It’s been four years since I described the 2018 Social Media Experience. Let’s see what’s changed in that time!

#Twitter is still like a train crashing into a burning dumpster. The old owner wouldn’t let firefighters in because they did such a brisk business selling marshmallows, and the new one thinks it needs more gas because the flames aren’t hot enough and it would be unethical to keep the fire down to even marshmallow-toasting levels.

#Facebook…TBH I haven’t been there in a while, but I get the impression it’s still like a large family gathering, only now conversation is mostly drowned out by your racist uncle/in-law’s soapboxing and the TV commercials for things related to his screed instead of just being interrupted by them, unless you can hide out in a different room, where you’ll still get interrupted by commercials for things related to your own conversation.

#Tumblr is the weird coffee shop you used to hang out in but you’ve outgrown. It was bought out by a national chain and homogenized into the ground, but they offloaded it to a smaller chain and now each location is allowed to have its own personality again.

#Mastodon is like a building with a lot of small parties going on: Not as many people in each room, but you can actually hear each other talk, and people will sometimes hang out in the hall or move to another room, connecting conversations together. But finding a good room can be tough.

#Pixelfed is like Mastodon, except everyone’s brought photos and made the room into a gallery.

#Instagram is like checking out your friends’ vacation photos, but every other photo is an advertisement, and half of your friends’ pics are full of product placement.

TikTok…from what I gather, it’s like being in a crowd with people you don’t know, and someone keeps pushing other people at you that they think you might want to talk to.

Of course, all of them have people who will Judge You because You’re Doing It Wrong.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about email newsletters that still assume you’re reading on a desktop and send out layouts that rely on a wide screen size and end up with tiny 2-point type on a mobile phone — you know, where most people read their email these days.

Then I stumbled on this usability article by Jakob Nielsen.

From 2012.

It pretty much covers what I would have said, and more. But a decade on, I still get email I can’t read without moving to a bigger screen.

The Time Before Tables

The funny thing is that HTML, by design, already adjusts to different sized displays, windows and terminals. In the very early days, you couldn’t make it not be responsive unless you added a block of pre-formatted text.

Once HTML picked up a little more rendering capability (tables, images and image maps), you had people designing websites who were accustomed to fixed-size media, and the paradigm stuck.

— Build your layout in Photoshop at 800×600, then slice it up into clickable pieces and reassemble the whole thing on a page!
— Wait, now we can aim for 1024×168!
— Oh, hey, we have widescreen now!
— Huh? What do you mean the window isn’t always fullscreen?
— Phones now? Ugh, I’ve gotta make a totally different website!

And so on.

Responsive Styling

These days you can apply relative sizes to everything, and tweak the layout based on the logical screen size instead of physical pixels. (Shout-out to high-definition displays here!) Modern HTML+CSS is amazingly improved in flexibility, and if you plan it right, you can often just rearrange the same page for screens from small cell phone size up to those widescreen monitors. Obviously this depends on what kind of site or application you’re building.

But for email, especially for newsletters, where reading the text is the main point, it should be an obvious choice!

Expanded from this thread on Wandering.shop.

A yellow-faced bumblebee above an orange poppy, a clump of orange pollen stuck to its legs.

This is kind of hilarious.

Conservation groups asked California to protect four species of native bumblebees. The agriculture industry objected on the grounds that the state’s endangered species law doesn’t cover insects. But the state fish and game code, in trying to cover all its bases defining marine life, defines a fish as “a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals.”

So technically, bumblebees, being invertebrates, are eligible for protection as fish.

The state supreme court ruled in favor, because that’s technically what the law says. The judge pointed out that the legislature “is in a position to make whatever statutory amendments it may regard as necessary or useful” to resolve any ambiguities…and specifically stated that the ruling does not mean that the court actually believe bumblebees are fish!

Photo of a Yellow-Faced Bumblebee I saw at the South Coast Botanic Gardens a while back. It’s not one of the four species being petitioned for protection. But I wanted to use one of my own photos for illustration, rather than use the one from the newspaper. Though it’s amusing that of the four endangered species they went with a photo of — I kid you not — Bombus crotchii, a.k.a. Crotch’s Bumblebee. Named after George Robert Crotch.

Expanded from a post on Wandering.shop.

Also: Darwinian Honeybees

On a more serious note, hobbyist beekeepers are starting to use a strategy called Darwinian beekeeping to fend off colony collapse disorder.

Essentially you try to mimic how honeybees would live in the wild instead of trying to pack in as many monocultured hives as you can. Build smaller hives and spread them out, so if one gets infested the parasites or diseases don’t spread as easily to the next. Capture a wild swarm of honeybees, which, unlike mail-order bees bred to maximize honey production, have evolved defenses against the invasive mites that have been attacking developing bees. Keep the hives away from plants you’re going to be using pesticides on.

The causes of CCD are still unclear, but there seem to be multiple factors that contribute to it — and these strategies mitigate several of them. And a lower honey yield in exchange for colonies that survive longer seems like it would be worth the trade-off.