Travel and sickness often makes for unusual insights. Then again, there are some questions we don’t ask when we are well because we are strong enough to be stubborn to ignore them. At least, this seems to be parts within the theme of this week’s links:
Can Meditation Really Make the World A Better Place via Aeon
Intel’s Toxic Culture via Monday Note
Did Blogs Ruin the Web; or Did the Web Ruin Blogs via Kottke
-Why Hasn’t Graphene Taken Over the World via The Verge - Video
And one from us:
Many years ago, the word/phrase to be found around the workplace was “workflow.” Between the many folks selling workflow solutions, large companies making initiatives on top of initiatives in order to improve/measure/etc. workflow, and the various technical languages which jumped the shark into being “workflow enablers” for those who needed a bit more agency, it was a another one of those fervor moments you could only just sit and wait it out. And yet, so much about the idea of understanding workflows isn’t just key to understanding how businesses will be done but also understanding how things are done.
For example, take the process by which teams from different companies come together to craft a proposal. The structure of the group dictates who will be the gatekeepers, even though the role of every member is to contribute some kind of content for the proposal. From the developers and designers who might be tasked to envision a concept for the eventual state of the product, to the resource and financial analysts who need to know the value of inputs, outputs, and their impacts across a very fluid timeline, there’s a great deal to pull together. Thinking about this within the concept of a seamless workflow you ask questions such as:
where will draft versions of documents be kept
who will be responsible for auditing the output versus the proposal template
what happens to the resources which become the conceptual product
is there a round of feedback/editing which needs to happen with a smaller piece of the team before this is considered final
what will be the primary communication methods
In each case, through each role and team contributing to this project, the idea of workflow isn’t just a matter of “what kind of work needs to happen between them for the end product,” but also, what kind of work needs to happen within those individual members in order to flow up to that project team’s output in the most seamless manner. Differences in applications might lead to reduced fidelity from one team to another. Differences in availability might lead to passive/indirect communication journals which fail to convey some necessary tone.
This makes workflow less a religion and more a sacrament. It is a descriptor of what should probably already be happening. Yet, when codified, creates the accessible means for those outside of the team or process to best understand why success happened or didn’t. Challenge for many folks is that they don’t know what that structure looks like. Their work is dependent on another, but they don’t know what questions to ask in order to see what’s on the other side of the fence or garage door. And then when things are created, and you just see the output, you don’t realize the depth of work which went into this. It seemed seamless due to the time and quality met, but there’s a depth to which only the workflow (as codified) would be able to explain.
Not to say that documentation is everything. But, when there’s some kind of workflow involved, there has to be a record of the process. That is, if your process is actually contributing to the positive outcomes for the projects you are setting before yourselves.
Independence is an agreement, but not an inevitable decision. At least, that’s how it feels when looking at the links for this week:
Simple Self-Driving Shuttles Become First Robot Rides in Detroit via Bloomberg
Ridehail Revolution: UCLA ITS Dissertation Examines Discrimination and Travel Patters for Lyft, Uber, and Taxis
What Happens When A Computer Runs Your Life via Medium
The Connectomes Revolution via Edge
Framing Trust via Twitter thread
And just one from us this week:
The Appendage Conundrum
As we pulled up to the mall, Steve felt there was something he’d show me. Little did he know, I was going to use this context to show him what he didn’t understand about mobile. We walked into the mall and proceeded to stores he was familiar with. There were a few companies to which he wanted to check out due to the project we were working on. His mindset was that the TV screens were the important interface for this effort.
I had other ideas. We left the stores and headed to the food court. I asked him to look around at the people around us. There were parents with children, groups of teens, seniors, and several others. Then I asked him to look at what they were doing. He said, “they aren’t even looking at each other. They are looking at those glowing rectangles. They can’t get away from their appendages!”
There’s something we can all acknowledge about mobile devices. They are more or less hard to pull away from their owners. They are an arm, eyes, and sometimes even legs — depending on the person and what they are doing at least. Somehow we’ve adapted so fast to these minaturaized calculation machines that they have become a part of whom we are. And par the course, previous generations have the perspective that this is unnatural. But, is it?
We are creatures who embed our world around us. Probably not too different from spiders, we seem to have a mind and actions which work outside of our physical bodies. More than just accounting for what is spiritual, we use our tools and the connections between them to embed ourselves into the world around us. There’s a different language between generations with this. Previous generations might build the blocks, but its successive generations which transform those blocks into streams of consciousness which (many times) were never imagined before.
Hence the challenge. We don’t always understand what it means to be fully embedded into this connected space. Language like “artificial intelligence,” “mixed reality,” and “online” are transitional terms. An acceptance of the appendage, but not quite the invisibility of using it. We design these processes, these tools, against what we can best understand — “talkies” was a similar term — until it becomes natural enough to no longer be considered foreign.
