Latest Writing & Things of Interest

December 16, 2018

Link: Browsers

Jeremy Keith with a fantastic roundup of the prevailing opinions on Microsoft dropping EdgeHTML. This about sums it all up:

Very soon, the vast majority of browsers will have an engine that’s either Blink or its cousin, WebKit. That may seem like good news for developers when it comes to testing, but trust me, it’s a sucky situation of innovation and agreement. Instead of a diverse browser ecosystem, we’re going to end up with incest and inbreeding.

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December 14, 2018

What's next?

Illustration of Jed Bartlet from The West Wing television show

My all-time favorite TV show is The West Wing.

There are many, many reasons that I love it (and why I’m re-watching it for something like the 6th time), but I think one of the main reasons is everyone’s work ethic. Despite some major obstacles and early-administration lethargy (see s1e19, “Let Bartlet be Bartlet), the Bartlet White House is always hard at work on problems affecting the country, large and small. The major representation of this ethic is President Jed Bartlet’s signature phrase, “What’s next?”

“What’s next?” encapsulates so much. It’s not just about getting through a massive to-do list, it’s about putting to bed whatever you just completed. It’s about clearing the mental space needed to focus on the next thing. And it’s about making sure you’re focusing on the right thing.

There’s a telling scene in the first season where Bartlet’s Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, is arguing with Secretary of HUD Debbie O’Leary about her (rightfully) calling the Republican Party racist. Everyone wants O’Leary, a black woman, to publicly apologize despite her unwillingness to do so. Although it’s an important argument to have, Leo says something to the effect of, “The President won’t hesitate to fire you and say, ‘What’s next?’.” He knows that O’Leary is doing amazing work and that work needs to continue. He also knows that, as much as she hates it, it’s more important to pick your battles. O’Leary can make a bigger impact by apologizing and moving onto the work that directly affects millions of lives. It’s a horrible pill to swallow, but she ultimately agrees that it’s necessary to apologize and move on instead of losing her job.

“What’s next?” is repeated throughout the series. It’s said casually and made into a key plot point. It’s sometimes an off-hand comment. Other times it’s a massive emotional trigger for characters and the viewers alike. It’s something that starts with President Bartlet but that is embedded into the core of every person around him.

It’s one saying that I’ve been trying to keep in mind throughout my day, too.

It’s often easy to finish some task and think you’ve accomplished a lot. But, far too often, those tasks aren’t what’s important. There’s more vital work to be done. Instead of resting on my laurels or taking a break after a block of work is done, I’m trying to ask myself, “What’s next?” Both as a reminder to stop wasting the day and, more importantly, as a reminder to make sure I’m focusing on the work that will make the biggest impact.

If you haven’t seen The West Wing already, I strongly encourage you to binge it over the next couple of weeks. You won’t be dissappointed and you end up feeling inspired on top of just entertained. Likewise, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What’s next?” on a regular basis. It’s a good way to remind yourself of what’s important, regardless of whether you’re governing a country or working on a new marketing campaign.

December 12, 2018

Link: Who do designers really work for?

A great post from Mike Monteiro over on the Adobe blog. He’s always trying to keep us designers honest and, for that, I thank him. Can’t wait for his new book on design ethics. It seems more necessary than ever.

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December 11, 2018

Link: Risking a Homogeneous Web

An excellent post from Tim Kadlec on the recent Microsoft announcement. Part of me wants to give in and just embrace Google and Chrome, as it seems inevitable that they’ll eat the entire web. But the good in me sees the sense of using other browsers and fighting for a diverse web. I’ll be using Firefox from here on out and I hope you’ll join me.

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December 1, 2018

Just a Fellow Traveler

wandering through the desert

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the guest said something that stuck with me:

I’m not an expert, I’m just a fellow traveler.

That’s exactly how I think of myself.

I’m at a point in my career where a lot of people consider me an industry expert. I’ve published and spoken enough that people tend to trust my opinion on a wide variety of subjects. That’s fantastic, but I don’t necessarily think of myself as an expert. There is plenty that I don’t know. More importantly, there is plenty that I’m still learning about myself.

There’s danger in thinking of yourself as an expert. If you consider yourself one for too long, you run the risk of becoming complacent. You’ll stop learning, start repeating yourself, and quickly become irrelevant. Or worse, you’ll keep on convincing people that your outdated theories are worth investing in, harming their work in the process.

I wholeheartedly believe that it’s better to recognize that you’re just a fellow traveler. You’re on a similar journey as everyone else in the industry—hell, as everyone else in life. We’re all seeking new things, reaching for new goals, and learning in the process.

Like a good fellow traveler, we share what we learn with others on the road. We work together to make the trip as pleasant and valuable as possible. We give away our tips and tricks to help others navigate unfamiliar territory.

But, most importantly, we keep traveling and learning ourselves. We trudge along, explore strange new worlds, and document our progress along the way.

November 21, 2018

Speak Easier

measuing a mountain

If you paid any attention to my last post on personal OKRs, you will have noticed that one of my key results for the quarter is to have a first draft of something called Speak Easier done. And if you noticed that, you were probably wondering what the hell Speak Easier actually is.

Well… Speak Easier is my next book all about public speaking. A bit of background:

For the last 5+ years, I’ve been speaking at industry conferences, running workshops, and, perhaps most importantly, helping organize Litmus Live. During that time, I’ve learned a lot about communicating effectively onstage, both through my own mistakes and successes and those of my peers.

This past year, in particular, was spent prepping speakers for our three Litmus Live events. Although I wrote a little bit about what that means, there is a ton that I’ve learned since then through online, video, and in-person chats with speakers. So much that I don’t think it would fit comfortably in a blog post (let alone two or three). Regardless of whether speakers were brand new to public speaking or had been around the block a few times, I noticed some common themes cropping up.

What’s more, there weren’t too many resources that collected those themes and made them accessible. Sure, there is a ton of advice out there on public speaking, but I feel like a lot of it isn’t ideal for most people. Especially people that are giving talks at industry conferences, meetups, or presenting to co-workers or stakeholders.

Far too much of that advice encourages folks to follow the TED Talk template, with a focus on storytelling and mind-blowing insights. While that’s great for certain topics, that format doesn’t usually work well for conveying practical information or educating audiences about non-motivational topics.

There also isn’t a lot of reliable information on the logistics of public speaking. Things like what you need to do to get a speaking gig, how to prep for the event, build slides, practice, and get feedback, let alone what to do while you’re speaking and how to follow up with people after your talk is done.

I figured I’d better write that resource. So, that’s what I’m doing.

Speak Easier is a practical guide to public speaking for everyone, whether you’re talking in the conference room, at a local meetup, or on a massive stage.

My goal is to get the first draft done by the end of the year, with the digital and print versions available early in 2019. Along the way, I’ll be documenting the adventure of producing it here on my blog, as well as sharing resources I come across throughout the research and writing process.

Follow along here or by signing up for my email newsletter. And, if you have any tips or resources on public speaking you’d like to share, just email me.

November 21, 2018

Link: Practical Tips for Better Tech Talk Slides

lots of buzzwords to keep track of

Another piece for the LogRocket blog, this time on creating better slides for tech talks. As someone that both presents and attends a hell of a lot of tech talks, I figured I could share some of my own tips and pet peeves in the hopes of improving everyone’s slides.

Check it out →
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