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Google is shutting down Stadia

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2 1,985 shares, 82 trendiness

Someone is pretending to be me.

On September 14, 2022 I got an email from some­one that reeked eerily of a scam, but it turned out to be quite real. The full text is be­low.

So I was about to toss this in the trash, but it had a word doc­u­ment at­tached. Thankfully I’m not sit­ting on a Windows ma­chine and can just pre­view the doc­u­ment via Google with­out a fear of in­fect­ing my­self.

So I pre­viewed the doc­u­ment and it was scary. It was a doc­u­ment in­tended for some­one to have a cheat sheet for an in­ter­view on how to act as me.

* It in­cluded a sub­set of my per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

* It in­cluded a fake email/​ad­dress that was near” mine.

* It in­cluded in­for­ma­tion about the com­pany in­ter­view­ing for.

The more I read this doc­u­ment - the more creepy it felt. Someone went to the ef­fort to ex­tract tons of true in­for­ma­tion from my avail­able sources and build a fake pro­file of me.

* They cre­ated an email that just tossed a 2 at the end of my le­git­i­mate one.

* They picked an ad­dress of a house that is for sale in Tampa.

So I emailed the guy back that sent this to ask for more in­for­ma­tion. The ex­change went like:

So I had all in­for­ma­tion to join this in­ter­view that the fake Connor Tumbleson would have joined. So I did.

I joined the Zoom call early and the client thank­fully ad­mit­ted me quickly. I ex­plained as quick as pos­si­ble that while I was the real Connor - I was not ap­ply­ing for this job.

I tried to ex­plain how the in­di­vid­ual who was hired to im­per­son­ate me had a great set of morals and for­warded this all to me. I was ask­ing for all the in­for­ma­tion this em­ployer had on the fake me when the story got even weirder.

Another Connor Tumbleson joined the call and was stuck in the meet­ing room. The gen­tle­man of this com­pany was frankly amaz­ing and al­lowed me to change my name, turn off my video and tweak my avatar and stay on the call.

So the in­ter­viewer ad­mit­ted en­try to a new per­son who then spoke with an ac­cent I could not place. The in­ter­viewer kicked off the in­ter­view and asked this in­di­vid­ual to ex­plain a bit about him­self.

This im­poster for the next 2 min­utes pro­ceeded to read the same doc­u­ment, that I was leaked, say­ing things word for word as well as say­ing his name was Connor Tumbleson. This was a dif­fer­ent per­son hired to im­per­son­ate me than who reached out to me. My guess the orig­i­nal per­son de­clined and this just got passed to a dif­fer­ent per­son.

I could not stand this any­more lis­ten­ing to some­one le­git­i­mately claim they were me while us­ing my photo, name and hard earned achieve­ments. So I turned on my cam­era, re­named my­self back and asked the in­di­vid­ual what the hell they were do­ing.

So I spoke a few more min­utes with this in­ter­viewer thank­ing him for go­ing along with it. I then learned this was a in­ter­vie­wee dis­cov­ered through Upwork - so I asked for all the proof and con­tin­ued my in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The com­pany who my im­per­son­ator ap­plied at reached out and pro­vided all the im­ages above as well as re­port­ing this ac­count to Upwork.

So with this dis­cov­ery - I found the fake Upwork of my­self. This was creepy as it in­cluded some jobs I worked and some that were made up. It was like my ac­tual re­sume with some made up boosted traits. It did have my real Laravel cer­ti­fi­ca­tion so my guess is some­one just ex­ported a data-set of me from LinkedIn.

So it seemed like I was start­ing to un­der­stand the pic­ture now.

* They ap­ply to jobs in hopes to get an in­ter­view us­ing that fake pro­file.

* They find sus­pect­ing vic­tims on GitHub who are will­ing to go along with this.

* That per­son uses the iden­tity of some­one else to land the job.

I’m not sure how this ac­tu­ally pans out if it works. Can you re­ally refuse to use video for the en­tire con­tract of the job? How do you get paid if you need to sub­mit tax doc­u­ments? Do you pre­tend to be me for­ever?

So it was time to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther. Who or what was be­hind this pro­file?

However, be­fore I did that. I wanted to child­ishly email the ad­dress of the per­son im­per­son­at­ing me.

The re­sponse I got I’m not sure how to re­act - an apol­ogy for as­sum­ing my iden­tity which is ab­solutely in­sane. You could just make up pro­files and use AI gen­er­ated im­ages, but us­ing my real photo and in­for­ma­tion and GitHub is far be­yond sorry”.

This next part of this post is all in part thanks to the in­di­vid­ual who passed on the de­tails to me and it only gets cra­zier. I got writ­ten ap­proval from Andrew (The Individual) to show his name/​photo unredacted. He blogs at un­fool­ing.com and may have a post up about this as well.

If you put on the shoes of Andrew. You would have been reached out to by a per­son us­ing a fake pro­file, name and email. They would be look­ing for a busi­ness part­ner with a very generic doc­u­ment in hopes to at­tract you to join af­ter a bit of small talk.

This in­di­vid­ual was in­ter­ested and that led to a doc­u­ment be­ing sent along af­ter con­sid­er­ing to ac­cept this po­si­tion.

This doc­u­ment spells out some weird be­hav­ior be­tween the lines and lacks any of­fi­cial busi­ness do­main, email or logo. Especially paired with a generic Google email ad­dress and a phone num­ber that re­solves to the Embassy in Panama does not seem right.

So Andrew like most po­ten­tial hires has some valid ques­tions be­fore jump­ing into this op­por­tu­nity.

I’m redact­ing the sites pro­vided for the sole rea­son that I can’t con­firm if they were ac­tu­ally de­vel­oped by this com­pany and don’t want to loop them into some­thing in­cor­rectly.

1/3 of the com­pa­nies re­sponded and claimed PND did not build their web­site nor had they ever heard of them. So I be­lieve this is a never end­ing web of lies.

What we do learn from this email is the web­site of the com­pany it­self - PND Design. So we take a look at their web­site and it does­n’t ap­pear to look that great.

So I con­tinue to go back in his­tory on Archive Machine un­til I find a change to the site de­sign.

This gives me an older com­pany name of PND Developing” which fi­nally gets me some re­sults on the web. It seems be­cause the web­site says Madison, Wisconsin and so does the LinkedIn page and the do­main matches - we found the right page.

So re­cap­ping - we have a busi­ness in Wisconsin, a phone num­ber in Panama with a generic Gmail. However, we do have a pro­file as­so­ci­ated with this com­pany and that led on quite the dis­cov­ery mis­sion.

We can find Plamen Dimitrov who ap­pears as­so­ci­ated with PND Design on LinkedIn and the name of this in­di­vid­ual looks pretty close ini­tial wise with PND. This en­tire thing could be lies on lies - so maybe even that can’t be trusted. However with the ini­tials in the Slack chan­nel be­ing PND we might as well in­ves­ti­gate. This in­di­vid­ual has a web­site as­so­ci­ated with him­self and this leads me to see an eerily re­la­tion be­tween the sites.

This in­di­vid­ual is as­so­ci­ated with a per­sonal site and a com­pany site that uses the ser­vices of two other sites that all act with sim­i­lar fea­tures and bro­ken de­signs. It looks like the se­cu­rity en­hance­ments of web browsers in the past few years have not been patched on these web­sites.

So we now have the fol­low­ing sites as­so­ci­ated with this and I can say with pretty good gut cer­tainty these are built/​hosted/​con­trolled by the same party.

You can re­verse those sites to find a cou­ple hun­dred of do­mains on that IP, then cross-check the list against match­ing Google Analytics IDs and find al­most 50 do­mains.

I clicked on one of the do­mains and it ac­tu­ally loaded - which was a sur­prise af­ter the four sites above not re­ally do­ing too well.

