I think about the topic of busyness and how to slow down in a life a lot. Over the years I’ve essentially started habits that’ve helped me say no, make time for myself, and given myself time with no plans so that my mind can wonder. And when I come across some links that are helpful, I usually read through them. In Vox, a professor talks about how he’s become less busy and it’s through really small, simple things. And in HBR, there is a list of things that can be helpful to making small changes that can slowly work into larger changes. I especially liked the part about questioning your thoughts to do away with negative thinking, something I have a hard time with much of the time.
Things I like
“What seems universally true is that we could all use a little song, a good poem, and a fine picture in our daily routine. (Speaking a few good words seems entirely optional.)”
I really like the way Kleon digs into the origins of this list. But I agree with the list, taking time to appreciate is extremely important, not just trying to create.
“Even the most persuasive argument — that compulsory voting violates free speech ideals that include the right to silence — misunderstands how compulsory voting works. Voters are not compelled to support a candidate or even to cast a valid ballot. They are obliged to turn up.”
This was really interesting to me and I had a hard time picking out the right quote, because I also find the argument about fringe parties not being able to get elected since swing voters, rather than turn out, are what matter. I found a lot of this compelling since our recent elections elected a president with small fraction of the population actually voting for him.
“The divisions are not just happening through commercialism though. School choice has led people to self-segregate from childhood on up. The structures of American work life mean that fewer people work alongside others from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Our contemporary culture of retail and service labor means that there’s a huge cultural gap between workers and customers with little opportunity to truly get to know one another. Even many religious institutions are increasingly fragmented such that people have fewer interactions across diverse lines. (Just think about how there are now “family services” and “traditional services” which age-segregate.) In so many parts of public, civic, and professional life, we are self-segregating and the opportunities for doing so are increasing every day.”
This is an interesting read about how several institutions used to force more mixing of people from different backgrounds. The military is one such example, but college dorm life was something I wouldn't have thought about before reading this (even though it makes complete sense). I think about this a lot and about how to bring more influences (in real life as opposed to voices on social media) into my own life.
A beautiful image and short post about a book that I now want to read as it sounds amazing.
“While healthy policy differences between the traditional right and the left will continue, they should not prevent Americans from uniting in the defense of democracy and our Constitution. There are deep differences and misunderstandings between both sides, each of which have somewhat different definitions for even words like liberty and equality. But on their most basic meaning, I believe there is broad consensus. We should celebrate this; it’s critical that we do.”
Evan McMullin is extremely conservative and I think in a normal political year I wouldn't agree with him very much, but since the election, he's been a critical voice of the incoming administration. And I'm grateful he's still speaking up.
“Like the specialists at the Graham Center, the generalists at Jamaica Plain are incrementalists. They focus on the course of a person’s health over time—even through a life. All understanding is provisional and subject to continual adjustment. For Rose, taking the long view meant thinking not just about her patient’s bouts of facial swelling, or her headaches, or her depression, but about all of it—along with her living situation, her family history, her nutrition, her stress levels, and how they interrelated—and what that picture meant a doctor could do to improve her patient’s long-term health and well-being throughout her life.”
This article describes what frustrates me so much about care in the US health care system. The person who should know me the best and be able to spend time to ensure my treatment is what I really need, is the one who is paid the least and expected to rush through their days. I went to the same clinic from the time I was born until I moved out of state at 32. The history and knowledge they had about my life and my health is something that can't be replicated easily, but it can make all the difference when a crisis or chronic illness strikes.
“As we move our code to CodePen, our writing to Medium, our photographs to Instagram we don’t just run the risk of losing that content and the associated metadata if those services vanish. We also lose our own place to experiment and add personality to that content, in the context of our own home on the web.”
I'm so with Rachel on this, this space is my home, and I'm increasingly all in on it with syndication to other places. And it's why I care less about Twitter and other social media.
“So back to fundamentals. My first duties are to my family and close friends, to my communities of work and care, and to myself, though that last has taken me a very long time to understand. The panicky rhythm of Twitter is no longer compatible with those duties, so I’m off it. I was genuinely sad about its decline for a couple of years, but I don’t have any sadness to spare anymore.”
One of the benefits of the decline of Twitter is that more people that I've followed on RSS for years are blogging again and also writing Tiny Letters. I'm excited as I like reading long form thoughts from great writers and I'm seeing more of it in my feed.
“One of the sneakier pitfalls of an efficiency-based attitude to time is that we start to feel pressured to use our leisure time “productively”, too – an attitude which implies that enjoying leisure for its own sake, which you might have assumed was the whole point of leisure, is somehow not quite enough. And so we find ourselves, for example, travelling to unfamiliar places not for the sheer experience of travel, but in order to add to our mental storehouse of experiences, or to our Instagram feeds. We go walking or running to improve our health, not for the pleasure of movement; we approach the tasks of parenthood with a fixation on the successful future adults we hope to create.”
I don't really do much for time management. I have routines, because they help me be healthy; things like take work breaks, getting up for breakfast, and leaving my desk periodically to move around. But I've found lately that there are people who think you need to be productive with every second of your day. I'm not, I like leisure, and sometimes that may mean a nap or taking an aimless walk slowly through the neighborhood.
“There are, it should be noted, heartening attempts to correct this consolidation, and many voices are still speaking up for the future of media. (Also, Teen Vogue is likely going to save us all.) But in the meantime, I suppose it’s on me. I need to figure out how to translate what I read online into action, even if it means using Twitter a little less. Heck, I’d be lying if this wasn’t a goal of getting this little blog online: to place words next to each other, and write a few paragraphs of my own.”
An incredibly timely post from Ethan and it quotes heavily one of my favorite talks by Mandy. I recommend reading them both. And I agree with Ethan, figuring out how to take in what's happening online and turn that into meaningful action is something we all need to do for ourselves and as I'm finding, it's not always easy.
“As a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are more prone to suffer brain atrophy, heart disease and liver damage. Even if a woman stops drinking, liver disease continues to progress in ways it does not in men, said Gyongyi Szabo, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. And research definitively shows that women who drink have an increased risk of breast cancer.”
I've written about this before, but I've been thinking a lot about alcohol and how I consume it, what triggers me wanting it, and lately I've been ensuring I'm staying within healthy limits. This article is hard to read, but I believe it's important. We've normalized excessive drinking for women and it's a serious health risk. And now I can't help but notice all the ways we talk about drinking as if it is normal and OK to drink too much. And as the article talks about, smoking used to be considered normal and that's changed, maybe we need to do the same thing for drinking.
“Memories are a starting point for hope. Where they lead is up to us.”
A short post, but it's words are just what I needed this week.
“But neither do I believe in time travel. I believe in human limitation, not out of any sense of fatalism but out of a learned caution, gleaned from both recent and distant history. We will never be perfect: that is our limitation. But we can have, and have had, moments in which we can take genuine pride. I took pride in my neighborhood, in my childhood, back in 1999. It was not perfect but it was filled with possibility. If the clouds have rolled in over my fiction it is not because what was perfect has been proved empty but because what was becoming possible—and is still experienced as possible by millions—is now denied as if it never did and never could exist.”
I have Zadie Smith's latest book on my list to read, but in the interim I've been reading a lot of articles by her and they are wonderful. This in particular, dealing with both how aging changes us and how the world events play into what we do and focus on as we age, is really interesting. More good words that I need to hear in these times.
“And sometime around 2017, we will change again. The new year will bring a different kind of retreat. Rather than retreating into making or craft, we will retreat into smaller and more nuanced connections. Into quality over quantity. Into the single story over collections of stories. Into the subtle over the general. Into the singular datapoint over big data. Into attention over distraction.”
Another piece of comfort and thought about the world in which news lives by someone working in that field at NPR.
“Moderation does not mean truth is always found equidistant between two extreme positions, nor does it mean that bold and at times even radical steps are not necessary to advance moral ends. Moderation takes into account what is needed at any given moment; it allows circumstances to determine action in the way that weather patterns dictate which route a ship will follow.”
I long for the days when compromise was not a dirty word, when moderation was how we could move forward, when the other side was not evil or unpatriotic. I have no idea if, when, or how we'll get back to that, but I hope we can or I fear for our future in the US.
“To be a digital minimalist, in other words, means you accept the idea that new communication technologies have the potential to massively improve your life, but also recognize that realizing this potential is hard work.”
I'm really enjoying Newport's blog, it's leading me to think about the way I spend my time and the things that I do. In addition, this post led me to the documentary, Minimalism, which is also quite interesting.
“So I find Scott Alexander’s thrive/survive model (aka the ‘zombies vs post-scarcity utopia’ model) of political behaviour more useful than a left/right distinction. The model looks like this: If you are (or anticipate) living in a world where zombies are after all of humanity, it fosters a ‘circle the wagon’ mentality: protect your own at all costs, don’t waste your resources on other people, support the military and stock up on guns, control reproduction (ie sexuality, particularly women’s) to ensure the survival of your tribe, create and enforce clear lines of command (hierarchies), etc. Alternatively, if you think that you live in a post-scarcity utopia, or that we someday will, you can prioritize things like helping other people, investing in art and science, taking care of the environment, and celebrating personal freedom.”
If you aren't subscribed to Deb's email newsletter, you should be, it's always good. But this issue was particularly good in the wake of the US election.
“With this election, we’ve joined the rest of the world. Think of all the other nations that live under moronic, venal leadership. There are models for honorable political lives in those circumstances, but those models are quite different from our dominant notions of citizenship in which we follow politics as a spectator sport and occasionally vote. All over the world there are people in repressive settings who find ways to live as free human beings, act in solidarity with their neighbors, and fashion strategies to resist state power. We’re going to need to get good at practicing that kind of politics.”
Interesting thoughts that provided me some sense of comfort and hope amidst the difficult news of most days.
“It’s the turn from fact that makes fascism possible. If they turn away from reasoning altogether, they can turn toward feeling like part of a body following a charismatic leader.”
This was really fascinating. I've been reading a lot of history lately and it's been helping me get through what is an absolutely crazy feeling time. I take comfort in it somehow and I look to history for guidance.
“When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides. The majority of people are in the middle, the margin of victory is almost always in the middle, and very often the truth is there as well, waiting for us.”
The American system of government is a system that encourages compromise and governing from the center because of the checks and balances that exist. This is also one reason that change happens slowly. But I agree with Noah, the middle is often where so many of us live and where so much truth can be found.
“And here we begin to see how the age of social media resembles the pre-literate, oral world. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other platforms are fostering an emerging linguistic economy that places a high premium on ideas that are pithy, clear, memorable and repeatable (that is to say, viral). Complicated, nuanced thoughts that require context don’t play very well on most social platforms, but a resonant hashtag can have extraordinary influence. Evan Spiegel, the chief executive officer of Snap Inc., grasped the new oral dynamics of social media when he told the Wall Street Journal: ‘People wonder why their daughter is taking 10,000 photos a day. What they don’t realize is that she isn’t preserving images. She’s talking.’”
Fascinating idea, not sure I believe it or not, but maybe that's because reading and words are so important to me.
“Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots. Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Hazy visions of “healing” and “not becoming the hate we hate” sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity.”
Thank you, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for your words. Thank you.
“‘The prescription that some offer, which is stop trade, reduce global integration, I don’t think is going to work,” he went on. “If that’s not going to work, then we’re going to have to redesign the social compact in some fairly fundamental ways over the next twenty years. And I know how to build a bridge to that new social compact. It begins with all the things we’ve talked about in the past—early-childhood education, continuous learning, job training, a basic social safety net, expanding the earned-income tax credit, investments in infrastructure—which, by definition, aren’t shipped overseas. All of those things accelerate growth, give you more of a runway. But at some point, when the problem is not just Uber but driverless Uber, when radiologists are losing their jobs to A.I., then we’re going to have to figure out how do we maintain a cohesive society and a cohesive democracy in which productivity and wealth generation are not automatically linked to how many hours you put in, where the links between production and distribution are broken, in some sense. Because I can sit in my office, do a bunch of stuff, send it out over the Internet, and suddenly I just made a couple of million bucks, and the person who’s looking after my kid while I’m doing that has no leverage to get paid more than ten bucks an hour.’”
A lot of really interesting things in this interview with Obama. I'll miss his calm and eloquent way of talking about world affairs. But the insider look at the days leading up to and the days after the election were fascinating to me, both in how Obama talked about the odds and how he cared for his staff in the aftermath. I also think he is making a case for a basic income in this quote, but if our government isn't thinking this way, then I think many people may get left behind and the inequality gap will only widen.
“The truth is not meant to be hidden. It is not meant to be suppressed. It is not meant to be ignored. It is not meant to be disguised. It is not meant to be manipulated. It is not meant to be falsified. Otherwise, wrongdoing will persist.”
I just watched Spotlight not that long ago, it's a really great movie, and Baron's role in the story is super intriguing as well. This short speech has a lot in it, and I hope that journalists heed his message. We desperately need people bringing the truth into the light in the days ahead.
“You don’t need another person telling you what to feel or not feel, what to do or not do in this eviscerating and potentially paralyzing moment. Everyone around me just wants to find the best way to help right now. Me too.”
What I enjoyed most about this piece was the acknowledgement that we all aren't going to feel the same way and we aren't all going to react in the same way to what is happening in the US right now. And that's OK. I'm tired of being told how I should feel or what I should do.
“It sometimes seems to me that books are fighting — I don’t want to talk about other books, just my own. Sometimes I feel that my books have increased people’s understanding of how power works. I remember I spoke at Queens College, and a young man came up to me and said, “I really read The Power Broker, so I am in student government and I asked to be the chairman of the bylaws committee.” And I said, “Oh, he got it!””
I really need to read The Power Broker. This interview is great, well worth a few minutes of your time.
“Today, boredom is an option. To the extent that boredom is a lack of stimulation, we have cured it, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. If you can endure boredom, you can devote yourself to deep and serious projects. If you can’t endure boredom, how do you write a book or enter into reflection?”
Some interesting thoughts in here about how we distract ourselves and what this does to our ability to focus and think deeply. Much like the NY Times article about social media I linked to yesterday, I think there's a lot of merit in slowing down and tuning out.
“Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters. A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.”
When I read this two things came to mind. The first was a quote I read about David Carr after he died, where he was interested in creating a reputation, not a brand. The second was that as I've pulled back from social media in the past few weeks some amazing things have happened: I'm writing a lot and some of it may makes its way onto this site, and I'm thinking more deeply and reading more. This is all coming from focused time and ignoring the hot takes of the moment. I'm grateful because with what's happening in the world right now, I need it more than ever. One other note: Cal Newport wrote more about how he defines social media on his own site as a follow up to this piece. And I'm with him, I love the internet, but I'm starting to hate several of the social media companies and how they view and define the internet.
“Despite the awkward moments and missing out, this year has been the shove I needed to try new things. The best thing about the challenge is that I’ve been willing to say ‘yes’ more and that I’ve become more adventurous.Having the choice to spend, or not, is a privilege and I have become far more aware of why we buy. I have come to realise that consumerism keeps us chained to our desks, working to earn money to spend on stuff we think will make our lives better. And when the stuff doesn’t make us happy, we go back to work to earn more money to buy something else. The last 12 months have allowed me to step outside this cycle and I can honestly say I’m happier now. I’ve gained confidence and skills, done things I would never have done and met lovely people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.”
I live what many may see as a frugal life. We keep a very close eye on our spending and it's for the very reason McGagh outlines. The more you spend, the more you need to work. And in the quest to spend less we've found out that being content with what you have and enjoying what is around you is truly wonderful, instead of always striving for more stuff that you often forget about in time.
“Which brings me to the saddest thing about these platforms: they are taking all of our input and time, and our thoughts, energy, and content, and using all of that for free to make money. Think about how many times you’ve tweeted. Or written or commented on a Facebook post. Or started a Medium draft. These are all our words, locked in proprietary platforms that controls not only how our message is displayed, but how we write it, and even more worrying, how we think about it.”
So many good points in this piece. I will admit that I'm most saddened that so many are using tweetstorms or threads to share longer form thoughts. I find them jarring to read and while they contain good thoughts, they'd be so much better as a blog post. And, as the author states, I get why people do it, but these platforms aren't good for meaningful discourse anymore; maybe they never were.
“But let me make my own personal argument in defence of making art: I don’t even know who fashioned this particular phrase or idea, but there’s this idea that we do war so that our children will do commerce so that their children will be poets. Well, Adam, I’m not doing war, and I’m not gonna waste my life with commerce. Whether or not it’s financially viable for me, I want my goal of civilization to be as follows: to do the work, to pay attention to what’s beautiful, to encourage others in that form of attention as well. That’s where I want to be. And I will listen to Bismillah Khan and I will listen to Young Thug. Deferring one’s pleasure because of other peoples’ anxieties seems kind of weird to me.”
I love Cole's writing and now can't wait to read the essays.
“This is not a lament. It is counsel. It is saying: We can awaken completely. The best sign of which will be how we treat every being who crosses our path. For real change is personal. The change within ourselves expressed in our willingness to hear, and have patience with, the “other.” Together we move forward. Anger, the pointing of fingers, the wishing that everyone had done exactly as you did, none of that will help relieve our pain. We are here now. In this scary, and to some quite new and never imagined place. What do we do with our fear?”
Reading a lot of things to help me through these days and Walker is one I'll be coming back to, I'm sure.
“In the wake of recent events I’d encourage those of us who build hypertext to have discussions about how you measure success. Are all of your KPIs attention-based? Are you driving addiction? Are you comfortable with the repercussions?”
So much good thinking is coming out right now about the way in which we use social media, our devices, and how we spend our time and what we give our attention. Dave's right on here and asking some very good questions about how, as creators of these things and web workers, we may want to think about.
“Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else. This is not a process that began a week or month or year ago. It did not begin with drone assassinations, or with the war on Iraq. Evil has always been here. But now it has taken on a totalitarian tone.”
Teju Cole <3 <3 <3 <3
“Lady writers who inspire similar devotion (in far smaller audiences): Muriel Spark, Joan Didion, Jane Austen. Such writers offer the same essential qualities (or illusions): total control (over their form) and no freedom (for the reader). Compare and contrast, say, Jean Rhys or Octavia Butler, lady writers much loved but rarely copied. There’s too much freedom in them. Meanwhile every sentence of Didion’s says: obey me! Who runs the world? Girls!”
A lovely piece looking at dancing as it relates to writing.
“Alternatively, it concerns me that folks in the Bay Area tend to treat their websites as business cards instead of archives, as Jeremy suggests. Many designers and developers that I’ve met believe personal websites are constrained to a lonely paragraph of text that only clarifies what they do for a living.”
As I've spent more and more time on the web, I've come to believe that this site is my true home. While I've written for other publications, I've always come back here for my thoughts, my ideas, my archiving of what I like. The reason is because I control it and I can search through the files to find things again. And so I keep adding to it. I'm not only sad by folks who don't see the value in having control of their words, I wonder how many words will be lost, yet again, when the current hot platform shutters and the urls are lost.
“Affordance is provided by the way something looks regardless of the cursor. Remember, the cursor is only available when hovering with a pointing device such as a mouse.”
I'm almost done with the Heydon Pickering's new book on accessibility and this article was cited. I'm sold. No more hands for buttons.
“It’s the vision of humility, collaboration and acknowledgement, that we are not as gods…but instead, we are as children lost in dreams, yet to realise our true potential and place in the universe.”
This was originally a talk at Webstock this past February and it's so good.
“For better or for worse, the last eight years have been defined less by the rise of small tech companies than by the expansion of Big Tech. We’ve seen the second Silicon Valley boom, with companies valued in the billions, including Facebook, Uber, Snapchat, Palantir and Dropbox. Established technology companies like Amazon, Apple and Google have expanded their reach and influence throughout the world. And while many countries have pushed back against that spread, our government has essentially left them alone. (In August, for instance, WhatsApp announced that it would begin sharing user data with Facebook, its parent company, and its suite of products — news that gave some Americans pause but caused German regulators to intervene on behalf on their citizens.)”
