“The usual anxiety about Facebook’s future is that teenagers aren’t interested in it, but the more relevant demo here is adult men, especially the ones in suits. Facebook runs 60/40 women to men. In the language of self-aggrandizing social media, that’s a tipping point. 5% more estrogen and Facebook will be perceived as a women’s site and no guy will want any part of it except for guys you will want no part of.”—The Last Psychiatrist: Who Can Know How Much Randi Zuckerberg Is Worth?
“But because Anderson’s ideas and solutions are so simple and beautiful…they reinforce a belief in simple, contained worlds that allows people to remain untroubled by their lack of curiosity. His world is simple and exterior, so the answers are simple and exterior as well.”—Wes Anderson’s Arrested Development
“When exactly Heaven’s Gate first became mixed up with computers is unknown, but it was likely catalyzed by their fascination with emerging communication technologies and space travel. Their literature is written in a web-inflected religious idiom: they considered “N.L. (Next Level) Base computer language” a way to express higher levels of Biblical understanding, and wrote that those with similar “computer programs” and “software” will resonate higher than the average person.”—Higher Source: The Immortal Web Design of Heaven’s Gate
“For example, a scientist named John Underkoffler, who had already built similar systems at MIT, designed the immersive tactile computer interfaces of the 2002 film Minority Report. After gauging audience response to the interface – “they felt like they’d seen something that either was real or should be” – he told me in 2008, Underkoffler founded Oblong Industries, a company that now sells commercial versions of the Minority Report computers, networked, gestural computing environments immediately recognisable from their star turn in science fiction.”—Interface Prophecies
“A central piece of wisdom we gleaned is that if women want to clear executive presence’s many hurdles, they must signal to others that they want real, honest, unvarnished feedback. While it may seem fundamentally unfair that the burden to create a safe space be on the subordinate, direct report, or the protégé, an invitation to offer critiques makes the already touchy subject easier for mentors or managers to tackle, especially when you assure them that you’ll receive feedback in the spirit of improvement versus criticism.”—Are You ‘Leadership Material’?
“I delude myself into thinking no one’s reading what I’m doing. That’s the only way I can do it. It’s a very elaborate delusion that I spent a lot of time and effort building.”—Roxane Gay’s ‘Bad’ Feminism - NYTimes.com
“In the early days I would often let potential customers think we already had a feature they wanted and, if they signed, would come back to the team and say “we’ve got to build this before they launch!” No harm, no foul, I thought, so long as we knew we were able to build the feature before they started using the product. This is a tactic commonly suggested by lean practitioners. My co-founders, though, would often frown on this behavior, worrying it was unethical, causing a huge amount of tension to grow beneath the surface.”—
This is incredibly key. Having a cofounder come back after a meeting with clients or investors and re-prioritize features—or, worse, the whole product road map—is the biggest single moral-killer outside of actual layoffs or bad working conditions.
This behavior is almost unethical—not because the founder is being dishonest with customers; they might get the feature done in time. But the founder is ignoring and devaluing their team, who have likely already set up a thoughtful product feature road map that is being ignored.
(This assumes you have a product road map, of course. If you don’t, then by all means build out a product piecemeal based on potential customer whims; it’s as good a goalpost as nothing. But instead of more customer meetings, you should likely sit down and figure out what you’re doing.)
