“Future Library” / “Framtidsbiblioteket”

I just came across this pretty incredible project called “Future Library” or “Framtidsbiblioteket”:

https://www.futurelibrary.no

Basically the plan is for one writer per year to write a book for 100 years, at the same time a purposefully-planted forest grows to maturity. After 100 years the trees will be harvested and then the still-unseen / unread books will be printed using the wood from the trees.

One thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until the year 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the one hundred year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.

https://www.futurelibrary.no/#/the-artwork

It’s by a Scottish artist Katie Pierson who has also done some other interesting projects.

It’s an interesting idea to consider that these books might only be read by at least grandchildren if not great-grandchildren of any of us alive just now. It’s also made me ponder how the website for this project will be viewed in 100 years time – how well will this digital media stand the test of time?

Skate City – Apple Arcade

I seem to be one of the lucky ones who got access to Apple Arcade (Apple’s new subscription gaming service) a few days early (although I’m guessing that everyone on the developer betas got access??).

I’m enjoying the new Skate City game which is made by Snowman who previously made the great Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey games. Apple Arcade opens to all on September 19th so go check it out.

A wee bit of gameplay! :)

Check out more about Skate City on the Instagram page: @skatecitygame

RIP Daniel Johnston

Sad news about the passing of Daniel Johnston on September 11th.

He was definitely on the quirky side of things musically – kind of like if Ivor Cutler grew up in Seattle instead of Glasgow – but I’ve always quite liked unusual / out there types of music.

When Daniel Johnston was about 19, he spent a lot of time making things in his parents’ West Virginia basement. He would draw creatures, film Super 8 movies, write lyrics, or sit at a piano and hit the record button on his boombox. Johnston—who died this week at his family’s home in Waller, Texas, at age 58—made a lot of tapes. Each self-recorded effort came stuffed with around 20 new songs, many of them lyrically dense gems that require multiple listens to parse through their abundance of absurdity and emotional weight.

https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/daniel-johnston-obituary/

Wired: “ Pagers, Pay Phones, and Dialup: How We Communicated on 9/11”

Most of us watched the same thing on that day, united in front of millions of televisions in a way that the nation perhaps hadn’t been since the days of the Kennedy assassination.

Yet part of the reason we all watched the same thing on TV was that, technologically speaking, we were living in a comparative dark age 18 years ago. Apple’s stock was $1.24 on September 10, and according to WIRED, one of the hot new gadgets was the Casio WQV3D-8 wristwatch.

https://www.wired.com/story/pagers-pay-phones-and-dialup-how-we-communicated-on-911/

QREATE???

QREATE? “What happened to ‘Suburbia’?”

You may notice things have changed a wee bit on my website, nothing major really but I decided to switch to another domain name that I’ve had for quite a few years. Whilst ‘suburbia.org.uk’ has been my website url for about 13 years I felt it was time to mix it up a little bit.

I’ve been experimenting more recently with trying to post some short-form content such as interesting links, videos etc, onto my site first and foremost and having this content share out to social media channels. I’ve only got it automated out to Twitter and Micro.blog at the moment but I’ll look into Facebook, Instagram etc as well.

Generally I’m just experimenting with sharing content here initially and trying to get back to writing and blogging a bit more. So hopefully there should be a bit more activity going on here on the site at the new url of qreate.co.uk :)

I’ve still got all of the same content as before so take a look around my Projects page to see some of the things I’ve been working on. I’m also going to add a bit more about some of the freelance work I’ve been doing recently, in particular working with Ryan and Lyall at Agency of None on several things for Dundee Design Festival which was particularly fun and interesting to work on.

WatchOS 5 adds support for web content rendering

Apple recently announced updates to the core software on all of their hardware platforms with various interesting new features.

One feature that jumped out when looking through it all was support for displaying web content in watchOS 5, it’s important to clarify that they haven’t added a standalone Safari app to watchOS but instead it enables any links sent via Mail or Messages to be accessed and then displayed right on the watch.

To get a quick overview it is worth taking a few minutes to watch the “Designing Web Content for watchOS” video on the WWDC2018 videos site as it gives a good overview.

