Mark Smith’s Newsletter - Saturday 1st January, 2021

SEO engineers, UIs in films, msg brokers, web components, perf, systems design, bash monitoring, futureOfTech, Apple keyboard, maps, cool repos & projects, etherium, code art, Github, with videos&pods

Hello and welcome to my newsletter!

Another season 1 instalment…

I usually do these in chronological order but this week I’ve hoisted this one:

New Year's Eve fireworks display over Sydney Harbour as Australia ushers in 2021 - Heck of a year, the australians have made it to the other side

Happy new year! I hope you are well.

It’s been a week of minor controversies for me. I had a post flagged on Hacker News. I asked about it and contacted the mods via email, looks like someone thought the newsletter is too ‘self promotional’. They are right of course, there is an element of self promotion to these newsletters, though I view it somewhat differently, I’m sharing what I’m doing as I’m doing it, I think some people might find that interesting and useful. I keep links to my stuff separate so you can easily skip them if you’re not interested in that. It would be great to hear what you think.

I would love to contribute to HN, it’s a great community, but the only solution right now is to post each link individually, which doubles the work I already put in because there is no way to post programmatically, and they want to keep it that way so the quality of the posts remains high. Some interesting back and forth with the mods, but for now at least there isn’t a way that is realistic for me to contribute any of the linkblog links ☹️

I’ve updated the navbars on the linkblog and podcasts sites, replacing the icon links with text links. They were part of the old linkblog site, but don’t make much sense now that it’s just for my sites. The updated navbars makes it much easier to move between the sites, which are on separate subdomains.

Site traffic is increasing, I’m finding that the blog is quite popular now that I’ve been posting more often. I’d like people to discover the linkblog, that’s where a lot of the fun happens, there are lots of extra links that get posted there that don’t make it into the newsletter, so I’ve added a link right at the top of the blog. It will be interesting to see if the traffic distribution changes over the next few weeks. By the way, there is an RSS feed for the linkblog.

It’s a strange balancing act, because if you are all reading on the linkblog, then why bother opening the newsletter? Well for one, you wouldn’t be able to read about what I’ve been up to. I write about that in the newsletter. But I’m also hoping to evolve the blog, linkblog, podcasts and newsletter over time, so I think there are good reasons to be in each locations, or to gravitate to the place that suits you best.

As for the news, the big story this week for me was the news that Amazon is acquiring the Wondery Podcast Network. I was a super early listener to podcasts back when it was mostly people running command line scripts to download episodes, I don’t think it was even called podcasting yet at that stage.

So it’s amazing to see all the movement in this space. Judging by some of the reactions on Twitter, there is quite a lot of apprehension, but I think it’s phenomenal, podcasting is becoming a real industry! It doesn’t mean it’s going to be plain sailing, it will take a lot of effort to grow things while keeping the podcast vibe alive, but I think it’s possible 🙂

That’s all from me this week, it’s been a turbulent year, so I wish you the best for the year ahead.

I hope you enjoy the links!

Special mentions

Stuff from me

🚀 Building websites and workflows - It's nice when a clear narrative comes into view

🚀 Housekeeping note: I have added a link right at the top of the blog to make it easier to discover the daily linkblog, there’s so much fun action there!

Stuff from around the web


Demystifying SEO with experiments - The Pinterest engineering team describe their SEO testing framework, they run experiments whenever they make major changes to the frontend of the website to make sure that there aren’t any SEO regressions resulting in negative search rankings

In a streaming wars world, JustWatch has become an essential tool - It’s a search tool for digital media - “Type in a movie or TV show, and it’ll tell you everywhere you can stream it, watch it for free with ads, buy, or rent it. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, you simply click and it’ll link you directly to that service”

European tech accuses US of using sanctions to shut it out of China

Kit FUI - User interfaces from film, television, video games and the designers that created them

Redis, Kafka or RabbitMQ - Which MicroServices Message Broker To Choose? - Short and to the point article that highlights some of the main considerations, I thought it’s worth mentioning that I’ve also had success creating MongoDB backed queues for smaller applications

