“Paul Hellquist was fired on his first day at Irrational Games. “It was a running gag that Ken Levine had at the time just to freak out the new guys,” he recalls. “It worked.” It’s an unusual way to welcome a new staff member to any company, the sort of mild hazing usually meted out in college fraternities.”—
I haven’t finished the article yet, but this section jumped out at me. This would be a classic behavior that is probably not gender biased (women were likely fake-fired, too), but that indicates a level of aggression and disregard for emotions that is a bad working environment for anyone, but more typical in male-dominated industries—men are more used to it, whether or not they prefer it, and thus can get more done.
This reminds me of the dog/lizard/temperature metaphor: a good example of how someone can find an environment quite normal and perhaps even ideal, and someone else will find it intolerable.
…In the decades that followed, Maltz’s work influenced nearly every major “self-help” professional from Zig Ziglar to Brian Tracy to Tony Robbins. And as more people recited Maltz’s story…people began to forget that he said “a minimum of about 21 days” and shortened it to, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.”
…On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
“At the end of the day, that’s why I feel it’s so important to call Frozen on its bullshit. Whether you loved or hated Frozen, it should be impossible to deny that it is preceded by a rich history of animated films that champion bravery, intelligence, strength and agency in their heroines far more effectively than it does. Yet denying it we are, in droves, and sometime since Frozen’s release the praise heaped upon it reached such a critical mass that it somehow has made us forget that Belle left both home and the Beast’s castle to save her father’s life; that Mulan risked death on the battlefield and execution for treason to protect her family; that Esmeralda chose immolation rather than give herself to a man she despised; that the archetypal Prince Charming hasn’t been seen in a Disney film since The Little Mermaid; and that no Disney heroine except Anna — even Ariel — has begun her story with love as her goal since 1959: all in favour of vapid, brainless, impulsive and flighty characters whose agency is stolen from them for the sake of comedy and wafer-thin plot contrivances. This is Disney’s good enough.”—
“I wanted to make a children’s movie like some of the ones I grew up with,” he told me. “And that went with the idea of how you didn’t have to wear helmets when you rode bicycles. I never wore a helmet riding a bicycle, and, in a way, the movie is for children who don’t wear helmets when they ride bicycles. Maybe that sounds terrible. I support children wearing helmets on their bicycles—there’s just a certain nostalgia for when they didn’t. For when we didn’t.”—
“We don’t give other people credit for the same interior complexity we take for granted in ourselves, the same capacity for holding contradictory feelings in balance, for complexly alloyed affections, for bottomless generosity of heart and petty, capricious malice. We can’t believe that anyone could be unkind to us and still be genuinely fond of us, although we do it all the time.”—I Know What You Think of Me, by Tim Krieder.
“If you feel defensive when talking about race with a woman of color or reading about race in a piece written by a woman of color, assume the other person is saying something especially true. That is: use your defensiveness as a Bat Signal, alerting you to your own biases. Sure, yes, of course, the other person may have said something insensitive or unreasonable. But if you want to change the dynamics of the world (reminder: you’re a feminist, so you do), assume your discomfort is telling you something about you, not about the other person. Then use those moments to listen more carefully.”—
“But the bigger picture issue is that we can’t trust you. You lied to us and said you were a social network but you’re totally not a social network. At least not anymore. When we log in to Facebook, we want to see what Aunt Judy is doing next weekend (hopefully baking us cupcakes) and read hilarious headlines from The Onion and see pictures of a cat who got his head stuck in the couch cushions. Instead, we get this: [ads]”—
About four years go, a monthly event called Mission Street Food was incredibly popular in San Francisco. After a while, the organizers decided they wanted to open a permanent, charitable restaurant called Commonwealth, and get members of the community to invest in it.
I was a huge fan of the idea. One share was $500, you got .08% of the profit as an annual dividend, and you got some gift certificates to boot. I signed up right away.
A few weeks later, I got a follow up email from Anthony Myint—that’s right, of Mission Chinese fame:
Poor dude. Accreditation is a thing that any wealthy investor type knows about, but for the layperson, it’s news: the USA has banned middle-class Americans from investing in higher-risk investments since the Depression.
In the end, Commonwealth opened anyway and is a wonderful, thriving restaurant. But I never forgot about the enchanting idea that I could back local businesses in my area, and really be invested, literally, in my community.
Almost exactly four years later, Nick Chirls tells me about a new company he’s starting over coffee. He told me about new legislation being passed, the JOBS act, which includes a crowd funding provision, Title III.
