#goblue / What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson?

I have to admit raising one eye-brow when I caught the title for this article in the New York Times.

Martin Kohn, a former chief medical scientist at IBM Research, recalled recommending using Watson for narrow “credibility demonstrations,” like more accurately predicting whether an individual will have an adverse reaction to a specific drug, rather than to recommend cancer treatments.

“I was told I didn’t understand,” Dr. Kohn said.

The company’s top management, current and former IBM insiders noted, was dominated until recently by executives with backgrounds in services and sales rather than technology product experts. Product people, they say, might have better understood that Watson had been custom-built for a quiz show, a powerful but limited technology.

During my time at IBM, I was in a position that allowed me to work on a number of projects that involved Watson. As a result, I spoke with several engineers who worked on the various individual technologies known collectively as “Watson.”

And they all hated—like, hashtag-hated-trademark hated—the folks in IBM marketing because the way they presented Watson was so, so, so far from reality. Their opinion on sales folks wasn’t much better. They promised clients the world, sold tens of millions of dollars worth of software and services that didn’t work as advertised.

Artificial intelligence is complex. I hear people today talk like you can just hook up AI to anything, and it will automatically receive, gather, process, and synthesize data—Easy peasy—Miller Time! But the reality is that we may be a few inches closer to living out The Jetsons than we were ten years ago.

I’d love for the New York Times to write a follow-up piece on the people who spent ungodly amounts of money at IBM on Watson solutions. Why on Earth did they buy into the advertising so hard?

I’m glad to see the company turn this around with the right people at the helm (read: not marketing and sales folks). IBM is made up mostly of a lot of really smart and wonderful people. This new approach is a better reflection of the talent and their work.

#asshats / Darwinism is in full effect in the American South.

“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” wrote Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

“A few days later when I call time of death,” continued Cobia on Facebook, “I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.”

“They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t.

Saltine Christ on a Cracker!

I don’t care who you are, where you come from, what your background is, etc.; if you think COVID-19 is a hoax—that it’s political—then you forfeit your place on this planet. Hundreds of thousands of people who did not have the benefit of vaccination have died. Did you watch a years worth of people dying around the world and think, “Nah, that’s not COVID, everyone must have just had bad salmon pâté!”

To die of COVID now because you made a conscious decision to decline vaccination is an act with which there is no defense. And none of you will be missed.

#killyourphone / Pegasus spyware, licensed to governments around the globe, can infect phones without a click.

Developed to track bad people, it’s instead being used to track journalists, human rights activist, and business executives. Not cool.

Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners.

The phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the Israeli firm, NSO Group, a worldwide leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry.

While the world turns into an idiots version of Lord of the Flies and we are primarily distracted, our rights and freedoms are being subverted through the technology we increasingly rely upon daily. And yet, these stories that should be a major alarm on the scale of rampant nuclear armament will go ignored because it’s not tactile enough, yet, to be politicized and turned into sound bites for the journalism equivalent of wrestling entertainment that is cable news.

Also, I had a hunch all of those free bible apps that make up 80% of the Google Play store were a little suspicious.

#listening / Automattic acquired Pocket Casts.

More than 80M people in the US listen to a podcast weekly, and this critically acclaimed podcast app makes it easier for fans to discover podcasts and customize their listening experience.

We will explore building deep integrations with WordPress.com and Pocket Casts, making it easier to distribute and listen to podcasts.

Very curious. Perhaps it’s too early to come out with the full intent behind this acquisition, but the words “create” and “publish” are missing from the press release. I expected something more from a company that has built an empire on making tools for content creation. A year ago SiriusXM purchased Simplecast, a platform for publishing and distributing podcasts. An acquisition like that for Automattic would have made more sense to me. Perhaps they’re just looking to join the rest fo the world in trying to cash in on the multi-billion dollar podcast world.

Whatever comes of this, I’m happy to see Pocket Casts join Automattic. I’ve been a user for many years, and glad to see they are in good hands. Pocket Casts is by far the best cross-platform podcast experience on the market today. I use it on MacOS, iOS, WatchOS, and CarPlay and it’s flawless.

One more thing, I’d like to point out to my video-loving friends that listening continues to trump watching.

#birdcrack / You Really Need to Quit Twitter.

As someone who just recovered their Twitter account from hackers, this article comes at an opportune time. I think it’s rare to say that Twitter has brought out the best in anyone. I’ve had my public bouts with folks, and I’ve seen this platform severely amp up a person’s beliefs to a point where their posts read like they are the leader of an extremist group (both left and right).

So this article offers a dark-humor tale on Twitter addiction, and though most of us might not consider ourselves that far gone, the points made are relevant all the same.

We know on an intellectual level that social-media platforms are addictive. Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, admitted as much in 2017 when he confessed that the site had been designed to exploit human “vulnerability” and to “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.” We know this; we talk about it; we worry about children, or Cambridge Analytica, or Q, or any other damn thing except for ourselves. We don’t want to admit that each one of us has given a huge corporation untrammeled access to the delicate psychology that makes us who we are.

Just think, this article calls out Twitter, but we’re talking about all of social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (perhaps the worst of them), YouTube, TikTok, and whatever else is out there. Like every detail of a Las Vegas Casino designed intentionally to keep people seated and pouring money into machines.

Twitter is a parasite that burrows deep into your brain, training you to respond to the constant social feedback of likes and retweets. That takes only a week or two. Human psychology is pathetically simple to manipulate. Once you’re hooked, the parasite becomes your master, and it changes the way you think. Even now, I’m dopesick, dying to go back.

Twitter did something that I would not have thought possible: It stole reading from me. What is it stealing from you?

I would also add, what does it do for you? Engagement isn’t nearly what it was in the first five years, not even the first ten years. So why do we continue? What’s the point anymore.

#groovy / Vinyl sales grew by 30% in 2020.

Apparently a good chunk of America decided to cosplay High Fidelity John Cusack during the quarantine.

During the pandemic, vinyl exploded, growing 28.7 percent in 2020 according to the Record Industry Association of America. While vinyl has been on an upward trajectory since the mid-aughts, 2020 marked the first time vinyl beat out CDs in total revenues since the 1980s. Due to the pandemic, music fans have spent money on turntables instead of concert tickets, some factories couldn’t maintain their production capacity due to social distancing measures and labor shortages, and artists and labels who held off on releasing albums during the pandemic are all releasing LPs this year.

In Billboard, an anonymous music executive speculated that “pressing plants around the globe have the capacity to manufacture 160 million albums a year” but to meet what the market wants, they’d have to make somewhere between 320 to 400 million. “I don’t think we’re at the worst of it yet,” said Whelan. “I think alarm bells are going off but this holiday season is going to be bad and next year will probably be even worse. It’ll keep compounding.”

This news is ironic because yesterday, I sold my turntable and small, tiny record collection. While the electronics sold predictably for half its retail value, the fifty records I brought into the local shop traded for $350 in-store credit. I was astonished but grateful nonetheless. Looking around, the store was jammed with people looking through every nook and cranny of the store.

#judgement / Appropriate Labels for Younger Boomers.

I was born in 1963. I grew up with stagflation, Devo and AIDS. Please order Heath to refer to my generation by its correct, dismal name: “Generation Jones.”

I’ll let you read John Hodgman’s response, but gleefully spoil that it involves the use of a fax machine. I’m new to Hodgman’s advice column in NYTimes Magazine but happy to have come across it. And it turns out there is a podcast.

#design / The new responsive.

Una Kravets shares how component queries will change how we design and code websites. Not only in the composition and display of information, but providing user’s more control over options like motion, transparency, and system color. Very interesting.

#fistbump / Canlis to re-open with a new female executive chef.

This is the best restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. To read they are re-opening makes me happy. That they are doing so with a new phenomenal talent makes this event ten-times better.

[Chef Aisha] Ibrahim was the sous chef at California’s three-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa, and grew her career internationally, cooking for chef Eneko Atxa at Azurmendi in Spain and sister restaurant Aziamendi in Thailand, as well as in Malaysia, Taipei, and Japan. When Canlis co-owners Mark and Brian reached out in early 2021 about applying for the new job, she was still overseas looking into opening her own restaurant in Thailand.

Ibrahim had only passed through Seattle briefly once, awhile back, but the opportunity to make her mark on a storied Pacific Northwest dining destination was too good to pass up. “To be able to walk into a 70-year-old restaurant that you’ve never seen regular service in, there’s so many challenges about that,” she tells Eater Seattle. “But I look at this as a unique opportunity. We get to reset the whole restaurant.

Hang on to your butts, this is going to be amazing!

#ice / Improving national cybersecurity.

Mark Lantern, a former member of the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Taskforce, provides an overview of President Biden’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.

The Biden order stresses the need for standardizing at numerous levels, including contractual requirements for third-party vendors, policies and procedures for cloud technology, and guidelines for enhancing software assessment and supply chain security. Standardization is a cornerstone of any strong cybersecurity program. In previous articles, I’ve discussed the often disjointed nature of organizational knowledge and procedures, especially in regard to new circumstances that affect security posture, such as cloud migrations and third-party vendor relationships. Standardization allows for better communication, response, and reporting capabilities, especially when faced with a large-scale breach. The order also emphasizes addressing weaknesses in software supply chain security and standardizing software testing and assessment requirements, a proactive measure in mitigating cyber risk.

Open standards and communication alignment—the peanut butter and jelly of a win win sandwich.

#later / Moving on from Hey email or How to create a Hey alternative.

Developer Franco Correa writes:

I’ve been trying out HEY (the e-mail service from the team at Basecamp) for almost a year now and I quite liked it. I loved the Screener feature, which lets me decide who I want to receive e-mails from and who I want to block from emailing me again, forever. I also found Imbox (used for real person-to-person talk), The Feed (used for newsletter and related stuff), and Paper Trail (used for receipts and confirmations) concepts pretty useful.

Even though the way HEY organizes my email is pretty comfortable for my needs, I’m not fully satisfied with the experience.

Franco goes on to provide a detailed instructions on how he replicated the features of Hey that he liked through “contact groups, message folders, and sorting rules.” If you’re looking for an alternative to Hey, this is it.

#TROFF / Internet is the new plastic.

From this most recent issue of Dense Discovery—

The footprint of ‘digital’ – everything from cloud storage and cryptocurrencies to Netflix and emails – is currently estimated to be around 3.7% of global carbon emissions. That sounds small but is equivalent to that of the entire airline industry.

We generally assume that digital is the ‘green’ alternative to traditional ways of doing things, and it can be. However, when the marginal cost is zero, we tend to pay even less attention to the impact of our behaviour: Of the ~200 billion emails sent every day, around 84% can be categorised as spam. The impact of one email (or one Netflix episode) is negligible but in their hundreds of billions, emissions add up quickly.

And that’s just email. Now think about all of our devices connected 24/7 to the Internet. In 2005 my house had three: Two computers and Xbox. Today, in 2021, we have thirty-plus devices connected to our network. And that’s not counting the websites that are out there on “the cloud” doing nothing. This all makes me wonder what kind of impact could be made by turning off Internet related things that we’re not using.

#hug / Not one of us.

Jeffrey reminds us that despite our differences, we all need humanity.

Even the most privileged among us are living with trauma.

Not one of us has escaped. Not one is unchanged.

Take a moment to be gentle with yourself, and with all whom you encounter. Even the monsters are crying inside.

Amen.

#itwastheheatofthemoment / The story of Sony MiniDisc.

The first time I saw Sony MiniDisc in action was at Mammoth Records next to Kinkos near the university in Anchorage. The guy at the front counter took a small square disc out of a case and put it into a shiny new Sony stereo component I hadn’t seen before and hit play. The place started to shake when Smells like Teen Spirit began to play. It was my introduction to the Sony MiniDisc and grunge music. I got into grunge, but I never bought into MiniDisc.

