A huge thanks to MobX for their support of this weeks podcast.
MOBX is a Mobile User Experience Conference. It's running in Berlin this year on the 11th of September, 2015 and you can head over to 2015.MOBXcon.com. It's all about mobile interactions, designing for small screens, designing for smart devices and dumb phones as well. It's mainly targeted around user experience and user interface design but anyone would find it useful to attend.
Justin Avery: Hey everyone, and welcome to Episode 41 of the Responsive Design Podcast. My name is Justin Avery. I'm your host and the curator of the Responsive Design Weekly Newsletter, a newsletter all about responsive design and things happening in the web. This week we're sponsored by Mob X Conference, which is a mobile user experience conference. It is running on the 11th of September this year and it is in Berlin. If you go along to 2015.mobxcon.com, the link will be in the show tonight so you can go and check out the... It's a really cool conference. They've got all the videos up from the past years so you can see what they were like.
They've got some really good speakers this year and also some kind of randoms. I, myself, are a random speaker, but I'm very, very honored to be making my way to Berlin, it's my first time there. And speaking in front of the audience. The venue looks absolutely amazing. And they've got a really cool line-up. The, I'm fortunate that I'm actually making it on stage before two of my, I'll say heroes, my web heroes, which is Brad Frost coming on after me. He is an awesome speaker. He'll be talking all about atomic design and he's just released a new website called death to bull crap, but crap is the more swear-y version of it, but I won't swear on this podcast, cause then I have to write it as a nasty podcast.
Also, Stephen Hay is speaking as well. I've seen Stephen speak a couple of times and he's absolutely magnificent. I'm really looking forward to seeing those two speak, and the other speakers and to catch up with them again. Thank you to Mob X for sponsoring this week's podcast. Speaking of Stephen Haye as well, he runs his own conference and he actually does it in conjunction with this week's guest, so let's welcome along PPK, welcome.
Peter Paul Koch Hello, thank you.
Justin Avery: How are you doing today?
Peter Paul Koch I'm doing fine, I'm doing fine. I'm just sitting in my office, you know, staring at the screen at your photograph. We're going to talk about cool web-y stuff, so that's nice.
Justin Avery: That's good. I'm glad I got to put a photograph up and we're not doing the video thing. I like putting up early photographs, it masks the age.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, yeah. I'm still using a photograph of four or five years ago.
Justin Avery: It's the stress lines of the web that are starting to imprint themselves as the number of browsers
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, I've got the same problem.
Justin Avery: I just said Stephen is going to be speaking and we're looking forward to seeing him do it again. But, you guys run a conference yourselves, right?
Peter Paul Koch Yes we do, yes we do. We run several conferences in fact. We used to do a conference called Mobil ism, but we stopped this year. But, what's coming up in November, 13th of November is Design Day, which is all about graphic and inter directional design for the web or [inaudible 00:03:03] as we call it nowadays. Stephen is actually two speakers there. Last year he did a terrific job, so I'm very glad he's going to do it again. It's going to be in Amsterdam, it's going to be a one day conference on 13th of November. You can find all of the information on, Design Day is spelled wrong, D-S-G-N-D-A-Y.NL. I hope you'll put it in the show (notes).
Justin Avery: We'll put it in the show (notes). Basically, design, short of vowels.
Peter Paul Koch That's a complicated back story, but I'm not going to read it.
Justin Avery: That's awesome. There's a few things happening in Amsterdam at the moment. It seems to be a hub of a lot of web activity. I know booking.com is basing a lot of their user and interaction design out of there as well.
Peter Paul Koch Well it's an Amsterdam company originally, it was started by a guy from here. In fact I think actually that their very first office was in a street where my great grandfather had his house in Amsterdam.
Justin Avery: Wow.
Peter Paul Koch I've never really become totally sure of that place. No, actually it has been an Amsterdam company for ages and they're trying to get people that around here, yeah sure. There's plenty of things going on here. You know that's always the problem when you compare Europe to the U. S. in terms of start ups and stuff and cool companies. You're a bit also scattered. There's lots going on, in London of course, and Berlin, and Amsterdam, and Stockholm, and Paris, and Dusseldorf in Germany and a few other cities. But, you know, in the U. S. It's much more concentrated in San Francisco, of course, and the Silicon Valley and, to a lesser extent I believe, in New York. I'm always wondering if that's not the better model for start ups and stuff like that.
Justin Avery: Put everyone into one place.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah. Because you know then all of the people are together in the same city and they can help each other out and so on. It's more difficult in Europe I find sometimes.
Justin Avery: Provided, as long as people are helping each other out. I think the industry itself, like I would, ourselves, we're very quick to share and help people out. I wonder when you take the step up to the people who actually own the companies or the start ups themselves whether or not they're a little bit more cards to the chest, do you think? Or, do you think they're equally open?
Peter Paul Koch To be honest, I don't know. I've never [inaudible 00:05:35] myself. Their business lines and stuff like that, they are, those are of course secrets. In terms of technology, not so much unless of course it's totally vital and they make major innovation. It's just web people. It's fine, it's fine, they share, that's not a problem.
Justin Avery: Even people like Facebook, I haven't read it, I've got it open and I'll put it in the newsletter this week, but they're sharing all of the information about how to cache better with the HP and how to just improve your caching rate.
Peter Paul Koch Well, exactly. So, we'll do it and that's what makes the web so interesting.
Justin Avery: Indeed, indeed. Speaking of the web, how did you get involved with the web?
Peter Paul Koch It was a long time ago. I became aware, not of the web, but of the internet back in 1988. I didn't really understand it back then. But was, back then I had a room mate who was into computers, which was still special at that time. One day he took me to the faculty of technology here at the University in Amsterdam because they had a special room there. In that room you could connect to the internet. That was something really, really special in those days. We used to play multi player games over the internet basically. I had to type in something like, telnet to a certain IP address, I had no clue what an IP address was. Then I came into this wonderful world where there was stuff and it could kill monsters and things like that. That was the internet. Later on, I studied history and especially the later Roman Empire, so if you have any questions on that I'll be happy to take them.
I couldn't find a job as a history teacher. Then at a certain point, it was in 1997, then I could go on a course that would make me an internet advisor. I still don't know what that is, but it seemed kind of cool back then.
