Brian Feeney

Blogging About Blogging

It's so great to see people returning to blogging after so many years. The mass exodus from Twitter has led, predictably, to folks reimagining how they read and write on the internet. Before Twitter and Facebook honey trapped everyone's attention, blogs had been one of the main places of choice to post. It's possible, though not assured, that they could make a comeback.

My community online is made up mostly of designs, developers, and others working on software products. For reasons that might seem obvious, this group of people tend to be in the first wave of any mass movement happening online. The people who build the web tend to know the web best. Generally, at least. They're all testing out blogging again, one by one by one. My "People" folder in my RSS reader is alive in a way it hasn't been in years. Personal websites are coming back to life.

I'm watching for two outcomes from all of this movement. One: will all of this design and engineering attention returning to blogs, RSS, and other forms of web publishing result in new innovation? Better newsreaders? More creative uses of RSS? Clever applications of ActivityPub? And Two: will the non-tech community follow us into the next phase of web publishing? That will depend on how easy we can make it for people to start their own blogs, or to join federated servers, etc. It's a real challenge, as it depends as much on social dynamics as it does tech innovation.

One piece of the puzzle still missing is a centralized place to find citizens of the internet. And for good reason. Decentralization is so important to the concept of the open web. Despite needing to avoid any single institution controlling that list, it would be hugely beneficial to have one place to go to find where your favorite people are publishing. That's what my product Feeeds was supposed to solve. It was a way for a person to curate all the RSS feeds they produce online into one bundled feed. Perhaps this is a product which could be federated, too? Could this feature be added to Mastodon?

But maybe the best web possible is one that embraces the chaos. It's possible that any centralization of a certain strength tips into producing more negative outcomes than positive. I'm enjoying the conversation that's happening now. The death of Twitter has revitalized interest in all of this. The future of the web seems open in a way it didn't six months ago. It feels like nearly anything can happen now. But you can bet the exploration will be well documented on the blogs.

December 16, 2022


GBV, Terminal 5

Guided By Voices sounded pretty great last night. They opened for Dinosaur Jr., who were also good, but I guess were the closer because they’re louder. But got to take my friend Brian to his first GBV show. Doing my damndest to turn him into a super fan like me.

December 04, 2022


Breaking Figma Updates

I've been getting a lot of Figma library updates in my files which weren't triggered by human action. Neither I nor anyone on my team made updates to the libraries, but yet components show 'Updates' which must be accepted — or ignored forever until the end of time. What's causing this? Ghosts in the machine?

I have a guess. It has to do with failing to perfectly use Figma's every feature exactly as intended. Figma is far more technical a tool than they'd like to admit. If you want to use any of their smarter features, you're stepping outside of Design work and entering Engineering Land. The smallest error means your rocket might explode on its way to space.

Figma has a ton of great auto-layout and library features. They're great and they save time and reduce inconsistencies. The catch is that you have to use those features exactly how Figma wants you to. Figma expects you to have read and memorized every line of their documentation and watched every instructional video before you've added a single object to a file. If you start working without fully understanding what a Variant State or Mode is, or how a Hugged Content group with 8px of horizontal padding will behave when stretched, well, you're likely to have broken comps in the near future.

What breaks the comps? Figma updates.

One of my design system components which keeps getting these required ghost updates is my Tab Group. It's a component with an auto-layout group inside an auto-layout group inside an auto-layout group inside an auto-layout group inside an auto-layout group ... with a few variants. And this is a basic UI module. It's just a row of tabs. But multiple times now, this component has for unknown reasons been triggered to update, and after updating, options for it in my comps turn on and margins are broken, etc.

Here's what happened. Figma released an update which subtly changed the rules for which a 'hugged' group behaves when grouped with sibling auto-layout objects that's also inside an auto-layout group which has a variant. Or whatever. Something to that effect, something extremely specific. And it broke my component. The point is that their very explicit rules (likely not clearly written or documented) are so fine-tuned that there is zero curtesy afforded to the user. A component might accidentally be working how the user intended, yet when Figma updates their rules, the component which had been looking great is suddenly upside-down and backwards.

Engineers are used to this. It's a standard part of writing code. Code merges can sometimes have unintended consequences. This kind of thing now comes for designers. The smarter our design tools get, and the more they allow us to do with clever features, the more they're going to break in frustrating, time-consuming, comp-breaking ways.

Figma is great. Sketch is great. I'm really appreciative of both of these tools and how they help me do my job. My takeaway is that I need to focus on the comps I'm currently working on and care less about keeping old comps at 100% fidelity. Design for the current sprint. Design for the current quarter of backlog work. But once those designs are in production, accept that those old comps will slowly rot. Figma will break them as their app changes. Which is fine! Design work for software and the web is ephemeral. It's made easier with great tools, but those tools have no loyalty to you or to the integrity of your designs. They have an app to maintain, and if their updates break your old designs, that's not their concern.

So go ahead and accept those updates, comp-breaks and all. You're already onto the next thing anyway.

December 01, 2022


Twitter to Mastodon

Over the years, I've taken numerous week-long breaks from Twitter. Logged out in all my browsers. Deleted Tweetbot from my phone. Stepped away from the birdsite and gave myself a breather from the firehose of ... everything. When Musk bought Twitter three weeks ago, I did the same. Except this break might be The Big One. And not just because I'm taking some kind of principled stand against a smug billionaire I don't like (nearly everything is owned by billionaires, anyway), but because Musk seems determined to burn Twitter to the ground. The site is imploding spectacularly. Sadly. Triumphantly. Deservedly. Idiotically.