As a consumer audio format, MiniDisc actually became a massive phenomenon, at least back in Sony’s homeland of Japan. The peculiar economics of the Japanese music market, especially back in the 1990s, made CDs about twice as expensive there as they were in the United States. Enter the music-rental shop, where customers could check out a dozen albums for the cost of buying a single one of them, then go home and copy them all to their MiniDiscs. Veritably printing money, Sony and other MiniDisc hardware manufacturers came to the defense of music-rental chains when the displeased Japanese record industry took them to court. By the time the issue was settled, MiniDisc had already entrenched itself in the Japanese market to the point that its devices surpassed CD players in sales.

Of course, in the States, this was not the case. Compact discs became the format of choice and dominated the market before the MiniDisc landed. In response to everything going digital many of my friends have flocked to vinyl in the last decade. I’ve tried that, but it just doesn’t do anything for me, probably because I didn’t grow up using vinyl. I grew up with cassettes. And if I had my pick, I’d go back to discs. I miss the cases, making mixes, and—more importantly—the mixtape artwork.

Maybe it’s the record heat we’re going through right now, but in the time I started writing this post and now I just purchased a case of 80 minute Sony MiniDiscs. What started off as a quick look into the past brought me to a few articles that inspired clicking a buy button. Now I just need a recording deck and a new set of markers to make case art.

#h2o / Cristiano Ronaldo snub wipes billions off Coca-Cola’s market value.

I love this. Ronaldo, the top soccer player in the world, sits down at a press conference. In front of him are two bottles of Coke products and one bottle of water. Before he says a thing, Ronaldo moves the Coke bottles away from him and out of camera view. He then picks up the bottle of water and says, “Agua!”

Within 24 hours, Coca-Cola lost $4B in market capitalization.

#details / Finsihed.

The myriad of tiny design decisions that culminate to create a story of ‘brand’ in a product jokingly destroyed by a stupid typo. A really lazy ‘should’ve been picked up in QA’typo. So this week, I’m focussed on the little things. The things that often get forgotten about. The things that, when they’re all added together, tell the story of a product more effectively than any marketing campaign. It’s where we should be spending our time.

Amen.

Misspelling and unfinished sentences are why I harp on my co-workers to use applications like Grammarly to help find errors or get someone to help with editing. One missed detail is an indication that there are more.

Nice catch Mark.

#Apple / Ten “It’s About Time!” features announced at WWDC 2021.

A good list from Tidbits. Several seem to be trying to get macOS and iOS in shape to support people working from home. I got excited about all the upgrades to notes, including @mentions, until I realized it might not work as universally as it does in applications like Slack. Apple allows users to create a shared ecosystem as a “family,” and I can invite individuals to collaborate on a single document. Still, I’m not aware of a way to create a “company” that brings with it a directory of everyone in the company. In other words, macOS and iOS, despite having pro features, are not geared to set up a company network for collaboration. I would be delighted to be proven wrong. As Google becomes more corrupt, relying on them to supply collaborative tools continues to build up risk. And the tipping point is coming soon.

#bekindrewind / Books about VHS.

Art and design master Reagan Ray writes:

I’m intrigued by the idea of going low tech and watching a bunch of B movies on VHS that aren’t available anywhere else. And then there’s the box art, the glorious forgotten art of VHS box art. Since collecting old VHS tapes isn’t super practical, I like to admire the box art through books. Most of the books I’ve listed are full of old box art, but I’ve also included some narratives on the video store and a few guides to obscure movies that you can only find on VHS.

I thought about this a few days ago, about how it used to take for ever to browse through the video store and pick a movie. Damn that box art, because you had to look at everything to make sure something good didn’t get passed up.

Bonus: Check out Retro Wave Co., an Etsy store that sells VHS box art to download, print, and insert into a case.

#KYD / Battlefield 2042.

Well, I know what I’ll be doing when the multi-headed variant of COVID comes raging back in November. I love the references in the trailer of different stunts players performed in Battlefield 4. Someone knows what they are doing.

#design / Phil Gilbert passes the IBM Design baton.

If you ever wanted to see what real legacy looks like, read through all of the comments in response to Phil’s announcement on LinkedIn. Phil and his team built the IBM Design program to scale the practice of user-centered design throughout a technology giant with 400k employees working in 160+ countries around the world. It started with a hundred or so designers and is now around three thousand—and hundreds more have come and gone.

The torch will pass to Katrina Alcorn, Head of Design for Autodesk. Up until now I had not heard of her but I’m sure she was run through the gauntlet to get this role. I wish her nothing but good luck as she is about to inherit one hell of a team and a global design program without its equal.

#glasselavators / Know the culture before taking the job.

The fight to retain work-from-home privileges has just begun. I am surprised by the group of Apple employees resisting coming back to work three days a week. Their culture has a symbiotic relationship to place for a long time. This was most certainly the case at 1 Infinite Loop and I have to imagine it’s even more so at Apple Park.

I can hear John now as if he’s reading his post:

Who are these people who took jobs at Apple not knowing the company’s on-site culture? Do they think Apple built a new $4 billion campus on a lark? Three days a week on-site and two days remote is a huge change for Apple.

Companies are not democracies, but the employees writing these letters sure seem to think Apple is one. It’s not, and if it were, the company would sink in a snap. Apple’s new “three days on-site” policy wasn’t a request for comments—it was a decision—and Tim Cook’s company-wide letter already leaves room for individual teams to adjust it to their own needs.

I get pushing back on returning to work at an old, stodgy Enterprise company where the workplace is not extraordinary. Apple Park is a huge exception. That place is like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory—you can’t replace that with a home office.

As for companies not being democracies, I wonder how long before a few more groups in Silicon Valley or Seattle, or Austin will try to stand up a union in response to returning to the workplace.

#blinktag / Mmm is GeoCities on crack.

Mmm is a fully responsive, “dead simple, drag and drop” website creation tool. No, not like Squarespace or Wix, or WordPress. This is amazing, wonderful, and super fun, like making Portland for the Internet. Sure, mmm is super niche, but it’s fantastic to see the development of a tool that gets people thinking about this medium differently again.

#spotaneitywins / Ms. Jen has "reservations about reservations."

I would rather wait for a half hour or so for a table to come available at a favorite restaurant, people watch, talk to the random folks who are also waiting, etc. than make a reservation, go to the table, and have everything be a little too perfect with no opportunity for life or spontaneity to happen.

I’m not a fan of reservations either and glad to see I’m not alone. Also, I’m now in awe that Jen was able to walk-in to French Laundry. ADHD Achievement unlocked.

#poke / Wired makes the case for ditching Google Chrome.

Is Google too big and powerful, and do you need to ditch Chrome for good? Privacy experts say yes. Chrome is tightly integrated with Google’s data gathering infrastructure, including services such as Google search and Gmail – and its market dominance gives it the power to help set new standards across the web. Chrome is one of Google’s most powerful data-gathering tools.

Chrome’s hefty data collection practices are another reason to ditch the browser. According to Apple’s iOS privacy labels, Google’s Chrome app can collect data including your location, search and browsing history, user identifiers and product interaction data for “personalisation” purposes. Google says this gives you the ability to enable features such as the option to save your bookmarks and passwords to your Google Account. But unlike rivals Safari, Microsoft’s Edge and Firefox, Chrome links this data to devices and individuals.

Although Chrome legitimately needs to handle browsing data, it can siphon off a large amount of information about your activities and transmit it to Google, says Rowenna Fielding, founder and director of privacy consultancy Miss IG Geek. “If you’re using Chrome to browse the internet, even in private mode, Google is watching everything you do online, all the time. This allows Google to build up a detailed and sophisticated picture about your personality, interests, vulnerabilities and triggers.”

Despite having better AI, we removed all Google smart speakers from our home for similar reasons to Wired’s case for getting rid of Chrome. Every year Google becomes more intrusive to privacy and more evil. Yesterday it was smart speakers; today, it’s Chrome. If I care about privacy, then I have to question the use of everything Google: Search, Gmail, Docs, Sheets—all of it.

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, at what point does using Google (and other companies with the same anti-privacy practices like Facebook) become bad for your well-being? At what point does Google become too great of a risk for business at large?

#markasread / A new hope for RSS?

Google is testing a new feature for its Chrome browser on Android that lets users “follow” sites to create an updating list of new content they publish. The feature is based on [Real Simple Syndication (RSS)], an open web standard that’s been the backbone of many popular web aggregation tools in the past. That includes Google’s own, much beloved (and now defunct) Google Reader.

Although this is just an early test, it’s nonetheless exciting for a certain sort of web user who misses the glory-days of RSS (and, by extension, a mode of internet discovery and distribution that faded years ago). At its core, RSS allows users to maintain a personalized feed of new content from favorite sites, blogs, and podcasts. And although tools that utilized these feeds were briefly very popular, they were eclipsed for numerous reasons.

Let’s get this straight. RSS died because Google killed it when they pulled their Reader app from the market. There aren’t “numerous reasons,” just one—Google murdered RSS.

While I welcome any new innovation involving RSS, Google has demonstrated time and time again a brazen willingness to kill good software that promotes better use of the Internet, free speech, and democracy.

The big takeaway here is the idea of “following” a website instead of “subscribing” through a method that is still confusing to the average Internet user. When people don’t have an application dedicated to reading RSS, clicking on a link to subscribe displays raw code. Not exactly the best user experience.

I hope Google’s experiment proves worthy of expansion into all of their browsers because I think they are onto something. The best innovation is the kind that simplifies life vs. adding features.

#feels / 2021 Logo Trend Report.

Interesting synthesis from Bill Gardner (author of the LogoLounge book series) after reviewing 35,000 logos submitted since last year’s report. I can’t recall another year where brand work was a clear reflection of global events vs. trends.

Consumers are looking for guidance in alien territory and we are the scouts and the guides. Brands have to be where the customers are and this year they weren’t in brick and mortar locales, they were online. All the more reasons brands need to be designed to live in the RGB world.

Conversely, we felt a deep need to disconnect from technology this year, and connect with nature. Ecology and the environment were huge themes this year, with a slight twist in every genre toward sustainability.

Unsurprisingly, many of the trends are geared to showing a shift in our culture or in a brand.

Responsive identity design shifted from variable fonts to variable typefaces that shifted from display serif to stark sans serif just to prove it could be done and demonstrate extraordinary metamorphoses.

Old school etched logos came back with a vengeance but were retooled to reproduce digitally.

The big theme I see in this year’s report is “change.” The need for humans to change their situation, outside the home and away from technology. The need for companies to finally embrace digital transformation, including how they show up in the marketplace. Take ABC, for example, who are altering their iconic logo to be “optimal for all digital, social, and emerging applications.”

#writing / It’s not about the struggle, it’s about what you learned.

Julia Evans writes, “When I learn something that helps me, I write about it so that it can help other people too.”

In addition to this great advice, writing also helps you process what you have learned. A secondary benefit is that it can help others who are learning the same thing. Writing about what you are learning is also a great way to start to gain followers. Finally, in sharing your thoughts through writing, you’re expressing vulnerability which is still very difficult for many people.

Julia’s advice is especially poignant to everyone in the midst of a career change. Be hungry, stay curious, and write about everything you discover.

#stasi / Amazon’s Ring is the largest civilian surveillance network the US has ever seen.

One in 10 US police departments can now access videos from millions of privately owned home security cameras without a warrant. In a 2020 letter to [Amazon] management, Max Eliaser, an Amazon software engineer, said Ring is “simply not compatible with a free society”.

I bet half the idiots who decry wearing a face mask as an affront to their constitutionally protected freedoms have an Amazon Ring installed. If this doesn’t scare you a little bit, it should.

#nofacism / The Data Show Democracy Is Thriving.

Available data from around the globe supports this argument: Regimes tend to be democratic in proportion to its people’s support for emancipative values. Similar data from the 1970s and 1980s also exhibits this pattern. Interestingly, there was a group of “incongruent” countries at the time—including Argentina, Chile, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, the Philippines, South Africa, and Uruguay—whose regimes were much more autocratic than the (relatively emancipative) values held by their respective populaces. By no coincidence, all these countries have since transitioned to democracy.