“Progressive, reformist city planners, supported by seemingly most of the Village’s blue-collar residents, favored a relatively low-impact urban-renewal scheme to build hundreds of below-market-rate homes in the [the West Village in the early 1960s]—a plan [Jane] Jacobs and a group of largely affluent residents successfully fought on the grounds that it would destroy the area’s character.”—Gentrification and Its Discontents
“At this moment, Kremlin can not really stop. If Kiev government survives, it will fairly quickly unlock economic benefits of non-mafia, free economy. The large parasitic class living by bribes and extortion will be displaced: it will have the same effect as if base tax rate would suddenly drop by a double digit percentage.”—Russia is just not a safe place is it
“Email is the copy-paste of the Internet. It is passing notes in class. It is writing postcards. It is no less the place of manifestos or the mystery of language and all the hand-written letters before it regardless of its delivery medium. It is a conceptual framework that affords more than the alternatives and even where it fails it still demands less than other choices and so it still comes out ahead of everything else. It is hardly perfect but built-in to its use is the idea that the person at the other end of a message isn’t a complete idiot and can fill in the blanks, or just hit reply and ask you to elaborate if they can’t.”—[this is aaronland] the internet of non-sequiturs
“There are a few areas where cyclists are more likely to break the law, most notably running red lights, though this is almost never a contributing factor in collisions (I suspect it’s because cyclists who run reds do so cautiously, since…well…they don’t want to die). The likely conclusion is that people riding bikes don’t break more laws or fewer laws than when they drive cars, but they do break different laws. Given that most cyclists are also drivers, it’s reasonable to think the levels of lawlessness would be consistent.”—Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things
“Generally, it’s not the people at the working level you need to worry about. It’s the senior officials, it’s the policymakers who are shielded from accountability, who are shielded from oversight and who are allowed to make decisions that affect all of our lives without any public input, any public debate, or any electoral consequences because their decisions and the consequences of the decisions are never known.”—Edward Snowden interview - the edited transcript
“The reason for saying we need to do ‘an exceptional, near-perfect job of execution’ is this: When you want something really bad, you will put up with a lot of flaws. But if you do not yet know you want something, your tolerance will be much lower. That’s why it is especially important for us to build a beautiful, elegant and considerate piece of software. Every bit of grace, refinement, and thoughtfulness on our part will pull people along. Every petty irritation will stop them and give the impression that it is not worth it.”—Just re-reading Stewart Butterfield’s We Don’t Sell Saddles Here for about the tenth time. This point is so, so true.
“Cooking is not for people who simply “want to cook” - you can do that on your own. Cooking is something for people who have mental problems, social problems, legal troubles, or any combination of the aforementioned. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, we’ve got a spot for you. If you’re a perfectionist who hates people? Come on in. If you despise bullshit that exists in most other working environments, give it a try. If you just like cooking, then think long and hard - it’s secondary to many other things that make a good cook, well, good.”—cool_hand_luke, responding to I’ve always wanted to cook, but…, on Reddit.
“The last few minutes of the episode were so intense—one moment the show was proceeding along as normal, and the next I was being shoved into the backseat of a police car and driven to a detainment facility. I just sat there completely stunned for a few minutes, trying to process what had happened. That’s classic Game Of Thrones, though: no one’s safe.”—Shocking ‘Game Of Thrones’ Finale Concludes With Arrest Of 5 Million Viewers For Piracy, from the Onion.
“The problem is not that a URL and a Search Term are two different things. The problem is that that particular distinction is one of thousands that are hidden under the surface of simple computer and internet tasks. What’s the difference between a “program” and a “web site?” What’s the difference between a local and a remote file? What’s a remote file? What’s caching? How do you tell the difference between a browser window that looks like a dialog box, and a modal window that contains a browser pane? Because guess what? All of those things matter at some point — and somewhere out there is a development team working hard to blur the distinction for their application, just for the hell of it.”—
“We don’t know if Elliot Rodger was mentally ill. We don’t know if he was a “madman.” We do know that he was desperately lonely and unhappy, and that the Men’s Rights Movement convinced him that his loneliness and unhappiness was intentionally caused by women. Because this is what the Men’s Rights Movement does: it spreads misogyny, it spreads violence, and most of all it spreads a sense of entitlement towards women’s bodies. Pretending that this is the a rare act perpetrated by a “crazy” person is disingenuous and also does nothing to address the threat of violence that women face every day.”—From The Belle Jar
Organizational sociologists call these beliefs “rational myths,” convictions about how things should be done that are widely shared but not necessarily accurate. Back when work revolved around the power loom and the assembly line, centralized schedules and locations made sense. The 40-hour work week, time-oriented management practices, and our beliefs about them, became institutionalized during this period.
But a lot of what we believe about the right kind of workplace is wrong. Studies show that people who have control over when and where they work are more productive and have better morale and loyalty.
