Firefox 57, flipping fast!

Firefox 57: Flipping fast!

I have been a fan of Firefox for a long time and heck, I’ve given plenty of time to Mozilla through the Mozilla Festival over the years. I would regularly use Firefox & Chrome back to back on my Ubuntu laptop, but only firefox on my server (its been the default for Ubuntu for years). Tended to use Chrome for Google type operations like Docs, Spreadsheet, Mindmup, etc. But I started using the Firefox beta after the word got passed around that version 57 (Quantium) was a total rewrite.

Once I tried it, I was blown away! Tweeting…

I was so impressed that it picked up my profile, passwords, sync, everything; even when running it from a totally different location. It meant I could just run it and use it – and why not? Its that fast and smooth. There were some addons/extentions which didnt work but most of them I uninstalled when I switch Firefox 53 to multi-threaded mode, so I was already running it pretty lean.

It was all good…as I could switch to old firefox easily enough by just loading that one no problem, not that I did.

It was during Mozfest time, when I got a email asking if it would be ok for Mozilla to use my tweet in a special New York Times double page spread they were planning on launch day. Of course I said sure thinking not much more about it except remembering the moment when Firefox 1.0 launched with the name of all the backers.

Then today, I saw while in Maderia…

It had slipped my mind this was actually going to happen and frankly was quite proud to be one of only seven quoted. Its also not like it was misquoted! I’m acutally writing this blog from my hotel room on Firefox 57 right now. Its still not default yet (firefox 56 currently is), but expecting it will be very soon once Ubuntu update the distro.

Stellar work Mozilla and I love the catchy tagline – Fast for good…

firefox 57 quantum

Client side development now?


As they say, Serenity now? Insanity later?

A couple blogs which sum up the current state of front end development it would seem…

Tim’s software in 2014 and Chris’ what sucks about frontend development.

First Tim,

The client-side mess · Things are bad. You have to build everything three times: Web, iOS, Android. We’re talent-starved, this is egregious waste, and it’s really hurting us.

JavaScript is horrible.
> [5, 10, 1].sort();
[ 1, 10, 5 ]

Et cetera. Thus Coffeescript and Dart and other efforts to route around TheElephantInTheRoom.js.

The browser APIs suck too. Sufficiently so that jQuery (or equivalent) is regarded as the lowest level that any sane person would program to; in effect, the new Web assembler.

And from Chris

managing JavaScript dependencies still sucks, and Bower has fundamental flaws that limits it’s utility

table designs are bad, so why are we re-implementing them with non-semantic class names? We should use our CSS frameworks to have only abstract classes that we make concrete by extending them with semantic class names. Also, progressive enhancement isn’t dead and still has value.

…I only feel these issues because I’m comparing it directly to other parts of the software stack rather than considering the front-end in isolation, but front-end development still feels very immature and like the wild west, rather than the engineering discipline we’re striving to be. We need to make it better.

I will admit its been a while since I’ve done any front end development but to be fair I’m also wondering if developers are taking full advantage of whats available to them? For example in my twitter stream I saw someone link to a post about SVG and DOM manipulation for icons. And finally…

More or less everything is expected to talk HTTP, and it’s really easy to make things talk HTTP.
Its easy to under-estimate how great this is, specially as we move towards coding for the mobile, offline, internet of things and exotic screens/devices. REST won out and who was stupid enough to bet against this? Oh yes… where are they now? Dead! Good riddens SOAP and other craziness…

Geek and Geekhag podcast number six – semantic what?

My and Sarah's sixth podcast is now available online. Enjoy and please leave a comment if you've enjoyed it or simply hate it.

This time we reflect on a few blog posts from me and Sarah's personal blogs. And I attempt to do a short introducation to the semantic web and tagging vs categories.

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Taking back the internet and our cityspaces

Segregation Wall in Palestine

I bought Banksy's Wall and Piece book today (24 Dec 2005) while doing a last minute christmas shopping run in Bristol today. I've already seen quite a lot of the Banksy's work but its great to have most of it in one book which can be easily leant to people who I know is pretty good. Anyhow I was flicking through the book and I started to check out some of these quotes, specially this one.

Imagine a city where graffiti wasn't illegal, a city where everybody could draw wherever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt lika a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it's wet.

Its interesting because this is exactly the same vision of the internet Tim Berners-Lee and others had from day one. You know every part would be rewritable by anyone. Cant find the quote, but I did find this from the BBC. Damm I forgot to link to How the read/write web was lost. Which talks about how Tim Berners-Lee's vision of a read/write web was slowly edged out of the picture.

Well in some ways. The idea was that anybody who used the web would have a space where they could write and so the first browser was an editor, it was a writer as well as a reader. Every person who used the web had the ability to write something. It was very easy to make a new web page and comment on what somebody else had written, which is very much what blogging is about.

For years I had been trying to address the fact that the web for most people wasn't a creative space; there were other editors, but editing web pages became difficult and complicated for people. What happened with blogs and with wikis, these editable web spaces, was that they became much more simple.

When you write a blog, you don't write complicated hypertext, you just write text, so I'm very, very happy to see that now it's gone in the direction of becoming more of a creative medium.

Just like Banksy's vision the internet slowly moved away from its core slightly utopian vision and started to become like the cityscapes of what Banksy pushes against. Although web 2.0 gets a lot of stick, the main thurst is about people. And thats a positive thing.

