Weave In, Weave Out

Well, this sucks.

I joined Weave a few months ago as a way to meet more people and grow my professional network. It’s important to meet people face-to-face and not just text like 13-year-olds.

Hey humans! It’s important to be human.

So i’ve been on a total of 2 coffee dates and then I get this in my inbox earlier today:

It seems I was too tremendous for Weave and I broke the system.

It’s too bad, I think Weave was a great service and I was way closer to upgrading to a premium account than I was for LinkedIn (especially now that Microsoft owns LinkedIn).

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Career

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How About You Learn to Think Before You Learn to Code?

Over at TechCrunch, Basel Farag doesn’t want you to learn to code:

There’s an idea that’s been gaining ground in the tech community lately: Everyone should learn to code. But here’s the problem with that idea: Coding is not the new literacy.

If you regularly pay attention to the cultural shenanigans of Silicon Valley, you’ve no doubt heard of the “Learn to Code” movement. Politicians, nonprofit organizations like Code.org and even former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City have evangelized what they view as a necessary skill for tomorrow’s workforce.

There may be some truth to that, especially since the United States’ need for engineers shows no sign of slowing down.

But the picture is more complicated.

Farag’s basic premise is people should learn to problem solve before they learn to code. I agree with this. Even though I’m a designer I started teaching myself how to code over 15 years ago because I have a technical side to me that thinks coding can be fun. Other times I’ve learned certain aspects of coding because of a project requirement.

As the years have gone by I touch code less and less, but my basic understanding of code and development helps me as a designer when I collaborate with front-end and back-end developers.

The question, “Should I learn to code?” is similar to, “Should I start a blog?” and “Should I start a podcast?” The answer to all these is the same: do you have a problem that coding, a blog, or a podcast will help solve?

For me, learning to code in the early 2000s made me employable in the early days of the Internet and web design. I started this blog in 2006 because I needed a place to capture my thoughts and react to news. I started my podcast in 2014 as an extension of this site.

The other very important puzzle piece to this is persistence:

It took me more than a year of self-taught study before I got a freelance gig. Even then, the pay was poor. There were countless times I was refused even an interview because I didn’t have a computer science degree.

There were times when I could not afford a place to stay and had to rely on the kindness of friends to keep me going. There were many nights when I wanted to give up. But I found the strength to keep going.

It was — and is — persistence that allows me to stay in this field.

In varying degrees, I’ve stuck with my endeavors. Some scratch an itch (podcast), while others have more impact on my career (coding, blog).

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Career

Where Did All the Good Jobs Go?

Seth Godin: The computer, the network and the economy:

When a pre-employed person says, “I don’t know how to code and I’m not interested in selling,” we need to pause for a moment and think about what we built school for. When he continues, “I don’t really have anything interesting to say, and I’m not committed to making a particular change in the world, but I’m pretty good at following instructions,” we’re on the edge of a seismic shift in our culture. And not a positive one.

No, the good jobs aren’t coming back. But yes, there’s a whole host of a new kind of good job, one that feels fundamentally different from the old days. It doesn’t look like a job used to look, but it’s the chance of lifetime if we can shift gears fast enough.

You don’t have to like this shift, but ignoring it, yelling about it, cutting ourselves off from it is a recipe for a downward spiral. It’s an opportunity if we let it be one.

The mutants will survive.

Über-Average Income

Uber data reveals drivers earn less than $13.25 an hour:

Uber is always droning on about how drivers are able to make money by driving their own vehicle, while having the freedom to choose their own schedules. A few years ago, Uber told The Wall Street Journal that a typical driver earns more than $100,000 a year in gross fares. However, new data and calculations based off a million trips reveals a different picture. In three major US markets – Denver, CO, Detroit, MI, and Houston, TX – Uber drivers earned less than $13.25 an hour.

It’s important to note Uber drivers are paid per ride, not by the hour, but $13.25 hourly average is still not much income for a company “valued” at over $60 billion (as of December 2015) and one that classifies its drivers as contractors, not employees.

It would paint a more complete picture if we also knew how many hours a week Uber drivers work.

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Business, Career

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Your Formative Years Are Important

Dropbox founder Drew Houston on his formative years:

Initially, it was about playing games, and when I was about 11, I was pretty sure I was going to make computer games for a living. Part of my interest was also just discovering what makes these games tick. I would get the source code of a game and then modify it to work how I wanted.

That’s how I got my first job, actually. I was a beta tester for this game, and I was frustrated because the developers weren’t moving fast enough. So I started poking around under the hood, and I found all these security problems.

I emailed the developers, saying, “Hey, guys, you’ve got all these problems and here’s how you should fix them.” And they wrote back, “Great, do you want to work for us?” They said I could work remotely, too, so I said, “Is it O.K. if my dad fills out the paperwork, because I’m 14?” They said, “We couldn’t care less.”

Curiosity, drive, and not waiting for permission to do something: you’ll find these qualities in many successful people.