This is a great piece looking at how the Obama administration has pushed for technology. And the author references a speech Obama gave a few days later where he admits that government has to do it all and it's messy, unlike Silicon Valley. But I enjoyed the perspective about how our government hasn't protected the citizens from bad practices as much as some other world governments have. Privacy and how our data is used/shared/leaked is one of the biggest issues as everything moves online.
“Apple’s own apps don’t even come close to providing the features most regular workplaces rely on, let alone addressing the needs of the multitude of specialised industries that are using Apple’s platforms.”
I've seen a lot of anger about the updated Macs that were announced last week. Most of it is coming from my developer friends, for the very reason that Baldur talks about in his piece. In my house, we are talking about getting a Surface Tablet, we don't use devices a lot when not working, and the Surface would allow us to share it and each have an account. And I'm seeing a lot of colleagues considering switching to Microsoft.
I don’t normally do this, but I read two different pieces in the New York Times Sunday Review yesterday that were talking about two sides of the very same coin and I found it interesting. The first was on the cover and got the big splashy illustration, “Go Midwest, Young Hipster”, about how we are self segregating ourselves based on political leanings. The second was much more subtle, in an inner page, just along the side of the page, a full page column and that was it, “Good Neighbors, No Politics”, where the author talks about living her neighborhood for 21 years and politics don’t divide them. As neighbors they support each other through their life crisis and it’s OK if they don’t agree politically, they’re still in community and close friends.
The reason these two are so interesting to me is that they point to some assumptions we’re making about people based solely on one thing: how they vote. But when you get to know people, when you are in community with them, when you support them through good and bad times, that may not be the most important thing. I’m starting to believe more and more that community is what will see us through the crazy polarization we are in, being in community with people who are different than you in many ways. We aren’t moving, but I do think about this as I realize where we live and what that means for our community and echo chamber.
“When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as important, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.”
It was hard to pick a quote for this one because I loved all 10 of the learnings. But I chose this one because I've been in a bit of a funk lately and this is what I needed to hear this weekend. It's hard, in an age of all the information flying at you all the time, to feel like you are enough, just as you are. But this piece, along with the piece I linked to about Ursula Le Guin, are helping set me to rights. I'm also staying away from the noise, which means less Twitter and more reading and posting here.
“But Trump’s success in the primary among the civically disintegrated suggests another way forward. Improving the United States’s immune response to authoritarian leadership—a response that could be repeatedly tested in the century to come—can follow from weaving its civic fabric ever tighter. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly, for every person. But here are some places to start: Volunteer. Run for local or state office. Give to charity (whether due to religion or effective altruism). Organize at work. Join a church or a community choir or the local library staff. Make your hometown a better place for refugees to settle. Raise a child well.”
We talk a lot about climate change at my house, it's our main worry about the future. This piece is really great for how it looks at the climate crisis and how it may be compounded by unscrupulous leaders and it's people who will suffer. It feels very much like capitalism is in a thrash because it's goals and the goal of protecting the earth don't go together very well.
“We weren’t — we aren’t — designing systems where an audience passively consumes our content, but are inviting them in to talk and share and push back and expand. More platforms means more places to publish; it also means more places to reach that community, more places for those discussions to happen, more opportunities for amazing connections to be made. And, alas, many more vectors for abuse.”
“Le Guin can be polemical, prone to what one close friend calls “tirades” on questions she feels strongly about. I once watched her participate in a panel discussion on gender and literature at WisCon, an annual gathering of feminist science-fiction writers, readers, and academics in Madison, Wisconsin. Scowling like a snapping turtle, she sat waiting for illogical remarks, which she then gently but firmly tore to bits. Yet a conversation with Le Guin is often full of comic asides, laughter, and—a particularly Le Guin trait—good-natured snorts. Humor seems to be her way of taking the edge off the polemic, as well as an introvert’s channel of communication. Behind even the lightest remarks, one is aware of a keen intelligence and a lifetime of thought, held back for the purposes of casual conversation.”
This piece, I don't know how to talk about it. It may be a season I'm going through right now, but reading about Le Guin's life, reading about her seasons of loneliness and pushing through, continuing to write, something about it resonated deeply. As I wade through my current season, feeling a bit lost in life, wondering where I should be heading, what I should be working on (work not necessarily meaning for pay), I'm going to hang on to the story of Le Guin. I'll be coming back to this piece again and again over the coming weeks as I try and figure out what I want to do, where I want to go, and who I want along for support and laughter.
“The modern journalist is not an expert on the web. They and their colleagues have spent a large part of the last twenty-five years dismissing the open web at every stage. They are not the people you can trust to either accurately assess the web or to make usable websites. You can’t even trust them to make sensible decisions about web strategy. Just look at their damn websites!”
So much good stuff in this piece. And it's so true. The open web is here, the open web is amazing, and I love the web. (I just discovered this site and it's fantastic, added to my feed list immediately.)
“There are literally billions of people out there that rely on the work we do collectively. It’s our obligation to make sure that what we build is usable, accessible, and actually works. We have to build responsibly, proactively, and with empathy.”
I agree with this, but at the same time, these articles keep having to be written and I'm sad that so many don't want to make a web for everyone, but rather for a privileged few.
“The wonderful thing is that “me” is always changing. Every day you’re a different you. So when you say, “It wasn’t for me,” maybe it’s not for the “me” right now—maybe it’s for the “me” in the future.”
There are two things I like about this short post. The first is that it gives me a way to respond to the stream of things that people are telling me I need to watch, especially movies, which I don't do very much anymore. Second, we do change all the time. I often start a book and it doesn't click and I don't want to finish, so I put it on the shelf and it may be years before I pick it up again.
“Personally, I find progressive enhancement a sensible way to counteract any assumptions I might inadvertently make. Progressive enhancement increases the chances that the web site (or web app) I’m building is resilient to the kind of scenarios that I never would’ve predicted or anticipated.”
“Is a developer building a new component and needs some styles? The UX Engineer writes that CSS. The UX Engineer gives a snippet of HTML to the developer for them to incorporate into the component. The UX engineer ensures the correct semantics and can come alongside the developer to ensure keyboard navigation works. The UX Engineer maintains a pattern library for the team to use as a reference to find existing styles.”
“I will realize, only then, that she didn’t escape from China—the oldest daughter of a proud family of academics, married off to the son of a merchant in America; who walked miles and miles from her village to Toisaan carrying my father, eventually managing to get herself to Hong Kong; who boarded a plane to London and, unsure which plane was bound for Boston, followed two students to another flight that took her to New York; who spent a terrifying month at Ellis Island with my father; who was somehow, in this age before Facebook and cell phones and databases, found by my grandfather and brought back to Boston; who worked seven brutal days a week washing and steam-pressing the clothes of white, working-class families in North Cambridge; who bought a home and raised three children in that laundry; who, with the help of local resident Tip O’Neill, would gradually bring almost her entire family to America; who, when the laundry was sold, worked in a belt factory; who, by the time I was a child, seemed to know so many people on the streets of Boston’s Chinatown that I thought she was its mayor—for me to forgo the beef.”
This is lovely, read it.
This talk by Paul Lloyd from SmashingConf Freiburg is so fantastic. I really love it when people take other industries and history and relate it back to the web in some way. Paul does this with city planning and then moves to talking about design systems. It’s really worth the watch and I’ll be returning to it.
“But what about web development? I have found a code of ethics for software engineers , and maybe this is something taught as part of a CS degree, but for most self-taught web developers, I imagine they have never spent time looking into this. There are a few different bodies that put together codes of ethics for software engineers, but the very first bullet point listed on that Wikipedia article is: “Contribute to society and human well-being”.”
Kristin is blogging again and I'm so excited. And she, like others in our industry, is asking some really good questions about how we think (or don't) about the things we make.
“Just as an architect can draw up the plans for a building that never gets built, a UX Designer can design a product that’s never built. In fact, roughly half of the projects I’ve worked on never shipped. Some were exercises in exploring new audiences where the business client decided there wasn’t a good fit yet. Some were situations where we discovered the complexity of the product put its price tag way above what the client wanted to spend. Some looked like fantastic ideas, but the users had zero interest in the products.”
Design plus agile has always been an issue, and I completely agree with where Anne is coming from here. There is a lot of work to do before you even start to make the software as far as design goes. I can't wait to read part two of this, because I do have thoughts on how design can be done once you decided to build the thing and need to design as you build.
“Those tools are useful in the right context, but you need to be able to understand what that context is. Whenever you come across an issue that needs solving, think about what the underyling problem actually is. Only once you’ve identified that should you consider whether you might want to use a tool to help you address the problem, and which tool that might be.”
Tim is being reasonable again and speaking to the realities of working on the web. I rarely follow the latest and greatest new tools and I'm more concerned with making things that work well for users rather than using a new tool in the process. I guess I can come across as a curmudgeon at times, but somehow I manage to continue making websites.
“Working in a stupefied firm often means blinding others with bullshit. A very effective way to get out of doing anything real is to rely on a flurry of management jargon. Develop strategies, generate business models, engage in thought leadership. This will get you off the hook of doing any actual work. It will also make you seem like you are at the cutting edge. When things go wrong, you can blame the fashionable management idea.”
I can't even begin to tell you how much I've seen this in practice in my career. And it's sad that using your brain and asking questions in so many places is frowned upon.
“Being a beach lifestyle company, where our whole brand is wrapped up the notion of a healthy work-life balance, the idea that should be working differently, too, if we truly wanted to live differently, wasn’t as much a leap. But if you ask me, we’re more of an online marketing agency that happens to own a surf brand. There’s no reason that virtually any company that employees a large chunk of knowledge workers can’t cut its hours by 30% and still succeed.”
I've been thinking for a long time about how we treat knowledge work like we treat factory work. Knowledge work doesn't just happen during work hours. I can't count the number of times I've been frustrated with a bug at the end of the work day and I stop working, move into the kitchen and start cooking, and within a half hour or hour I have a solution that I'm jotting down on paper to try in the morning. But we insist that work happens during a 9-5 work day, even though the vast majority of office workers aren't working that entire time. I wonder how much longer it will take to break this cycle and realize that many jobs can be done in far fewer hours.
“We all understand the joys of our always-wired world — the connections, the validations, the laughs, the porn, the info. I don’t want to deny any of them here. But we are only beginning to get our minds around the costs, if we are even prepared to accept that there are costs. For the subtle snare of this new technology is that it lulls us into the belief that there are no downsides. It’s all just more of everything. Online life is simply layered on top of offline life. We can meet in person and text beforehand. We can eat together while checking our feeds. We can transform life into what the writer Sherry Turkle refers to as “life-mix.””
I found much of this piece intriguing, especially since I read it at the tail end of a vacation where I was as unplugged as possible. Also as someone who's studied theology and thought a lot about secularism and religion in my life, Sullivan's conclusions have me thinking a lot. I'm one of the people he refers to, I do yoga now and I meditate as part of it, it's my way of finding quiet. And walking with no device is in my routine as well. I wonder what would happen if more churches went back the simple, quiet customs of the past, rather than chasing after being just like the modern world.
“Originality is partly a matter of having your own influences: read evolutionary biology textbooks or the Old Testament, find your metaphors where no one’s looking, don’t belong. Or belong to the other world that is not quite this one, the world from which you send back your messages. Imagine Herman Melville in workshop in 1849 being told by all his peers that he needed to cut all those informative digressions and really his big whale book was kind of dull and why did it take him so long to get to the point. And actually it was a quiet failure at the time. So was pretty much everything Thoreau published, and Emily Dickinson published only a handful of poems in her lifetime but wrote thousands.”
I had a hard time with the quote for this one, I loved most of the tips. And I think they can be said for anything you want to be good at. Right now art is becoming a passion again and I love writing, and I'll get better at both if I do them a lot.
“During their investigation, Kidd and Piantadosi realized something important that strengthened their theory. It turns out that another variable has an even higher correlation with intelligence than brain size—time to maturity, or weaning time. In other words, the time it takes to shepherd newborns through absolute helplessness to a point of relative self-sufficiency predicts primate intelligence more strongly than the best measure that has previously been proposed, namely, head circumference. Orangutans have smarter babies than baboons and they wean them longer. Baboon babies, in turn, are weaned longer, and are smarter, than lemur babies.”
I found this fascinating. Science and the way the world works are mind blowing.
“My students investigate the questions raised in this essay during the seminars I give on writing and researching robotics and technology. As my students’ fingers move unconsciously across desktops, miming the texting or typing they desperately want to be doing, we talk about how technology has consumed us. The students write papers on internet addiction, the consequences of smartphone use, the internet of things, the dark side of Fitbits. And yet they actively demonstrate everything we discuss. One of my students acknowledged that she can’t avoid surfing the web if she uses her laptop in class, yet she doesn’t opt for paper and pencil.”
This essay was interesting to me. I didn't love everything about it, but the glimpses I get into life with devices as a young person intrigue me. As I age I'm more and more grateful to be away from devices. I spend long hours reading and thinking. I now draw with pen and paper more than on my iPad, and I journal with pen and paper as well. My todo lists have even gone low tech as of late. There is something comforting about it all to me. But I still love the internet and my iPad to be able to read things like this article. Balance, as usual, is the key but it can be very hard.
“No, the web is not print. However it shouldn’t be defined by being not print. Nor should we allow assumptions about what is and isn’t possible stop us experimenting. Unless we find the edges, unless we ask why we can’t do things, unless we come up with ways to try and make it work, the native tools won’t get better.”
I've really enjoyed Rachel's work on CSS Grid and I agree with her that we aren't doing enough to push the boundaries on the web. The edges of the web are different and maybe we've become too complacent with that we're doing that's easy.
“Ownership is tricky and I don’t know quite what makes it work, but I suspect it’s the most important thing; when people own something they give it all they’ve got. When they don’t, they behave unpredictably (i.e. shit on it).”
This is a really great list, super great and recommend reading it all. If you make for the web you'll find some things to think about, remember, and nod your head to.
Vox Product has been doing incredible work on accessibility and baking it into their teams practices. And now they’ve shared a presentation they’ve created to help the rest of their team and company understand how important it is. Thank you for sharing Vox and well done!
“On a more philosophical level, this journey has served to remind me again of how terribly delicate is the fabric of civilization, of the vigilance required to protect it and of the slow and painstaking work of mending it once it has been torn. This is hardly an original thought; it is a lesson we were supposed to have learned after Nazi Germany, after Bosnia and Rwanda. Perhaps it is a lesson we need to constantly relearn.”
This is an incredibly well done piece. It was the entire NY Times Magazine a few weeks ago and I just finished reading it over the weekend. At the same time we've been watching a documentary about World War I and it's incredible how the echoes of that war have reached into the years since. More so than World War II, World War I changed us and it ushered in an era of change in the world, change we are still dealing with, including in the lands highlighted in this piece. My take away from both this piece and the series on World War I is that democracy is hard, really hard, because it means compromising and respect for the other. And, related to that, the West has traipsed all over the world and decided we know how to do things best and, as history shows repeatedly, we've only made things worse. I will think about the people in this piece for years to come, especially when I see news about this part of the world.
“These 30-hour employees will be salaried and receive the same benefits as traditional 40-hour workers, but they will receive only 75 percent of the pay full-time workers earn. Currently, the company employs part-time workers that share the same benefits as full-time workers. However, the pilot program would differ in that an entire team, including managers, would work reduced hours.”
Oh, how I want this to succeed. I've written about this in the past, but I believe that part time is something that could work in our industry, especially now that we work remotely on teams and in different time zones. If you are overlapping less, why can't you also get work done in less time? I've said this before, I would love to work a 30 hour, 4 day a week job. I believe I can produce great code, writing, and ideas in that time, and I think I can benefit a company. Too bad most companies can't take the risk to do this. I can't wait to see what happens at Amazon.
“Building these factories doesn’t require any new technology. In fact, the effort would be much the same as the one that Solomon oversaw at Intel’s semiconductor factory in New Mexico: Pick a site with good roads and a good technical school nearby to supply the workforce; find trained local contractors who can deal with everything from rebar to HVAC; get the local permits; order long-lead-time items like I-beam steel; level the ground and excavate; lay foundations and floors; build walls, columns, and a roof; “facilitate each of the stations for factory machine tooling with plumbing, piping, and electrical wiring”; and train a workforce of 1,500. To match the flow of panels needed to meet the Stanford targets, in the most intense years of construction we need to erect 30 of these solar panel factories a year, plus another 15 for making wind turbines. “It’s at the upper end of what I could possibly imagine,” Solomon says.”
This may not be the best metaphor, but for humans who want to think of themselves as ruling over nature and not part of nature, it is a metaphor that could work. And to be quite honest, all I want right now is some action that would spur some action, because without the action soon, we are all fucked. (As you can tell, I'm fairly pessimistic about us doing anything in time to stop catastrophe).
“Practicing waiting is a lifelong practice since, as it turns out, impatience has a particular gravitational pull. But after all that waiting, finding or opening or having that once-future thing feels very much present.”
These are amazing, really, click the link, go look at it.
“And technology can feel miraculous. The application of knowledge and available materials to create new tools allows us to continually rework the world for our needs. We find gaps in our abilities and we make things that fill those gaps. We then look for more gaps. More opportunities. More frustrations. We keep building. We circle back and find that our previous gap-filling technologies had significant consequences and so we find better ways to fill the gaps. In theory we improve our lives.”
This is really great and Winston has done great work on accessibility at Vox. And it's a pleasure to read more about what Winston has thought about in regards to it. We all could need affordances at some point in our lives, and it's very easy to forget that.
This is a really great comic and it speaks to me a lot where I am right now in life. I’m spending August working on a few different things related to my health and feeling better and one of them is drinking. So I’ve cut way back on how much I consume. I also am on the hunt for interesting drink recipes, because if I’m going to drink a lot less, I want it to be delicious and deliberate. So when out with friends, if I order a drink, I sip it and take time with it. But I find that I prefer to have my limited amount at home, enjoying it with G, and time on the porch (in winter that’ll be in front of the fire).
“The more salient point is that they are also forcing their neighbors to make that choice by turning the neighborhood into a commodity as well. The host has forced their neighbors — who see strangers coming and going constantly — to become just a little bit less engaged and connected to their home. It’s not just that they aren’t benefiting financially, it’s that they are incurring the majority of the social costs and losing what they thought their home was when they moved in. Maybe the Airbnb renter is okay with being in a cheaper “hotel,” but their neighbors didn’t sign a lease to live in any kind of hotel.”
I'm not a fan of AirBnB and I think this article points out really well how the use of an apartment for full time rental disrupts and changes a neighborhood. There is a lot of things that come along with this and many times it is the neighbors who pay a hidden price while just trying to live their lives in the place they've chosen to do so.
“The distinction’s relevance persists today. Large areas of “real America” are almost entirely white. In Appalachia, that homogeneity, along with the region’s populist tradition, helps explain why white voters there took so much longer to flip from Democrat to Republican than in the Deep South. This does not mean that racism is absent in these areas—far from it. But it suggests that the racism is fueled as much by suspicion of the “other” as it is by firsthand experience of blacks and competition with them—and that political sentiment on issues such as welfare and crime isn’t as racially motivated as many liberal analysts assume. A focus on the South also eclipses places where low-income whites consist mainly of descendants of later European immigrants. (Think of the South Boston Irish, or Baltimore’s Polish American dockworkers depicted in the second season of The Wire.)”
This election year in the US has brought out a lot of anger of certain folks who are feeling left behind. And the angry working class white voter is talked about more than almost any other. This piece is really fantastic, drawing on two different books written about the subject of poor whites, but from very different perspectives. I learned a lot and it made me want to read more on the subject.
“Bilinguals overwhelmingly report that they feel like different people in different languages. It is often assumed that the mother tongue is the language of the true self. In many ways, it remains the primal vehicle. A person who has spoken English most of her life is always going to speak English when she stubs her toe (or, according to spycraft, at the moment of orgasm). But, if first languages are reservoirs of emotion, second languages can be rivers undammed, freeing their speakers to ride different currents. People are more likely to say they’d push a man off a bridge—in order to save five other people about to be hit by a train—when the dilemma is presented in their second language.”
