I’m desperately cheap, so my appetite for a $90 / month Cloudinary account is low. Cloudinary’s best features are…

  1. Passing parameters through the URL to dynamically resize imagery
  2. A fast CDN to serve our images from
  3. Dynamic image formats based on a browser’s capabilities (e.g. to serve webp)

… and fortunately, we can recreate all of this using low cost tools from the Google Cloud Platform. Yes, a do-it-yourself option will be frustrating to maintain and denser to explain to others, but it does satisfy our primary goal:

I’m desperately cheap

What we’re going to build

Image for post
Image for post
Our Cloud Function resizing imagery on request

On our client website we will have an img tag that contains information in the URL indicating the dimensions we need our image in. …

Image for post
Image for post

The 2018 NFL season has brought with it a barrage of awkward and out of place #NFLPartner #NFLGamePass sponsored tweets from prominent members of the football media. Pre-kickoff feeds have been flooded with tweets extolling the virtues of NFL GamePass — the NFL’s on-demand video service. They’re ham-fisted, to say the least, and look like this if you haven’t seen them:

Bill Barnwell, ESPN & ex-Grantland
Dan Orlovsky, that guy who ran out the back of the endzone that one time

People writing on the internet who hate the NFL and are suspicious of the media are normally water brained clowns who cut swooshes out of their socks. I’m not one of those people. …

Google Tag Manager, vanilla Google Analytics goals and AdWords conversions are a messy three headed villain. They each overlap considerably but also have distinct value. Here’s how and why I finally dumped AdWords conversions and focused on Tag Manager and Google Analytics events (plus a little Facebook) for all goal tracking.

Defining some terms and recent updates

Google Tag Manger is not a thing unto itself, it’s a tool to enable others. It’s the quarterback for all other Google products (Analytics, Optimize, AdWords) and lots of non-Googley things (Twitter, Facebook marketing). It’s one of the biggest steps forwards in both web development and marketing of the last decade. …

Pre-programming note: Max thinks about the internet a lot on Twitter at @mxbrry

I’ve been to a dark place, but I’ve returned with a recipe for making React, Webpack, and BrowserSync hot reload. I’ve also wrapped it all inside of a Gulp script responsible for wider asset compilation.

All of the following will be formalised in an upcoming release, Jumpstart-React; a new flavour of my modern Yeoman boilerplate project Jumpstart-Static.

I’m toes in with Webpack. I like what it can do for JavaScript bundling, but I’m not ready to run my HTML, images, CSS, and fonts through it. Webpack is for JavaScript, and Gulp for the rest. …

I released recently a new way to manage website content using Google Drive. Admins can edit and add content to a Google Spreadsheet, and then push the spreadsheet’s content to their site’s API endpoint. My Google Spreadsheet template can be found at drivecms.xyz, as can documentation explaining how it all works.

Image for post
Image for post

The Spreadsheet template lets you push content to an API, but what if you wanted to populate a site without needing to create an endpoint capable of handling the data you’re sending its way? …

An unhealthy interest in true crime can be a badge of being someone to avoid, but we’re in the midst of a golden age so I will wear it unashamedly.

Smart writers, reporters and investigators have given us 18–24 months of fantastic true crime, and it shows no sign of relenting. My wish was to write a neat 2015 retrospective, but the tendrils of this renaissance can be mapped beyond 12 calendar months.

Instead, I have 5 pieces of media from 2014 and 2015, that embody this resurgence. But first, consider the master of the genre.

If I take any higher truth from the last 18 month of true crime content, it’s that what Errol Morris achieved in 1988 (!) is nothing short of a masterpiece. The Thin Blue Line runs the triple crown of documentary filmmaking: well made cinema, well told story, and well founded argument. Thin Blue Line sits as an outlier of the time. I can’t find anything similar from the era, and it wouldn’t be for 10 to 15 years that its sense or eeriness-born-of-reality was matched. The Fog of War ultimately stands out as Morris’ best for me, but The Thin Blue Line is true crime at it’s best. To own the genre for decades before it matured is a marvel. …

We've heard a lot about how websites are getting heavy, and heavy = slow, and that big shiny images are deserved of a flack for this. Let’s talk about how we can load images a little bit smarter, and a workflow to make some tiny file sized, blurry placeholders to prevent our layout being screwed too badly.

Image for post
Image for post


The answer to performance problems tends to be a two prong strategy: optimize and asynchronize.

Optimization is a bit outside of what I want to talk about. There are plenty of frontend pipelines that can make stuff small, like Imagemin for images, Webpack for JavaScript, and PostCSS for… well… CSS. …

Cool stuff on the web is happening. Makers of low-level web tech handed out end of 2015 webdev Christmas gifts recently, with the arrival of HTTP/2 in NGINX and the public beta of Let’s Encrypt. This is how I embraced both in about 25 minutes.

A Primer

If you’re not familiar with HTTP/2 or Let’s Encrypt, then I suggest reading up on them from a more informed source than I. But if you wanted the TL;DR, the following might suffice…

HTTP/2 is a super fast protocol for connecting to sites. Faster than plain ol’ HTTP, and faster than SPDY which was a SSL-compliant half step kicking around the last few years. Want to know how much faster? Well for some reason there are numerous sites in the wild loading in tiny images on an HTTP and then HTTP/2 connection to show you the difference. Like… loads of sites are doing this. Weird test, but a neat visual short-cut to see the difference. …

4 weeks with Arnold Worldwide comes to a close with the US literally and figuratively turning on the lights for the holiday season. I wouldn't have thought it long enough, no matter how long I had spent in Boston. I can’t thank Sean Will and his team at Arnold enough for the welcome they gave me.

Instead of lengthy self-congratulatory reflection, I wanted to speed round final observations and notes from my time in MA.

Image for post
Image for post

Someone I learnt from whilst at Arnold — and will continue to communicate with beyond my 4 weeks Havas Lofts placement — was Fei Wu, senior digital producer. Fei’s control of project flow and process is immensely enviable, and she is one of the most impressive people I've worked with in a while. …

Image for post
Image for post

An agency is not a shoal of fish swimming in one direction. It’s more like ten shoals of fish swimming in the same sea, but in ten different directions for ten different clients. Homogeneity and cohesiveness are born in the fleeting moments of overlap; when learnings are shared between teams, and compromises over shared resource are forged. That constraint is visible in the tools team use. The quality of a tool or platform is defined by its adoption. If two people use the better tool but twelve the inferior, majority rules.

Arnold Worldwide’s digital production team is pained by this adoption crisis. Their team is bigger than ours in London, and they’re not as close to one another’s projects (the product of operating at scale). Fragmentation in tools is a natural — though for Arnold seemingly harmless — result. …


Max Barry

@dunkmadness on Twitter | mxbry.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store