Dan Q found GC5MYFN 01 It’s a Bugs Life x2

This checkin to GC5MYFN 01 It's a Bugs Life x2 reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Some fellow volunteers and I are on an “away weekend” in the forest; this morning before our first meeting I lead a quick expedition of both established and first-timer geocachers around a few of the local caches.

Passed another couple of ‘cachers on the way from GC840TN, but it sounded like they’d been having less luck than us this morning. Coordinates spot on; dropped me right on top of the cache and I was familiar with this kind of container so I picked it up as soon as I got there – quick and easy find, and our last for the morning! TFTC.

Map of 52.420517,0.86445

Dan Q found GC840TN Georassic Diplodocus

This checkin to GC840TN Georassic Diplodocus reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Some fellow volunteers and I are on an “away weekend” in the forest; this morning before our first meeting I lead a quick expedition of both established and first-timer geocachers around a few of the local caches.

Coordinates didn’t put us very close: perhaps because of tree cover interfering with the GPSr; we needed to decipher the hint. The hint was good, though, and I went straight to the dino’s hiding place, trampled past a few fresh nettles, and retreived it. Excellent caches; we loved these!

Map of 52.42,0.8682

Dan Q found GC5MYFW 02 It’s a Bugs Life x2

This checkin to GC5MYFW 02 It's a Bugs Life x2 reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Some fellow volunteers and I are on an “away weekend” in the forest; this morning before our first meeting I lead Ga quick expedition of both established and first-timer geocachers around a few of the local caches.

Geoff pounced right onto this one, stunning some of our less-experienced ‘cachers who’d never considered the possibility of a container like this!

Map of 52.420083,0.871617

Dan Q found GC3JG9P Georassic – Stegosaurus

This checkin to GC3JG9P Georassic - Stegosaurus reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Some fellow volunteers and I are on an “away weekend” in the forest; this morning before our first meeting I lead a quick expedition of both established and first-timer geocachers around a few of the local caches.

Our tagalong 5-year-old and 2-year-old co-found this one; they were pretty much an ideal size to get to the GZ. This was the last of the three caches they attended; they went back to their cabin after this but most of the adults carried on.

Map of 52.418433,0.873267

Dan Q found GC840T0 Georassic Parasaurolophus

This checkin to GC840T0 Georassic Parasaurolophus reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Some fellow volunteers and I are on an “away weekend” in the forest; this morning before our first meeting I lead a quick expedition of both established and first-timer geocachers around a few of the local caches.

So THAT is what a Parasaurolophus looks like! Swiftly found by our tame 5 year-old, who was especially delighted to pull a dinosaur out of its hiding place.

Map of 52.417917,0.8694

Dan Q found GC3JG92 Georassic – Spinosaurus

This checkin to GC3JG92 Georassic - Spinosaurus reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Some fellow volunteers and I are on an “away weekend” in the forest; this morning before our first meeting I lead a quick expedition of both established and first-timer geocachers around a few of the local caches.

After a bit of an extended hunt (this dino was well-hidden!) we found this first container; delighted by the theming of this series; FP awarded here for the ones we found.

Map of 52.417733,0.8651

My TED Video on the Future of Work

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

I was thrilled to participate in TED’s new video series, The Way We Work, and not surprisingly I made the case that distributed work is where everything is headed.

Like Automattic (Matt’s company), Three Rings has also long been ahead of the curve from a “recruit talent from wherever it is, let people work from wherever they are” perspective. Until I was recently reading (more than I had previously) about the way that Automattic “works” I was uncertain about the scalability of Three Rings’ model. Does it work for a commercial company (rather than a volunteer-run non-profit like Three Rings)? Does it work when you make the jump from dozens of staff to hundreds? It’s reassuring to see that yes, this kind of approach certainly can work, and to get some context on how it does (in Automattic’s case, at least). Nice video, Matt!

Programming is just solving puzzles

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

‘Programming is just solving puzzles’ – Nominet (Nominet)

As a child, I wanted to be a botanical researcher. I loved being outdoors and used to visit the botanical gardens near my house all the time. My grandma inspired me to change my mind and helped me get interested in science. She lived in the country and we would look at the stars together,…

Ruth Trevor-Allen

As a child, I wanted to be a botanical researcher. I loved being outdoors and used to visit the botanical gardens near my house all the time. My grandma inspired me to change my mind and helped me get interested in science. She lived in the country and we would look at the stars together, which led to an early fascination in astronomy.