It seems I’ve found the pat­tern of in­stalling WordPress with an odd set of plu­g­ins. I’m not sure what the ob­ses­sion with no right click­ing is. So now we can con­tinue to find more web­sites built by this com­pany.

If we jump back to my sit­u­a­tion with this - we can look back at the in­di­vid­ual Andrew stuck in the mid­dle of this who still had some doubts with this job. He pro­ceeds to ask an­other ques­tion.

Getting a re­sponse from Maris” of:

This is a valid ques­tion with a non an­swer. No where in this re­sponse do I see why you have to pre­tend to be an­other de­vel­oper in or­der to do your job. There are plenty of busi­nesses that have a pro­ject man­ager in the states that sim­ply act as the com­mu­ni­ca­tion layer be­tween an off­shore de­vel­op­ment team and that could have been an ac­cept­able busi­ness model.

My guess is this be­comes the dif­fer­ence of hir­ing a per­son in­stead of a com­pany. Perhaps the con­tract jobs on Upwork are eas­ier to ob­tain with one sin­gu­lar per­son mas­querad­ing as an en­tity than an en­tire com­pany ap­ply­ing to han­dle some con­tract job.

So Andrew de­cides to go for­ward with this and ob­tains an in­vite to a Slack chan­nel where we im­me­di­ately see how crazy this story gets.

We can see PND is talk­ing and show­ing an ex­am­ple of what Andrew might have to do. The link was ac­tive at the time of my re­search and this in­ter­view oc­curred on February 28, 2022.

The ini­tial reach out to this in­di­vid­ual came from Maris. So this is crazy - PND cre­ates emails im­per­son­at­ing en­gi­neers then uses those emails to at­tract more folks to join their com­pany. I do won­der why Andrew did­n’t im­me­di­ately bounce at mul­ti­ple points dur­ing this, es­pe­cially when you re­al­ize the per­son you were re­cruited by gave you a fake name.

So am I ex­pected to be­lieve this com­pany is us­ing my name and fake email to at­tract more in­di­vid­u­als? I at­tempted to get this email ac­count re­moved, but then I re­al­ized that was a use­less en­deavor - no way Google would get in­volved in the drama of de­cid­ing what is im­per­son­ation or not.

So if we look at time­stamps - Andrew joined the Slack chan­nel around 9am on September 14, 2022. Around lunch the as­sumed leader known as PND be­gins to ask this in­di­vid­ual if he is will­ing to take the in­ter­view as fake me that same day. This is the same in­ter­view I ended up join­ing for real along­side an im­pos­tor.

It ap­pears this job ended for Andrew. While he thought he was be­ing brought on to de­velop - he was just go­ing to be an English speak­ing in­di­vid­ual to as­sume iden­ti­ties & roles of oth­ers.

This is a di­rect lie from what we saw in the ini­tial email from PND. It was ex­plained that you would assume the role of our de­vel­op­ers”. The im­por­tant word is here our” - I am not a de­vel­oper with this com­pany, yet my pro­file was be­ing used.

A fake Connor did end up join­ing the in­ter­view, al­beit late, who was not the in­di­vid­ual pic­tured above. So my guess be­tween 1:23pm and 5pm PND got to work to find an al­ter­na­tive per­son to as­sume my iden­tity which was prob­a­bly some­one in that Slack team.

Unfortunately for us the in­di­vid­ual who joined the Zoom in­ter­view im­per­son­at­ing me left im­me­di­ately when con­fronted about ly­ing, so noth­ing else could be learned from this.

So we can see the 35 mem­bers in this Slack, but I don’t feel com­fort­able post­ing that list. I have no idea who is real or fake and who may be work­ing for this com­pany un­aware of what is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing.

So I sent an email to two of them af­ter I found them on LinkedIn to fur­ther help in­ves­ti­gate this. One im­me­di­ately re­sponded un­aware of this be­hav­ior oc­cur­ring and left the group.

I do know there is an ex­treme amount of care from the as­sumed leader PND to not ex­pose them­selves who has not once used a real set of in­for­ma­tion or doc­u­ments when talk­ing to Andrew.

All par­ties are given only the in­for­ma­tion to com­plete their part of this scheme. I say this be­cause you don’t even know the com­pany you are in­ter­view­ing with - PND only gives you the name of the in­ter­viewer. Thankfully the Zoom link in the fake Connor Tumbleson in­ter­view leaked the com­pany in­volved.

This helps piece to­gether those odd in­ter­views some cowork­ers de­scribed to me when the in­ter­vie­wee has no idea what the pur­pose of the meet­ing is or com­pany. I’m start­ing to piece to­gether a huge scheme that prob­a­bly oc­curs in way more places than this Slack.

It ap­pears Maris was in Notion in­stead of Google Docs and I can not find the client as­so­ci­ated with that in­ter­view. I only have a generic in­ter­viewer name to go from. So if you hired a Maris in February 2022 - you may want to dou­ble check who you ac­tu­ally hired.

My guess since PND holds the fake Gmail ad­dresses - they may or­ches­trate every­thing be­tween Upwork, fake per­son and the client while the hired hand just at­tends meet­ings to be a voice.

So at least two peo­ple had their iden­tity as­sumed in hopes to ob­tain a job in my brief re­search. At this point I did the fol­low­ing:

* I emailed the in­di­vid­ual who pro­vided these pho­tos/​re­search ask­ing for per­mis­sion to post this with name.

* I emailed all three busi­nesses this com­pany claimed they built to ob­tain more in­for­ma­tion.

* I emailed two users from the Slack who I guessed may be in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion af­ter find­ing on LinkedIn.

* I emailed the real Maris to loop them into this sit­u­a­tion.

* I re­ported the fake Upwork of me.

* I called the as­sumed owner of PND Design and left a voice­mail af­ter no one picked up.

Who knows how many jobs out there were ob­tained from an in­di­vid­ual im­per­son­at­ing some­one else. It seems scary still to think that some­one is us­ing my name, pro­file and achieve­ments to con­vince com­pa­nies to hire a fake it­er­a­tion of me. For that sole rea­son - I will not give up on my re­search.

* September 15, 2022 - Upwork re­moves the im­per­son­ator of me.

* September 16, 2022 - Person from Slack team I emailed re­sponds and an­nounces leaving the slack”.

...

Read the original on connortumbleson.com »

3 1,333 shares, 56 trendiness

The Smartest Website You Haven't Heard of

Most peo­ple I know haven’t even heard of it, but mc­mas­ter.com is the best e-com­merce site I’ve ever used.

McMaster-Carr is an in­dus­trial sup­ply com­pany. They sell nuts, bolts, bush­ings, bear­ings — pretty much any­thing an en­gi­neer needs to build stuff. I’ve pur­chased from them dozens of times over the past few years, both for per­sonal and school pro­jects.

But what makes their web­site so great? And why should an in­dus­trial sup­ply com­pany have the best e-com­merce site on the in­ter­net?

mc­mas­ter.com is great be­cause it does what it needs to, and noth­ing else.

First, let’s look at the vi­sual de­sign of the site. Minimal, mostly grayscale, with ac­cents of green and yel­low. There are no pop­ups, an­i­ma­tions, ban­ners, carousels, or videos — just a calm, sta­tic page with cat­e­gories and a search bar. Even the im­ages are grayscale, to avoid in­ad­ver­tently catch­ing your eye.

It’s not the most vi­su­ally stun­ning site, but that does­n’t mat­ter here - McMaster has cho­sen func­tion over form.

A user’s goal when they visit McMaster-Carr is to find their part as quickly as pos­si­ble. The web­site is de­signed en­tirely around that fact. Users rarely come just to browse, so there are no AI rec­om­men­da­tion al­go­rithms, fea­tured prod­ucts, new ar­rivals — that does­n’t make sense in this con­text. People visit McMaster-Carr with high in­tent to buy a spe­cific part, that’s it.

