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15by7: A nice idea spoilt by reality

15by7

Update: Twitter’s desktop site now shows line breaks, so 15by7 tweets now display correctly for the vast majority of users.

Recently I’ve been trying to finish off the shiny new version of this site, and was getting frustrated at my slow progress, so I picked the simplest idea out of my notes.txt file and built something.

The result is 15by7, a one-page web toy for creating tweetable pixel art from Unicode block characters. I’ve also set up @15by7 to retweet the best efforts. There’s no practical use, it’s all about the fun challenge of doodling something within such severe restrictions.

Unfortunately, the Twitter ‘desktop’ site doesn’t render line breaks, so 15by7 tweets end up looking mangled. The mobile site is fine, as are virtually all apps, so it’s an odd and frustrating anomaly. You can force wrapping using long lines or extra-wide characters, but then it doesn’t look right on mobile devices. There’s no universal solution.

Also, in some fonts the block characters are mangled (e.g. the densest block may be much wider; this afflicts Tweetbot on all of my devices) or missing (Android 4 doesn’t seem to have the least-dense block).

So I very nearly ditched the whole thing, and will be filing the project under “Nice ideas spoilt by reality”. Hopefully some people are enjoying it though, and getting anything finished & launched is always good.

iPad with Logitech Ultrathin keyboard and Textastic

Partly as an experiment, and partly out of necessity, I did almost all of the development (everything except image tweaking and browser testing) on an iPad, using Textastic and a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.

Textastic works well for editing a simple static web site offline, especially once you know this vital tip: tap on the filename at the top to choose from recently-edited files. I was able to preview within the app, and upload to the live hosting for further testing. The only thing I got frustrated with was fiddling around to precisely select text, which is a general iOS/touchscreen issue (and I probably should’ve bumped up the font size and made more use of Textastic’s selection widget).

I’ve been using the Ultrathin quite a lot for four months and haven’t charged it since the day I got it, so battery life certainly isn’t a problem. I’m not generally a fan of encumbering gadgets with cases & add-ons, but it’s well-made and useful if I’m having to do a lot of emailing on the move. Or decide to build a daft little web site.


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