a good blog post
Every morning I have a two hour breakfast where I catch up on the latest happenings in the world of web performance via email, Twitter, news, and blogs. My primary source for relevant blog posts is the Planet Performance RSS Feed – I recommend anyone working on web performance subscribe to this feed.
Twitter is another major source of blog post links. It’s a little noisier – which is why I only follow 37 people and love retweets. One of the people I follow is Stephen Shankland (@stshank). He’s the main person in what I consider “major media” (he’s a writer for CNET News) who really follows the web performance space. The other day he retweeted a blog post about responsive images by Paul Robert Lloyd, Responsive Images: What We Thought We Needed.
I read the post, enjoyed it, and learned some stuff so I tweeted about it.
Sharing a good blog post. Nothing big. But then I got this response:
I don’t personally know Paul nor Anselm. And Anselm’s question wasn’t at all obnoxious or unfounded. He was just curious why I had tweeted that URL. As I’ve been driving around the last few days I’ve been thinking about how I would answer this question. I really thought it was a good blog post – but why? The reasons for my tweet grew and grew to the point where I thought it deserved a blog post.
Here’s why I liked Responsive Images: What We Thought We Needed and by extension what I think makes a good blog post.
- Logical Structure
- Logical flow is key to good writing but is overlooked in many blog posts. Paul sets up the problem, provides some history, explains the proposed solutions, highlights the drawbacks, and wraps it up with a motivating conclusion. Perfect.
- Entertaining Writing Style
- Tech writing can be really boring. It takes a touch of flair to liven it up. Paul does that starting with the first sentence:
If you were to read a web designer’s Christmas wish list, it would likely include a solution for displaying images responsively.
- Mixing the main topic with the current cultural focus. Hemmingway? No. Made me smirk? Yes. Later he has a quote from Scrooge. Not only is this interesting as a reference to something outside of technology, it also took time to find the quote. And I loved this sentence:
That both feature verbose and opaque syntax, I’m not sure either should find its way into the browser – especially as alternative approaches have yet to be fully explored.
- The structure of this sentence is interesting. It causes me to slow down and really understand what he means. This might indicate that a simpler sentence or multiple sentences would have been easier for the reader to digest. But I felt a little challenge and enjoyed the change in beat to the rhythm of the read.
- Good Grammar
- Perhaps this isn’t big to most people, but OCD people like me (and Zakas and Crockford) see good grammar as attention to detail. And the details are really important when it comes to technology. I couldn’t find a single grammatical mistake when I read Paul’s post, which raises the probability that the details behind the technical analysis are solid as well. (On re-reading the post multiple times I discovered two typos. There might be more. Nevertheless this is much better than the norm.)
- Technically Sound
- I’ve worked with a lot of the alternatives for responsive images. I’m reluctant to say that I’m an expert, but I consider myself well informed. I think Paul’s description of the problem and arguments for what’s lacking are solid. I especially resonate with his third issue, “The size of a display has little relation to the size of an image”. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this argument, but it’s more often than not left out of the discussion. The technical details and reasoning in the post were sound.
- Something to Learn
- I enjoy reading blog posts that provide me an opportunity to learn something new, or to help reinforce and reprioritize what I already know. Here are some of my takeaways from Paul’s post: Apple proposed srcset, verbosity is an issue, WebP helps, scaling images isn’t always the solution (see Bill Murray), and removing images is sometimes a good alternative.
- Informative Examples
- Examples have to be relevant, understandable, and pithy. Paul’s code samples do this, as well as his visual examples of Bill Murray and image grids.
- Thorough References
- Paul’s article is full of great links: complex, devilish,
<picture>, Responsive Images Community Group,
srcset, experimentation with image compression, contextual methods of querying, and more. I had visited many of these links previously – which reinforced my sense that this was a quality article as I continued to read. This also told me that the links I hadn’t visited were worth visiting – which they are.
It takes a lot of time to write a good blog post. I appreciate the dedication that Paul and so many others in the web dev community show by sharing their thoughts and what they’ve learned. It’s pretty amazing.