The home of some stuff that I wrote and put up on the web for someone to maybe come along and read. Hello!

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Rowan blogged in N femtoseconds time

When trying to make things “user friendly”, a lot of good ideas seem to get subjected to Chinese Whispers or Cargo Cult treatment, and end up either counter-productive, or at least unnecessarily annoying. One such idea is formatting dates and times as easy-to-read relative terms, like “5 minutes ago”, or “yesterday”. It makes everything look […] [ → Read Me ]

How Mozilla completely dropped the ball with Quantum and WebExtensions

Today sees the official release of Firefox 57, also known as “Project Quantum”, a major rewrite of key parts of the browser. With it comes a new, incompatible, extensions API, and I (mostly) understand why. But on launch day, users will find about 3 in 4 extensions simply don’t work, and Mozilla’s planning for this […] [ → Read Me ]

Towards a consistent PHP type checking system

For most of its life, PHP has been a “weakly” typed language: values can freely shift from one state to another, and mould themselves to what an operation requires; or, in the case of objects, largely duck-typed: you don’t need a formal contract to call a method. There is, however, a trend in the language […] [ → Read Me ]

Voting reform won’t stop us getting an answer we don’t like

Although I’ve thought about it for a long time, I find myself increasingly unsure about electoral reform, and questioning much of what is being said after Thursday’s election. I’m certainly no fan of the current system, with its awkward patchwork of safe seats and local tactical battles; and I’m distinctly unhappy to see the Tories […] [ → Read Me ]

Is Facebook a community, and other pressing issues of social governance

I’ve long been fascinated by the social challenges of online communities, and how they mirror and differ from “real life” societies. I was recently pondering this with regards the Facebook “real names” policy, and whether it was necessary, or at least reasonable, for them to assert that level of control. Then I was reading about […] [ → Read Me ]

Losing our way in the tapestry of religious debate

We live in a time where there is a lot of debate about religion - is it a force for good, or for bad? Is belief in a supreme being fundamentally less enlightened than acceptance of the scientific consensus? And so on. But a lot of the arguments on both sides are poorly thought through, and make fundamental errors of logic, or simply overstate their case to get attention. I think a large part of the reason for this is that "religion" covers such a complex web of ideas, that arguments that start at one point in that web get snarled up in other parts, where the original argument no longer makes sense. [ → Read Me ]