Democracy is starting to sound like an investment portfolio. Don’t look at what the market is doing week-to-week or even year-to-year, but over a longer period. Its as I tell designers stuck in the weeds of a problem, “pull up.”

#remember / "What's going On" at 50.

A moving segment from NPR on the anniversary of an important piece of American history.

Marvin Gaye released his landmark album What’s Going On 50 years ago today. We hear from artists and activists who were deeply inspired by the album’s music and its messages.

It’s a shame that the array of questions Marvin asked fifty years ago are lingering issues today.

#unamerican / MLS branding issues point to a bigger problem in this country.

We hear it over and over again, from MLS team after MLS team: “We want to be a global brand.” When unveiling the incongruous and derivative St. Louis City name last summer, owner Carolyn Kindle Betz said she wanted MLS to put her market “on the international map,” and that she was intrigued by the branding “once I started to get educated on why ‘City’ is an international name.” Columbus SC president and GM Tim Bezbatchenko, who was quoted in Monday’s official announcement, used the phrase “global stage of soccer” to describe his club’s ambitions.

The perspective and language of this issue are reminiscent of American cities vying to come with their own version of Silicon Valley around the mid-2000s. In the end, most of those efforts ended up looking and feeling like what they were—inferior copies to make up for lack of local ingenuity.

There are no shortcuts in life, only expensive lessons to be learned.

#art / Behind the decks.

Luxury Luke shares a behind the scenes look at his recent work creating beautiful art using skate board decks as the canvas. Also interesting to see his work using other materials. If you haven’t seen them yet, check out all of Luke’s recent work at Cream Co.

#inspiration / Mark "zeros out" his place on the Internet.

From this foundational reset, I’m hoping this is the start of a continual work in progress. A return to blogging my thoughts. Just writing things down. A place I can experiment, document, design, and look back on. Already it’s a place I’m visually happier with. It feels right. It feels me.

Bold colors, great typography and a strong composition is all you need.

#labyrinth / "WordPress is a mess."

Anders Norén, a top theme designer (one of my top three) on the user interface (UI) of the popular CMS:

We’ve gotten used to that mess, and since we’ve navigated it daily for years until it’s become second nature to us – but it is still a mess. In comparison, services like Squarespace have gradually improved until they now offer site owners more control over the structure and design of their site than the out-of-box WordPress experience while still being more user friendly.

He’s not wrong. The WordPress interface looks more like legacy Enterprise software than a modern-day application. Given that Automattic employs amazing designers like Jeffrey Zeldman and Bethany Heck, I know they have the talent to make a significant improvement.

#thanksrob / FWA is up for sale.

Site founder, owner, and operator, Rob Ford, is ready to “spend more time outside and with his family.” Well earned in my book. FWA has handed out 8,000 awards to websites and interactive experiences since 2000. I don’t know anyone in the industry who doesn’t have a soft spot for the site. The web is better because of FWA. And it most certainly helped to spawn and influence an entirely new form of design (web, interactive, digital, UX, and UI).

Rob posts that “the FWA system itself, which is 99% automated and backed by a jury of over 500 judges.” That may be true, but there is no doubt it took a mountain of work to get it there. He’s undoubtedly had a front-row seat to the evolution of the web, which is well documented in his gorgeous book, released right before the world turned into a pandemic.

Mr. Rob Ford, designers around the world, owe you a tall, cold one. I hope you find a worthy buyer soon.

#holyshit / David Carson has a Masterclass.

Learn new perspective in graphic design from David-effing-Carson for fifteen dollars? Uh, yes please. Totally looking forward to this class.

Also, I love that he’s able to skateboard around his studio—new life goals registered.

#masterclass / Writing built the United States.

If it hadn’t been for the writings of the leaders of the American Revolution, the United States wouldn’t have existed. The best thing that happened to this country is that its founders wrote generously.

Not only did they write generously, but some were journalists and newspaper publishers. The bi-product: A new country and a “healthy” news industry to promote it. Wicked-smart.

#independentsday / Medium brings back the blog roll.

File this under: Well it’s about damn time.

The upcoming redesign for the next version Airbag features a blog roll. And I’ve added a blog roll to the next new product offering for LexBlog. Why? Because blogs and blogging was better when authors helped promote the discovery of other publications. While other content platforms seek to turn everything into a Squarespace competitor (drag and drop, WYSIWYG site building), Medium will find greater success in focusing on creating the best blogging experience possible.

Authenticity is not only vital to the individual publication but the entire collection. Helping to promote your fellow bloggers adds to our own genuine expression. Tools that focus on providing authentic core experiences will have more impact in a world increasingly controlled by AI-driven, segmented, omnichannel bullshit.

#evolution / Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace.

Do you have a penis and identify as he/him? Then I suggest purchasing, reading, and reflecting on this book. It was recommended in a group call by a bad-ass female leader in response to a question on how men can be better—and appropriate—supporters of women at work.

The authors, W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith, work at the United States Naval Academy and the United States Naval War College, respectively. They have also written on the topic of inclusive mentorship. Here they are presenting their argument that supporting women in the workplace results in a stronger business with larger profits and properly supporting women at work.

#diplomacy / Serbia, showing the world how it's supposed to work.

Not content with inoculating its people faster than any other country in continental Europe, it has taken on the role of the vaccine fairy for neighbouring states in the Western Balkans. Late last week, word started to spread that, for a limited time, Serbia was inoculating all comers. The car park at the main vaccination centre in Belgrade quickly filled with vehicles sporting number plates from across the former Yugoslavia and beyond. Bosnian and Montenegrin accents, as well as a smattering of Macedonian and Albanian, could be heard in the orderly, fast-moving queues at the cavernous halls of the city’s World Trade Center.

The unlikely catalyst for this vaccine bonanza was the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. It asked the government to make inoculations available for businesspeople from across the region, following similar efforts for other professional groups, including Bosnian medics and journalists from North Macedonia. “We looked at this from a practical perspective,” says the chamber’s co-ordinator, Marko Mandić. “This is good for the economy and it’s good for the economies of our neighbours.”

Nice work and well played. I’d love to see more of this enlightened and forward thinking perspective.

#weneedamontage / How to be the best.

From the amazing minds at Farnam Street comes a guide for becoming the best of anything.

Using deliberate practice, we can overcome many limitations that we might view as fixed. We can go further than we might even think possible when we begin. Deliberate practice creates new physical and mental capabilities—it doesn’t just leverage existing ones.

The more we engage in deliberate practice, the greater our capabilities become. Our minds and bodies are far more malleable than we usually realize. There’s much more to deliberate practice than 10,000 hours.__

It can even accelerate your progress in widely applicable skills such as writing, decision-making, leadership, studying, and spoken communication. The key in any area is to identify objective standards for performance, study top performers, and then design practice activities reflecting what they do.

If this sounds a bit familiar, look to Austin Kleon who outlined a somewhat similar framework for becoming a better creative in his book Steal Like an Artist. I haven’t had time to read through the entire guide but knowing who wrote it, you can bank on the advice and instructions contained within.

Stay curious my friends.

#utopia / How QAnon is tearing families apart.

Religion, no matter what the source, will inevitably tear everything apart once an ounce of fanaticism forms. And that’s what QAnon is, a fervent-fanatical belief in false stories that people want to believe are true and live by that information as if it is. What I don’t get is how profoundly stupid these stories are, and yet a good portion of this company can’t subscribe fast enough.

It would appear that common sense is dead.

#breakingthelaw / Can I use fonts and stock art products in an NFT (non-fungible token)?

Though I have little interest in NFTs, I thought this question and answer were intriguing. YouWorkforThem says the short answer is “yes.”

However, you need to be sure to purchase the correct license extensions for the type of use you want to mint. For instance, you would need to purchase the “Items for Resale” extension for any Stock Art items you use. If the NFT is a video that is streamed on the internet, any font license would need to be extended for that use, etc. And as always, you would need to alter or incorporate Fonts or Stock Art into some new form before simply selling them as is.

Interesting. NFTs are more than digital art, as I’ve seen host most people explain them, they are a form of software. Now I wonder what an audit would produce in terms of NFT copyright violators. I haven’t looked at what’s out there for sales, but I imagine a digital version of Canal Street with tables full of little, animated pictures.

#wine / Rest In Peace Steven Spurrier.

From the thoughtful New York Times obituary:

An author, educator, amusing public speaker and leader of wine tastings. But most of all he was known for having conceived and arranged the Judgment of Paris, the famous 1976 wine tasting at which little-known American wines triumphed over their august French counterparts and won a toehold in the perception of wine lovers worldwide who had up to then dismissed them.

Steven was also the proprietor of L’Académie du Vin, a small shop in Paris that brought in wines from different parts of the world. Mr. Spurrier’s work and the Judgement of Paris was turned into one of my favorite films, Bottle Shock. It’s a dopey, entertaining movie that includes some of my favorite actors Alan Rickman, Dennis Farina, and Bill Pullman.

Steven Spurrier helped to propel California wines to a global stage in a very unusual way. From another remembrance from the NYT:

It was hardly thought to be a fair fight. As has been recounted countless times, the judges were thoroughly convinced that California wines were inferior.

“Ah, back to France,” one judge sighed after tasting a Napa Valley chardonnay. Another, sniffing a Bâtard-Montrachet, declared: “This is definitely California. It has no nose.”

When all was done, a shocking consensus revealed the favorite wines to be a 1973 chardonnay from Chateau Montelena and a 1973 cabernet sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Cellars, both in Napa Valley.

Thank you Mr. Spurrier for all of your contributions that helped make a better world. Cheers!

#mordor / A live feed from the Iceland volcano.

Even in the daylight, it’s pretty impressive, but be sure to check it out when the sun goes down. This shot provides a better look at the action in and around the caldera. For scale, look at the puny humans in the lower right corner.

#apple / Fixing a broken Apple Pencil.

The plastic tips can be replaced of course (pack of 4 tips at a cost of 15% of a new Pencil!), but there was still a broken portion inside the Pencil that would prevent a new one from fitting. As the tips just screw in, I was able to get some purchase on the fragment (below) with a sharp pin and slowly unscrew it (remember: righty tighty, lefty loosey). It took a minute or two, but then it was out and I was able to fit a new tip. Everything works again!

Well done sir.

#utopia / The "winner-loser gap."

After adjusting for demographic differences across countries, they estimated a 7% fall in satisfaction with democracy for a typical loser and a 6% rise for a typical winner (using an employed person of middle age and average education as their baseline)…models reckon that this effect is similar across the continent, regardless of a country’s electoral system. Strikingly, they also found signs of a winner-loser gap in the levels of trust citizens say they have in other respects—in parliament and politicians; the courts and police; and even in other people in general.

Just in case you were thinking our political problems around the planet were simple. I’d love to see a correlation of this data against trust in corporations.

#writing / How to overcome writer's block.

Medium asked for advice, and writers answered the call. I laughed when I came across this tip because I don’t know that I’ve come across anyone else who does this:

If I’m stuck on a section, I simply insert a row of X’s: XXXXXX as a marker to come back to later.

This method helps a lot by the way—to get as many of your thoughts into words as possible. I use the second pass to fill in the gaps and X’s. It’s not until the third-or-fourth pass that I check for spelling and grammar. If the story doesn’t make sense, then correct spelling and grammar do not matter—it’s still a fail.

Everyone should consider bookmarking this article and saving it to Pocket for later reference. There is a lot of great advice here for all kinds of situations.

#typography / A typeface created to support local languages.

Charis SIL is a Unicode-based font family that supports the wide range of languages that use the Latin and Cyrillic scripts. It is specially designed to make long texts pleasant and easy to read, even in less than ideal reproduction and display environments.