Justin Avery: It's a good one for the business card, surely.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, yeah, oh absolutely, absolutely. Nobody could tell us what an internet advisor was. In any case, I decided to go into front end development because on the 3rd or 4th day of the course, I found out that things look slightly different in different browsers. Then I thought, hey, what shall I do about that? One thing led to the other and I started doing front end work and I started to study browsers.
Justin Avery: What year was that you were looking at getting into the front end, I suppose if it was I.E. and Netscape...
Peter Paul Koch It was I.E. 3 and Netscape 3, I think. Netscape 4 had just come out, so probably 1997 definitely. Then, in '98 I got an internship and in '99 I started to work at a website creation company.
Justin Avery: Did you continue to follow down just the technical side of the CSS and HTML rather than dipping into the design area of things?
Peter Paul Koch Yes, I was a technical guy. I'm not a designer at all. I never, I mean if I want a design, I hire a competent web designer and go out of his way and just let him do the graphic design. No, I'm totally a tech-y.
Justin Avery: Over the years and more recently, probably, definitely within the last 4 or 5 years, I became more and more aware of QuirksMode, which is the website that you run, the QuirksMode.org. How did that start? When did you kick off that? When did you realize that was something that was really being paid attention to and anything written there was a big talking point?
Peter Paul Koch It appeared gradually, you know. I did my first real serious compatibility table back in 2000, I think. It was about a W3C Dom which back then was pretty new and you had all kinds of browsers that make all kinds of mistakes. I just thought, now I'm going to sit down and I'm just going to test everything, and I'm going to write down what I find and then put it online. Well, that's cool. I had a few hundred readers and they would like it. Then gradually that started to snowball and there came more and more links to my sites and I did more and more research and, to be honest, there was never a strategy or anything. Just me doing stuff and other people liking it. Of course I was one of the earlier ones.
Back in those days it was much easier to get noticed because there were just fewer people around doing this kind of stuff. It was a bit of luck as well. I find that I still have something interesting to say, so I will continue. I don't know until when, but for the moment I will definitely continue.
Justin Avery: That's good to hear. As your readership grew, did you start second guessing yourself? Were you worried about what you were going to put up there, or anything like that? The reason I ask is that I do get a few listeners and readers of the newsletter that are always a bit down on themselves to say, well I don't want to write that because what if I'm wrong? Or, I don't want to write that because someone else has already said it.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, I'm always terrified of being wrong. I mean, when you do technical research especially in topics I haven't really been researched yet, then there's a good chance that you are going to be wrong. Fortunately, I've so far, I've only been wrong in fairly small things, more like details from the big overview. I'm, I mean, if you think you could be wrong, that means that you are doing your work right. I mean it's actually the person who thinks that he's absolutely right that is the real danger. I mean it's more like, if you think you could be wrong, you have a healthy sense of perspective and you do your utmost to make sure that your research is correct.
That makes it more reliable. Actually I think that it's a good thing that I'm afraid of being wrong. The second thing you asked, I forget.
Justin Avery: No, it was just about, if someone's already covered the same topic.
Peter Paul Koch Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, that's something else. Back in the day I was always fairly certain that nobody had because I followed all the web-y blogs and stuff, but nowadays it's impossible to know. I mean, it could be that I present a conclusion and then I find out that some library author has found out the same 3 years ago and has already written a library and basically solved the problem already, that happens, yes it does. But you know that's too something that is inevitable. You just have to try. At least I want to try and I advise all people who hear this to also try because if you don't try anything, you will never get anywhere.
Justin Avery: That's very, very good advice. I also like the fact that if I were to have written something, let's just say if you wrote something cause the chances are you'd write it before me, but if you were to write something and I was to write something on the same topic, we're going to have different opinions, I will focus on something slightly different. I'll probably have a different idea or a different take on a problem and therefore the people reading it will then have 2 different points of view from which they can draw their own conclusions.
I never think it's really, people aren't really doubling up on stuff. They're just providing a different view. This also would never happen, but if I write something and you re-wrote it, the chances are your explanation is going to be a bit better.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, that's how we practice. I've been expecting things a lot of things in the past. What is it, 15 years or so. But, I mean, what you say is correct except that when it comes to purely technical matters does x support feature y, it's not so much of an opinion, it's more of a fact. If you just repeat somebody else's research, I do that, by the way. From time to time I find some research and I think, okay this is kind of cool. But they didn't think of this and I disagree with this slant the research is taking, so I do my own anyway. Besides, that's what I'm used to. I mean, by now I don't, I trust very few people when they say that browser x does this or that. I always want to see for myself. But that's just me because I've been used to browsers for such a long time.
Justin Avery: That's fair enough, that's fair enough. You've, you also aside from writing on QuirkMode, you write, you've contributed to a few books and then also written one. The most recent would be, was it the "Mobile Web Handbook"?
Peter Paul Koch It was the "Mobile Web Handbook" by Smashing Magazine Publishing. Yeah, I like that because it basically, it closed off a chapter for me. I started with the mobile web in early 2009 when somebody at Photo Foam invited me to come to Dusseldorf in Germany because they were working with mobile browsers. And hey, what do you know, they found there are differences between browsers. They thought, okay, we will have a specialist. I went there and they had 2 cupboards full of mobile phones. They said to me, okay you can test them all as far as we're concerned. I didn't actually do that. But, it gave me a leg up in the whole mobile web business.
Especially since, I think it was about a year in advance of the rest of the air web developments. I have no clue how I got on this tangent.
Justin Avery: We were talking about the mobile web book. You're saying it closed a chapter in your life.
Peter Paul Koch Absolutely. Basically I started studying and pretty soon I found out that there were 2 areas where the mobile web is really different from the desk top web. One is the events on the mobile web, touch events and certain events like mouse over a mouse don't work because we don't have a mouse on the touch screen. The other topic was the view boards. Basically a mobile screen is much smaller than a desk top screen and nowadays, of course, we have [inaudible 00:16:21] to take care of that. Back in the day when this all started there were no mobile [inaudible 00:16:27] sites yet. But still, mobile browsers had to do something with desk top websites and make them somehow readable on a tiny mobile device.