>

There's also been a long running meme that a website should not be a set thing which is delivered to the end browser. HTML is intreperated by browsers and always will be. We should expect every browser to do the basics correctly, like the box model in CSS should be apply in the same way to all browsers but for a site to expect there site to be displayed with the style they have set is unreasonable and not a good thing. Anyone should be able to change the style, remove the style and even extract the sections there really after without resulting to haxor techniques. You could say these techniques are the same ones applied by Banksy because things have got so bad in our cityscapes. The internet has luckly not got that bad yet. Actually with the advent of Firefox and its huge selection of public generated extensions the opposite is actually true. Then if you go one step further you have Greasemonkey which then allows you to alter any page in anyway you see fit and save the results to share with others. And now we have Flock which is browser which is made from day one to foster the vision of the read/write internet. Yes it all seems pretty much a bolt on for now, but that will change.

I have not really mentioned it on this blog yet, but Microsoft's SSE (RSS Simple sharing extensions) could close the feedback loop in the RSS space. Even if that fails, I can certainly see a tighter trackback type mechinasm or an annotation mechinasm growing in popularity. Jon Udell talks up the read/write web. I mean even today, the mainstream media are falling over themsleves to have user (hate that word so much) public generated comments and feedback, even if there implimented in odd and unsatficatory ways.

Although this is no biggy for most people reading this, its in the same way as Napster (and of course Bit torrent) have as default the option to share your downloads. Making you a supplier as well as a consumer, is a fundamental shift. The likes which Banksy can only wish for in the cityscapes of the analogue world. We need to keep this at the forefront of the web 2.0 dash and where ever we go from there. Parciptation of people is key.

Interestingly at the same time I bought Wall and Piece I was looking for We the media for my sister. She's got quite old fashioned views about the internet but rather than me trying to convince her, I thought as shes studying Fashion Journalism the book would be a ideal read on two counts. However it never quite happened because I simply could not find Dan Gilmor's we the media anywhere in Bristol on Christmas Eve. But what took me and even Sarah back was the fact that the books on offer in the Computer sections of Blackwells and Waterstones were so boring. I hate to say it but they were so web 1.0. The only saving grace was the new Search and Amazon books which were present at Waterstones. But generally they were about how to create HTML pages using Dreamweaver, how to program using PHP, ASP, etc, etc, etc… Nothing web 2.0 ish in the slightest. Nothing about blogging, wikis, podcasting, public parciptation! Its such a shame because it puts across such a different view of where the internet is today.

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Does presentation matter in a world of RSS?

So Ben Metcalfe asks the question Does presentation matter anymore? This is exactly what me, Miles, Harry and Dave talked about one night over dinner. Honestly I think it does but as Ben identifies its moved around the chain now. If we take it that RSS has a huge audience and that its not changed a lot from its current form (aka no JS, CSS, Ajax, etc in RSS or ATOM) for a moment. The presentation shifts to feed promotion and the news reader style. For example Great News which I'm using for my desktop aggregator supports CSS and I can actually define a style sheet per feed if I want to. This was useful today when Google news was delivering me all the WorldService and ArabicTV stories, as I could use the brief stylesheet to show a lot of entries on one screen. While I use the readability stylesheet for reading Ben's blog and most of RSS content.

But it goes deeper than that, design isnt just about presentation. A designer should have a hand in the structured elements of the RSS feed, the useability of how its pushed and pulled around the internet and the accessability of the feed and its content. Its what I prefer to call the whole process the Flow of the content. Its part of what I do and I feel its part of the emerging role for new media designers. I mean is it too much to ask for a designer to build a client side XSL page for a RSS feed?

Just stepping away from the world of huge RSS audiences now. There something which smart designers understand well. The media, there designing for. web media isnt print media. Sounds obvious, but were talking about the vision for how the site should look and work being thrown out the window. I'm not talking about just browser quirks, screen resoultions and font size differents. I'm talking about the range of toolbars, extensions and the like which deconstruct the website beyond the control of the tightest web designer. Then if you go down the Greasemonkey path, you have something where you can actually share your deconstructions. Smart designers understand and embrace this and actually push for CSS driven sites to make this even easier. There are a few even testing the waters with Client side XSL transformations for all content with CSS for style.

I've included a screenshot of how I currently see BBC news story pages and how its meant to look. I custom built this simple script because it makes loading up bbc news stories from my RSS reader quicker and is easier to read for myself. Others would disagree, but then I would suggest you write your own greasemonkey script.

So back to the question, yes presentation does matter and the role of a designer is very important but like everything, roles shift with the times and media. Branding is another issue which I wont go into right now either…

I found this great little post about WIndows Longhorn/Vista's redline designs. Ryan suggests Redlines are a throw back to another generation of design, and I have to agree. Dactylx asks this question in the comments
I'm down with that idea, but then how do you as a designer communicate how the design should be rendered to a developer? What can we use to replace the redlines? and Ryan replies with a slightly optimistic but good answer.

Here is the first step. Do not separate the teams. There should be no technical team and design team working separately (on different floors or on different continents). They should sit right next to each other and *understand* the problem just as great as the designers. Design is manifested in code, so if the coders don't understand, then the product is inevitable to fail.

I'm once again in total agreement, in my experience the best projects are always when everyone is involved in the problem. Not passed around like a rugby ball on a winters day.

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