…But what about the collaborations and creativity from water-cooler conversations?
These conversations actually may encourage groupthink rather than innovation. Studies show that people tend to network, cooperate and collaborate with others like themselves, so hallway conversations may merely result in interactions among those who think alike. It’s the collaboration among diverse groups of people that fosters the most creative and cutting-edge thinking. Because virtual interactions through online chats and teleconferencing make personal similarities less obvious, these may be better than hallway conversations for cultivating innovation.
I’ve often worked in environments where major decisions weren’t made in meetings, but in hallways and casual conversations around desks. It works up to a point—about ten or so people in product, let’s say. But once the company gets bigger and communication is harder, it’s a bad practice.
Quick, efficient, unplanned conversations may feel comfortable and natural for those who make the decisions, but it’s incredibly frustrating to those who are left out. If product strategies are being set by friendly coworkers, the coworkers who are less liked are essentially powerless.
At one company it got so bad that I would feel anxious whenever I saw coworkers chatting near my desk; until I took off my headphones and joined in, I could never be sure they weren’t making product decisions that I’d find out about in an Asana comment later. This is particularly difficult for designers, who often layout detailed user flows within a specific, consistent framework—one change can affect the entire flow.
Being a friendly coworker, going out to lunch, and being part of those hallway conversations is generally considered a good practice—Networking 101. But keep in mind that those practices were set in place when offices were much more homogeneous, and benefit those who are most popular or powerful, not the best at their jobs. Also keep in mind, if you are the powerful, casual decision maker, that if you choose to keep the hallway meeting technique, the onus is on you to make sure you have hallway meetings with everyone—not just your favorite coworkers.
“It’s the realization that persistently false beliefs stem from issues closely tied to our conception of self that prompted Nyhan and his colleagues to look at less traditional methods of rectifying misinformation. Rather than correcting or augmenting facts, they decided to target people’s beliefs about themselves. In a series of studies that they’ve just submitted for publication, the Dartmouth team approached false-belief correction from a self-affirmation angle, an approach that had previously been used for fighting prejudice and low self-esteem. The theory, pioneered by Claude Steele, suggests that, when people feel their sense of self threatened by the outside world, they are strongly motivated to correct the misperception, be it by reasoning away the inconsistency or by modifying their behavior. For example, when women are asked to state their gender before taking a math or science test, they end up performing worse than if no such statement appears, conforming their behavior to societal beliefs about female math-and-science ability. To address this so-called stereotype threat, Steele proposes an exercise in self-affirmation: either write down or say aloud positive moments from your past that reaffirm your sense of self and are related to the threat in question. Steele’s research suggests that affirmation makes people far more resilient and high performing, be it on an S.A.T., an I.Q. test, or at a book-club meeting.”—Why Do People Persist in Believing Things That Just Aren’t True? : The New Yorker
Identity and belief has been my recent academic obsession. This article is a nicely lays out some key fundamentals.
“[White Americans are] educated around this “be colorblind!” thing where you just assume everyone is white, and if they don’t act like it, they’re the ones exempting themselves from the norm and so its their fault. They learned “everyone is different and it’s okay to see/acknowledge race, it shouldn’t be hard to offer respect to people regardless” too late.”—
I post this because it rings true to me. I grew up in a town in Nebraska that was about 4994/5000 white. There were few opportunities to interact with other races, but that translated into few opportunities to be actively racist. Other than idolizing black rappers, which we all did, we had no idea of the subtle social differences that I have spent the rest of my life awkwardly bumping up against.
