January 29, 2020

The Stories Streets Tell

Those who saw him hushed. On Church Street. Liberty. Cortlandt. West Street. Fulton. Vesey.

—Colum McCann, Let The Great World Spin

Despite having lived in New York City for most of the 2010s and worked in Lower Manhattan for a few of them, I still didn’t know where these streets were when I was reading Colum McCann’s novel at the end of 2019.

Knowing the names of a city’s streets has always been meaningful to me, despite its waning utility. But aside from being useful if the internet happens to be down or if one’s GPS is on the fritz, streets somehow make me feel connected to a city in a way that I find important. The denizens of a place have so little in common with one another aside from their shared geography, and it sometimes disappoints me that the simple act of asking for directions is a dwindling reason to have a conversation in the age of the smartphone. But at least it’s still a valid one.

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December 29, 2018

An ode to YouTube's recommendation algorithm

Much has been said about the harmful effects of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, from Zeynep Tufecki’s We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads to James Bridle’s Something is wrong on the internet. While these are very important (and disturbing) analyses that need to be acknowledged, this post isn’t about that. It’s about my personal experience with YouTube’s recommendation engine, which has been overwhelmingly positive, largely due to the kind of content I constrain myself to watching while on the site. ... Read more

May 23, 2017

PyCon 2017

I recently attended PyCon for the first time in several years and thought I’d write a bit about my favorite sessions, the videos of which are already online.

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May 15, 2017

Audm

For the past several months, I’ve been complementing my podcast regimen with narrated long-form journalism via an excellent new service called Audm.

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May 14, 2017

Eviscerated by Spammers

My blog was gutted by spammers.

This has happened before, because I’m apparently not very good at keeping my Wordpress installation up-to-date and secure. Only before, the spammers who hacked into my blog to pepper ads in its innards only modified PHP templates, and those weren’t too hard to fix.

This time, though, they came for the database.

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July 19, 2016

Pode, An Accessible Code Editor

My colleague Claire Kearney-Volpe and I have recently been co-teaching HTML and CSS to students who are visually impaired.

One of the benefits of learning coding today is the fact that it can be done without having to install anything: using sites like JS Bin, CodePen, and Mozilla Thimble, people can tinker with code on their web browser, and even publish it instantly online with the click of a button.

Unfortunately, however, these sites are inaccessible to screen reader users.

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April 27, 2016

Embeddable p5 Learning Sandboxes

I’ve recently been helping my colleague Taeyoon Choi with his series of Signing Coders workshops, in which we’ve been teaching students who are hearing-impaired how to code using p5.js.

One of the challenges Taeyoon faced in writing his computer-based learning activities was providing students with a simple, welcoming coding environment in which they could tinker with example p5 sketches without fear, embedded in the context of his curriculum.

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February 1, 2016

Passage, Emscriptened

A friend and I were recently reminscing about a poignant 2007 game by Jason Rohrer called Passage.

It’s hard to describe the game without spoiling anything, but since it literally takes five minutes to play, I encourage you to play it online right now.

The thing is, until today, you couldn’t play it online.

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© Atul Varma 2020