What are design systems and how can we nurture them? Adobe Design Engineer Sarah Federman dives into the whys and hows of design systems for small and large teams. We discuss how to create, maintain and communicate the importance of design systems, while also highlighting the importance of developer input early on and throughout the entire process.
Everything was on the table — and after Facebook’s wildest year yet, that’s a really big table.
Yesterday, I motored my Ford Fiesta down to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., to interview CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg.
I had not done a formal interview with Zuckerberg since he appeared at our D: All Things Digital conference in 2010, when the company was in its early days. Now, Zuckerberg was ensconced in a massive building with a garden on the roof, part of an even larger campus that sprawled all over and was still growing.
Also growing? Increased scrutiny and criticism of the social network Zuckerberg had built into a behemoth.
It’s well deserved given the sloppy way the company has handled a range of issues of late, including not monitoring how user data was abused by Cambridge Analytica, not stopping the Russians from manipulating the platform in the 2016 elections and allowing false news from suspect publishers like Infowars to be distributed on the platform.
The controversies have landed Zuckerberg and Facebook in hearings here and in Europe and have tarnished his nerd-god image.
In this 90-minute interview we talked about a range of things, from news to data to privacy to China to his political ambitions. As you will hear, Zuckerberg can cling closely to talking points, but he also did reveal more than he has about this annus horribilis for him and, well, the rest of us.
While many are justifiably angry at him and at Facebook, I decided to not strafe the billionaire entrepreneur. I tried instead to engage him in a conversation about how he has mishandled his growing power and responsibility and what he planned to do about it.
I think the interview gives a picture of an earnest and canny tech leader who is also grappling with the darker side of his creation. At one point, I asked him who was to blame and who should pay the price for the Cambridge Analytica controversy and he rightly named himself, as the person who invented Facebook. “Do you want me to fire myself on this podcast?” Zuckerberg joked. Spoiler alert: He did not.
Unfortunately, we did not get to every topic. We did not touch on the important issues of diversity, tech addiction and other issues that I hope to get to discuss with him in our next interview.
On this week’s show, we’re exploring infinity and beyond with artist and writer James Bridle and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.
Through his visual art and writings on technology and culture, James Bridle has been at the forefront of our understanding of tech for the last decade – and from his perspective, the view of our future is both exciting and gloomy. He sat down with the Guardian’s technology reporter Alex Hern to talk about his book, New Dark Age.
Limits are grist to the mill for Marcus du Sautoy, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University. His mission is to explore – and if possible, explain – the unknown, so following hot on the heels of his bestselling book What We Cannot Know, is How to Count to Infinity. Meeting with Richard Lea at the Hay festival, Du Sautoy explained how a German mathematician first proved the existence of infinity in 1874, and what the concept means for our understanding of the universe.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was … well, actually, there was just one word … one long, endless word. For thousands of years, in some written languages, there was no space between words. People were expected figure out sentences and clauses while reading aloud.
Vergilius Augusteus, Georgica, written with continuous wrapping scriptScriptio continua was the dominant form of writing for the Greeks and the Romans. Sometimes, this never-ending string of letters would execute what was called an ox-turn, first reading left to right, then switching to read back from right to left.
In the 3rd century BCE, a librarian in Alexandria named Aristophanes introduced the idea of putting in dots to indicate pauses, like stage directions for people performing texts out loud. Dots of ink at the bottom, middle, or top of a given line served as subordinate, intermediate and full points, corresponding to pauses of increasing length.
Aristophanes’ system became the basis for Western punctuation. A partial thought — followed by the shortest pause — was called a comma. A fuller thought was called a kolon. And a complete thought — followed by the longest pause — was called a periodos. These rhetorical units eventually lent their names to the comma, colon and period we know today.
More punctuation followed. Medieval scribes gave us the earliest forms of the exclamation mark. And in the 8th century, Alcuin of York, an English scholar in the court of Charlemagne, quietly introduced a symbol that would evolve into the modern question mark. Ever since, we’ve ended our sentences with one of these three ancient marks, called end marks.