A really lovely piece about language, love, and communication. I speak a second language and I related to a lot of the bits and pieces that she talked about as she was learning. If you like language, this is well worth reading.
“I know this much: I don’t want to be a part of a community like Twitter if the previous offenses are an accepted part of that community. Twitter isn’t a country, it’s a service. And as a store gets to decide what products it sells, services decide what is and is not permissible. Twitter finds a lot of horrible things permissible, is what I’m saying, and it doesn’t want you to be able to filter or curate your experience. They want to sell you shit. They sure as hell don’t want to behave as responsible community arbiters. It doesn’t want to protect its users or act with any kind of moral authority lest they be judged for daring to not permit everything under the guise of consequence-free first amendment protection.”
This is from 2014 and Fraction nails it. Still so true.
“After settling this question, we all moved on to bemoaning the strange tendency of the younger lefty generation to censor or silence speech or opinions they consider in some way wrong: no-platforming, safe spaces, and the rest of it. We were all right about that, too. But then, from the corner, on a sofa, the cleverest among us, who was at that moment feeding a new baby, waited till we’d all stopped bloviating and added: “Well, they got that habit from us. We always wanted to be seen to be right. To be on the right side of an issue. More so even than doing anything. Being right was always the most important thing.””
Really interesting piece on Brexit and the vote. There are lessons here for Americans with what is going on in our current election.
“When we take a “gut feeling” sense of someone’s seniority without specific criteria, there is basically no way to counteract our own biases, but we still make a judgement. It’s completely possible for a person applying to multiple dev jobs to be evaluated as junior at one, mid-level at another, and even senior at another, with very little feedback as to why.”
I really like the way this is defined and talked about. Job titles, in particular when you are senior or not, are a difficult thing and the proposed way to define them here is really interesting.
“The “dumbbell” design was conceived to give each tenant its own floor and create an entrance and outdoor common area sheltered from the busy intersection. The result allows for retail space on the ground floors and 10 floors of office space, each 4,000 square feet, which he said was ideal for a 12- to 15-person company. The building is 44 percent preleased as of late last year. Mr. Cavenaugh reserved one floor of the building for co-working space that his company will manage; this will be his third co-working space in Portland.”
This building, as you'll see if you click through to see the rendering, has been controversial, to say the least. People either love it or hate it. But that is exactly why I like it. Great buildings often are controversial when built. In addition, the developer is a super interesting guy who does non traditional projects, but his projects are successful (as defined by being fully leased out). He spoke at the Portland Creative Mornings and I recommend that talk as well.
“That tech (and, increasingly, media—and oh, that boundary is nothing if not fluid) also speaks of scalability in religious terms puts Tsing’s contention here in an even more interesting light. Scalability is expressed not only in the external artifacts of an organization—the software, the servers, the business model—but also the people who work for it and the people who interact with it as customers, clients, and, increasingly, inconstant laborers. That latter category—the Uber drivers, TaskRabbits, and Postmates—seems especially relevant to notions of scalability. Uber can scale, but the single parent who works as a driver and can’t predict what they’ll make from week to week cannot.”
The book, The Mushroom at the End of the World has now moved up on my reading list. I want to finish what I have started and then it will get to the top. But the way Mandy talks about tech in relation to scale and the questions we should be asking about it are interesting and I think vital. If scale, as she says at the end of this piece, is the solitary success metric, there are problems. Because when you scale what do you lose? What do you leave behind? And how does scale affect people?
“We have been so desensitized by a hundred and fifty years of ceaselessly expanding technical prowess that we think nothing less complex and showy than a computer or a jet bomber deserves to be called “technology “ at all. As if linen were the same thing as flax — as if paper, ink, wheels, knives, clocks, chairs, aspirin pills, were natural objects, born with us like our teeth and fingers – as if steel saucepans with copper bottoms and fleece vests spun from recycled glass grew on trees, and we just picked them when they were ripe…”
I love Le Guin and it's my dream to bump into her on the bus someday here in Portland.
The worst thing I read this year, and what it taught me… or Can we design sociotechnical systems that don’t suck
“But it’s rare that technology provides a robust solution to a social problem by itself. Successful technological approaches to solving social problems usually require changes in laws and norms, as well as market incentives to make change at scale. ”
This is a long piece, but very well thought out. We in tech have a problem with thinking that tech alone can solve all the problems of the world. But in actuality it is just one piece of the puzzle and Zuckerman does a good job of showing how that could possibly work.
“The first step towards a better tech economy is humility and recognition of limits. It’s time to hold technology politically accountable for its promises. I am very suspicious of attempts to change the world that can’t first work on a local scale. If after decades we can’t improve quality of life in places where the tech élite actually lives, why would we possibly make life better anywhere else?”
As usual Maciej has made me think. I agree with a lot of the points in here, but I also think that there are counter arguments to be made, that there is more gray than this piece alludes to. And I thank Cennydd for helping me see that.
“But whenever that impulse returns, that impulse to come on now be serious, I lose the magic again. It happened most recently getting ready for my upcoming art show. That stupid voice started saying: This is a gallery show. This is Art. I need to be serious.”
This is a really huge reason that my drawing right now is still just for me, just in a sketchbook and I share crappy iPad photos of it on Flickr. I feel like making it more would make it tighten up and it would lose the magic for me.
“Engineers should be solving new and interesting problems, not rebuilding the same apps over and over. That is a job for robots.”
I don't agree with absolutely everything in this article but I do agree that we seem to do the same things over and over again in many ways when we make things for the web. And I wonder if we still need to do this or if there is a better way.
“This might seem paradoxical. Aren’t road trips supposed to be as spontaneous as possible? Of course. My rules sought to enhance spontaneity by making sure I noticed it when it happened. They made a big difference for my trip, and they should work for other travelers as well.?”
We're doing road trips a lot for our vacations lately for a number of reasons. I love all these rules. And to be honest, it's how we try and make things happen when we are out on the road.
“The bullet journal enthusiasts insist that filling notebooks is about far more than just getting things done or crossing off lists—it’s also about paying attention to, and taking stock of, your life. It’s an act of agency—deciding who you want to be and what you want to do and setting those decisions down in pen on paper where they cannot be deleted or ignored or erased. It’s an act of archiving—recording what you’re thinking, what your goals are, what your handwriting looks like, at a very particular moment in time, and then being able to look back and see just how far you’ve come since you were the 12-year-old who wrote in big pencil letters in a blue plastic spiral-bound homework planner about shoveling snow in a driveway that didn’t exist (and also, of course, being able to see just how much you still have in common with her). It’s this combination of productive, therapeutic, aesthetic, historical, and spiritual elements that makes notebook-keeping such an addictive and potent activity, even—or perhaps especially—in a world of countless productivity apps, online to-do lists, and gamified habit-building tools.”
I don't do bullet journalling, but I really love the way the notebook was talked about in this piece. I've gone non digital for journaling and sketching and it's been really great for me. I love the act of writing with a pen, of taking stock, of drawing, and it relaxes me in ways nothing else does lately.
“The new pattern created several frequent lines that the British would call orbitals. Radial lines go into and out of the center, but orbitals orbit the center, at various distances out. They intersect the radials, offering useful connections, but never go downtown themselves. And instead of hauling big volumes of commuters into and out of downtown, they serve thousands of little trips that are all a bit different, among diverse neighborhoods and destinations. It works: these orbital lines are among the busiest in the city.”
I live a few blocks from the 75 and take it if I'm going to the airport (it gets me to one of the radials) or to a few different appointments or friends' houses. I really like this take on it. And, we are using transit more as we are going carless, so it's interesting to think about the orbitals and radials I'll be making use of.
“What we need to understand is that, as people in tech, we have a collective responsibility. We keep pretending that the technology we build is neutral. We still believe that we can be apolitical as people in tech. We keep pretending that our algorithms are neutral. We don’t care about ethical aspects of our work. And most of us are in a position where we don’t have to care. But it’s our responsibility to understand: Technology is not neutral, our code is not neutral. Our work is political. And our work has consequences on actual lives.”
This is a really great piece. So much great thinking about how we operate as an industry and so much good stuff on how we can change.
“Over those decades of historical documentary filmmaking, I have also come to the realization that history is not a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts and events that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently known, truth. History is a mysterious and malleable thing, constantly changing, not just as new information emerges, but as our own interests, emotions and inclinations change. Each generation rediscovers and reexamines that part of its past that gives its present new meaning, new possibility and new power. The question becomes for us now—for you especially—what will we choose as our inspiration? Which distant events and long dead figures will provide us with the greatest help, the most coherent context, and the wisdom to go forward?”
I really enjoyed the first part of this commencement address. I've been reading a bunch of revolutionary era history because during the time of tumult in our current election, I want to remind myself there has always been tumult. It's never been easy. Burns goes on to get very political and I think the address isn't bad, but it looses something for me.
“But rarely does a day go by when my son doesn’t make something. I envy his setup and his habits. His mom has placed all the supplies within easy reach. He doesn’t torture himself. The goal is simple: There is a car-carrier truck that doesn’t exist that needs to exist. He sets to work with clear purpose and utter concentration. There is frustration, occasionally, but it usually passes. And when he’s done, he’s done, and it’s off to something else.”
I've done Austin's Steal Like an Artist Journal, it's pretty great to get you out of your head and into some other ways of thinking, I liked doing it. And I love the way he relates making to how his kid does it. Since I started daily drawing this past December, I've approached my sketchbook and making so much differently than I did when in art school. And most of it's because I don't care as much, no one ever has to see it, it's for me and I'm having fun. I approach writing the same way these days. That looseness has been so great for me and helped me create regularly. It also helps that it's not how I earn a living.
“Because nothing has proved as invincible as writing and literacy. Because text is just so malleable. Because it fits into any container we put it in. Because our world is supersaturated in it, indoors and out. Because we have so much invested in it. Because nothing we have ever made has ever rewarded our universal investment in it more. Unless our civilization fundamentally collapses, we will never give up writing and reading.”
I absolutely LOVE this post by Tim on Kottke's blog. I'm in a phase of life right now where all I want to do when not working is read. In fact, I just had 4 books come up for me at the library that I had holds on and I'm wishing I could take the next week off of work just to read them and savor them. I love words. Words have changed my thinking and my life in many, many ways. I can't see them ever going away.
“Progress will always create winners and losers, but we ignore the scary and disenfranchising potential of our work at our peril. What Silicon Valley wants is often not what the wider world needs. The past has a lot to answer for, but then, so does the future.”
This short piece by Cennydd is really good. So much is going on right now that is heartbreaking and frightening. The romanticization of the past is dangerous. But what do we in the tech world do to help point to a better future? I'm not sure we do much at all.
“If a statement can be invoked by anyone in an organization, and cause a decision to be re-evaluated or changed, without regard to anyone’s rank or title, then you have a bona fide value. If it doesn’t work that way, then it’s not a value.”
I've been watching the work of the U.S. Digital Service from the outside now for quite some time. I have a few friends that work there, but have never really talked with anyone about their experience. But everything I've read about Mikey Dickerson gives me hope that the digital work of my government is hopefully moving in the right direction.
“Because you are allowed to change without a brain tumor to justify it. You are allowed to find new versions of yourself so your identity continues to authenticate; it doesn’t make you a schizophrenic.”
I don't know Jennifer Dary, I've only heard of her brain tumor and this piece through mutual friends tweeting about it. But to write this after that experience is in many ways amazing. This piece is so good. I find that my identity has change dramatically from when I was in my twenties. Some of that due to maturing and hopefully gaining more wisdom through life experiences, but also much of that is through wanting to change, wanting to be someone different, and in my naive hope, someone better.
“The threat to free speech on Western campuses is very different from that faced by atheists in Afghanistan or democrats in China. But when progressive thinkers agree that offensive words should be censored, it helps authoritarian regimes to justify their own much harsher restrictions and intolerant religious groups their violence. When human-rights campaigners object to what is happening under oppressive regimes, despots can point out that liberal democracies such as France and Spain also criminalise those who “glorify” or “defend” terrorism, and that many Western countries make it a crime to insult a religion or to incite racial hatred.”
I've been out of college now almost 20 years. But my most lasting memory of my time as an undergraduate is that I was constantly forced to think about new ideas, think differently, and I learned to think critically. So when I read about the things happening on campuses today, I will admit that I'm concerned.
“High-level product decisions are usually nailed down long before engineering starts. However, in terms of interaction and visual design, details reveal themselves as the product is being built. Instead of handing off pixel-perfect designs to your engineering team, embrace the opportunity to design alongside them as they build.”
“Designing as you build also allows you to identify opportunities to strengthen your original solution. Designers aren’t infallible. Details are often missed first time around, so use your opportunity to improve the flow, offering alternative forms of feedback.”
I love how they emphasize team work and supporting each other the entire way through the build of a feature or application. Which is why I couldn't pick just one quote. It's worth the read. I love how so many people are realizing that we are all one team building a thing and we need to act like it.
Some really great little JS components in this site. They are accessible (yay!) and well done with no dependencies. Nice to see this work being shared, it’s impressive.
“Instead of relying on individual atoms, we started considering our components as elements of a living organism. They have a function and personality, are defined by a set of properties, can co-exists with others and can evolve independently. A unified design language should not just be a set of static rules and individual atoms, but an evolving ecosystem.”
I really love this approach and the reason is that AirBnB created what worked for their team. They set about to make process, flow, and design better for them and created a system that is unique to them. It's hard work, but the work pays off because it fits their needs perfectly.
“A structureless life is a depressing life. Our days work better when they have a reliable shape. Grab a copy of Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals (if you can’t afford it, see #2 on this list) and read about the daily routines of famous artists, scientists, and creative people. Take inspiration from them. Cobble together your own daily routine and stick to it.”
Yup, another bit of advice for graduates, but I think it also translates to all of us. I'm a huge fan of the daily routine. Even between jobs this spring, I kept to a routine. I also love the library and recommend people use it; it's easy, you can read digitally if you want, and the price is right.
“But that narrative isn’t quite right. Portland prices are skyrocketing, yes. And newcomers are generally the type of people who want to live in the center of the city, near transit and bike lanes, which drives up prices for those areas. But it’s not tech or newcomers that are solely to blame. Portland hasn’t been able to slow its rental crisis because in a city that prides itself on progressivism, many of the traditional tools used to create more affordability are off the table.”
The best part of this article is the fact that it doesn't put all the blame on newcomers, but points out that how the city deals with the growth is important. We can't stop people from moving here, what we can do is get much more progressive about how we build and develop to keep housing affordable.
“Such concerns have not deterred a growing number of small businesses in Sweden from testing the concept. Many found that a shorter workday can reduce turnover, enhance employee creativity and lift productivity enough to offset the cost of hiring additional staff.”
There are two things I find really intriguing about this concept. The first is the fact that we still think of paying for knowledge work like it is factory work. Something great, such as a great logo, can take 5 minutes, but behind that five minutes can be 25 years of experience (Paula Scher talks about this so wonderfully). But the other interesting piece is that both a surgery unit and an auto repair shop could make more money because they made more use of their buildings. I found, personally, that 6 hours is about right when I was freelancing. I may solve a code problem when I walk on errands after work or I may do it while cooking dinner. Knowledge work isn't contained by time.
I’m trying to drink a lot less alcohol, but what I miss about it is the ritual of making a drink in the evening while I’m cooking dinner. So I made my first drinking vinegar a few weeks ago. I used frozen cherries and it’s super delicious. Add in a twist of lime and soda water and you’ve got a pretty great mocktail.
“Consider this a very high-level primer of the tools and techniques we’re leveraging these days. This is by no means an in-depth account of each, if something piques your interest there are links below for you to explore further. Really, I just wanted to expose our secret blend of CSS front-end starter files naming conventions, basic gruntfile.js, syntax, coding methodology etc.”
I love this, I love seeing how different places, especially consultancies that are starting things a lot, do it. And what I really like about this is that it's very loose, and you could easily modify it.
“Policing a design system never works in my experience. It never works because people don’t like rigid systems, being told what to do, and will straight up do the opposite. Being liberal in accepting things into the system, and being liberal about how you go about that, ensures you don’t police the system. You collaborate on it.”
Mark is doing some of the best writing and speaking on large scale design systems I've read and heard in a long time. He isn't focusing on the nitty gritty details of implementation, but he's focusing on the big picture and that's been what interests me lately. Tooling and implementation come and go, but big picture ideas usually stick around.
“But also remember that the greatest challenges you will face starting tomorrow, have little to do with your talent. Sure, talent matters. It matters a lot. But I like to say that 10% of your career is your talent and ingenuity. And the other 90% rests on your energy and enthusiasm, your humility and perseverance, your professionalism and dedication to pushing through every bump in the road you will encounter.”
I like this address. I went to art school, but have never made my living from art. This past six months has found me creating again, but there is a lot in this speech that can be applied across disciplines, and the above quote is definitely true no matter what your work is. Careers are long, they are full of change and bumps, there is so much that is unexpected, and what gets you through is not luck or talent, but, at times, sheer perseverance.
“Activism spawned from these online conspiracy groups wastes time and money, and it’s increasing. In a recent interview, Californian Republican Representative Devin Nunes said that 90% of the communication he receives from constituents is conspiracy-theorist nonsense, up from approximately 10% when he took office in 2003. It’s impacting the political process on everything from zoning laws (fears of UN Agenda 21) to public health policy (water fluoridation). In Hawaii last month, for example, lawmakers killed a simple procedural bill that would have allowed the state to more quickly adopt federal guidelines on administering vaccines in case of an outbreak—because outraged residents claimed that vaccines were responsible for Zika (and, of course, for autism).”
This article is fascinating, talking about how the way we are kept in a bubble in our social networks (always seeing things we like or that are related to what we like) is resulting in shifts in policy. I saw this with the Portland fluoride vote. The amount of conspiracy theories and bad science being talked about during that time was unbelievable. And it feels like it is only getting worse with this current election cycle.
“There are very few things that require instantaneous reply or attention, such as a service being down or a major security flaw. Most of the questions, doubts or bugs can be resolved at later notice. We are an attention hungry generation, but it’s disrespectful to assume that anyone we ping will immediately drop whatever they’re involved in. With multilayered communication we can choose an appropriate medium for the severity and urgency of the message where about to convey. We need to value each others time and attention.”
This is a great article. And it's interesting because I've been a remote team member now for several years. We talk about how tools can be asynchronous, but then we don't treat them as such. It used to be that way with people expecting instant replies to emails, but now it is instant replies to Slack. The point of the tool is the the information waits for us, so let's calm down a bit. But this whole article has some really wonderful points about how to work remotely.
“If you’re passionate about your work and you have a certain temperament, you may be inclined towards your own Work Singularities. But I know people who don’t ever work that way and still produce amazing outcomes. I don’t want to over-romanticize this kind of scheduling just because it happens to be a thing that I do. There are other ways to get a lot done.”
This piece is a reaction piece, so you should probably read the links at the beginning to understand it fully. But what I truly appreciated about this was her way of framing what she calls a "work singularity", a time where you are pushing through to finish something because you just have to get it done. And it is a short burst, followed by downtime to recover. And, she also acknowledges, you never need work this way to do great things, which is comforting because I never work that way.
“Historians can trace the concept to 18th century England, when it was probably known as a dumbwaiter. It may have become popular at a time when household servants were in declining supply. In the absence of maids or footmen to refill wine goblets and deliver condiments, diners were forced to reach across the table or interrupt conversation with “pass the pimientos please.” The Lazy Susan helped to solve that problem, and plenty of 18th century examples prove it. ”
Just a tidbit I found super fascinating!
“Accessibility is not a checklist item that only needs to be considered in some projects, or at the end of a process. Rather, these practices should be woven into every step of a project and role in a team. An accessible product stems from everyone on a team owning and shouldering the responsibility. It’s part of our jobs as creators.”
I know Winston, one of the Vox Product people who's been working so hard to bring accessibility into their process and it's so great to see what's happening with the work they are doing. This stuff is important and this post points out all the reasons why, it's so great.
