I’ve been trying to explain to friends for a while why the design of today’s online dating apps don’t work to find them the love they seek. Depending on what you’re looking for, online dating can open a wealth of opportunities and possibilities that your neighborhood simply can’t compete with. One of the things we don’t ask ourselves anymore is whether this bounty of access is really good for us.
Bees can train each other to use tools (ArsTechnica)
As an undergraduate, I took an insect biology class because I thought it’d be interesting. I didn’t retain much from those days, but bees and ants and their whole order fascinate me. This story tells what I mostly knew, bees are quite smart and apparently, can learn to use tools and teach other bees to do it too.
The Contestant Who Outsmarted ‘The Price Is Right’ (Esquire)
You probably don’t realize how much I love game shows. This is a story about someone who managed to get a perfect score in the showcase showdown, the first time (and only time to date) it’s ever happened, thanks to a Vegas card-counter. This is a podcast episode waiting to happen for some intrepid show.
Mars Needs Lawyers – (Five Thirty Eight)
Most people don’t realize that the majority of the treaties that govern space were drafted during the height of the space race in the 1960s. As companies continue to invade space, what will determine the rules of engagement as humans colonize space? Maggie Koerth-Baker talks about the need for more space lawyers.
The World’s Worst Skier Had Never Skiied On Snow (NYTimes)
I know a good half of my friends and followers are not regular sports fans, so I love introducing you all to these off-beat sports stories that I don’t think would otherwise end up on your radar. This is about a skiier Adrian Solano of Venezuela and his foray into the Skiing World Championships and his ‘unorthodox’ form. There are lots of warm-weather athletes who participate in cold weather sports despite no one in their country caring about that sport, the lack of training options and opportunities to get sponsorships. This one will be a useful dinner party story.
The Top 40 is anything but (Outline)
A glimpse into the outdated ways that music’s Top 40 charts get determined, radio programming gets dictated and as a result, why it fails to reflect the ways that real people listen to music in modern times.
I Lost My Olympic Dream By A Fraction of A Second (MEL Magazine)
I appreciated this story because I think there are few parallels to losing your dream when it’s not dictated by how hard you work, but by luck, timing and maybe someone being a fraction of a second faster than you were. I think there are not as many real life applications to this when your job is working in an office or something, but I still think it’s worth thinking about in the context of the work we do ever.
Reading: I’m half slogging through Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” via Audible, but I can already tell that I’m not going to be really able to get into it and it’ll be a return for me. I can’t recommend it.
You can send me a book recommendation, I would like to add it to my list.
If you want to subscribe to my podcast where I do this audio versions, you can do that via iTunes or Stitcher to whatever podcast app you use (or just search my name. It’ll come up.)
Growing up, I loved getting mail. I recall waiting for the mailman on days when I was home. How much mail does a pre-teen get anyway? Not a lot. Some postcards, a note from my aunt stationed in Germany. Eventually, college packets and other junk would arrive as I got older. Instant messaging had at least a modicum of friction because it existed in a world where most people at home weren’t always online. I recall putting up an away message or letting people know when I’d be back, so there wasn’t an expectation they were being ignored.
These days, it’s almost impossible to keep up with everyone wanting a second of your time in one form or another.
In her book, Alone Together, Shirley Turkle explores this modern conundrum.
“Texting offers just the right amount of access, just the right amount of control. She is a modern Goldilocks: for her, texting puts people not too close, not too far, but at just the right distance. The world is now full of modern Goldilockses, people who take comfort in being in touch with a lot of people whom they also keep at bay.”
― Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other
Nobody talks about the price of stamps as much as they used to, because we so rarely send personal letters. Postage matters when you care about Amazon sending you a flat rate package faster, but gone are the days of obsessing over the right amount of stamps for sending individual letters to your pen pal or friend across the pond who you haven’t called in weeks because it’s too expensive to do all of the time.
As marketers and product people, how often do we consider people’s time in our design? I’m not talking about page load times or the opaque “time on page” metric in Google Analytics. I once joked on Twitter that app designers should make their apps with the idea that people are driving 60 mph reading whatever it is on the screen. It’s a horrifying thought at first, but how much are we considering the stress cases that are a lot more unique than our ideal personas would have us believe. Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher explore this in “Design For Real Life”:
“As you write your personas and scenarios, don’t drain the life from them: be raw, bringing in snippets of users’ anecdotes, language, and emotion wherever you can. Whoever picks these personas up down the line should feel as compelled to help them as you do.”
Designers need to ask better questions about our complicity in a world that makes people more anxious through tools aimed at making our lives better. It’s not only an exercise in self-control, it’s recognizing the unwitting ways that our desires for connection leave us tethered when we should be more present. It might sell fewer widgets, perhaps fewer people will check into your app more. But what about thinking aloud about being human in the ways that we construct and design for real people? So much of our design is created for an aggregated populace; we traffick in habits and trends rather than real experiences. This construct makes it easier to detach ourselves from the impact and outcomes of design decisions made in an open-office somewhere far from where regular people are using what we make.
As apps proliferate, we have to ask ourselves whether every intrusion is warranted. Instead of thinking of our product as the one solving problems others leave behind, we need to confront each interaction as an intrusion. Every time we ask someone to track what they did, when they did it and assume they meant it as a result, we’re creating an imprint that might trigger a domino effect that transforms their life — not always for the better.
Sisterhood of the Skateboard (NYTimes)
A story I read earlier last year, but wanted to share for the audio edition of this newsletter, about a group of young girls who skateboard through Upper Manhattan and The Bronx.
The Blazer Experiment (99% Invisible)
From a podcast, 99% Invisible, this is a story about the Menlo Park Police department who in 1968 decided to experiment with putting officers in blazers rather than uniforms as a method to improve relations with local populace which was strained at the time.