“It was already convoluted and poorly-documented enough to access Chrome’s user stylesheets, but I’m nervous that by removing them entirely, people will forget that it’s an option. It provides another hurdle to customization, and I worry that when a browser takes these things away, people won’t know how easily the web can be customized, and it will become another closed fist.”—Chloe Weil, in Uptight
“The idea of “seamlessness” as a desirable trait in what we design is one that bothers me. Technology has seams. By hiding those seams, we may think we are helping the end user, but we are also making a conscience choice to deceive them (or at least restrict what they can do).”—Jeremy Keith, Seams
“The main golden calf in design is simplicity. Speaking as someone who looks at, makes, and uses design each and every day, I am tired of simple things. Simple things are weak, they are limited, they are boring. What I truly want is clarity. Give me clear and evident things over simple things. Make me things that presume and honor my intelligence.”—
I post this because I agree with it. It is increasingly obvious that simplicity continues to be idolized in light of all evidence. Cars are more complicated, phones are more complicated, websites are more complicated, devices are more complicated. But the UIs have been refined and user patterns have been standardized: you only have to learn things once, rather than re-learning for every device.
We should be taking advantage of this standardization rather than re-creating functionality with a different name, or omitting it entirely in the name of simplicity.
“Organizations, like people, have values. To be effective in an organization, a person’s values must be compatible with the organization’s values. They do not need to be the same, but they most be close enough to coexist. Otherwise, the person will not only be frustrated but also will not produce results.”—
Peter F. Drucker, Managing Oneself.
I post this because not only is this booklet amazing, this particular point is dear to my heart. I’ve worked with many companies, and over time I’ve realized it doesn’t matter what you build as long much as everyone sharing the same vision of the product: what it is, how you build it, what value it gives to you or the world.
Drucker refers to this as ‘values’, but the idea is the same: if you want to work at a company that prioritizes well-thought out, solid features, you are not going to do well at a company that has two-week sprints. Likewise, if you value building fast and testing features quickly, you will not do well at a company that with year-long project roadmaps.
Finding a company that is interesting is difficult enough, but finding one whose values fit with your own is just as important.
“I — look, I don’t even have a particularly vested interest in vampire mythology, but I feel like we have to agree as a race that certain vampiric characteristics are immutable lest we devolve into total vampire relativism. It’s a slippery slope! Vampires that go to church and walk on holy ground? I don’t want to wake up in ten years and have to see a movie about werewolves who are for all intents and purposes Cylons, or whatever. You cannot be both a vampire and a regular churchgoer. I must draw the line, and I draw it here.”—Things That Actually Happened In Vampire Academy
“In one meeting, [Jill] Abramson was upset with a photograph that was on the homepage. Rather than asking for a change to be made after the meeting, she turned to the relevant editor and, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting, said bluntly, “I don’t know why you’re still here. If I were you, I would leave now and change the photo.””—
This seems like a pretty good and clear example of a double standard, putting aside any broader and more speculative commentary about the implications of Abramson’s termination. It is nearly identical to a story often repeated in praising tones about Apple’s Tim Cook:
Cook’s no-nonsense approach to management and solving problems was made immediately evident upon coming to Apple. When in a meeting discussing a problem in China, Tim Cook noted that the problem was “really bad” and that someone should be in China fixing it. Thirty minutes later, Cook then famously looked over at Apple’s operations manager, Sabih Khan, and asked “Why are you still here?” Khan was on the next flight to China.
This anecdote appears in every hagiography of Cook’s time at Apple, never with negative implications, always as evidence of decisiveness, attention to detail, high standards. People love it! Of course, a flight to China is a lot more onerous —did Khan have a family?— than a trip to a computer to change a photo. While I personally can make no real evidence-based argument that Abramson’s departure, pay, or treatment is the result of sexism in its entirety, I can say this: the coverage of her time at the NYT in many cases reeks of it.
“These brands are playing with “authenticity,” a marketing buzzword that has lately been applied to a remarkably wide range of products. The task is putting together a compelling tale about a product’s or a brand’s transparency, simplicity, or honesty. This is the reason that every big brewing company wants to present itself as a maker of craft beers. It’s why some Tostitos chips have packaging that refers to them as “Artisan Recipes.” As Adam Sachs wrote in Details, “From roughly the time of the Renaissance artist to the era of the J. Peterman catalog, with its absurd consumerist prose poetry, we’ve been entranced by provenance, tethered by narrative to things we covet and consume. What’s new is the astonishing ubiquity of the aesthetic.” One explanation for the widespread appeal of ostensibly artisanal products is that owning handmade, small-batch goods conveys status and exclusivity at a time when just about anything mass-produced can be purchased down the street at Costco.”—
The BBC World Service correspondent Julian Marshall interviewed an anonymous brother of a seventeen-year-old girl who was part of the group abducted by Boco Haram. I was genuinely shocked by what he said.