Those were the two main areas I focused on almost from the beginning. The mobile web handbook gave me an opportunity to, not quite close off those chapters, but to write down my conclusions. To say, okay, I think it's like this and like that. These are the technical details you need to know, and these are more like the philosophical questions you have to ask yourself. Such as, do we really need separate events for touch and for mouse, or can we, as Microsoft is doing, say okay we should merge those into pointer events. Quite apart from technical details, this is also a big philosophical question that we have to ask ourselves.
The Mobile Web Handbook allowed me to wrap up all the stuff and basically draw conclusions. I liked writing that book a lot although, of course, it was hard work. Writing a book is very hard work. Especially if somebody is listening now and is thinking of writing a book or maybe has tried to write a book, the first chapter you produce will always be crap. I mean, you're just trying out okay, so which voice am I going to use? What kind of technical detail am I going to give? And how to build up the whole book, and there's this chapter and you will make mistakes. Especially in the early parts. I mean, I wrote the chapter on view boards first for the Mobile Web Handbook, basically because I promised somebody else to do the research and also because it was the most complicated subject. I wrote that and I put it away. I continued with the rest of the book.
At the end, when I had written all of the chapters, I went back to the view board chapters and I thought, oh my God, did I write this? This is awful. I had to completely re-write it from scratch. But, that's okay. That's part of an experience of writing a book. In small part, that's also part of the experience of writing a blog post because it's been often, especially in my major blog post, I just start writing and at that point in time my whole concern is to get everything I want to say in to one single text file.
Then I like to leave it for a couple of days, do something completely different, re-read it and completely re-write it. I think that's pretty normal for writers. I mean I'm not really a writer. I'm written 2 books and a bunch of blog posts, that's all. But, again, if anyone thinks, oh should I write this down, it may not be so interesting, and I can't write anyway, re-write.
Justin Avery: Definitely write it. And also the other thing I always find is that write enough. Don't just write a sentence. Write a few sentences, a paragraph if you don't have time, or a couple of paragraphs. Just write enough for the reason you're writing it, the possible solution you've got or your philosophical idea. When you re-read it, one sentence makes no sense.
Peter Paul Koch True, true, true. Sometimes I make notes. Sometimes I make one sentence notes. Then, a month later I come back and say, what? I have no clue what I'm talking about. Yes, that's very true.
Justin Avery: No context.
Peter Paul Koch That's why I always try to write an article. Even though I know that the order of it is wrong and I will probably be some details that I will leave out and some other details that I will have to get in, etc., etc, but try to write a full article and then leave it for a couple of days or a week. Then, just re-write the entire thing. Don't think you're going to edit it. You're not going to edit it. You're going to re-write and that's absolutely[inaudible 00:20:20]
Justin Avery: What was I going to say next? I've got a couple of questions on it. Looking at this whole, cause you wrote about the mobile web, and then there's also the mobile native area as well. There's always the argument of native versus website. Today I was sitting in the kitchen where I work and I could over hear a project manager talking to an account manager, saying it's only a conference website. People are only going to view it at the conference, so they'll only be on mobile and we want them to be able to download it, so you should build a native app for it.
I was just swearing under my breath. Just walked out and re-addressed the situation later. But there is a whole native versus web kind of thing. What's your outlook on that whole argument or debate?
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, this is tricky. I mean I'm currently thinking a lot about the web and how I think it has gone wrong in response to native. We used to have, back 4 or 5 years ago, you used to have a native versus web debate as if, okay we want to build product x, do we go native or do we go web? Back then it was simplistic and saying, okay native can do this and web can do that. I mean it's all true, it's not as if it's wrong or anything. But I think, I think it's misleading the issue in some kind of sense. Unfortunately because I'm not yet done thinking, I can't exactly put my finger on what' wrong here.
But the interesting thing you saw is that you have this native versus web discussion and it died out. Nobody was interested anymore. In the last, I don't know, 3 or 4 months or so, you see a resurgence of that question. Everybody is talking about it and what we should consider as web developers is that native is just something different from the web. I don't just mean technically different, but maybe, maybe even philosophically different. I mean what we have in here, it's not a simple question of should we use a native or should we use a website? It's more, it's very hard to explain.
Because I don't know what I'm talking about myself. It's, I think it's the wrong question. And not because native and web are one, because they're not, they're different. But, because we shouldn't ask ourselves that question. I'm hoping that in the not too distant future, we can once we conceive a project, we immediately understand whether to go to a native app or to a website. The thing that's fueling native versus web right now is the web's attempt to emulate native, as far as I'm concerned. What I think I've seen is, that back in the days when native started, web developers and the browser makers and everybody else in the web Eco system said, yeah we can do that too.
I mean I was exactly the same. I said exactly the same. And I said, okay, we as web developers can definitely make a web app, website, or if you want to call it, that's as good as native. I don't believe that anymore. I do not believe that in terms of smooth user experience, the web will ever be able to compete with native. But of course, not every single project needs a smooth user experience. If it's just a survey, why make a native app just create a website. In the case of your conference thing, I mean, I should definitely say it should be a website because, you know, people will have to buy tickets, for instance to the conference with their mobile device.
Justin Avery: Yes, absolutely. People are going to want to look at the conference before from work. They're probably on a lap top. I take a lap top to every conference I attend and I spend time writing on it and I check the schedule. It's a big no brainer on that side of things.
Peter Paul Koch I think that the native versus web debate currently is being fueled by the desire of web developers to emulate native and to keep the narrative in being that the web can be as good as native. I don't believe that anymore.
Justin Avery: Part of the Mobile Web Book, by the way, if anyone hasn't got it, go to the Smashing Bookshop, or Shop.smashing, go pick up a... I've got a physical copy, I love it. It's very well hard bound. It's beautifully done. But it's also an excellent read, so thank you for writing that. In it you talk a lot about different browsers on different phones as well. I was lucky to see you in Dusseldorf at Mark's BT Conf, The Beyond Tellerrand, which is a fantastic conference. You spoke about Chromia and Chromium like the different flavors of chrome and why the appear on different devices. One of the reasons behind it, I think you mentioned in the book, and I'm not sure if you mentioned during the talk, was around the money that you could get for adding your search engine as the default search engine for that browser.