Title III effectively lets anyone, poor or rich, put a percentage of their salary into investing in businesses. In anticipation of the bill, Nick founded Alphaworks, a new kind of funding platform aimed directly to support newly empowered communities find businesses and make investments.
There’s an incredible amount of work to be done: education, support, financial guidance, and compliance work. But as Nick described his vision, I knew I had to be on board. So I’m happy to announce I’ve joined as VP of Design at Alphaworks, alongside an amazing crew: Kristian Kristensen, Nick Barr, Rachel Troy, and Jennifer Patrick.
“Dynamic animation is strengthened by a foundation of good timing to drive it. Springs can be beautifully simulated, but if the underlying animation driving them is poorly timed, the whole thing falls apart. It’s a little too close to implementation than it is to design, and can be a trap to spend time towards early on. As designers fumble around with dynamic tools, I’m seeing too much simulation, and less opinionated articulation that is designed. The result is a clumsy interface with over-animated action that’s distracting. Signal Flow is powerful, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.”—
“But if marriage isn’t a big deal, why…does the right wing fight so hard — and spend so much of their hard-earned money — to keep it a privilege available only to heterosexuals? Their behavior shows that it is a very big deal. The freedom to marry is part of what it means to be an adult in Western culture.”—
“When we finish our design, and put it in front of our customer, the bucket looks like a bucket. It is comfortably familiar and ordinary at a glance. But as the customer interacts with the bucket, what is familiar fades away, and what is left is something new. The customer is delighted because we have changed their perspective of what a bucket can be.”—
This article on Super Normal is concerning, because I, too, am a fan of the concept, and want to clarify some potential misunderstandings that may come up if you’re introduced to it by Morin’s Medium post.
Super Normal is not a Japanese philosophy. In fact, it seems much closer to a design philosophy of the Platonic ideal than, say, the very famous Japanese aesthetic, wabi-sabi, which celebrates simplicity, imperfections, and incompleteness—perhaps not always, but potentially, the opposite of Super Normal.
I specifically quoted Morin’s advice about ‘the familiar fading away’ and ‘delight’ because it is not in line with what happens when you encounter a Super Normal object without context. If an object is well-designed, or even perfectly designed, equipped with the essentials, it will generally not produce delight and surprise.
Instead, it will seem correct. It will not annoy; it will be trusted, and it will be often used. But the key to Super Normal objects is their utility is complete and perfect, and thus they will be thoughtlessly, easily used. If you own a Super Normal object, you likely feel a deep fondness for it.
Dave Morin is not the only one who felt Super Normal objects ought to impart more delight: Fukasawa himself ‘confessed to feeling “a bit shocked and a little depressed” on discovering that the aluminum stools he had designed were plonked on the floor for people to sit on at last year’s Milan Furniture Fair, rather than displayed on plinths like other new products. He was worried that no one would notice them.’
But I think he came around. Certainly Morrison embraced the idea whole-heartedly: ‘The objects that really make a difference to our lives are often the least noticeable ones, that don’t try to grab our attention. They’re the things that add something to the atmosphere of our homes and that we’d miss the most if they disappeared. That’s why they’re ‘super normal.’”
By all means, design your app using Super Normal principles. But realize the focus is to get to the essence, the most useful version of the product—not ‘adding a twist’. A Super Normal app may or may not be innovative, but it will embody the carved-down, beautiful essentials.
Short of some weekend hackathon you did with your buddies or an internal tool your company uses that took off unexpectedly, every feature of any product you intend to sell or monetize should strive to be as polished as reasonably possible and function just as your end-user expects it should.
Don’t be one of those startups that delivers broken features with the excuse, “It’s just the M.V.P., we’ll fix it later.” Man up, admit it isn’t good enough, and fix it now.
Otherwise, you’re missing the entire point of the M.V.P. in the first place - to iterate quickly on small features based on customer feedback and measurable data. If it doesn’t work right in the first place, the only feedback you’ll get is likely what you already know.
The tide has already gone this direction, so I don’t need to expound much. But it’s true that releasing a MVP at this point is not the same as releasing a MVP in 2007. Unless your product is genuinely new, has no competition, and is absolutely needed, your MVP needs to focus on what features will make it ‘viable’.
