Reading list for the week of April 1

How the Blog Broke the Web
A great piece on how the reverse chronological blog format pioneered by Movable Type and the like ruined the curated, library-style personal homepages of the early web.

Dates didn’t matter all that much. Content lasted longer; there was less of it. Older content remained in view, too, because the dominant metaphor was table of contents rather than diary entry. Everyone with a homepage became a de facto amateur reference librarian.

The title is a bit of an overstatement, but I really enjoyed this one.

Visions Magazine
Visions is “a science fiction magazine where writers, designers and researchers of the past and present come together to explore the future”, and its first issue just dropped.

I love science fiction almost as I love typography, and this seems to be a stunning marriage of both. Ordered immediately.

Brent Jackson: Interoperability
Brent’s work has been one of the biggest inspirations on my own, and I make use of a lot of his ideas and tools on many sites that I work on (including this one, and Seeds). He’s proposing a unified theme specification to use amongst tools such as Styled System.

Unifying the way we theme and style web apps means no lock-in to any technology, and I’m always in favor of that. I’m excited to see what comes from Brent’s proposal.

Today on their blog, Gatsby announced the release of new schema customization APIs in version 2.2.0.

I’ve been using these new APIs in the alpha release on my site for a bit now, and I’ve come to realize how great they are thanks to an example by Jason Lengstorf. He uses the new APIs to create a generic blog schema, and then creates nodes based on data from multiple sources.

This is brilliant because it means your UI can be completely agnostic of where your data is coming from. Jason’s example sources data from multiple file types locally and creates a set of generic nodes that represent a blog post. The query to get the data you need to populate your UI is very clear:

allBlog(sort: { fields: date, order: DESC }) {
  nodes {

I adapted my site to do the same things, but in my case I am sourcing most of my data from WordPress, and also pulling in MDX files locally. This solves a big issue I had been facing — how could I merge and sort data from many sources by a common factor (like a date field) in a way that is abstracted from the UI code of my site. This totally solves that.

What’s great is that, as long as my schema doesn’t change drastically, I can feed in as many data sources as I want in the future and I will never have to change any of my queries or UI to support the new data sources. That’s a huge win especially when you consider the upcoming themes feature, which allows us to abstract away parts of our sites (configurations, data sources, UI, etc) entirely. These new APIs paired with themes is next level.

Congrats and terrific work to all the contributors over at Gatsby that made this possible. It’s incredible how easy it’s becoming to build great developer experiences on top of Gatsby.

Reading list for the week of March 14

Panic: What’s Next for Coda?
Panic is reworking Coda from the ground up as a new app with a new name, tailored to modern web development. I am irrationally excited about this. Panic makes some of the best apps out there, and I will be lining up to give them money for whatever the new app is called.

I also appreciate how self-aware Panic is being here — it takes guts to admit that your app is out of touch with how users work today. Props to them for realizing they need to start over.

Reeder 4 for Mac Beta
Reeder has always been my favorite RSS app for both Mac and iOS, and today the beta for the upcoming version of the Mac app dropped (with the iOS app soon to follow, apparently). Not many apps have been in active development for as long as Reeder has.

Accessibility Report for Managers

This tool helps translate the failing Accessibility rules on a website into actual understandable problems that real users might be facing by generating dummy feedback from dummy users.

Try plugging in your website and see if the resulting tweets can make your product managers care about accessibility.

Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals is one of my all time favorite books to pick up and read when I need a bit of inspiration. The followup, Daily Rituals: Women at Work, has dropped this week, and I can’t wait to dive in as soon as my copy arrives. You can pick it up on Amazon today.

Reading list for the week of March 6

I’ve been meaning to share more of the interesting stuff that comes across my radar, but haven’t felt like making a bunch of tiny posts. Figured I’d wrap them up in a weekly roundup and share batches at a time. Here’s the inaugural edition:

Storybook 5.0
The contributors behind Storybook just dropped version 5, which features a new design that looks great. I’ve been using Storybook in a personal project lately and I’m still not sure it’s for me, but I am always impressed in how great of a tool it is.

