Notes for October 27th 2023

Song of the week:

  • Someone noted that a lot of online commentary, history and thought leadership disappeared over the years. In part because they were hosted on proprietary systems or networks that went defunct or deleted accounts. One such example of this not happening was Aaron Swartz's blog because it was a static site. Like this one. Granted what I'm writing has very little long-term value. Or short-term value. It's just a little thing I do for myself.
  • I've been reading through Beauty (Sagmeister & Walsh) and while it focuses heavily on the general approach to "beauty" as a concept for humans as we approach architecture, design and functionality. It does touch on interaction. Which is where I think about things. We don't apply enough craft or beauty to software or systems. And this is wrong. Pure functionality boils down to "it works," rather than "it works beautifully." Steve Jobs referred to this as having products be "lickable," which ultimately lead to the candy coloured iMacs and OS10.
    • One company that almost gets it right, perhaps ironically, is Tesla. Forget the sideshow circus of Musk or Cybertrucks. But their mainline vehicles, the Model 3 and Model Y, are beautiful. Functional, a presence on the road. And the interiors are minimal, beautiful and functional all together. They're not perfect at all. I find the wood can be a bit jarring compared to the faux materials otherwise. The steering wheel is beautiful to touch thanks to the leather, and simple, obvious mechanics of the scroll-wheels. And the centre being a single iPad-esque device is phenomenal. It shows you where you are in the space you occupy as a vehicle with a large map, and has small interactions with the other functions of the vehicle. I feel like the software designers were not in lock-step with the hardware designers, but software is easier to fix/resolve than hardware once it's shipped.
    • Another that gets it bang-on right is Analogue's Pocket FPGA hardware emulation device. It's just absolutely gorgeous from top to bottom. AnalogueOS is perfect on it. The interface is familiar, yet new. Obvious, with complexity. There's nuance to it. And it doesn't get in the way of what it's primary objective is; which is to give you the purest experience of retro gaming possible.
  • Work is hotting up. My new(ish) boss has been keen to not have succession plans in-place, so every role has a process. My boss quitting being no exception. She wants a light, but deliberate process. Which has somehow translated into 4 45min-long conversations; primarily with folks I already know. Which, as good as I am with the process, is absolutely not "light." I wonder where some of these decisions are born, because they're not born in empathy or logic.
  • I read a piece that outlined how folks with autism find multiple choice questions difficult. They have to lean heavily into the logic centres of their brains to basically rule out all options, even if the "winning" choice is obvious. This resonated so heavily with me. I've gotten better over the years by overpowering basic logic with logic mixed with reasoning rooted in empathy for the situation. Most of the time I craft a scenario around the question, and slot the right answer in that way. It's probably very difficult to conceive of this if you're fully rooted in the autism spectrum, or alternatively rooted in neuro-typical spaces. I've no idea what that says about me.
  • I linked to this post by Heather Buchel which outlines how frameworks have cannibalised and ruined web design. I tend to agree. Simple, obvious design needs to come back in force. Everything is tech-out, not user-in. Reintroduce craft and beauty to the web. Static sites written for their simple purpose rather than catch-all frameworks to “grow the TAM”.
    • One less obvious second-order impact of the modern web is that open source is scary and difficult to contribute to on these whopper projects.
  • Halloween is around the corner. It always seems to catch folks not-from-Ireland off guard. It's a festival we go all-in on. A lot of the old tribal reasoning is the genesis of our love for celebrating the dead in such a weird way. But the modern take is very Americanised because we've spent 3 generations adoring Americanism. And so today my children went to crèche as a bumble bee and a dinosaur. Just as their ancestors would have wanted.
  • I also linked to's internet artefacts which references IRC chat from the late 80s. It's still going. Not as strong as it could be. And the IRC daemon's and server configs need some open-source love. But I would love to see people abandon ship from Slack or centralised systems akin to it, and get onto IRC. IRC apps themselves are the key to make the network/systems accessible. Rather than the backend, per se.