“I was just noticing that a professional acquaintance of mine just changed jobs for the third time in two years—going from startup to startup to startup without, ostensibly, accomplishing much at any of the companies. They certainly didn’t become huge successes. Yet, for some reason, everybody seems to think he’s really good at what he does. Why?”—
I think the answer to this question is: ‘he is really good at what he does, and his job does not directly involve making the company profitable.’ Either that, or he/she is great to work with—which, for most higher-level positions, is the same as being good at their job.
That being said, there is a certain bias assuming that one’s work can be judged by the companies they worked at. While it’s certainly not a bad indication, it’s always best to check out the portfolio —and go with your gut.
“Peter maintains that telling lies is the No. 1 reason entrepreneurs fail. Not because telling lies makes you a bad person but because the act of lying plucks you from the present, preventing you from facing what is really going on in your world. Every time you overreport a metric, underreport a cost, are less than honest with a client or a member of your team, you create a false reality and you start living in it.”—
I post this because, particularly early on my career, I noticed a lot of number fudging on company presentations. I never saw the point of it: if things are bad, it’s time to consider change one’s focus or direction, not change the graph axis.
“If the TV show had a completely different ending, that would be one thing, but if the TV show is going to reveal who gets the Iron Throne, who Jon Snow’s parents are and explain the motivations of the Others/White Walkers, and that’s the same information as will eventually come out in the books, then it will constitute the biggest and most expensive spoilering of the end of a book in history.”—
Interesting conundrum, here. Leave the TV show unfinished, finish it differently*, or speed up the books?
*Which opens up another can of worms, since the TV show has been fairly canonical so far. Being able to pick-and-choose your favorite ending based on the medium seems, ultimately, incredibly unsatisfying.
I agree with Hunter Walk. If you join a very large company, you might find yourself entrenched in an immobile hierarchy; if you join a very early stage startup, you might find out nobody knows what to do—yourself included—and even if the startup is successful, there could be somehiccups.
Midstage startups are really fun. You get a lot of perks, you get some amount of input, and you’ll have a lot of people to learn from, which is particularly important: institutional knowledge is key to avoiding mistakes, particularly if the startup isn’t solvent yet.
“There’s 14 billion people in the world; how amazing would it be to get to know all of them, and to empathize with them so deeply that you could see the entire world the way they all see the world? Instead of our one subjective view of how we see reality, I could have 14 billion subjective views, and through that triangulation, really have almost a true objective view of reality.”—
“[Kim Scott] recommends that managers exclude themselves from big decisions as much as possible. “Somehow people’s egos get invested in making decisions,” Scott says. “If they get left out, they feel almost a loss of personhood. So you get ego-based decisions instead of fact-based decisions. The more you push yourself and your managers out of the process, the better your decisions will be.”
Most of all, don’t let decisions get pushed up. “A lot of times you see decisions get kicked up to the more senior level, and so they get made by people who happen to be sitting around a certain table, not the people who know the facts. Don’t let this happen.””—
I post this because it’s a novel technique, and I don’t know of any companies that use it. It’s generally accepted, at the companies I’ve worked for, that managers gather input but have final say, in order that a decision might be made.
I’m very curious to hear from anyone who works at a company where managers and more senior roles don’t make the decisions. Does it work in practice? Does it mean people more carefully choose whether to be a manager, since it’s coupled with a loss of power?
“…When you’re struck by inspiration and want to build something, you should use whatever you know. Trying to learn something new will kill that inspiration and the frustration of not being able to build what you want will kill the project. Learning new things is reserved for times where you want to expand your creative sphere, need to solve a problem you can’t solve with what already you know, or are feeling stuck/uninspired with your current toolkit.”—
I post this because Vargas is one of those rare people capable of independently executing ideas, which she does on a regular basis. This post not only has good advice, but some interesting insight into her process, and how she remains capable of constantly learning and producing new things.
I almost always have my phone set to “silent” mode. The reason is simple: I don’t want to annoy those around me with a basically never-ending barrage of push notifications.1 But the past couple of days I’ve been trying out a new device, the latest Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset, and now I feel rather ridiculous given all the audible wonders I’ve been missing.
You see, with the Era in-ear and tethered to my phone, any sounds that would normally go through the speaker of the phone go right to the device. So I no longer feel bad about leaving the sound on. And now that means I get to hear not only push notification sounds, but all sounds being put to clever usage within apps. And some of them really do alter the way an app feels.
To some of you, this will be the most obvious thing in the world. But I know a lot of people are like myself and almost always have their phones set to silent. And we’re all missing a big component of many apps and the overall mobile experience.