Unusually for the era, both my grandmothers had worked in science: one as a lab technician and one as a researcher in speech therapy. I have two brothers, but neither went into technology as a career. My mum was a vicar and my dad looked after us kids, although he had been a maths teacher.

My aptitude for science and maths led me to study physics at university, but I didn’t enjoy it, and switched to software engineering after the first year. As soon as I did my first bit of programming, I knew this was what I had been looking for. I like solving problems and building stuff that works, and programming gave me the opportunity to do both. It was my little eureka moment.

Wise words from my partner on her workplace’s blog as part of a series of pieces they’re doing on women in technology. Plus, a nice plug for Three Rings there (thanks, love!).

Dan Q found GC1H3PK Keep On Mooving

This checkin to GC1H3PK Keep On Mooving reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Some fellow volunteers and I were staying at nearby Wroxall Abbey following our Christmas party this weekend and I took the opportunity to walk out here between breakfast and check-out to hunt for this cache. Passing GC5RZB4 (and a herd of cows) on the way I was soon able to spot the tell-tale signs of a cache hiding place and soon had the container in my hand.

I love to see a good location with a week maintained cache; nice work CO, and TFTC!

Map of 52.33565,-1.6792

Dan Q found GC7Q7FN Church Micro 11881…Lane End

This checkin to GC7Q7FN Church Micro 11881...Lane End reflects a geocaching.com log entry. See more of Dan's cache logs.

Staying at the conference centre down the road I got up early this morning to come out and find this cache before breakfast. After a little while struggling to make out the letters on the gravestone in the dim November morning light I was eventually able to find the cache. Don’t understand the checksum, though! SL, TFTC.

Map of 51.617483,-0.8376

Christmas Cheer with Bytemark

For the last eight winters, we at Three Rings have sent out Christmas cards – and sometimes mugs! – to our clients (and to special friends of the project). The first of these was something I knocked up in Photoshop in under an hour, but we’ve since expanded into having an official “company artist” in the form of our friend Ele who each year takes the ideas that the Three Rings volunteer team have come up with and adapts them into a stunning original design that we’re proud to show off to our clients.

Three Rings' 2009 Christmas card
Our first Christmas card, in 2009, was knocked-up quickly and printed only a couple of days before the Christmas posting deadline, but it kicked-off a tradition that’s grown every year since.

This year’s card is still winging its way to some of our more-distant customers, as Three Rings is used in six countries, and so it doesn’t yet appear on our gallery of previous cards. But here’s a sneak peek:

Three Rings' 2017 Christmas card
Last week, I helped stuff a little under 400 of these into envelopes and put stamps on them all for delivery to our UK customers. (Our international customers needed slightly more-careful attention.)

For most of Three Rings life, our server’s been hosted by the awesome folks at Bytemark. We had a brief dalliance with Amazon Web Services for a while but had a seriously unsatisfying experience and we eventually came crawling back to Bytemark (complete with a conveniently-timed Valentines’ Day message expressing our love for them and our apologies for our mistake). What I’m saying is that we’ve made a habit of sending seasonal greetings to our buddies at Bytemark – and this Christmas was no different – but what surprised us was what we received from them this year:

Christmas card - and cake! - from Bytemark.
Bytemark sent us not only a Christmas card but a fancy-looking fruitcake! Thanks, Bytemark!

Not only did Bytemark send us a delightful Christmas card (with a pixel-art picture of Sana literally burning the logs) but they included a fabulous-looking fruitcake. Thanks for bringing a little bit of extra cheer to our Christmas, Bytemark!

Tomorrow’s Web, Today

Maybe it’s because I was at Render Conf at the end of last month or perhaps it’s because Three Rings DevCamp – which always gets me inspired – was earlier this month, but I’ve been particularly excited lately to get the chance to play with some of the more “cutting edge” (or at least, relatively-new) web technologies that are appearing on the horizon. It feels like the Web is having a bit of a renaissance of development, spearheaded by the fact that it’s no longer Microsoft that are holding development back (but increasingly Apple) and, perhaps for the first time, the fact that the W3C are churning out standards “ahead” of where the browser vendors are managing to implement technical features, rather than simply reflecting what’s already happening in the world.

Ben Foxall at Render Conf 2017 discusses the accompanying JSOxford Hackathon.
Ben Foxall at Render Conf 2017 discusses the accompanying JSOxford Hackathon. Hey, who’s that near the top-right?

