeline to document how I was feeling and some of the big pandemic updates that were happening. I managed to keep that going until day 173, by which point it had become incredibly boring and repetitive but it was definitely a worthwhile exercise during a difficult time.
What is and what isn't a programming language? Twitter can't decide. Each week the never-ending debate rages on. I have no plans to fan those flames here.
I'm a designer who codes but I've never been comfortable using a label of 'developer' to describe what I do. Recently, I've noticed a couple of new terms have begun circulating on social media and I'm a fan:
Brad Frost has written an excellent post on how these labels provide a much-needed distinction between the types of web development that take place.
A succinct way I’ve framed the split is that a front-of-the-front-end developer determines the look and feel of a button, while a back-of-the-front-end developer determines what happens when that button is clicked.
These labels are great and I feel completely comfortable using front-of-the-front-end as a title because it is a much more accurate representation of my skillset.
I've always been pretty bad at remembering to book time off, sometimes going months and months before taking a break. It's something that I've gotten worse at during the pandemic. In my mind, I reduce the importance of any time off by telling myself, "I can't go anywhere anyway!".
It's a weird way of thinking because time off during the pandemic has actually felt less stressful than during 'normal' times. You can't go anywhere or see anyone, so there's no expectation that you need to make the most of your break by doing something every single day.
Sounds like good downtime. Now, if I can just remember to spread the rest of my annual leave evenly throughout the rest of the year...
I've made a change to my Ghost theme: each post is now rendered in full on the index page, instead of displaying an excerpt.
Why do this? Well, I wanted my posts to be more like notes; quick thoughts and observations that come to me throughout the day. Most of these 'notes' will be just a hundred words or so. A longer excerpt, essentially.
I also prefer the visual variety of different length posts. Scrolling down the homepage is now more interesting because each post isn't restricted to a particular character count.
Should I want to write a lengthier post I simply tag it as an article. The loop in my Ghost theme will then display an excerpt for that post, rather than the entire post contents.
We're officially halfway through the year... so let's take a look at what goals I set myself (original post) and how I'm getting on with them:
Be less reliant on Chrome ✅
Post at least once a week ❌
Continue to grow as a designer (ongoing)
Broaden front end skills (ongoing)
Be less reliant on Chrome
Let's start with the good news:
I'd been a long time admirer of Firefox and in particular, its Developer Tools. They're also a not-for-profit and you get a lot of additional privacy and cookie blocking out-of-the-box. A no-brainer, really.
Switching was easy, with a quick export of bookmarks from Chrome. I don't really use bookmarks anymore. At the very least I need to sort through them. Maybe.
Had one slight hiccup with Firefox whereby the 1Password plugin I was using stopped working. However, I eventually found a solution for it.
Yet here we are in week 23 of 2020 and I've posted just 6 times (and one of those was the 'Goals for 2020' post). Yikes.
This one is frustrating as it should be easy. One post a week is not a huge amount of work, especially when it can simply be just documenting something cool or interesting that I've seen or read about online.
I really want to get to the end of the year with at least 52 posts in 2020. Content volume has always been a sticking point on this site and from now on I would like 52 posts to be the minimum amount of new content posted per year.
Broaden front end skills
As this is an ongoing goal it's hard to quantify it. There won't ever be a point where I look back and say that I'm happy where I am - I can always learn more.
CSS continues to be a keen interest and I'm excited to see how my knowledge of CSS Grid (in particular) grows and what it enables me to do in the browser.
Continue to grow as a designer
Recently, my work has had more of a front end focus. I haven't had to design much from scratch. But, design is so much more than that and there has still been plenty of opportunity to improve my UX knowledge and help clients understand the reasoning behind certain design decisions.
As with broadening my skills, this is a goal that won't ever be finished. But it's always worth reflecting on how far you have come and challenging yourself to keep improving.
Quite a bit has changed since the start of the year. I feel like a six month review is probably not frequent enough to keep tabs on my progress, as things can easily fall by the wayside if not regularly checked.
Quarterly reviews would be better but probably still isn't enough. So, I'm going to start doing monthly reviews. This will give me a chance to review the work I've done and the things I've posted, whilst they're still fresh in my mind.
Back to work today with a nice little two day week to help get back in the swing of things. As nice as it is to have time off, it's good to get some routine back - at least so I know what day of the week it is!
2019 seems like such a blur to me; I loved every second of my first full year as a Dad but from a work point of view, I know I could have done more. That's not to say that I didn't improve or learn anything - because I did. Ultimately, it comes down to being better at documenting the journey and in turn, that makes it infinitely easier to look back and say, "Wow, look at all the things I did!".
With that in mind, I spent time over the Christmas break working on a few website theme changes, improving the list of posts on the homepage and introducing a new 'Today I Learned' (TIL) tag. It's this new category that will be getting a lot of use in 2020.
So, what do I want to achieve this year?
Post at least once a week
Most of the time this one should be easy. I read plenty of front end and design articles every week, so I'll be documenting the best ones in the new TIL category. But by setting the bar at a minimum of one per week, I know I'll end up with at least 52 new posts this year - which is more posts than I've ever had on this site!
One of the best decisions I made last year was subscribing to Go Make Things - a developer tips newsletter run by Chris Ferdinandi.
Continue to grow as a designer
Honestly, I feel like the design work I did in 2019 was my best yet. I know that's partly because at Etch I'm surrounded by a group of talented designers producing really great work, whom I can ask questions and share ideas with.
Working alongside people who are good at what they do challenges you to up your own game. I still have so much to learn about design but I'm confident that this year can be another best yet.
Broaden front end skills
Be less reliant on Chrome
For a while now I've been wanting to make Firefox my primary browser. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Not only does it have great set of dev tools (if you've worked with CSS Grid then you'll know what I mean) but Mozilla, the corporation behind Firefox, are a not-for-profit. They value privacy, security, open-source, gender equality in tech and much more.
So there you have it, a few but very achievable goals for 2020. If you've got your own goals and resolutions, good luck and stick with them.
Someone take my site away from me. Give it the home it truly deserves, with an owner who can love it and spend time with it.
That's not to say I don't love this website. I spent a good deal of time tarting it up and making it look nice, it's just spending time with it that I struggle with.
It doesn't help that I run another website: Go Marching In. That site gets all of my attention on a weekly basis because it is viewed by a far greater number of people. Plus it helps when there are games every week as there is always something that needs writing (venting) about.
I plucked up the courage to look at my Google Analytics for this site and even though I expected the stats to be pretty shit I was surprised to see 123 sessions in the past 30 days. That's higher than I thought it would be, but then I saw the 98% bounce rate and an average time spent on the site of 1 second.
There's my answer then: they're all fucking bots!
Just one human visit would be better than 123 bots skewing my stats.
Which makes my first website task of 2015 (second if you count writing this post) to find a way to filter out the bots from my analytics and if possible, stop them from even reaching my site in the first place.
I'll report my findings and then I'll have already done two things to my site this year...