Links of late | 2019-02-24

  • Dynamic type support on iOS is a thing developers need to pay attention to. I’m not a developer so I skimmed this, but I am someone with attention and sensory processing challenges that lend me to preferring larger type, custom fonts, and other accessibility tweaks. Seems like a lot of other people are adjusting their font sizes, too.
  • A $15 minimum wage is an antidepressant.” If you want to be all Mr. Logical about how $15/hour is arbitrary and really it should be indexed to the blah blah blah, fine, but if that prevents you from voting for people who support a living wage, buzz off. Politicking is hard and if “Fight for Fifteen” gets people jazzed and builds the kind of support we need to pass legislation to make things better for real people who are alive and working for poverty wages right now, I’m all for it.
  • My friend Adrienne correctly guessed that I would enjoy Can’t Unsee, an online game of spotting inconsistencies between two versions of an interface design. Thanks Ade!
  • Sammy the Beagle, aka Confab Sammy, turned 13 recently and was rightfully celebrated both at work and at home. I did not plan any of this but I did sign the card. Happy birthday Sammy!
  • People’s $300+ Nike smart sneakers are getting bricked by a bad firmware update. LOL.
  • “I’m going to make the case that socialism is good and capitalism is bad and that you should be a socialist and use your life to try to make the world more socialistic.” This is a really good speech.

Unambiguously mine

My book is in print now. Available in print, anyway. Print on demand. I have a printed copy. (I don’t want to get “you wrote a text”-ed about my book and its relationship to paper. But I digress.)

I did not know this was going to happen when I agreed to write for the Briefs series, so it’s been a delightful surprise. I’m glad it happened relatively soon after the original release of Writing for Designers, too.

I’ve been sharing my thoughts on writing and content and design with the broader UX world for almost a decade now. Long enough to see ideas from my talks and tweets and blog posts get … upcycled, let’s call it … into other people’s talks, tweets, even books. Not maliciously, often not even consciously, I imagine. But it happens. So it’s been nice to be able to look at a thing I’ve made and say: “Yes. This is unambiguously mine. I made it and it exists and it happened and here is the proof.”

A lot of things I’ve done are kind of…squishy. Spaces. Events. Programs. Campaigns. Concepts. All things I’ve enjoyed, but not things I can stick directly on a shelf. I’d collect trinkets; a DMMC lighter, a Gross Domestic Product poster, a Market Day button, “Speaker” badges from umpteen conferences. But trinkets get dusty, and untidy, and they aren’t the thing, just a reminder of it. My dad always talked about how satisfying it was to look back after a day of laying brick and be able to see your labor. (He also liked to take circuitous routes through Omaha so Mom and I could see his labor, too.)

So this is what I’m brainstorming now. How can I render and represent my labors? I’m getting more photos printed, for starters. Even hung a couple up in my apartment. Vain? Sure. Inspiring? Also yes.

I’m incredibly grateful to everyone that’s ordered a paper copy of the book, especially those who already bought the ebook back in October. If you’re one of them, please consider sharing a photo of it on your desk, bookshelf…hell, even on top of your toilet tank. It’s very motivating, and I can always use a bit more of that.

Talking to myself to others

The recording is up from my How to Get the Writing Done webinar this week for Gather Content. I think it’s a good one.

Leading a one-to-many webinar is a strange affair. Me, alone in my office, wearing a headset, talking out loud at what I hope is a normal volume to an audience of unseen someones in unseen places all over the world.

I’ve done a half-dozen or so of these things now. It’s getting a little easier. I have to be extra-attentive to my pacing and energy on a webinar, as there’s basically no feedback. Am I talking too fast? Too slow? Am I speaking in a normal register? Normal volume?

A few things that seem to help:

  • Standing. If I can pace a little it feels much more natural.
  • Gesturing. No one can see me, but I still move my arms around and point at things as if I’m on stage. I think this helps with the energy level.
  • Pausing. This is a hard one; if you’re not talking nothing is happening. I have to remind myself it’s important and good to pause, to breathe, to let important points hang in the air a little.

Now I just need to stop asking “right?” so much. Right? It’s crazy.

Showing up in Seattle

Airplane window view of downtown Seattle.
Airplane window view of downtown Seattle.

