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September 18 2019

Denial

It started last spring. Something didn't feel right. It was exceptionally dry for weeks. We have a 3600-liter cistern for our small garden that was already empty. It would normally fill up from time to time and get us over the summer. But not that year. What started as a long period without rain, turned into an extremely hot summer and it just didn't stop.

You could see how the forest around us dried up, how the grass changed its color to a grayish yellow that reminded me of Southern Europe, but not Germany.

Then later in September 2018, we went camping in Portugal. Just a few weeks before, Portugal had been struck by a heatwave up to 46 degrees. We were lucky we missed that. We stayed at a campsite in central Portugal, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was incredibly beautiful but haunted by wasps. What looked like a nightmare, turned into a weird spectacle. The wasps sat on our legs, on our arms, and in our shoes, but they didn't sting. They besieged the front of our camper and followed us by the dozens when we went to fetch water. I've never seen anything like this before. We asked the owner of the campsite and he told us how the wasps are incredibly exhausted after the heatwave. They were licking our sweat, eating the dead flies from our camper and were attracted by anything that looked like water. They didn't have enough energy anymore to attack or hunt for themselves.

The empty cistern, dry forest, yellow grass or the exhausted wasps were by no means scientific evidence for climate change. I have no scientific background at all. They were personal triggers though. For the first time in my life, I was deeply worried by the heat and drought.

All of this was accompanied by more and more bad news from climate scientists from all over the world. Greta Thunberg started her first school strike in Stockholm. I began to read and learn more about it and I felt worse and more hopeless every day.

I thought that the summer of 2018 is a tipping point though. With the school strikes, there was a new form of attention. I was sure that from now on more people will follow and understand what's really happening and eventually enough politicians will follow as well.

But while kids and students around the world kept on striking and fighting for their future, the rest of the world seemed to move on. Like this is just another minor crisis we can shake off.

Global temperatures: 1850-2018

And yet, 2019 brought more horror scenarios. The fires in the Arctic, the Amazon, Australia, and Indonesia.

What seemed to be a crisis of the future is a crisis of today. We are right in the middle.

Let's put in a joke from Twitter to lift the mood: "Many say that this is the hottest summer in the last 100 years. But I prefer to think positive: this is probably the coolest summer in the next 100 years."

(Sorry, I can't find the source anymore)

But with all the evidence around us, why are we acting like everything will be alright? It won't be alright this time.

I've collected some of the reactions you can see and hear online and offline all the time:

  • Climate change isn't real
  • Climate change is real but will pass by
  • Climate change is real but it's exaggerated and Greta is an alarmist
  • Climate change won't affect us because …
    • … it's too far in the future
    • … we live in a pretty cool part of the world
    • … we live in a pretty wealthy part of the world
  • We will be able to fix climate change in time because …
    • … someone will invent a technical solution soon
    • … we also fixed the ozone hole
    • … politicians will fix it
    • … some god will fix it
    • … someone else will fix it
  • I can't do anything about climate change anyway because …
    • … we are just a small part of the world
    • … it has to be solved by our politicians and not by me
    • … it's too expensive
    • … I like the way I'm living right now and don't want to change
    • … it's already too late so YOLO
  • I want to do something but …
    • I don't know what to do
    • I can't afford it
    • I don't have the time
  • We are humans. We are superior to any other lifeform and we will adjust to any kind of change. Let's just buy an AC.
  • I'm quite excited to see how humanity ends

All of those reactions, wether serious or not, are just a form of denial. It's too tough to accept that our way of living is no longer working out.

I see this in myself. While being deeply worried, I'm also petrified. I don't know what to do. My commitment to change hasn't gone far enough yet. I'm part of the problem. I see my kids and want a healthy world for them. I want them to grow old without worrying. But I'm also stuck in my privileged way of living. Just one more steak, one more trip with the car, one more cheap purchase online. How bad can my impact be? After all, the system around me has to change. But that's just another excuse. I'm aware of that and I'm willing to do more than I'm currently doing. I often just feel lost.

There are no simple solutions. Radical change is hard. But it's necessary this time. This crisis won't just go away if we simply wait until all students lost their energy to protest.

The more the world around us tumbles into chaos, the more we look for simple solutions. We see those large political shifts to the right in many parts of the world. The right is very good at providing simple answers to complex problems. When they can't blame them on somebody else or pretend they don't exist, they look backward to find their solutions. "We've always done it like this. It's perfectly fine to keep on doing it that way." Trying to preserve the status quo is a human instinct. Change always carries risk. It's easy to fall for their agenda if you don't want to think or act too much yourself.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking seems to erode many parts of our society. The political center here in Germany is using the same methods less radically. Stick with the status quo as long as possible and as long as it is profitable.

I often wonder if we manage to turn around fast enough before it's too late. The clock is ticking relentlessly and there's not much time left.

Sometimes I try to imagine the future in ten years from now. What happens when each year from now on will be as hot and dry as the last years – or even worse?