So how do we get from the 700,000 prod­ucts in their cat­a­log down to one part? Here’s what I do.

McMaster shows me sev­eral sub­cat­e­gories: hex head, socket head, set screws, etc. I’m look­ing for socket head, so I se­lect that one. Now I move my at­ten­tion to the left nav bar, which shows me sev­eral fil­ter­ing op­tions. Bolts are com­monly spec­i­fied by their thread size (e.g. 1/4″-20), and their length. I’m look­ing for a 1/4″-20 x 1″ bolt, mean­ing that the bolt’s di­am­e­ter is 1/4″ and its length is 1″, so I se­lect these fil­ters.There are over a dozen other fil­ters, such as ma­te­r­ial, hard­ness, and head size. Once I’ve ap­plied enough fil­ters, The main search win­dow shows in­di­vid­ual items, rather than sub­cat­e­gories. Here I can se­lect an item and add it to cart.

McMaster’s search in­ter­face is the main rea­son for its de­sign su­pe­ri­or­ity. Everything on this page is de­signed to get you to your part as quickly as pos­si­ble. The fil­ter sec­tions are sim­ple and el­e­gant, pro­vid­ing schematic il­lus­tra­tions when nec­es­sary. The il­lus­tra­tions are al­ways sim­pli­fied to con­vey only rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion, as to not dis­tract you from the fo­cus of your search.

Results pages also show help­ful drop-downs which ex­plain the parts you’re look­ing at. It’s like an en­gi­neer’s hand­book and cat­a­log in one. Engineers are of­ten look­ing up ter­mi­nol­ogy on the fly any­ways, so hav­ing this in­for­ma­tion em­bed­ded into the site saves valu­able time.

McMaster’s fil­ters are not only use­ful for a tar­geted search, but also for de­cid­ing what it is you want. Sometimes I’ll search with only a gen­eral idea of the part I need, and then I’ll use the sub­cat­e­gory de­scrip­tions to de­ter­mine specifics. For ex­am­ple, I may know that I need some type of lock washer, but I’m un­sure which one is best for my ap­pli­ca­tion. I can use the im­ages and de­scrip­tions to de­cide on the right con­fig­u­ra­tion.

McMaster is able to pro­vide such in­tu­itive search­ing and fil­ter­ing be­cause every­thing that they sell is highly leg­i­ble — it’s all de­fined by quan­ti­ta­tive specs. There is noth­ing in­tan­gi­ble to deal with, like brands, prod­uct pho­tos, or other mar­ket­ing fluff. Even still, they do a much bet­ter job than other in­dus­trial web­sites like Grainger , DigiKey , or Home Depot .

As a point of com­par­i­son, Amazon does a ter­ri­ble job of fil­ter­ing items. Amazon has an or­der of mag­ni­tude more prod­ucts on its site, which ad­mit­tedly makes the job a lot more dif­fi­cult. However, even generic fil­ters, like price, suck. I won’t get too far into my dis­dain for ama­zon’s UI de­sign, other peo­ple have al­ready writ­ten too much about it [1] and that’s not the point, but it’s in­ter­est­ing to con­trast McMaster with what every­one sees as the” e-com­merce site.

Take Amazon’s price picker: Why is it two text boxes? Why not a slider? This has al­ways an­noyed me, since it’s much eas­ier for me to drag a slider than to man­u­ally type in my max price. And the quick-se­lect ranges are lit­er­ally the ex­act same no mat­ter the prod­uct. If I search for a pen, nearly every re­sult I want should be un­der $25. If I search for a tram­po­line, every re­sult I want should prob­a­bly be over $200. What the fuck?! I guess this some­how won the A/B test, but I can’t think of a rea­son why.

Finally, one of the most bril­liant parts of McMaster’s prod­uct is that for nearly every part, they have a CAD file that you can in­stantly down­load into your 3D mod­els. Mechanical en­gi­neers mock up de­signs in CAD pro­grams be­fore ac­tu­ally build­ing them, and hav­ing ac­cess to pre-mod­eled parts saves time. (Imagine hav­ing to man­u­ally model all your nuts and bolts.) McMaster even has ex­ten­sions for pop­u­lar CAD pro­grams which al­low you to im­port part files di­rectly, in­stead of us­ing their web­site. This makes en­gi­neer’s lives 10x eas­ier (not to men­tion mak­ing them more likely to pur­chase from McMaster-Carr). The clos­est anal­ogy to this is AR try-on, but that’s not even very ac­cu­rate. The point of AR try-on is to de­ter­mine whether you like the item you’re about to buy, whereas the point of McMaster’s CAD down­loads is to speed up an en­gi­neer’s work­flow. In most cases, they al­ready know which part they need, it’s just a mat­ter of com­plet­ing the CAD model be­fore they can start build­ing the real thing.

Mcmaster.com is nearly per­fect. It’s a web­site that would make Steve Krug smile. My only sug­ges­tion would be to make the search bar on the home page more promi­nent. It’s vi­su­ally over­whelm­ing to comb through dozens of prod­uct pho­tos, so I pretty much al­ways use the search bar to start nar­row­ing down items. The main area of the home­page is ef­fec­tively dead space, while the search bar is rel­a­tively tiny. New users might miss it, wast­ing time.

I de­cided to write about McMaster-Carr be­cause it is so rare to see such care­ful thought go into an in­dus­trial web app, far re­moved from the com­mo­tion of sil­i­con val­ley, web3, D2C, and the other typ­i­cal sub­jects of pixel per­fec­tion.

Mcmaster.com is a prod­uct that un­der­stands its cus­tomer. The min­i­mal, func­tional de­sign al­lows users to find their parts as quickly as pos­si­ble, noth­ing more or less. It’s an un­ex­pected re­minder to not get lost in the al­lure of smooth gra­di­ents, 3D an­i­ma­tions, or slick fonts, and in­stead re­lent­lessly fo­cus on what it is your cus­tomers re­ally want.

If some­thing is 100 per­cent func­tional, it is al­ways beau­ti­ful…there is no such thing as an ugly nail or an ugly ham­mer but there’s lots of ugly cars, be­cause not every­thing in a car is func­tional…some­times it’s very beau­ti­ful, if the per­son who de­signed it has very good taste, but some­times it’s ugly.” [2]

[1] Jeff Bezos is an in­fa­mous mi­cro-man­ager. He mi­cro-man­ages every sin­gle pixel of Amazon’s re­tail site. He hired Larry Tesler, Apple’s Chief Scientist and prob­a­bly the very most fa­mous and re­spected hu­man-com­puter in­ter­ac­tion ex­pert in the en­tire world, and then ig­nored every god­damn thing Larry said for three years un­til Larry fi­nally — wisely — left the com­pany. Larry would do these big us­abil­ity stud­ies and demon­strate be­yond any shred of doubt that no­body can un­der­stand that frig­ging web­site, but Bezos just could­n’t let go of those pix­els, all those mil­lions of se­man­tics-packed pix­els on the land­ing page. They were like mil­lions of his own pre­cious chil­dren. So they’re all still there, and Larry is not.” https://​gist.github.com/​chitch­cock/​1281611

...

Read the original on www.bedelstein.com »

4 904 shares, 35 trendiness

Make-A-Video by Meta AI

Make-A-Video is a state-of-the-art AI sys­tem that gen­er­ates videos from text.

Make-A-Video re­search builds on the re­cent progress made in text-to-im­age gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­ogy built to en­able text-to-video gen­er­a­tion. The sys­tem uses im­ages with de­scrip­tions to learn what the world looks like and how it is of­ten de­scribed. It also uses un­la­beled videos to learn how the world moves. With this data, Make-A-Video lets you bring your imag­i­na­tion to life by gen­er­at­ing whim­si­cal, one-of-a-kind videos with just a few words or lines of text.