Wiby describes itself as “a search engine for older style pages, lightweight and based on a subject of interest. I am trying to create a web more reminiscent of the early internet.” I can dig that. Fun to poke around and see what turns up.

Tools & Craft Episode 03: Ted Nelson
Notion’s Tools & Craft series has been excellent so far, and this latest episode with one of my heroes is no different.

CSS Remedy
A project from the Mozilla Developer Outreach team that “sets CSS properties or values to what they would be if the CSSWG were creating the CSS today, from scratch, and didn’t have to worry about backwards compatibility.” Pretty cool to read through the comments and get the historical perspective of why certain things work the way that they do in CSS.

Like ImageOptim, but on the web. A handy tool to keep in your bookmarks.

I had an idea during a meeting today — what if we had a Slack bot that looked for common key words and phrases and suggested content from our design system? About twenty minutes later I had a prototype of this running and installed in our Slack workspace, and it is all thanks to Botkit and their botkit-slack Glitch project.

Shout out to Glitch for being incredible. I was able to remix the Botkit project and have my own version running in seconds. The app features a pretty ingenious interactive setup guide that walks you through the configuration by having you input your API keys and then giving you the exact values to paste into Slack’s app site and the Glitch editor. The process was flawless and a perfect example of a developer experience that just works.

DHH via Signal v. Noise: Designing for the web ought to mean making HTML and CSS

All great design, in any medium, involves learning how to work with the grain instead of against it.

These mock designs almost always focused on pixel perfectness, which meant trying to bend and twist the web to make it so. Spacer pixels, remember those? We were trying to make the raw materials of the web, particularly HTML, then latter CSS, do things they didn’t want to do. Things they weren’t meant to do.

What’s great about the ubiquity of the web is that designers don’t necessarily have to write HTML/CSS anymore in order to work with the grain. Purely visual tools today like Sketch and Figma already mirror the way the web works better than ever before.

For example, these tools are now able to model responsive designs and allow the user to decide how and when elements should respond when they are resized. This isn’t the web — but it’s closer to the web and keeps getting closer. Designers today who don’t know HTML/CSS can still work with the grain if they do their due diligence.

CSS-Tricks recently got a slick new redesign, and Chris wrote a great piece on the process and some of the unique design details and how those were implemented.

Add this to your holiday wish list: Dave Addey has published Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies, a book version of his popular blog. A book about science fiction and typography checks a lot of boxes for me.

Kent C. Dodds demoed a really neat trick to create a simple URL shortener using Netlify. He even created a package called netlify-shortener that makes it easier to automate the whole process. I recreated this setup and it works perfectly. Thanks Kent! Also, Netlify is probably my favorite tool out there right now; I can’t believe it’s free for most uses. 

Friends With Secrets is a new project from Akilah Hughes, Robyn Kanner, and Timothy Goodman:

Three friends with different backgrounds participated in online text therapy sessions from January to April 2018. Friends With Secrets captures a slice of their lives — the good, the bad, the heartbreaking — and how they try to process the world around them.

Each of the transcripts are honest, painful, and fascinating. It takes a lot of courage to be this vulnerable on the internet. Another thing I love about this — the project is an excellently crafted website. Hypertext is the perfect medium for an experience like this.

Go vote! If you’re in Chicago and need a ride to a polling location, Divvy is letting users ride for free on election day.

My first Midwest experience outside of Chicago. Devil’s Lake in the fall was magical.

Thanks to my friend Patrick, I had the opportunity to see Death Cab for Cutie in concert this week at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. The venue was absolutely gorgeous, so much that sitting up in the rafters was actually kind of nice.

Auditorium Theatre

The best part of the night, though, was the surprise performance of Transatlanticism, in its entirety, in honor of the album’s 15th anniversary. It was really a treat to get to experience such a unique show.

NetNewsWire, one of my favorite apps ever, has been returned home and is now back in the hands of Brent Simmons once again. Brent is continuing development in the open on Github, and the app will be free to use. Such great news for folks who still use RSS.

