Writing

Human Scale Measurements

Outside of scientific contexts, I’m just not a fan of the metric system. Feet and inches feel intuitive for most objects that I handle on a daily basis.

Likewise Fahrenheit is more natural with a great range of degrees for the climates most people live in. Water freezing at zero and boiling at a hundred in Celsius doesn’t do anything to simplify my life.

Along those lines is the ri. To quote Craig Mod:

A ri is a unit of measure, it’s about how far a person can walk in an hour at a reasonable pace. It clocks out at roughly 3.93 kilometers.

That’s a beautiful, intuitive measure. Measures were made for humans, not scientism.

Work Ethic in America

How work ethic became a substitute for good jobs is a chilling read about the role of “work ethic” in American culture.

One quote to mull from the article, although the whole thing is worth reading:

The spectre of life without work has fuelled many utopian schemes for centuries. But there’s also a pragmatic rationale – we simply don’t need to work as much to produce what we need and want as we once did. Long hours serve a political and cultural agenda as much as they do an economic imperative. Transcending a long-hours economy will, in the process, transform our ideological commitments to work, offering different lessons about ‘time well spent’.

Not directly related, but I’ve recently been working with Americans more than at any point over the past decade. The cultural need to talk about work, appear busy and what amounts to productivity porn is real. Incidentally, they are some of the least productive people I know.

iOS Syncing Fixed on the M1

Three months after release, the latest version of Big Sur contains a software fix for the iPhone/iPad sync issue that would have been an M1 dealbreaker for me. Good, of course. But shouldn’t testing have caught this long before release?

Ignoring Second Order Effects

The COVID lockdowns have been a mad rush to protect the interests of the primarily older upper middle class. Putting your life on pause for a couple of years in your 20s is catastrophic, in your 50s not so much.

Young people are at the breaking point:

Last in line for vaccines and with schools and universities shuttered, young people have borne much of the burden of the sacrifices being made largely to protect older people

In the United States, a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds said they had seriously considered suicide.

The lasting effects on suicide rates, depression and anxiety are still being measured, but in interviews, a dozen mental health experts in Europe painted a grim picture of a crisis that they say should be treated as seriously as containing the virus.

We may realize in the coming years that the lockdowns were far worse for society than the virus ever was and highlights a slow shift in our values away from investing in to future to paying anything to protect the status quo for boomers.

By the way, Meg Jay’s TED talk about not wasting your 20s was incredibly important for me during those formative years.

Managers’ Island

Imagine if all managers were kept on an island four days a week. They’d give each other presentations about leadership, congratulate each other, pour our over spreadsheets, talk about mentorship and growth. The only catch is that it’s a retreat — no contact with their teams.

The productivity and happiness gains among their teams would be unprecedented. And then the following week, the managers could talk about how their leadership brought about this uptick in productivity.

Fixing Culture the Wrong Way

I like Google calendar at work. If everyone in an organization uses it, scheduling meetings with multiple people is easy. The calendar shows you when they’re free, without having to play “does 3 o’clock work for you” ping pong.

In organizations with too many meetings — or where looking busy is valued above productivity — people start to add fake meetings to their calendar. To fight this cultural problem, it’s common to block off work time, a lunch break or whatever.

Now I’m back to square one and writing to half a dozen people, “ok, I looked at your calendar but when are you really available to meet?”

The problem isn’t that people want time to actually work and have lunch; the problem is that if you don’t explicitly schedule time for those, low value meetings will fill the empty space on your calendar.

The Cost of Dark Patterns

And another look at LinkedIn. This time when accessing the website via my phone.

LinkedIn works better if you switch to our app. Continue or continue with mobile web

This screen frustrates me for a few reasons:

  1. It’s bad UX writing.
  2. It uses the principles of UX to nudge people into doing something they probably don’t want to do.
  3. Dozens of people had a hand in making this at the cost of doing something beneficial for the product or humanity at large.
  4. Some PM hit their vanity metric (app downloads) at the cost of a better product.

Innovation, Optimization and Creativity

An office prank led me to write a quick AppleScript (yes, we’re all nerds). Scanning through the documentation sparked an idea that was completely unrelated but helped solve a much bigger problem. Having an afternoon lull let the people who could move the solution for the bigger problem hack out a proof of concept.

As optimization becomes the highest value, we’re killing the chance encounters that lead to creativity and innovation. If everything is optimized for today, there will never be enough resources for tomorrow’s opportunity.

Wrong Voice, Wrong Tone

Good UX writing is subtle and easy to overlook. Bad product writing is obvious.

Get the LinkedIn app and see more profiles like this person's anytime, anywhere

I’m looking at a new connection’s profile on LinkedIn. This text has the voice and tone of a dating app, not a professional tool. Even if it were properly targeted at a recruiter, the intent is not “profiles anytime, anywhere”, it’s to make it easier to view the right profiles. The last thing anybody wants is a work app open “anytime, anywhere”.

Corona Puritanism

This whole pandemic thing has shown how religions are born. Even staunchly secular types like the Guardian are essentially arguing that Covid is divine punishment for sinners.

Ignore the fact that culturally similar countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US) have had vastly different outcomes. Nope, it’s not incompetent leadership and poverty (lockdowns are for the rich, after all). Peasants who get corona just didn’t follow the rules.

The Conductor

Seth Godin’s blog provides something to think about nearly every single day. For instance, Famous Conductors:

[Conductors] wear expensive clothes, make dramatic gestures and receive ovations. They also get paid a lot to carry a very little stick and they’re the only one on stage who doesn’t make noise.

But it turns out that none of these things are what makes a great conductor.

It’s always worth remembering that much of the real work goes on behind the scenes and what we judge is often unrelated to it.

Starting a Stream

Inspired by the idea of streams, campfires and gardens, I’m going to experiment with starting my own stream — posting short thoughts, links or ideas a few times a week.

I still plan to write longer posts once or twice a month.

And I’ll be working on a bit of a redesign and splitting the RSS feeds in due time.