For the past week, I’ve been doing this thing where I read old posts. Not old posts on work things, but personal blog posts. Across the web, like a virtual office strewn with coffee ringed papers, I have content I’ve been saving for myself off and on. A lot of these breadcrumbs were not written deliberately for me to revisit, I simply wrote them at the time because it’s how I felt. I don’t do much of this anymore, because it seems passé to write longform blog posts ranting your feelings.
What’s been interesting about going back and revisiting the past, is the assurance I take from understanding my journey at the time and what was ahead of me. It feels like a long time ago and at the same time, it feels very recent. Thinking about that context, makes me start to realize that the next 4-5 years will look and perhaps feel very different than what life right now feels like.
It’s easy in the midst of frustrations, to feel like things are permanent. Getting a sense of perspective is especially difficult when you move a lot, because the people in your world only have a sense of your immediate life and not the roads you took to get where you are now. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot of about mindfulness and arranging my life in ways to stay present with what’s happening now.
Going back and reading my archives has helped immensely, because it allows me a chance to reflect on thins that no one else would know. I can conjure memories of complexities and thinking aloud how I would get from whatever space I was in, to the next stage of my life. I can recall often feeling marooned and plain-old stuck. Reminding myself to be grateful for the progress and the process has been instructive.
1. Curbing my social media usage
The post-Trump world of Twitter is surely a mental drain. I just haven’t been as engaged to participate. Not only about politics, just about anything really. I can recall feeling like for a long time, the only true friends I had were living in other places and I’d use the web as an excuse to communicate with them since it didn’t feel like at times the people in my everyday life really “got” me. I realized over time, the problem wasn’t the people, it was me.
Cutting back my usage has been helpful, though I backslide. Instead of feeling like I need to post a photo everytime something happens, I’ll sometimes take a picture and record it later. I’m also more judicious about what I share. For a long time, I didn’t really have much to post about, so I think there was a long period of time where I felt really good to have things to share and would share EVERYTHING. I’m over it, now.
2. Please Remember Rule #6
Don’t take yourself so seriously.
3. Defining discipline for yourself
Maybe it’s the fact that I spent four years in the Air Force that makes me view the idea of “discipline” as something hard-faced, stoic and downright painful. In reflecting on my challenges with the notion of discipline, I’ve had to interpret my own notions of what discipline means for me and how to configure a life where discipline dictates the parameters of things I’ll do and won’t do. For instance, I’ve never been drunk. It’s not because I want a medal for it, I just can’t bring myself to drink anything to excess. That’d discipline, but I never thought of it that way before.
4. Being a contribution
Instead of spending days wondering precisely what will happen, I approach days with a question, “How Will I Be A Contribution Today?” I’ve long been mindful of contributing, I’d just never put it into those terms before.
Reflecting has brought me full circle with my past. I think there’s still a strong element of figuring out where the future leads and how to trudge that road. But knowing how you got where you are, has a lot of value for orienteering your way to the next port.
It’s the February 7th edition of “Stuff Worth Reading” on the #Adulting podcast. I’m your host, Ron Bronson.
So in case you were under a rock for the last episode of the podcast, I announced a change to the format. We’re going to do narration of interesting articles worth reading. If you download the Casts app on iTunes or Android, it will actually link you to the articles listed in the story without you having to subscribe to the newsletter. How cool is that? Other podcast apps might do it, too. I just don’t use them.
8 Ways To Read More Books in 2017 (Harvard Business)
I read a lot and friends often ask me how I do it. This article dovetails a lot of my own homebrewed reading practices honed over the years.
The Curious Rise Of Secret Facebook Groups (Good)
An article from last August, talking about women in secret FB groups and how they feel safe interacting with people from all over, sharing common interests and bonds despite the bad rap Facebook gets for pretty much everything.
What I’ve Read Recently The Art of Possibility – Rosamund & Ben Zander
At the risk of thinking I’m asking you to read self-help hokum, if you work in the creative industry you probably read this book when it dropped in 2001 or something. But I hadn’t read it in a really long time and appreciated its mantras around mindfulness. Seriously, it’s changing my entire approach to my year. (Though every day is a work-in-progress.) It’s a quick read, too.
Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls In Schools – Monique Morris
Books like this can often parade in tropes that end up obscuring their message. Not so, for Dr. Monique Morris’ important work about the ways that public schools marginalize young African-American girls and stigmatize them from the minute they arrive. A lot of these things are structural, but it’s fascinating to think about the unwitting ways that systems are complicit in negatively impacting a wide swath of our population. She offers constructive ideas for moving forward, too. I know it’s not a breezy or fun summer read, but it’s important even if just to skim the stats she provides and the history/backstory too.
The Black Russian – Vladimir Alexandrov
Okay, so I didn’t read this recently. Still, it’s a historical work on Frederick Bruce Thomas, a real-life man who ought to be a movie character. He went from Mississippi, the son of former slaves to one of Russia AND Turkey’s most famous nightclub owners before the revolutions in both countries cost him his fortune. A well-researched book absolutely worth your time.
What I’m Listening To
The barista at my favorite coffeeshop here in Bloomington (Hopscotch Coffee) was listening to some Ghanian highlife music. I knew this because I got into the genre a few months ago. Anyway, he shared his Spotify playlist with me and now I’m sharing it with you. It’ll make your day instantly better, I promise.
Recipe of the Now
Sorry to my vegan followers… but I’ve been craving Hainanese Chicken & Rice since I first heard about it. I bet one of the restaurant here makes it, but I haven’t searched yet because I don’t want my first time to be disappointing. I could make it myself, but I prefer typically with authentic dishes to have them somewhere good first and then go home and make them. But seriously, it’s all anybody is tweeting about these days on my feed — at least among the people I know in bigger cities (probably west coast.)