Looking at Western Europe: What will happen to our agriculture? To our vegetation? To our water supplies? Can we handle all of that?

Looking at the world: What happens when the wildfires around the world return and increase every year? More CO2 will get emitted, more Methane released.

Many people say we've already reached a tipping point this year. I'm not a scientist. I cannot put all of this into a realistic perspective. Everything I read sounds like a doomsday scenario.

Is this an alarmist way of thinking? Too negative? I hope so. I wish I'll look back in ten years from now and realize that it wasn't that dramatic after all. Maybe we found a way to adjust. Maybe we started to accept reality and changed our way of living.

But there's also a good chance that we will look back at today with anger and despair and wish we weren't so ignorant back then.

It's time to wake up.

Join me at the Global Climate Strike this Friday, September 20th, 2019!
I will be taking part in Heidelberg.

September 10 2019

Simplicity (II)

Once in a while, I have to fix small issues in very old projects. Some of my client sites from more than a decade ago are still around. One could argue that they probably should have been re-launched three times since. But it's also quite nice to enter the time machine.

There are two eras of those projects: pre-built-process and and post-build-process. Whenever there's no package.json I know it's going to be a good day. Whenever there's one, Pandora is coming along the way with her fucking box.

When you ever had to fix just a few lines of CSS and it took two hours to get an ancient version of Gulp up and running, you know what I'm talking about.

Yes, I know, there's Docker and if you are a real professional you would put everything in containers. But don't ever tell me that this is making your life as easy as editing a plain HTML or CSS file.

We've come a long way as web developers. We have wonderful tools that help us optimize, prettify, test, deploy and scale our work in seconds and it's great.

Working on Kirby, we use quite a lot of those tools. We rely heavily on Git and Github, we use the Vue cli with Webpack in the background to build our Panel, PHPcs and ESlint to enforce the same coding style throughout the team, PHPUnit, Jest and Cypress.io with Travis CI to test our code, Coveralls.io to analyze our test coverage. We auto-deploy our site whenever changes are pushed to master. etc. etc.

When everything works, it feels like magic. When something breaks, it's hell.

The amount of time and knowledge that you need to have to setup such tools and services and to keep them up and running is insane.

Yes, they save a lot of time once they are working. If you don't touch them they are probably stable for a while. But I never learned to love them in all those years. It's more like a love-hate relationship, slightly tilted to hate.

There are a few major issues I have with modern web dev tooling:

Dependency Hell A - Code

I can never get over the fact that the most "simple" build process setup comes with 120 petabyte of node_modules. No matter if you want to "just" convert your Sass to CSS or optimize some images.

I have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to programming:

less code === less potential issues

This rule of thumb controls my own feelings towards a solution. It shouldn't take 120 MB of code to uglify some JS. But maybe I'm wrong.

In practice, this dependency hell has bitten me so often already that my life expectancy probably sank by 2-3 years. You want to build a JS file? Please update Webpack first. Oh, that new version of Webpack is no longer compatible with your Node version. Oh, your new Node version is no longer compatible with that other dependency. Oh, now you have 233 detected security issues in all your node_modules but you can't fix them because that would break something completely unrelated.

It's a UX nightmare and I haven't found a single exception yet. Vue Cli or Parcel are the most positive examples, where positive means: not as horrible as the rest.

This dependency hell is also the reason why old projects are almost like sealed capsules. You can hardly let a project lie around for more than a year, because afterwards it's probably broken.

Dependency Hell B - Services

How do you make money in a world of open-source projects? SaaS! It all starts nice and simple: Github free plan, Algolia free plan, Travis CI free plan, ZeitHQ free plan, Netlify free plan, Azure free plan, Firebase free plan, etc. etc.

But all of them share the same goal. They want to lure you in and then convert you to their paid plans. That's the only way for them to make money. The free plans are sponsored by their investors or the high margins of their paid plans.

When you start using services like Firebase it becomes instantly clear that you lock yourself in. The more time you invest, the harder it gets to move away from them one day. The more painful it gets if they ever shut down.

Other services are more subtle. With Github you only realize the dependency if you build your community there and it starts to grow. If you leave, you basically loose the community. With Github Actions they now try to add another layer of customer glue.

With services like Algolia it gets massively painful if you grow out of the free plan or jump to the next tier.

Netlify and Zeit have the same issue and also try to bind you with their attractive additional features that are exclusive to them.

The more you bind a project to a certain service, the harder it can backfire later. The longevity of a project is suddenly in the hand of another player and you have to play by their rules. When they decide to change the way their service works, you have to adjust to that.

The comfort that they provide comes at a high price. All those services look simple on the outside, but they all come with complex related issues and potential risks.

We love to talk about simplicity. "Simple" is probably one of the most overused words in our industry. Not only in documentation.

Is something really "simple" if you have to be an experienced developer before being able to use it?