Is that, I'm sure, I just want to make sure I didn't take it out of context. I think whether the, I was speaking to a friend of mine who works for a company who builds native apps. They build gaming apps. When we discuss different business ideas as you do, just lazing around at the pub over a beer, this would be a good idea, that would be a good idea. I'm always like, oh we should build it on a website and he always is like, it's too hard to monetize that way. The discoverabililty and the monetization of native apps is far easier to make money through. It's interesting whether or not more effort goes into the native side of things, or you have more of these start ups that are creating things that slide down the native side of things because it is easier to monetize.
Peter Paul Koch It's easier, but it's not easy. At least, I must admit that I haven't studied native monetization for awhile. But back when I did, I found out that, basically, it was not possible for somebody whose apps are downloaded in average time to actually make a living out of creating native apps. I mean, this is the real thing, do you play games?
Justin Avery: On occasion. More before I became a dad, but a little bit.
Peter Paul Koch I mean, did you ever spend say 30, 40, 50 pounds on a computer game?
Justin Avery: Yes. A long, a very long time ago.
Peter Paul Koch Sure, but you did.
Justin Avery: Yes, absolutely.
Peter Paul Koch That was normal, wasn't it?
Justin Avery: Yes.[crosstalk 00:28:04]
Peter Paul Koch Okay, did you ever spend so much money on a board game, a physical board game?
Justin Avery: Yeah, probably not as much. Probably half the price, like a Trivial Pursuit would have been half the price.
Peter Paul Koch Yes, something like that. Now, if we start looking at native apps, did you ever spend 20, 30 pounds for a native app?
Justin Avery: Yeah, I, the most expensive, I've bought 2 apps which have been quite expensive. One is the Tom Tom app and the other is the Omni Focus app. Both of which I was bitter about spending, I think 19.95, so 20 pounds on. They're the only ones I've ever spent more than 2 pounds on.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, exactly. And that is the problem with native monetization as far as I can see. I asked these questions at a conference before in private talks and it was just like, okay, yeah, everybody likes gaming. I'm talking specifically about games because games exist on a lot of platforms, if you know what I mean. Basically, yeah, 30, 40 pounds for a computer game, yeah I've done that and a board game, yeah, I've done that. But an I-Pad game, no way. Way too expensive. While, if you think about it, I mean I'm a board gamer myself and I buy quite a few board games, but I tend to, purely in terms of time, I play more games on the I-pads. That's, I also hesitate in shelling out even 5 or 6 Euros or whatever.
I mean our whole idea of much something should cost, both on the web and on native, is completely strange. I mean, my current theory, but I have absolutely no data to back this up, but my current theory is back when web started, one of the promises of web was that stuff was going to be free because somebody would publish something because he liked it. I mean I've done that myself, right? With the whole QuirksMode thing. I just published and published and published for free. Everybody got to read it. They would, you know they would get interested in me. I would get some, some work through QuirksMode. I would be invited to conferences, etc, etc.
That kind of paid for itself. But still, the expectation was the website is free. Now on native at the start, let's just start with the I-phone, things were not quite free, but it was still cheap. I mean back in the day when the I-phone started you could have 99 cents for an app. 1.99, 2.99, that's a bit steep maybe. For some reason people expect native apps to be cheap. That, in turn, means that it's going to be almost impossible to make money as an independent native developer. Just creating your own apps, putting them in the app store and making money out of that. A few people have succeeded. One of the successful like Andrew Berge or something, that's another story.
Justin Avery: They're few and far between.
Peter Paul Koch Exactly, exactly. Just the other day I read in the paper that [inaudible 00:31:29] is now going to fire 260 people. Why? Because they couldn't do it again. Because they didn't have a second hit. Monetization is definitely easier on native, but I don't think it's easy.
Justin Avery: Yeah.
Peter Paul Koch I don't think anybody has really figured out how to do monetization in an easy way on either native or the web. I mean what's, even back with desk top applications. Back in the day if you bought Microsoft Office, I don't know how much it cost, 50, 60?
Justin Avery: It was a lot of money.
Peter Paul Koch And, people thought that was normal. Because, I mean computer, if you buy a Windows or Mac application, you're willing to spend that much money because it's normal. A native, it's not normal and that's a big problem with monetization.
Justin Avery: It's interesting. I don't know how much testing of it you've done, or if you've been able to do any. I saw an article that someone emailed me today which was around IOS9 and their content blocking coming up. They're looking at any third party ads or third party content [crosstalk 00:32:44]
Peter Paul Koch They're going to do an ad blocker, yeah, that's really interesting.
Justin Avery: Yeah, have you had a chance to look at that at all cause that could really...
Peter Paul Koch Not from the technical side, but I have been thinking about it, from the monetization side. I mean the whole ad model is broken. It has never really worked on the web. But, now with the ad blockers it's clear that it's completely broken, and why would anyone want to see ads on their websites or in their native apps for that matter? Marketing people will have to come up with something better.
Justin Avery: Better ways, but it's going to cost, people like I quite like, Net Magazine and a lot of people that use advertising on their sites. Chris Coy for example. CSS Tricks is mainly funded from the advertising that runs on there. I think if you strip that away, I think he does it in a very good way where it's not obtrusive. It's there, you know it's there, but it doesn't get in the way of the content itself.
Peter Paul Koch [crosstalk 00:33:49]I've never seen Chris' site. Really weird because I usually tend to read just newspaper sites on my desk top computer. The other day I just quickly took a look on the I-pad because I wanted to read something. Then, I suddenly saw all of those ads. I had basically forgotten they were there. I mean, once you're used to an ad free web it's impossible to go back. I think Apple is making a good move here because it has to happen. Something has to be done. I mean...
Justin Avery: Do you think it's a bit sneakier then there, they're clearing the ads out from the web, and they're also introducing this capability where you can run an ISS feed which you point to their news, news to Apple I think it is, and then they provide an ISS feed within their news app, which they will then, you can buy advertising to advertise through their news app.
Peter Paul Koch Okay, so they have a clever plan The question is will anybody actually use that?
Justin Avery: Use that, no.
Peter Paul Koch I mean Apple is not very good in advertising. Remember I-ad?