The type family was developed by SIL International, a faith based organization that supports “ethnolinguistic minority communities as they build their capacity for the sustainable development of their own languages.” The organization was founded on the principal that communities should be able to pursue their social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual goals without sacrificing their language.

Not only does it look great, Charis SIL is “free to use, modify, and redistribute according to the terms of the SIL Open Font License.

#utopia / Democracy is in retreat.

For its latest appraisal, the think-tank convened around 165 experts to pore over a questionnaire about political rights and civil liberties in 195 countries and 15 territories. Each country was given a score from 0 to 100 and classified as “free”, “partly free” or “not free”. The results show that the world has suffered its 15th consecutive year of democratic decline. In February an annual survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist, reached a similar conclusion.

Even some of the world’s most durable democracies are struggling. America is classified by Freedom House as “free” but is no longer near the top of the class. Since 2016 the country has dropped 6 points. The report argues that the fact that Donald Trump’s calls to overturn November’s presidential election in America went “unchecked by most lawmakers from his own party” undermined basic democratic principles. India, the world’s most populous democracy, was downgraded from “free” to “partly free”. Under Narendra Modi, the prime minister, the country has elevated “narrow Hindu-nationalist interests” at the expense of “equal rights for all”, the report says.

Fifteen years—that’s hard to believe, but I’m not going to spend a minute arguing the data. That timing puts the US near the height of fighting the civil war in Iraq. Surely, that’s not a coincidence and we, the birth nation of democracy, have had a role in its decline. Anyone still celebrating Biden’s victory is fooling themselves into thinking the worst is behind us as more trouble lies ahead.

#journalism / How the Journalism Competition Bill would allow publishers in the U.S. to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google.

A bill that could allow news publishers to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook was re-introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on March 10. Some news publishers have been clamoring for return of the legislation, which is more timely than ever since the platforms both recently clashed with lawmakers in Australia over media deal bargaining and both face antitrust scrutiny from as far and wide as Washington, D.C., Texas and the U.K.

If passed, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would allow news publishers to work together to establish distribution and payment deals with digital platforms that have at least one billion global monthly users.

What a delightful surprise to find this story in my feed reader this morning. A bi-partisan bill to support journalism’s relationship with “digital platforms that have at least one billion global monthly users.” Not just the big players, but all publishers. This also includes “television and radio news outlets.”

I hope some folks in the LexBlog universe will write about this soon.

#utopia / One year of daily co-working.

Jesse shares his story and insights of hosting a daily video “room” during COVID-19. This is my favorite insight because I’ve experienced the same outcome from a handful of virtual groups that I have both lead and been a participant in the last year.

I firmly believe that much of the meaningfulness of this community can be chalked up to human beings caring about other human beings. People just wanted to have someone to talk to about their fears and concerns, someone to celebrate their victories with and share their pain, someone to ask about them when they’re not there. I’m very thankful for a group of people I was able to do that with.

What a great milestone to share with a community that didn’t really exist a year ago. Leaders have much to learn from this, especially as they consider a post-COVID work place.

#art / Plus Equals.

Tired of reading about NFT already? Here’s a swell alternative—a quarterly zine in which Rob Weychert explores algorithmic art with a focus on combinatorics (as explained by Pixar animators). This is such a cool project. I especially love the first issue based on a gift Rob made for friends may years ago. If you don’t follow Mr. Weychert you need to. He’s one fo the most creative designer/developers on the planet.

#business / Business is not a sport.

I’m glad we still have Jason Fried around to provide a healthy alternate perspective to the mindset of the rest of the tech industry.

Businesses love to compete. To beat, to win, to go 1-0. We don’t. I have no interest in competing with anyone. And we don’t frame internal decisions in a competitive way. Business has never been about competition for me.

All we have to do is get enough customers to make our business work. That’s it. That’s how we stay alive. Not by taking marketshare away from anyone, not by siphoning off users, not by spending gobs of cash to convince people to switch. We simply have our own economics to worry about, and if we get that right, we’re golden.

When you think of yourself as an alternative, rather than a competitor, you sidestep the grief, the comparison, the need to constantly measure up. Your costs are yours. Your business operates within its own set of requirements. Your reality is yours alone.

If I channel my former business partner, he would add that breweries have made a successful cottage industry not from competing but by collaborating. Competition is for competitions.

#utopia / Once vaccinated are you free to hang out with other people?

Nope.

The best news of the past few months is that the three approved Covid-19 vaccines—the two-shot, mRNA-based ones from Pfizer and Moderna and the single-shot, adenovirus-vectored one from Johnson & Johnson—have one thing in common. They’re awesome. In trials, each prevented death and severe disease. But even though those are the endpoints that the vaccine makers tested, they aren’t the only important things to consider.

“We actually don’t know whether in real life, at the population level, that efficacy translates into vaccine effectiveness,” says Ana Bento, a disease ecologist at the Indiana University School of Public Health. “While it might protect you against disease, it might not protect you against infection. It’s too soon to actually know that.”

You can’t turn a marathon into a 100m dash in the middle of the race.

#design / The art behind Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 political campaign.

Typically any discussion around art and Hunter points to the splattered aesthetic of Ralph Steadman that visualized gonzo journalism. From this The New York Times article emerges a different artist with a completely different vibe. Thomas W. Benton designed many posters for Thompson’s 1970 run to become a sheriff of Aspen, Colorado. Benton’s work is more graphic design than illustration, but that does not deter it’s importance and artistic quality. The collection of work that has survived, when viewed all together, looks more like pages from a magazine featuring editorial, campaign posters, and advertisements. One of my favorite pieces is a “page” that looks like the advertising section found in the back of an old magazine, complete with a satirical ad for The Chart House—“in our new location.” All of this work and more will be on exhibit at the Poster House in New York City. The show is called “Freak Power” borrowed from the title of a book—and now documentary—on Hunter’s campaign and the national attention and conversation it attracted at the time. Sadly, very similar to conversations we are still having to this day.

#apple / Apple Card disabled my iCloud, App Store, and Apple ID accounts.

File this under, “Ugh.” Dustin’s use of the Apple consumer ecosystem came to a grinding halt. The culprit?

My bank account number changed in January, causing Apple Card autopay to fail. Then the Apple Store made a charge on the card. Less than fifteen days after that, my App Store, iCloud, Apple Music, and Apple ID accounts had all been disabled by Apple Card.

He also forgot to mail in a MacBook trade-in for a new laptop purchase he made, which compounded the problem.

This all seemed to have caused what I would consider the perfect storm for a multi-tiered Apple user (credit, services, products). I’m posting this here to help spread the word but to also serve as a reminder in case something like this happens to me.

#privacy / Blacklight.

A “real-time inspection tool” that scans websites for tracking technology.

Who is peeking over your shoulder while you work, watch videos, learn, explore, and shop on the internet? Enter the address of any website, and Blacklight will scan it and reveal the specific user-tracking technologies on the site—and who’s getting your data. You may be surprised at what you learn.

I encourage you to check a few websites that you frequent and be prepared for a surprise or two. For instance, Medium has one ad tracker and one third-party cookie, whereas the New York Times has twenty-one ad trackers and twenty-six third-party cookies in use, and they allow Facebook and Google to track your web use outside their domain. Way not cool.

#design / We lost our studio twice. But not our community.

It’s been a year since we have sat in the studio — less than a year since our team met to move our stuff out. But, what I said in the Twitter reply still stuck in the back of my head, “Our community is still strong.” And then it hit me. Like, hit me with a box of tissues, I’m crying, hit me. The IBM Studios Slack channel received a message from our sister studio in Böblingen, Germany. The studio leader had organized a Box folder of unscripted, personal, and heartfelt video messages from our studio mates. Many of them were people I trained, currently mentor, or leadership peers. The studio brought us together, yes. But, I realized through all of the virtual meetings, conversations, and late-night brainstorming that we formed a community.

Earlier this week, I caught the news that Building 903 on the IBM Austin campus suffered massive damage caused by flooding on the roof. All floors were destroyed, including 7 and 8, home of IBM Design. It feels like such a great loss as a tremendous amount of magic happened there, including the professional development of thousands of new designers from all over the world.

Oen Michael Hammonds, one of the greats to come out of the IBM Design program, wrote this thoughtful post reminding me, reminding us all, that though a place may break, the community is steadfast and strong. I am so thankful to have been a part of that community. I hope they’ll gather again soon and bring back the fantastic energy that the program brought to the building.

XOXOXO to my friends from IBM Design—I miss y’all.

#writing / The Jerry Seinfeld Guide to Writing.

David Perell, shares his method of writing apparently based on this snippet from an interview with Seinfeld (I write that because the post does not include a citation or link to the statement quoted—still it’s good advice).

Writing and editing should be separate activities.

When I’m in this creation mode, I shoot for a flow state. I keep my fingertips on the keyboard and measure progress by how many words I put on the page. I have one rule: write down every epiphany immediately. The more, the merrier.

If this creation mode is defined by quantity, the subsequent editing mode is defined by quality.

When the editing phase begins, my body chemistry changes. I change my physical environment so I can adopt a calmer and more deliberate mindset.

This is the way.

I’ve known a few folks who edit while they write, and it takes them forever just to knock out a sentence. The kind of flow kills creativity, and it’s highly likely that’s what gets in the way of so many people writing more frequently.

My initial drafts are a disaster—as are the second and third—but I’m driving to get as much out of my head as possible. Even after editing as much as I can find on my own, I still rely on Grammarly to help. I use the app to clean up my assault on the English language. And it helps me recognize bad patterns in my writing. Over the last two years, I can genuinely say that the application finds fewer mistakes to correct these days.

Thank you Mr. Stokes for the inspiration.

#communication / Navigating "Make it Pop" design requests.

The phrase is so ubiquitous in design meetings that it’s become an industry meme. But consider a more empathetic lens: with these words, a client is trying to connect with you. Similarly to when my immigrant family says “Close the lights” (i.e. “turn them off”), clients may not necessarily have the right vocabulary to articulate their design needs. As a result, we receive generic talking points disguised as design requests. Then add the complication of client teams misaligned on their own brand and you’ve got a recipe for excessive revisions, budget churn, and frustration on both sides.

Communication is the leading problem between client and provider, executive to manager, etc. Design is well placed to help address this problem by facilitating activities to build a shared vocabulary that will empower non-designers to provide the type of feedback we seek. Leah does a great job in this article highlighting some exercises that will help get the job done.

#gofast / BMW legends.

12 milestones in the history of the Bavarian automotive manufacturer: from long distance racers to touring cars, and F1 bullets to Formula E EVs.

I’m still catching up in my European motor racing history, but the livery on the BMW M3 (1987) is unforgettable. I wish BMW was still in Formula 1 because it would be interesting to see the brand expressions on a global stage.

Bonus content: The most spectacular street circuits in motorsports.

#thismightgetmefired / Quartz comes in hot with news that culture trumps tools.

From their new guide, The Future of the Digital Workplace comes this tidbit of wisdom on “fixing work”:

Email promised to improve on the failings of phones, fax machines, and snail mail when it rose to prominence in the 1990s. Slack, the workplace chat company, vowed in 2013 that its software would sweep away the irredeemable failings of email and usher in a happier, more productive age of work. And now the cycle has begun again; today, a new vanguard of startups is making a raft of promises to fix the dysfunction of Slack.

Perhaps the reason we haven’t found the perfect communication tool yet is that the problem isn’t about technology. Melissa Mazmanian, an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine with joint appointments in computer science and organization and management, offered an alternate theory. After years spent studying how workers use email, smartphones, and other forms of communication to signal our value at work, Mazmanian concluded the real root of our communication problems lies not in the tools themselves, but in workplace culture.

And the article continues as an interview where the author keeps asking how to implement new tools anyway. Brilliant.

Listen, without cultural support and active practice by the C-Suite, no amount of technology or tools will change a thing. Nary a dent. This notion also applies to digital transformation, design-driven innovation, and remote collaboration.

You’ll know when the culture is ready for something new when you have fixed all of your communication issues. That’s the real heart of any problem that technology alone can not solve.

