The Crossroads of Should and Must

Patrick Rhone’s review of a book that looks like a worthy companion to this one:

Unlike a lot of the “quit your job and follow your dreams” books, this one is rational, reasonable, and readily admits that jumping off such a cliff is not wise. Instead, it argues that if you can make the time to do the things you should do, and we all seem to find the time to do those things that the world expects from us, you can make the time to do the things you must do.

Disclosure: I might be biased towards these kinds of books right now, given that I’ve just quit my job.  

Source: patrickrhone / journal » Blog Archive » The Crossroads of Should and Must — A Brief Review

You are responsible for what you put into the world

From Mike Monteiro’s answer to a student’s question about whether designers should be able to appreciate an object’s design on a purely aesthetic level, specifically, the AK-47:

Your role as a designer is to leave the world in a better state than you found it. You have a responsibility to design work that helps move humanity forward and helps us, as a species, to not only enjoy our time on Earth, but to evolve.

And to design is to take purpose into account — as my friend Jared Spool says: design is the rendering of intent. You can’t separate an object’s function from its intent. You cannot critique it, you cannot understand it, and you cannot appreciate something without thinking about its intent.

A couple thoughts come to mind:

Roger Ebert’s thinking that evaluating a movie requires consideration of whether or not it achieved what it set out to do.

In his review of The Manson Family, Ebert gave the film three stars for achieving what it set out to do, but admitted that did not count as a recommendation per se.

Steve Jobs on design:

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.



Nick Cave’s Weather Notebook

So I started to write the Weather Diaries. When I would go into the office every day, I would document what was happening with the weather. I got really into it. I would carry a pad around with me. Any little change I would jot down. I started to see the weather in a different way. It became very exciting when there was really bad weather because I would get to write about it. It led to all sorts of things. But my one responsibility to the project was to document the weather every day. It was looking good, it was looking publishable: the world’s most tedious book. But then I had twins, and I started going to the hospital instead of the office. So it never got finished—it was going to be one solid year. And of course, springtime was rather lovely in London this year, and I think it’s because I paid it some attention last year. I think the weather needs people to pay attention.

I’ve been fighting with myself over whether or not to use analog or digital in everything from work projects to thinking through ideas to just keeping an everyday journal.

The truth is that there is magic to the analog. Putting pen to paper forces a bit more thoughtfulness. It also just feels nice to pull a halfway decent pen across some nice paper. Not to mention the permanence. Something that might be valuable to my kids down the road.

The problem comes later, when you need to find something. Some people take pictures of notebooks or otherwise scan them into digital formats. That seems like too much work.

But, something like this, a daily weather journal, is a perfect use for a good notebook. Because it’s about the present. Mindfulness. All of that. Sure it could be done in digital, but why would you?

Via Austin Kleon

Welcome to the New Site. Same as the Old Site.

I like to keep Phil on his toes by changing blogging platforms every few months.

Actually, he’s the only person I know that gives me grief about doing so. And I deserve it.

Usually my changing of blog platforms is symptomatic of something else going on in my life, almost always it happens during a time of high stress.

When the going gets tough, the tough fiddle around with to-do list apps and blogging platforms.

This time isn’t much different. Though it has come along with a few realizations about my own struggles with writing regularly.

  1. When I look back at my very first posts from 2005, they were mostly things that would have gone into some sort of social media platform nowaways. It seems obvious, but it’s a realization that’s come with clarity.
  2. Squarespace is a really, really great service for hosting a website. The only issue I’ve had with it is the friction inherent in their writing tools. How many clicks does it take to get to the text input field on a new post in Squarespace 7? It seems like a lot. And while that is certainly an excuse, it was also adding friction to a task that I don’t need any help avoiding. I want to post more frequently, and I want to post smaller bits, and I don’t feel like wading into the depths of their CMS to do so.
  3. The reasons that I’ve been avoiding using WordPress are largely irrelevent. In fact, the reasons to use it vastly outweigh the negatives. Just about everything that you could possibly want to do with a blog or a website is right there. It just works, as they say.
  4. I don’t like writing in web forms. This is related to a few of the other bullets on this list, but if I never have to copy and paste from a native text editor into a web form again, I’ll be a happy guy.

So that’s that. I’ve broken the seal on the new site. Same as the old site, but hopefully a better place to write.


Fuzzy Time

The watch has a Swiss Made Ronda Caliber 505.24H GMT Quartz movement that originally has 4 hands plus the date. We only use one hand that shows the 24 hour time in order to create a true slow watch that is reduced to only one necessary component. But we think it’s pretty cool to know that there actually is quite a complex movement happening inside of your watch.

The great thing is that the 24-hour dial allows you to see the entire day in one view. This fundamentally changes the way you look at your watch and it will give you a much better consciousness about the progression of your day. You will realize that the dial does not show a logo as we believe a great product does not need to show any visible branding to be recognized. A unique design language should do the job. The slow logo appears only on the back of the case.

