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I want to take my country back!

I’ve been wondering why I feel so personally affronted by the recent UK referendum result that means we’ll leave the EU. Of course, it’ll make my job harder; by the end of this year, I will have had easy, visa-free access to France, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Spain, Greece and Norway. That could end. (Or not — who knows? There is no plan, just uncertainty).

I’m unhappy that the pressing matters of government will take a backseat to rewriting laws, treaties and standards that we’ll abandon. I’m angry that friends of mine who live and work here now find their status uncertain: the front-runner for Tory PM, Theresa May, refused to guarantee the right to remain for EU people who came before the vote. I’m furious that my daughter’s plans to go to an overseas university are now thwarted.

But mostly, I want to take my country back. I believed that I lived in a country that was a bit weird, detached geographically from continental Europe and therefore a little aloof, but by-and-large liberal and tolerant; a nation of sea-farers who, almost by definition, tended to think internationally; a nation of pragmatists who wouldn’t shoot their own economy down in flames for a dogma of immigrantphobia (the babysteps of the dogma that our grandparents fought against).

It seems I don’t live in that country.

If the vote had been more overwhelmingly in favour of exit, I’d conclude that the country I thought I lived in was a fiction, mutually constructed by the liberal, border-hopping people I call colleagues and friends. But the vote was so close (48% to 52%) that I realise the country I believed in was shared by almost half the population of the UK. It really feels that we live in a divided nation.

Soon, it will really divide. Scotland will leave; why would they stay? The Scots overwhelmingly rejected Westminster Tories and Brexit. To “save the UK”, the Brexiters are breaking it up, and leaving a rump state with a faltering economy and a great schism in the population. I want to take my country back, and I see no way to do it.

Proud to be British; voted ‘Remain’

There’s been lots of weird nationalist stuff circulating around the media about “Proud to be British. Vote Leave”, as if wanting to remain in Europe is somehow unpatriotic.

So I’ll clearly say: I’m proud to be British, and thus sent in my postal vote to Remain. I don’t want the economic turmoil that an exit would cause, especially as we’re teetering on the edge of another recession. I’d probably be OK, but I fear for the livelihoods of friends of mine.

Sure, the stockbrokers and millionaires and directors who are leading the exit campaign tell you that it’s all about sovereignty and “controlling our borders” (whatever either of those mean). But really, they want to abolish the workers protection that we get from EU. They’d like us to leave European Court of Human Rights (which was the only way the ordinary families in Liverpool got any justice for Hillsborough).

Sure, the Brexit leaders tell you that “not paying the EU levy would free up resources to put into the NHS”, but many of them have had years in Parliament, quietly demolishing the NHS instead of protecting it.

They want to leave the EU so they can be more aggressively right-wing, make workers’ lives harder instead of better, and use the economic problems that would inevitably ensue as an excuse to implement even more ideologically-driven “austerity”.

I don’t want that; I love my country. So I voted ‘Remain’.

Reading List

Lots of tasty web/ apps links here, Reading List Fans!

Oh, and if you’re in the London area and looking to hire someone to do Content Marketing and Content Strategy, contact my cousin Simon Migliano, even though as a kid he used to cry in fear at The Magic Roundabout.

When my Dad came out

Today would have been my dad’s birthday, so it’s as appropriate a time as any to publish this blog post about how and when he came out to my brother and me as a gay man. I wasn’t going to write a blog post about it, to be honest – it’s personal. But my mum recently showed me an article about a support group for kids whose parents came out (to my incredulity) so I figured that writing this might prove useful to somebody. (I’ve also talked to my mum and brother to make sure it’s OK to publish this, as it’s their story too.)

My parents separated when I was about 18 – between completing my A-levels and going up to university. Dad moved to London (where he’d been working Monday – Friday for a while) and it was amicable; they didn’t divorce until years later, when mum wanted to remarry.

My brother and I strongly suspected that Dad was gay; when we’d visit him, we’d always meet up with his bachelor friend who lived nearby. We weren’t fazed by it; we both had gay friends (the 80s was a time when UK society was changing for the better; my generation was much more tolerant than our antecedents).

One day, my brother and I were having a beer with our mum, and one of us asked her directly if Dad was gay. (This sounds weirder than it was; my parents had always encouraged us to speak openly with them.) She fobbed us off with “you’d better ask him” but phoned him up later and suggested that he tell us, so he soon invited himself up to Birmingham for one of his royal visits.

