1. Invisible tools

    A good tool is an invisible tool. By invisible, we mean that the tool does not intrude on your consciousness; you focus on the task, not the tool…Good tools enhance invisibility.
    …Unfortunately, our common metaphors for computer interaction lead us away from the invisible tool, and towards making the tool the center of attention.
    …magic is about psychology and salesmanship, and I believe a dangerous model for good design and productive technology. The proof is in the details—magic ignores them. Furthermore magic continues to glorify itself

    — Mark Weiser, The World Is Not A Desktop, ACM Interactions, January 1994

    See also: Not invented here

  2. Tech fashion

    …because tech is a pop culture, it will apply techniques and approaches because they are fashionable even when the outcomes are worse.

    — Baldur Bjarnason (commenting on the computational limits of photography and the ‘fashion’ for software processing in phone cameras)

    I have been thinking a lot lately about applying pace layers to technology, particularly in the current climate of hype, where everything is declared a breakthrough (probably because slow, incremental progress toward stable, usable platforms is too ‘boring’)

    Bjarnsason provides another example of software moving at the speed of fashion when its users need it to move slower, be more reliable, to learn from fashion (and either adopt or reject as appropriate) rather than to be fashion.

  3. Stop and simply be

    When was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.

    — Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore
  4. Writing for humans, by humans

    In truth, one reason I enjoy writing these newsletter so much is because they land in your email inbox, sorted by date and time, with my name as the sender. This takes enormous pressure off writing a damned title that is SEO friendly and clicky…Sure, writers must hustle relentlessly to promote their newsletter to potential subscribers, but they do not have to play the exhausting game of ‘can I make you click’ for each post…

    — Anne Trubeck, Notes from a Small Press - Amazon Is Changing How We Write

    A ‘captive’ audience of willing—paying, even!—subscribers means there is less pressure to play the SEO game. This doesn’t mean titles, subject lines, and headings don’t have to be well written, just that they don’t have to be keyword-stuffed—written for humans, not The Algorithm.

  5. Plausible impossibilities

    Literary fantasy is the result of a vivid, powerful, coherent imagination drawing plausible impossibilities together into a vivid, powerful and coherent story…

    — Ursula K. Le Guin, “Are they going to say this is fantasy?”

    “plausible impossibilities”…what a wonderfully chewy turn of phrase to describe fantasy.

  6. Hegemonic technology

    …technological advances don’t automatically bode well for the digitization of non-Latin type languages.

    — Alizeh Kohari, How to bring a language to the future

    A fascinating (and at times troubling) read about the intersection of calligraphy, typography, the digital era, hegemonic technology, bias in machine learning algorithms, the importance of open source, and a re-visiting of the tension between form and function.

    Also, broaden your own worldview a little and subscribe to RestOfWorld

  7. Not invented here

    On rolling your own tools/technology:

    Use an off the shelf tool until you break it, until you hit its edges, then look for a solution. If that solution requires you to build something, then you have permission to build it, but only building out just enough to solve your creative issue.

    — Craig Mod, Roden Issue 050
  8. Maintenance, not disruption

    Webstock ‘18: Lee Vinsel - The Innovation Fetish

    Hail the Maintainers - Aeon

    It is more obvious that many of the pressing problems of our time are failures of maintenance: politics doesn’t need disruption, democracy needs maintenance; climate change will be solved by going into serious and prolonged maintenance of the only planet we have inherited, not by vague magical thinking that assigns responsibility to future innovations.

  9. Coverless ebooks

    Via a link in this instalment of The Convivial Sociert to Home Screens and thence to more of the author, Drew Austin at Kneeling Bus.

    Far more than a container or shell for content, the cover is an interface between that content and human society, the intermediate layer that positions information in the world.

    — Drew Austin, Incipit as Infrastructure

    The essay puts its thumb on a sense of disquiet I’ve had for some time but not been able to adequately express, most recently twinged by opening a new book on my Kindle.

    It ‘helpfully’ started me off at the beginning of first chapter. As I always do, I paged back to the ‘cover’ and began again: looking for clues in the cover art, reading the front matter (partly for context, partly as a way of creating punctuation between ‘content’), bemoaning the lack of chapter names in the table of contents, pondering the obscurity of the dedications … and discovered that I had been shortchanged by the Kindle’s certainty that I need focus only on the ‘content’: there was a prologue!

    Had I relied on the Kindle’s sense of what was important and not begun at the very beginning, I would have missed a large amount of context and place-setting.

  10. Avoid news

    In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognized the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to shift our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long, deep magazine articles (which requires thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, like bright-colored candies for the mind.

    — Rolf Dobelli, Avoid News - Towards a Healthy News Diet (PDF)

    Dobelli’s 2010 critique of ‘news’

  11. Abstinence, not antidotes

    From Simon Collison’s first newsletter offering of the year, somehow (via a chain of links I am unable to rebuild even 5 minutes after first following them) to Frank Chimero’s thoughts on burnout where this line about the exhaustion that proceeds from overabundance resonated:

    A disease of abundance requires abstinence, not antidotes.

    And thence to ‘The Burnout Society’ by Byung-Chul Han