#typography / Thirteen ways of looking at a typeface.

Suddenly I could use any typeface I wanted, and I went nuts. On one of my first projects, I used 37 different fonts on 16 pages. My wife, who had attended Catholic school herself, found this all too familiar. She remembered classmates who had switched to public school after eight years under the nuns: freed at last from demure plaid uniforms, they wore the shortest skirts they could find. “Jesus,” she said, looking at one of my multiple font demolition derbies. “You’ve become a real slut, haven’t you?”

If you need more than two typefaces for any job then you’re not choosing the right type families.

#freepress / “Imagine if news wasn’t there.”

A campaign from three of Canada’s leading newspapers to raise awareness and protest “against Google and Facebook, which, the papers say, siphon off advertising revenues while making their own profits from sharing news stories.”

The campaign highlights a media-funding problem with no easy solutions. The Trudeau government says that it will propose reforms to how internet platforms pay for the journalism they aggregate – but it’s a tough measure to implement. Just ask Australia, where Facebook has threatened to disable its newsfeeds and Google said that it would remove its search engine entirely if Canberra goes ahead with plans to bring in new protocols.

If I were Australia, I’d tell Facebook and Google to go to hell, oh, and goodbye! When will people wake up to know that print journalism is the world’s primary source of news, not television?

Healthy democracies require a free press, but there has to be a press to exercise those freedoms. Do you want to do something good today? Subscribe to a newspaper or three.

#300baud / Halt and Catch Fire Syllabus.

This series covers the history of computers from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. But more than just technical innovation, it manages to center the people in it, including power dynamics. There’s a lot that we can cover about gender, class, and race and how they interact with each other. Those ideas are important. Characters are important to talk about when they are generalizing these larger ideas. That being said, this syllabus does not intend to take a film theory approach to analyzing the intentions behind characters at a personal level, but takes the approach of how these behaviors are symptomatic of larger structural, societal issues.

I heart everything about this project by Ashley Blewer, especially the ‘zine vibe for each issue. This would only be made better if it was hosted on an ASCII BBS accessible only via Telnet.

#ganbay / The best non-alcoholic drinks.

A great non-alcoholic drink has all the elements of a great alcoholic one. Taste is deeply personal, but there are key components that make a drink feel balanced, namely a harmonious blend of acidity, sweetness, bitterness, salinity, and water. These layers of flavor play off of one another, blossoming as you sip or eat or lounge. The drink excites your palate and challenges you to figure out what exactly makes it so dang delicious, and why you can’t stop drinking it. The trick is creating that nuance without using alcohol as a base. Alcohol has a signature burn, difficult to replicate, that helps slow the drinker down. Bitter, sour, or spicy flavors can achieve a similar effect. All of the experts we spoke with highlighted bitterness as a key element.

The idea of non-alcoholic alternatives for cocktails is intriguing. And this guide by the folks at Wirecutter is fairly in-depth and much longer than most that I come across.

#yardsticks / “If your blog is on our modern platform, it got much faster this week.”

Scott Fennell, my co-woker at LexBlog posted on Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV) a “new set of website performance measurements authored by Google [that measures] the way a website actually behaves for a human user, rather than assess things that might look statistically significant to a machine.” Core Web Vitals will have an impact on search results beginning sometime in May 2021.

#stepinfront / Millennials and Gen-Z want to buy products and services that reflect their beliefs.

According to 5Ws 2020 Consumer Culture Report, 83 percent of millennials say that it’s important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values, and 76 percent of 18-34 year-olds like when the CEOs of companies they buy from speak out on issues they care for.

This doesn’t just apply to large corporations. If you are in the business of selling something, your leadership now extends beyond the LLC.

#jesus / Es Bueno is back!

So great to see another friend blow the dust off their site to share their thoughts, what they’re learning, and following. I hope more of the old community will consider doing the same.

#poetry / “The Hill We Climb.”

This morning I caught the NPR story of Amanda Gorman, 22, who will “become the youngest poet in recent memory to deliver a poem at a presidential inauguration.” Even more remarkable (to me), Gorman has had challenges since childhood with a speech impediment that affects her ability to say certain letters. So much so that she would find different words to use—words she could pronounce without difficulty—in her poems. Since then, she has performed her poetry at esteemed places like the Library of Congress and curious venues like the Empire State Building’s observation deck.

Tomorrow, Amanda will perform her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” written specifically for the inauguration. In her earlier years, she has held the title of Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and became the first National Youth Poet Laureate. We’ll be in good hands and in the presence of remarkable talent.

If you want a preview of what we’re in for, take five minutes and read In This Place (An American Lyric), written and performed by Amanda at the Library of Congress.

#dogood / How To Citizen with Baratunde.

A new podcast (to me) that I read about in the most recent issues of Dense Discovery.

How To Citizen with Baratunde reimagines the word “citizen” as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power. So many of us want to do more in response to the problems we hear about constantly, but where and how to participate can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Voting, while critically important, simply isn’t enough. It takes more to make this experiment in self-governance work. Listen in to learn new perspectives and practices from people working to improve society for the many.

I’m intrigued by the premise as I’ve been thinking about how to make the most out of the next twenty years. How to contribute in a way to really fix problems rather than apply more patches.

#dysotopia / Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine.

I’ve been thinking for years about what it would take to make the social web magical in all the right ways—less extreme, less toxic, more true—and I realized only recently that I’ve been thinking far too narrowly about the problem. I’ve long wanted Mark Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a media company, to take responsibility for the informational environment he created in the same way that the editor of a magazine would. (I pressed him on this once and he laughed.) In recent years, as Facebook’s mistakes have compounded and its reputation has tanked, it has become clear that negligence is only part of the problem. No one, not even Mark Zuckerberg, can control the product he made. I’ve come to realize that Facebook is not a media company. It’s a Doomsday Machine.

When reality starts to sound like the plot of a James Bond film, it’s time to, uh, reverse course. What gets my attention is the notion that the problems as a result of Facebook out-scale the maker’s ability to “just turn it off.” Does that sound familiar to you? It’s the dystopian pre-story for a million science fiction movies. We may already be on the path to living out THX 1138.

#understanding / “This shit is complex.”

Earlier this week, I signed up for David Hoang’s newsletter, and I’m sure glad that I did. In response to this week’s attack on the capital, David shares his views on the systems we are born into. He proffers how these systems come with their own unconscious biases and how they can play into the wrong hands, even in those cases when—looking in from the outside—it doesn’t make sense.

It turns out that because you experienced oppression, it does not make you immune from participating in other systems of oppression. Imagine how many unconscious bias decisions one might make a day. Think about when that’s multiplied by every human being for the last hundred years. Now, imagine when that bias is conscious, and someone made a deliberate decision to oppress. As Darien Boyd wrote, the system is working as designed. If you thought The Social Dilemma was enlightening around system design, wait till you read about systemic racism. Some of you might have similar upbringings of being raised in model minority families. They might not like a narcissistic president, in fact, they might despise him. However, he talks about communism, socialism, and the threat of it. That can be triggering for people who experienced it.

Taking in David’s perspective, my first thought is the need for us to live with a mindset of curious diplomacy. Given our society’s state and condition, we can’t afford to presume anything about one another. Nothing. Not even the smallest data point. I’m old enough to know the world isn’t black and white, but I’m beginning to understand that it’s also not gray—it’s full color. It’s our systems and biases that reduce the world to a smaller spectrum.

We’re not going to fix anything with a mindset that a few discussions will heal our combined culture. And this will require more than just listening. If we’re going to achieve some form of harmony (the kind I thought we lived in before the last four years, but I’m pretty sure I was wrong back then, too), then we have to be genuinely curious how our systems might work together through diplomatic means.

#juxty / Block Studio is insane.

I haven’t seen anything online this creative and well executed for a long time. Reminds me of the days of Flash, but in a good way.

#publishing / A new issue of an old zine.

Rob Weychert will always be a source of inspiration as he seems to always be in motion. Not even a pandemic gets in his way. In fact it inspires him to dust off an old zine and publish a new issue.

Zaly began as a parody of the grassroots, amateur nature of zines. We initially made it entirely by hand and made a point of putting in as little effort as possible. Like Seinfeld, it was about nothing. Unlike Seinfeld, it was not remotely compelling. I’ve been looking through a lot of old punk zines this year, and that renewed interest, combined with quarantine ennui, created a fertile environment for a Zaly revival. I wanted to occupy Zaly’s anarchic creative space again, but I also wanted to have a physical artifact to share with friends, a way to connect across our pandemic boundaries of self-isolation without asking anyone to spend any more time staring at the screen of an electronic device.

I contacted the old Zaly crew (most of whom I still speak to regularly) with print specs and a call for submissions. We set a deadline and got to work. When the dust settled and the submissions were in, Zaly9 added up to 28 pages of invigorating nonsense. That page count doesn’t include the cover, adorned with a blurry image of an audio cassette which nods at the content’s mixtape essence while acknowledging that the endeavor is driven by nostalgia.

Click the link to see photos of early issues and the hotness of the latest. I love this idea. Maybe it’s time to for an Airbag zine…

#riso / No Magic In RISO.

It took 850 days, 74 tubes of soy ink, fifteen colours, 660 masters, 690,000 sheets of paper, three fans, two digital Riso duplicators and four people to complete this 360-page book that focuses on one thing: the process of Risograph printing.

Calling Boms and Dorny.

#forward / Flat white world.

Trying to stop globalization is like trying to hold back nature.

In recent years a different type of globalisation has accelerated. A new design aesthetic is taking over the world, spread not via brands or FDI [foreign direct investment], but through social media and the internet. Even as formal trade slows, the globalisation of taste is rampant. Starbucks may not have reached large chunks of the world, but there are very few large cities in the world now in which a visitor cannot order a latte surrounded by exposed wood and vintage light bulbs. Kabul boasts no McDonald’s, but you can get a decent burger and fries at Burger House, a restaurant that would not be out of place in San Francisco.

It does my heart good to see other cultures progressing without global brands dictating what’s in or out. This is the way.

#treason / Never forget.

An easy to use punch list of senators and representatives who should be removed from office immediately—the 148 congress persons who voted to overturn the federal election. Although, the NYTimes missed one, Lindsey Graham, a prominent Trump supporter for the last four years who turned Judas only at the last minute.

Bonus list: The three senators who co-sponsored yesterday’s coup.

#brand / Blank Slate.

A new book from my favorite design publisher Gestalten. It’s more like a catalog that contains one thousand “photographic templates for the true-to-life and convincing presentation of their designs.”

#rif / Beowulf, a new translation.

Mandy Brown writes,

“Bro!” begins Headley’s delightful new translation of Beowulf, and from there unravels a tale of heroism and machismo and masculinity that honors the origins of the epic poem while also carrying it forward. There’s an unexpected irreverance and comedy here that elevates the usually gloomy tale into a story as brash and boisterous as the brags told by its eponymous protagonist. “He was our man, but every man dies. / Here he is now! Here our best boy lies! / He rode hard! He stayed thirsty! He was the man! / He was the man.” Indeed.

Definitely on the book list now. Especially with that cover by Keith Hayes—Gorgeous!

#lessevil / Google workers to form a union.

A group of Google workers have announced plans to unionize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The Alphabet Workers Union will be open to all employees and contractors at Google’s parent company. Its goal will be to tackle ongoing issues like pay disparity, retaliation, and controversial government contracts.

From a related CWA press release.

Google began as a small tech company with a “Don’t Be Evil” mantra, but has quickly become one of the most influential companies in the world. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, now has more than 120,000 workers. Yet half of Google workers at Alphabet companies are hired as TVCs—temps, vendors, or contractors—without the benefits afforded to full-time employees. Executives have been awarded tens of millions of dollars in exit packages after documented sexual harassment against fellow Googlers. And the company has taken on unethical government contracts, like drone targeting for the military, yet kept the nature of that technology secret even to the Googlers working on those projects. It has removed its past motto from its mission statement.