There have, however, been attempts to expand this typographical toolkit, and include other end marks. One such example has made it into dictionaries: the interrobang (‽).
Producer Joe Rosenberg’s Americana Monotype interrobang, image by Vivian LeIt was created by an ad man named Martin Speckter just over a half-century ago. In the 1950s and 60s, he repped some of the biggest names in publishing, such as Barron’s, Dow Jones, and the Wall Street Journal. Speckter was also a typography nerd, constantly reading books on punctuation and the English language. He and his Penny wife, Penny, collected hundreds of printing presses of all kinds and sizes.
In the spring of 1962, Speckter was thinking about advertising when he realized something: many ads asked questions, but not just any questions — excited and exclamatory questions — a trend not unique to his time. Got milk?! Where’s the beef?! Can you hear me now?! So he asked himself: could there be a mark that made it clear (visually on a page) that something is both a question and an exclamation?!
Speckter was also the editor of the typography magazine TYPEtalks, so in March of 1962, in an article for the magazine titled “Making a New Point, Or How About That…”, Speckter proposed the first new mark of English language punctuation in 300 years: the interrobang.
Proposed interrobangs from Type Talks, March-April 1962, as drawn by Jack LiptonThe interrobang was a new kind of end mark. It denoted a question that expressed surprise or incredulity. This also made it useful for rhetorical questions, most of which are also incredulous. In his article, Speckter was already envisioning exclamatory-slash-rhetorical advertising slogans that could take advantage of the new mark, such as “What?! A Refrigerator That Makes Its Own Ice Cubes?!”
Alternative interrobangs submitted to Type Talks, May-June 1962 via Shady CharactersSpeckter laid out a few different potential ideas for what the interrobang should look like, but quickly zeroed in on a favorite. His design collapsed the question mark and the exclamation point into a single glyph. The two marks, instead of being placed back to back, were now conjoined, sharing the same dot at the bottom.
One version of the interrobang design, combining a question mark and an exclamation pointAt Speckter’s request, readers of the article also wrote in with proposals for alternate names, including “emphaquest,” “interropoint” and “exclarogative.” But he stuck with the original name — “interro” for interrogate and “bang” for the proofreader’s word for the exclamation point. (When giving dictation, people didn’t use the phrase “exclamation point.” They would just say “bang.”)
Shady Characters by Keith HoustonBut, as punctuation expert Keith Houston explains, “it’s not easy to invent a mark of punctuation that actually sticks.” Houston loves the interrobang, but notes that history is littered with failed attempts to create new end marks. “Around the 16th century,” for instance, “the percontation mark, this rhetorical question mark, lasted about fifty years before it disappeared. There was one invented by a kind of renaissance man called John Wilkins who proposed an irony mark and it went nowhere.”
And then there’s the interrobang, which, seemingly from the day it was born, faced a string of bad luck. For example, an article praising the interrobang appeared in the New York Herald Tribune in 1962. In the Tribune article, the writer called the interrobang true genius. Unfortunately, his article was published on the first of April and it may have been that the readers took it as an April Fool’s joke.
Still, this punctuation mark persevered. In 1966, a company called the American Type Founders — a legendary design firm that created some of the most widely used typefaces of the 20th century — unveiled a new typeface called Americana that included an interrobang, but the foundry was in decline, and Americana was the last type typeface they ever cut.
Then, in 1968, the iconic typewriter company Remington announced that their latest model typewriter would feature an optional intrerrobang key. Still, it was optional — an extra — costing extra money. It failed to catch on.
A 1969 brochure from Smith-Corona showing their interchangeable interrobang keyToday, the interrobang is just barely hanging in there. It has its own character in Unicode, the common directory of symbols which all computer fonts must reference. But Keith Houston points out that it still hasn’t cleared the biggest typographical obstacle of all: “I think that in order to really consider it to be a real mark of punctuation, people have to use it without thinking about it.” In other words: a truly remarkable mark of punctuation must be unremarkable.