Dave Rupert reviews his 2020 - A lot of accomplishments (80 books, wow) despite the difficulties, I’m looking forward to see where his involvement with web components will lead in 2021

Create Reusable Web Components in HTML

We rendered a million web pages to find out what makes the web slow - lots of interesting data and correlations, the standout bit of information for me was that JQuery is still on 40% of websites, React/Angular/Vue only on ~0.9% of websites

Systems design explains the world - volume 1 - Well worth the time to read this article if you do any type of programming, covers the basics of what systems design actually is then examines 3 classes of system design problems: chicken-egg, second-system effect and innovators dilemma - Lots of great real world examples and very well written, a pleasant read on a marvellous text focussed website

Bash HTTP monitoring dashboard - Simple bash script that monitors many sites in parallel using curl and generates a static site that displays the results

56 Online Communities for Entrepreneurs

8 Themes For The Near Future Of Tech - Scott Belsky the Chief Product Officer for Adobe Creative Cloud looks into his technology crystal ball, he’s got an interesting angle on things and the future he paints feels kind of novel

Css Tricks Design v18 - I love that Chris Coyier redesigns his website so often, it’s very on-brand, but also his writeups are great and the sites are proof you can have both fun design and a good reading experience

Google Short Videos Carousel Displays TikTok & Instagram Videos - I’m not seeing this in my search results yet

Apple patents ‘reconfigurable’ Mac keyboard with small display for each key

Google Maps' Moat is Evaporating - Interesting piece looking at the online maps space, some quality analysis of a sector composed of some of the biggest tech companies (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook) and that is seeing a lot of movement between competing approaches, notably the rise of OpenStreetMap

Why I Use Web Components - Looks at the main reasons to use web components, namely reusability, robustness, stability, for code that will still function long into the future and increase in performance as the platform is optimised

CandyMail makes it easy to trigger and send multi-step email sequences in Node.js using a single JSON file

alex/what-happens-when - An attempt to answer the age old interview question "What happens when you type into your browser and press enter?"

More challenging projects every programmer should try - A list of interesting projects to try, with descriptions of what the minimal apps would be like, and suggestions as to what features could be added - I found it super interesting to learn about the different shapes of apps, I am mostly familiar with building web client/server and cli tools, so things like games engines, text editors, compilers, mini operating systems and video game emulators were completely unknown to me, but also the key value store and stock trading apps sound like a lot of fun to built, the article does a really great job of describing all these projects

Big news in the podcast space - Amazon to acquire the Wondery Podcast Network, the deal is reported to be worth $300 million

How we built the GitHub globe - I hadn’t seen the new homepage, it looks pretty cool!


Lex Friedman Podcast #80 - Vitalik Buterin - Ethereum, Cryptocurrency, and the Future of Money - Fascinating and well paced conversation with the founder of Etherium covering a wide range of topics including Satoshi Nakamoto, blockchains, proof of work and identity, PKI and digital signatures, Bitcoin, money, the Etherium origin story, smart contracts, software engineering and project governance challenges, proof of stake and consensus algorithms, sharding of storage and computation, Etherium 2.0, games built using smart contracts, Uniswap, AI and crypto, and closes on Immortality

The Art of Code - Dylan Beattie - If you have ever written a line of code, and even if you haven’t, you’ll most likely enjoy this talk, definitely worth watching


Ride Home Podcast (Weekend Bonus Episode) - Peter Kafka on Media, Hollywood, Substack and TikTok - Covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time including Warner streaming everything on HBO Max, local news is dying, the NYT is the journalism big cheese, Substack scepticism, the some stuff you care about economy and podcast interview styles

Software Engineering Podcast - Cloud-Native Applications with Cornelia Davis (Repeat) - Looks at applications architected and built to run exclusively in cloud environments, covers event driven architectures, functional programming, infrastructure as code, Kubernetes, immutability and workloads, cloud failure domains, statelessness, microservices vs monoliths, and the new cloud abstractions such as Lambda and Big Query


Mark Smith‘s Newsletter is a weekly roundup of some of the best javascript, tech and web development links published to my linkblog.

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I’m a freelance web developer, consultant and automation engineer, if you have some projects you’d like to work on, consider hiring me!

Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!