It’s a shame that companies tend to turn into what they started with the intent to avoid. And it doesn’t take 120,000 people for that change to happen. I’ve witnessed this first hand at companies that doubled in size too quickly (20 to 40 and again 500 to 1000). As revenues rise and more money is at stake, the culture starts to take body blows—Especially if investment money is on the line. It is a shame Google no longer lives up to its original intent. It just goes to show how difficult it is to stay the same as the company grows.

Based on my own employment experience with unions and after watching too many mob movies, I’m always leary of a union’s honest intent. But If the workers want to unionize because Google’s leadership isn’t responsive to their perspective—then (and not that it matters), I support their move. We spend too much time working as it is; there’s no need to make it worse with repressive culture. I hope forming the AWU brings about positive changes the members seek and that other groups who also need change might find their leadership more receptive and supportive.

#alexandria / Medium has acquired a “social digital book platform” called Glose.

The platform “reaches more than one million readers in 200 countries. Boasting a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, Glose carries ebooks and audiobooks from all major publishers, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster.”

The move seems to have been made to help Medium members discover (and therefore synthesize and share) more ideas. From Medium founder Ev:

Books are a means of exploring an idea, a way to go deeper. The vast majority of the world’s ideas are stored in books and journals, yet are hardly searchable nor shareable. With Glose, we want to improve that experience within Medium’s large network of engaged readers and writers.

Even more exciting, Medium intends to explore new ideas to evolve Glose beyond what it is today. Again from Ev:

We want to rethink the book-reading experience, and we’re hiring. If you’re a certain type of book-loving designer, product person, or engineer, this might be a dream job for you. Did I mention the books team will be based in Paris?

Travail de rêve en effet!

#googleinprint / The Year in Search magazine.

Just received an email notification about this publication. “A collaboration between _Pop-Up Magazine_’s Brand Studio and Google. It’s the print magazine extension of Google’s Year in Search campaign” which explains the PDF format. More from Pop-Up:

For the Year in Search magazine, we enlisted experts, artists, writers, scientists, photographers, and big thinkers to help make sense of this unforgettable year. They introduce us to their beloved dogs (page 20) and challenge us to rethink our relationship to the planet (page 42). We’re invited to taste a special bowl of noodles in Linghua (Lily) Qi’s kitchen (page 10) and sit in a barbershop chair for much more than a haircut (page 32). Each of these stories surprised us and moved us in its own way. Looking back on a year filled with unprecedented crises and systemic conflicts, we found stories of resilience, humor, community, and creativity.

I love collaborations like this and wish there were more.

#publishing / The Membership Guide

For anyone in the online publishing business considering memberships of any and all kind comes this handy resource from a project called the Membership Puzzle Project.

In partnership with The Lenfest Institute and the Google News Initiative — released the Membership Guide. It is the culmination of three years of study and support for membership models in news. The Guide is like a little course in membership. It takes you through the steps. It tells you how to do each one. It identifies best practices. It warns about common mistakes. And it gathers into one place the lessons people have learned as they built their membership programs— including, of course, the errors and wrong turns. We spent six months pulling it all together, we consulted a lot of knowledgeable people to make sure we had it right, we talked to 50+ newsrooms — or individuals and organizations supporting newsrooms — on five continents, and we’re excited to share the results with you now.

While the site is a considerable resource, I would also recommend creating and updating a Business Model Canvas to help in this process.

#think / Reading design.

An online archive of critical writing about design. The idea is to embrace the whole of design, from architecture and urbanism to product, fashion, graphics and beyond.

What a great resource. I’m surprised this isn’t part of Design Observer.

#domination / The modern brand OS.

As a strategy, modern brands represent a specific business model. This model unlocks new sources of value at the time of economic involution. Modern brands make their products and services valuable beyond their function and utility; they build an architecture to deliver new value (like subscription or membership); and then find a new way to harness this value and turn it into profit.

This approach sounds very similar to David Hieatt’s strategy for building the Hiut Demum. Very digital-first, but it would seem that it works for more than things made of ones and zeros.

See also: The 4Cs of the Modern Brand, the Global Pandemic Edition

#publishing / Time dust off Independents Day and prepare for 2.0.

A Neiman contributor predicts more journalists going independent in 2021 through blog-based upstarts:

The primary difference is that these blogs, these magazines, these whatevers, will be built and guided by the individual creators for their audience, not by the executives they once reported to or their shareholders and owners. And that’s interesting. You’re unlikely to see a new brand from Condé Nast this year, which is still trying (and failing) to clean up the ongoing problems at Bon Appetit. But we’ve already seen exciting new launches like Defector, from the team that brought you Deadspin, and Brick House, a media cooperative owned by the editors of the publications that it houses.

More independent publishing on the web—yes please!

#drleomarvin / Hiding ideas.

Seth Godin shares a tiny bit of wisdom this morning:

Some people hesitate to share an idea because they’re worried it will be stolen. In general, these people are afraid of success, not failure. An idea unspoken is a safe one, which not only can’t be stolen, but it can’t be tested, criticized, improved or used in the real world.

I can only think of one type of regret that a person can have when they are old, and that’s not putting their ideas out there and giving them a try.

#typography / Inside the font factory: meet the man who shapes the world’s letters.

I love Erik Spiekermann just as much as the next designer, but it’s nice to have this article from the Financial Times featuring a different design/typography legend, Bruno Maag. He is the founder behind DaltonMaag, the second largest type foundry. While DaltonMaag may not be a household name, they are the studio behind typefaces for companies everyone has heard of like AirBnB, USA Today, and Amazon (they created Bookerly, the eye-pleasing font for the Kindle). As well as a large host of cities and companies not as well known.

Before reading this article, I didn’t know much about Bruno (which I intend to change), but I share his opinion on Helvetica:

When Maag dislikes something, he is prone to saying so bluntly, knowing that it will attract attention. One of his targets is Helvetica, the famous font that is owned by Monotype and can be seen everywhere from the New York City subway to museums. “It has become a lazy choice – if you can’t be bothered to think, pick Helvetica,” Maag says dismissively. “You know you can get away with it. You’re not putting yourself out there.”

Be sure to add this to your weekend list of long reads, but don’t wait because I don’t know how long the Financial Times keeps articles outside of their paywall.

#arialwisdom / Dave switches back to Mac.

After years of living and computing in a deep underground cave, Dave emerged unsatisfied by his Windows experiences and purchased a new M1 MacBook. And the totally comes out swinging with these two insults of macOS.

I miss Segoe. Probably going to offend some type nerds here, but San Francisco is too squatty. I also find macOS’ 1× type rendering pales in comparison to Windows’ type rendering. Type looks great on 2× but at 1× it’s too bold and looks like a lossy JPEG.

Ok, I might have to give him the bit about San Francisco because I’m not a huge fan either, but his comment about type rendering on Windows? Are you kidding me?! By the Nine Sons of Blind Poppycock! Windows renders type in the same way unaccountable government employees spray paint letters to form words on streets. And I’m pretty sure kerning doesn’t exist in Windows.

#believe / Everyone needs some Ted Lasso in their lives.

I found myself nodding in constant agreement with every statement Miles Surrey made about Ted Lasso, a new television program that debuted earlier this year on Apple TV+.

There have been plenty of good shows this year, and most of my favorites (Better Call Saul, ZeroZeroZero, Gangs of London) don’t quite renew one’s faith in humanity—frankly, they feel like appropriate 2020 viewing all the more for it. But no series I’ve watched this year has been more rewarding, on an emotional level, than Ted Lasso. I mean this sincerely: The show has struck an optimistic chord in my increasingly cynical heart and made me want to be a better person.

Ted Lasso was a blessing for Kitchen Storey and me this year. It is a program that entertained and made you feel like maybe the world might end up in an okay place. And perhaps it will if we can get more people to hang their guard on the coat rack and listen to what Ted has to say about life, peanut butter, and teamwork.

#freddielives / MailChimp's 2020 Annual Report—not a fan.

I have and will always be a fan of MailChimp, but this latest expression of their brand is too much. Before you click the link, take a restroom break, grab a beverage, tell your co-workers you won’t see them for a while because it takes forever to get through.

My biggest gripe is that there are points in this story where I should be able to click-through to the thing being presented, but there are no hyperlinks. For example, near the beginning, there is a yellow newsstand promoting Courier, the small business magazine MailChimp purchased earlier this year. In this promotion, three of the top stories are called out, yet I can’t click on any of them.

This means I can’t share any of the content—this report is like a six-foot blog post made up of one run-on sentence. It’s a shame because there are some really great stories about how their service is enabling companies to do their best work. Comicbook form storytelling has always been a part of the Mailchimp brand, but I preferred it when they just sent out actual comic books instead of producing an HTML based cartoon.

#rif / The next best American author dies before his first book is published.

Enough dying already, @#$%! Unfortunately I had not heard of Anthony Veasna So until coming across this weird biography/obituary piece in the Times. Intrigued by what I read, I headed over to literary magazine N+1 and started reading So’s short story, Superking Son Scores Again—The Magic Johnson of badminton. I’m not all the way through, but already I’m hooked on his storytelling, and I’m pissed that such a great talent is gone. I’ve pre-ordered Anthony’s book, Afterparties: Stories, and I can already tell I’ll want more when I’m done.

#lingonberries / Byron's last mountain bike ride of the season.

Sounds a bit too similar to a haunting Robert Frost story:

It’s below freezing. The front valve stuck. The tire is almost deflated before I noticed. By now, there’s maybe 4 psi in the tire. I’m screwed, I think. It’s freezing rain. The bead is gonna break away from the rim. I know it. If the tire blows, I’ll have to walk home, do I have enough layers on to stay warm? I’m worried.

Thankfully nobody died of hypothermia but instead came away with a lesson in “free air life.”

#freedomtest / Our civics test.

The one hundred and twenty-eight questions and answers immigrants must know as part of their citizenship application.

These questions cover important topics about American government and history. The civics test is an oral test and the USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] officer will ask you to answer 20 out of the 128 civics test questions. You must answer at least 12 questions (or 60%) correctly to pass the 2020 version of the civics test.

When the Karens and Terrys shout at minorities to go home, a citizenship test should be administered to see if they have what it takes to live in “America.” And if they fail, perhaps a lovely evening at an ICE detention center to help them reflect on their anger and actions.

#alltogethernow / "Break down the walls."

I abhor silos, fiefdoms, and territories in the workplace. They are the toxic result of poor leadership, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with it. If you agree, then you’re going to love Misook Ji’s article. It is a design-centric call to action, every company should consider, and if you need a reason why Misook states it right up front:

Strong cross-discipline collaboration between design, research, engineering, and product management, makes a huge difference in adding value for consumers and businesses. Accenture’s Together Makes Better reports that companies that invested in cross-functional collaboration to drive digital transformation enjoyed 27% earnings growth from 2017 to 2019, while those that didn’t only achieve 2% growth.

The bottom line—collaboration equals positive revenue growth. Cross-discipline collaboration, when done right, means better communication, stronger ideas, and faster execution. Yes, this article emphasized product teams (design, engineering, management), but this approach works in every place where there are cross-discipline dependencies.

#breathe / "I, for one, take solace in knowing we’re not seeing something new."

My head nodded in agreement when I read this statement by John on his blog, Daring Fireball. In his post, John quotes a passage from an article written by Richard Hofstadter for Harper’s magazine in November 1964. The Paranoid Style in American Politics describes a politically charged, divided country. While reading the paragraph, it is easy to imagine Richard wrote the article just yesterday to describe our current climate. While the 1960s did not contain a pandemic, other events turned the country into a powder keg: The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Protests, and the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Senator Kennedy. I hope we never get to the point of mirroring all of the events from that time, but I too take a measure of comfort that the United States has been through tough times like these before.

#chill / For one day, the NHL arena moved to the mountains.