Panic just announced that the next game they’re publishing is House House’s Untitled Goose Game. The game looks great — quirky, fun, a perfect fit for Panic — but the way these two companies came together is even better.

Very excited to be attending XOXO in Portland this September. If you’re going to be there, hit me up and let’s hang out. Find me @chase in the XOXO attendees Slack.

Mikhail Gündogdu attended a ton of design system conferences and collected all of the knowledge into a great piece.

I especially like what Diana Mounter has to say about feeling imposter syndrome with your design system compared to other companies’ systems:

That’s why Diana says you shouldn’t worry about comparing your design system to any other organization’s system, because thats not what proves its success. Instead, Diana says, push your design system out and analyze utilization to measure its success. Chaos will be a natural part of something so new to the practice as design systems, so focus on what matters and take advantage of the chaos. Are people using the design system in their workflow, and contributing back to it to make it better?

I can attest that comparing your design system to others out there is a fool’s errand. Companies are different, and so should be their systems.

Notion has launched a new video series called Tools & Craft, and the first episode is with Andy Hertzfeld. I dig the short format, and I really enjoyed hearing about Andy’s work after Apple. Looking forward to the next episode.

Emoji and Markdown make for a pretty good storyboarding tool.

This weekend I shipped:

📷 Full width photoset layouts

📚 Redesigned page for my favorite books

🎧 Added an endpoint to my API for getting a list of recently played tracks

Panic has published their annual report for 2017 and it’s full of great stories and details about the app business. Highlights are a new Coda, and a mysterious game 👀

Frank Chimero writes about how he organizes his (streaming) music collection in a way that strengthens the connection between music and time. This is how my brain thinks about music as well, so I plan to steal this idea from him.

✨ A T L A N T A • S2E6 ✨

Probably the best piece of television I have seen in the past 12 months. Came out of left field and was more successful than most movies that attempt it. Atlanta is a masterpiece.

I am in love with the branding for Lafayette Anticipations, a French gallery and maker space. Under Consideration has a good overview, and the case study by design firm Wolff Olins has more imagery.


XOXO 2018

XOXO is “an experimental festival for independent artists and creators who work on the internet,” which is exactly as amazing as it sounds.  

Many of the people in my online circles have been going to XOXO since the beginning, and I knew that if the opportunity ever came for me to go I would jump on it. I was afraid that the festival was gone for good after it failed to return in 2017. Lucky for me, the Andys came back this year for XOXO’s sixth iteration, and its biggest ever. 

I traveled out to Portland, OR in September (my first time visiting), and I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed my experience there. Both the city and the conference were invigorating, and I can’t have imagined a better backdrop for this group of folks. Now that the conference videos have been uploaded, I wanted to take the time to share some of my favorite topics, events, and highlights from my trip. 

Art + Code

XOXO is both a festival and a conference. While conference talks took place (and were recorded) during the day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, festival events were in the evenings and were not recorded. I felt bad about missing some of the evening events, but the ones I did catch felt even more special because they were shorter, more intimate, and ephemeral. They left me wanting to explore and learn more about the speakers and projects I saw, and in that way the festival events stuck with me much more than the recorded conference events. 

Friday and Saturday night both featured an arcade full of indie game creators showing off upcoming games as well as a dedicated room for tabletop games. Friday night featured two sets of shorter talks: Art + Code and Film & Animation.

I chose to skip the film and animation talks so that I could catch as much of the Art + Code stuff as possible, and I’m glad I did. Art + Code turned out to be my favorite part of the programing at XOXO. While I can’t share any videos of the talks (since they weren’t recorded), I can share links to some of the demos and their creators.

Art + Code was sponsored by Figma and hosted by Jenn Schiffer, Glitch’s director of community engineering. For a good roundup of the talks from the night, I highly recommend reading Glitch’s official piece, put together by Maurice Cherry. There are enough links in there to keep you occupied for quite a while. 

The highlight of the evening for me was Baratunde Thurston and the demo of his app, Living While Black. The app generates headlines about white people calling the cops on black people, and asks the user to guess whether the headlines is real or not. Baratunde also talked a bit about the grammar and patterns of racism in our culture, which was fascinating. Glitch has a terrific interview with Baratunde over on their blog that I recommend you check out.

