Cultural differences in web design

Over at, Sabrina Cruz has a great breakdown of how web design differs between western and Japanese sites, written in support of their video on the same topic. Well researched, and they even go into details on how they collected their data. Good stuff.

While the rest of the world’s smart phone adoption began with the iPhone, Japan was years ahead – but alone. This article points out:

[Japanese cellphones had] e-mail capabilities in 1999, camera phones in 2000, third-generation networks in 2001, full music downloads in 2002, electronic payments in 2004 and digital TV in 2005.

The result was that Japan’s smart phone culture evolved separately from the rest of the world. There was less emphasis on large pictures and text was more acceptable since it had been the norm since the early days.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s fascinating to see how this sort of stuff differs in different cultures and regions. Makes you wonder what sort of further shifts in technology will influence design in the future (looking at you, Vision Pro).

Check Check

The slow train wreck that is Elon’s Twitter continues to both entertain and dismay. Damion Schubert has a solid summary of the latest mess (blue-check/verification shenanigans), and why it’s yet another example of a tone-deaf cock-up by the owner. I particularly liked this gem from his post:

The problem is that status isn’t why the blue checkmark was important . And because he didn’t understand it, now the status associated with the blue checkmark is roughly as desirable to wear as a dead fish found in the anus of a rotting skunk.

Damion Schubert, “It’s Not About Status, Elon. Only Now It Is.

Other “delightful” recent shenanigans include:

I’ve not been talking much about this tire fire lately, partly because I haven’t been blogging much at all, but also because it’s the sort of thing that you probably either a) don’t care about, or b) are already following along and are aware. But still, sometimes it’s useful just to touch base. It’s not frequent that you get to see as major a service as Twitter actively implode. It feels kind of like if you were able to get an accelerated, bird’s eye view of the fall of Rome.

More on Mastodon

Over at Ars Technica, Ben Klemens has an article diving into Mastodon and federation. It’s a good explainer if you’re curious about the standards underpinning the services.

The idea of an open web where actors use common standards to communicate is as old as, well, the web. “The dreams of the ’90s are alive in the Fediverse,” Lemmer-Webber told me.

In the late ’00s, there were more than enough siloed, incompatible networking and sharing systems like Boxee, Flickr, Brightkite,, Flux, Ma.gnolia, Windows Live, Foursquare, Facebook, and many others we loved, hated, forgot about, or wish we could forget about. Various independent efforts to standardize interoperation across silos generally coalesced into the Activity Streams v1 standard.

Both the original Activity Streams standard, and the current W3C Activity Streams 2.0 standard used by Mastodon and friends, offer a grammar for expressing things a user might do, like “create a post” or “like👍 a post with a given ID” or “request to befriend a certain user.” The vocabulary one would use with this grammar is split into its own sub-standard, the Activity Vocabulary.

Surprising no one, I’m very in favor of moving back towards decentralization, open standards, and interoperability. Getting a few more high visibility projects would be a great step in the right direction.

Now, Now

Fun little concept, the “now” page. From their about page:

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.

Maybe I should put together one of those. And of course, the name reminds me of the classic “when will then be now” scene from Spaceballs:

How to Enjoy the Internet

Via Neil Gaiman’s tumblr, Ezra at ghostonly has an excellent post explaining some simple steps you can take to get back to enjoying yourself on the internet. It’s a good list.

#4 – Learn to say, “It’s none of my business.”

Don’t understand someone’s desire to use neo pronouns? None of your business. Can’t understand why someone is a furry? None of your business. Curious about how someone who talks about being poor can have a Starbucks in that last selfie they posted? None of your damn business.


If you have genuine questions from a place of good faith (i.e. what inspired you to use neopronouns?/what do you pronouns mean to you?) Go for it. But if you’re only asking questions to draw negative attention to someone or make them feel bad or to other them, you’re just being a nosy asshole.

Minding your own business is also good for you because – and I mean this genuinely – feeling entitled and superior is fucking exhausting. I know, because I’ve been 20 before. You will have a way better time online if you just stop caring about shit that doesn’t concern you.

