Sara Wachter-Beottcher: Technically Wrong

In her concise, compelling book, Wachter-Beottcher lays out the danger and the insensitivity of biased algorithms, alienating online forms, and harassment-friendly platforms in the tech industry. As designers and developers, we put too much assumptions into the users without understand their circumstances. We place cleverness over clarity. As demonstrated examples after examples in the book, the results of these poor-designed decisions are unfortunate and tragic. It’s an important read for those of us who truly care about our users.


By Hiếu Minh Nguyễn

Convinced she’s in hell

my mother wakes me & begs to be taken

to the lake. Wailing in prayer on the kitchen floor

her skin itching with heat, a flame seizing for god.

I believe her. One day, we will all know when suffering comes

to play the instrument of our bodies. Her song, a single note

a copper kettle whistling for mercy. From the blue-black sand

of McCarrons, I watch her disappear

under the night water. Moonlit rings

spill from her absence.

Bill Harley: Play It Again

This morning the boys glued their eyes to the TV and wouldn’t pay attention to what their mom was telling them. She went up to the TV and turned it off. Suddenly the hook came to me and I started to sing, “Dad threw the TV out the window, the window.” They looked at me weird so I pulled out my phone, searched on YouTube, and found the tune immediately. My oldest boy found it funny while my middle one got mad. That song brought back so much memories of my early years in the U.S. I borrowed a kid cassette from the local public library and that particular tune caught my attention even though I barely understood all the words. I also loved “You’re in Trouble.” I am now listening to the entire album on a Friday morning while working.

The Hypocrisy of a GOP Representative

Tim Murphy, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania’s 18th district, cheated on his wife. After Murphy impregnated the woman who he had an affair with, he asked her to abort their unborn child. After she had an abortion, he posted an anti-abortion statement on his Facebook page. It’s a disgrace and this is what the Republican party has become. The laws just don’t apply to them.

Tom Nichols: The Death of Expertise

In the age of liar in chief, alternative facts, and misinformation, Nichols’s outstanding book draws the difference between knowledge and ignorance. He makes a compelling argument on the failing of higher education, in which the institutions treat students as customers rather than learners. He points out the negative impact of having too much information at our fingertips and the danger of dismissing recognized expertise. It’s an informing, intelligent read. As Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, an adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School, and a former aide in the U.S. Senate, Nichols knows what the fuck he is talking about.

Report on My Books

I have not checked my Analytics for a while; therefore, Google emailed me to let me know that I had 1.4K users visited Professional Web Typography in February. Based on the lack of support for the book, I did not realize that the site is still active. Although the book has published two years ago, the content is still relevant. Last week I made some minor changes to keep the information up-to-date. Last night, I published a new chapter on “Exploring Variable Fonts.” Go read it if you haven’t.

Google also notified me that I had 1.3K users visited Vietnamese Typography in February. Although the support is scarce—except for one big donation from a Vietnamese-American fellow—the book gives me the opportunity to do advising on supporting Vietnamese language. The experiences of working with type designers and foundries give me more insights on how they approach Vietnamese diacritics and how I can help them solve the issues that they have. I am looking forward to more advising opportunities.

Overall, I am still very proud of these two projects and will continue to work on them.

Simple Content Management Solution

After writing “Web Design Doesn’t Have to be Complicated,” I had one designer asked me what CMS solution I offer to clients. Here is my somewhat long answer.

I use MODX and WordPress everyday at work. As much as I appreciate the “creative freedom” of MODX, it is way too complicated for a simple website. Standing up MODX is not quick and easy. Creating templates and user roles can be daunting. Updating MODX is not straightforward either. For a higher education website like Scalia Law School, MODX is perfect. For a small, brochure site, it is way overkilled.

WordPress is simpler and its automatic update is still unmatchable in any CMS. Installing WordPress is not too difficult even though a database is needed. WordPress has increasing becoming complex over the years. Creating a theme is no longer quick and easy. WordPress is still great for blogging (like this blog), but it is still too heavy for a simple website.

My ideal solution is a dead-simple CMS that allows my clients the ability to update the text and nothing else. They can’t mess with the design, fonts, and inline CSS. They don’t even need to add a new page or new image. I can take care of those for them. If I can create static pages (using PHP includes and simple functions) and only have the main text area editable, that would fantastic. If you know a CMS that does only that, I would love to learn more.

I have been keeping an eye on Mavo developed by Lea Verou. It seems like the solution have been looking for. Unfortunately, Mavo is still in beta; therefore, I am not sure if it can be used on live site. I read the documentations, but I don’t quite understand how storage works. I tried to reach to to Ms. Verou, but her email isn’t working. I also hesitated to bother her.

