Read Nothing Fails Like Success by Jeffrey Zeldman (A List Apart)
On an individual and small collective basis, the IndieWeb already works. But does an IndieWeb approach scale to the general public? If it doesn’t scale yet, can we, who envision and design and build, create a new generation of tools that will help give birth to a flourishing, independent web? One that is as accessible to ordinary internet users as Twitter and Facebook and Instagram?
#Let’sFixThis To tell the truth, I don’t have an answer to the questions raised by Jeffrey Zeldman in Nothing Fails Like Success, but as someone who participates in the IndieWeb, and who has seen nothing but benefit from it, both personally and professionally, I have to hope that we can fix what we’ve broken. Not only that, I think we have to fix it, both because this is the only web we have, and because, really, we’re the ones who convinced the general public to use things like Twitter and Facebook and the like. We turned them onto these things, it wasn’t just marketers. I’m not suggesting that any of us should succumb to paralyzing guilt over any of this, and that includes Zuckerberg. For one thing, it’s a whole lot easier to see what’s wrong in the rear-view mirror than it is through the windshield, and for another, paralyzing built would prevent us from doing the fixing. We need to be clear-eyed when it comes to what we’re fixing, and in my opinion there’s a hell of a lot of things that need fixing.

If we have any hope of repair, I think we as designers and developers need to start with ourselves and our industry. We need to get our act together and start behaving like we’re a profession, and we need to discontinue the pervasive practice of rewarding all the wrong things. Those are just for starters, and they’re large undertakings in themselves. And once we get our own house in order, we’ll need to spend some time doing some seriously hard work convincing the genereal public that the content we convinced them to start putting in the hands of the big social media networks is in fact valuable enough to own and control. Next comes making it easier to own and control. Despite every word of criticism I’ve leveled against WordPress’s new editor, I believe Matt Mullenweg is on the right track, at least as far as the concept goes, because I believe the new editor will make it easier for the average, non-technical person to own and control their content, and at the end of the day, average non-technical people are the majority, not designers and developers.

I have to hope we can accomplish all these tasks. Otherewise, the only thing left is to burn everything to the ground. I hate to think we might be at that point. I’m still optimistic about the web, about its openness and independence, about it’s fundamental accessibility, and I’m optimistic about fixing it and making it easier for everyone to participate in the web. To that end, I hope to have at least a small part in fixing it.

Read The “Developer Experience” Bait-and-Switch by Alex Russell (Infrequently Noted)
We cannot continue to use as much JavaScript as is now “normal” and expect the web to flourish. At the same time, most developers experience no constraint on their use of JS…until it’s too late. “JS neutral” (or negative) tools are here, but we’re stuck in a rhetorical rut. We need to reset our conversation about “developer experience” to factor in the asymmetric cost of JS.
Read VPN - a Very Precarious Narrative by Dennis Schubert (schub.io)
A very long article about commercial VPNs, their marketing strategies, and the truth behind their privacy and security claims.

[…] another worrying aspect of today’s market of VPN services is the large amount of misinformation end users are exposed to, which makes it hard for them to properly tell apart vague and bold claims typical of product advertisement campaigns with actual facts.

That quote is four years old, and just as relevant today as it was when it was written. The article I’m linking here does a really good job explaining what a VPN (virtual private network) is and what it is not, and it makes sure to use as few technical terms as possible. It also goes into detail about what a VPN is good for, not just what they’re not good for.

Read Stop Throwing Away Your Content by Adrian Roselli (Adrian Roselli)
It is not uncommon for individuals and even entire organizations to rely on some third party platform to host all their thought-leadering. Medium is the common choice, but many use other platforms as well, such as LinkedIn. While many argue that the reach is better and it is easier than self-hosting, few consider what will happen when their chosen platform goes away (or the platform chooses to purge you). After all, the web is littered with the corpses of platforms populated by content that you wrote and that we will never see again.
The death of GooglePlus earlier this week is the perfect time to re-up this from Adrian. With the rate of site deaths or just general data loss, like in the case of MySpace and all the music, this will never stop being evergreen content. Seriously, listen to Adrian and do what he tells you. Start taking control and ownership of the content you create.
Read Better Link Labels: 4Ss for Encouraging Clicks by Kate Moran (Nielsen Norman Group)
Specific link text sets sincere expectations and fulfills them, and is substantial enough to stand alone while remaining succinct.
Link text which makes sense out of context is often cited as an accessibility concern. It’s not only an accessibility concern, it’s also beneficial for the people in your audience who do not have a disability of any kind. Like several of the other things which are primarily accessibility concerns but which also end up benefiting the rest of your audience, (captions for videos, transcription for audio, heading structure of your website as a whole and each piece of your content separately, just to name a few), it turns out that link text which can be made sense of out of context by assistive technology users are also a great way to increase clicks generally. Most people do not read an entire page on the web. They scan it instead, so links that make sense out of context, along with being distinguishable in othere ways from the rest of the text, (underlining links, anyone)? are more likely to capture the attention of your visitors than are links which have vague or repetative text as their label. I will note that you can’t take advantage of any of these benefits if your primary platform for content distribution is a social media presence as opposed to a website you own and control. (Indieweb for the win, again).