What is the reason for this session? To acknowledge that we don’t know all of the potential paths our imaginations and inventions will create. But, we are excited about them. They do something in us when we see someone using these tools outside of their mind, it looks like magic. It is magic. Because we are taking something outside of ourselves and using it in ways that fit another mind. Its not supposed to be comfortable. It does become natural.
The future should be described in more optimistic terms than perhaps scholars or the entertainment industry has put forth. Looking for those different tropes is a bit easier said than done. The way this week’s links are put forth, it will be more up to the reader to put together their ideal future, rather than live with the results of other’s methods of dictation.
On to the links:
A Peek Inside the Niantic Real World
Vector Podcast No.128: Brian Roemmele on Siri Shortcuts
Ways to Think About Machine Learning via Benedict Evans
Shapes of UX Designers via Amplify Design
What if Sleep Was a Commodity via Marginal Revolution
And a few from us:
Tools on Deck: Adobe Comp CC
Concept: Podcast UI
Concept: Podcast UI
The tools used on Windows and macOS machines just aren’t usable in the same manner on Apple’s iOS devices. That has required some shifts, and has shaped some exposure to some tools in a different light than what they might have been initially marketed towards. Speaking specificity, Adobe Comp CC has become that tool. And yet, it largely goes unnoticed because this type of use is not what you do on a tablet.
Some weeks back, there was a post of a SmartTrip Apple Watch Concept. The screenshot in this post was of Adobe Comp CC, a wireframing and layout application made by Adobe and only available on iOS. This application has been part of the toolshed for a few years as it relates to design work because of the ease it has with fitting into existing Adobe workflows when working with others.
Read more about Using An iPad Pro As A UX Designer
Adobe Comp CC seems like nothing more than a scaled version of the first editions of Adobe’s InDesign product. There’s a means to create a canvas (several templates), and either by drawing the shapes, or using the shape libraries, create layouts and interface concepts. After you’ve made one page/screen, you close that to open another. These can be saved within a project, and all of these projects are saved to your Adobe CC account. That integration is quite helpful — you can create assets within applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. and then simply pull those into your Comp CC project. If you change the component in one of those apps, the change can be adapted into Comp CC’s project easily.
Where Comp CC doesn’t work so well is when doing more complicated interface explorations. Applications such as Axure, Balsmic, and even Adobe’s own XD (for macOS) enable the connection of components and screens inside of a project. You can design a home screen in Comp CC, but to show how it functionally connects to another screen, you’ve got to use another application (on-device, Marvel App; if collaborators are involved, InVision). This gap rears its head quickly when using Comp CC for UI design or UX strategy.
Read UX Journeys” Lessons From What’s Thrown Away
Even still, the quality of what can be produced in Adobe Comp CC is enoug to turn heads and drive towards better decisions on not just the look and feel, but the content which drives/is driven by experiences. Comp CC leaves just enough room to be simple to do design quickly, and takes just enough effort that you’ll pull your design notes (unfortunately in another program also) so that you can answer what the design didn’t.
Could it be better? Definitely. XD for macOS shows what Comp CC on iOS should be. There’s no excuse with the power and direct input interface on an iPad that more couldn’t be done with Comp CC. And yet, that’s part of the challenge with smaller apps like this. Comp CC is powerful enough to build the next great app; its also simple enough to build your flyer/billboard/banner ad. Would be good to see more come from Comp CC for UI work; there’s more than potential here for making great things. Our work has been proof of that.
Read UX Journeys: Unexpected, Yet Better Products
Speak to a interface designer and you will likely not be very far from hearing about products such as Sketch, InVision, and others. There’s something of a fetish the design industry has about its tools. So much so that conversations about what is UX turns quickly into UX is the tools you use. That’s hard to escape when the workstation is an iPad Pro. Yet, the tools to create avenues for the best experiences are only tools. To understand these tools and their canvas helps identify what can and can’t be understood under after the experience event.
Tools and their impacts on creating and understanding experiences is a wide and deep topic. Avanceé promotes theory, process and tools that are easily available. What’s next is up to you.
Finding this week’s links light in terms of quantity, but heavier in terms of context and implications. In some measure, the gaps exposed by not completely understanding tools, processes, and their knitting theories presents an opportunity. Some things are easier to figure out after the fact.
Apple Is Figuring Out What’s Next via Above Avalon
UX Upgrades for the Airline Industry via Dean Gonsalves
Moving Design Beyond Pictures via Angular Blog
And a few from us:
Exploring Digital Humanism
Past Project: All Books UI
Past Project: All Books UI (Aged UI)
See this project on Github
There are a few terms worth talking about — or maybe it is just the phrase which needs to find its way beyond the unexplored shores it speaks towards — and that is the term “digital humanism.” It is a subject we will be speaking on for a few months as there’s something brewing in that space towards Avanceé’s offerings and so it makes sense to start to suss out what the term means (at least right now), and where we might see it go from being “unexplored territories” to “way of existing fully.”
