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🔖 Tech Culture Can Change (archive) by Danah Boyd

The normalization of atrocious behavior is the first step of, and makes room for, more serious inappropriate actions like sexual harassment and assault. This needs to stop. Guys who replicate this culture to fit in and get status continue to perpetuate this behavior even after receiving power in a group.

Men in tech need to:

  1. Recognize how a culture of sexism makes tech inhospitable for women. This reduces the quality of innovation and creates societal harm.
  2. Repent our actions that have hurt others and actively and voluntarily apologize for them.
  3. Respect others struggles, strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Enable repartition of power — support, fund and empower women and people of color.

🔖 Overthinking “likes” (archive) by Ana Rodrigues

Likes have layers of meanings. They can mean many different things:

  • A metric of popularity
  • A way to show people that you see them and you care
  • A bookmark for yourself
  • A channel to show (or hide) your tastes, particularly on platforms like Twitter that sometimes share what others have liked)

With the IndieWeb you’re in control. You can decide what you want likes to be and whether or not you even want them to be on your site at all.

🔖 Research by the developed on the developing (archive) by Themrise Khan

Research into the issues of the “global south” is dominated by institutions and researches of the “global south”. This research isn’t balanced with an equal voice and perspective from the “global south”. For example:

  • Migration: Issues like border control are looked at from the point of view of preventing illegal migration to the “north” rather than on the reasons why those from the “south” are forced to migrate.
  • Gender: Terms used in the “north” are applied to the “south” without taking into account the different cultures, religions and patriarchal structures. For example, ‘Unpaid care economy’ might mean walking miles to fetch water in rural areas, or access to child-care assistance in urban areas.

The decisions of how the studies are conducted aren’t being developed in the “south”. The hurdles of being published in the “north” means researchers in the “south” don’t have the liberty to develop their own research agendas and methodologies.

🔖 Designing in the open (archive) by Kjell Reigstad

When participating in conversations on open source project your technical background or history in the company doesn’t matter as much as how you conduct yourself and the value you provide in the discussion.

With open source work you have to let strangers look at your initial sketches. This forces you to articulate and present your work better — clearly explaining ideas and anticipating questions.

By designing in the open you expose yourself to multiple perspectives and ultimately the work is better for it.

🔖 Design Tip: Never Use Black (archive) by Ian Storm Taylor

We often see things like the road, our office chair or a shadow and assume they’re black, when in fact they’re not. As seen in Wayne Thiebaud’s work, shadows are some of the most saturated part of a work. Most blacks we see in our lives are a colored-dark-gray.

An example of saturating grays
An example of saturating grays

Stay away from #000000 pure black, add a bit of color to it. More saturation for darker colors and much lesser for light ones.

🔖 How the Web Became Unreadable (archive) by Kevin Marks

There has been a trend to reduce the color contrast of text on the web. As screens have improved, designers have started using lighter typefaces and lower contrast ratios. But, as more people use devices in outdoor environments where screens aren’t as clear to look at, there is a need for text to be be better legible for everyone. The physical screen and the context it is used in should be considered when picking colors.

Color contrast explained

The baseline typography and colors should work for most users regardless of their eyesight. Contrast ratios between two colors are:

  • 1:1 when the background and text are the same color
  • 21:1 when its black text on a white background
  • 4.5:1 is the minimum ratio for clear type
  • 7:1 is the recommended contrast to aid those with impaired vision

Note that the recommendations are minimums and shouldn’t be treated as starting points.

🔖 Why messiness is a good thing for product teams (archive) by Brian Donohue

Sometimes it feels like a waterfall process is what is required to build product, but in reality, it is a mythical place of calm and clarity. Creativity in inherently uncertain, and so it needs space to be uncertain.

More experience should mean that you know what you’re doing but, Ed Catmull, President at Pixar explains, “What we’re doing is inherently messy. The goal isn’t to prevent the mess, the goal is to ensure it doesn’t get too messy.”

The chaos of creativity can be tamed by working principles. Intercom has three:

  1. Think from first principles
  2. Ship to learn
  3. Think big, start small

🔖 The Shape Of The Machine (archive) by Mike Hoye

Google’s monitor and monetize system can be broken down into three parts. In isolation these parts seem to be well-intentioned.

  • Performance: AMP will speed up your web pages
  • Search: Faster loading pages are better search results
  • Advertising: Ad revenue keeps websites alive.

Put them all together and it becomes a thinly veiled extortion scheme. And unlike Microsoft and Facebook, Google still pretends that it is doing good work with good intentions.

🔖 Pieces of Thinking (archive)

Reasons why some people in the Hacker News community have stopped blogging and why Desmond (author of this post) continues:

  • Lack of readers. The author finds writing to be pieces of thought that help him think.
  • Fear of being wrong and having a public record of it. The author believes that everyone has the permission to grow and that people’s opinions can and should change over time.

🔖 Musings About Building Websites out of WordPress Blocks (archive)

Gutenberg blocks solved the problem of content editing, but can they scale to solve full-site editing too? There is a significant jump in complexity between these two problems.

Site building requires smarter blocks. Ones that are dynamic and that can change according to the context of the site and the blocks that are around them. Block APIs will need to be able to do this and a lot more to really enable full-site editing.