Here’s a few thoughts and info about key aspects that I picked up from watching the video:

User navigation / interaction

  • You can scroll using the Apple Watch’s digital crown or via pan gestures
  • Double-tap to zoom in / out on the page content
  • Back/Forward navigation is controlled either via an overlay UI brought up via a  firm press on the screen or by swiping back and forward from the edges of the screen.

Web browser feature support

Content is optimised for display on the Apple Watch so certain features are not supported in watchOS 5:

  • Video playback
  • Service workers
  • Web fonts

If the web content being accessed is responsive then it treats the content as being 320px wide, the same width as if on an iPhone SE (iPhone 5 or older width). So text may be smaller but at least it will basically render the smallest breakpoint content, so it doesn’t require any new even smaller breakpoint to be catered for.

This is done by overriding the “initial-scale” value and provides a viewport with the dimensions 320px by 357px and reports a media query size of 320px. So existing responsive content will render on the Apple Watch without requiring any changes – at least from a layout perspective, worth noting the lack of support for Web fonts as this will likely have some rendering impact as it falls back to alternative fonts in the font stack do display.

Optimising content for Apple Watch

Even though responsive content will be rendered quite well by default it is possible to optimise content for display on Apple Watch.

The above image shows the standard responsive content being displayed on the Apple Watch, basically just the same as it would be on an iPhone SE (minus any web fonts of course!).

Responsive Layout on Apple Watch

Using a media query it is possible to modify this layout to display as a single column. There is an example given in the video which obviously won’t apply for all uses, but basically it uses “min-width: 320px” as the baseline for showing the content as two columns, so any content below that would render as a single column. Again, how this works specifically for your layouts will vary, but there will be some methods to use for frameworks like Foundation or Bootstrap etc.

“Disabled-adaptations” meta tag

The important addition to using a media query though is a new meta tag which disables the default adaptations that the Apple Watch makes when rendering content by default:

<meta name=”disabled-adaptations” content=”watch”>

With this meta tag in place the device width will be treated as the real width of Apple Watch’s screen. This again has similarities to how content was handled when the iPhone originally came out, existing content is displayed as best as possible but there are ways to optimise for the device if you want to.

Form controls on watchOS

Making use of HTML5 form control types is really important on watchOS, setting the type attribute to “email”, “tel” etc will bring up a specific, full screen UI to allow interaction.

Additionally making use of labels, placeholder or aria-label attributes enhance the context given when interacting with these controls. Hopefully you’re using these already but here’s another reason to do so.

Safari Reader on watchOS

This is a feature found on iOS and macOS which basically formats pages to show a more readable version of web page content. It’s a little unclear from the video but it sounds like pages that are “text heavy” will get displayed using Reader, although I’m not 100% sure how that would be determined exactly if so. Perhaps this is a way to handle big pages that might have a lot of adverts on it? Reader view is an option that users can choose by firmly pressing on any page to bring up the navigation overlay, so even if content is displayed normally a more readable version can be accessed.

Semantic markup in Reader view on watchOS

Reader view makes good use of semantic markup, using the “article” tag helps the display of content, and attributes like “item-prop” and other semantic tags like “strong”, “em”, “blockquote” etc enhances the display of content in Reader on watchOS.

Open Graph meta tags

Using Open Graph meta tags is something that makes sharing content around the web such as into Facebook, Twitter etc look better by providing specific preview content such as images, titles etc. watchOS makes use of these Open Graph meta tags to make the previews for any shared links look as good as possible.


That’s a quick overview of some aspects of watchOS 5’s support for web content, there’s definitely a few things to consider in there but if you’re building pages using responsive layouts and using semantic HTML then things should work fairly well without having to do anything.

The biggest issue I see initially is the lack of support for web fonts, that seems like it could cause some display issues due to the fallback to alternative fonts in the stack or if web fonts have been used for icons etc.

I’m also interested to know what the impact on battery life on the watch is like when loading and rendering multi-megabyte web pages which are not uncommon these days, I think Reader view is going to be an essential feature for viewing web content on Apple Watch.