“It would be ideal for me if an SDK could be created on the fly for different people based on project needs. So, for example, for freelancer ‘A’, I don’t want to send them HTML or CSS as I know they’re not building anything, so I just send them mood boards and inspiration, image assets and branding guidelines. For freelancer ‘b’, a front-end developer, I send boilerplate, CSS, template assets and icons. I mix and match and provide the design SDK, rather than send along a URL and expect them to know what they need and how to use them.”
I'm thinking about style guides a lot again, for reasons. And this idea from Mark is really interesting. How do we make a thing that documents and helps the entire team? That is a hard to answer question, but also really necessary before any team approaches a style guide type of project.
“Taken together, Leckie’s world subverts traditional gender stereotypes, features genderless characters who are caretakers, heroes, leaders, and villains (often several of those characteristics at once), questions notions of gender in language and the male defaults which continue to infect us, all the while simultaneously proposing fascinating relationships between humans and AIs that probe complex areas of privacy, dependance, and love.”
Mandy's writing here is amazing. She takes what is currently happening with AI and then takes a look at how AI is portrayed in fiction. It's amazing because the people currently building these bots are taking the most unimaginative route possible. I realize that I link to everything Mandy writes, but that's because it is all so worth reading. And if you haven't yet, while on her site, check out her book reviews, lots of good ideas for reading in there.
“By the way, at dusk or dawn (which can last for hours in an airliner) you may see a clearly delineated, barely curved shadow on the sky above the horizon. That’s the shadow of the earth on the sky — one of the few opportunities, for the non-astronauts among us, to observe more or less directly the shape of our planet.”
Beautiful photos in this one, and even though I've come to dread flying, I do find the ideas and facts in this piece fascinating.
“In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks. Reading fiction makes me lose all sense of self, but at the same time makes me feel most uniquely myself.”
I love reading. And lately, I prefer it above almost all other forms of entertainment. I hardly watch shows or movies these days. I read widely, and other than sketchbooking, it's become my main source of growth, learning, and thinking.
“Around here, we nonengineers are pressed to prove our value. The hierarchy is pervasive, ingrained in the industry’s dismissal of marketing and its insistence that a good product sells itself; evident in the few “office hours” established for engineers (our scheduled opportunity to approach with questions and bugs); reflected in our salaries and equity allotment, even though it’s harder to find a good copywriter than a liberal-arts graduate with a degree in history and twelve weeks’ training from an uncredentialed coding dojo. This is a cozy home for believers in bootstrapping and meritocracy, proponents of shallow libertarianism. I am susceptible to it, too. “He just taught himself to code over the summer,” I hear myself say one afternoon, with the awe of someone relaying a miracle.”
It was tough to pick a quote here as so much of this is devastating, but true to what I've seen in the start up world. The other part of this piece is that it's one of the best written pieces I've read in a long time. The content is tough at times, but it should be, what we're creating is pretty crappy—I'm really glad to see someone critiquing it.
“The more sustainable way of doing that—and I think we’ve talked about this on the show a little bit—is to work with the organization to kind of come up with a system for naming these parts of the design that actually works for that organization. Trent Walton had this really great blog entry a couple months ago about how in projects that he’s worked on, that atomic design classification has actually introduced—I don’t know, there’s probably a better phrase than “organizational friction,” but I haven’t had enough coffee yet… Like, that metaphor of talking about certain parts of the design as either atoms or elements or organisms is great for front-end designers and developers, but when you’re actually talking with a larger team of non-technical actors, it doesn’t always scale. There’s often a bit of a disconnect between what the metaphor means and what the interface actually does in the context of the larger design system.”
This is a great podcast highlighting how design systems are great, but also how they are hard. For most organizations I believe the system should be customized to them. I read a tweet once that said that if you are using Twitter's Bootstrap you are using something that works for Twitter, but may not work well for your organization or your site. And in this podcast Ethan and Karen do a great job of highlighting all the things to think about when creating a system.
This is a great little book and with the closure of Five Simple Steps, Tim is giving it away. You should grab it.
“The rise of grinders — hackers who open up their bodies and insert things like chips, magnets, sensors and more — has been met by the popular press with both fascination and horror. NPR recently ran a piece, “Body hacking movement rises ahead of moral answers,” about grinders that approached the premise with an almost comedic tone of uncertainty. The piece even features a woman, at a conference where she was promoting meditation, calling RFID implants “the craziest thing she had seen.” And yet, a not insignificant number of women at that conference probably had an IUD. Would she consider that crazy? I doubt it.”
I found this really interesting. Often, the things that have to do with women and their reproductive system are forgotten about or thought of differently, but should they be?
“And I begin to understand the nature of the trouble I’m having communicating to my parents precisely why what I’m doing appeals to me. They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.”
I actually don't like this article very much, I completely disagree with the author. But it's another article in my quest to read and understand more about work. Making work your life is not a great plan for many of us. Time away for rest, relaxation, and letting your mind wander is also really important. When you are always working, when does this happen? This isn't only something to do during our childhoods or during college, but it's a thing that should be done throughout all of life. Wasting time is a good thing.
“Companies have been experimenting for over a decade with social enterprise software, not to mention standard office communications packages like Outlook. Slack is different. It’s not designed to supplement your office software; it’s designed to replace it. Even more radically, Slack aims to replace the office itself, creating a platform for people who work entirely online. The question is, what will happen to office culture when everything we do and say at work is converted into a string of emoji-laced texts—especially when those texts are logged and searchable forever?”
This article was fascinating on so many levels. On the legal implications of all your office chat being logged and saved, on the way in which Slack is replacing all other forms of communication, and the way in which there is push back from this situation. As someone who has worked remote for the past several years, I love Slack (much more than IRC on which it is based). But I also believe it should be OK to close group chat to get work done. I believe that it doesn't replace all meetings, that sometimes a video call is necessary to talk through things. And the snarky part of me wonders if Slack means you don't need an office why does the company Slack not hire more remote workers?
“The problem is that the uniqueness of any given country is a mixture not only of its indigenous practices and borrowed customs but also of its past and its present. Any given photograph encloses only a section of the world within its borders. A sequence of photographs, taken over many years and carefully arranged, however, reveals a worldview. To consider a place largely from the perspective of a permanent anthropological past, to settle on a notion of authenticity that edits out the present day, is not simply to present an alternative truth: It is to indulge in fantasy.”
One of my favorite columns in the NY Times Magazine is Teju Cole's monthly column on photography. It always makes me think, and it is filled with words that make me want to be a better writer, thinker, and looker (as in at the things around me).
“Those I love. Being. Living my life without being diverted into things that people so often get diverted into. Being alive is so extraordinary I don’t know why people limit it to riches, pride, security—all of those things life is built on. People miss so much because they want money and comfort and pride, a house and a job to pay for the house. And they have to get a car. You can’t see anything from a car. It’s moving too fast. People take vacations. That’s their reward—the vacation. Why not the life? Vacations are second-rate. People deprive themselves of so much of their lives—until it’s too late. Though I understand that often you don’t have a choice..”
“No. I really don’t like chitchat. Often when I went places with people I liked, they would chat the whole time. It’s very human, but if there’s going to be talk I want it to be interesting. I don’t want to know that so-and-so spilled milk or how sad it is that she didn’t get the dress she wanted. All of the things that people are shamed by or don’t think they’ve succeeded in—I don’t want to talk about that. I really like to meet people, to be with people, but I don’t want to be chatting all the time. I like it when people talk about things.”
I couldn't chose just one from this piece. There is a lot about being a poet in here, a lot about living a life, and a lot about being alone. It's all fairly amazing and enlightening and I'm so glad I'm friends with someone who would link to it.
I just reviewed a book on accessibility, A Web for Everyone, which is a great book that spans both design and development of accessible sites. Heydon has put together a great list of examples on how to do a lot of different things and code them with ARIA so that they are accessible.
“I wonder how much better we could make online spaces if we took more cues from farmers. Because any farmer can tell you, the deer will never decide to stop being deer. It’s your job to protect your garden. Or, at least, make it inhospitable enough that the pests move on to the next one.”
This piece is so wonderful. I love the way Derek talks about his work, his current work and his past work. Tech is such a difficult place to be at times. I struggle with it and I wonder, if I left it where would I go? What would I do? I can't answer that right now and tech is still where I want to be, but I look back and see the path of how I got here and wonder where it will take me next.
I don’t remember now how I came upon this website, but I love it. I love what it is trying to do. I love the sounds which trigger so many memories for me.
“Sometimes programmers think that learning HTML is beneath them because it’s not real programming. But HTML markup is how people actually get the results of your programming. It’s the part of the web that connects your content to the whole world, so it deserves just as much care and attention as your programming and your server.”
I love HTML. I agonize over using the right element for the right content when I do a fresh layout. Thinking about how it will work across all different kinds of devices is part of the fun of it all. Too often this work is given short shrift and done by people who don't care and that just makes me sad.
“This can be hard work because it requires a lot of consideration and testing to get it right. One of the pitfalls of most design processes is that little consideration goes into all the conditions in which content can live.”
Really nice piece by Jonathon that I would +1 all the way. It is more work, but it is also worth it, because the user benefits more than we can imagine.
“Now, I don’t care about Opera Mini per se (I’m not its Product Manager). In the same way, I don’t care about walking sticks, wheelchairs, mobility scooters or guide dogs. But I care deeply about people who use enabling technologies — and Opera Mini is an enabling technology. It allows people on feature phones, low-powered smartphones, people in low-bandwidth areas, people with very small data plans, people who are roaming (you?) connect to the web.”
Bruce goes on to talk about how many people in the world use Opera Mini and it is quite significant. If you're OK with leaving behind that many people that's fine, but just remember that it is a useful tool for a lot of people and they don't all live in non Western countries. I know several people who use Mini in the US to save on data.
“I’ve begun to think of design today as not so much defined by a binary option, but instead as a spectrum or a continuum—I’m fascinated in this space between the networked and un-networked texts.”
“I suppose that these suggestions all deal with the instability I find when setting text for the web, and I hope to remind myself of this when a new feature replaces an older one in a browser, or a new hack emerges. I want to consider technical implications of my decisions, and I want to ensure that we think about the effects of an unstable network sending an unstable codebase, only to be interpreted by an unstable browsing environment.”
Ethan Marcotte talks about the space between in his latest book, Responsive Design: Patterns & Principles, and I too am fascinated by this space. Robin is referring to networks here, but I think there are a lot of spaces in between. Many areas where the interesting work actually happens. I love that Robin references it. The whole post is fantastic, which is why it got two quotes pulled from it.
“I can almost hear the Hacker News comments now, about what a luddite I am for not thinking five paragraphs of static text need to be infested with a thousand lines of script. Well, let me say proactively: fuck all y’all. I think the Web is great, I think interactive dynamic stuff is great, and I think the progress we’ve made in the last decade is great. I also think it’s great that the Web is and always has been inherently customizable by users, and that I can use an extension that lets me decide ahead of time what an arbitrary site can run on my computer.”
So much great stuff in this piece, so many awesome points about how using the right tool for the job is the best way to go.
“Have a chat with your designers before they begin work on your next project. Let them know that your product will be tested for contrast, either by you or as part of your standard quality assurance process—and make sure they’re clear on how to pass. That proactive support will go a long way.”
Color contast is a really huge issue that gets left behind way too often. I'm always pushing we think more deeply about this on the sites I work on, especially as it's also about less than ideal monitors as much as it is about people with vision problems.
“Pretty soon you’ll find out that every interview is a conversation, and every conversation is an interview.”
So. Much. Good. Advice. Here. Even the obvious stuff (don't be late) and the non obvious. When you are speaking with someone about a job, about the possibility of a job, or just wanting to know more about what they do, remember that you asked for the favor and treat it as such. My only add to this would be to buy the coffee too.
“I like to apply the same thinking for the adoption of a design system: be where the creator is. ”
Lots of good, practical advice on how to get a system to be taken seriously and used by the organization. I especially like that Mark admits this isn't easy, but it can be done.
“These designers do this by engaging with the complex adaptive systems that surround us, by revealing instead of obscuring, by building friction instead of hiding it, and by making clear that every one of us (designers included) are nothing more than participants in systems that have no center to begin with. These are designers of systems that participate – with us and with one another – systems that invite participation instead of demanding interaction. ”
Everything about this piece is just so great. Lately I've been very interested in and motivated by the things outside of the tech world that are similar or that I can learn from, so I've been reading a lot about art. But architecture is a close second here because I think you can draw a lot of parallels.
“Choose names and classifications that make the most sense for the most people. It can be counter-productive if a team spends more time struggling with the analogy than designing and building the tool itself.”
Trent, being all reasonable here, but he really is right.
“The technology/art dichotomy discourages people who might otherwise be interested in one or the other, or forces people who are interested in both to pick one or the other.”
The illustrations are great in this piece, but I also really love the point. I spend a lot of time away from the computer doing art and it's nice to see the acknowledgement that the two can actually work in tandem and help you be better at both.
“It’s intimidating to throw yourself into solving problems that you’ve grown up with and around. Most American kids, unless they’ve been raised in a highly sheltered environment, have some sense of how multi-faceted problems like mass incarceration really are. Choosing to work on that issue (one that many countries in the Global South handle far better than we do, by the way) means choosing to nurture a deep, motivating horror at what this country is doing via a long and humble journey of learning. It means studying sentencing reform. The privatization of prisons. Cutting-edge approaches already underway, like restorative justice and rehabilitation. And then synthesizing, from all that studying, a sense of what direction a solution lies in and steadfastly moving toward it.”
“The moment that tied it all together for me was when I asked a mother in my research study why it was important to train her children to behave properly in public. She simply replied, “Because if they know how to behave properly, they will know how to adapt and get along with people. And that will give them pleasure.” Adhering to social rules is a means to greater pleasure. You have to give up something to gain something greater.”
This article is somewhat about parenting, but I think it's broader topic is how we live life in America versus how they do so in France. And it's taken me a long time to feel OK and good about taking time off, doing things I enjoy, and not living to work but rather working to live and do the things I enjoy.
“The expectations for a Facebook experience are shaped by the cultural expectations brought to the table. No farmer we spoke to had explicit or calcified expectations—they had not joined Facebook ten years ago or five years ago or even two years ago. They had not been indoctrinated into whatever it is Facebook thinks it is. Or what Facebook wants us to think it is. For them, it is a malleable tool. And they have made it into what they want: Largely a news reader. A relatively bandwidth efficient way to read about topics that interest them (the weather, Buddhism, pretty girls in swimsuits).”
This is a really lovely look at how an application can vary in how it's used and what it means. And the key to the Facebook popularity is the low data usage. We often forget these things as we consume data in gargantuan amounts because it's cheap for us.
“There’s a tendency for human beings to interface with things that are pleasant to us. It’s taken 600 years, from Gutenberg to now, for the book to achieve the shape that seems to be optimal for our eyes and hands. Everything that is electronic will achieve the same standard. It will be a different substrate, but there is obviously something in it. Otherwise it wouldn’t have survived for 500 years. The same goes for the screen. I knew it wasn’t going to stay as bad as that. In ’91, Adobe published ATM, Adobe Type Manager, when some of the bitmaps went smooth and there was anti-aliasing. I know it has taken 20 years, but now it’s as good if not better.”
“Learn as much about our culture as you possibly can, by reading, by traveling, by involving yourself in things that go on. But don’t become an artist. Don’t think, “I’ll do it intuitively.” You have to learn if not to code at least to appreciate code, to understand code. Because code is what nuts and bolts were a hundred years ago.”
Had to do two quotes here, it's a great interview, especially his life story at the beginning.
“That anger explains a lot, but the question still remains: how do folks continue to ignore facts? How have people’s viewpoints become so insular and isolated that any contradictory information never even penetrates the bubble? How did we get to a point where dialogue is impossible? And I’m not just referring to this presidential race, but to many other areas of discussion as well. Am I imagining this or has the echo chamber, where one only hears what one agrees with, expanded in scope and at the same time had the effect of increasing that anger and the inability to have a dialogue?”
This entire thing is awesome. I had no idea David Byrne had a newsletter, but I'm glad I know now and I'm subscribed.
“Unlike the web of today, where more or less everything exists at a particular address and, if that server goes offline, the content is lost, connected copies ensure that even if one person or company ceases to pay their hosting bills, many other copies persist. Caulfield compares it to a run of books: one library can burn, but odds are every book in its stacks exists elsewhere, so the loss to collective human knowledge is minimal. I couldn’t help but think of this in context of the rising era of platforms on the web and the increasingly dire consequences if (when) some of these systems eventually shut down. It’s very likely that our next Octavia Butler is today writing on WattPad or Tumblr or Facebook. When those servers cease to respond, what will we lose? More than the past is at stake—all our imagined futures are at risk, too.”
“But accessibility should be a baseline, not the sum of it all. And I want more from a feed than basic accessibility. I want to fucking learn something. I want to challenge my perception of the world. And, yeah, I want to see pandas rolling in the snow, too, but a panda-only web would be pretty dull. At some point, a feed that you never leave is going to feel like a prison. Platform designers should take heed.”
Well, as usual, Mandy has written another great letter. And what I love about this letter so much is that final conclusion. I'm not on very many of the usual networks, and I have people in my life that get upset with me about it, but there are reasons for that, very good ones, and one of them is that I want to discover way more than just what those networks decide I should discover. I want the web, the open web, filled with links.
“I worry that the push to keep the web defined to words, while pragmatic and reasonable in many ways, may also be used to decide what stories get told, and what stories are heard. Many more people are using their tiny computers to record video and audio and take pictures than are writing; as much as I may love writing, and as much as I know that transmitting writing via cables and air is a hell of a lot easier and cheaper than transmitting video, I’m not sure I can really stand here and say that the writing is—or should be—primary.
One of the design principles of the web is to pave the cowpaths: it looks to me like there are some new paths opening up, ones we may not have expected, ones that aren’t going to make many of our jobs easier. Maybe instead of putting up signs saying there are better paths elsewhere, it’s time we see where these ones take us.”
I really love Mandy's writing, which if you read this site regularly you know. For this one, it was so hard to keep the quote short, so it isn't. I'm quite similar to Mandy, I'm a word person and it's what I love about the web. But, like Mandy, I realize that images and other pieces of the web are important, which we need to recognize.
“We don’t always have the luxury of putting time away. Yet if we observe it as an asset — save-able, invest-able, and appreciable — in time, we get to appreciate it back.”
I love these ideas about time. And as usual, because it's as story involving a bank, I'm right with Liz, back to my childhood as my dad worked in a bank and I spent time in and around it.
“Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago today. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I’ve been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the “mystery of Ada”.”
I know very little about the story of Ada Lovelace, so I found this account really fascinating. I saw a machine of Charles Babbage in the Computer History Machine in California in September, so it was interesting to read of her relationship with him.
“The role assignments can vary hugely from project to project, which is great. People are varied and multi-faceted. Trying to force the same people into the same roles over and over again would be demoralising and counter-productive. I fear that’s exactly what job titles do—they reinforce barriers.”
I really love Jeremy's thinking on this. A title is telling you what the person's speciality is. But on differing projects, actual responsibilities may change (hopefully they do, that's what keeps things interesting). So the title isn't enough to know what's what, but talking as a team is.
“The question of which path to take to full autonomy, a ground-up approach or a more gradual semi-autonomous one, is at the center of many debates about the technology. A more pressing question in the short-term is this: How much does a person’s perception of the computer’s job make a difference? ”
I find the self driving car fascinating, ever since I read Three Commutes. I definitely think it will have to come in waves, getting people comfortable with the technology (much like we had elevator operators because people were uncomfortable with elevators when they first started appearing). I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.
“The hero in your life is never going to be the person who pats you on the head: it’s going to be the person who puts their own need to be liked aside to make you a better designer. And no, someone doesn’t need to understand you or your project 100% before they have the right to say anything about it. The person who doesn’t get you or what you made is the one that is most likely to come up with the idea or the insight that you can’t come up with on your own. People who see things differently are gold.”