🔖 Radical Care as the Foundation for a Better World (archive)

Care is the foundation of society. It goes unrecognized and is undervalued. It is crucial for the maintenance of the personal, as well as the maintenance of infrastructures and institutions. Without it there would be no economy, culture, or politics.

Care goes beyond the logic of capitalism:

  • Value as defined by capitalism is quantifiable through economic measures
  • Values like caring on the other hand are cultural, ethical, and qualitative, and are thus hard to measure

There are places where radical care is being demonstrated. Sociologists can enable Popular Education, a process that connects people’s experiences with critical theories. This helps people place their problems in a historical and political context and use the knowledge to develop strategies for change.

🔖 Design systems (archive)

Design systems aren’t just the what of patterns and components, but also the how of putting these elements togethers. Along with patterns, the design systems should also explain:

  • the problem being solved
  • when the pattern should be used
  • when the pattern should not be used

🔖 Thoughts on Themes (archive)

Gutenberg is meant to be the common interaction point for making and customizing your website’s elements — navigation, content, site elements. It is not meant to take agency away from themes. Themes will continue to provide templates, designs and layouts. Blocks only make these things more portable and easier for the user.

Themes make overarching decisions of typography, color and design, this should make it easier for the user to make specific decisions for their website. The customizability that Gutenberg provides must be guided by themes.

🔖 The Good WordPress Theme (archive)

WordPress.org themes and premium WordPress themes differ in scope. The former is narrow and only handles styling and layout, the latter is supposed to be a one-stop-shop for a website. Good premium themes:

  • Solve a specific problem. They don’t try to do everything and instead, decide their limitations based on the use-case they’re solving for
  • Are integrated with plugins that help solve the said problem
  • Keep the users safe from themselves — by helping them take good design and plugin decisions, and itself — by not locking the users in.

By adding extensive customizability Gutenberg seems to be shifting these responsibilities from the theme to the user. Premium themes have long been responsible for moving the WordPress platform forward, the changes brought by Gutenberg might negatively affect this landscape.

🔖 Can We Teach Graphic Design History Without the Cult of Hero Worship? (archive)

Graphic design history is often taught through styles, or iconic designers and not through the lens of society, culture or the audience of the work. The connect to technological, economic and political contexts is equally, if not more important.

  • Tschichold responded to economic considerations by standardizing Penguin book covers
  • Dadaist photomontage was used to protest World War I
  • Modernists dreamt of universal communication after emerging from war-torn societies

We should stop perpetuating the idea that designers somehow act on culture from outside of it, and instead focus on the complex worlds in which they did their practice.

🔖 How the Blog Broke the Web (archive)

Web homepages used to be weird hand-made things until blogging and content-management systems like Movable Type came into the picture in 2001. People switched to these systems because they were easier to use, but it meant that everyone got reverse-chronological diaries whether they liked it or not. This trend has continued with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc.

A reverse chronological feed is not the only way that hypertext can be molded, but the early systems have put the web on this trajectory. Other shapes of hypertext like wikis or forums have not remained as popular and don’t have many tools around them either. Even newer shapes of hypertext could still be discovered.

🔖 The ‘3.5% rule’: How a small minority can change the world (archive)

Research by Erica Chenoweth, political scientist at Harvard shows that non-violent protests that are able to actively engage 3.5% of the population always succeed. These protests can take the form of general strikes, consumer boycotts etc. Since they’re non-violent they are able to engage a broader demographic.

The researchers reviewed social movements from 1900 to 2006. The movements were considered a success if they were able to achieve their goals within a year of their peak engagement. They also applied a strict non-violence test (India’s independence movement, for example couldn’t be considered). Some examples were:

🔖 Kerala vs Gujarat Models: History Matters (archive)

A historic look at the Gujarat and Kerala development models, separated from political biases. The two models have evolved over the last two centuries, and even have some commonalities.

Gujarat

Known to have a market-friendly, growth first approach that aims to raise incomes that would lead to trickle down.

The trading communities in Gujarat — Parsis, Bohras etc — weren’t evangelical and there were fewer Christians here. Thus, there wasn’t much focus on education or health.

The route to prosperity was through business and commerce, not education.

The freedom movement was strong in Gujarat with many important figures coming from here. The people were politically aware, but it didn’t lead to any significant social reforms.

Presently, the citizens who’ve left the state have set up businesses and developed roots in other places. The remittances contribute to ~1% of the state’s GDP.

Kerala

Known to have a state-led focus on human development parameters like health and education, creating a foundation for economic growth.

Princely states of Travancore and Kochi and the british controlled the region of present day Kerala in the 1800’s. When the Christian missionaries arriived they opened up schools. Seeing this the princely states followed suit and started providing free education. They also focussed on public health and vaccinations.

Travancore introduced private property rights to increase incentive for farming productivity. This led to a budget surplus which was invested in education and health.

Since the royal families were focussed on taking care of their subjects the freedom movement didn’t get a stronghold here. However, there was a focus on social reform for civil rights of the lower castes that was led by the non-varna Hindus.

Presently, even with high HDI scores, citizens leave the state to find opportunities elsewhere, but remittances from them contribute to ~14% of the state’s GDP.