Is something really "simple" if the best case scenario works great, but whenever it fails you are stuck for hours?

Is something really "simple" when you are cosily wrapped in an over-engineered blanket that comes at a high price once you need to unwrap yourself?

Talking about simplicity, I made the comparison on Twitter between a headphone jack and a bluetooth connection.

Modern web dev tools and services are like AirPods. It's fantastic to get rid of the cable. The experience is far better 95% of the times. But they also have connection issues from time to time, they are massively over-engineered, expensive and you can easily loose them.

Bluetooth headphones are likely the future. But I still have more love for a set of standard headphone with a regular cable and headphone jack that has been working reliably for decades.

I just have to put this over-used quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery here again:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Yes, we have new possibilities to solve problems. But sometimes it might make sense to take a step back and ask ourselves if something that has already been solved needs to be solved again – but more complex this time.

As always, such questions are very personal. It depends. If you are in a team, your priorities are completely different than for someone who works alone. Big teams have different problems than small teams. Your project might not need to be around for years or decades etc.

It's important though to reflect on what we are doing. It's as important to reflect what affects the user. They don't care about our issues behind the curtains.

When we talk about the time that modern tools save us, we also need to be honest. How much time do they save us today and how much time might they cost us later?

I personally try to take such time-machine rides as lessons.

We face the same problems with Kirby. We try to keep it "simple" but is it really simple? What are the true obstacles for beginners. What are the pain points for our users when something breaks? How can we take care of such situations and make sure nobody gets stuck for hours? And what happens when you need to maintain a Kirby site in 5 or 10 years from now? Can we somehow help to make this easy? Is it even made to last that long? How can we avoid that our users are locked in? Etc.

All those questions are important to me, because they are the qualities that I appreciate in software myself.

I wrote about simplicity in a similar fashion five years ago. That's why this article is called Simplicity (II). This topic never really gets old to me as it seems :) http://bastianallgeier.com/notes/simplicity

May 17 2019

Back from the dead

I killed my personal site in May 2018.

It was the GDPR month of horror. Dozens of old clients approached me to help them get their privacy policies online. I was knee-deep into getting our own privacy policy for Kirby ready with our lawyer and everything just felt like shit.

Instead of caring for my own site, I simply switched it off. I set up a redirect to the Kirby website, but later the SSL certificate expired and I couldn't even be bothered to fix that.

It's kind of ironic, when you are working full-time on a content management system and you talk about the IndieWeb for years, but at the same time you can't even get your shit together and run your own website.

Looking back, my dead website was a reflection of how I felt about my profession. It was a low point in my career. I was extremely frustrated by the state of the web. The work for Kirby 3 was absolutely overwhelming. It should have launched by then already. Everything felt exhausting and broken. The GDPR chaos was just the final cut.

Killing it was almost like taking a break from the web. For the longest time I felt lost afterwards. The work on Kirby kept me up and I'm glad about that. But the digital loneliness that Tobias describes in his article was all around me.

Fast-forward to today: This week, I attended beyond tellerrand. This conference has always played a big part in my career. It gave me the necessary push in the right direction so many times before. I can't exactly say what it is. It's not a particular talk or topic or conversation. It's the sum of all of that.

Maybe it's just me, but there was a special mood in the crowd this time. More cheering when speakers entered the stage. More clapping after each talk. I don't really know. Maybe I'm just projecting here.

At the very end, Tantek entered the stage and spoke about taking back the web. There were no surprises in this talk. He summarized the catastrophic situation of the social web and introduced IndieWeb ideas as a possible solution. And yet, this talk gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

There's a pretty clear message in my head since then: the web is not lost. The friendships are not lost. The positivity and excitement that we once all had is not lost. It's time for a new beginning.

May 20 2018

8420 c7bb 390

vintageclassiccars:

1972 Citroen SM, design by Frua,

May 17 2018

May 14 2018

6066 a77d 390

May 02 2018

6079 0c15 390

petroliciousco:

Damn lady, you fair 😘 • 📷: @oli.coulthard • #DriveTastefully — view on Instagram https://petro.li/2jk7LRp

April 23 2018

6091 1f8a 390

vintageclassiccars:

In 1966 Pininfarina designed the Ferrari 365 California - glorious.

April 13 2018

6112 dcea 390

April 12 2018

6150 ce4b 390

leahberman:

moss light

Kings River, California

instagram

April 10 2018

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thisobscuredesireforbeauty:

Wohlstand (Prosperity), Reader’s Digest, 1964.
Source

April 09 2018

6209 6786
6230 4a4b 390

vintageclassiccars:

BMW M1 / built by Lamborghini - yep.

6276 58be 390

sisterwolf:

Oooh.

April 05 2018

April 04 2018

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icecreamsandwichcomics:

And at this point I’m too afraid to ask

Full Image - Twitter - Bonus - YouTube

March 23 2018

6338 007c 390

rcky:

same

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March 15 2018

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