09 September 2013 // 2013-252

A Litmus Test for Technology

Psychologist and author Sherry Turkle says: "My litmus test for considering any technology: does it serve our human purposes?" What these "human purposes" are is, of course, subjective and complicated. However, I think this is a valuable consideration both for focusing your efforts on things you make, and for alloting your time to tools you use. Certainly, it might help some creators cut the wheat from the chaff during their product brainstorming and avoid ever spending time and effort making counterproductive applications. Reference From this article in The Guardian. Read more

27 August 2013 // 2013-239

Rilke on a Rich Life

Poet and author Ranier Maria Rilke on a life rich with experiences: If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place. Reference From Letters to a Young Poet Read more

07 August 2013 // 2013-219

A Definition of Sexy, from Alain de Botton

Philosopher Alain de Botton on what is sexy: The more closely we analyze what we consider ‘sexy,’ the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human being who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence. Reference "Alain de Botton on How to Think More About Sex - Brain Pickings" Read more

February 2013 // 2013-55

Thinking About the Near Future: Scheduling

In the near future, my calendar will be intelligent. Scheduling and tasks will become more predictive and responsive, and the program(s) will adapt and learn based on my preferences and feedback. I will use an app similar to Cue, but it will be more personalized and sophisticated. As Cue already does, this app will take note of my daily weather/forecast and sunrise/sunset. Unlike current digital scheduling assistants, it will provide recommendations about what to wear when I step outside. Apps like Dark Sky already gather micro weather data and provide alerts just before it rains. Apps like Swackett also offer (somewhat cheeky) weather-related fashion advice. My future scheduling app will know that I prefer to run most errands during daylight hours, but that I try to avoid the noon lunch… Read more

February 2013 // 2013-53

No Hope for My Gowalla Data

I should be sleeping right now, but (thanks to ongoing insomnia) instead I'm taking a moment to stew over the loss of my old Gowalla data. After Gowalla's acquisition by Facebook, they briefly promised that user data would be available to download in the near future. The site essentially shut down last spring, and I had largely stopped using it during the fall of 2011. It was pretty clear early on that user data would not actually be available to download. Today, the site itself no longer exists. While I wasn't actively using Gowalla at the time, I had previously been using it as my primary check-in platform and was sending my places to Foursquare via Gowalla. As the team began changing the Gowalla product and taking it further away from a check-in platform, the connection between the two… Read more

29 January 2013 // 2013-29

Thoughts on Hiring from Someone Who Works Alone

tl;dr You can hire a person for the product she makes. Your focus is on the product created, the task that’s done, or the deliverable that’s presented. You can hire someone for the role she fills. Your focus is on the experience that person has, how well she lives up to your perception of that role, and how well your company image benefits from having her. You can hire someone for the experience of having her as a team member. This employee’s skills, experience, and role are all important, but so are her insights, opinions, and original contributions. This person’s presence and actions shape a portion of the company and you hire to gain this value. I Have No Employees By some definitions, I work alone. With designations like “sole proprietor” or “single member llc,” my… Read more

20 January 2013 // 2013-20

Does Rationality Increase Cognitive Load?

I was reading this article on cognitive bias and irrationality (and popular psychology books like Blink, Nudge, and Sway) when the following section jumped out at me: "But in reality – especially in the Internet era – people have access to a limitless amount of information that they could consider. As a result, we rely on rules of thumb, or heuristics, to take in information and make decisions. These mental shortcuts are necessary because they lessen the cognitive load and help us organize the world – we would be overwhelmed if we were truly rational." (Emphasis is mine.) Is that true? I know that humans can be irrational creatures. I know the value of rules of thumb, mental shortcuts, and heuristics. But does rationality lead to an increased cognitive load? I'm curious to see what… Read more

11 January 2013 // 2013-11

A Semantic Map of Mental Taxonomy

Taxonomy is the field of defining and naming groups of items based on shared characteristics or attributes. Scholarship on taxonomy has always held an important role in the areas of human psychology and cognition. I remember first really diving into the topic during concurrent courses on cognitive psychology and human information processing in college. Taxonomies are studied and explored because of insights they might provide into how the human mind organizes concepts and information. Recent research from the Gallant Lab at UC Berkeley has produced a brain map based on responses to 1,300 visual objects and categories. For the study, five male participants were placed inside an fMRI scanner and then shown video footage of everyday objects and scenes. Responses to the images were recorded,… Read more

09 January 2013 // 2013-09

Broken Experience

The other day I was cooking coconut curry and quickly flicking through Twitter updates while stirring. A tweet from my alma mater went by, and I stopped to see what they had to say. Usually I don't keep up that much with the latest college sports scores, but I'm curious to learn about new things going on at the school. The Oxy post was a retweet with message: "RIP to a California legend MT @KCET: We regret to inform you that Huell has passed away. ow.ly/gC3Qw." I paused for a moment. I didn't know who Huell was. At least I didn't think I recognized the name. It didn't sound like anyone from the school, and it didn't sound like a politician or California political figure. Admittedly, I don't live in California any more, and I'm no longer a student. Who was Huell and why was this person so… Read more

03 January 2013 // 2013-3

The 100 Days Project and a Definition of Creativity

A TEDx talk on the 100 Days of Design project. This is a lovely TEDx talk from art director Emma Rogan in New Zealand. She started a 100 Days of Design project to encourage herself and others to spend some time each day in creative exploration. The exercise could easily be adapted to a 30 days project. The project is a great way for people of all ages and in all industries to spend a little dedicated time each day involved in their own creative play. Emma also cites a definition of creativity from former TED speaker Sir Ken Robinson. "We need to redefine what creativity is." She paraphrases Robinson to say, "Creativity is a series of essential processes of the brain. It is imagining, solving, and inventing." His TED talk is on how schools kill creativity. Read more