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Career

Apple Diversity

Apple launched a new page breaking down the diversity across the company:

This kind of reporting and transparency is great, but as CEO Tim Cook admits in his message, there’s a lot more work to be done.

Let’s take a look at the executive board, for instance:

Not many brown people up there. Wait! There’s a black woman VP of HR. Yay!

So yeah, I would agree with Cook. There’s a lot more work to be done.

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Career

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How Much Does Apple Pay Jony Ive?

The salary of the man who has designed every Apple product from the iMac to the Apple Watch has never been disclosed to the SEC or the press. The last time he filed an SEC Form 4 — required whenever there’s a material change in an insider’s position — was July 2009.

According to Apple, Ive is exempt from SEC rules because he’s not what the commission calls a “Section 16” employee. Despite his title — chief design officer — the company does not classify him as a director or officer of the company.

Woah.

Via Daring Fireball

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Career, Product

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Über-Greedy

Uber is going back to court next summer:

Next summer, a federal court in California will hear arguments in a lawsuit that could change Uber forever. The lawsuit challenges the way Uber and other so-called transportation network companies classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. But if that case goes poorly for Uber, the ride-hailing company already has a fallback plan: the states.

State governments in Ohio and Florida are considering bills that would statutorily define Uber drivers as independent contractors and not employees entitled to certain benefits and protections, like medical insurance and wage guarantees. They join three other states — Arkansas, North Carolina, and Indiana — that have successfully passed bills classifying drivers for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft as contractors, according to Reuters.

Uber just received another round of funding that could value it at over $64.6 billion, but they’ll not interested in having any of their actual drivers as employees, just the people behind computers in Silicon Valley.

Sounds greedy as shit to me.

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Business, Career

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“Silicon Valley Startups Aren’t Really Creating Many Jobs”

“One theory is that companies over the last 10-15 years, unlike in the ’90s, don’t need to hire as many people because the software — loosely described as machines — is doing the work,” he explained. “It’s the classic case of how many people actually work for Facebook versus its market capitalization. Another theory is that a lot of these companies get bought up or they fail — and if you fail, you can’t hire more workers.”

Economists Suggest Silicon Valley Startups Aren’t Really Creating Many Jobs

Technology is absolutely phasing out jobs permanently but you also have many companies that won’t offer to help educate and modernize employees with skill sets and tools they need to be more relevant in today’s job market.

So just learn on your own, right? Sure. For me that’s pretty easy. I can look at code and read books and pick up new technologies pretty quickly, but most people are not that adept with technology. Technology is scary to a lot of people.

I see it firsthand when I go home for the holidays and I become the ‘gadget fixer’ for everyone. I’m also the IT department for my mother-in-law, and occasionally, her boss. My wife also has an aunt who’s solution to maxing out her iPhone with thousands of photos is to just buy a new iPhone with more capacity.

I’m going off on a bit of a tangent but my point is these average, everyday people I’m describing are the same people that are susceptible to being made redundant by technology.

Categories:

Career, Finance

Focusing Your Creative Energy

“‎The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” 

— Bruce Lee

Early in my career as a web designer I had trouble focusing. I started off projects strong, but I had trouble following through on them.

Looking back at my various failed starts and poorly executed work, I think of Cyclops from the X-Men series (Jerry Seinfeld says all we men consider ourselves low-level superheroes). Cyclops can’t control the energy beams that come out of his eyes — they’re extremely powerful, but also destructive and a waste of energy. Think of a fire hydrant without a hose attached.

Cyclops needs the help of special eyewear to harness his optical energy so that he can point it in the direction he wants, with the intensity he wants.

Creativity is the same way for me and lot of other people: our brains are inundated with tons of great ideas, but without focus they go out scatter-shot and wind up as unfinished projects, or worse yet, never make it into a sketchbook. It ends up being all wasted energy. I was never diagnosed with ADD as a child, but I feel as though I easily could have been.

Focus is still something I have to work on daily, but the good news is I’ve figured out techniques and habits over the years to channel my creative energy in one direction at a time. 

Below is a list of tools and technics I use to help me achieve focus. They can turn you into a creative Cyclops too.

Get a Notebook and Pen

A notebook and pen are essential before you even attempt to address the other sections. I don’t care if it’s Field Notes, a Moleskine, Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist Journal, or a handful of loose sheets folded in half and stapled together.

Always be ready to write things down where ever you are. If your brain works like mine and you don’t write things down you will forget them. I guarantee it.

Baby Steps

In the movie What About Bob? (YouTube), Bob Wiley (played by Bill Murray) has his first appointment with his new psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin (played by Richard Dreyfus). Bob has a multi-phobic personality and gets anxiety attacks all the time, every day. Doctor Marvin suggests Bob read his book, Baby Steps, which advises people make small, reasonable goals for themselves in the pursuit of their bigger goals. He tells Bob, “For instance, when you leave this office, don’t think about everything you have to do in order to get out of the building, just think to what you must do to get out of this room, and when you get to the hall, deal with that hall…”

We can apply this thinking directly to projects. Break them down from macro to micro. If you have to design a website, don’t think about designing the whole website.