A dog wear­ing a Superhero out­fit with red cape fly­ing through the sky

Bring your imag­i­na­tion to life and cre­ate one-of-a-kind videos

Add mo­tion to a sin­gle im­age or fill-in the in-be­tween mo­tion to two im­ages.

Create vari­a­tions of your video based on the orig­i­nal.

Let us know if you’re in­ter­ested in gain­ing ac­cess to any fu­ture re­leases of our Make-A-Video re­search

Meta AI is com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing re­spon­si­ble AI and en­sur­ing the safe use of this state-of-the-art video tech­nol­ogy. Our re­search takes the fol­low­ing steps to re­duce the cre­ation of harm­ful, bi­ased, or mis­lead­ing con­tent.

This tech­nol­ogy an­a­lyzes mil­lions of pieces of data to learn about the world. As a way to re­duce the risk of harm­ful con­tent be­ing gen­er­ated, we ex­am­ine, ap­plied, and it­er­ated on fil­ters to re­duce the po­ten­tial for harm­ful con­tent to sur­face in videos.

Since Make-A-Video can cre­ate con­tent that looks re­al­is­tic, we add a wa­ter­mark to all videos we gen­er­ate. This will help en­sure view­ers know the video was gen­er­ated with AI and is not a cap­tured video.

Our goal is to even­tu­ally make this tech­nol­ogy avail­able to the pub­lic, but for now we will con­tinue to an­a­lyze, test, and trial Make-A-Video to en­sure that each step of re­lease is safe and in­ten­tional.

...

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5 870 shares, 32 trendiness

Outdated vs. Complete

On August 22nd, I got an email out of the blue from Apple that no­ti­fied me that I had a new App Review mes­sage. It was for my app, WorldAnimals, a light-hearted game for guess­ing an­i­mal ono­matopoeia sounds in dif­fer­ent lan­guages.

Usually, you re­ceive a mes­sage af­ter you sub­mit a new ver­sion to the App Store for re­view. The re­viewer has found some­thing wrong and your app is re­jected. The no­tice ex­plains where you have vi­o­lated the App Store Review Guidelines and how you can rec­tify the is­sue to get your app up­date ap­proved. Maybe the app is crash­ing, the re­viewer can’t log in to test, or god for­bid the up­date de­scrip­tion men­tions the evil ri­val mo­bile plat­form–these are all ac­tual rea­sons I have been re­jected by the App Store.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween de­vel­op­ers and App Store re­view­ers is tense at best. Most peo­ple are try­ing to build well-de­signed, use­ful mo­bile apps. Apple has in­sti­tuted App Store re­views to main­tain a high-qual­ity bar for apps and weed out spammy or ne­far­i­ous ac­tors, us­ing hu­man eval­u­a­tors to test in­di­vid­ual apps and pro­vide di­rect feed­back. However, ma­li­cious apps are rel­a­tively rare; ar­guably, Apple does­n’t do a great job fil­ter­ing them out any­way. So for the vast ma­jor­ity of de­vel­op­ers, App Store re­views add an ad­di­tional layer of fric­tion and time to ship­ping up­dates. And then in the in­evitable case when you need to push out an emer­gency fix for crashes hap­pen­ing to your app users, the App Store re­view process goes from an in­con­ve­nient an­noy­ance to an out­right road­block to im­prov­ing the user ex­pe­ri­ence.

I’ve been around the block, both as an in­die de­vel­oper and a full-time-em­ployed mo­bile de­vel­oper. I have re­leased fun, tiny games like WorldAnimals and pro­duc­tion SaaS mo­bile apps. When I was at Pinterest, I helped in com­mu­ni­ca­tions with our ded­i­cated App Store rep­re­sen­ta­tive who would ex­pe­dite Pinterest app up­dates through the re­view process. I have seen first-hand the lack of sup­port for in­die apps com­pared to the white glove ex­pe­ri­ence that large com­pa­nies get. Suffice it to say, I prob­a­bly have above-av­er­age knowl­edge of how this whole process works.

And still, I was sur­prised to re­ceive an App Review mes­sage. I had­n’t sub­mit­ted a new up­date for WorldAnimals. The app was still work­ing well, with zero crashes and a hand­ful of new down­loads every month. My boss had even shown me last week that he had down­loaded my app on his phone for his daugh­ter–we played the game to­gether dur­ing a work meet­ing and laughed at the silly an­i­mal sounds. In my mind, there was no rea­son I should be re­ceiv­ing a vaguely threat­en­ing mes­sage from Apple’s App Review sys­tem.

Well, it turns out, Apple’s prob­lem with my app was the fact that I was­n’t up­dat­ing it.

I opened the mes­sage and was greeted with the App Store Improvement Notice”. I was es­sen­tially told that I had­n’t up­dated my app in three years and now it counts as out­dated. I needed to up­date the app within 90 days or it would get au­to­mat­i­cally taken down.

The mes­sage I re­ceived from the App Store Review told me my app was oudated”.

Never mind the fact that my app has a 5-star rat­ing and was still be­ing down­loaded, with no com­plaints from any of my users. Also dis­re­gard the fact that I had other highly-rated apps up on the App Store, some of which had been up­dated much more re­cently than July 2019, clearly show­ing that I have not aban­doned these apps en­tirely. If there had been an ac­tual re­viewer who checked my out­dated app, they would have dis­cov­ered that I ar­chi­tected the app from the be­gin­ning to dy­nam­i­cally scale the UI so it re­sizes to fit the lat­est iPhone de­vices. All these could be sig­nals that in­di­cate to Apple that this is not a garbage-filled scam app that is low­er­ing the qual­ity of their App Store.

Many other de­vel­op­ers have com­plained about this dra­con­ian mea­sure. The de­ci­sion to re­move out­dated apps places a dis­pro­por­tional bur­den on in­die de­vel­op­ers and hob­by­ists be­cause they might not have time or re­sources to re­visit these old apps. Just hav­ing an ac­tive Apple de­vel­oper mem­ber­ship costs $99 a year. It feels a bit like ex­tor­tion when the plat­form, which you al­ready paid to pub­lish your app once, is now re­quir­ing you to con­tinue re­new­ing your mem­ber­ship to make that same app stay avail­able.

Beyond the fi­nan­cial cost, what is the most in­sult­ing to me about Apple’s pol­icy is how poorly thought out their mea­sure of quality” is for apps. The mes­sage con­tains two sep­a­rate state­ments about my app: (1) it has­n’t been up­dated in three years, and (2) it does­n’t meet a minimum down­load thresh­old.” Fixing ei­ther of those so-called prob­lems does­n’t mag­i­cally mean my app will be a high-qual­ity, pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for users.

There is ab­solutely no re­quire­ment for what is con­tained in the app up­date since Apple only states, the app will re­main avail­able if an app up­date is sub­mit­ted and ap­proved within 90 days.” At least in Google’s case, the Play Store re­quires an up­date to their min­i­mum tar­get level API which en­sures that de­vel­op­ers use a newer ver­sion of Android Studio.

The in­ten­tion be­hind Apple and Google’s poli­cies is to force de­vel­op­ers to make sure their apps run suc­cess­fully on the lat­est de­vices and op­er­at­ing sys­tems. Apple claims that the App Store im­prove­ment process will im­prove user ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause keeping apps up to date to con­form with mod­ern screen sizes, SDKs, APIs […] en­sures users can have a great ex­pe­ri­ence with any app they get from the App Store”. But my app was al­ready work­ing cor­rectly, mak­ing this up­date use­less and per­for­ma­tive.