Advertising’s Golden Rule

John Gruber on ad blocking being introduced into iOS 9:

I run a business almost entirely based on advertising. I am, thus, naturally disinclined to support ad-blocking. But from the outset, I’ve followed the advertising version of the golden rule: Present ads to readers (and podcast listeners) that you yourself would not be annoyed by. Advertisers and publishers who present user-hostile ads should not be surprised when the users fight back.

Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of ad tech is built to be user-hostile from the ground up. It’s not sustainable.

They’ll Fight Over it When You’re Dead

With Father’s Day coming up, I’ve been considering upgrading from the ol’ Chrome Messenger bag to something with a bit more character.

Saddleback Leather instantly drew me in. Priced a bit higher than I had planned on spending, but wow, they do some beautiful work.

It was their tagline that had me telling my wife about it and coming back for a second look.

Find Boredom

Iain Broom’s newsletter is a pretty good one. This tidbit from this week is something I’ve been thinking a lot about … or at least, meaning to find the time to think about: 

Writing tip: find boredom. I spend most of my life in front of a screen and I bet many of you reading this do too. It can be stifling. It can make us feel like we are doing something useful when we are not. It fills our time. We don’t get bored.

Give yourself time to think about your work away from a screen. Mow your lawn. Wash the pots. Build a bookcase. Drift away. Find boredom. Think your thoughts. Write them down. Do your work.

I spend a lot of time shoving content into my head. In between meetings and running around taking care of kids and family business and work, social media has oozed into the cracks like some awful time-mildew. I feel bad about the amount of time that I spend with it. But I don’t stop.  

Then there’s the digital media that I feel bad for not immersing myself in enough like RSS feeds and my ever-increasing backlog of articles in Instapaper.  

Then on top of all of that, if I’m doing any sort of work that doesn’t take much thinking, like emptying the dishwasher or commuting to work, I’ll usually have a podcast streaming through earbuds. 

What I’ve realized is that I’m shoving other people’s ideas into my head like commuters on a Japanese subway.  

The long and short of it is that I’m hardly ever bored anymore. And when you’re not bored, you’re not processing life. And when you’re not processing life and drawing connections and achieving that state where you’ve suddenly taken a step back and can see the matrix, as it were, then you’re not going to be as good as you want to be at your job or whatever other creative pursuits you’re involved in. 

And when I’m referring to “you” in the above paragraph, really, I’m referring to myself. I’m now publicly lecturing myself in the form of blogging. I’m pretty sure this is what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind for this whole Web thing.  

In a post he called On Creation Without Consumption, Brett Terpstra wrote about his struggles coming from the other side of things, about actually being bad at consuming content because his mind is constantly trying to interject his own ideas. 

I’d like to actually try and find the happy medium between where I’ve driven myself and where he’s trying to push away from. Meet in the middle, drive a golden spike into the ground, and never look back. 

Though I don’t think it’s ever going to be that easy. The reality of having all of this media in our pockets means being ever vigilant to behavior. Catching yourself in the act when you’re reaching for Facebook at a stoplight or checking Twitter while your kid is in the bath. 

In fact, delete Facebook from your phone for a day, just to get an understanding of the hold that thing has on you. I didn’t quite understand until I caught myself constantly reaching for one more effing hit.  

Choose life, as the drug addled Scots used to say.

Weekending for the Work

Josh Ginter writes one of my favorite sites right now: The Newsprint. The presentation is always beautiful, and his writing is always thoughtful. What a jerk.

He wrote a post a while back reflecting on his recent graduation from his masters program and and entry into the working world. This bit about time off and enjoying what you do is spot on:

So many people talk about work as the bane of life. We trudge through our 8 to 5 job so we can head home to our families. We value our weekends as though each week is a race to the finish line. And we better take our vacation because we deserve it.

Maybe we do deserve vacation time. Batteries need to be recharged to do our best work and vacation time is necessary from time to time.

But viewing time off as some sort of reward is a flawed paradigm. It certainly won’t make that 8 to 5 job any easier. If anything, it pushes us away from the moment and the job at hand. The allure of leisure time puts us in auto-pilot — unable to focus and find meaning in our work.

I’m very lucky to do what I do for a living. It’s something that is always interesting, always challenging, and despite the frequent nonsense and over-importance placed on the least important bits of the job, I really enjoy it.

In fact, it’s only been recently that I’ve learned to enjoy having time off from work. It was a hard earned lesson, involving the somewhat violent shift in work life balance that happens when you have small children at home.

It also reminds me of something that we all know yet mostly ignore: creativity requires a mind that is able to rest, process what’s already in it, and refuel with new input.

Grinding all of the time is only going to burn people out.