Melksham is a small Wiltshire town a few miles from my house, and it’s where I rent an office. The drive from home to office takes me through pretty countryside – mostly flat, mostly green, mostly typical of the sort of countryside you get in this part of the world. But on the edge of Melksham itself there’s an area of low-lying fields either side of the river: nature’s flood protection mechanism. When the river swells, which it does after heavy rain, the fields disappear under a beautiful mirrored lake. As I drive past, I can see this flood plain to my right. In the mornings, the sun is rising on the other side of it, the light bouncing off the water. This morning I saw that scene again, but with added extras: overnight, the floodwater had frozen. The morning sun was bright, but weak, fighting against a thin but persistent fog. Steam was rising from the mile-long flood, thickening the fog above it. The flood itself was too bright to look at. Stalks of last summer’s crops were visible, poking up above the cracked, frozen water. It was spectacular. I would have stopped, obviously, and I would have taken pictures. But it’s a fast road, and there’s nowhere to stop, so I didn’t, and I typed this instead.
Quote of the week: “You haven’t really lived until you’ve driven a long way in a car with 3 under-12s on the back seat, all singing along loudly to ‘Whistling / whistling / Whistling / whistling / Dark / DARK! / dark / DARK!'”
Over the past year or so, I took on several projects that were focused on web content, and I took the decision to share my early drafts not as Word or Google documents, but as web pages.
Drafting not with Word, but with the web.
Doing it this way makes a real difference because the client sees the words in the right context from the start, and responds to them in a different way.
Enabling better feedback
Anyone who works with words-in-documents will know that when you share a document with people, the first thing most of them will do is start editing it, or commenting on it.
Sometimes, that’s helpful – but not always. Sometimes, it’s much more helpful to get higher-level feedback: are these words heading in the right sort of direction? Are they roughly what needs to be said? Just answer that for now, and we can worry about detailed points later.
Sharing early drafts as HTML pages helps clients answer questions like that in their heads.
This technique also helps me (as a writer) to “show the thing”. In most cases, I’ve spent some time earlier in the work saying to clients that they need to “focus on the work” and “break the messages up into chunks” and “make one page about one thing”. Sharing as linked, linkable HTML makes this much easier.
Making HTML happen
Of course I’m not a developer or a designer, so I go to great lengths to make clear to my clients that what I’m sharing isn’t a proposed website. It’s a proposed way of communicating on the web. If they want to turn the words I help them create into actual web pages, they’ll have to get an actual web professional to make that happen.
I’ve tried a variety of techniques to create these content mockups – I started out by writing HTML by hand, like the good old days, and that works but it’s time-consuming.
More recently I’ve made liberal use of classless CSS styles like new.css (also used for this website), basic.css, and water.css.
Today we finally, properly leave the European Union, and I’m still sad and angry and frustrated about it.
Brexit was sold by liars to people who had no idea what they were voting for. Successive British governments failed to make the benefits of EU membership clear to the British people; instead, there was a constant false narrative of obstruction, failure and red tape.
The opposite was true. Being part of the EU helped our economy, saved us money, and removed huge mountains of red tape.
The hopeless, pointless, self-inflicted harm caused by Brexit and its supporters won’t be easy to see at first. But over the coming years, we’ll all notice it.
We’ll all know someone who’s lost work because their employer went under, unable to sell goods to Europe under the new rules.
We’ll all watch as self-important Tory politicians bullshit their way around the world, building new trade agreements that give us a fraction of what we had before.
We’ll all have to spend more time and money organising travel in Europe. Booking your holidays will be more tedious, more annoying, more bureaucratic than ever before. Each change quite small, and not a huge burden in itself; but one of dozens of changes, piled one on top of the other. A thousand paper cuts to suffer, just because you fancy a long weekend of cycling in the Netherlands.
Everyone will complain about it. The Tory newspapers will blame “EU bureaucracy” but we’ll all know who’s really to blame: fucker Farage and bumbling Boris.
Well fuck them, and fuck Brexit.
It’s madness, it’s stupid, and one day, I hope we reverse it. I’m still European, and I’ll always vote with that thought in mind.