Or, The Way Things Are Now Are Like They Used To Be

I can’t stop thinking about this piece from Frank Chimero, Everything Easy Is Hard Again.

He talks about cycles of change and ~innovation~ through the the lens of making websites — which made me nostalgic for when I used to hand code sites on Geocities and Angelfire after learning HTML by viewing source code! There’s a lot in there, including why legibility of code is so important. But here’s the chart I’ve talked about twice now today:

Nothing stays settled, so of course a person with one year of experience and one with fifteen years of experience can both be confused. Things are so often only understood by those who are well-positioned in the middle of the current wave of thought. If you’re before the sweet spot in the wave, your inexperience means you know nothing. If you are after, you will know lots of things that aren’t applicable to that particular way of doing things. I don’t bring this up to imply that the young are dumb or that the inexperienced are inept—of course they’re not. But remember: if you stick around in the industry long enough, you’ll get to feel all three situations.
In one way, it is easier to be inexperienced: you don’t have to learn what is no longer relevant. Experience, on the other hand, creates two distinct struggles: the first is to identify and unlearn what is no longer necessary (that’s work, too). The second is to remain open-minded, patient, and willing to engage with what’s new, even if it resembles a new take on something you decided against a long time ago.

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.