My app was work­ing well even on the lat­est iPhone and iPad de­vices.

Even more frus­trat­ing is that while the app it­self runs fine on all the lat­est end-user de­vices, Apple’s de­vel­op­ment ecosys­tem has changed rapidly over the last three years. My old code sim­ply did not work any­more with the lat­est ver­sions of Xcode. So I had to spend four hours on Saturday up­grad­ing all my plat­form li­braries sim­ply so that I could com­pile the damn app. And all this ef­fort was ul­ti­mately in or­der to just change the build ver­sion num­ber from 1.0” to 1.1”. The UI and func­tion­al­ity re­mained un­changed since it had al­ready been work­ing as in­tended!

And to add in­sult to in­jury, Apple tells me I could have avoided all this pain if my app was be­ing down­loaded above a minimum down­load thresh­old”. The pol­icy is com­pletely silent on what this down­load num­ber needs to be to avoid get­ting flagged as out­dated–is it hun­dreds or thou­sands or hun­dreds of thou­sands of down­loads a month? This seems like an ex­plicit carve-out in the pol­icy for apps with ma­jor mar­ket­ing bud­gets. According to in­dus­try re­search, the to­tal mar­ket­ing spend for app in­stalls is pro­jected to be $61.1 bil­lion in 2022. So it seems like an in­cred­i­bly bad faith ar­gu­ment to claim that a higher down­load rate means bet­ter qual­ity apps. All a higher down­load rate means is that more money was prob­a­bly spent to mar­ket and op­ti­mize app in­stalls.

The over­all mes­sage that this crack­down sends is that Apple does­n’t care about about small and in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ers. For in­stance, the App Store could fac­tor in:

* Historical be­hav­ior of the de­vel­oper (ie. up­dat­ing other apps)

* Number of ac­tive ses­sions, es­pe­cially for the lat­est de­vices and plat­form ver­sions

These are all met­rics that the Apple al­ready au­to­mat­i­cally tracks, made avail­able to the de­vel­oper through the App Store Connect por­tal.

App Store Connect shows an overview of your app and in­cludes a va­ri­ety of met­rics, in­clud­ing ac­tive ses­sions and crashes.

The met­rics tab en­ables de­vel­op­ers to break down their app met­rics by de­vice and plat­form ver­sion.

It would be al­most zero cost to Apple to add these ad­di­tional checks to their fil­ter for out­dated apps–af­ter all, the data al­ready ex­ists in their sys­tem. So it does­n’t seem like mere over­sight that the pol­icy ne­glected to use a more nu­anced set of in­puts, it feels like Apple is ac­tively de­grad­ing the de­vel­oper ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause they con­sider us worth­less to their plat­form.

In the end, Apple will al­ways pre­fer the needs of mega-apps that have mil­lions of down­loads since these apps gen­er­ate the bulk of the rev­enue for the App Store. The im­pact of the App Store Improvement pol­icy is nonex­is­tent for VC-funded com­pa­nies. The high-growth apps try­ing to blitzs­cale their way to prod­uct-mar­ket-fit have been churn­ing out reg­u­lar up­dates all along with their mas­sive teams of mo­bile de­vel­op­ers. Small apps and their de­vel­op­ers will need to con­form to the whims of the plat­form or else dis­ap­pear en­tirely–this is and al­ways has been the risk of build­ing soft­ware in­side a walled gar­den.

I wish that the App Stores had a con­cept of a complete” app that does not need fur­ther up­dates. Emilia (@lazerwalker) put it re­ally well by de­scrib­ing cer­tain types of soft­ware as finished art­works”:

Games are not the only type of soft­ware that does­n’t need up­dates. Author Robin Sloan has a won­der­ful tap es­say” named Fish. The app was last up­dated in June 2018, there­fore outdated” by Apple’s stan­dards. Sloan has prob­a­bly con­tested the re­moval so it’s still avail­able on iOS, and there is al­ways an op­tion to read it on ma­cOS or Windows if needed. Other cre­ators might not be as lucky or have the money/​time to pro­vide their work on dif­fer­ent plat­forms.

It will be very dif­fi­cult to re­verse the in­cen­tives for Apple and Google and get them to start car­ing about these small gems. They have been killing apps from the very start, in fa­vor of the newest mo­bile de­vices and func­tion­al­ity. There is a whole trend on Tiktok #oldapps that are sim­ply videos of peo­ple boot­ing up old phones to play with apps that no longer can be run and rem­i­nisce about the joy that these apps cre­ated.

Day-by-day, month-by-month, the App Store will get a lit­tle less rich and vi­brant as apps start be­ing des­ig­nated as out­dated and get re­moved. Another con­se­quence of this hos­tile pol­icy is that in­die and hob­by­ist de­vel­op­ers may stop build­ing mo­bile apps. After all, the web is fun­da­men­tally a more sta­ble place for ex­per­i­men­tal soft­ware and finished art­works”, since back­wards-com­pat­i­bil­ity is the gold stan­dard and apps can run in­def­i­nitely.

After 4 hours of work to re-com­pile my app and 44 hours wait­ing in the re­view queue, WorldAnimals is now up­dated to a new ver­sion. I am safe for at least an­other three years be­fore get­ting au­to­mat­i­cally flagged for re­moval. Unless, that is, Apple de­cides there is a new thresh­old for outdated” and change their pol­icy once again.

WorldAnimals is now avail­able for an­other three years (hopefully).

I still love mo­bile de­vel­op­ment–a large part of my en­gi­neer­ing ca­reer has been build­ing mo­bile apps of all sizes, for small hobby side pro­jects and for huge uni­corn com­pa­nies. I am proud of WorldAnimals and want to make sure it’s still avail­able for down­load. But this out­dated pol­icy will make me se­ri­ously think twice about build­ing fun, ex­per­i­men­tal apps on iOS in the fu­ture.

...

Read the original on vivqu.com »

6 780 shares, 22 trendiness

Text-to-3D using 2D Diffusion

DreamFusion: Text-to-3D us­ing 2D Diffusion

Ben Poole

Google Research

Ajay Jain

UC Berkeley

Jonathan T. Barron

Google Research

Ben Mildenhall

Google Research

Paper

Project

Gallery

Recent break­throughs in text-to-im­age syn­the­sis have been dri­ven by dif­fu­sion mod­els trained on bil­lions of im­age-text pairs. Adapting this ap­proach to 3D syn­the­sis would re­quire large-scale datasets of la­beled 3D as­sets and ef­fi­cient ar­chi­tec­tures for de­nois­ing 3D data, nei­ther of which cur­rently ex­ist. In this work, we cir­cum­vent these lim­i­ta­tions by us­ing a pre­trained 2D text-to-im­age dif­fu­sion model to per­form text-to-3D syn­the­sis. We in­tro­duce a loss based on prob­a­bil­ity den­sity dis­til­la­tion that en­ables the use of a 2D dif­fu­sion model as a prior for op­ti­miza­tion of a para­met­ric im­age gen­er­a­tor. Using this loss in a DeepDream-like pro­ce­dure, we op­ti­mize a ran­domly-ini­tial­ized 3D model (a Neural Radiance Field, or NeRF) via gra­di­ent de­scent such that its 2D ren­der­ings from ran­dom an­gles achieve a low loss. The re­sult­ing 3D model of the given text can be viewed from any an­gle, re­lit by ar­bi­trary il­lu­mi­na­tion, or com­pos­ited into any 3D en­vi­ron­ment. Our ap­proach re­quires no 3D train­ing data and no mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the im­age dif­fu­sion model, demon­strat­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of pre­trained im­age dif­fu­sion mod­els as pri­ors.