It seems to me that HTML5 may well be the final version of HTML. Rather than making grand new releases to the core technology, we’re now – at last! – in a position where it’s possible to iteratively add new techniques in a resilient, progressive manner. We don’t need “HTML6” to deliver us any particular new feature, because the modern web is more-modular and is capable of having additional features bolted on. We’re in a world where browser detection has been replaced with feature detection, to the extent that you can even do non-hacky feature detection in pure CSS, now, and this (thanks to the nature of the Web as a loosely-coupled, resilient platform) means that it’s genuinely possible to progressively-enhance content and get on board with each hot new technology that comes along, if you want, while still delivering content to users on older browsers.

And that’s the dream! A web of progressive-enhancement stays true to Sir Tim’s dream of universal interoperability while still moving forward technologically. I’ve no doubt that there’ll always be people who want to break the Web – even Google do it, sometimes – with single-page Javascript-only web apps, “app shell” websites, mobile-only or desktop-only experiences and “apps” that really ought to have been websites (and perhaps PWAs) to begin with… but the fact that the tools to make a genuinely “progressively-enhanced” web, and those tools are mainstream, is a big deal. If you don’t think we’re at that point yet, I invite you to watch Rachel Andrews‘ fantastic presentation, “Start Using CSS Grid Layout Today”.

Three Rings DevCamp 2017
Three Rings’ developers hard at work at this year’s DevCamp.

Some of the things I’ve been playing with recently include:

Intersection Observers

Only really supported in Chrome, but there’s a great polyfill, the Intersection Observer API is one of those technologies that make you say “why didn’t we have that already?” It’s very simple: all an Intersection Observer does is to provide event hooks for target objects entering or leaving the viewport, without resorting to polling or hacky code on scroll event captures.

Intersection Observer example (animated GIF)

What’s it for? Well the single most-obvious use case is lazy-loading images, a-la Medium or Google Image Search: delivering users a placeholder image or a low-resolution copy until they scroll far enough for the image to come into view (or almost into view) and then downloading the full-resolution version and dynamically replacing it. My first foray into Intersection Observers was to take Medium’s approach and then improve it with a Service Worker in order to make it behave nicely even if the user’s Internet connection was unreliable, but I’ve since applied it to my Reddit browser plugin MegaMegaMonitor: rather than hammering the browser with Javascript the plugin now waits until relevant content enters the viewport before performing resource-intensive tasks.

Web Workers

I’d briefly played with Service Workers before and indeed we’re adding a Service Worker to the next version of Three Rings, which, in conjunction with a manifest.json and the service’s (ongoing) delivery over HTTPS (over H2, where available, since last year), technically makes it a Progressive Web App… and I’ve been looking for opportunities to make use of Service Workers elsewhere in my work, too… but my first dive in to Web Workers was in introducing one to the next upcoming version of MegaMegaMonitor.

MegaMegaMonitor v155a Lists feature
MegaMegaMonitor’s processor-intensive “Lists” feature sees the most benefit from Web Workers

Web Workers add true multithreading to Javascript, and in the case of MegaMegaMonitor this means the possibility of pushing the more-intensive work that the plugin has to do out of the main thread and into the background, allowing the user to enjoy an uninterrupted browsing experience while the heavy-lifting goes on in the background. Because I don’t control the domain on which this Web Worker runs (it’s reddit.com, of course!), I’ve also had the opportunity to play with Blobs, which provided a convenient way for me to inject Worker code onto somebody else’s website from within a userscript. This has also lead me to the discovery that it ought to be possible to implement userscripts that inject Service Workers onto websites, which could be used to mashup additional functionality into websites far in advance of that which is typically possible with a userscript… more on that if I get around to implementing such a thing.

Fetch

The final of the new technologies I’ve been playing with this month is the Fetch API. I’m not pulling any punches when I say that the Fetch API is exactly what XMLHttpRequests should have been from the very beginning. Understanding them properly has finally given me the confidence to stop using jQuery for the one thing for which I always seemed to have had to depend on it for – that is, simplifying Ajax requests! I mean, look at this elegant code:

fetch('posts.json')
.then(function(response) {
  return response.json();
})
.then(function(json) {
  console.log(json.something.otherThing);
});

Whether or not you’re a fan of Javascript, you’ve got to admit that that’s infinitely more readable than XMLHttpRequest hackery (at least, without the help of a heavyweight library like jQuery).

Laser Duck Hunt at Render Conf 2017
Other things I’ve been up to include Laser Duck Hunt, but that’s another story.

So that’s some of the stuff I’ve been playing with lately: Intersection Observers, Web Workers, Blobs, and the Fetch API. And I feel all full of optimism on behalf of the Web.