You might be sabotaging the process from the get-go

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Take care of your valuables!

We’ve all been there. The Dev team has worked really hard to nail down a search results page they think will really help users. You pull up your slide deck and start walking the stakeholders through it.

“Okay, here’s what the user sees after they log in,” you say to the assembled throng. It’s good to start with the familiar, you’ve heard.

“Wait, that’s not the right time zone,” the VP of marketing points out.

“This is just fake data,” you say, hoping to get back on track quickly.

“Nobody has that many books on their shelf. …


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No, I don’t know why someone labeled the keys like this, I just found it that way. (photo courtesy of the author)

Practicing is a skill. Learning to learn can really pay off. But it’s hard work, and rarely rewarded.

Background: I trained as a musician for the first thirty years of my life. Music is a fascinating field where there are many orders of magnitude of skill, and you can easily be tremendously better at it than someone else, and yet have many people who are tremendously better than you. (I’m in that middle area, a “talented amateur.”) …


Undoing the damage done to us by society.

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I grew up on Pogo. Maybe you did too. Walt Kelly know what he was talking about. (Yes, this is about damage to the environment. The sentiment applies in lots of places.)

The Racist, Revealed

It happened again. I was reading something written by someone I deem a member of [ethnic group], and I found myself making assumptions based on stereotypes of [that ethnic group].

Dammit! I thought I was past this! I’m all enlightened now, right? Woke, and with it, and activist. Heck, my writings on bigotry get used by other people to teach lessons about this stuff.

I’m done, right? I can put my “not a racist” trophy on the shelf next to my Responsible Adult trophy and my Totally Not Afraid Of Lightning service award. Hall of fame! I’ve won the non-racist award! …


Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed.

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Serenity by Lazarus (CC-BY). Part of the album Goblins.

“The thing about code is, every line you write is another ball and chain around your ankle.” — Joe Hicklin

We’ve all been there. We did it! We got the code to work! The page looks good, the server is fast, the API brilliant, and the results accurate. We’re done, right? No.

Now comes the next, and some would say the hardest, part: revising. And that means the bugaboo of Deleting Code.

Writing Is Revising

As a writer, I’m overly familiar with this process. Even more than code, writing a compelling story is a process of writing, revising, reading what’s there, writing more, revising more, bouncing it off test readers (“code reviewers”, for you programmers out there), doubting yourself as an author and the whole process of authoring, and revising some more. …


Aspects of security are ways to ensure aspects of autonomy.

Autonomy is control over yourself; self-determination of action, self-declaration of identity, and so forth. We slowly establish autonomy as a part of growing up; during this process, we learn how we must negotiate it with others to be part of a member of society.

Autonomy is routinely reduced in the name of society, parenting, or public order. This last is the excuse usually given to refuse personal security: personal security means personal control, which is antithetical to state control. …


Or, why you’re always fitting four pounds of crap into three sacks.

Someone — I can’t remember who — used to be very enamored of a colorful phrase for messed up situations: “ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag”. Every time I try to write for the web, that’s how I feel. Four elements in three channels.

Let me try to explain.

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MagicaVoxel is fun.

The Four Elements Of Every Interface

Interfaces — by which I primarily mean web interfaces, but the principle applies to other media as well— are made up of four layers:

  1. Content: What the things are made of
  2. Styling: How things look
  3. Layout: How things interrelate to each…

Look.

There are only two tactics: flanking, and surprise.

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Mill (game), from Wikimedia Commons

Gaining A Local Advantage

Flanking is when you use position to give yourself a local advantage. Humans are strong against enemies in front of them, and weaker against enemies beside or behind them. By making their side your front, you win. You eliminate some of their numbers. This gives you more numbers, making this easier and easier.

Surprise is when you use time to give yourself a local advantage. Humans are stronger when they have time to recognize a threat and prepare for it, and weaker against unknown or untimely threats. By making yourself prepared and them unprepared, you win. …


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Seeing the invisible

“You’re left-handed, right? Why is it that so many lefties feel they have to tell you they’re left-handed?”

Good question, fictitious sophont! The answer lies at the root of invisible privilege. But first, I must introduce you to a few items in my daily life.

My office desk

My office desk is right-handed. Yours likely is, too, but perhaps you never noticed. There is a cutout for my computer, and a big area to the right of that for writing, coffee cups, or other such uses. To the left, there’s a tiny strip of space.

If I want to have coffee at my desk, my choices are to place it in front of my monitor, reach across my body…or be right-handed. …


It’s not about the destination; it’s about where you start from.

A project I’ve been working on for at least a decade is intentionally working toward being a better man, personally. Which is to say, an emotionally adult male, despite being raised in, and living in, a society that rewards men for being abusive, temperamental boys.

It got a lot pointier recently for an awful lot of folks. The message are coming clear and hard from the entire political food chain. It sucks, especially for survivors of abusive behavior that came from people that sound an awful lot like our current leaders. …


How do we go from being “always busy” to “sustainably productive”?

Clickbait Won’t Save You

If I knew the foolproof way to go from “always busy” to “sustainably productive”, I’d have done it already.

But since you’re here, let’s talk about the Cult Of Busy, and how we’ve designed our way into a corner.

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As a kid I hated Jackson Pollack. Then I saw some of his artwork up close, hung next to his imitators, and I understood. It’s hard to describe, but his work is _busy_ in a way that the others simply are not.

It’s Your Fault, Right?

There are an infinite number of articles about how it’s all your fault — if you would just knuckle down and apply ourselves, we wouldn’t be so distracted, we’d find success in business and in love, we’d stop being depressed, we’d solve world hunger and climate change, and everyone would just hug it out in an endless cycle of positivity. …

About

Alex Feinman

Obligate infovore. Antiviral blogger. All posts made with 100% recycled electrons, sustainably crafted by artisanal artisans. He/him/his.

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