I studied fine arts in college and much of what is said here in relation to design work would apply to art as well. The best teachers I had in school were the ones who would push me, make me think, and make me listen. She goes on to talk about how you need to handle and respond in critique. And it's the exact opposite of what most people want to do, it's to ask more questions and be open to the answers.
“We are alive at a time when huge systems—industrial, infrastructural—are being remade, and I think it’s our responsibility as we make choices both commercial and civic—it’s just a light responsibility, don’t stress—to extrapolate forward, and ask ourselves: Is this a system I want to live inside? Is this a system fit for humans?”
I really love the way that Robin Sloan juxtaposes these two different ways to get food when you are hungry. One is slick, but what is the true harm of it, what is the society we are building if we choose it? The other fosters community, neighborhood, people knowing people and I love that idea.
“Saving something on the web, just as Kevin Vaughan learned from what happened to his work, means not just preserving websites but maintaining the environments in which they first appeared—the same environments that often fail, even when they’re being actively maintained. Rose, looking ahead hundreds of generations from now, suspects “next to nothing” will survive in a useful way. “If we have continuity in our technological civilization, I suspect a lot of the bare data will remain findable and searchable,” he said. “But I suspect almost nothing of the format in which it was delivered will be recognizable.””
Such a good article about all the things we lose on a regular basis as we shut down servers and web sites. So much of our history is now digital, and many don't seem to care when it disappears. It's rather sad.
“While “Airbnb’ing a room” has become the norm for many travelers, the company denies it has anything to do with lodging. Rather, it’s “a trusted community marketplace” and “an online platform that connects hosts who have accommodations to rent with guests seeking to rent such accommodations.” Of course, platforms are not neutral pieces of technology: they are embedded with the values of the marketplace, strategically designed for maximum profit and minimal liability. Companies that take advantage of such ambiguity pose risks to consumers, particularly when they’re trafficking in human experience, not just data or speech like Napster, Tumblr, and others before them who have appealed to their platform status to weather challenges to the legally murky activities they host.”
Many who know me know that I don't really like AirBnB. Our one and only time renting for a vacation was disastrous and we lived next door to a house that was rented for a whole summer and it sucked. So we avoid them. And while I know there is risk in licensed establishments as well, I like to think that there is less risk. I may be kidding myself, but it's my preference. This article points out the many reasons why I don't trust AirBnB.
“I think Stewart is identifying a new facet of this. It’s not quite context collapse, because what’s collapsing aren’t audiences so much as expectations. Rather, it’s a collapse of speech-based expectations and print-based interpretations. It’s a consequence of the oral-literate hybrid that flourishes online. It’s conversation smoosh.”
I've long felt that something is different with the way people are online, in particular how they are when they use Twitter. But this article goes a lot further in looking at language and how we use it and think about it. Fascinating.
“I think of this as the Jetsons fallacy, where you imagine you can transform the world with technology without changing anything about people’s behavior. Of course the world reacts and changes shape in ways no one person can anticipate.”
Maciej does it again. I would love to see him speak in person.
“Ironically, by being in touch with and acting from your true intentions, you become more effective in reaching your goals than when you act from wants and insecurities. Once the yogi understood this, she started to work with goals and intentions as separate functions. She later reported that continually coming back to her intentions in the course of her day was actually helping her with her goals.”
This piece was linked in the Pastry Box piece I just linked to the other day. It is wonderful, really wonderful. I'm trying more and more to live my life with intentions rather than setting extreme goals and beating myself up if I don't meet them by a certain time period.
“Instead of worrying about working weekends and holidays the way I had in the United States, I planned trips like the rest of my colleagues: Paris. Prague. Zermatt. For the first time in my working life, I was living, too. Because of this, my creativity flourished. I had both time and money, and because I had real time off, I was more productive when I was at work. In my spare time I wrote blogs and essays and I swam in the lake.”
This piece resonates with me so much. Not only the thoughts on working your day and then leaving work behind in the evenings and weekends so you can recharge and refresh, but also the ideas about part time work. I find it so intriguing that in Europe part time works and many companies do it. I brought up the idea of part time work when on a work retreat a few weeks ago and I was surprised at how impossible it seemed to make happen. But, in thinking about it, I already work with colleagues half a world away and so it is almost like part time, since we aren't working the entire day overlapping. I think it can work, and I wish I could find a company that would be willing to try it with me.
This is a parody of the AMP Project and it’s quite funny. We now have a framework, that is reworking HTML and using it’s own language to make things fast. Why in the world we need this is beyond me and beyond Maciej and I love it. It is possible to make a fast web page out of the tools we now have, but most developers either don’t do it or aren’t allowed to do it due to demands of their bosses.
“What if, instead of setting a goal, I set an intention: “I will run without hyper-extending my knees”? It doesn’t look very different from a goal. Here’s the crux, though: the moment I realize I have abandoned my intention, I can pick it back up again and continue moving forward. I realized at some point that I wasn’t bending my knees enough on a downhill stretch. I changed my behavior, and I kept going.”
I love this idea and have been doing the same thing for quite some time. My to-do list is mostly made up of intentions and I don't get super upset if I don't get everything done.
“Aside from revamping digital book covers and the library browsing interface, Kindles could remind us of past purchases – books either bought but left unread, or books we read passionately and should reread. And, in doing so, trump the unnetworked isolation of physical books. Thanks to our in-app reading statistics, Kindle knows when we can’t put a book down, when we plunge ourselves into an author’s world far too late into the night, on a weeknight, when the next day is most definitely not a holiday. Kindle knows when we are hypnotised, possessed, gluttonous; knows when we consume an entire feast of words in a single sitting. Knows that others haven’t been so ravenous with a particular story, but we were, and so Kindle can intuit our special relationship with the text. It certainly knows enough to meaningfully resurface books of that ilk. It could be as simple as an email. Kindle could help foster that act of returning, of rereading. It could bring a book back from the periphery of our working library into the core, ‘into the bloodstream’, as Susan Sontag put it. And yet it doesn’t.”
I read digitally, mostly library books that I can borrow and try out. But I'm also reading a lot of books on paper again. I prefer comics in paper, to be able to slowly page through and look at the art work and in an effort to support a local bookstore, if I want to buy a book, I do that in paper now. But I agree with Craig, many things could be made better about the Kindle experience. And for books I truly love, paper is still my preference.
“This is where what I call a deviant comes in. Every team needs a deviant, someone who can help the team by challenging the tendency to want too much homogeneity, which can stifle creativity and learning. Deviants are the ones who stand back and say, “Well, wait a minute, why are we even doing this at all? What if we looked at the thing backwards or turned it inside out?” That’s when people say, “Oh, no, no, no, that’s ridiculous,” and so the discussion about what’s ridiculous comes up. Unlike the CFO I mentioned before, who derailed the team by shutting down discussions, the deviant opens up more ideas, and that gets you a lot more originality. In our research, we’ve looked carefully at both teams that produced something original and those that were merely average, where nothing really sparkled. It turned out that the teams with deviants outperformed teams without them. In many cases, deviant thinking is a source of great innovation.”
I was reminded of this article while I was on a team retreat with workmates for a week. And I think the best part of this article is this concept of the deviant. There needs to be a person pushing against things to make the team more successful and when I look at the most successful teams I've worked with, I can pick that person out right away. It isn't a bad thing, but it can make for frustrating moments.
I love the way Tim built on the idea I had about being overwhelmed with code and made it even better. He's spot on, focusing on the core is always a good use of your time.
“For Maria Bråth, boss of internet startup Brath, the six-hour working day the company introduced when it was formed three years ago gives it a competitive advantage because it attracts better staff and keeps them. “They are the most valuable thing we have,” she says – an offer of more pay elsewhere would not make up for the shorter hours they have at Brath.”
The public sector jobs this article talks about are being pushed and pulled by the will of different political parties, but what I found most interesting in this article are the private sector companies who have done it for years and are doing well. The recognition that knowledge work is tiring and you need to have time away is incredibly nice to see. I would love a six hour works day.
“I shouldn’t have to say this, but here we are: work that is excessive, consuming north of 40 hours a week and without regular holidays, leads to burnout and reduced productivity, not to mention a toll on workers’ mental and physical health. We should build workplaces that encourage healthy work habits because we are not monsters, but also because we benefit from sane work cultures because they achieve better results.”
Having worked for Mandy, I know that all of what she says here is what she strives for in her teams. But this piece is so much more, the bits on transparency, the bits on competition versus collaboration, it is all so, so good.
“It’s just too much. Too much plastic. Too much paper. Too much waste in a world that is already incredibly wasteful. I don’t need that. We don’t need that. I know, people love free stuff, but please. Stop it. I’ll buy my own tote bags, cables, pens, stickers, notepads, USB sticks, mugs, bottles, and all other things if I need them. Stop littering the world with useless crap. Most of the people won’t keep half of the items. I cringe when I think of all the raw materials that were used to make all of that.”
I really love this piece. At my house this year we've become just as conscious of what comes in as what is going out. To prevent waste we are watching the stuff we bring into the house just as much as I'm aware of our garbage, recycling, etc. And the conference swag is usually all waste in the end. Earlier this year at a conference I refused the swag and the person behind the registration desk got upset. At the very least, let people politely decline without making it an issue.
“This is not Tierra del Fuego, you know. I get bored with the parochialness of the East Coast. They think that the news doesn’t get out here and that people out here live in rustic ignorance of real life. It’s embarrassing that people can be so ignorant as East Coast people tend to be of the West Coast-and the whole Midwest-and, of course, so contemptuous of the whole South. So sometimes I have written some rather resentful and snarky things about the urban Northeast-particularly in literature-the notion that nothing is worth writing about except the suburbs of large Eastern cities. Blech. That gets nowhere with me.”
I've only read one book by Le Guin, but it is amazing. I have several more on my list. And this interview is amazing. I love the way she describes working with an editor, as a collaboration, which is exactly how I see it as well.
“If we want to build a web that is truly universal, then we must embrace its unpredictable nature. We must listen more closely to the full spectrum of our audience. We must see opportunities for optimization where we previously saw barriers to entry. And we must consider our fellow makers in this process by building tools that will help us navigate these challenges together.”
I love this piece by Paul, along with his presentation on the same idea. He is thinking deeply about how we make things, how we work together, and how we move forward to make the web better.
“On a more personal level, I have long tried to curtail this overflow of information. I use few social networks (mainly due to their impropriety) and limit most of my activity to Twitter. I aim to keep the number of people I follow below 75 (Dunbar divided by two), and follow a stream composed mainly of friends and former colleagues. I find it surprising (and somewhat annoying) that given this number, ‘hot drama’ still manages to surface. The more I read about our growing reliance on social media, the more I’m given to thinking, that like most things, it’s best enjoyed in moderation.”
I'm with Paul here, trying to slow down, focus on what matters to me, and leave the rest behind.
“I see this in the world of front-end techniques and technology. We become obsessed with tools and methods, very rarely looking at how these relate to the fundamental basics of web standards, accessibility and progressive enhancement. We obsess about a right way to do things as if there was one right way rather than looking at the goal; how things fit into the broader philosophy of what we do on the web and how what we write contributes to us being better at what we do.”
I had an interesting conversation today with coworkers about what it mean to be "offline" as I prepare for vacation. And we all have different things we struggle with, but I will admit, I struggle with the pithy ephemera of social media, so I tend to need long breaks for my own sanity. And it's interesting, because we aren't all the same in that regard.
I listened to the podcast to which Jeremy is referring in this piece and his voice was the voice of calm reason to me, I was grateful for the balance. This goes back to the my age old complaint with so much on the web these days: what works for you works for you, but it is not the only way and stop saying it is when you write or talk about it.
“And I think: I don’t need this. I could make some principled, or “principled,” arguments against it — that there’s no reason to pay more attention to this murder than any of the several dozen others that will happen in America today, that this is a classic illustration of the “society of the spectacle”, that we should follow Augustine’s example in denouncing curiositas — but my real problem is that it just makes me very sad and very tired, and I have too much to do to be sad and tired. ”
Each year, I pull back both from social media a bit and from thinking about and being online in the time I'm not working. And it has been good for me. Right now I plan to make 2016 the year of me without the web in some fashion. I'll still work on the web for a living, but when I'm not working I'm thinking of staying away from the web and immersing myself in other things.
“He was tracing an arc on the table with his fingers and speaking with such deliberation and care. “I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example am I not bitter. By her example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.”
This interview is so full of interesting and thoughtful things I had a really hard time picking what to quote. It is well worth your time to read the whole thing. I had read bits and pieces about Colbert's life, but his honesty here is startling and beautiful.
“Money is an attempt to buy time, but it rarely is able to buy any of the above. When we don’t have time we use money to try to get us to the secret door on time, or we use it avoid needing to know the real prices, or we use money to have someone explain to us what is really going on. Money can get us close, but not all the way.”
Agree 100%. We have started to take longer vacations and slower vacations, letting ourselves explore, get to know a place, and be there. I would also add: making them offline vacations has been wonderful.
“That’s why the implied-contract theory is invalid: people aren’t agreeing to write a blank check and give up reasonable expectations of privacy by clicking a link. They can’t even know what the cost of visiting a page will be until they’ve already visited it and paid the price.”
I work on the web, so I understand all that is happening when a web page is loaded. But for most people, all they know is that their page is slow and that it's quite strange that the shoes they were just looking at on Zappos are now showing up in ads as they read a story on the New York Times. And that's what worries me about this trend. We are making people pay with their privacy, their data plans they pay for, and their time.
“The time not spent on me’ing has freed up mental space for me to do other things. You know, crazy shit like spending time with my family and friends. Wow, progressive thinking. The less I blog or market myself, the more time I can spend on my hobbies that wont interest anyone but myself, like infusing oils. Mind-blowing.”
I've found the exact same thing to be true this summer. I've spent my time away from work not thinking about work at all and just doing the things I enjoy to relax.
“As long as we continue to think of the Internet as the place where you can creates sites and services that make other people laugh, argue forever, and encounter ideas they’d never have imagined, then the Internet stays true to the values its architecture embodies.”
“We are all joined together globally in ways we have never been joined before, so if we fail, we all fail together: we have “just one chance to get it right.” This is not the way we will inevitably go, says he, though it is the way we will inevitably go unless we choose to invent and follow some less hazardous road.”
I'm becoming more and more pessimistic about our ability to make any changes and prevent catastrophe due to climate change. We need to have a collective coming together, and not just by one country or a few countries, but by the entire world, to make this change happen. And I don't see the wealthy of any nation admitting this is even necessary. So while I try and do my bit, it feels quite hopeless, as so many around me aren't doing their part, or even thinking about it.
“It may indeed be a false dichotomy that “either you can have a performant website or you have a business model based on advertising” but it is also a truth that advertisers demand more and more for their dollar. They want to know what page you read, how long you looked at it, where on the web you went next, and a thousand other invasive things that make thoughtful people everywhere uncomfortable—but are the price we currently pay to access the earth’s largest library.”
I really enjoy Jeffrey's perspective here. This is a really hard issue. We want an open web, we want information to be accessible, but that information, writing, and more have to be paid for somehow. We live in a society where people need to earn. While I'm starting to hate a lot about capitalism, it's what we've got right now.
“For such a young, supposedly-innovative industry, I’m often amazed at what people choose to treat as immovable, unchangeable, carved-in-stone issues. Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.”
Jeremy's piece made me think of my own thoughts on performance where I thought about how it is more than just the developers making things better, but a fundamental culture change that must occur at an organization to make it happen. And what Nilay Patel says about The Verge and so many other websites illustrates perfectly the issues that developers and anyone who cares about performance are facing. Sites need to earn money and that seems to be very much at odds with performance, unfortunately.
“While we’ve been streamlining our processes and perfecting our machine-like assembly techniques, others have been watching closely and assembling their own machines. We’ve designed ourselves right into an environment ripe for automation. Applications like Squarespace (and soon The Grid) are here and are clamouring for our jobs.”
“Right now there’s a profound sense of irreality in the tech industry. All problems are to be solved with technology, especially the ones that have been caused with previous technology. The new technologies will fix it.”
There was so much to quote in this piece, I had a hard time to pull just one. And having been on the outskirts of the VC world for a while, I am tired of it. Tired of the idea that technology can solve everything and everything must scale at exponential rates to be worthwhile. I disagree with that notion. Small ideas, small things that help people, community, and more, are very much worth our time. But the piece is amazing. And I choose the web that connects knowledge, people, and cats.
“And that, in turn, is important, because humanity’s search for exoplanets—planets beyond the solar system—has just begun. So far, we’ve found 1,932 of them. Some are gas giants, a few seem to be rocky worlds in their star’s habitable zone. What seems likely, though, is that there are many worlds like Pluto: small, round, and distant from their suns.”
“It is true: we will be able to do more stuff if we focus on managing our time, but in today’s business environment, we don’t need more repetitive, synchronized activity like we did in the Industrial Revolution. We need more thinking, more creativity, and more problem solving. A focus on time will undermine all of these. It will make you feel more overwhelmed and miserable too!”
“For most people, the big question isn’t “when did you start drawing?” but “when did you stop drawing?” Virtually everyone drew and doodled at one point in their lives. For artists and non-artists alike, drawing is about more than art—it’s about the very art of thinking.”
I just finished a project that got me drawing every day. It was the first time I had drawn daily since art school. And it was fantastic. I saw myself improving, experimenting, thinking as I looked back at each day and drew something. And, I'm just two days out from finishing the project, but I'm still drawing daily, just on a wider variety of surfaces.
“Our dominant operating systems, our way of working, and our common approach to developing, auditing and debugging software, and spending (or not) money on its maintenance, has not yet reached the requirements of the 21st century. So, yes, NYSE going down is not a big deal, and United Airlines will probably have more ground halts if they don’t figure out how to change their infrastructure (not a cheap or easy undertaking). But it’s not just them. From our infrastructure to our privacy, our software suffers from “software sucks” syndrome which doesn’t sound as important as a Big Mean Attack of Cyberterrorists. But it is probably worse in the danger it poses.”
If you've worked on any large scale, older software, then you know that this article is dead on. We love building things in our industry, but we really don't like maintaining them very much. And that means, we have a lot of creaky software all over the place running our many of the things we depend on.
“So the team that started by performing bug fixes on a sprawling, struggling mass of code ended by writing critical, efficient infrastructure for the government. Yet what the MPL team accomplished philosophically may be even more important: It helped teach government bureaucrats how to think about building websites in 2015.”
Really well written article that is mostly about communicating. A team of tech folks learning how government works while the government folks learned how to make software.
“Early on, my mother exposed this myth — casually, just after piano practice and before dinnertime. Adults too were making it up. Adults were winging it. It has been an invaluable insight that’s guided me my whole life.”
“Getting a puppy, the comic Louis C.K. observed, is a “countdown to sorrow.” Inscribed in the act of welcoming this adorable fur ball into your home is the moment of its death a decade or so hence. Grief over a pet can equal or exceed that of a human family member, studies show. This is canine neoteny’s cruel flip side: Yes, your dog gets to be an emotional adolescent into ripe old age. But when he dies, it will feel like losing a child.”
I really love this article. I found it when I watched (and cried my eyes out watching) a video about a man and his dog at the end of the dog's life. I still miss my girl, every day, even after a year and a half since she's been gone.
“It’s about the users. It’s about finding ways to make our content available to them no matter how unpredictable the path that lies between us and them.”
It's about users! 'nuff said.
“Small steps move us forward. They may not be the amazing, overnight success stories we hear about, but that’s because you don’t hear about the thousand small steps that contributed to that overnight success story.”
“Some will point out, correctly, that even educated people can still be racists, but this shouldn’t remove the spotlight from anti-intellectualism. Yes, even intelligent and educated individuals, often due to cultural and institutional influences, can sometimes carry racist biases. But critically thinking individuals recognize racism as wrong and undesirable, even if they aren’t yet able to eliminate every morsel of bias from their own psyches or from social institutions. An anti-intellectual society, however, will have large swaths of people who are motivated by fear, susceptible to tribalism and simplistic explanations, incapable of emotional maturity, and prone to violent solutions. Sound familiar?”