We could see he was nervous, and he said “I have something to tell you, and I hope it’ll be OK and you won’t decide you never want to speak to me again. I’m gay”. My brother and I said, “yeah, we know, and it makes no difference. Another pint?” and that was that.

I don’t know whether he really thought we might disown him; I used to wear eyeliner and black nail polish and was in an acting group with a very out, very camp friend. But his background probably meant that he expected disapproval; he grew up in a very traditional Northern coal-mining town (and was the first Lawson never to go down the Pit) and was an adult before the repeal of the law which made male homosexuality an imprisonable offence.

But nothing changed, and everything was fine. When I lived in London, I’d go out with my dad and his husband to the gay-friendly bars. The two of them were at the top table, with my mum and stepdad, at family weddings; my mum was at his funeral.

The hardest bit was when I drafted the eulogy to read at the funeral. I knew he hadn’t told many of his friends at the amateur theatre club he was in, or at the hospice where he was a volunteer grief counsellor (because he believed it was, fundamentally, a private matter) so I didn’t want to posthumously “out” him at his own funeral. But, equally, there were lots of gay friends attending, and I didn’t want to pretend that part of his life didn’t happen or make them think that I was in any way ashamed of it. My brother and I discussed it, and I simply said “After he and my mum amicably separated, he moved to London with his new partner, David …” and continued.

I think everybody guessed when his coffin slipped away to the sound of Abba’s “Dancing Queen”, though.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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On URLs in Progressive Web Apps

I’m writing this as a short commentary on Stuart Langridge’s post The Importance of URLs which you should read (he’s surprisingly clever, although he looks like the antichrist in that lewd hat).

Stuart says

I approve of the Lighthouse team’s idea that you don’t qualify as an add-to-home-screen-able app if you want a URL bar

Opera’s implementation of Progressive Web Apps differs from Chrome’s here (we only take the content layer of Chromium; we implement all the UI ourselves, precisely so we can do our own thing). Regardless of whether the developer has chosen display: standalone or display: fullscreen in order to hide the URL bar, Opera will display it if the app is served over HTTP because we think that the user should know exactly where she is if the app is served over an insecure connection. Similarly, if the user follows a link from your app that goes outside its domain, Opera spawns a new tab and forces display: browser so the URL bar is shown.

But I take Jeremy Keith’s point:

I want people to be able to copy URLs. I want people to be able to hack URLs. I’m not ashamed of my URLs …I’m downright proud.

One of the superpowers of the Web is URLs, and fullscreen progressive web apps hide them (deliberately). After our last PWA meeting with the Chrome team in early February, I was talking about just this with Andreas Bovens, the PM for Opera for Android. We mused about some mechanism (a new gesture?) that would allow the user to see and copy (if they want) the URL of the current page. I’ve already heard of examples when developers are making their own “share this” buttons — and devs re-implementing browser functionality is often a klaxon signalling something is missing from the platform.

When I mentioned our musings on Twitter this morning, Alex Russell said “we’ve been discussing the same.” It is, as Chrome chappie Owen Campbell-Moore said “a difficult UX problem indeed”, which is one reason that Andreas and I parked our discussion. One of Andreas’ ideas is long press on the current page, and then get an option to copy/share the URL of the page you’re currently viewing (this means that a long press is not available as an action for site owners to use on their sites. Probably not a big deal?)

What do you think? How can we best allow the user to see the current URL in a discoverable way?

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web.next: Progressive Web Apps and Extensible Web

Here’s the keynote talk I did at Render Conference, Oxford in April. (Slides.)

All the other talks are available. Yay!

I told the nice organising types that I wouldn’t accept the speaker fee because public speaking is my job. Rather than just pocket the money, they suggested we donate it to a worthy cause, which is very good of them.

So I asked them to send it to a rural school in Cambodia, where a friend of mine has been volunteering. They’re building a computer lab to train kids and the local people. In one of the poorest countries on earth (average salary is $80/ month) a second hand laptop at $250 is still a luxury. As someone who was a primary teacher in Bangkok, this ticks all my personal boxes: education, S.E. Asia and the web.

Thank you, Ruth and all at Render Conference.