Justin Avery: This is what it's using, it's using I-ads through this news feeder.
Peter Paul Koch Okay so they're desperate to put an I-ad somewhere because they spent, I don't know millions on developing something that nobody really wanted. I mean, this is a fundamental problem, but I don't have an easy solution. The only thing I know right now is that (a) the current solutions don't work, and (b) from the start of the web and native there has been an expectation that it would be free or cheap. That expectation is extremely hard to change.
Justin Avery: Yeah, I know, that's a good point. I don't mind paying for content either. There's a excellent, oh I can't even think, Web Platform Daily, is an excellent news letter which gets sent out and if you visit the page on the day, you get all the links. But, if you go there the day after, then you can look through the history of it, but all the links are missing. You can see the sort of snippet of what was there, but it's missing. But if you pay 6 pounds or 6 dollars a month I think it is, you have access to this history. I think that approach is fine. I'm more than happy to pay 6 dollars a month for someone to deliver me all of the things that are happening.
Peter Paul Koch Sure. I mean, I don't know about the U. K., but here in Holland we've had a very successful initiative with a couple of journalists who just came together and said okay, now we're going to do journalism on the web. Right, we're going to have a website. We're going to do journalism. And, we are going to ask people to subscribe and give us, I don't know, 6 Euros a year or something. And they announced it a year and a half ago and, within, I don't know 5, 6, 7 weeks, they had happened to get a million viewers. There was no site, there was nothing except for a plan. Well, there were a few well known journalists here in Holland. I think that is much more like the future of journalism online than the whole ad based thing, because it's not going to work. This might actually work.
Justin Avery: Is that sort of a [inaudible 00:37:20] based thing, where it's going to sit hidden?
Peter Paul Koch To be honest, it's not quite [inaudible 00:37:25]. You do get access to some things only if you're a subscriber, but I think you're allowed, if somebody links to an article on Twitter or Facebook, I think they let the traffic go through, even if you're not a paying member, something like that.
Justin Avery: That's excellent. That's a really good idea.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah. The point is not so much that they erect a [inaudible 00:37:50] but rather that they say okay, guys, if we don't do this we won't have any journalism left in 20 years, at least that was my conclusion. They didn't actually say that in those words, but that was my conclusion.
Justin Avery: I think that's a good idea. If you can, we'll check on the show tonight if you remember the Url of that, we'll put that in there for sure. Well, moving a bit away from the philosophical side of things which I quite enjoy anyway. Now that we've got responsive design, you were talking before that sometimes we have, before the responsive design thing we had mobile specific sites and desk top specific sites and stuff. Now that we've got this solution, which is a one size fits all, where, what do you think is next? Where do we need to move to next?
Peter Paul Koch An excellent question. I don't know. I mean when I started with the mobile, I was totally obsessed with mobile for 2 years and then everybody else started to come into mobile. I thought, okay, I should stay ahead of the curve, so what's going to happen next? What will basically be the next device category that's going to enter the web market? And I was asked at a panel in 2011 or 2012, and I, all the panelists agreed it was going to be t v. Meanwhile I don't believe that anymore. Who wants the web on their t v?
I don't know. If you want, just want to do some nice web surfing, are you going to use your t v? I don't think so. Are you going to use your refrigerator? I don't think so. Your car? I don't think so. Basically the question is, what is going to go next in terms of devices. Those devices will bring in technical issues, like the small screen on mobile phones. And, we will have to solve those issues. But, I can't see any device actually coming right now, to be honest. I have absolutely no clue. Responsive design has basically solved the issue of screen size forever, I think. I think it will stick around forever.
What we have still is the question I referred to earlier about [inaudible 00:40:02] events, do we need different events for touch and mouse? And maybe, if you have a t v remote, do we need different events again in some kind of connect way you try to read out how to use a wiggling remote or something like that. In a car we will eventually have to have some kind of voice control. I mean, you do not want the driver to touch the screen while he's driving.
Justin Avery: Hopefully not.
Peter Paul Koch Those kind of questions are going to be interesting, but there's not an easy one size fits all solution like responsive design was for all screen sizes. It's an interesting question, but I haven't found the answer yet. Cause it all depends on where is the web going to go next and I simply don't know.
Justin Avery: If we have, like you mentioned, there's going to be, and there is, I think, what's his name, can't think of his name but I'm sure you remember, Luke, Luke Ribolsky. He often speaks about not only have we increased the number of devices for screen sizes and view ports, but also the number of inputs that we have for them. From a technical point of view, have we got enough with the web and browsers and the way that they are, we're not talking native stuff, this is sort of web, to take advantage of all of the things that we need to do to control our websites and have those interactions?
Peter Paul Koch No, we don't. But, the new stuff will come in very gradually. I don't, right now I don't see one big revelation, such as responsive design was. I more see like, a good example is the whole pressure thing. I think Apple is going to introduce IOS9 or something that you can detect the pressure...
Justin Avery: Oh, how hard you're pressing on the screen?
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, something like that. I can't remember the details, but it only takes, this has been talked about for ages, because even back in 2009 it was clear to me that that was going to be an interesting new input mode. Because I used to have, I used to test an old Blackberry and there you had, you could swipe across a screen and you had a mouse like thing and you had to actually depress the screen in order to click something. That set me thinking. That taught me at least that pressure was going to be an interesting new feature. But it all depends on hardware.
You have to have hardware that's going to actually detect the pressure. That leads me to conclude that the new I-phone will probably be able to do that. That's an interesting thing. Years ago I heard an interesting talk by somebody from the BBC. He was talking about t v and the web. He basically said, okay, so suppose you were watching a tennis match, they even just click on one of the players and get his vital statistics and things like that.
Again, that's a big technical issue because you have to actually map the t v screen and figure out, okay if you user clicks there, he really wants to click on a player or maybe even on an ad you can see besides the tennis court and stuff like that. There's a technical issue to be solved there, but it sounds interesting and I think it will be more like gradual evolution from now on. Of course, I could be completely wrong and in 2 months we may find out that there is something revolutionary new that is going to happen that's going to change.
Justin Avery: That's it. We never know that, don't need, what is it if someone, if you asked what the public wanted they would have asked for faster horses instead of a car. You never actually know. We weren't looking for responsive web design. Ethan just dropped it on our lap. We're like, oh yeah, this is totally what we needed. Why didn't we have this before?