“The post-work proponents acknowledge that, even in the best post-work scenarios, pride and jealousy will persevere, because reputation will always be scarce, even in an economy of abundance. But with the right government provisions, they believe, the end of wage labor will allow for a golden age of well-being. Hunnicutt said he thinks colleges could reemerge as cultural centers rather than job-prep institutions. The word school, he pointed out, comes from skholē, the Greek word for “leisure.” “We used to teach people to be free,” he said. “Now we teach them to work.””
This is a long, but really fascinating article on work and what would happen if there is no work in the future. I've read and thought a lot about work in the past several years. I'm not sure that I agree that if we have no work we will become like the people on the spaceships in WALL-E, I would like to think it would be more like Star Trek, where we still do things, but we don't have to worry about earning wages or the basics of life. What I found most fascinating is how people in Youngstown have a revitalization of culture and creative pursuits, because they have the time for it now.
“But I’ve also come to see writing as a material in itself. Something we can play with and manipulate. Something that can change over time as questions come up in the design process or an idea evolves. Writing can be a tool for talking to ourselves when we’re still figuring things out. A sort of mirror or feedback system. A way to understand and articulate design.”
Over the past several years, I've come to love words more. I've also realized that words in design/applications/etc are so very important, more important than we often think. And I love the way Nicole talks about this, using words in design and as part of the process.
“Years later, a wise friend said he found the more interesting people tend to be ones who can’t exactly describe what they do day to day. Instead, of forcing prescription, let’s embrace ‘and.’”
“I want to defend it not because it’s a particularly beautiful tower, but because of the idea it represents. Parisians panicked when they saw it, and when they abandoned the tower they also abandoned the idea of a high-density sustainable city. Because they exiled all future high rises to some far neighborhood like La Défense, they were segregating growth.”
I saved this link because I love the way the architect talks about the building in Paris. We are going through a huge building boom in Portland, and because we limit sprawl and growth, it means lots of new buildings in old neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods, like mine, are changing, but I'm not sure it's for the worse. It's just change. And I, for one, would rather encourage density and deal with the change.
“Digital devices are not eating away at our brains. They are, however, luring us toward near constant outwardly directed thought, a situation that’s probably unique in human experience. A flat cap on time with devices — the restriction we first think of for ourselves and our kids — might help. So would parking devices in another room for a while. But it would be more effective if we could learn to recognize in ourselves when escape from our thoughts is O.K. and when reflection is in order. As a bonus, judgments like that require inwardly directed attention, a mental habit that in our smartphone era, we’d be dumb to lose.”
I've been going through a bit of a step away from devices and from the internet in general when I'm not working. What I've found, my mind has time for rest and ideas form. It's been good, and it's been my choice. I don't think the devices are doing anything to us, they are just pointing out that we lack the will power to step away from them.
“I think the biggest policy is to assume a remote stance by default: that is, assume everyone is remote all the time and behave accordingly, accommodating people in offices as need be, rather than the reverse. In practice that primarily means leveraging written communication (whether asynchronous, like email or shared docs, or synchronous, such as chat) over oral, since writing is easier to transmit, archive, and reference later.”
“He then gave an example of what this narrative can do to people. At the University of Kansas’s geographic information system (GIS) day a few years ago, he sat in on a “fantastic presentation” about predicting seasonal floods on the Kansas River. The student had used tools that should be familiar to many of those at PyCon: Amazon Web Services, Linux, PostgreSQL, Python, Django, GeoDjango, and so on. Kaplan-Moss was hiring at the time, and she (the student) had just written thousands of lines of Python, so he asked if she wanted to interview for his company. Her response was that she couldn’t do that, because she “was not really a programmer”. That came from a woman who had just invented her own distributed GIS data processing pipeline, he said—but she’s not really a programmer. That’s because “programming is something you are in this myth, not something you do”.”
Really interesting read on how we talk about programming, and how we should be talking about it.
“The weird thing about removing a chunk of time from our weekly calendar is that, as far as I can tell, we do the same amount in a week as everyone else. Work gets done, deliverables get delivered. No client has ever cared that we’re not available for calls on Tuesday mornings.”
I adore this idea. When I freelanced, Fridays were my day. I usually did admin in the morning and generally caught up on little things so I could start on Mondays with things squared away. But the afternoons, they were mine. I would read, write, relax, explore Portland, or whatever else I wanted to do. I think it's beneficial to have this time and would love to work out a way to do this in my current job, even if just for a couple of hours to recharge.
“I am frightened sometimes by the thought that a student would complain again like he did in 2009. Only this time it would be a student accusing me not of saying something too ideologically extreme — be it communism or racism or whatever — but of not being sensitive enough toward his feelings, of some simple act of indelicacy that’s considered tantamount to physical assault. As Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis writes, “Emotional discomfort is [now] regarded as equivalent to material injury, and all injuries have to be remediated.” Hurting a student’s feelings, even in the course of instruction that is absolutely appropriate and respectful, can now get a teacher into serious trouble.”
“That’s the culture: the on-board shuttle group produces grown-up software, and the way they do it is by being grown-ups. It may not be sexy, it may not be a coding ego-trip — but it is the future of software. When you’re ready to take the next step — when you have to write perfect software instead of software that’s just good enough — then it’s time to grow up.”
This whole article is fantastic and I am grateful to Rob for the link. I had a hard time picking out a quote, so picked the above, but there is also a fantastic section on mistakes and how a mistake isn't owned by one person since the team reviewed code and it was allowed to get to the point of error. I really like that idea, the idea of things being a team effort, truly. And the rise of Gitblame, in my opinion, can be harmful for the team attitude when it comes to writing software.
“It’s routine from the cockpit to see storms form in real time, and from them the fall of new rain on the roof of the ocean, or to overfly the endpoints of glaciers, where shards of the ancient snow-glass tumble into the police-light blue of northern seas. When, after long hours over desert or sparsely inhabited land a city appears, the water we see near it — lakes, dams, rivers locked in their rolling green frames of vegetation — looks holy as blood.”
I really love this piece and the way the pilot describes his point of view on flying. So very different from what we experience in our seats. I've started to be much more nervous about flying lately and it coincides with having to do it more than ever, so it was nice to be reminded of the amazing parts of it all.
This is a great podcast on how tech was used in the 2012 US Presidential election. But more than that, I really love the way Harper Reed talks about how we talk about tech. He makes so many great points, so much to think about.
“The “web” is not a part of nature. It was not discovered; we don’t have to just accept it. The “web” is an infrastructural system that was built by people, and it was built very recently and very sloppily. It currently has the property that it forgets what must be remembered, and remembers what must be forgotten. It manages to screw up both the sacredness of the common record and the sacredness of private interaction.”
“Whereas the mega-machine operated by violent means—forcibly divorcing the human-cogs of identity and absorbing their productive and creative energies through wage or slave labor—the mega-algorithm doubles back and promises you reunification with this alienated self through “authentic” (or “creative” or “social”) work completed on your own time. We are sold a desirable narrative about the wealth of networks, decentralized production, cognitive surplus, collaborative consumption, social engagement, and instant convenience. The techno-utopic discourses of emancipation and community that surround the technologies and sociopolitics that make up the mega-algorithm serve as an effective ideological veil, which shrouds the practices of exploitation and control. Don’t think of yourself as an overworked, underpaid laborer trying to hustle for a paycheck. No, you’re actually an entrepreneurial individual, building your personal brand and finding (or making) your niche in the marketplace.”
“You want some advice: stop reading advice articles. Advice from someone you do not know is not advice at all it’s just another opinion (yes I realize the irony of that sentence). Do you really need more opinions in your life? Formulate your opinions from doing, not from reading how others do.”
I wish two things: one, that people would write articles with more caring and not as if they are law and two, that we would be able to read them that way instead of feeling like we are doing something wrong.
“It’s time to recognise that this is the wrong approach. We shouldn’t try to compete with native apps in terms set by the native apps. Instead, we should concentrate on the unique web selling points: its reach, which, more or less by definition, encompasses all native platforms, URLs, which are fantastically useful and don’t work in a native environment, and its hassle-free quality.”
YES! This is the key part of that quote for me “concentrate on the unique web selling points”—let's start concentrating on the parts of the web that are unique. As my friend Jason Grigsby has said time and time again, you can't link into a native app, but you can link to the web
“There needs to be a cultural change in how we approach building for the web. Yes, some of the tools we choose are part of the problem, but the bigger problem is that performance still isn’t being recognised as the most important factor in how people feel about websites (and by extension, the web). This isn’t just a developer issue. It’s a design issue. It’s a UX issue. It’s a business issue. Performance is everybody’s collective responsibility.”
I've been thinking a lot about the topic of performance on the web and how to change culture. I hear a lot of people talk about the need for culture change, but I hear very little about how the developer who cares goes about doing that. So, while I'm grateful people are talking about performance so much, I wish a little bit of that conversation focused more on the how of culture change.
“And web developers? Stop buying into the ‘native is better’ myth. (It’s just different.) Progressive enhancement has never been an optional extra and it’s high time you make sure that your managers and your CEOs know that.”
Last one on this topic, promise. But the writing and the compilation of quotes is just so good.
“The thing about this idea of consent is that it implies that simply being somewhere—entering a space, looking around, staying there for however long—is indicative of consenting to whatever happens in that space. If you didn’t consent, you would just leave, right? But that neglects the possibility that you might need to be in that space, that you might be obligated to be there, while also disagreeing with all or some of what is going on.”
“The movement toward toolchains and ever more libraries to do ever less useful things has become hysterical, and with every day that passes I’m more happy with my 2006 decision to ignore tools and just carry on. Tools don’t solve problems any more, they have become the problem. There’s just too many of them and they all include an incredible amount of features that you don’t use on your site — but that users are still required to download and execute.”
“Ever since then, I’ve found myself more and more rating both my feelings and the importance of any particular decision on that same one-to-ten scale. Is the decision non-critical and I don’t actually care that much one way or another? Then I’ll voice my preference, but follow up with “but I’m a two-out-of-ten on this, so whatever you want to do is fine.” Is the topic mission-critical, with far-reaching effects? My opinion will probably be a bit stronger and I’ll debate a bit harder or longer.”
“What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you’ll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow.”
“We now have a vast and costly health-care industry devoted to finding and responding to turtles. Our ever more sensitive technologies turn up more and more abnormalities—cancers, clogged arteries, damaged-looking knees and backs—that aren’t actually causing problems and never will. And then we doctors try to fix them, even though the result is often more harm than good.”
“All these grown-up monsters for my grown-up mind, they are there in the nights I wake up terrified and taunted by death. When I feel so small and broken, when despair and terror take me, I have a secret tool, a talisman against the night. I don’t use it too often so that it doesn’t lose its power. I learned it on airplanes, which are strange and thrilling and full of fear and boredom and discomfort.”
“Yet, if I’m completely honest, the desktop is often how our work is still perceived. Perceived by our peers on launch day (vanity) and also internally how we as organizations perceive the big picture of a completed responsive design system.”
“While this is frustrating, this is also why I’m optimistic. The awareness of performance as not merely a technical issue but a cultural one, has been spreading. If things are progressing a little slower than I would like, it’s also fair to point out out that cultural change is a much more difficult and time consuming process that technical change. The progress may be hard to see, but I believe it is there.”
“Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.”
“Creating and communicating added value comes from many of the same skills that go into a movie: making sure that all of the elements of a product are harmonious, that they communicate the same values.”
I love the model of the Hollywood team coming together to make the movie, it's a lot like a group of independent web folks coming together to make a web site.
“You are strapped into this new world. This future of screens in places you may not want them. And so you must embrace it. This thing on the wrist. It will not make you better. It will not change your life. Someday, perhaps. The potential is there. But not now. It is still a baby. And so for now, into it we mash our noses. We are optimistic doofuses. It is black like the ocean on a moonless night. It pings softly from the future and says: It is time to stand up. You are a lazy man. I feel your beating heart.”
I know, another watch article, but this one is just such a great piece of writing. I love Craig's writing and this is no exception. I read it and I learn more about how to write.
“Who is writing these descriptions? I’m sure these companies find a perfect match now and again. But I have a feeling that’s not the norm. It’s more likely that many of these companies just don’t know what they need so they look for everything. A recruiter or HR person whips something up and puts it out there to see who bites. Maybe they’ll catch a unicorn!”
I really love everything about the post, from the fact that she questioned the interviewer about the FizzBuzz question, to the fact that she's calling a real issue in our industry. Whoever writes the job postings has no idea what they really want and often times I wonder if the people interviewing do either.
“The Watch is the first device that’s encouraged me to spend as little time as possible with it, or with any of the other electronic sinkholes around my office, my home, and in my pockets. It’s the first product that lives in this world, offering a small, brief window into the digital one - instead of being a portal that envelopes us, pulling us into another place to be held hostage by our own need for novelty and trivial diversion.”
This was the first thing I read about the watch that made me see why it could be useful or valuable to someone. And it was the best endorsement yet for it as well.
“The key point of Stan’s argument is that Marvel’s offering a more “sophisticated” choice, and to be fair, that’s fairly accurate — but only in the way that DC’s making comics for kids, and Marvel’s trying to corner the teen market. This, it’s worth noting, was the dawn of the teenager as an economic powerhouse, and that made a huge difference to the evolution of comics as much as it did to everything else. You can see that reflected across all of pop culture as everyone tries to capitalize on it, whether it’s Marvel comics and their soap operatic angst or, you know, the best song ever written. It all happens at once, and it was inevitable that it was going to happen in comics — Marvel just got there first, because DC had no real reason to change just yet.”
I asked about the whole DC vs Marvel thing and was pointed to this and it's fascinating.
“In order for people to think that you can take a three week vacation, or work remotely for a month, you need to lead by doing. Without an example, only the bravest team members seem to believe the words that have been said to them, and take these policies to heart.”
A great post on the need to get away, completely away. But the above quote is what's really important to me. If the people running things don't lead by example, many employees find the words and policies surrounding flexibility and time off to be empty promises.
“When we water down work to pithy sayings like “do what you love” or “work is love made visible” we do the complexity of the topic an enormous disservice, and we ignore the huge role that—yes, I’m going to go there—privilege plays in all of it. You see, “do what you love” is only possible if you’re in a financial and social position to follow your passion wherever it goes. “Work is love made visible” is easier said than done when you have three jobs that you don’t like, and have to struggle to make it through the day.”
Sometimes, to be honest, many of us work because we have to. And I love that Rian points out the privilege here. I lead an extremely privileged life because I was born to white, middle class parents in the last half of the twentieth century in the upper midwest of the US. I don't feel bad about it, but I acknowledge and accept that not everyone has had the same starting point, therefore I may need to work harder to relate and understand their point of view on life.
“So just why are we afraid of Medium? Aside from not soliciting or editing most of its content, and not paying most of its authors, how does it differ from all previous web publications, from Slate to The Verge? Why does publishing content on Medium (in addition to your personal site and other publications) herald, not just the final-final-final death of blogging (“Death of Blogging III: This Time It’s Personal”), but, even more alarmingly, the death of the open web?”
I publish a lot of other places, currently A List Apart and The Pastry Box, but I have all that writing somewhere else. If those publications disappeared and my work were no longer available, I still have it and could republish it on this very site. I think there is a time and a place to write and publish on other sites, but I don't trust using Medium for all my publishing as I fear for the future of all that content. You'll also notice that Jeffrey posted this same post on Medium, but I trust the link to his site will remain viable longer than the link to the Medium post.
“When we get mired in a rigid process, or have written ourselves into a corner with an overly-detailed Statement of Work, we’re paying too much attention to the tools, and not enough to the goals. We’re gritting our teeth and making our knee bend just so while unthinkingly holding our breath.”
As a yoga practitioner, I love how Eileen uses yoga for her examples so often <3.
“I hope that openness will prevail. Hope sounds like such a wishy-washy word, like “faith” or “belief”, but it carries with it a seed of resistance. Hope, faith, and belief all carry connotations of optimism, but where faith and belief sound passive, even downright complacent, hope carries the promise of action.”
This is another piece where you need to read the whole thing. But I agree with Jeremy, I hope the open web wins and I think hoping for that, having the mindset that it can win, may actually be half the battle.
“And of course the most vocal challengers to most cultures are the first to be shown the door. It’s in human nature to want to eliminate the most disruptive people. And it’s also human nature to want to bring in more people that fit in well. Repeat these two behaviors over time and culture becomes homogeny, even if everyone still believes the culture values diversity. Is the culture still the same at that point? Everyone still there might believe so, but the people who left because of the culture don’t get asked their opinion.”
I've found this to be true in my own career. Some of the time I was the vocal dissenter and I usually got uncomfortable and fed up, so I left. Culture is hard, but the people at the top have the power and in my best work situations, those people were open, honest, and willing to hear criticism.
“But now that I’ve met the cool kids, I know they are just like me. They have their own human failings, their own self-doubts, their own mortgages to pay. The cool kids are just as scared as the rest of us underneath their prestige and cool swagger.”
This piece resonates with me so much. Now that I'm writing more on other sites and doing a few conference talks I'm meeting some of my heroes. I've been so happy to meet them and realize that we are all very much the same and worrying about a lot of the same things.
“As I already covered, aria-label is favored in accessible name calculation. Apart from aria-labelledby, it will override all additional naming methods. This means you can use it to provide better text for assistive technologies without altering text intended for visual users.”
“If you want to imagine a truly frightening scenario, imagine an entire world in which people entrust their thoughts, their work, and pictures of their family to online services in the mistaken belief that the internet never forgets. Imagine the devastation when all of those trivial, silly, precious moments are wiped out. For some reason we have a hard time imagining that dystopia even though it has already played out time and time again.”
“We once took on the tropes of print design and tried to apply them to the web. I fear that today we run the risk of treating web development no different to other kinds of software development, ignoring the strengths of the web that John highlighted for us. Flexibility, ubiquity, and uncertainty: don’t fight them as bugs; embrace them as features.”
“So that’s what I learned. That’s why the experiment was a failure. This is the era of the quantified self and radical transformation. And I’ve made charts and counted and poked around. I can tell you the top 20 words for each of my years, the number of times I wrote about weight loss, the first time I started thinking about being a father. My basic self is just this single, continuous, thread — quantifiable, in the form of actuarial tables, bank account statements, square footage owned, number of children. But counting things doesn’t change them.”
“The culture of busyness and hyperproductivity is so ascendant, that it is hard to raise questions about whether speed itself should be the ultimate rationale for innovation. Is ‘the best’ technical design always about maximum efficiency in the sense of being economical with time? This instrumental philosophy is certainly at the heart of engineering, in which the latest, fastest and most automated systems appear as, objectively, the best.”
“Is it just me, or are new web UI technologies continuing to try to solve the wrong problems?”
“I spend a lot of time thinking about and talking to people about magic and technology, and honestly one of the biggest reasons I do this is because I see magic disappearing from the internet all the time—or worse, magic being invoked toward entirely the wrong reasons and mostly questionable business models. Twitter bots aren’t the magic of alienated labor or the magic of manipulation. They’re honest magic, they’re chaos magic, they’re real fucking magic. That kind of magic has a way of persisting online, regardless of the vacillations of markets and platforms. For now, we have it in our Twitter bots, and for now, I’m just so happy it’s thriving.”
“So I went back to my old job and tried to care about it. I was not successful. On one hand the company does not need me; there are thousands of other engineers that are as good or better. On the other hand, if I succeeded beyond anybody’s wildest dreams the net effect is that some extra billions of dollars would go to one billionaire instead of a different billionaire. It was hard to see why I should bother, and still is.”
A really great twenty post series about a guy instant messaging with his cat while at work. Hilarious and also touching.
“We now have a true Single Source of Truth for our theme tokens which can be used by a wide variety of platform and devices. We also have an internal repository of assets (like icons and fonts) that we keep updated in one place. The style guide pulls from this to display all the icons in our style guide.”
This system, along with what I've researched and learned about Marriott and Lonely Planet, sounds fantastic! I'm hoping to find the time soon to dig in and get a better sense of how it works.