Just back from Interaction 19, a big design conference held in Seattle this year. I gave my How to Get the Writing Done talk on Thursday in the Cinerama, a lovely theatre space with an intimidatingly-large screen.

Scott speaking in a movie theatre space in front of a large screen displaying his slides.
Photo by José Lara from early in my talk at Interaction 19.

I almost didn’t go. Thought about canceling when Mom died in December. I didn’t know what kind of state I was going to be in. (I still don’t quite know what kind of state I’m in.) But I’d grown tired of putting my life on hold every six-to-twelve months to deal with some personal tragedy. So I stuck it out. I’m glad I did.

I skipped what I’m sure was a lovely speaker reception, and didn’t stay long at one of the happy hours on Thursday. There were some old friends I should have talked up, and some new connections left unmade. More than my mood could manage. I put my energy into getting there, getting back, and giving a good presentation. Check, check, and check. We’ll call it a win. Sometimes showing up is all you can do.

The machine knows what we fear

Do you ever have that thing where you hear or say a word while you’re typing and you accidentally type that exact word?

That happened to me on Facebook the other day. Can’t remember what I was trying to search for but I heard the word “photos” and typed that in instead. The suggestions for common searches including that word were…revealing.

If there ever really is a robot uprising they’ll never have to fire a shot; they can just crush us emotionally. Think of all the worries, all of the anxieties, that we’ve all poured into those little search boxes over the years… Will this flower poison my cat? How much money do I need for retirement? What are people saying about me? Are people saying anything about me?

A good little start

Gratitude journals seem to work wonders for folks. It’s not quite my bag but I am always trying to notice, to at least tell myself in the moment: this is good. Today? Now? My day is off to a good little start, and I am grateful.

It’s above zero and the sun is shining, which feels downright tropical compared to the past week. I checked Twitter when I woke up, in bed, on my phone … not the first thing I checked, but one of the first. That’s a dumb thing that I should not do, but I got lucky: someone had said something nice about my book. So that put a little spring in my step, along with the weather. Then, walking to the coffeeshop, the neighborhood vintage shop guy recognized me and said hello. He was at a stoplight, piloting the big maroon moving truck they use to haul furniture. I quite like that kind of thing, clerks and bartenders and barbers that remember my face, sometimes even my name, that say hello, how’s it been. Helps a guy feel like he’s supposed to be where he is and is where he’s supposed to be. Grateful.

Saw a pug being walked. All black. Too far away to say hello, but grateful, nonetheless.

It’s 90s alternative on the coffee shop Pandora. The Cure. Smashing Pumpkins. Radiohead. Pixies, now, as I’m writing this. Coulda been butt rock. Coulda been Mumford. Grateful.

THEN I got an email with a Lyft ride credit for rides to First Avenue, which is timely as I caught a ticket to the Never Better 10th Anniversary show. It’s warming up but it’s not warm enough to take the bus to a show without a coat. I’ve got some dancing energy I gotta get out tonight, so Lyft it is. Grateful.

The coffee’s good. The half and half is fresh. I’m having a good hair day. Grateful, grateful, grateful.

A joyful capacity

Brian, one of the organizers of the open mic I attend now, issued a songwriting challenge last week. The input/theme was “stand up”. I started scratching out lyrics in Drafts on my iPad right away that same night, and finished them up on Saturday afternoon. Jon, my music partner, came over Sunday and we hashed out the music in about an hour. I went with the vocational interpretation, and wrote about a standup comedian who did a few gigs back in the day, let a decade slip by, and is thinking of getting back out there again. I told Jon I had a Mountain Goats vibe in my head for it, and we listened to a few tracks to get the pacing right and borrow some strumming patterns. Picked a chord to start with and just went for it, and got the whole thing done in under an hour.

The song went over okay last night; I’m actually pretty proud of it, but I think it might work better after a few listens. Or else it’s not as good as I think it is. 🤷🏻‍♂️ Anyway, I’m on a reading-about-John-Darnielle kick again and was struck by this quote in an AMA he did on Reddit:

Suffering is seldom joyful, but expressing one’s capacity for survival almost always is. I think what I mainly sing about is survival, tenacity, practice[, and] patience.

John Darnielle

Expressing a capacity for survival…spitting the bullet back out and asking the world “Is that all you’ve got?”…that’s an emotional space that’s always interesting to me, and the kind of thing I’m drawn to sing about, too.