What I read (and what I didn’t read) in 2018

This is a long one! In this post we’ve got all my short reviews of the books I read in 2018, some very brief notes on the books I put down in 2018 without completing, notes on coming back to Twitter, and finally some notes on leaving Facebook. (The last one made my life much better, I think.) Here’s what I read and didn’t read in 2018. (All book title links are affiliate-free links to Goodreads.) What I read Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio Recommended for anyone interested in the continual design of the life or organization they find themselves in. Best seen as Dalio...

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone

Some thoughts on how to push back against the gravity of “going it alone” when working remote or in an all-distributed company. I have several friends at work who love the Zelda game series from Nintendo. And I played the first few games growing up so the video-game-famous quote from the first game, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.” has been stuck in my head for years now. So maybe it’s no surprise that the other day while thinking about what it’s like to work in an 800+ person fully-distributed company where everyone is working “remote” I realized that...

We’re nominating Design for Best Supporting Actor and Actress

We’ve started using Design as “best supporting actor/actress” as a metaphorical goal for our centralized Design teams at Automattic. It’s an interesting metaphor, right? It’s got to feel good to be up on stage clutching a golden trophy. But why not nominate Design for the starring role? Here’s how I’ve started to think about it. Imagine it’s Oscar night at your company. Best picture? Those are the projects and goals that led to success for the business and our users this past year. We went out to see that story come to life. Best actor or actress? The product and...

Self-Inflicted Chaos

An interesting analysis from John Cutler on Self-inflicted Chaos in organizations. What’s self-inflicted chaos? Self-inflicted chaos – Trying to do too much at once, and ending up doing nothing particularly well. – Misjudging the blast radius of task or project, and the non-linear impacts that misjudgment will have on the whole organization. Versus – When a startup team is “killing it”, there tends to be an almost eery sense of focus. – Fewer meetings, that produce “good ideas” or “wouldn’t it be cool ifs” and more “done, done, next thing on-deck, no blockers.” Good to remember. Are you headed in the...

The wisdom of duplication

I love this passage from Arnie Lund’s tome on User Experience Management. I think it’s really important to consider. Especially if you lead in a distributed organization. We perceive information via three channels: – Visual (60%) – Audio (30%) – and Semantic (10%). When we share information via e-mail or any other sharing tool, it is perceived only via semantic channel which is usually not sufficient. That is why it is wise to duplicate orally at least some data that have been shared in written form, and to provide visual support for audio information. Distant communication is less vivid than...

Closing the gap

I like to think we all know of someone we admire. Someone who possesses a character or set of skills we’d like to see in ourselves. It’s certainly true of me and has been my whole life. What to do about it? We can’t go back in time and relive our lives and I’m sure we wouldn’t want to but there is something we can do. We can close the gap. We can start on something small pointed in the same direction as that person or persons. Starting small can really work. Starting with one push-up a day and growing...

Worse is Better

I came across the software design philosophy of “Worse is Better” via a post from John Maeda titled Perfection vs Just Ship It. The idea is that software which follows the “worse-is-better” approach has “better survival characteristics than the-right-thing.” You can read all about it in the original essay —  The Rise of “Worse is Better” — but I made a table here for easier side-by-side comparison.

The Wave

For a while now I’ve been using my iPhone wallpaper and lock screen to get some more art in my life. (I do the same thing on my Desktop with a rotating custom gallery in Momentum.) The current iPhone art is The Wave by 19th Century Russian artist, Ivan Aivazovsky. It’s apparently one of his most bleak works of sailors lost at sea but I just see people trying their hardest to work make the impossible work. Sometimes I think what I’m working on is impossible or at least extremely difficult. It’s nowhere near as difficult as that. It’s a good...

Ray Dalio and Bob Dylan on challenging the unconcious mind

What does Ray Dalio, super-investor and author of Principles for Life and Work think your greatest challenge is? It’s mastering the part of you that won’t be mastered. Your greatest challenge will be having your thoughtful higher-level you manage your emotional lower-level you. The best way to do that is to consciously develop habits that will make doing the things that are good for you habitual. — Ray Dalio in Principles for Life and Work I’ve been thinking of this as more like a struggle. The struggle for your (somewhat) free will — your conscious thought — to control and...

Improving focus by removing the web browser from my phone

Five days ago I used the restrictions settings on my iPhone to block access to my web browser. I did it on a whim wondering what it would be like and since that time I’ve turned it on once for only a few minutes. I was in Home Depot and wanted to know what kind of tape I needed for insulation vapour barrier. (It’s Tuck Tape.) It’s been an interesting experiment. Why? It was immediately apparent that it was destroying my focus in an incredible way. Or at least, having access to it was. I do most of my personal...