A helicopter pilot found a frozen glacial lake and hot mopped it to create a small playing surface. Two helicopters, several trips, and many COVID tests later, they played hockey.

Red team vs. Blue team. With a single net, the men played two games of “half-ice,” hockey’s answer to half-court basketball.

I love this—hockey’s version of Volta.

#delivered / Democracy by mail.

A New York Times Magazine photo essay on the work behind mail-in ballots—from printing to counting. As always, the NYT crew creates a wonderful experience to tell the story.

#readyplayerone / Google Is Bringing Stadia To iOS.

This might kill the Nintendo Switch for me. I’ve never been a huge Nintendo fan, I got one primarily for the new Zelda title. Since then Nintendo has been slow to release anything new and compelling. Streaming would also help me reduce the number of devices I have which is always a big plus. The only thing that might be better is if Microsoft brings their Gold Pass service to iOS.

#writing / Obama on writing.

From an adapted excerpt of President Barack Obama’s new memoir, A Promised Land published by The Atlantic comes this thought from Obama about writing while he drafted his presidential memoirs:

I still like writing things out in longhand, finding that a computer gives even my roughest drafts too smooth a gloss and lends half-baked thoughts the mask of tidiness.

I haven’t written anything by hand in so long I don’t know what I might be missing. Though it does not share any insights into his process, here’s an interesting story on Obama’s literary past including authoring his first book, Dreams From My Father.

#workflow / Dave's quintessential blogging mistake.

Quick note, if you’re not following Mr. Ruperts blog then get on it. Moving on, Dave shares a lesson learned on blogging:

I made a mistake. Three weeks ago I settled into a nice blogging flow and had a decent stream of published posts. It felt so good to get ideas out of my head. Sitting on a handful of nearly done posts, I was putting the finishing touches on one of my precious thoughvomits, I got the bright idea to spice it up by adding some illustrations…

I chuckled because I did this about a year ago inspired by blogs that use Unsplash to add an image to every post. It’s easy to search for a photo, but illustrations not so much. I concur with Dave’s thoughts including his conclusion—”Don’t do this.”

#design / The three-click rule is dead.

Boxes and Arrows makes the case for dropping old, conventional wisdom in the face of new learnings from research:

Let’s stop counting clicks. The speed, conversion rates, and user satisfaction for your product are in no way connected to the number of clicks a user makes. And once we start limiting clicks, our page quickly starts to look like a directory: a list of every option, tiny font, in alphabetical order. For the user, this ultimately ends up feeling like we’re looking for a needle in a haystack. This is not the experience we’re hoping to achieve. Instead, we should focus on the human. We should zero in on how they want to use our application. The less experience they have, the higher the risk and the stranger the situation, the more stress the task entails.

Designing to simplify a users life is always the path to victory.

#publishing / magCulture Live 2020.

If you love publishing then I have an event for you. The annual magCulture conference is now a two-day affair, November 17 and 18, with each day dedicated to a theme.

The first session has ‘Activism’ as its central theme, highlighting the power of magazines as platforms for change from both historical and contemporary standpoints. The second session is based around the theme ‘Analogue’, reminding us that there’s more to magazine-making than computers. How can editors and art directors maintain a human touch?

The speakers are a wonderful collection of designers, editors, authors, and founders from an eclectic range of publications from The Atlantic to Record Culture. The price point for admission is very affordable and the sessions run late in the UK which means early attendance here in the US.

#architecture / Hotels of Pyongyang.

A glimpse of well preserved North Korean hospitality architecture (interior and exteriors) heavenly influenced by 1970’s China, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Looks like a bunch of Wed Anderson film sets without the heavy use of Futura.

The photos are from a new book published out of Australia.

#muchbetter / The Animaniacs reboot we all desperately need.

Given the metric tons of shit we’re all dealing with right now, it’s nice to have some comedy back in our lives. Watch the trailer and you’ll see for yourself, the writing is just as sharp and smart as it was. And it proves that while satire might need a break, comedy—when done right—still works.

What’s that? You don’t like animation? Either learn to appreciate the format and have a laugh or go grow some grass from seeds you harvested one at a time.

#goodtimes / "The fed-up chef."

Even before they get to talking about food, I can tell I’d love Gaggan Anand and his restaurant by the same name.

The meal cost $400 and came with rules. No. 1: No using cellphones, except to document the dinner and the chefs preparing it. “Please do the Instagram, the Facebook, the Twitter; give me the fame, I need the fame,” said Gaggan Anand, whose restaurant bore the same name. Clad in black, with a booming voice that suited his hulking figure, he stalked between a vast kitchen island and an L-shaped table for 14. “Those of you with good cameras, if you can take a photo of me scratching my ass, you get a bottle of Champagne.

And more rules, perhaps the best saved for last.

Limits on trips to the bathroom. “The first hour is all belted in,” he said. “After that, we will not give toilet breaks”—the meal would last the usual five hours—“but if you have to, just go quickly and come back. Think of this as a nonsmoking flight with no Wi-Fi, no network, and it’s an Indian airline, so nothing works and it’s very turbulent. You might be crashing soon, so you’d better enjoy.

Gotta love a good sense of humor. Especially when you’re approaching a four hour long dinner.

#heyjoey / Gowalla is back!

Feels like there is rarely good news about the Internet these days. Maybe that’s why this morning’s news of the return of Gowalla was especially welcome.

Gowalla was a beloved iOS application. It was one of the first to encourage real-world exploration by rewarding users to register or check-into the place they were visiting. Places could be anything from a park to a public building to the corner watering hole. The quality of the design was second to none and featured an ever-expanding catalog of icons illustrated by Brian Brasher. A lot of work went into the brand that extended beyond the digital experience. It was warm, welcome, and made travel–of all kinds—more fun.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for a competing experience to appear in the form of Foursquare which paired business check-ins with coupons. It was ugly and lacked personality, but the value proposition of savings a dollar off a margarita was enough to attract more users. Gowalla was shut down in 2012.

This morning a tweet from an old Twitter account announced the return of Gowalla though with a different experience based on augmented reality. I’m just glad to have it back. It’s so great to see the Gowalla brand and its kangaroo back in the world.

#travel / Supersonic travel is making a comeback.

American aviation company Boom Supersonic unveiled a scaled prototype—called “Baby Boom”—of a supersonic aircraft earlier today. The larger vehicle is scheduled to be finished in 2025 with commercial flights taking place approximately four years later. Flights like Tokyo to Seattle, New York to London, and Montreal to Paris will take four hours on the new aircraft. In addition to this amazing news, Boom won a contract last month to design a future version of Air Force One.

#winwin / "My secret weapon for helping executives understand the value of design."

In my experience many of the problems encountered are due to pour alignment as a result of even worse communication. And I think we’ve all had to bear the brunt of the results more often than we care to recall.

To help improve both communication and alignment in product design and development, Phil Gilbert (GM of IBM Design) came up with “Playbacks” as a “place where the results of all the detailed operational decisions are shown and alignment is kept with a minimum of fuss.” They are a key in IBM Design Thinking. Playbacks have evolved a bit from their original scope to become a vital tool for alignment across teams and levels of leadership. To achieve success It should not be considered a tool but a fundamental practice in product management as it is done at IBM.

My friend and former colleague Colin Naver has presented many of Playbacks during his tenure at IBM. Recently he published an article on this practice and how it has helped his career in product management and design.

#practical / The eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life.

On his way to his next venture, health and wellbeing columnist Oliver Burkman sums up years of writing and research.

What follows isn’t intended as an exhaustive summary. But these are the principles that surfaced again and again, and that now seem to me most useful for navigating times as baffling and stress-inducing as ours.

Some very useful and practical advice. You’re all going to want to read through this and likely save a copy to Pocket.

#newsstand / Issues of design discourse past.

And on this day the design community received a gift from the heavens in the form of Emigre magazine, for free.

The final six issues of Emigre magazine, co-published with Princeton Architectural Press from 2003-2005, are now available as free PDF downloads from the Emigre website. These six pocket-book sized volumes were a final effort by Emigre to highlight and encourage critical writing within graphic design. We believed that design, as a cultural force, was worthy of an evaluative look, so we turned an inquisitive eye on our profession. All six issues have sold out years ago. We’re now making them available for free to anybody who’d like to revisit or who missed the excitement of the often heated debates that were circulating within graphic design during the early years of the 21st century.

If you liked Emigre and want more of that type of writing consider the digital publications Design Observer and Brand New, and Eye magazine—which just published its 100th issue.

#fishon / “Puck yeah!”

As anticipated here’s BrandNew on the Seattle Kraken identity:

While the rest of the year crumbles around us, 2020 has been a very good one for sports logos and now we have a team called the Kraken and while that could easily go wrong in so many ways this doesn’t disappoint in any single way. I don’t know what it is about “Kraken” but whether it’s rum or robotics it’s a name that delivers so much without breaking a sweat and, here, when paired with “Seattle” it just blows up instantly with the mere idea that a kraken could live in the Puget Sound. As if the attention to detail wasn’t so good so far, the secondary logo of an anchor has the Space Needle at the top. I mean, c’mon!

I could not agree more.

#themurricane / "Being Bill Murray."

An older article that includes this piece of advice:

Ask Murray about his reputation as the master of surreal celebrity encounters and he grimaces, not eager to explain his motivations. But he will concede that he’s aware of how his presence is received. “No one has an easy life,” he says. “It’s this face we put on, that we’re not all getting rained on. But you can’t start thinking about numbers—if I can change just one person, or I had three nice encounters. You can’t think that way, because you’re certainly going to have one where you say, ‘What did I just do?’ You’re a disappointment to yourself, and others, imminently. Any second.”

Something to remember when you’re cruising through Instagram.

#idiocracy / "Readers don’t always know what “editorial” means, and the word itself has multiple uses."

This is exactly why bloggers should never have been treated like members of the press earlier in the century. The rise of editorial content in the form of blogging (without proper disclaimers and public education) helped to propagate ignorance on what is news versus editorial. And then cable television jumped on the bandwagon and turned what was left of news into nothing but 24/7 editorial and punditry, though it is consumed as “news.” What’s really a shame (and not currently helping) is that members of the Baby Boomer generation—who grew up on Walter Cronkite—can’t tell the difference anymore.

By the way, we still have a good old fashioned news program. It’s called PBS Newshour.

#thepivot / "We act and behave like a brand new restaurant every year."

Monocle 24 talks to the sibling owners of Canlis, the best restaurant on the West coast, on their multiple, amazing pivots during the pandemic. “How do we throw our entire selves in being three completely different restaurants.” They prepared long before the shut-down and have kept all 1500 of their people employed.

A must listen to everyone in business.

#repurposed / It appears that MailChimp purchased Courier magazine.

Wow! From their email announcement:

We’re excited to share that Courier, a London-based media company, has recently joined the Mailchimp family. Courier’s mission is to help modern small business founders and entrepreneurs like you work smarter, realize your dreams, and live life on your terms. And starting today, we’re bringing Courier’s stories, interviews, and guides to the Mailchimp site, so all our customers can benefit from their insights.

Courier’s existing website is still up and running. The MailChimp version seems to be selective (maybe?) about which articles are brought over. And there is a distinctive difference in the creative direction between the two properties.

#typography / Hoefler&Co goes on the campaign trail.

Mr. Hoefler with an interesting tidbit on the usage guidelines for the Biden campaign: “Working together, we came up with some guidelines for the campaign’s typography, which would help articulate thoughtful messages with attentive typography. Words of action would be set in Decimal’s declarative small capitals, while the supporting syntax would rely on Mercury Text Grade Four.”

#moreplease / "The Towers of Ladakh."

A National Geographic podcast with a cool story about “a mechanical engineer teams up with an unlikely band of students who use middle school math and science to create artificial glaciers that irrigate Ladakh, a region in India hit hard by climate change.”

#viewsource / “The matter of collaborative costs.”

A terrific point taken from “The design systems between us,” an insightful essay from Ethan on the cost of dedicated design tools and development decisions may not scale outside of engineering.