With a recent project, America: The Unknown Country, I created a static website for my client. At first I thought it was a launch and done deal, but the client had requested many text updates. While I don’t mind doing it, I don’t want to keep charging him for something he could do himself. He asked me to teach him to do the updates himself. I don’t mind teaching him HTML and FTP, but I don’t think it is a simple solution either.

I finally decided on Kirby. I have used Kirby in a previous project and what Kirby offers is very closed to what I have in mind. Setting up Kirby on my local machine is simple. I just drop Kirby into my MAMP environment. If you have PHP 5.4 and above, you are ready to go. You don’t need to mess around with setting up the database. The documents are well-written and easy to follow. For example, setting up a simple contact form takes 10 minutes.

With Kirby, I can still design just like the way have done with my static site. Kirby works with my design rather than me trying to my way around Kirby. The magic of Kirby is moving your final site from your local machine to the client server is as simple as uploading the entire project directory. The key attraction of Kirby is the Panel, which allows clients the ability to update the content without messing up my design. Updating Kirby is fairly simple. You just need to replace two directories: kirby and panel. Automatic update (for minor releases) would be fantastic for Kirby.

Kirby is not free, but affordable. As of this writing, a personal license costs $17 and pro license costs $89. I have no problem covering the cost of the license for the clients. What I like about Kirby’s model is that I don’t need to pay until your site goes live. I can download the full version to develop offline and I can pay when the site is ready to launch. So far I have developed two sites using Kirby and I will definitely offer it to future clients. Turns 20

One of the oldest blogs that still updates everyday. Jason Kottke reflects:

On March 14, 1998, I was 24 years old and dumb as a brick. Oh sure, I’d had lots of book learning and was quick with ideas, but I knew shockingly little about actual real life. I was a cynical and cocky know-it-all. Some of my older posts are genuinely cringeworthy to read now: poorly written, cluelessly privileged, and even mean spirited. I’m ashamed to have written some of them.

But had I not written all those posts, good and bad, I wouldn’t be who I am today, which, hopefully, is a somewhat wiser person vectoring towards a better version of himself.

I visit once in a while, but I am glad that he still updates regularly. Congratulations, Jason! See you in 2028.

Bị Cảnh Cáo

Có những niềm riêng không nên nói hết. Có những lúc trong đầu nghĩ gì là viết xuống. Nhiều lúc bịa chuyện chế nhạo (satire) cho vui bởi bị nhiễm của những danh hài (stand-up comedian) của Mỹ. Nhưng tại viết dở quá (có một chế mười) nên bị coi là thật. Bị cảnh cáo rồi. Còn viết bậy viết bạ nữa là mất cả chì lẫn chài. Thôi thì từ nay tôi thề sẽ tự kiểm điểm lại lời viết và cảm nghĩ của mình.

Hôm thứ Hai lúc đưa hai thằng con lớn đi tập bơi về, tôi hỏi thằng Đạo nếu sau này cha mẹ không còn ở chung nữa con sẽ ở với ai. Nó trả lời rằng nó không chọn lựa được vì nó yêu cả hai. Mẹ thì nấu đồ ăn ngon cho nó ăn còn bà thì la rầy nó. Nếu ba rầy la con tại sao con vẫn muốn ở với ba? Vì mỗi lần con làm sai ba la rầy con để con sửa lại. Tôi ngạc nhiên và hơi xúc động. Tôi cứ tưởng nó rất ghét tôi mỗi lần tôi rầy la nó. Thế mà nó hiểu được như thế. Tôi cũng cố gắng lắm để bớt la rầy tụi nó nhưng không hét không thằng nào nghe theo. Đánh thì không nỡ ra tay. Không hét nữa thì chỉ còn thờ tụi nó luôn cho rồi.

Tôi khen thằng Đạo thông minh thì thằng Đán nói còn nó thì ngu. Tôi hỏi nó thế còn con chọn ở với ai? Nó nói là không hiểu. Thằng Đạo giải thích rằng nếu như ba mẹ không còn yêu nhau nữa thì nó sẽ chọn ở với ai. Nó trả lời rằng nó sẽ không ở với ai hết. Nó sẽ ra đường ở. Tôi cười và nói con chẳng những thông minh mà còn hài hước nữa. Sau này con nên làm comedian. Nó hỏi vậy làm comedian có nhiều tiền không? Rất nhiều. Con có thể làm 20 triệu đô một tiếng đồng hồ trong khi đó ba làm chỉ 20 đô một tiếng. Con thấy có khác không? Thằng Đạo không thể nào tin nỗi.

Chris Rock làm một show (một tiếng đồng hồ) cho Netflix với giá 20 triệu đô. Dave Chappelle làm hai show cho Netflix với giá 40 triệu đô. Mẹ nó mong muốn tụi nó làm bác sĩ hoặc nha sĩ. Tôi thì muốn thằng Đán làm comedian. Làm vài tiếng đồng hồ sống cả đời. Đó mới đúng là giấc mơ của Mỹ.