So, score one more for accessibility benefiting everyone. And, if you’re not doing so already, spend some time putting some thought into your link text. If you’re using social media as your personal or professional home on the web, here’s one more reason to consider either starting your own website, or hiring someone to build one for you.

Read Your Accessibility Toolbar Doesn't Help by Joe Dolson
The important thing about any accessibility plug-in is having a good understanding about what problems are being solved. When we’re talking about font size changes and narration, these are features that already exist in the browser or in assistive technology – adding this to your website does almost nothing. It may help a small number of people in specific situations, but that’s the limit.
This piece by Joe Dolson (@Joedolson on Twitter) is a pretty good run-down of the disadvantages and general lack of helpfulness an accessibility toolbar provides to any website. Don’t Recreate Browser Features by Adrian Roselli is also another good resource on the topic. I have to concur with Joe’s post, specifically the commentary on how absolutely useless these kinds of toolbars are for people who actually need accessibility. I never use them when I encounter them in the wild, and I’ve never met a person with disabilities who clammors for them, either personally or professionally. I do recognize, however, that, most of the time, they’re installed as a result of the intention to make a site accessible, so I try to balance taking into consideration the good intentions of others with the fact that accessibility toolbars aren’t helpful when it comes to educating others.
Read Rep. Devin Nunes's $250M Lawsuit Against Twitter Will Go Nowhere by Eugene Volokh (Reason.com)
The defamation (and negligence) claims against Twitter are blocked by 47 U.S.C. § 230.
This is worth a read by anyone who either wants social media to be classified somehow as a public utility, as well as by those who insist that their First Ammendment rights are being violated when social media platforms remove content they find objectionable. Worth reading also are the linked sources.
The trend under discussion in this long read is very real and results in all sorts of problems, including metric tons of technical debt and support costs. this is what happens when what I’ll call Shiny Object Syndrome takes the place of good decision-making.
Read Grep for forensic log parsing and analysis on Windows Server IIS by JAN REILINK (Sysadmins of the North)
How to use GnuWin32 ported tools like grep.exe and find.exe for forensic log file analysis in Windows Server. In this article I’ll give some real live examples of using these ported GnuWin tools like grep.exe for logfile analysis on Windows servers. The article provides three example, as an alternative to LogParser, because finding spam scripts fast is often very important.
Read IIS Outbound Rules with gzip compression by JAN REILINK (Sysadmins of the North)
Saotn.org uses used URL Rewrite Outbound Rules in IIS, to offload content from a different server and/or host name. This should improve website performance. Just recently I noticed Outbound Rules conflicted with gzip compressed content. I started noticing HTTP 500 error messages: Outbound rewrite rules cannot be applied when the content of the HTTP response is encoded ("gzip").. Here is how to fix that error. …
Read An Introduction to Block-Based Homepages with the Genesis Framework by Carrie Dils (Carrie Dils)
StudioPress just released Revolution Pro, the first Genesis child theme to sport a block-based homepage. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create one.
Speaking from experience, I know exactly what Carrie is talking about when it comes to widgets being a poor choice, (although the only available one), for homepage layouts. I’ve done more than my fair share of theme customizations and often times those customizations meant hiring someone to redo the CSS. I, for one, will be over the moon when I can fully use Gutenberg and take advantage of block-based homepages.
Read The practical value of semantic HTML by Bruce Lawson (Bruce Lawson's personal site)
It has come to my attention that many in the web standards gang are feeling grumpy about some Full Stack Developers’ lack of deep knowledge about HTML.
It’s easy to get cranky when semantic HTML is ignored by developers, and that’s usually my cue to quit for the day if possible. This is probably the funniest take I’ve read on the subject of HTML, and I kind of want to steal and modify slightly that footer text and use it on my personal site. This post is also written in a way that allows you to steal the points and add them to your notebook if you’re into that sort of thing.
Read Blindness Charities And Money, Part 1: The Aggregation by Chris Hofstader (The New Chris Hofstader)
many of the biggest blindness organizations are sitting atop a mountain of cash while spending relatively little on programs for the people they state they are helping.