Alas, banality is not one of the interrobang’s strong suits. After Remington’s brief attempt to give it a key, it never made it onto any standard keyboards. And, now, if it is included in a font, it’s accessible only within a nested series of menus and selections. So when people do use it, they’re deliberately going out of their way to do so. They’re using it to make a sort of statement, not because it’s needed. For it to truly succeed, ordinary people need to employ the interrobang for no other reason beyond the fact that the sentence at hand calls for its use.
Portrait of Judge Frank EasterbrookHouston says these are rare, but has found at least one genuinely banal interrobang, used by a man named Frank Easterbrook. Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Easterbrook used to be Deputy Solicitor General, arguing the interests of the United States in the Supreme Court. He is also a typophile, and has no patience for briefs written in Times New Roman, a newspaper typeface (he wants lawyers to use book typefaces).
In May of 2011 Easterbrook was writing a ruling for a case, the case of Sears vs. Crowley, when he realized he’d written himself into a corner. “I reached a point where I had written a rhetorical question where I was tempted to use, you know, “question mark, exclamation point, question mark, exclamation point,” he recalls. Then he remembered the interrobang. His clerks thought it was a typo, but he assured them it was quite intentional. It was also very, very banal — he wasn’t showing off and he didn’t publicize his usage.
Shortly after Easterbrook issued his opinion, his quiet use of an obscure form of punctuation was spotted by a legal blog and added to the interrobang’s Wikipedia page. When Easterbrook learned this, he laughed. He said he never intended to draw attention to the interrobang. He just thought it was the right mark to use.
Jeremy Keith is a web developer, author, and musician. We talk about the history of computing and his new book Going Offline.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhaps best remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA. In 1952 her research generated a famous image that became known as Photograph 51. When the Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson saw this image, it enabled them the following year to work out that DNA has a double-helix structure, one of the most important discoveries of modern science. Watson, Crick and Franklin’s colleague Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for this achievement but Franklin did not and today many people believe that Franklin has not received enough recognition for her work.
We have special guest Jeremy Keith from ClearLeft to discuss Service Workers: what they are, how users can benefit from them, and how we implement them. Jeremy authored the book “Going Offline” which goes into glorious detail on the subject, so he’s well positioned to discuss the topic.
We talk about how using a Service Worker can beneficially impact the user experience by allowing your website to still function despite spotty or no Internet connection at all. We also delve into many practical applications of the technology.
We discuss how in-browser technologies like Service Workers allow websites to act more like “apps”, how Service Workers are installed, and how they are like a virus, a toolbox, and a duckbilled platypus at once.
Three people grapple with the question, “Are we alone?”
Peter heads to a Microsoft research centre to look at the latest in assistive technology.
The lives of blind and visually-impaired people are being transformed by technology. But where are the changes heading? Peter White is joined by YouTuber Lucy Edwards as they head to a Microsoft research centre, to get her take on life as a digital native. As a blind person, what does she want from the technology that’s around the corner?
Microsoft’s "Senior Technology Evangelist" Hector Minto explains his job title - and takes Peter and Lucy through some of the tools of their "Seeing AI" app. He addresses their questions about the current state of technology which is for, and increasingly designed by, the blind and visually impaired.
We also hear from Saqib Shaikh, who was a driving force behind Microsoft’s approach to technology for the blind and VI and from Dave Williams, who trains people to use assistive technology.
The magical world of Conelis Drebbel, inventor of the first submarine in 1621.
How did the crew of this remarkable vessel manage to breathe underwater, completely cut off from the surface, 150 years before oxygen was officially discovered?
King James I of England and thousands of his subjects lined the banks of the River Thames in London to watch the first demonstration. The strangest boat they had ever seen sank beneath the waves and stayed there for three hours.
Did Drebbel know how to make oxygen? Historian Andrew Szydlow reveals that Drebbel did have secret knowledge of how to keep the air fresh.
In his day, Drebbel was a pioneer of exploring uninhabitable places. Today’s equivalent is to make oxygen on the Moon and as scientists grapple with this ultimate challenge, Monica Grady explains their work is being used under the waves where Drebbel began.
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