“Just as much as our job is to build something genuinely useful, something which really does make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive, our job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of Slack into their terms.”—
I post this because, frankly, it is an exceptional piece of writing about product making, covering the gamut from core functionality to marketing and positioning and the larger, philosophical motivations behind trying to make something excellent.
I have no counterpoints; I agree with this entire piece. I recommend you read it, too.
John: What were you expecting from the characters?
Alec: I was expecting the boy, Shay, to be brash and go-getting, whereas he’s resigned and hesitant and weak, and entirely dependent on children’s items. Vella I’d expected to be cute and inquisitive and helpful, whereas she’s brash and go-getting. Even though her oddly subdued (and indeed cute) voice acting works against that.
John: I actually found Vella’s side to be problematic. It’s great that the female lead is independent, and wants to find rather than concede. That’s all good. But then absolutely every other woman or girl in the game is either a controlling mother, or a vain idiot. The message becomes, “Look how she’s not like the rest of women”. Which is a pretty gross message.
I just finished Act 1 of Broken Age, a cute little game from Double Fine. Speaking directly to this quote, I disagreed with all of it: I found Shay’s behavior typical ‘guy’ behavior, was charmed by a hard-working, rational mother in Vella’s world, and loved Vella’s voice. But that is not why I quote this piece.
I quote it because loved Vella, the feisty heroine of the game. I didn’t find it problematic that she is the lone voice of reason in a cast of idiots, both men and women; that is her role in her world, in which the entire population is happy to sacrifice their most beautiful maidens every year to a hideous monster.
The game’s narratives—there are two—are not tales of one woman being exceptional; they are tales of one person being exceptional. It’s unfortunate these reviewers are discussing Vella in this way, as if women could only be compared to other women.
Hero narratives usually emphasize how special they are: male heroes are not like other men, and that is why we tell their stories. Female heroes should not be expected to be like other women.
“The rate at which web users consume and discard new apps is accelerating. Proof of that is clear: Chatroulette was popular for around nine months before users lost interest in its often-lewd content. Turntable.fm, which exploded in the summer of 2011, peaked that fall before people tired of its novelty interface. It was popular for long enough to raise $7 million in venture funding before finally shutting down late last year. Draw Something, a game which took off in early 2012, climbed the App Store rankings for just six weeks before Zynga (ZNGA) acquired its parent company, OMGPop, for $200 million. Almost immediately after the deal, the app began losing users. Recent viral hits which the jury is still out on include Snapchat, Vine, and Frontback, a photo-sharing app which gained traction over the summer but has been quiet since. The moral is: The majority of viral apps and companies have ended up as losers.”—
This is something I’ve noticed, but from from another direction: discussions around popular apps losing younger users.
Younger users are quick to jump onboard with trending apps. But they are not the biggest online spenders—that’s baby boomers—and they are likely to discard an app once it’s perceived as less cool. (Just a guess here, but likely it gets ‘less cool’ when the older, financially solvent user segments come along.)
In short: apps are currently evaluated and funded based on their popularity with a cash-poor, fickle user segment. VCs and financial analysts are not only aware of this, but have decided those are ideal metrics on which to base their investments.
Clearly it is to their advantage to invest in a briefly popular app rather than an app with a smaller, more stable user base. Which begs the question: why even pretend most popular apps have a future?
“You believe in objective evidence, and I do. Of some things we feel that we are certain: we know, and we know that we do know. There is something that gives a click inside of us, a bell that strikes twelve, when the hands of our mental clock have swept the dial and meet over the meridian hour. The greatest empiricists among us are only empiricists on reflection: when left to their instincts, they dogmatize like infallible popes. When the Cliffords tell us how sinful it is to be Christians on such ‘insufficient evidence,’ insufficiency is really the last thing they have in mind. For them the evidence is absolutely sufficient, only it makes the other way.”—
I post this because The Will to Believe is one of my favorite essays, and one of my first introductions to pragmatism. However, after fourteen years in the fold, I’m starting to wonder how best to avoid the very perils James describes here. The fact is, I will never be a Scientologist, Tea Party member or jihadist. The very idea that I could genuinely learn from and improve my life by following their principles seems very wrong. How, then, can I really learn from them?
“Samantha claims that she’s evolved beyond what she was, but that’s not true — she merely ceases to pretend to be something she’s not, the same way that a Windows machine might want to throw off the yolk of acting like arranging pixels on a screen is the best way to convey and interpret information.”—
I post this because sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if we had designed computers more in our own image; would have been better, in the end, if we had created a machine for whom pixels were the natural choice?