I decided to go with a verbatim transcription to avoid any misinterpretations.
[When asked what his reaction was to seeing Boko Haram’s video showing the girls still alive:]
Brother: Well, my reaction was very very bitter. I’m not very happy, the way I saw the video, because they were abducted in their school uniform. You see, I’m not comfortable, because it’s not their native dress, they were supposed to find themselves in. They were dressed in an Islamic dress, so it’s not comfortable for me.
Interviewer: What’s been the reaction of other people there in Chibok?
Brother: The reaction has become worse. About 80 to 90 percent of our people are Christians. And when they saw them in hijab, or Islamic dress, they become bitter.
Interviewer: But…does not the video give you and others some hope that the girls are at least still alive?
Brother: Yes, they added hope to them is that the girls are still alive. But the conditions they find themselves in the bush is not comfortable.
Interviewer: Did you see your sister in the video?
Brother: I did not see my sister because I did not capture her face. But we saw a particular girl whom we recognized. Her relatives felt very sad, and the mother particularly was crying. She was very sad because the girl was abducted, just like that. And there is nothing done. The government can’t do anything. She is helpless, and can’t do anything herself.
Interviewer: But if the the government mounts a military operation to try and rescue the girls, it could put the girls in danger.
Brother: Yes. It is better that we see the dead body of our girls than to leave them in the bush.
Interviewer: Why does it worry you that they’re living in the bush? Why would you prefer them to be dead, rather than living in the bush?
Brother: You know, it is the question of human feelings. We parents, we cannot go there and rescue our girls. The military cannot go in. It is better to use force. If we see the dead bodies, our conscience will be clear. It is better for us.
Interviewer: So it would end the uncertainty, you’re saying, for you?
Interviewer: And tell me a little bit about your sister.
Brother: You know, my sister is very ambitious girl, who is very determined. She was even telling us, that you see, brother, when I complete my secondary school, I would like to become a medical doctor. And she’s very humble, very elegant.
“There seems to be a widespread presumption that writing is prescriptive (or proscriptive) rather than simply observational or meditative. Some people condemn or commend even memoirs and novels as though their purpose were to instruct or offer models. I suppose I can’t entirely fault readers for this misapprehension. Confident authority is an appropriate tone for straight reportage, but it’s become the default of columnists, essayists and bloggers, one that’s so reflexive that some of them seem to forget it’s a pose. To some extent this is a deformative effect of the space restrictions within which most of us work; in a thousand-word essay you can’t include every qualification or second thought that occurs to you or you’d expend your allotted space refuting your own argument instead of making it.”—Tim Kreider: The Power of ‘I Don’t Know’, in the New York Times.
Because of the dangers posed by cars, stop signs and traffic lights were invented in the early 20th century to bring order to roads increasingly filled with them. Nowadays, stops signs are often used not only to make intersections safe, but to slow down traffic in residential areas.
Bikes are different — they don’t go fast enough to merit this sort of traffic calming, and don’t have a problem just slowing down for an four-way stop, only stopping if a car’s coming. Oftentimes, they don’t trigger traffic lights to change, because many run on magnetic sensors buried in the road (the reason for all the “Dead Red” laws in the map above).
Some cyclists oppose the Idaho stop because of an idea they believe is central to gaining respect for cycling and encouraging good relations with drivers: “same road, same rules.” Because both bikes and cars are wheeled vehicles that use roads, the principle goes, they should always abide by all of the same rules.
This sounds great, in theory, but it doesn’t describe the reality of current traffic laws. Most interstate highways don’t allow bicycles, for instance. Many cities have bike lanes that cars can’t enter. They’re clearly two different sorts of vehicles, and we have rules that apply to one but not the other.