I would encourage every blind person in the strongest possible terms to read the most recent article by Chris Hofstader and download the data. I would especially encourage the blind people who has been contracted by any of these organizations to do things like build websites or write software to read through this data and then make decisions with regard to whether or not you’re going to work with these organizations and how you are going to price your services based on this data and not the sob stories or excuses provided by these organizations when they plead lack of budget coupled with great need for your services. It’s one thing to suspect they’re screwing you over with no proof. It’s a very different, and bigger, ball of wax to know that they are screwing you over, have proof of it, and then contrast that with the “have a large impact”, “make a difference”, “help the cause”, “we’ll send you referals” kind of language that is so often used when they pitch for things like websites or apps. I will not only be reading through this data myself, but also passing this on to any blind person who has been my student, formally or otherwise, when it comes to WordPress.
Read Democratize Publishing, Revisited by Matt (Matt Mullenweg — Unlucky in Cards )
For many years, my definition of “Democratize Publishing” has been simply to help make the web a more open place. That foundation begins with the software itself, as outlined by the Four Freedoms: ... In 2018, the mission of “Democratize Publishing” to me means that people of all backgrounds, interests, and abilities should be able to access Free-as-in-speech software that empowers them to express themselves on the open web and to own their content.
Matt Mullenweg has taken the time to introspect and revisit his working definition of democratizing publishing to specifically include people of all backgrounds, interests, and abilities, and I think this is worthy of note. Not only that, I think it’s a significant step that earns him a not insignificant amount of credit. It’s a necessary step that helps lay the foundation for a more accessible WordPress, a more accessible editor for WordPress, and a more accessible web going forward. Granted, words are not action. But this, coupled with Matt’s pledge to fund the remainder of the WPCampus crowdfunding effort for a full accessibility audit of Gutenberg, by way of Automattic, (provided that pledge is fulfilled), gives me reason to be cautiously optimistic regarding Matt’s participation in the effort to make WordPress and its new editor accessible to everyone. So, thank you Matt for your demonstrated willingness to revisit the core idea behind WordPress and as a result of that thought process to make a necessary course correction. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Read Bridgy Stats Update by Nicolas Hoizey
I’ve been using Brid.gy since I started using Webmentions on this site, to get mentions from silos (Twitter mostly) back to the contents. This is an awesome service.
I couldn’t agree more that Bridgy is an awesome service, and I like watching the stats climb. I’m about to add two more unique domains to start sending webmentions and collecting responses. I also need to start backing Indieweb every month, or at least one-time donations when I can afford to, since I get so much value out of it personally and professionally. I would love to see native webmention support and native collection of responses and reactions in WordPress core, instead of as plugins. It needs to be as easy as possible for anyone to adopt and become part of the indieweb so that people have a real choice when it comes to freeing themselves from platforms like Facebook and Twitter and the like.
Read GitHub Free users now get unlimited private repositories (TechCrunch)
If you’re a GitHub user, but you don’t pay, this is a good week. Historically, GitHub always offered free accounts but the caveat was that your code had to be public. To get private repositories, you had to pay. Starting tomorrow, that limitation is gone. Free GitHub users now get unlimited private repositories.
I think this is over all a good thing, although I’m hesitant to take this as some sort of goodwill sign from Microsoft. I find that it’s easier to deal with the disappointment that inevitably arises when platforms remove or limit features if one keeps in mind that these are business decisions and nothing more. Plus, honestly, I still don’t trust Microsoft when it comes to free/open source software. Their newfound love for open source hasn’t been around long enough to erase their very long history of having an anti-open-source stance. This article opines that most developers have come to terms with Microsoft’s Github acquisition. Well of course we have. Most of us use Github either for our own projects or for projects we contribute to, and it’s easier to just come to terms than it is to spin up decentralized operations and move everything over to those. Decentralized is the better approach, although I think managing the social aspects of software contribution is still a hurtle. I need to look into this more.