Peter Paul Koch Of course it could happen, but, and if I'm forced, yes I would say that it will be more gradual evolution from now on. Responding to, basically, hardware capabilities.
Justin Avery: Now on gradual evolution, you've recently written a couple of articles and it caused a bit of a Twitter stir. Some, a lot negative, well 50/50[crosstalk 00:44:46] It was less of a, and do correct me, cause this is a, for those that haven't read it, let you explain it but you were sort of calling for instead of continually progressing the browsers and these particular things is just to take a step back for a little bit and just deal with the stuff that we've got at our fingertips before we start looking into the future of what else we're going to make. That caused a stir and a few people said well no, we should be redeveloping and this is people, Jake Archibald, I think wrote a very good post. And there was a few others anyway. How does that work in with the gradual thing and...
Peter Paul Koch Good question. I hadn't considered it yet in those terms. I would say that it would work fine together. Basically my argument right now is that web developers have this almost obsession with emulating native. Which means we have to have, we basically have to have a better UX for our websites. My argument is that we will never succeed, not because web isn't pushing forward, but because native is also pushing forward. Suppose that now we get in 2 or 3 years time we get a library that will solve all [inaudible 00:46:15] issues once and for all.
By that time native will also have progressed and will have new features that we will have to copy. We're playing a catch up race that we cannot win. Also, because we're trying to copy native features, we have a, we have 2 distinct problems. One, that browsers are adding too many features right now. That's why I asked basically for a stop for about a year. Just stop, don't add anything new. You can think about it. You can discuss new interesting features, but don't implement them yet. Just wait for a little while for what the average web developers to catch up. That's one issue. The other issue is that because everything has grown too complicated, and because we want to emulate native, even in our little websites, our little web apps, without us understanding really how to do that and what native is doing different.
We have this insane proliferation of tools. I mean how many libraries are there nowadays? I think we should also call for a stop on new libraries for awhile or something like that. I haven't posted that yet, and I need to think about it.
Justin Avery: So is this like stopping development of things like J Query, or stopping things like coming up with a library of, what example of?
Peter Paul Koch Basically what everybody is doing right now is re-inventing the wheel in that, okay, they want to write a J Query that's better or angular life library or react life library whatever, but better. I increasingly think that takes up a lot of energy that could be spent in a more useful way elsewhere. Also it means that as a beginning web developer you have no clue what to do because you know there are 17 libraries for one specific job. Okay, which one is the best? You don't know. I don't know either. I don't think anybody knows, to be honest. So we basically need less tools, and we need to get back to actually writing, especially Java script for ourselves, because it will teach you a lot more.
Also, and that's the fourth part of the equation, because we know have a tool chain, I don't think it's a particularly good one and it's subject to a lot of change, but we have a tool chain. Therefore, back end developers, Java developers I'm thinking about mainly, tend to think of the web as a new platform that they just have to learn a few tools and then they can write applications for that platform. The problem is, at what [inaudible 00:49:13] what platform? Jeremy Keith calls it a continuum. I tend to say it's more like an immense amount of platforms.
I mean in a sense you could see every single browser on every single [inaudible 00:49:28] as a new platform, because something might go wrong, right? I mean you may be on an old computer or on a very basic phone that doesn't support any[inaudible 00:49:37], something like that. I think that idea of the web as a multitude of platforms is severely underestimated, especially by back end programmers. But on the other hand, the back enders don't know any better. The front enders are now saying, okay, we've got all this nice tools that will solve all of your problems for you. There's a whole web of problems centered around us trying to emulate native.
That's my theory. I am going to write and will wrap up an article that will state all of this. I haven't, I think, posted this conclusion yet. But, that's basically what I think. Now to get back to your questions about a gradual, to be honest and I think of this right now, maybe what I'm saying is we should let the web evolve more gradually, especially at a slightly slower pace, because the pace has been insane for the past 5 years. I guess that's what I'm saying, yeah. I need to think about that.
Justin Avery: That's cool. You mentioned that talk about a platform and a continuum, I was, I've been considering, I love space, right? I love the universe, I love the whole, just the whole, everything about it. I was very fortunate. My wife got me a ticket to go and see Professor Bryan Cox, who is one of my idols, speak last night. He was talking, one question was around would they rebuild the large Hadron collider again, all the money that's gone into it. Was it worth it, just finding this heat explosive and stuff. There were some interesting things. The amounts of money it costs to build that is, I think it was half the budget of the Manchester University. It was funded by 85 different countries. To be fair, if you wanted to look at, in terms of how much money Cern has made and given back to the world, that's where the world wide web was invented.
It's made it's money pretty, pretty well. I thought it was really interesting. I always think that we always emulate nature. For the very early days and perhaps, in Roman times, here's a segway question, in Roman times the building of the towers and the columns and stuff, didn't they base them upon tree trunks? They slightly tapered around as they went up to make them stronger.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, that's true.
Justin Avery: The fact that the web was built out of Cern makes me really believe that the web is like it's own universe. It's ever expanding. We have these galaxies.
Peter Paul Koch Based on the large Hadron collider, yeah.
Justin Avery: Based on the large Hadron collider. So [inaudible 00:52:37] came up with it there, very well influenced by the universal thing. That's what I like to think anyway.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, I mean, I mean people now all of a sudden it's fashion again to think that web is doomed. I mean I've read a few articles that horrible things are going to happen to the web because big companies get more, more influence, etc, etc, and I tend to poo poo those stories. I don't really believe in them. On the other hand it's something you shouldn't ignore. I think the web is on a cross road right now. We have to select, we have to basically select our destination right now. I, I am starting to have an idea of what I'd like that destination to be. But now I have to convince other people. And this is, again, a new thought that I have to think about.
That's the problem with these kinds of conversations about things you haven't fully written down yet. You get new ideas all the time and you're trying to think up ways of integrating that with the whole idea you already had. That's what I'm doing right now, but it's interesting.
Justin Avery: Be interesting to see. Well let's, again we'll break, we always seem to go back to these philosophical conversations, don't we?
