The Way Things Are Now*

This State of the Blog Union by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge is such an astute overview of The Way Things Are Now as it relates to online media, the ad business, and more generally just how media and consumption has changed in the last decade or so D*S has existed online.

The goal is to always be testing things out. It takes a lot more work and effort to always be changing, but in an industry that doesn’t sit still, adaptation and evolution are requirements.

I always find the best media writing by those who are living and making these types of decisions day in and day out. Another person I always read on this is Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. One of his recent posts musing about how he can better serve his readers with new and differiated products is very good. (TL;DR from Nieman Lab is here.)

I haven’t written much — of anything — in awhile for one reason or another, the main one being starting a new job is *kind of crazy*, but all of a sudden, have found myself needing to write several things! So here I am, dusting off the ol’ blog.

One of the many things I’ve been thinking a lot about came out of a conversation I had with a friend at work recently. We were talking about shifting your instincts, previous learnings and experiences to new places and he said the most interesting things to watch will be figuring out which instincts/learnings/experiences you’ll need to keep and adapt and which won’t work for XYZ place you’re in. I was thinking about this a lot as I was reading the D*S piece — it’s all about equipping yourself with the skills AND experiences necessary to become more adaptable.

It sounds repetitive (because I say this with every change, etc.) but my past experiences have truly informed a lot of what I’m currently working on.

Three things:

  1. I basically studied media obsessively for two years while I was at the American Press Institute and the one thing I know now is that if anyone tells you they’ve figured it out, they’re lying.
  2. One of the most important things I learned at BuzzFeed was *how* to work in that constantly changing environment and adapting to that.
  3. I’m lucky to have started my career at Atlantic Media while David Bradley was running it and to have been on the team led by Poppy MacDonald because they are two of the most service-oriented people in media I know. It’s always about how to serve and better serve your customers/audience/readers/viewers/whatever.

That’s all I’ve got — I haven’t figured anything out either!

*For now

Are we solving the right problems?

Products and services are designed to “disrupt” market sectors (a.k.a. bringing to market things no one really needs) more than to solve actual problems, especially those problems experienced by what the writer C. Z. Nnaemeka has described as “the unexotic underclass” — single mothers, the white rural poor, veterans, out-of-work Americans over 50 — who, she explains, have the “misfortune of being insufficiently interesting.”

If the most fundamental definition of design is to solve problems, why are so many people devoting so much energy to solving problems that don’t really exist? How can we get more people to look beyond their own lived experience?

via The New York Times

I read everything Jen Myers writes

I rely less and less on social media, and more and more on direct, genuine conversations with others also seeking connection, reflection and revelation. I may appear, from the outside, to be becoming quieter and quieter, and I am. What may not be readily apparent yet is that becoming quieter is how I’m learning to make my words matter. Though we spill them around rather carelessly these days, words do matter. In the future, I’ll be using them purposefully, with context and weight. And I’ll be listening, quietly, for the words said back to me that carry the same meaning.

via Jen Myers

Exactly this

Heather Chaplin articulates what I’ve been thinking about for a long time:

You can think about design as audience engagement. Designers always start by asking who they are designing for and why. So when we think about audience engagement and wanting to know our audience, design as a discipline can really help us. I also think about design as new product development: Nobody knows how people will consume news as we move forward. What might it look like, and what are the newspapers of the future? Design processes can help us come up with that.

via Nieman Lab

Taking one from the Stoics

A thought experiment courtesy of the Stoics. If you are tired of everything you possess, imagine that you have lost all these things.
—Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

I started reading this book maybe six months ago, but didn’t pick it up again and restarted it from the beginning last week. Funny how “when” you read something affects you just as much as what you’re reading.

Love other women

  • Hire more women: “The smartest teams were distinguished by three characteristics: First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group. Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible. Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not ‘diversity’ (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women.” [Anita Woolley, Thomas W. Malone and Christopher Chabris, New York Times]
  • Love other women: “The world wants you to find extraordinary women threatening. Undo that training. When you feel threatened, it’s a great sign that you have just found an ally who will bring you new energy and insight and together you will rise. Never stop growing your crew. There is always room for another homie if you find someone special enough. Give them everything and they will give back in return. Have faith in the women in your life and you will be ok out there.” [Rachel Rosenfelt, Brooklyn Magazine]