Modern digital teams rarely discuss decisions in terms of the collaborative costs they incur. It’s tempting—and natural!—to see design-or engineering-related decisions in isolation: that selecting Vue as a front-end framework only impacts the engineering team, or that migrating to Figma only impacts designers. But each of these changes the way that team works, which impacts how other teams will work and collaborate with them.

If you’re in the business, I encourage you to read and re-read this post because it alludes to another evolution in our industry that will shake things up. It’s not clear if it will be good or bad for designers and/or developers, but it has the potential to have a bigger impact than Responsive and Ajax combined.

#billmurray / The French Dispatch.

A Wes Anderson film starring Bill Murray about a newspaper—are you kidding me?! Ye gods! I hope the suits aren’t going to sit on this until a cure for COVID-19 is found. I don’t care what’s playing, going to a movie theatre is at the very bottom of my post-pandemic checklist.

#movetenspaces / "Senet is an all-new independent print magazine about the craft, creativity and community of board gaming."

I love it when my interests converge with independent magazine publishing. My copies of Senet have not arrived just yet but by the photos, this looks to be a fantastic publication.

The magazine promotes board gaming as an art form. Each issue includes previews of the most exciting and intriguing upcoming games, features which explore the tabletop experience and the creative processes behind it, and reviews of the latest releases from both major and independent publishers.

The tell will be in the quality of the writing, but I’m hopeful and look forward to future issues.

#typography / The Type Directors Club is dead.

”…the board has decided to dismantle the organization in its current state and end the lease on the Club’s physical space. The board believes the club should be reconstituted in a new, more inclusive form, under different leadership in the future.”

This is in response to the TDC called out recently for racist perspectives and practices by a former board member Juan Villanueva. He writes, “I hate burning bridges but the bridge of racism needs to burn.”

#missingmanual / Four principles from a working mom worth applying to all of our lives.

“I’m a professor who teaches and a consultant who advises various organizations, married to a committed working spouse [and] the mom of four children: the oldest is seven; the youngest is just over six months old.

I’ve come to believe that the difference between going to bed feeling content or disappointed at the end of the day has a lot to do with the expectations we set for ourselves. Let’s lower our standards. Better yet: Let’s use this moment to shift them to something more reasonable.”

Solid advice from a mom who knows a thing or two about the hustle.

#notgameon / "Boot Camp will not work on Apple silicon-based Macs."

I can’t say that I’m surprised. When I read the analysts’ reports about this move to ARM my first thought was, Basecamp is screwed. I believe this happened before when Apple made the move from PowerPC to Intel. I can’t imagine that Microsoft will lift a finger to create a version of Windows that will run on ARM chipsets which possibly means this is the end to dual-boot Macs (emulators will possibly figure this out if there is an adequate market demand). This seriously puts a cramp into my initial thoughts about switching to PC gaming instead of buying into the next generation of consoles. Maybe it’s time to follow in Dolan’s footsteps and take up chess.

#want / #000000 {lives:matter;}.

A must-buy t-shirt with a design that is a “nod to the art/design/tech community while (always and forever) reminding folks that ‘Black Lives Matter.’” Proceeds go to worthy charities.

#reading / The 2020 Eisner Awards Nominees.

It’s a shame that Valiant did not make the list this year. Immortal Hulk, Doctor Doom, Invisible Kingdom, Once & Future, and Undiscovered Country were all delightful news to me and I picked up the first story arc for all of the titles (Marvel books are on sale right now and regularly). I also came upon The White Trees, Afterlift, and Starship Down. I love it when the Eisner Awards points me to titles I would have never considered checking out otherwise.

#typography / MacOS Catalina users have access to premium typography.

What better way to kick off a new week than with free, amazing type? I wish more Monday’s started off this way.

Apple has recently licensed fonts from type foundries such as Commercial Type, Klim Type Foundry and Mark Simonson Studio to be used as system fonts on Mac OS Catalina. But since these fonts are an optional download, many users of Mac OS X are not even aware they have access to them for free.

Over-saturation of Domaine, Produkt, and Publico is imminent.

#nerdvsgeek / An oral history behind the Star Trek episode that saved "Next Generation."

A fun read with a kicker!

As great as “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is, it is a source of some regret for one of its key creative architects.

“I wish we did this as the plot for Generations,” Moore says, referencing the first Star Trek feature film featuring The Next Generation crew that he co-wrote with Brannon Braga. “If we hadn’t have done that episode, then [the movie] would have been the Enterprise-A coming through that wormhole, and you’d have Spock and Kirk and everyone on that ship, we’d play the same story. They — the original crew — they had to go back to their deaths. And Guinan knew Kirk, and Guinan knew Picard, and that would have been an amazing movie.”

Can you imagine? I agree with Brannon, this plot would have made a fantastic film. There is a lot behind this one storyline that a cinematic format could have addressed so much better.

#typography / Under Consideration takes a look at the identity for Think 2020, IBM's annual technology and insights conference.

The work was a joint effort between artist Imogen Heap and a UK based creative agency called Field. I enjoyed the story behind this work (near the bottom of the page) and how Imogen seemingly wandered around Armonk—IBM headquarters—to record different sounds to incorporate in the work. It reminded me of watching Ben Burtt share his many stories on creating sounds for Star Wars in a similar fashion. And any time IBM Plex (one of the all-time best type families) gets front-row attention it’s worth sharing.

#utopia / "There is no plan to return to normal."

Vox looks at models (from left, center, and right-leaning institutions) projecting how to return people back to work and restart the economy while the virus continues to linger. One insight that seems certain: Mass-and-ongoing testing (when the nation has built the infrastructure) and mass surveillance are coming to the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, and Never Ready for a Real Crisis.

It might be a good time to brush up on 1984.

#utopia / Hey, who wants free Dungeons & Dragons stuff?

As part of a stay at home, play at home campaign the game publishers are giving away resources during the quarantine—Especially for parents.

With schools closed around the world, many parents and caregivers are at home with their kids, including many in the D&D community. If you are in need of fun & educational material to share and/or play with your kids, you can check back here each day for D&D stuff to help during this time. If you (or someone you know) is a younger gamer, we’re also releasing resources to make it even easier to get into D&D.

When I was in grade school the smart kids were pulled into special creative and critical thinking classes. One of the things we did was play Dungeons & Dragons to teach a number of team mechanics and to extend our imagination.

#utopia / "Larry David, master of his quarantine."

Be sure to add this to your reading list for the weekend. I mean come on, it’s not like you have anything else to do. Parents, give this article to your children and have them present a report on what they learned. It’s not like they have anything else to do either.

#utopia / RIP The Outline.

Sad to see it go. I would have liked to see what evolution looked like for all the effort they put into the design. I shudder to think how many more of these announcements are coming.

#utopia / Inside Delta's command center the week the coronavirus devastated the airline industry.

An interesting look behind the scenes of what it looks like to manage an entire airline, and the current decision making to reduce risk to passengers and the company.

On Friday, in an extraordinary letter to employees, chief executive Ed Bastian announced a 40 percent cut in capacity—the biggest in Delta’s history, including after 9/11. “The speed of the demand falloff is unlike anything we’ve seen.”

Feels like airline mergers are on the horizon again. Here’s Business Insider on “the fallout” from 9/11 and the coronavirus.

#viewsource / "Using a DSLR as a Webcam."

While working with Jesse I noticed that his video looked remarkably better than mine. In this post, he documents his entire setup which includes a Sony A6000. Cool setup! I’m going to dig into this and make improvements to the Airbag headquarters.

#utopia / "I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it."

An op-ed piece from Beth Cameron, former senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council:

When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact. Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19.

No doubt part of the Drain the Swamp Make America Great Again initiative. Now we’re living in a swamp and America doesn’t feel so great. Nice work.

#utopia / Is it canceled yet?

“Coachella—sadly no.” An informative, single-function site with a bit of dark humor mixed in for good measure.

#viewsource / Python, movin' on up.

From Wired magazine (I gotta hand it to those folks, they’re trying to bring back the magic. Be a cynic all you want but I’d rather live in a world that’s trying to bring the magazine back to its roots than one that just gives up. Okay, back to the story about languages.):

Python is one of the world’s most popular programming languages. In fact, it’s more so than ever. Python climbed from third place to tie for second in the latest ranking of programming language popularity published by the analyst firm RedMonk.

You know, this site used to run on Movabletype that was initially powered by Python. Maybe it’s time to bring it back. Just kidding Jesse!

#typography / The highlighter of 1484.

Working on three different branding projects, I have browsed through a good deal of type families lately. Most families contain a fair amount of glyphs (boxes, stars, etc.) but on occasion, I’ve come across the symbol of a pointing hand. I didn’t think much about its use until recently after coming across the article “Point, don’t point.”

[The] pointed-finger symbol goes by many names: mutton fist, printer’s fist, bishop’s fist, pointer, hand director, indicule, or most unimaginatively as “a hand.” Scholarly consensus has pretty much settled on the word “manicule”, from the Latin maniculum, meaning “little hand.”

Scribes and scholars—sometimes readers—used a manicule to “emphasize a significant word, phrase or passage” much like how readers today use a highlighter. FF Franziska, the type family used in the upcoming Airbag design refresh has such a mark and now I am intrigued on how to incorporate it here in the future.

#nerd / Atari is now a brand of hotels.

From the official website: “Atari Hotels level up hotel entertainment with fully immersive experiences for every age and gaming ability, including the latest in Virtual and Augmented Reality.” It makes sense to integrate a hotel around these entertainment options given the popularity of gaming. But only if the tech and content are constantly updated. Otherwise, it will end up like today’s movie theater lobbies rocking Time Crisis II and Sega OutRun.

#nerd / IBM smacks down Google on it's claim around quantum computing.

“Google picked a problem they thought to be really hard on a classical machine, but IBM now has demonstrated that the problem is not as hard as Google thought it was,” says Jonathan Dowling, a professor at Louisiana State University.

As a fellow IBMer it makes me feel good to see Big Blue getting into a bit of a street fight here. While I didn’t work with the quantum computing folks directly, I followed some of their work and it’s truly badass—IBM doing what their brand always makes me think of: Deep research and development into the future.

#travel / "I took the world’s first 20-hour flight. Here’s what it did to me."

A first person account of the record breaking 19 hour non-stop flight from New York City to Sydney, Australia. The flight was setup to run a number of experiments including how to get passengers through such a grueling flight while acclimating to the destination time during the travel.

Marie Carroll, a professor at the University of Sydney who’s overseeing the passenger research on the flight, rallies her troops at the back of the plane. “This is the time, guys, when we really have to work through this,” she tells them. Moments later, they’re leaning against the food trolleys in the galley, stretching. Next, they perform upright press-ups among the empty economy sets. As a finale, they attempt synchronized dance moves in the aisles. All in the name of science. It looks like cabaret, but beating jet lag is serious business. Beyond the sleepless nights and daytime fatigue, experts say critical processes including heart function and metabolism are upset when the body clock gets disrupted.

It will be interesting to see how the research impacts the passenger experience on future long-haul flights. I once flew from Dallas to Shanghai and it took 14.5 hours and even though I had a first class cabin on a brand new Boing 787, the travel affects hit me like a wall and it took an entire day to recover.

As the number of annual airline passengers increases from “4.6 billion this year to 8.2 billion by 2037” I’m sure this research will come in handy. Meanwhile, the Guardian pledges [“How to explore the world without harming it.”]()

#utopia / "Stories of People Who Are Racing to Save Us."

From the editors of Wired magazine:

Climate change. Flawed algorithms. Deadly diseases. Tech monopolies. We are facing many existential challenges that need to be tackled head-on before it’s too late. Many of these problems are of our own making, consequences of our relentless push for progress. Fortunately, there are lots of people who are racing to save us from ourselves—progress we can definitely get behind.

It’s great to see Wired getting back into its game, and on these topics.