Another favorite from the evening was Janelle Shane‘s talk about training AI to generate knitting patterns, and then knitting those patterns to bring them into the physical world (here’s her post about it, including pictures!). Janelle also has some hilarious examples of using AI to create art over on her blog, which she shared with the room and told stories of how they came to be. Many of the talks centered around using code to create art, which was very inspiring for my own work

Imposter syndrome

Creatives are a highly dissatisfied bunch, often in no place more so than themselves and their own work. This is something that I have struggled with quite a bit in the past few years, and I’ve found solace knowing that others share in that struggle and that there is a wealth of experiences to learn from. No place is that more true than on the internet. 

The web is often where we’re confronted with our greatest feelings of inadequacy. Members of marginalized groups especially cannot exist online without being told that they’re not good enough (among other, more awful things). But there are other ways that our self confidence and value are eroded on the internet, and Helen Rosner told a wonderful story of her experience dealing with those situations. 

Another favorite of mine was Open Mike Eagle’s thoughts on this subject. He articulated how difficult it can be for a creator to communicate about their work and what it means to them:

Sometimes we need the reminder that imposter syndrome does not an imposter make. Our creative heroes face the same struggles, and they overcome it by being honest and open about their experiences. Sharing those feelings with another person (or in the case of XOXO, a couple of thousand people) is really something special. 

The inclusive web

Another theme that was woven throughout the festival was that the web should be place where all people are represented. The web is what we make of it, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that we have the power to shape the form of our medium.

In what may be my favorite talk of the entire weekend, Claire Evans spoke about the women who helped create the web as we know it, and how they have been pushed to the edges of history to make room for their male counterparts.  I was so inspired by the stories of early hypertext pioneers of whom Claire spoke, and so surprised to discover that their stories were unknown to me beforehand. 

Claire is the author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. I’ve since read her book and I can easily say that Broad Band is the best book I have read this year. I highly recommend picking it up.

Jennifer 8. Lee’s talk was cut from the same cloth as Claire’s. Jennifer is a journalist and emoji activist who is a member of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee and founder of Emojination. She spoke about joining the subcommittee and advocating for more inclusive, diverse emoji to better represent the people who are using them to communicate. She also touches a bit on emoji as language and how we use them to communicate, which I thought was very fascinating. 


Hale Pele lived up to the hype as one of the best tiki bars in the country. Go with a group of friends and hang out for a few hours. 

If you like Chinese food (especially dumplings), check out Duck House. The pork wontons in chili oil were incredible 😍. Pok Pok‘s wings were as legendary as everyone had told me they would be. The northwest location was was less busy than the others.

Really, just stick to Neven’s recommendations and you won’t be disappointed. 

Until next time

XOXO succeeds because it defers to the experiences of its community. It invites a group of interesting people from the internet into a physical space to discuss, share, and question their work with other like-minded folks. XOXO isn’t one thing — it’s a lot of things that are constantly changing. I don’t expect next year’s festival to be anything like this year’s, and that’s why I am so excited to go back to Portland in 2019 to do it all again. 

The Andys have created an environment that reflects the experiences of those who occupy it. XOXO is fluid and changing because working on the internet requires us to constantly change the ways we think and interact with one another. We shape our online environment, and we shape XOXO too. 

I hope to see you there in 2019.  


Making Computers Make Art

An introduction, history, and resource for generative art and creative coding.

Some prompted thoughts on design

InVision interviewed the design team at Sprout, and I wrote up some extended thoughts on their questions.

No Reservations

Memorializing Anthony Bourdain and all of the things we can learn from him.

Exploring Seattle

Photos from a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Personal Finance Perfection

How I manage money with my bank of choice (Simple) and their smart, automated features.

Designing Proactively

Thinking about what it means to slow down and design for the future.

John Adams on our duty to future generations

A quote worth remembering.

Stream of consciousness thoughts on styling components

Rambling about design systems, CSS in JS, and problems that appear at scale.