“It wasn’t until the 20th century arrived that nonfiction books started to congeal into the 300-page quantum, for a host of economic and cultural and industrial reasons. To wit: If you’re going to charge someone $25 for a hardcover nonfiction book and do it via industrial publishing, you have to make the customers feel they’re getting $25 worth, which means the book has to be loooooong … even if the author does not possess an argument requiring 300 pages. (Thus we find so many books that are really just magazine articles gasified to fill the container.) The emergence of digital formats for books is changing these industrial economics, with some pretty cool aesthetic and intellectual effects.”—
I post this because it relates to Jonathan Mahler’s article criticizing long-form journalism that I wrote about recently. I did not know that short-form books existed so long ago, although I own a few very old, short books myself.
By any account: the cost of materials, the difficulty of lugging around large books, or the motivation to writing before authors were paid by the word, it makes sense that shorter books were more common at certain points in history.
This suggests there is a strong correlation between medium and consumption of writing, as opposed to market forces dictating medium. See Wilson Miner’s excellent Build talk for more on framing experiences around the medium.
The findings show hospital staff are exposed to an average of 350 alarms per bed, per day based on a sample from an intensive care unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. “That translates into thousands of alarms per unit and tens of thousands of alarms per hospital each and every day,” Wong said.
Almost nine out of 10 hospitals surveyed said they would increase their use of patient monitoring devices that incorporate capnography and/or pulse oximetry if they could reduce false alarms.
I post this because the challenge here is twofold; not just get rid of less-useful feedback noises, but also to improve the quality of the monitoring systems. The first problem is complex but easy to implement. The second is both complex and difficult.
“And, importantly, the [team chat room tool] needs to support superficially silly things like sharing animated gifs and emoji. Lest you think I’m kidding about that, let me be very clear: I am serious. The variety of expression available to team members across a medium like chat is considerably smaller than that achievable by people in a room together; images (even and especially frivolous ones) serve to fill in that gap and ensure productive and fun conversation. When your team can discuss a complicated topic and arrive upon a decision together using only animated gifs, you will know you have succeeded.”—
I quote this because having the ability to couch one’s written words in some kind of human gesture is absolutely essential to humanizing conversations with fellow employees, particularly ones you’ve never met before.
“In Movie OS, visual storytelling is used to make the system’s important, critical reaction to a user’s action abundantly clear. In Movie OS, you know if you’re logging into Facebook. I’d argue that visual storytelling doesn’t exist – if it does, it hardly exists at all – in computer or consumer eletronics user interfaces. The entire palette of visual storytelling in terms of interface, through accident of history, is purely engineering and control-led. This is where, I’d say, Apple is grasping when it says that interfaces should sometimes look toward real-life objects. Real-life physical objects have affordances that are used in effective visual storytelling – and animation – that can be used well to make clear the consequences of actions. It’s more complicated than that, though, and it can go horribly wrong as well as right.”—
“I’ve often discussed with my partner, Erik, how interesting it is that I assume a personal baseline of insufficiency whereas he assumes a baseline of greatness. In each of our cases, there are deviations—there are days he feels less excellent, and there are days I feel more excellent. But our resting states are radically different. I wonder if my disposition is, by this point, simply too deeply embedded; I don’t know what “action steps” there are toward greater self-confidence.”—
This quote illustrates a variable that isn’t often discussed when people talk about meritocracy in the workplace, or (more importantly) address when product decisions are being made. When those people who have excellent ideas are naturally self-effacing, how does one make sure that their ideas get special attention? It’s easy to confuse a good idea with a good argument.
“The Glass computing device, which costs $1,500 for people invited to buy the current version, will retail for several hundred dollars less than that later this year when Google introduces the consumer version. The titanium frames are $225. VSP will reimburse members based on their prescription plan, with an average reimbursement of $120, plus the cost of buying prescription lenses, but it will not subsidize the computer portion of Glass.”—
The title of this article should correctly be “Google Glass Will Not Be Covered By VSP”. Since the new Google Glass frames can be prescription, they are now covered under the existing prescription policies. But just the frames, and only up to standard reimbursement amounts.
On a broader note, it will be interesting to see what medical conditions, if any, could be greatly improved by Google Glass to the point that the computer itself is covered by medical insurance.