Given a cap­tion, DreamFusion gen­er­ates re­lightable 3D ob­jects with high-fi­delity ap­pear­ance, depth, and nor­mals. Objects are rep­re­sented as a Neural Radiance Field and lever­age a pre­trained text-to-im­age dif­fu­sion prior such as Imagen.

DreamFusion gen­er­ates ob­jects and scenes from di­verse cap­tions. Search through hun­dreds of gen­er­ated as­sets in our full gallery.

Our gen­er­ated NeRF mod­els can be ex­ported to meshes us­ing the march­ing cubes al­go­rithm for easy in­te­gra­tion into 3D ren­der­ers or mod­el­ing soft­ware.

Given a cap­tion, DreamFusion uses a text-to-im­age gen­er­a­tive model called Imagen to op­ti­mize a 3D scene. We pro­pose Score Distillation Sampling (SDS), a way to gen­er­ate sam­ples from a dif­fu­sion model by op­ti­miz­ing a loss func­tion. SDS al­lows us to op­ti­mize sam­ples in an ar­bi­trary pa­ra­me­ter space, such as a 3D space, as long as we can map back to im­ages dif­fer­en­tiably. We use a 3D scene pa­ra­me­ter­i­za­tion sim­i­lar to Neural Radiance Fields, or NeRFs, to de­fine this dif­fer­en­tiable map­ping. SDS alone pro­duces rea­son­able scene ap­pear­ance, but DreamFusion adds ad­di­tional reg­u­lar­iz­ers and op­ti­miza­tion strate­gies to im­prove geom­e­try. The re­sult­ing trained NeRFs are co­her­ent, with high-qual­ity nor­mals, sur­face geom­e­try and depth, and are re­lightable with a Lambertian shad­ing model.

@article{poole2022dreamfusion,

au­thor = {Poole, Ben and Jain, Ajay and Barron, Jonathan T. and Mildenhall, Ben},

ti­tle = {DreamFusion: Text-to-3D us­ing 2D Diffusion},

jour­nal = {arXiv},

year = {2022},

...

Read the original on dreamfusion3d.github.io »

7 772 shares, 24 trendiness

Text-to-3D using 2D Diffusion

DreamFusion: Text-to-3D us­ing 2D Diffusion

Authors anonymized

Recent break­throughs in text-to-im­age syn­the­sis have been dri­ven by dif­fu­sion mod­els trained on bil­lions of im­age-text pairs. Adapting this ap­proach to 3D syn­the­sis would re­quire large-scale datasets of la­beled 3D as­sets and ef­fi­cient ar­chi­tec­tures for de­nois­ing 3D data, nei­ther of which cur­rently ex­ist. In this work, we cir­cum­vent these lim­i­ta­tions by us­ing a pre­trained 2D text-to-im­age dif­fu­sion model to per­form text-to-3D syn­the­sis. We in­tro­duce a loss based on prob­a­bil­ity den­sity dis­til­la­tion that en­ables the use of a 2D dif­fu­sion model as a prior for op­ti­miza­tion of a para­met­ric im­age gen­er­a­tor. Using this loss in a DeepDream-like pro­ce­dure, we op­ti­mize a ran­domly-ini­tial­ized 3D model (a Neural Radiance Field, or NeRF) via gra­di­ent de­scent such that its 2D ren­der­ings from ran­dom an­gles achieve a low loss. The re­sult­ing 3D model of the given text can be viewed from any an­gle, re­lit by ar­bi­trary il­lu­mi­na­tion, or com­pos­ited into any 3D en­vi­ron­ment. Our ap­proach re­quires no 3D train­ing data and no mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the im­age dif­fu­sion model, demon­strat­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of pre­trained im­age dif­fu­sion mod­els as pri­ors.

Given a cap­tion, DreamFusion gen­er­ates re­lightable 3D ob­jects with high-fi­delity ap­pear­ance, depth, and nor­mals. Objects are rep­re­sented as a Neural Radiance Field and lever­age a pre­trained text-to-im­age dif­fu­sion prior such as Imagen.

Our gen­er­ated NeRF mod­els can be ex­ported to meshes us­ing an al­go­rithm based on march­ing cubes for easy in­te­gra­tion into 3D ren­der­ers or mod­el­ing soft­ware.

Given a cap­tion, DreamFusion uses a text-to-im­age gen­er­a­tive model called Imagen to op­ti­mize a 3D scene. We pro­pose Score Distillation Sampling (SDS), a way to gen­er­ate sam­ples from a dif­fu­sion model by op­ti­miz­ing a loss func­tion. SDS al­lows us to op­ti­mize sam­ples in an ar­bi­trary pa­ra­me­ter space, such as a 3D space, as long as we can map back to im­ages dif­fer­en­tiably. We use a 3D scene pa­ra­me­ter­i­za­tion sim­i­lar to Neural Radiance Fields, or NeRFs, to de­fine this dif­fer­en­tiable map­ping. SDS alone pro­duces rea­son­able scene ap­pear­ance, but DreamFusion adds ad­di­tional reg­u­lar­iz­ers and op­ti­miza­tion strate­gies to im­prove geom­e­try. The re­sult­ing trained NeRFs are co­her­ent, with high-qual­ity nor­mals, sur­face geom­e­try and depth, and are re­lightable with a Lambertian shad­ing model.

...

Read the original on dreamfusionpaper.github.io »

8 715 shares, 29 trendiness

Quazel

...

Read the original on talk.quazel.com »

9 714 shares, 27 trendiness

Why “Go Nuts, Show Nuts” Doesn’t Work in 2022

For those who don’t know or re­mem­ber, Tumblr used to have a pol­icy around porn that was lit­er­ally Go nuts, show nuts. Whatever.” That was mem­o­rable and hi­lar­i­ous, and for many peo­ple, Tumblr both hosted and helped with the dis­cov­ery of a unique type of adult con­tent.

In 2018, when Tumblr was owned by Verizon, they swung in the other di­rec­tion and in­sti­tuted an adult con­tent ban that took out not only porn but also a ton of art and artists — in­clud­ing a ban on what must have been fun for a lawyer to write, fe­male pre­sent­ing nip­ples. This pol­icy is cur­rently still in place, though the Tumblr and Automattic teams are work­ing to make it more open and com­mon-sense, and the com­mu­nity la­bels launch is a first step to­ward that.

That said, no mod­ern in­ter­net ser­vice in 2022 can have the rules that Tumblr did in 2007. I am per­son­ally ex­tremely lib­er­tar­ian in terms of what con­sent­ing adults should be able to share, and I agree with go nuts, show nuts” in prin­ci­ple, but the ca­su­ally porn-friendly era of the early in­ter­net is cur­rently im­pos­si­ble. Here’s why:

Credit card com­pa­nies are anti-porn. You’ve prob­a­bly heard how Pornhub can’t ac­cept credit cards any­more. Or seen the new rules from Mastercard. Whatever crypto-utopia might come in the com­ing decades, to­day if you are blocked from banks, credit card pro­cess­ing, and fi­nan­cial ser­vices, you’re blocked from the mod­ern econ­omy. The vast ma­jor­ity of Automattic’s rev­enue comes from peo­ple buy­ing our ser­vices and auto-re­new­ing on credit cards, in­clud­ing the ads-free brows­ing up­grade that Tumblr re­cently launched. If we lost the abil­ity to process credit cards, it would­n’t just threaten Tumblr, but also the 2,000+ peo­ple in 97 coun­tries that work at Automattic across all our prod­ucts. App stores, par­tic­u­larly Apple’s, are anti-porn. Tumblr started in 2007, the same year the iPhone was re­leased. Originally, the iPhone did­n’t have an App Store, and the speed of con­nec­tiv­ity and qual­ity of the screen meant that peo­ple did­n’t use their smart­phone very much and mostly in­ter­acted with Tumblr on the web, us­ing desk­top and lap­top com­put­ers (really). Today 40% of our signups and 85% of our page views come from peo­ple on mo­bile apps, not on the web. Apple has its own rules for what’s al­lowed in their App Store, and the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of those rules can vary de­pend­ing on who is re­view­ing your app on any given day. Previous de­ci­sions on what’s al­lowed can be re­versed any time you sub­mit an app up­date, which we do sev­eral times a month. If Apple per­ma­nently banned Tumblr from the App Store, we’d prob­a­bly have to shut the ser­vice down. If you want apps to al­low more adult con­tent, please lobby Apple. No one in the App Store has any ef­fec­tive power, even multi-hun­dred-bil­lion com­pa­nies like Facebook/Meta can be dev­as­tated when Apple changes its poli­cies. Aside: Why do Twitter and Reddit get away with tons of su­per hard­core con­tent? Ask Apple, be­cause I don’t know. My guess is that Twitter and Reddit are too big for Apple to block so they de­cided to make an ex­am­ple out of Tumblr, which has only” 102 mil­lion monthly vis­i­tors. Maybe Twitter gets blocked by Apple some­times too but can’t talk about it be­cause they’re a pub­lic com­pany and it would scare in­vestors.There are lots of new rules around ver­i­fy­ing con­sent and age in adult con­tent. The rise of smart­phones also means that every­one has a cam­era that can cap­ture pic­tures and video at any time. Non-consensual shar­ing has grown ex­po­nen­tially and has been a huge prob­lem on ded­i­cated porn sites like Pornhub — and gov­ern­ments have rightly been ex­pand­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions to make sure every­one be­ing shown in on­line adult con­tent is of le­gal age and has con­sented to the ma­te­r­ial be­ing shared. Tumblr has no way to go back and iden­tify the fea­tured per­sons or the le­gal­ity of every piece of adult con­tent that was shared on the plat­form and taken down in 2018, nor does it have the re­sources or ex­per­tise to do that for new up­loads.Porn re­quires dif­fer­ent ser­vice providers up and down the stack. In ad­di­tion to a com­pany pri­mar­ily serv­ing adult con­tent not hav­ing ac­cess to nor­mal fi­nan­cial ser­vices and be­ing blocked by app stores, they also need spe­cial­ized ser­vice providers — for ex­am­ple, for their band­width and net­work con­nec­tions. Most tra­di­tional in­vestors won’t fund pri­mar­ily adult busi­nesses, and may not even be al­lowed to by their LP agree­ments. (When Starbucks started sell­ing al­co­hol at se­lect stores, some in­vestors were forced to sell their stock.)

If you wanted to start an adult so­cial net­work in 2022, you’d need to be web-only on iOS and side load on Android, take pay­ment in crypto, have a way to con­vert crypto to fiat for busi­ness op­er­a­tions with­out be­ing blocked, do a ton of work in age and iden­tity ver­i­fi­ca­tion and com­pli­ance so you don’t go to jail, pro­tect all of that iden­tity in­for­ma­tion so you don’t dox your users, and make a ton of money. I es­ti­mate you’d need at least $7 mil­lion a year for every 1 mil­lion daily ac­tive users to sup­port server stor­age and band­width (the GIFs and videos shared on Tumblr use a ton of both) in ad­di­tion to host­ing, mod­er­a­tion, com­pli­ance, and de­vel­oper costs.

I do hope that a ded­i­cated ser­vice or com­pany is started that will re­place what peo­ple used to get from porn on Tumblr. It may al­ready ex­ist and I don’t know about it. They’ll have an up­hill bat­tle un­der cur­rent regimes, and if you think that’s a bad thing please try to change the regimes. Don’t at­tack com­pa­nies fol­low­ing le­gal and busi­ness re­al­i­ties as they ex­ist.

...

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How to Build a Personal Webpage from Scratch

Modern web­pages are (primarily) com­posed of three types of files: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Basically,

Webpages also con­sist of ad­di­tional re­sources, such as im­ages or doc­u­ments. When you visit a web­page, your web browser re­quests the doc­u­ments from a server.

Static and dy­namic web­pages dif­fer in how the files are pre­pared be­fore they are sent to the vis­i­tor. A sta­tic web­page is es­sen­tially a col­lec­tion of files sit­ting on the server, which are sent di­rectly to the web­page vis­i­tor, whereas a (server-sideThis is in con­trast to a client-side dy­namic web­page which uses JavaScript, but only in your web browser.) dy­namic web­page typ­i­cally con­sists of a data­base as well as code to gen­er­ate the files on the fly­This code can ei­ther run in your browser, or the page ren­der­ing it­self can hap­pen on the server. when they are re­quested by the vis­i­tor.

For ex­am­ple, this web­site is a sta­tic web­page. On the other hand, any web­page which al­lows you to log-in and have user-spe­cific state is a dy­namic web­page. The ma­jor­ity of web pages on the in­ter­net are dy­namic web­pages.

When build­ing a sta­tic web­page, you can sim­ply pre­pare the en­tire web­page as a di­rec­tory con­tain­ing files. In fact, you can make a web­page (using your own de­vice as the server) sim­ply by writ­ing a bit of HTML with no CSS or JavaScript: cre­ate a file named in­dex.html with the con­tents

and, when you dou­ble-click on the file, it should open in your browser and show a (rather min­i­mal) page dis­play­ing the line content”.

Dynamic web­pages are built in a sim­i­lar way, ex­cept rather than gen­er­at­ing the pages in ad­vance, the files sent to the vis­i­tor are gen­er­ated as they are re­quested. A dy­namic web­page will typ­i­cally have a data­base used to store the site in­for­ma­tion, and a web server which uses the data­base to gen­er­ate con­tent when re­quested by the user. This al­lows sub­stan­tially more flex­i­bil­ity in con­tent de­liv­ery (e.g. web­page state, cus­tomiza­tion for the viewer, etc.) since the con­tent de­liv­ered to the web­page can de­pend on ar­bi­trary vari­ables whose val­ues are un­known when cre­at­ing the site. This also al­lows pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion of con­tent, which avoids repet­i­tive code. The main down­side is that, since the pages need to be gen­er­ated for each vis­i­tor, dy­namic web­sites are typ­i­cally more re­source in­ten­sive and slower to ren­der.

However, for a per­sonal blog or site used pri­mar­ily to dis­trib­ute in­for­ma­tion, rather than col­lect it, dy­namic con­tent gen­er­a­tion is not nec­es­sary! Here is a short list of rea­sons why you should pre­fer sim­ple sta­tic web­pages (if you do not al­ready know that you re­quire a dy­namic web­page):

* Longevity.

A sta­tic web­page is just a col­lec­tion of files, which you should also have saved on your com­puter.

So even in the worst case sce­nario—say your web server dis­ap­pears—you still have the files for your web­page and you can just put them up some­where else.

Static web­pages are also eas­ier to main­tain: if you have a dy­namic web­page, you need to keep the re­quired tools up to date oth­er­wise every­thing will cease to work.

* Portability.

If you de­cide that you want to host your web­page some­where else, this is straight­for­ward to do.

Static web­pages are also sim­ple enough that you can host them your­self on a low-power de­vice!

* Security.

Since sta­tic web­pages are sub­stan­tially sim­pler, they have a smaller at­tack sur­face and are more se­cure.

There is no un­der­ly­ing server serv­ing re­quests, or pro­cess­ing user in­put.

Even in hosted sit­u­a­tions, there can be prob­lems with the un­der­ly­ing con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem.

For ex­am­ple, many Wordpress sites were com­pro­mised through an ex­ploit which tar­geted the plu­gin sys­tem.