Peter Paul Koch That's entirely my fault because it's most of what I'm doing right now. I haven't done any actual solid research in months, except for 1 day in July where I got the test results that were so weird and incomprehensible that I just gave up.
Justin Avery: Well if we, speaking of test results and stuff, so these days, I'm hoping that you'll have an answer to this. These days when we build a site, we're building it for multiple devices and browsers and different users and different user inputs and things like that. There are so many that testing becomes very difficult. For people building for a multiple device web and responsive designs, have you got any advice, like technical advice about how to approach testing, test plans, tool kits, things that you would recommend to people looking at?
Peter Paul Koch I just get a lot of devices. That's the basis of your testing. I mean I, when I do my tests, I test in, I don't know 20, 25 phones, something like that. If you're really, really serious about your mobile application, you should do the same. You should especially buy a lot of Androids. I mean IOS is not so much of a problem. Apple is doing a really great job of, and you know, keeping the whole family together. There are different screen sizes of course, but that's mostly it. On Android, it's completely different because most Android devices have a default browser that's actually created by the hardware manufacturer.
Samsung has it's own default browser and ATT does and Sony does. And Lenova does, so they bought Motorola nowadays, etc, etc. They, all of these default browsers are based on Chrome, but all slightly different. They have slightly different features. That is something that you are going to miss when you test mostly on Nexus devices and think 2 or 3 Androids are enough. They're not. You have to reserve a serious budget for just buying phones. A high end Samsung, a low end Samsung, ATT, Sony, the Chinese companies are making [inaudible 00:56:15] in the West right now. [inaudible 00:56:18] of course is trying now and [inaudible 00:56:23] which is basically, they tend to think of themselves as the Chinese Apple. They try to emulate Apple all the time with a very small printer, very charismatic guy who goes onstage and talks about how wonderful they are.
They're actually not bad phones. They are pretty good phones. They all use a slightly different solution to things and, also they want to distinguish themselves from each other. I mean, put yourself in the shoes of Samsung or ATT or whatever. You are using an operating system that everybody else except for Apple is also using. Why would a consumer care that they buy a Samsung, and not a Sony, or a Chinese one? The answer they came up with was trying to differentiate their phones in matter of hardware, but also in software.
Basically they are making changes to, basically, all the applications, also browsers, to try to convince consumers that they are the better phone. That means that this whole differentiation thing is not going to go away any time soon. Because they still want to do that. I mean Google is trying exactly the opposite, of course. Google is trying to bring everybody together and make sure that all Android phones perform more or less the same. But on the other hand, if Google just said, okay, and now you're all going to use Androids in this one specific way, then most of the hardware companies would start looking for another operating system.
There's a complicated thing going on between Google on the one hand and all of the Android vendors on the other hand. The practical offshoot for web developers is that browser wise, it is a mess. Also, of course, we have a few browsers that no one has ever heard. For instance, UC, the UC browser from China, which is making huge inroads to the developing nations, especially India, I believe. If you have anything to do at all with the Indian market, even eventually, you should test the UC browser on Android, and not on one Android phone, but on several Android phones. My most important advice for serious mobile testing is, get a budget, and get phones.
If you're targeting a specific market, outside of Europe, get phones from that market. The Chinese phones are different from the European ones. The Japanese are different. The Indian phones are, again, different. I'm not sure what's going on in Africa, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if they get their own phones in the next few years or so. Because, back there the country is just so different from the developed West. I mean, first of all, consumers have less money, so they can't afford expensive hardware. Secondly, sometimes, I once read an article about software developing in Ghana. This was years ago. Basically, there was this guy and he made his fortune by creating a windows application that made sure that windows could react properly to blackouts.
Because, in Africa, you have a blackout every week. All of the electricity is just gone and you can't continue. And worse, you may lose your work. Basically, he created an application that, I guess it saved the work a way every once in a while and helped people cope with blackouts. That kind of stuff is also good to have on a mobile. Maybe even more on mobile than on desk top. Because it's cheaper to start a new mobile company than a new desk top computer company. Besides, you can take Android and make slight changes.
Justin Avery: To develop an operating system.
Peter Paul Koch Yes.
Justin Avery: Actually, talking about, in Africa, I remember seeing a really lovely short, sort of documentary, there was a guy who used to ride to the only computer in the area that had access to the internet. Then he would then ride to each of the different towns around that area and he would collect questions that people had from a centralized post in the town, like a post board. Then he would come back and do all of the research, write it all down and ride back to all the towns again and pin up all the answers and then collect the next bunch of questions again. So, sort of share the free ness of the internet with the rest of the people that couldn't get that access there.
It was lovely. I really loved the story.
Peter Paul Koch No, exactly. I've heard the story. I'm not sure if it's true, about Indian, where very remote villagers would save their money together to buy their mobile phone so that they would be connected to the rest of the world. Problem is, they didn't have electricity. So there was a guy whose job it was to bike around the countryside, go from one village to the next, and then basically use his bike to charge their phones. That was his job. When he was done recharging the village mobile phone, he would continue to the next village. I think, and this is also an older story.
I think things are moving very fast in these areas. I mean, I think that in 2 or 3 years time this story will be just ancient history and they will say, no of course we have our own mobile phones. But it shows how very different approaches people have to the whole mobile revolution. Besides not forget that people in India, people in Africa, people in China, the very first thing they see of the web is on a mobile phone screen. Because they can't afford a desk top computer, but they can afford a mobile phone.
Justin Avery: So make sure your pages load quickly. Their band width is not great and it costs them a fortune.
Peter Paul Koch [crosstalk 01:02:38] that have to be run once you arrive on the mobile phone and just eat all of the battery life. Years ago there was an interesting research being done. They took an Android phone and they measured how much battery was being used. Then they went to a Wikipedia page and they were okay, so how much battery juice has been used? Wikipedia, back in that time at least, used J Query, but only for the very simple show and hide thing they have on the mobile Wikipedia site. You know where you can just show and hide parts of the article.
They re-wrote the script, just because you can do that in 5 lines of Java script and they found that that reduced battery drain by about a third.
Justin Avery: Geez.
Peter Paul Koch Just because J Query has to initialize itself and create all of those functions that this specific page does not need. That is one of the problems I have with tools. But, we've already talked about tools.