In agreement with Dean Bubley, using the term “digital” is a bit troublesome However, it is a bit of a transitional term to use to describe a bit of what’s mean by the phrase digital humanism. Simply put, there’s an acknowledgement that connectivity, communication, and productivity has taken on the nature of calculated (algorithmic) dealings, in addition to spiritual (religious and psychosocial) and physical (senses) definitions. To contextualize this (for the moment) by the augmented nature mobiles have provided many people — there’s some argument to dictate mobile devices and their connective threads have become an augmented body part — seems to get us down the line that being digitally augmented adds something (or takes something away) from what we understand as humanity.
And yet the second part of this term might be all the more troublesome. Humansim or being humane or what does it mean to be human is as much a philosophical question as it is an egotistical one. For decades, it was taught that humans were the only animals with structured language, yet this has been found in animals from crows, to dolphins, to bacteria. It has been assumed that the distinction to humanity was spirituality, however elephants and other animals which bury and morn over their dead seem to also share this perspective and similar traits. We talk about our ability to embed our mind into the environment around us through the making of tools and shaping of our environment, yet there are octups who make tools and shape reefs, birds who create hammers and drills, and even a virus which creates a drill out of materials within a cell in order to pierce DNA strands. Suffice to say, defining humanity by what we do seems to be a tenuous place in which to define what we are.
So then, what does it mean to be human? And does being augmented by silicon and electricity add to or take away from this defintion? Without clarity on the latter, the adjective before seems in need of a better anchor. We seem to mean digital as meaning powered by non-analog computing systems and processes. We want it to mean being in and around Internet and web-like services with some sense of fluidity. We say it in the context of, “don’t give me paper and make me send it by postage, but use a form and relational database and relationships between your switchboard and mine to say hello.” To be digital seems to want to mean, a process of letting sand and electricity augment whatever it is I am doing. And yet, to be human goes well beyond what “I” am doing.
This will be explored a good bit further in future pieces; but to start here with a term (digital humanism) and let Avanceé’s content and practices shape what we mean in using this term seems a healthy aim forward. From here, well, that’s to just be found when we get there.
A week away from things, slightly unintentionally. Having been given a closer-than-usual seat at the start of a life, one can see these pauses as an interruption or a challenge, but there’s also some strengthening in the model which comes. A blog should probably not apologize for missing its cadence, and yet that kind of personal interaction enables those who have an attachment to realize they aren’t the only ones surfing these waves. At the top of this one, we present links for this week:
The Ten Principles of Digital Work via Esko Kilpi
Reducing the Office Programming Process from Three Months to 15 Minutes via Propmodo
Why the Future of Machine Learning is Tiny via Pete Warden
Underpaid and Exhaused: the Human Cost of Your Kindle via The Guardian
Global Civilization to Descend into ‘Hell on Earth’ Unless We Choose A New Paradigm via Nadeem Ahmed
And as usual, here are a few produced here:
Concept: Hiking Workout for Apple Watch
Notes As Art
Concept: Mentor Tracking App
Concept: Mentor Tracker App (sketched with Paper for iOS)
As has been the case for the past few weeks, the top of the week has been regarded as the space for the week’s long-form piece. It makes sense to put the heavier items at the top of the week where there could be additional contemplation or discussion while also allowing for the work of the past to shift the present and future accordingly.
This week’s long-form will be a bit different as we’ll link to a contributed piece posted last week at the website Painfully Hopeful. Allowing for something a bit softer than the usual tech and philosophy-heavy items, this is a piece talking in a bit more detail about some of what goes into the synthesis of ideas and products — that is, talking about note taking, specifically the style called sketchnotes.
Here’s a snippet of that article:
I’ve been sketching on my notes for as long as I can remember (margins, back of pages, back of copy books, etc.). But it was with the 1st generation iPad that took off in a different direction. I purchased my first iPad about a month after the it’s introduction, and then took several months to play with various note apps. While I settled on Evernote, which I’d already been using, I wanted to push things a bit further when drawing connecting lines, graphs, or inserting images were part of the process. Penultimate became my notebook app of choice, later followed by Tactilis (a favorite, and recently released anew). Yet, it was with Adobe Ideas my story of “Notes As Art” transformed into more than just doodles.
Check out the rest of Taking Notes Part 3: Notes As Art at Painfully Hopeful and then get in touch if you notice some symmmetry between this personality of taking notes might enable you or your teams to better adjust and address their present and future activities.