“We need to deal with our resources differently, in terms of how we waste things. We have to move away from the throwaway habit. Things can, and must, last longer. They must be designed so that they can be reused. We need to take more care of our environment. That means not only our personal environment but also our cities and our resources. That is the future of design, to take more care of these basic elements. Otherwise I’m not sure what the future of our planet will be. So designers have to take on that responsibility, and to do so we need more support from government. We need political support to solve the problems with our environment and how we should shape our cities. As designers, we shouldn’t be doing this for ourselves, but for our community. And the community needs support, not only to interact with each other democratically, but it also needs support to live democratically.”
“So let me repeat: don’t use an icon if its meaning isn’t a 100% clear to everyone. When in doubt, skip the icon. Reside to simple copy. A text label is always clearer.”
These are super great experiments with CSS gradients. My bachelors is in fine art and I studied color theory and Rothko is one of my favorite artists, so it is also fitting that I love these. Not as great as the paintings, but for a digital representation, pretty great.
“We can choose to remain small. We can choose to devote ourselves to something, and to those we serve. We can choose to do our small things in small ways and which, over a period of time, can build upon themselves.”
“And that’s what the browsers on devices like phones, game consoles and smart watches are like. We’ll sometimes use whatever’s closest to hand. It might not be the best tool for the job, but if it can still do a good enough job, so what?”
“In my research, I found humility in a surprising place: the headquarters of I.B.M.’s Watson team, the people who built the computer that trounced the “Jeopardy!” champions. I asked the lead engineer of Watson’s health team, Eric Brown, what the equivalent of the “Jeopardy!” victory would be in medicine. I expected him to describe some kind of holographic physician, like the doctor on “Star Trek Voyager,” with Watson serving as the cognitive engine. His answer, however, reflected his deep respect for the unique challenges of health care. “It’ll be when we have a technology that physicians suddenly can’t live without,” he said.”
I wish more start ups would devote their energy to the health care tech field. It desperately needs smart people (just like government tech does) and it is hard, but wow, the wins could mean saved lives and that would be pretty cool.
“They could have been any of us, anywhere—whoever flies or rides a train or takes a bus or in any way entrusts her life to strangers, as we all must regularly and routinely to get through this world. That sense of investment in calamity—it could have been me—is true, of course, of accidents and targeted acts of terrorism as well. But to be told that a scene of mass death is the result of an accident or terrorism is to be given not only an explanation of the cause but also an idea of how to reckon with the consequence–through justice, or revenge, or measures meant to prevent a recurrence. ”
I've got to admit, this plane crash this week, and the seemingly deliberate act that caused it have me confounded. And I honestly can't stop thinking of the last moments for the poor people on board. Horrifying.
“As writers, we don’t need companies like Medium to tell us how to use the web. Or define openness and democracy. Or tell us what’s a “waste of [our] time” and what’s not. Or determine how and where readers experience our work. We need to decide those things for ourselves.”
This piece resonated with me on so many levels. I'm trying very hard to keep my thoughts, ideas, jottings right here on this site, where they are under my control and no one can take them away from me, especially since I have the source so even if my rented server space goes away, I still have this. But it also reminded me of the approach Editorially took to helping writers get their writing where they wanted it to be. It was a tool to help you write, but not to tell you what to do with those words.
A really great interface trick to use for accessibility with tabbing. Love the idea, would love to see the code behind it.
“In the very beginning, I used Jim Collins’ book Built to Last to figure out my core values. And then I gave those core values to everyone I worked with: Atlantic Records, CoverGirl, etc., and as I embarked on new creative projects or business partnerships, I weighed my core values and the proposed opportunity and I decided accordingly. Style is important, having fun and being whimsical and free is important, but I’ve always believed I can accomplish anything I want while also inspiring young girls and pushing for change around the world.”
“And, most interesting to me, edgelessness means blurred lines between the disciplines that work together to make things for the web. Everyone that I’ve spoken with that’s worked on a large responsive project with a big client says that the process disrupts workflows, expectations, and work culture.”
I had a really hard time picking just one quote from this piece, so read it, read it now! This is yet another example of why I love the web and why I love so much writing on the web, it is bringing together so many disparate ideas and people are using them to explain and understand concepts in a new way, much like Mandy Brown's Ferengi piece which I linked to earlier this week.
“I wonder how much effort we should be putting into influencing the evolution of those emergent social constructs, whether through our work or our personal interactions, and how much of that effort would be ultimately fruitless.”
“Methodology is sticky in this way. We come up with our own techniques and plans and hold other people accountable to them, despite knowing that methodologies are, at heart, deeply personal. No one works like you do. No one works like I do.”
“In the rush of a persistent accelerated now, interruptions and challenges to life in real-time are sometimes necessary in order to ask what kind of future we’re building.”
I’m excited about the new possibilities of leaving complex math behind when doing a grid. I love that Rachel took an existing grid and made it with the new Grid layout. In addition, I’ll be at AEA Boston and can’t wait to hear her speak on this.
“What if we worried less about fixing the content, and instead accepted some chaos along the way? What if we looked at our work designing and building websites as opportunities to help others—to create ownership, commitment, and progress for the long term, rather than perfect webpages?”
“All of which is a long-winded way of saying that our core discomfort with Medium—with most of online publishing—is we can’t quite see how the money works no matter how hard we squint. And we’re naturally suspicious of the ways that money skews our relationships, with each other and with art. (And art, lowercase-a, is what a lot of writing is, no matter what the investors tell you. It’s what we love in the writing we fall in love with.)”
“What is web writing in 2015? Is it still based on the author model? If you enjoy watching a writer’s mind work over time (or you enjoy having that freedom as a writer), is there still a way to do that? Or is the writer’s-voice-driven Internet over, forever, everything’s atomistic now and it’s no longer possible to scrape an audience together that way even if you want to?”
So many good things in this one that I had a hard time picking a quote. But the questions, about what is web writing, about platforms, about social networks, all very worth thinking about.
“Maybe this slow and steady thing isn’t for you. Maybe you’re going to be the next Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk and fit the profile. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t raise money, or that venture capital is inherently bad, just that there’s a big grey area between a lifestyle business and a venture backed moonshot. Raising venture money is a high risk commitment to go big or go home, and it isn’t for everyone. It certainly isn’t right for me, but neither is the surfer lifestyle business. I’m somewhere in the middle, with the Snyders of the world. I’m not a unicorn, I’m a horse.”
“I envision a design practice that works in the intersection between art, design and computation. A company founded on the belief that the pragmatic and poetic is inseparable, and that modern design products should be dynamic, adaptable systems built in code. This kind of practice would create beautiful, intelligent, and functional design products for any medium, be it physical installations, web applications, or print products. Most of all, it would be a company dedicated to good ideas, with the talent to implement them despite technical requirements.”
“As I’ve progressed in my career, my mindfulness practice has progressed as well. No coincidence, then, that I find myself more radical and questioning of our capitalist system at an age (and in a tax bracket) that’s most commonly associated with creeping conservatism. I credit my practice not just for helping me to survive the stresses of work, but for putting that work in context. Sometimes, that new context has led me to serious reevaluations of my priorities.”
The last three paragraphs of this post are stunners. I stopped and reread them twice. The above is the second to last, but the last paragraph is a punch in the gut. Take the time to feel it and to think about what he's saying because I think he's onto something.
“And among the many things I am taking from David’s death is to be better with young writers, and young people in general.”
After reading several pieces on David Carr, I'm trying to figure out how I can give back to those younger than me, be they working in the web or not.
“You know why that is? It’s the way the Internet was architected. HTML is the architecture of the web and it is about the presentation of text. It’s Hyper Text Markup Langauge. And if you’re Google and you’re trying to index that world of information, you’re really great at text because that’s what the code on the Internet does. It marks up text. But if you want to get at objects or the things on web pages, we think you need humans to go in and do that for you. So we think of Pinterest some days as this crazy human indexing machine. Where millions and millions of people are hand indexing billions of objects—30 billion objects—in a way that’s personally meaningful to them.”
There are a lot of great nuggets in this piece. You just have to keep reading to find them.
“The next time someone tells you to “do what you love no matter what,” ask to see their tax return.”
“I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”
“As I’m writing this article at my kitchen table in Chicago, just 7 miles from our office, it’s clear that our team members’ freedom to move to wherever they’re happiest and most productive is one of the most valuable aspects of working at our companies. Sometimes that means moving across the country. Sometimes it’s moving across the street to a café. It comes with a whole different set of responsibilities and dynamics to be sure, but it’s been integral to our ability, as a business and individuals, to thrive and move forward at work and beyond.”
“Silicon Valley’s move to make corporations more like cults, then, could be seen as a way of resisting the movement toward gender, racial, and sexual equality that may, at core, threaten executive power by asking that all employees, not just ones who look like their CEO, be treated equitably. Because another thing that cults offer is mystification: in a cult, you don’t ask, you just believe, and in a corporation, it profits the leadership for its members not to inquire or demand to be treated equally, but rather to accept their different placement in the corporate hierarchy. Cults then are an innovative, if deeply traditional, solution for what to do when the business climate threatens to become too equitable. If it isn’t legal to discriminate within an organization, perhaps one may attempt to do so by more mysterious, cloaked, socially enforced means. The Silicon Valley startup’s coveted “unknown”, like in the traditional cult, becomes a kind of yearning for the return of a mystified, hierarchical power that remains unquestioned.”
“The problem is not that there is a cost involved in building something that works well in different contexts than our own. The problem is that we’re treating that as an option instead of a given part of what it means to build for the web.”
I've been reading about accessibility lately; trying to learn more, trying to bake it into the parts of a project I touch. Mostly, I'm trying to be aware that we all make a lot of assumptions every day as we work. We forget all the time that not everyone is like us and so as we build our things, it's good to try and remember that.
“Perhaps it’s not our job to decide what’s important right now. Instead, we’re the ones who save everything for those after us to sift through. Those future people, with their knowledge and context we can’t foresee, are the ones who trace the paths back to us.”
“My words might not be as important as the great works of print that have survived thus far, but because they are digital, and because they are online, they can and should be preserved …along with all the millions of other words by millions of other historical nobodies like me out there on the web.”
“This is why I would work hard to avoid any “Us vs Them” rhetoric. Much the opposite, I would argue all developers should aim to achieve a combination of engineering and craftsmanship.”
“But I am furious at a world in which women and POC are being told to be as self-confident as a group of mostly white dudes who are basically delusional megalomaniacs. We’re great the way we are, level-headed self-assessments and all. Stop rewarding them for being jackasses.”
“In this, as in so many other things, we would do well to be gentler with ourselves and others. Her choices are not an inherent judgment of mine, and my choices are not always, or ever, a good match for her needs. Our journeys are our own, and the key to each person’s success does not – cannot – lie on someone else’s path.”
“BambooHR software in Utah has an “antiworkaholic” policy. Christian Rennella instituted a four-day work week at ElMejorTrato.com, a search engine in Latin America. And Jason Fried, co-author of the book, “Rework,” and co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, an online project management and collaboration Web site based in Chicago, has his 46 employees work four days a week May through October, and five days a week the rest of the year. “But we’re an outlier. . . . I don’t think people are creative when they’re tired. ””
I had a hard time picking out a quote in this one, so I recommend reading the whole thing. But this article makes some really great points. If most start ups fail, as the researcher quoted found, then why are we killing ourselves? The pay off is a remote possibility, so why not enjoy work and life while building your company. These companies show it can be done. In addition, the people quoted as talking about working hard as a must, well, they just come off as asses to me. You don't have to live life that way. And if these companies can make 32 hours work, why is it so hard for other companies to even consider part time?
“But you are the only person you absolutely must live with for your entire life. No matter how long you live, you will be stuck with yourself.”
“It might seem counterintuitive that you will perform better at work if you spend more time with your kids, leave work early to volunteer at a local nonprofit, or take an hour out of your workday to go to the gym. But that’s just what happens.”
“I’ve stopped mindlessly checking Twitter. I’ve stopped using Facebook on mobile at all. I don’t refresh my inbox. I don’t fill awkward silences with technology. I’m mindful of the affect of my tech behavior on the people around me. I’m much more present, and I’ve grown incredibly irritated at my friends when they have their phone out for absolutely no reason.”
I haven't used a phone regularly for about a year and a half. Like this post, I use an iPad mini for all my roaming about data needs. And as this post states, it means I don't pull it out in public a lot, people notice, that side effect has been great.
The team at Codrops have put together a fantastic resource on CSS. What is great about this is that it is about CSS and not about a preprocessor. We need to remember and understand the underlying elements of what we are working with to understand how to use CSS. I’ll use this a lot, along with MDN. Thanks Codrops!
“My goal is to live a balanced life, where the work I do is important, where the time I have with my family and friends is plentiful, where I can grow and improve and do fantastic work. I don’t need the big stage to do these things.”
I think a lot about balance and about what success means for me, even more, what does work mean? I really like the idea of getting off the “paved road” that Corey talks about. But I also wish that it didn't feel like I had to explain myself so much to people in my life. Viewing life differently means people ask questions and it gets tiring.
“We’re among the first generations expected to maintain connections with every single person we’ve ever met, thanks to the Internet. The weight of our swollen social networks can be super stressful, let alone a distraction from knowing who you want to focus your time on.”
“Our users want a usable page as quickly as possible—within a second, ideally—so we want visible text as close to that goal as we can. There are several approaches you can take to work around these issues, but the most important thing you can do is to move away from the default way we’re told to load fonts.”
I am, ever so slowly, coming to use a bit more of Sass than just variables. I like these snippets not just for ways to do things easier/faster but also for giving me ideas for what is possible in Sass.
Jeremy’s design principles are wonderful, lots of good ideas in here. I particularly like that he has all kinds of different organizations principles laid out so you can compare and contrast them.
“When the Apple Watch was announced, I was gutted that they’d decided to stick with that word because consumers will apply the same mental models to a smartwatch as to an analogue one. It’s like calling a smartphone a pocket watch, or a computer an electronic abacus.”
An utterly fascinating breakdown of data on how CSS is actually being used. Lot of tidbits that I found really interesting. Also, the conclusions tell me that people who really care about CSS are few and far between and there is a spot for them to help clean up the mess. In addition they say:
“The best thing a company can do (especially true the more people are involved in writing CSS) is to run a CSS Audit. This will help identify past mistakes, and integrate tooling into your workflow to prevent mistakes moving forward.”
If you need help with that, let me know, cause I love doing them.
This is a giant, wonderful cartoon about climate change and our economy. Go, read it, think about it, it’s so good.
“Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system. While the shift might be from the corporate to the individual (supported, mind, by a different set of companies selling a different set of things), it mostly re-inscribes familiar values, in slightly different form: that artifacts are important, and people are not.”
“I essentially told them the things I have to remind myself: it’s okay to take time. Rushing doesn’t improve things, it might even slow you down. Focusing on a few things and doing them well is worthwhile. Sharing what you learn—even while you’re still figuring things out—is even better.”
“A dozen years ago, companies like Teehan + Lax and Adaptive Path were unique. They thought differently and communicated the value of their perspective through great work and compelling language. Firms like these created and popularized the language of user experience design. They made it possible for their clients and the digital industry at large to think differently. Hundreds of firms followed their lead over the last decade, but they copied the mindset of these formative companies. They didn’t create new language and ideas to challenge what they saw in the digital world. When an entire design industry follows a single mindset, commoditization quickly sets in. This is good when you want to buy more of the same, but not when you want something different. It’s no surprise that in-house design is so strong today. Agencies have fallen into the trap of competing with them, instead of providing a valuable contrast.”
“I know a simple truth: that people who genuinely care about you are the same people that you should care for as well. These are relationships that deserve more than just a thumbs up, or a #blessed, or a +1. These deserve love — that thing that wells up from the deepest springs of your soul and you give away with no thought to yourself.”
“I finally feel successful, and it’s not about the money. I feel successful because I’ve gotten better at treating myself well, at finding that elusive work-life balance, and at making a major difference in my clients’ lives and businesses. I feel successful because I know that the work I’m doing in the world is important, and I don’t have to run myself ragged to do it. (In fact, just the opposite. We have to put on our own oxygen masks first. Of course.)”
“Consistency is the small effort that happens every day, that only in looking back do we see the effort that created something big, something great, something meaningful.”
“It’s tough to let go of that rush, the importance that can come with that reactive sort of busyness. It’s easy to focus on the times when you jumped in quickly and saved the day. Harder to remember all the times you jumped on something that could’ve waited. Harder still to picture what you could’ve done, the things you could’ve built, if you hadn’t been reacting constantly.”
“I think the “because” is the much more interesting and informational part, and the part that’s harder to doubt. Oh, you wrote a book? Awesome! You spent 2 years doing that on your last job? Impressive! I learn so much more about your experience with something from the “because” than I do from hearing a claim of expertise.”
“People in this role provide a great bridge between design and engineering. I’ve often called these people the “arbiters of design”. They inform design of possibilities and constraints and help ensure that designers build a consistent and usable interface for as many users as possible. They help codify the design work. They have a developer mindset with concerns about render performance and load times and can work with engineering to build out a performant front-end.”
For what it's worth, this is how I see myself, as a design engineer, it best explains not only what I like to do, but what I think is missing in a lot of teams.
“Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.”
“I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.”
“So let’s try something new, shall we? Here at the holidays, while you’re visiting with friends & family & loved ones, don’t make any person, of any age or gender or OS preference, feel bad about how they use technology. Not one single one.”
“I honestly don’t know that I would be who I am today, if Twitter didn’t exist. I have been exposed to voices and ideas that I may not have found without this network, and through those connections, have been encouraged to share, to speak up, to find my own voice as well.”
“At some point, you’ve got to ask yourself whether it’s just the friction created by health-industry regulation—the HIPAA security rules and FDA approval (or waiver) process and the hassle of integration with legacy systems. Or is it too daunting for a twenty-something engineer to develop technology for people who aren’t like them at all? An obese diabetic on a motorized scooter? Or a frail old lady with memory loss? Or her caregiver? Someone who’s three bus transfers away from a doctor’s office?”
“Mysteries are presented to the walker — the floating sound of a guitar above, screen door murmurs, cats frozen, baths splashing, the far off buzz of a motorcycle. Mysteries sometimes answered, more often serving only as ballast for the flitting narratives of the walker mind.”
“Reflective, analytical writing doesn’t fit the “get in, score, and get out” model. Its rewards and gratifications are far from instant. But they are long-lasting. And I believe web design needs such writing, alongside the more usual kind, to advance its purpose. Web design is a public practice. It can tell us about our culture and society. Web design writing must in part be concerned with insightful accounting of the social, cultural, aesthetic and even political forces reflected in the work itself. It can be an opportunity to intensify, alter and expand our discipline.”
“But everything from the 90s to today is going to remain mostly broken in that respect. Most of what we said and did had ephemerality long before apps started selling us ephemeral nature as a positive advertising point. Possibly no other generation threw so many words at such velocity into a deep dark well of ghosts.”
“You don’t lose users because you don’t tell them enough about other cool features you have. You lose them because you confuse them. Reward my actions and we can work together!”
“At a time when surveys show many Americans are worried about their jobs and research shows that long hours of face time in the office are highly rewarded, workers at Patagonia set their own hours. And the company signals that it doesn’t want those hours to be excessive; The child development center closes at 5 p.m. The headquarters buildings are locked, with everybody out, at 8 p.m., and on weekends.”
“Easygoing Ive morphs into Serious Ive on this point: He sees design schools failing their students by moving away from a foundation in traditional skills. ‘I think it’s important that we learn how to draw and to make something and to do it directly,’ he says, ‘to understand the properties you’re working with by manipulating them and transforming them yourself.’”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say that design can lead you to words, so I’m putting the fact here to register it as a possibility for others.”
“I will read whatever the hell I feel like. No guilty pleasures.”
“But its worth remembering that these are just implementation details. What really matters is that you’re publishing your stuff on your website. If you want to use different formats and protocols to do that, that’s absolutely fine. The whole point is that this is the independent web—you can do whatever you please on your own website.”
