Archive: October, 2014

List of ethical concerns in video games (partial)

Gaming writer and Gamasutra editor Leigh Alexander covers a wide range of concerns we should have about the gaming industry: abhorrent labor policies, questionable review practices and much more. I won’t spoil the conclusion, but it’s wonderful.

CSS vs JavaScript animations

Google recently published one of the best single tutorial resources I’ve seen that cover how to write both CSS and JS based animations on the web. It’s far more than just syntax; it’s recommendations on what timing and easing functions are the most appropriate in different situations. And with Google being Google, there’s some performance related pointers as well.

“Experienced” front end web developers

What defines an experienced web developer in 2014? Looking back on my own progress, I transitioned from entry level to senior roles and became “experienced”. Yet it was surprising to reflect on what skills and traits led me to that point.

Some experience stems from core programming knowledge: familiarity with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript syntax, along with optimization techniques for each language. And given how fast the web changes, experience can imply some web frameworks mastery. Today, popular examples include MVC frameworks (Angular, Ember), web components (Polymer) and responsive grid patterns (Foundation, Susy).

Programming chops also contribute; practically any position requires a baseline technical aptitude to sustain a team’s momentum. Yet as my career has gone on, I’ve found three traits outside of tech that usually separate the experienced from the entry level: wisdom, communication and “T-shaped” skills.

Wisdom is experience defined by long-term development cycles. It’s working through projects over months or years. For solo, agency and freelance developers, it’s defining a long term relationship with one or more clients for an extended period. Developers with high wisdom levels know how to work with other tech personnel. They quickly assess their team’s strengths, weaknesses, and who’s best to delegate for different aspects of the job. They also give assured estimates and know how to best integrate their tech skills into a larger team.

Communication centers on verbal and written skills. Part of that is back and forth with the rest of the tech team through succinct bug tickets and clear project status reports. And on most front end development projects, tight communication with the designers and project managers is essential. In addition, business staff often notice and gravitate towards developers with strong speaking and presentation skills, regardless of their technical aptitude.

T-shaped skills aren’t directly related to web development yet are helpful for the overall company. Aesthetic design, UX, analytics, marketing and business are common examples. T-shape skills are especially important for front end web developers, as they are often faced with many client-facing micro decisions due to lack of time or definition from other groups. For example, there may be a high fidelity spec for a new page design, but a few elements don’t quite match, so the developer adjusts some spacing and padding. Or a new web app is launching and a developer realizes select user actions aren’t being captured by analytics; he or she makes a quick correction. Many of these details aren’t noticed until well after a product is shipped but can have a cumulative benefit for users.

All three of these attributes have one thing in common: there’s rarely shortcuts. It takes time, earned from months and years of work within a team. When you run through an entire dev project cycle – tech assistance to early design iterations, developing a feature set, fixing QA bugs and launching the product – there’s invaluable knowledge gained that can’t be gleamed from a blog post or weekend workshop. Admittedly, some developers are naturally gifted communicators and are equipped with a T-shaped skill base by the time they reach their first web gig. Yet having worked with a large variety of web developers in my career, that’s rare.

So, some advice to those starting out: it’s ok to take a break from learning the hottest web framework to brush up on your speaking and writing skills. It’s also smart to ask questions and have interests in the rest of your business. And if you get the chance to work with well-respected, senior developers, do so. Be patient and take in everything you can. Experience takes time.

Why nerd culture must die

Engineer Pete Warden:

We’re still behaving like the rebel alliance, but now we’re the Empire. We got where we are by ignoring outsiders and believing in ourselves even when nobody else would. The decades have proved that our way was largely right and the critics were wrong, so our habit of not listening has become deeply entrenched. It even became a bit of a bonding ritual to attack critics of the culture because they usually didn’t understand what we were doing beyond a surface level.

David Fincher: and the other way is wrong

Considering Gone Girl was just released it’s an apt time to review director David Fincher’s filmography. There’s surely a lot of other good video essays out there, but this recent analysis by Every Frame a Painting is excellent. It’s devoted to a technical breakdown of Fincher’s preferred shot composition, supported by many examples from his entire filmography (with Gone Girl of course, exempted.)


xScope is well trusted tool for many web designers, but I find it’s occasionally a bit more power than what I need for day to day design tweaks. So more recently I’ve been testing out Dimensions, a Chrome extension laser-focused on quick measurements between any elements in your browser. It’s fast, effective and worth a look.

WTF happened to PG-13?

GoodBadFlicks reviews the evolution of the PG-13 rating since it’s introduction in 1984. Most of the focus is on recent years where many otherwise R rated films trim content to ensure a PG-13. Remember, with a PG-13 the desirable teen demographic can watch unrestricted. But in the process, it’s watering down a lot of otherwise great content. To quote the narration:

PG-13 is supposed to be pushing the envelope of PG, not pulling R backwards.


I’ve been a huge fan of running LiveReload via Gulp plugin to auto inject CSS and Sass into the page without forcing a reload. It significantly speeds up development and avoids me having to constantly remember to hit the reload action to ensure my changes take effect.

BrowserSync has the same mentality, but promises much more, most notably an “action sync” that mirrors scroll, clicking, and refresh actions across multiple browsers plugged into the same server.

iOS 8 and iPhone 6 for web developers and designers

A few overly broad generalizations aside, this brief post at Breaking the Mobile Web is a good overview of some of the largest changes that came along for the ride with the new iPhone 6 and iOS 8. Pay special note to the viewport differences and the big switch to a device pixel ratio of 3 for the iPhone 6 Plus.

Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo play screwed up siblings in a terrific debut

Such an amazing debut from director Kenneth Lonergan. It’s one of my favorite movies from the early 2000s, highlighted by impeccable acting by Mark Ruffalo (who broke through to a wider audience after being noticed here) and Laura Linney.