Concept: Hiking Workout for Apple Watch (before it was annoucned for watchOS 5)
The project is well-past the kickoff, and it feels as if there are no other successes to be pulled. The pace of development seems to have slowed. The stakeholders are getting ancy. What seemed like the right solution months ago now seems so far from the truth of how they will use it. And yet, the budget says it must persist. There are calls to trim the team and go “lean” in both focus and resources. Then someone asks, “so how will we evaluate the experience of this once we’ve released it?”
The question seems obvious but the truth is that it was never considered. The project wasn’t started out of impulse. There was a recognized gap in performance and productivity and this was the best route provided to executives as the way forward. Cursory conversations were had with those who’d been in those roles but have moved forward to others to validate the solution. On the surface, this was going to be a win-win. And yet, the voice of those who’d be there after the transition, not those who’d be managing the transition but those who’d be implementing it, was missing. Their experience was not willingly dismissed, but they had little clue of how the business ran above their work. It was decided to bring them in closer to the release. At that point, their feedback would capture what was missed.
A user experience (UX) practioner was consulted. They were queried as to what might be some gaps they have missed — what might be some better ways to galvanize the project to its expected end? Where might the project find some of the solutions to the issues we think might show up in performance, adoption, or training?
The UX practioner looks on. Then gets to work. Yet internally hangs their head. These questions would have been easier to address if they were consulted earlier in the project. The experience of doing and using the product seems to have been the last thing considered — and is only now coming to a head because other levers have been pulled to no success. So the UX practioner asks:
“What do your users think of this change? How has their feedback shaped the project to date? And where are they in our review sessions?”
A realization hits the project manager and product owner, “why did we consider the user experience last?”
Closing another week and there are just enough hours to share a few influential links passed this week:
A 2-Year Stanford Study Shows the Astonishing Productivity Boost of Working From Home via Inc
Artificial Intelligence and Education: Moving Beyond the Hype
Invisible Asymptotes via Eugene Wei
A few from us:
Concept: Tymbals Risk Assessment Tool
Educating Shaping Working
Concept: Tymbals Risk Assessment Tool; made with Paper by FiftyThree
Though the roster took up to 12 students, there were only a half-dozen registered for the class. However, only one showed, and now, 15 minutes after the class was supposed to start, a decision needed to be made: cancel the class, or run another 1-on-1. The student decided to do the 1-on-1, they needed the lessons for the upcoming quarterly reports. Anything to understand how this application worked better would help at this point, they were overwhelmed. And so, with the understanding of their specific job needs, we did the class.
The class took only half the time since there was just one student. Their expectations for what they’d get out of the class was over and above their initial thoughts according to the evaluation afterwards. “How can a student’s expectations shape a better outcome,” I was left to wonder. Personalized classes, apprenticeships, professional mentoring, and even smaller instruction cycles can improve retention of materials taught — but what’s transferred (transformative) is harder to pin down. Yet, I still see that former student when go back to visit that enterprise. They are happy to state again and again how grateful they were for the class, and how much they still use to this day. Over a year since that modified class, education reshaped their work.
There’s something about consistent, relevant, and challenging education which supports and shapes work. Now, there are many who will speak better on the topic (for example notes from this interview are worth re-reading. But, we can state, there’s a measurable difference in the kind of education which just signals we are fit to work, and the education which enables us to shape our work. In the story above, the former was necessary — signaling was needed because some measure of the jobs-to-be-done were not being done. The latter was the better affect of the educational expereince. A set of behaviors and tools were customized for a specific type of work, then made reproducible such that it could continue to shape the work long after the initial educating was done. A ripple effect… or more like ripples which shape.
In thinking and putting forth Avanceé as a different metric towards what work looks like, it is these kinds of ripples we look for. Not so much to see a report later of favorable design, better opportunities, or even smart behaviors in a system or process. But, there’s something that’s more core to being human/humane when people are given a means to shape their reality. To grant agency, even when you are working for someone else, is a kind of education many could get behind.
Happy GDPR Day!
Ok, maybe that’s not the best way to open the week’s link share. Yet, there’s something to be said about the sites who don’t have much in the way of the notices about privacy policies and data governance which drive more about the consumer internet than much else. Its good to have a few sites where sharing info out, doesn’t mean you are sharing info into an abyss of little control. That is the point of sharing right?
Nevermind, on to this week’s links:
Marianne Vos is the Boss via Outside Magazine
A Mathematician Who Decodes the Patterns Stamped Out by Life via Quanta Magazine
Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory via Quanta Magazine
How Customers Adopt Products Vic’s Strategyzer
Data, Decisions, and Baskeball with Sam Hinkie via Investor Field Guide
And a few from us:
The Features Trap
Concept: SmartTrip Transit App for Apple Watch