Go read it, I agree with the whole damn thing.

Same Old Playbook

Over at the Verge, Adi Robertson has an article calling out some of Zuckerberg’s recent comments about an “open” ecosystem for VR being wrong and misguided on multiple levels. The comments in question include such bangers as:

In PCs, I think you’d say that Windows during the ’90s and 2000s especially was really the primary ecosystem in computing. The open ecosystem was winning.

Mark Zuckerberg

Which, uh, no. Windows was not an open ecosystem. Microsoft in general wasn’t an open ecosystem. Anyone who ever had to try and open a Word document in some other tool at the time can tell you that. They’re doing a lot better these days, but that’s after both legal and economic pressure to do so.

Microsoft was so far from meaningfully open that it was almost broken up by regulators. It was so notoriously domineering that we got a whole movie about a Bill Gates stand-in who murders programmers. If anything, it’s the kind of reference point that I personally might avoid if I were fighting antitrust suits across multiple continents! To the extent Microsoft is open, it’s partly thanks to years of intense legal pressure that Meta is only beginning to face.

Adi Robertson

(I did think it was weird they called Netscape a “startup”, and that particular line I think could have been phrased better – Internet Explorer may be a joke now, but it a) wasn’t then, and b) wasn’t decades old.)

What the article (and Zuck’s comments) really drive home to me, though, is that they’re basically running by the same playbook they did for Facebook. Which is to say, talk up how things will be interoperable, encourage folks to buy in, and then once they’ve captured a good chunk of the market, close the doors. You offer enough partnerships and deals with other services that it looks like you’re playing nice with others, but at the cost of an actually open ecosystem, and at the cost of actual interoperability. The little guys get screwed first, but again, once they have enough of the market, no one is safe. It doesn’t take much — shutter an API or tweak an algorithm, and suddenly you’ve ruined the ability for others to function. (This has happened repeatedly, such as shutting off third party access so content has to be created in-house; deprioritizing/burying non-FB links to content; dictating an algorithmic pivot to prioritizing video content, then back again; charging pages to “promote” content if they want their content visible to subscribers… the list goes on and on.)

I’ve already commented on the fact that I don’t think VR is ready for widespread mainstream adoption. I do think some of the work they’ve done with the Oculus and Quest is interesting. But there’s no way in hell I want FB/Meta anywhere near the levers of control for the development of a “metaverse platform”.

Lilo and Stitch Got it Right

Over at Vulture, Bilge Ebiri has a great interview/retrospective discussing Lilo & Stitch, and what made it so good. It’s worth a read if you liked the movie, or even if you just wanted a better sense of the inside scoop of how things get made.

DeBlois: When we arrived in Florida, we knew these people because we had worked on Mulan with them. That was a difficult film to finish. There were lots of divorces and ailments that came out of that process. I remember myself working daily until well past 11 p.m., listening to people riding the Tower of Terror and poor custodians pushing around vacuum cleaners in these trailer buildings. So we made a decision. We sat down with the entire crew when we got there. We said, “Okay, here’s the deal. We have a lot less money. We have less time. But we want to figure out how we can make this movie so that everybody goes home at night to have dinner with their loved ones. Everybody gets a weekend. We’ll figure out how to make this and be happy doing it.” That became the spirit of making the film.

I still remember the first time I saw the movie – it was 2002, it was hot out, and we wanted to catch a movie since the theater would be air conditioned. I think we’d seen a trailer for it somewhere, figured it’d be cute, and so we went. I’m really glad we did.

Now, I don’t want to make it out to be some revelatory experience – it’s not going to blow your mind. But it is a remarkably well made, thoughtful, fun film. It has a lot of heart, both in the story and performance, but also in the animation and the subtle details. It wasn’t “designed by committee” and you can tell.

The Work Day Broken Down

From Melanie Curtin over at Inc: the average amount of productive work that happens at work is lower than you think.

Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.

