Writing & Things of Interest

December 16, 2018

Link: Browsers

Jeremy Keith with a fantastic roundup of the prevailing opinions on Microsoft dropping EdgeHTML. This about sums it all up:

Very soon, the vast majority of browsers will have an engine that’s either Blink or its cousin, WebKit. That may seem like good news for developers when it comes to testing, but trust me, it’s a sucky situation of innovation and agreement. Instead of a diverse browser ecosystem, we’re going to end up with incest and inbreeding.

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December 14, 2018

What's next?

Illustration of Jed Bartlet from The West Wing television show

My all-time favorite TV show is The West Wing.

There are many, many reasons that I love it (and why I’m re-watching it for something like the 6th time), but I think one of the main reasons is everyone’s work ethic. Despite some major obstacles and early-administration lethargy (see s1e19, “Let Bartlet be Bartlet), the Bartlet White House is always hard at work on problems affecting the country, large and small. The major representation of this ethic is President Jed Bartlet’s signature phrase, “What’s next?”

“What’s next?” encapsulates so much. It’s not just about getting through a massive to-do list, it’s about putting to bed whatever you just completed. It’s about clearing the mental space needed to focus on the next thing. And it’s about making sure you’re focusing on the right thing.

There’s a telling scene in the first season where Bartlet’s Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, is arguing with Secretary of HUD Debbie O’Leary about her (rightfully) calling the Republican Party racist. Everyone wants O’Leary, a black woman, to publicly apologize despite her unwillingness to do so. Although it’s an important argument to have, Leo says something to the effect of, “The President won’t hesitate to fire you and say, ‘What’s next?’.” He knows that O’Leary is doing amazing work and that work needs to continue. He also knows that, as much as she hates it, it’s more important to pick your battles. O’Leary can make a bigger impact by apologizing and moving onto the work that directly affects millions of lives. It’s a horrible pill to swallow, but she ultimately agrees that it’s necessary to apologize and move on instead of losing her job.

“What’s next?” is repeated throughout the series. It’s said casually and made into a key plot point. It’s sometimes an off-hand comment. Other times it’s a massive emotional trigger for characters and the viewers alike. It’s something that starts with President Bartlet but that is embedded into the core of every person around him.

It’s one saying that I’ve been trying to keep in mind throughout my day, too.

It’s often easy to finish some task and think you’ve accomplished a lot. But, far too often, those tasks aren’t what’s important. There’s more vital work to be done. Instead of resting on my laurels or taking a break after a block of work is done, I’m trying to ask myself, “What’s next?” Both as a reminder to stop wasting the day and, more importantly, as a reminder to make sure I’m focusing on the work that will make the biggest impact.

If you haven’t seen The West Wing already, I strongly encourage you to binge it over the next couple of weeks. You won’t be dissappointed and you end up feeling inspired on top of just entertained. Likewise, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What’s next?” on a regular basis. It’s a good way to remind yourself of what’s important, regardless of whether you’re governing a country or working on a new marketing campaign.

December 12, 2018

Link: Who do designers really work for?

A great post from Mike Monteiro over on the Adobe blog. He’s always trying to keep us designers honest and, for that, I thank him. Can’t wait for his new book on design ethics. It seems more necessary than ever.

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December 11, 2018

Link: Risking a Homogeneous Web

An excellent post from Tim Kadlec on the recent Microsoft announcement. Part of me wants to give in and just embrace Google and Chrome, as it seems inevitable that they’ll eat the entire web. But the good in me sees the sense of using other browsers and fighting for a diverse web. I’ll be using Firefox from here on out and I hope you’ll join me.

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December 1, 2018

Just a Fellow Traveler

wandering through the desert

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the guest said something that stuck with me:

I’m not an expert, I’m just a fellow traveler.

That’s exactly how I think of myself.

I’m at a point in my career where a lot of people consider me an industry expert. I’ve published and spoken enough that people tend to trust my opinion on a wide variety of subjects. That’s fantastic, but I don’t necessarily think of myself as an expert. There is plenty that I don’t know. More importantly, there is plenty that I’m still learning about myself.

There’s danger in thinking of yourself as an expert. If you consider yourself one for too long, you run the risk of becoming complacent. You’ll stop learning, start repeating yourself, and quickly become irrelevant. Or worse, you’ll keep on convincing people that your outdated theories are worth investing in, harming their work in the process.

I wholeheartedly believe that it’s better to recognize that you’re just a fellow traveler. You’re on a similar journey as everyone else in the industry—hell, as everyone else in life. We’re all seeking new things, reaching for new goals, and learning in the process.

Like a good fellow traveler, we share what we learn with others on the road. We work together to make the trip as pleasant and valuable as possible. We give away our tips and tricks to help others navigate unfamiliar territory.

But, most importantly, we keep traveling and learning ourselves. We trudge along, explore strange new worlds, and document our progress along the way.