Web Development Reading List #181: Mass Deployments, Prepack, And Accessible Smart Cities

About The Author

Anselm is a freelance front-end developer who cares about sustainable front-end experiences and ethical choices in life. He writes the WDRL, and is co-founder … More about Anselm ↬

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What’s going on in the industry? What new techniques have emerged recently? What insights, tools, tips and tricks is the web design community talking about? Anselm Hannemann is collecting everything that popped up over the last week in his web development reading list so that you don’t miss out on anything. The result is a carefully curated list of articles and resources that are worth taking a closer look at.

In a world between building accessible interfaces, optimizing the experiences for users, and big businesses profiting from this, we need to find a way to use our knowledge meaningfully. When we read that even the engineers who built it don’t know how their autonomous car algorithm works or that the biggest library of books that mankind ever saw is in the hand of one single company and not accessible to anyone, we might lose our faith in what we do as developers.

But then, on the other hand, we stumble across stories about accessible smart cities or about companies that embrace full honesty in their culture. There are amazing examples of how we can pursue meaningful work and build a better future. Let’s not let negative news get us down, but let’s embrace them as a reason to change for the better instead.


  • Matt Reiferson shares the story of how Buzzfeed transformed its release process. Now they can easily deploy more than 150 times a day.
  • Matthias Ott reminds us of the web for everyone and how you can set an example by turning away from centralized silos that only serve business interests but not the users. The first step towards a more decentralized web.

Concept & Design

Meetup.com usability study
Jessica Chen analyzed and solved current pain points in the Meetup app. Usability pitfalls that we often aren’t aware of. (Image credit)

Tools & Workflows





  • Prepack is a JavaScript source code optimizer that tries to simplify your code on the compile-time to make it faster on the run-time. By pre-resolving calculations and assignments where possible, for example.
Prepack optimizes JavaScript source code to make it run faster. (Image credit)

Going Beyond…

  • Maciej Ceglowski published a transcript of his new talk “Build a Better Monster” in which he describes how the Internet’s economic basis is built upon surveillance. He shows who makes money with user data, how this influences people and politics, and why it’s so hard (but also so important) to face and change this practice of making money of other people.
  • Nathan Kontny shares a nice story on why honesty is the best policy you can establish, both as an individual and as a company.
  • Will Knight questions the dark secret at the heart of Artificial Intelligence (AI): The algorithms fuelling AI-driven technologies are often uncontrolled, and even engineers don’t really know what they’ll do and how they’ll decide things.
  • Google scanned millions of paper books, and hardly any of them are available to anyone. It’s the result of a project where Google ignored copyrights in an attempt to build a book search and snippet library. This article summarizes the whole story behind the project and shows interesting insights into what Google does in the background and how copyright protects authors of such unauthorized use of their material. Google Books — probably the biggest and most controversial book library on our planet.

And with that, I’ll close for this week. If you like what I write each week, please support me with a donation or share this resource with other people. You can learn more about the costs of the project here. It’s available via email, RSS and online.

— Anselm

Further Reading

Smashing Editorial (mrn)