As an aside, I've done the first two things on this list as of today. I'm slowly coming around to this idea and think it's important for me to control my web presence.
“Developer convenience is a very powerful and important force. I wish that progressive enhancement could provide the same level of developer convenience offered by Angular and Ember, but right now, it doesn’t. Instead, its benefits are focused on the end user, often at the expense of the developer.”
“So this is what I try to remember when I’m deep in the muck, and I hope you’ll remember it, too. Somehow, some way, your worst moments feed your best work, and it might well take a decade to see it.”
“In other words, the unfinished is far more valuable than the finished. The un-figured out far more valuable than the figured out.”
“If I met me, but younger, we’d talk about the value of one thing. You have to choose one thing to do for yourself every day. No matter what practice you choose — how fulfilling or meaningful — it will sometimes overwhelm you. Choose something for yourself every day. Do it repeatedly and without fail. If you do something for yourself every day, no matter how many standoffs or negotiations or letdowns you face throughout the day, no one can take that away from you.”
“In our race just to finish, we underestimate the benefits of quitting. I want to come out of the unfinished project closet. I want to consider the benefits of starting.”
“We have a lot of say in who gets a voice and who doesn’t in our community. That’s a huge responsibility and a tremendous amount of power. We need to use it wisely.”
“I want my work and my skills to stand the test of time like my house’s brick foundation. I don’t want my work to become the shitty drop ceilings that get torn out once that trend has come and gone.”
“I’m actually glad the grown-up is dying—we need the space to have versions of adulthood for people who don’t happen to be straight, white, and cis-gendered. I look forward to fewer noun-based versions of adulthood (spouse, house, kids) and more verb-based visions of adulthood. The future is a lot less scary if you believe an adult is someone who wields autonomy, empathy, and responsibility with an even hand.”
“The boring designer realizes that the glory isn’t in putting their personal stamp on everything they touch. In fact, most of the time, it’s about leaving no trace of themselves. The boring designer loves consistency. The boring designer loves a style guide. They love not having to worry about choosing the wrong blue or accidentally introducing a new pattern.”
“This is why at Bocoup our team members only work on one project at a time and the length of a project is measured in weeks. We believe that hourly or even daily accounting of time for programming tasks is not realistic and gets in the way of both productivity and happiness. This does require that we have a lot of trust in our team, which is a really good thing to have for a million other reasons too. In the past we’ve turned down work that required hourly time accounting for this reason. This hasn’t ended up being much of an issue because the industry has been gradually getting more realistic about how programmers work. That means happier programmers and better software.”
“I always end my day or my week knowing what I need to design next. Sometimes I start shitty first drafts late in the afternoon so I have something to work with the next morning. It can be very tempting, when the work is going well, to “just keep going” and stay at your desk late into the evening. That lovely state of flow is so elusive, we don’t want to walk away—and yet we must.”
“It’s easy to get isolated in our not-knowing-ness (it’s fine, just add “words” to the list of things I don’t know), to assume that everyone else must have the answers, must have already figured this out. Sometimes that’s true. More often than not though, we’re all grappling with the same questions.”
“But to be sat amongst a community who do not share your concerns is a terribly alienating experience, especially if the speakers on stage are claiming a we for the room that you do not feel. A greater diversity of speakers and a greater diversity of participants means by definition fewer common experiences and a more complicated we.”
“There are many instances where deadlines are crucial, where getting things done needs to get done. Sometimes saying yes is just the thing that must happen. But just as importantly, most times it is not.”
“It’s nearly impossible for a single parent or even two parents working full time to cook every meal from scratch, planning it beforehand and cleaning it up afterward. This is why many working parents of means employ housekeepers. But if we put this work on women of lower socioeconomic status (as is almost always the case), what about their children? Who cooks and cleans up for them?”
“To work with new people, to connect to new audiences. To broaden the scale and breadth of your voice. To stand upon the soapboxes that publications offer. To collect dissenting opinions. To see what couldn’t be seen without the help of an editor or gang of skeptics willing to look over your shoulder, pointing you in directions you considered but were too meek to explore. Mainly, to write better and with greater empathy.”
“And I think it’s this, the import and ethics of networked lenses, that we’re wrestling with in story after story. Networked images are simply different than the products of film cameras. They’re easier to edit and slipperier to steal. Networked pictures get away from you, via black hat Torrenting, social media drag-and-dropping, or illicit iCloud downloading.”
“Just try to remember, no one expects you, as a person, to remain ‘static’ — to always do the same thing, day in, day out — that can lead to stagnation, not just for ideas but for you as a person.”
“There’s something about the power of the human voice—divorced from the moving image—that still gets to me. It’s like slow glass for the soul.”
“But hypertext brings with it something else, too: that speed and fidelity give rise to a transparency of iteration and revision previously unavailable. Not only can I rapidly evolve a text, but I can also expose that evolution and let others participate within it. I can open up the collaboration wider than I could before.”
“The first is feeling like I’m sitting at a sidewalk cafe, speaking in a conversational voice, but having that voice projected so loudly that strangers many streets away are invited to comment on my most inconsequential statements—especially if something I say gets retweeted beyond my usual circles.”
“At the end of each day, I write an “atomic sentence,” a single statement that summarizes the most vital lesson about that day.”
“Because the entire website was built mobile first, we quickly realized that adding or changing components on the page would entail going through the mobile-first approach for every single (minor and major) design decision. We’d design a new component in a mobile view first, and then design an “extended” view for the situations when more space is available. Often that meant adjusting media queries with every single change, and more often it meant adding new stuff to style sheets and to the markup to address new issues that came up.”
“Chris became surprisingly introspective. “I did examine myself,” he said. “Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.””
“In other words, by thinking about the needs of the small screen first, you can layer on more complexity from there. And if you’re hearing shades of mobile first and progressive enhancement here, you’d be right: they’re treating their markup—their content—as a foundation, and gently layering styles atop it to make it accessible to more devices, more places than ever before.”
“He found ways of making yoga more accessible to non-bendy newcomers, developing methods for using props like belts, straps, and blocks—or, in the early days, bricks and pieces of wood—to get people into positions. Even in the hippy-filled 1970s, he was making the practice more mainstream. ”
“I think for many of us Twitter started as the porch—our space, our friends, with the occassional neighborhood passer-by. As the service grew and we gained follwers, we slid across the spectrum of privacy into the street.”
Side note from me: I do a lot to make twitter remain a bit more porchlike for me. Muting words, people, and hashtags like mad, following a smaller number of people, and not feeling compelled to check it all the time.
“This is not a world where you can simply express love for other people, where you can praise them. Perhaps it should be. But it’s not. I’ve found that people will fear your enthusiasm and warmth, and wait to hear the price. Which is fair. We’ve all been drawn into someone’s love only to find out that we couldn’t afford it. A little distance buys everyone time.”
“Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? Or wash the car just one time a month, for the turtles? No? I understand. But at 80, will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren?”
“Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of, say, 30 to 50 minutes. Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing.”
“As Anil points out, our lives are shaped by all sorts of unspoken social agreements. Allowing organizations or powerful actors to undermine them for personal gain may not be illegal, but it does tear at the social fabric. The costs of this are, at one level, minuscule, but when added up, they can cause a serious earthquake. Is that really what we’re seeking to achieve?”
“We don’t want a culture of designs being “thrown over a wall” to a dev team. We don’t make “high fidelity mock ups” or “high fidelity wireframes”. We’re making a Thing, not pictures of a Thing.”
“I don’t mean to say that I think people don’t pursue this career because they doubt their own exceptionalism, but that they don’t pursue it because they have no ambition of joining a cult.”
“For a community that understands the essential value of open source, there’s a distinct lack of respect for openness in the way they relate to the city. Re-engaging with the public realm is the most fundamental tool that companies (and groups of companies) have to connect with the public, to understand needs more holistically, and to convert that understanding into longterm public and private value.”
“And—because of the negative stigma around responsive design and performance—they had suddenly become a little more interested in this performance stuff than they had been in the past. The myth wasn’t causing harm; it was opening the door to a more intentional approach to web performance.”
“My tolerance for learning curves grows smaller every day. New technologies, once exciting for the sake of newness, now seem like hassles. I’m less and less tolerant of hokey marketing filled with superlatives. I value stability and clarity.”
“One thing I am pretty sure of though, is that having a fast, accessible, user-friendly site can reflect incredibly well on a company, and I’d love to see more guidelines and expectations that prioritize these aspects of a service as branding requirements in addition to the usual visual details.”
“Ideally everybody involved are multi-disciplinary to an extent, T-shaped in their range of skills (a designer should have enough familiarity with CSS to allow them to style a page using developer tools, for example).”
“The obscurity and arbitrariness are very much by design, and is why explainer posts are supposed to be so valuable. Having engineered an unfair situation, insiders then offer secret guides to winning it.”
“But normality isn’t an external phenomenon that exists in isolation. Normality is created. If something is perceived as normal—whether that’s topless women in a national newspaper or threatening remarks in an online forum—that perception is fueled by what we collectively accept to be “normal”.”
“We need more engineers and more productive engineers. We don’t need to send people on quests through the dark woods of our issue tracker to have them prove their worth.”
“Products that change user behaviors, which is what Twitter always has been and in retrospect is what Mixel was trying to be, require tremendous effort. They almost always take lots of iteration, lots of manpower, and lots and lots of money.”
“…[I]n the end, we decided that the main focus should be how to get our designs into the browser earlier in the process, instead of who should be doing that work.”
“But recently, we’ve been working to change that perception in the team so that talking, and meetings, and writing is the work. It’s tending the garden. Making the conditions right for good work to happen.”
“The wolf approach is about disrupting the order of things and eliminating the presumed source of the problem. This is the kind of thinking that I fear is taking over places like Silicon Valley and becoming the dominant story about how to design businesses, services, and interfaces. There is an off-putting bravado and violence to this approach—almost a will to destroy something old to make way for the new. Behind it all is a refusal to acknowledge the source of the problem as a important character in the ecosystem. (If it weren’t so important, it wouldn’t hold enough influence to create the problem.) So, yes—if you shoot the wolves, the wolves no longer eat the livestock. But you also no longer have wolves. What will come of that?”
“But that’s not my only goal: I also want to design the system my writing inhabits, and to maintain a proximity to the development process which can inform how that system evolves. That is, I want to be as close as possible to the forms, mechanisms, and methods by which my words are published.”
“My point is that while we don’t want to overwhelm the user with choice overload, we also need to be careful not to unintentionally remove valuable choices that can empower people. In our quest to make experiences seamless, we run the risk of also making those experiences rigid and inflexible.”
“In my research, I come across new little tidbits all the time, so I thought I’d share some of them in this post. Admittedly, not everything in this post will have a ton of immediate practical value, but maybe you can mentally file some of these away for later use.”
“Consider making a program for people, not a program for a computer. I don’t want a new app to help me do work; I want different ways to think about work so I can get more done. It’s a nuanced difference, but I think it is an important one.”
“And the reminder that not all long things are slow, complicated, boring things gave me the courage to pick up Edith Grossman’s translation of Don Quixote. And wouldn’t you know? A couple of hours and a handful of full-on belly laughs later, I am about 150 pages in, and flirting with the idea that this may be my favorite novel.”
“What if design uses its seat at the table to draw pretty things, but otherwise not pay much attention to the outcomes, the user behaviors, the things enabled? ”
“As an industry, we’re never going to really break free of molds if we’re borrowing design patterns and styles from everything that is already out there. Learn how designers, architects, typographers, and composers broke the mold in their day.”
“You are entitled to run an organization that reflects your values within the bounds of the law. What you are not inherently entitled to is the opportunity to lead an important and visible organization with values and actions that deviate from social norms.”
“At its best, “do what you love” is a friendly pep-talk to the dissatisfied elite. At its worst, it’s exclusive: the ugly side of the American dream, the one that judges those with the least as being the least deserving. If only they had the will or ethic to pursue their dreams! If only that was all it took.”
“So go deeper. Squander loose time on expanding your ideas, even if you’re sure they’re perfect or useless. Look closely at decisions you think are trivial. I guarantee you’ll find better solutions around the corner.”
“Whether you’re a novice or an expert in any medium, good decisions take practice — and great ones stand on a solid foundation. Typekit Practice is a collection of resources and a place to try things, hone your skills, and stay sharp. ”
“Granted, the walls between the disciplines are much higher now than they were back then. But, I believe, every once in a while it’s worth having someone stand in front of you and say that the walls that separate things are usually stupid, and they deserve to be stepped over whenever possible.”
“I recently switched to using Chrome’s Accessibility Developer Tools built in contrast checker and I love it. Take a look at the audits being run by the tools and let’s look at how to begin using it once installed.”
“If you have an idea, own it. Just because someone else has already talked about it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t. And so what if it’s not perfectly articulated? So what if it turns out to be wrong? So what if you change your mind later?”
“As I scroll through my feeds littered with stories of deplorable behavior coming from the tech industry and beyond, I rest assured knowing there’s a massive community of people working on the Web that value honesty, openness, and collaboration.”
I’m with Elliot on the way he talks about Readmill. It was so beautiful and easy to use, I am sad they are shutting down. But I am also so grateful that they have left us with a beautiful reading journal as well as an easy export to take our memories with us.
“I’ll miss you Readmill. My home screen will feel empty without you. Oh, and I don’t think you failed at all.”
“It’s not that responsive design inherently takes longer; we just don’t know as much about the nuances like performance and image sizes and resolution-independent graphics… yet.”
“By refusing to let myself screw up, I was screwing up. Much of that style guide is in the garbage bin now. It was so airtight with certainty it was useless as a design document.”
“The user sees the world as it is. Our job as builders is to create the world as it could be.”
“The good news is that the transition can be made—and a lot of folks are sharing how they’re handling it. Eventually those walls between roles will break down.”
“Good taste is a myth. A story our rider creates to serve the needs of the elephant. And the sooner you kill your good taste idol, the sooner you’re going to give yourself a chance to be a better designer.”
“The wounds are a gift: with the mask gone, you get to be a person again. You learn how to accept help, and better yet, how to better give it.”
“I use the term device-agnostic, now synonymous (to me) with good web design, to distinguish those sites that embrace the inherent variability of the web—which, in itself, is nothing new.”
“So what can we do? Study, duh. Change our perspectives by constantly telling ourselves “this is not all about me.” The more we study and talk and write about the subject, the quicker and easier it will be to change the idea of accessibility being an afterthought or something to wait to consider until the end “if we have the time and the budget.””
“But I do wonder if our collective short-term frustrations leads us to longer-term losses. And seeing the web not as a “platform” but as a “continuum”—a truly fluid, chaotic design medium serving millions of imperfect clients—might help.”
“We need to remember that there are many narrative options available to us, not one. Each has its own pros and cons that we as an industry can learn more about and you, as someone interested, can discover your favorite.”
“It’s our job to explain how the web works …and how the unevenly-distributed nature of browser capabilities is not a bug, it’s a feature.”
“Web sites are now expected to work on a wide array of devices and screen resolutions, but somehow screen readers and magnifiers are never listed as a “device” when speaking about responsive design.”
“Our work, our responsibility, does not end when building is complete. Perhaps because the building is never really complete.”
“But these sorts of problems only seem to reveal themselves in large, responsive projects with multiple developers, designers and share holders all tugging in different directions, all trying to make the project their thing instead of our thing.”
“It sucks sometimes, but most of the things we invest our time or money in, if we don’t own them, are things we are lucky to have while they last. If they disappear, someone who does own them will certainly feel it a lot more acutely than we ever will.”
“Instead of asking ‘How can I make these patterns (mega-menus, lightboxes, complex data tables) work when the screen size shrinks?’, you need to ask ‘What’s the problem they’re supposed to be solving, and how would I design a solution for the small screen to start with?’”
“So, let’s take a breath. And let’s spend a bit more time making well-formed thoughts before speaking our mind. We’re all doing our best out here.”
“Pretty much everyone has insurance, it explained, and the French get better primary care and more choice of doctors than we do. It also turns out, as has been much commented on, that despite all this great treatment, the French spend far less on healthcare than Americans.”
“When you hire, look for skill fit, but don’t make it your primary evaluation criteria. Look for passion, curiosity, personality fit, selflessness, openness, confidence, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and intrinsic motivation. These things can’t be taught, but skills can. ”
“Because it helps clarify my thoughts. It forces me to take a jumbled mess of half-formed ideas and try to make something coherent out of it.”
There are many things I could pull out of this piece, because I think it is so fantastic, so read it! But here is one quote:
“Remote working encourages habits of communication and collaboration that can make a team objectively better: redundant communication and a naturally occurring record of conversation enable team members to better understand each other and work productively towards common ends.”
“I’ve spent a lot more on music in the last year than I ever did on Rdio but the result is a collection I adore because I listened to every album dozens of times. Just like I used to.”
This is how I listen to music as well. I buy entire albums and listen over and over and over again.
“The discovery of new things is a lot of fun, but I’m feeling the need for fewer options, fewer distractions. It’s time to put less emphasis on discovery and more on appreciation and application.”
“There are more ways to scale than growth. There are more ways to deepen our impact than just reaching more people. ”
Garann means on how to make a better workplace.
“So I wanted my first thought of the year to be a small, simple idea: Treat your colleagues as though they know everything you do.”
Jason Santa Maria with some thought provoking questions about how we discuss and critique web sites.
“And perhaps that’s the key: maybe this needs to come from the outside, from people who can step back, see a larger picture of web design, and understand how it fits into everything else.”
“Because writing—that first leap into taking your idea and making it a Thing People Read—isn’t really about wording. It’s about thinking. And if you can tell the difference between an article that knows what it’s about and one that exists purely to sell ad space, then you’re pretty good at that already.”
“Because while our relationship with so-called traditional cameras is fading, there’s never been a more interesting and, indeed, complicated, time to be involved with the photograph.”
“Maybe it was wanting people to stop asking, ‘Where are you from?’ Maybe I wanted to become invisible in that particular way. Or maybe it was my subconscious wishing that I could belong in this beautiful Art Nouveau city with its rhodochrosite government palace and the sometimes-crumbling statuary of its eerie necropolis and the cobbled streets of my neighborhood, San Telmo, festooned with graffiti. The Sunday flea markets, giving way to the tango milongas, which look like a painting of Paris in the twenties. The glittering Teatro Colón, an Italianate splendor of red velvet and stained glass and gold, surrounded by svelte, elegant palm trees. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a place where people sit elbow-to-elbow late into the night, sawing through hunks of delicious local steak cooked to the Platonic ideal of medium-rare, nothing for seasoning but a perfect flame?”
Really interesting look at the changes to the technology behind the New York Times redesign. I love it when companies share this type of information, so helpful to understand what’s happening behind the scenes.
“If there’s one thing I hope we see in the upcoming year it’s this sort of maturity: that we’ll stop celebrating sites simply for being responsive and instead view it as just another (important!) characteristic of a well-built site.”
Elliot Jay Stocks makes some fantastic points about living a quieter life, concentrating on offline things.
“As 2013 progressed, I found myself caring less and less about social media, less and less about online debates in the web community, and less and less about the representation of myself online. Partly by accident and partly by design, I became quieter.”
Jay Fanelli on The Pastry Box Project
“Spend more time with your spouse, your kids, and your friends. And stop eating lunch at your desk. No one dies wishing they’d put in more time at the office.”
“In all likelihood, the independent web will never be able to match the power and reach of the silos. But that won’t stop me (and others) from owning our own words. If nothing else, we can at least demonstrate that the independent path is an option—even if that option requires more effort.”
“So, I’m doubling down on my personal site in 2014. In light of the noisy, fragmented internet, I want a unified place for myself—the internet version of a quiet, cluttered cottage in the country. I’ll have you over for a visit when it’s finished.”
Rebecca Murphey on the Pastry Box
“Whenever I give a talk about refactoring a codebase, someone in the audience always asks, ‘How do I convince my company that this is as important as the next big feature or deadline?’ My answer is simple: for the sake of the health of your team and your project, you can’t afford to not pay attention to these things. If the powers that be don’t believe you, well, we’re hiring. ”