I feel terrible for those good people who lost their jobs. I personally know a few of them. They all intended to build the best Twitter it could be. At least, until one of most childish adults on the planet bought their work from under them for reasons not yet clear to me. Musk fired half the company in the first week. Half of the rest have since resigned. What kind of skeleton crew is even left to carry the site into 2023? Even if Musk does manage to keep the site online, it's likely to be reduced to another Rightwing chat room. Can't imagine many tweeps would be interested in maintaining that nonsense for a salary.

Now that everyone appears to be testing out Mastodon as a replacement, I've logged back into my original account. I'm [email protected]. It's an instance set up by the kind founders of the XOXO conference, a community of designers, developers, and other creators of things mostly for the internet. I'm happy to be there and appreciative of the hosts. Joined in 2018, and it seems to be alive and well.

I'm also experimenting with using a second account — [email protected] — for following journalists, public figures, and other news-making folks. The plan is for that account to replace the up-to-the-minute feature of Twitter, while the account is where I follow colleagues and friends and otherwise make my community. I had always intended to do this separation of concerns with Twitter, but never put in the effort. We'll see if this works. Gonna fuck around and find out.

November 21, 2022


SF, Fall 2022

Spent last weekend in San Francisco, visiting a couple of my oldest friends, Matt and Tiff. Listened to records, had some some great food, hiked near Stinson Beach, took a drive down to Pescadero. A perfect trip.

Brown posted my face on IG.

November 12, 2022


A Photo A Day: Day 570

In April of 2020, I set a goal for myself. I was going to published a photo a day to this site for a full year. The lockdown had been in affect for over a month, and I was looking for a project to consume the new time I had at home. I knew there were plenty of good photos in my library that I hadn't yet edited, so most evenings I scrolled through them and marked what was worth another look. It turned out that there was more than a year's worth of photos in the mix, and I was carrying my new camera around and making tons of new images. I'm now on day 570 of a photo posted every day.

I'd say about half of those photos were taken pre-pandemic. Maybe two-thirds. A big portion of the newer photos were taken while on my daily walks around the Brooklyn neighborhoods near my home. I've collected those into a project I called Brooklyn Covid Walks. We took a half-dozen trips out of the city to the areas around Woodstock, which gave me the opportunity to shoot more urban and rural subjects for a change. These 570+ photos are a good mix of old and new, favorites and not, formal or expressive. I've mostly tried to put Eggleston's democratic forrest ideas into practice. I've photographed just about everything that caught my eye for any reason.

My backlog of images is starting to run out. I'll continue to take photos most days, but not likely fast enough to keep up with the photo-a-day pace. Soon, I'll be posting only when I have something worth sharing, and I'm not sure what cadence that will take. In any case, I'm proud to have met my goal and then to have overshot it by a full 200+ images.

November 15, 2021



I turned 40 this year and bought myself a gift: a Fujifilm X100V. It took me about a month to come to this particular camera. I had a shortlist of about a half dozen different models, but the X100V has turned out to be practically perfect. I love it. I'm not much of a gearhead when it comes to equipment, but this camera is maybe changing my attitude on that. It's a fantastic camera.

I don't really intend to write a review of it, but I do have some praise to share. Carrying this camera is fun. It has a good weight. It has some heft, but not too much. Holding it is comfortable, even for an hour or more. There are more buttons, toggles, and dials on this thing than I can currently make good use of. The usefulness of this camera will grow with me. I'm still learning which settings are most helpful to have accessible at a click.

The images coming out of the X100V are exactly what I was hoping for from a camera at this price. Crisp when steady. Colors complete a very full range. The bokeh is as good as I need. The lag between trigger click and lens snap sometimes feels noticeably slower than I want; but measurable in milliseconds. I can't yet say if this is only user error, though. Definitely could be.

My previous camera, a Lumix GX1, was really nice, but the X100V is in another class altogether. I didn't realize how much I missed the manual controls I knew from my old film cameras. It's revelatory to get back on that bike, to engage with photography in the old-school way again. I still love taking photos with my iPhone because of how idiot-proof it is — point and shoot and never even think about it. But when I'm out walking and inside that photographer's headspace, it's so much better to have a camera like this. It's the right tool for the job in a way iPhone's will never fully be.

Lastly, the feature which really does it for me is the viewfinder. It was the only thing I considered a must have, somewhat arbitrarily. And I'm glad I prioritized it. It really makes taking photos feel like taking photos in a way I don't know how to verbalize. It de-digitizes the digital camera experience in a visceral way.

This camera has significantly lifted my photography hobby. After a full year of reviewing old photos and taking new ones of my neighborhood on daily walks, it's so fun to be reengaging with the fundamentals of the craft.

April 16, 2021


Prophet Rev2

Birthday gift from my wife this year, this amazing synth. Hoping to start a Music section of this site in the next few months and to start posting some recordings. Haven’t made music in a long while.

February 14, 2021


February 07, 2021



Yesterday was my fortieth birthday. It's strange to write, and even stranger to contemplate. Do I feel 40? Nope. Do I look 40? People are surprised to hear my age, so I suppose not. Age is a strange thing. At this moment, I'm not sure I fully grasp what it means to me. It's trivial. It's a bit like a fact with no practical consequence.

Last year, someone I know made a playlist that included a track for every year they were alive. Seemed like as good a way to mark time as anything, so I've done it, too. I wouldn't say the songs on here are my absolute favorite from each year, nor "the best." I guess I picked what felt right for this kind of thing, and tried not to duplicate too many artist.

40 Years, 40 Tracks

January 27, 2021