Justin Avery: I think it's the same problem with things like Bootstrap and Fan Nation and Material Design is that it comes packaged with everything you could possibly need, and a lot of stuff that you don't.
Peter Paul Koch Yes, and back at our CSA conference in May, in June, John Becket of Godzilla said something very useful. He said, okay module [inaudible 01:04:03] leads to over design. Because if he wants to build something as a module, you also think that it has to be able to function in basically any kind of situation. That's why to be honest, I'm starting to question the whole worth of model organization on the web. Because it saves you, as a developer, some time, no doubt about that. But it costs the end user so much in terms of connectivity, in terms of what kind of device you have to use, in terms of the amount of network data you have to pay for, etc, etc.
Justin Avery: That is interesting then. So is that more around like the, is he referring more to less, like around designing, like an atomic design approach would be designing a modular type fashion. Is he referring more to...
Peter Paul Koch I was specifically talking about java script here.[crosstalk 01:05:01] We have issues with CSS as well, but the issues with java script are just much, much more severe. I've, I mean I've never used a library in my life. If I want to write, to use a java script, I just write it. Well not quite from scratch. I mean I've got my library of java scripts which I use. But I don't use a tool for that because I just want the java script to do exactly what I want and only what I need. It's my theory that we should return to that, because it will solve a lot of problems having to do with[inaudible 01:05:43] heavy sites basically.
Justin Avery: Getting started though, we're very short on time so I have 2 kinds of questions after this. But do you think, J Query for people getting started with java script, just to learn, not so much the syntax but how to construct things. Do you think that's a positive or a negative, bit of both?
Peter Paul Koch I would say a bit of both. I mean as a beginning java script developer, you need some help. You can't do it on your own. On the other hand, I mean, a beginning java script developer will have to start with some tools, but to try as soon as possible to write something without tools. It doesn't mean they should write everything without tools. But, just to try and not use tools and learn a lot from that. I read that in an article recently. What did I say, okay, reinvent the wheel. Yes it's good to reinvent the wheel. Not because we get a better wheel, but because it will teach you so much.
I mean you will learn such a lot from, basically re-writing a part of J Query, you will learn a lot more than from just using J Query, even if your alternative to J Query is not really as good as J Query. That's not the point. The point is that it will teach you a lot about how browsers work and about how java script is supposed to be working. I mean, people should still write their own libraries, they just shouldn't publish them or something. I don't know what I'm saying. It's complicated.
Justin Avery: Fair enough. It's like going through the process is a learning experience, but that sometimes is good enough. Just at being that learning experience. Now, I've got one more question before we wrap up and it was from, so each week I ask the guest to ask a question of next week's guest. At the end of this question I'll get you to do the same thing. Last time I had met Matt Griffin on and his question was, "What's the first moment that you fell in love with the web"?
Peter Paul Koch I think that was when, very in very early days of [inaudible 01:07:58], it wasn't even called [inaudible 01:08:02] back then. I just got some positive feedback from somebody. It had to do with not using a browser detect, but using feature detects. Nowadays that's taken for granted, but back in 1998 it was completely new. I wrote about how we should use feature detects. I got several mails from people who said, hey, you're right, I'm going to do this from now on. That made me fall in love with the web, not so much because of feature detection, but because they had found my site and had read it.
I could just publish my thoughts and be read anywhere. That was really a defining moment for me. It's probably also the reason I'm still continuing QuirksMode even 15 years later.
Justin Avery: That's awesome. That is lovely. It is nice the first positive feedback you get from something you've written from a complete stranger as well. It is nice really.
Peter Paul Koch Of course then you have to get used to the negative feedback.
Justin Avery: I'm sure you have definitely got a lot more thicker skin because of QuirksMode over the last few years.
Peter Paul Koch Absolutely.
Justin Avery: Now have you got our next, have a guest booked in for next week and what would your question to next week's guest be?
Peter Paul Koch You know, ask him why do you still work on the web?
Justin Avery: Nice. Very good.
Peter Paul Koch And assuming it's an experienced web person.
Justin Avery: It's definitely going to be someone that works on the web.
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, why you are doing this, if you know what I mean?
Justin Avery: It is a very good question. PPK, thank you so much for taking time out of your evening, as it is for both of us and jumping on the podcast. So for your site, QuirksMode.org, how do people follow you and find out what you're doing?
Peter Paul Koch Twitter, PPK, I'm PPK on Twitter.
Justin Avery: Great and the conference coming up...
Peter Paul Koch The conference coming up is Design Day D-S-G-N-D-A-Y.nl.
Justin Avery: That will be in the show notes.
Peter Paul Koch 13th of November, and it will be in the show notes, of course.
Justin Avery: Brilliant. It sounds good. Are you speaking at Design Day?
Peter Paul Koch I'm not, not I'm not a designer. I'm just organizing. Stephen is speaking though.
Justin Avery: Excellent. Have you got any speaking engagements?
Peter Paul Koch Yeah, yeah, yeah, we got a full list on the site and we'll quickly take a look before I forget anyone. It's Van Moll, Stephen Haye, Simon Collison, Braun Stein, Susan Robertson, Edat Allen, [inaudible 01:10:34], I must admit I don't know these ladies and Jerry Cody.
Justin Avery: Edat Allen is awesome. Jerry Code has a magnificent site, which is great. Very, very cool site. That sounds like a really good lineup.
Peter Paul Koch It is, it is.
Justin Avery: I'll swindle some kind of trip across the pond. I need to come and visit.
Peter Paul Koch From London is essentially zero time. Well, if you go from Amsterdam to London it's zero time.
Justin Avery: Exactly.
Peter Paul Koch You take off and then they don't even have time to give you drinks and then you land.
Justin Avery: Exactly, barely time to put the belt on. But thank you very much again. If anyone wants to recommend a guest, or you'd like to speak, do get in touch. You can hear more podcasts and past podcasts at responsivedesign.his/podcasts. You can download an RSS feed or you can subscribe via I-tunes on your pod catcher, whatever you're using. If you do feel like rating up this podcast, do so, 5 stars is the best That would be awesome. But that's about it. Thank you very much for listening, everyone. Thank you again PPK for joining and we will see you all next week. Cheers.
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