One down­side of man­u­ally prepar­ing a web­page is that there is of­ten a large amount of rep­e­ti­tion: for ex­am­ple, each ar­ti­cle on this web­page has dif­fer­ent con­tent but many shared lay­out fea­tures. In or­der to sim­plify this process, a com­mon tech­nique is to use a tem­plate proces­sor. This is a pro­gram which takes files writ­ten in a tem­plat­ing lan­guage (such as Jinja or Tera), com­bined with con­tent files writ­ten in a markup lan­guage (such as Markdown) and con­verts them into HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. You first pre­pare the tem­plates, then write the con­tent files, and then use the tem­plate proces­sor to gen­er­ate the web­page files.

There are three main com­po­nents to sta­tic web­site gen­er­a­tion:

Templating.

You should choose a tem­plat­ing en­gine and then pre­pare the web­site tem­plate.

I am per­son­ally a fan of Zola; some other com­mon op­tions are Jekyll and Hugo.

Content.

The most im­por­tant part of a web­page is the con­tent!

Beyond that, it’s nice if your web­page also looks de­cent.

You need to write base HTML files and CSS style sheets, as well as the web­page con­tent.

Deployment.

While it is pos­si­ble (and not too dif­fi­cult) to host your own sta­tic site server, it is typ­i­cally eas­i­est to use sta­tic site host­ing.

I use Cloudflare Pages.

You might also be in­ter­ested in GitHub Pages or Netlify.

Of course, tem­plat­ing is mainly a con­ve­nience fea­ture, and not strictly nec­es­sary when mak­ing a small web­site. I’ll dis­cuss the other two com­po­nents in the fol­low­ing sec­tions, along with some ad­di­tional top­ics in the fi­nal sec­tion.

HTML is a markup lan­guage, which means that the text rep­re­sents con­tent, rather than be­ing the con­tent vi­su­ally. Other well-known markup lan­guages in­clude LaTeX and Markdown.

Therefore when writ­ing con­tent for your web­page, it is im­por­tant to use an ed­i­tor which ac­cu­rately rep­re­sents the con­tents of the file you are edit­ing. This is in con­trast to soft­ware such as Microsoft Word, in which the con­tent that you en­ter on the page is dif­fer­ent than the un­der­ly­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Some pop­u­lar graph­i­cal text ed­i­tors in­clude Atom and Sublime Text. If you do not want to in­stall any­thing, Notepad is a built-in text ed­i­tor on Windows. Similarly, TextEdit is built-in on ma­cOS. If you pre­fer a com­mand-line in­ter­face, you could con­sider Neovim or Emacs.

One sub­tlety is that not all text is the same. Underneath, text is just bi­nary data, so rules are re­quired to con­vert the bi­nary data into the tex­tual rep­re­sen­ta­tion: this process is known as char­ac­ter en­cod­ing. The most com­mon type of en­cod­ing used on web­pages is UTF-8, which is the trans­fer for­mat for the Unicode stan­dard.

ASCII is also a well-known en­cod­ing, but only sup­ports a very re­stricted num­ber of char­ac­ters. Certain older soft­ware, such as TeX, de­faults to files en­coded in ASCII:If you \usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}, you can use Unicode di­rectly in the .tex file. for ex­am­ple, to in­put di­rec­tional quo­ta­tion marks ” (which are Left Double Quotation Mark and Right Double Quotation Mark re­spec­tively), one would use `` and ’. However, un­less you are forced oth­er­wise, you should try to write all your con­tent in Unicode.

I’m go­ing to as­sume you know some ba­sics of HTML and CSS. There are lots of tu­to­ri­als on­line; here is a nice one. I’d rec­om­mend you read the ar­ti­cles on HTML ba­sics and CSS ba­sics.

In this sec­tion, I’ll give a com­plete (albeit stream­lined) de­scrip­tion of set­ting up a ba­sic func­tional web­page. We are go­ing to cre­ate 4 files:

├── 404.html

├── in­dex.html

├── style.css

└── writ­ing

└── in­dex.html

Let’s start with a rather min­i­mal HTML file. Call it in­dex.html in your (currently empty) web­site folder.

This is­n’t the most bare-bones pos­si­ble HTML file, but it is a good mod­ern start­ing point for all HTML con­tent on your site. Here’s an ex­pla­na­tion of some of the tags:

* and : these are the two main sec­tions of your HTML file.

con­tains the meta­data, and con­tains the con­tent that will show up on your screen when you visit the web­page.

* : de­clare that the con­tent is en­coded in UTF-8.

* en­sures that, if this page is opened on a browser with a small screen, it will not be in­cred­i­bly zoomed out.

This is the bare min­i­mum re­quired so your page looks pass­able on a phone.

You can read a bit about this here.

* : the content’ of the page, i.e. your ac­tual ar­ti­cle or blog post but with­out the nav­i­ga­tion, header, footer, etc.

Now if you open the file in­dex.html with your web browser (you can prob­a­bly just dou­ble-click it) you should get a page with two links at the top: About, and Writing.

Unfortunately the Writing link does noth­ing: we need to cre­ate that page. Create a new di­rec­tory called writ­ing and in that di­rec­tory cre­ate a file called in­dex.html. Then, fill it with pretty much the same con­tents as in­dex.html, but re­place the with the con­tents

and re­place the with some­thing slightly dif­fer­ent, say

You can also change the ti­tle and de­scrip­tion in this new page, as well. Now, if you click on the nav­i­ga­tion links, you have two work­ing pages!

We have a func­tional web­page, but it would be nice to make every­thing look a bit bet­ter. Create a file style.css, and add the line

to the of in­dex.html and

to the of writ­ing/​in­dex.html. This tells the browser to look for a file named style.css in the same di­rec­tory as in­dex.html and in the di­rec­tory con­tain­ing the file writ­ing/​in­dex.html, which con­tains styling in­for­ma­tion. While it is pos­si­ble to de­fine styles in­line in the HTML, this is bad prac­tice since it is harder to main­tain (as a gen­eral rule, HTML de­fines se­man­tics, whereas CSS de­fines style). Also, you should add some more con­tent to the sec­tion: per­haps a few more head­ers

and links my link. This will make the styling changes more clear as you make them.

Let’s be­gin with some ba­sic styling. First, add

body {

mar­gin: 0 auto;

max-width: 700px;

min-width: 0;

padding: 0 10px 25px;

font-fam­ily: Helvetica”, Arial”, sans-serif;

to the file style.css. This cen­tres the text body, pre­vents it from be­ing too wide on large screens, en­sures there is a bit of a space on the bound­ary when the screen is small, and fi­nally sets a new font (rather than the usual de­fault Times New Roman). The min-width: 0 is use­ful to pre­vent large el­e­ments from (accidentally) mak­ing the page very wide on screens nar­rower than 700 pix­els.

We can also ad­just the spac­ing so that the text is laid out a bit more nicely:

h2 {

mar­gin-top: 1em;

padding-top: 1em;

nav a {

mar­gin-left: 20px;

And ad­just the colour of the text it­self to some­thing a bit more pleas­ant:

body {

color: #444;

h1, h2, strong {

color: #222;

Then touch up the font sizes:

header {

mar­gin: 0px;

font-size: 23px;

ar­ti­cle {

font-size: 16px;

nav {

font-size: 18px;

let­ter-spac­ing: 1px;

h1 {

font-size: 26px;

h2 {

font-size: 23px;

Finally, let’s add a bit of char­ac­ter by styling the links:

a {

color: #ffa64d;

Our web­page looks a bit cleaner now!

However, we need to ad­dress some more se­ri­ous lay­out prob­lems: cur­rently, the nav­i­ga­tion is way too small, and the header does not stand out at all.

To fix this, we are go­ing to use a rel­a­tively new CSS tech­nique known as CSS Grid. A nice ref­er­ence for CSS Grid can be found here.

...

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