That’s right–you’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.8 hours every day. Yet a study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers revealed that most people aren’t working for most of the time they’re at work.

Melanie Curtin

What really made me laugh is that when the “missing” time is broken down, it’s not even including stuff that is unproductive but still technically work, like being stuck in often endless meetings that often don’t really matter for half the people in them. It’s literally just other random cruft like socializing, reading news sites, et cetera. (This article reminded me of a conversation I had with an old boss. During a 1:1, I was lamenting that I felt like I should be making better use of my time. He pointed out that if you were productive for even 5.5 hours on average, you were frankly a top performer. Something I continue to try and bear in mind when I’m feeling bad about the occasional unproductive day.)

Obviously, you should make the most of the productive time you actually manage to get! But also, maybe don’t beat yourself up too much when you end up having an off day.

The Soul of the Web

Over at The Atlantic, Kaitlyn Tiffany has an article on The Battle for the Soul of the Web – a headline that may sound a little dramatic, but is touching on some important topics. The article touches on a few different topics, but a central one is about the decentralized web (DWeb), and where that both intersects and contrasts with the Web3 space. It’s an interesting topic that is worth a deeper dive if you care about online spaces at all.

Decades removed from the gonzo highs of blinging GIFs and wacky blogs, the web is now a place where many people feel exploited, manipulated, and tracked; where freedom of speech is being tugged around in a strange culture war; and where the rich get richer.

Among this set, one solution seems to be the consensus favorite. If these problems are intrinsically linked to consolidated tech giants like Meta, Google, and Amazon, why not embrace technologies that decentralize power? 

Kaitlyn Tiffany

I’ve been railing against and ranting about information silos for years, so I suppose it’s no surprise that this line of thought might be a little appealing to me. I’ve had a passing interest in the potential of technologies like IPFS for years, for instance, though it remains to be seen how things pan out, and what adoption looks like – how much broad adoption is necessary for a technology or philosophy on technology to sustain itself and become independently viable?

That said, I think they’re at least asking the questions, and that’s a good start:

Nathan Schneider, a media-studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a frequent writer on collectivism and tech, told me. “DWeb asks more,” he said, and dwells on two key questions: “What do we actually want socially, and how do we center those values in our technical designs, so the technical becomes a means to an end, rather than an end in itself?”

There’s obviously some overlap between some decentralized web efforts, and decentralized finance efforts. I hope that the former doesn’t get dragged down because of the latter (or, more specifically, the scam-filled gold-rush that congealed around DeFi in recent times). There’s lots of questions I don’t have answers to about this (perhaps others do?), like how do we make the technology useful, approachable, ubiquitous… without also making it a target for those who want to exert power and control, and exploit it? User congregation around particularly useful or interesting tools or information is inevitable, and with that, how do you prevent just making silos all over again? (Another topic that gives me a headache is how to shepherd information accuracy, and curb disinformation in a world where oversight is virtually impossible?)

The Old Days are Gone

Over on Matt on Tumblr, the head of both WordPress and Tumblr shared his thoughts on how the old, porn-y days of the internet are likely not coming back (for better or for worse).

That said, no modern internet service in 2022 can have the rules that Tumblr did in 2007. I am personally extremely libertarian in terms of what consenting adults should be able to share, and I agree with “go nuts, show nuts” in principle, but the casually porn-friendly era of the early internet is currently impossible.

Matt Mullenweg

He goes on to list some reasonably well thought out arguments as to why he feels that way. Something I appreciate is that none of the argument is a moralistic one, it comes down to practicalities. Allowing sexual expression on a platform is challenging when the financial and regulatory Powers That Be™ are definitively anti-porn. Which is pretty maddening – there’s nothing wrong with consenting adults having fun on camera, nor is there anything wrong with those consenting adults getting paid for their work (and it is work). Yet because some senior executive at Visa feels squicked by it, the entire industry is left scrambling to find ways to let people give them money.

Anyway, it’s a quick read and some decent food for thought, so go take a gander.