Write down the baby steps:

  1. Capture Client Goals
  2. Request Content/Assets
  3. Create Site Map
  4. Wireframe Key Pages
  5. Design Key Pages 6. …etc.

If you ever reach an step that seems daunting, break that step down into sub-steps.

All I can say about Baby Steps is mash potatoes and gravy.

Checklists

Checklists are very closely related to Baby Steps.

I use checklists specifically for client deliverables and requests. As soon as I complete a request from the client I check that item off my list.

I could write another whole post just on checklist methodologies. You can have project checklists, daily checklists, checklists for your checklists. The checklists are endless.

I recommend reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande for a thorough understanding of the power of checklists.

Repeat It In An Email

Whenever I reach a milestone or deadline on a project I email the client (and any other relevant people like project managers, team members) and in the email, I echo back their list of requests I captured.

I do this for two reasons:

  1. it lets the client see you’re listening to them (clients usually don’t notice when you’re paying attention to them, but they hate when you don’t listen to them)

  2. it helps me be sure I didn’t miss anything on my checklist

Tell Siri to Remind You

Most of you have a portable computer on you at any moment. Use it. Maybe you’re at lunch away from your desk and you get a great idea for your project. As soon as you get that idea, pull out your phone and ask Siri or Google Now, “In 15 minutes remind me to change landing page hierarchy based on Jen’s idea…”

Steve Jobs liked to say the computer is “a bicycle for the mind.” I love this phrase. I love it so much I created a Kickstarter project around it. I love it because it’s true. Amplify your mental abilities and creativity with your mobile devices. 

These devices are literally waiting to help you accomplish more.

Now Go Cyclops the Hell Out of Some Projects

I’m going to stop here before I list more tips for creative focus. I think this is a good foundation of ideas you can start applying to your you work right now.

They’re open to changing as needed to match your particular workflow.

If there’s anything you should take away from this it’s the importance of defining your goals and objectives and then breaking them down into manageable, actionable pieces.

You have the creative energy, now unleash it with focus.

Categories:

Career, Pyschology

Amabots

Wow, Amazon sounds like a great place to work:

Company veterans often say the genius of Amazon is the way it drives them to drive themselves. “If you’re a good Amazonian, you become an Amabot,” said one employee, using a term that means you have become at one with the system.

And:

Some veterans interviewed said they were protected from pressures by nurturing bosses or worked in relatively slow divisions. But many others said the culture stoked their willingness to erode work-life boundaries, castigate themselves for shortcomings (being “vocally self-critical” is included in the description of the leadership principles) and try to impress a company that can often feel like an insatiable taskmaster. Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.

“One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight,” said Dina Vaccari, who joined in 2008 to sell Amazon gift cards to other companies and once used her own money, without asking for approval, to pay a freelancer in India to enter data so she could get more done. “These businesses were my babies, and I did whatever I could to make them successful.”

Since the article came out, CEO Jeff Bezos has refuted many of the claims in the article.

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Business, Career

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“Writing is rarely considered a serious occupation. Why?”

Each camp has a point, and the existence of both indicates that there’s something deeper at work here, something intrinsic to the value of writing itself. The main reason writing gets contrasted with a “real job” is that writers do very often have outside sources of income, which is not unrelated to the ubiquity of unpaid gigs. It’s led to the assumption that self-proclaimed writers are either nighttime hobbyists, independently wealthy, or unemployed people who’ve landed on a good euphemism. The greater danger comes from the myth that published writers actually are living off their writing—or, more accurately, off the bylined writing you know about. And the first use of that hashtag contributes to the myth: It makes frank discussion of what writing pays (or doesn’t) even more taboo than is already the case. It isn’t a pernicious stereotype that “writer” is rarely a job in the way that “lawyer” or “garbage-collector” are. It’s the truth. And it’s not useful for the handful of writers living entirely off their creative output to pretend as if this is the normal state of affairs.

All Work and No Pay, Phoebe Maltz Bovy

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Career

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Design, Don’t Develop

Jesse Weaver says we don’t need more designers who can code:

Saying designers should code creates a sense that we should all be pushing commits to production environments. Or that design teams and development teams are somehow destined to merge into one team of superhuman, full-stack internet monsters.

Let’s get real here. Design and development (both front end and back end) are highly specialized professions. Each takes years and countless hours to master. To expect that someone is going to become an expert in more than one is foolhardy.

Here’s what we really need: designers who can design the hell out of things and developers who can develop the hell out of things. And we need them all to work together seamlessly.

This requires one key element: empathy.

What we should be saying is that we need more designers who know about code.

A-FUCKING-MEN.

Ten years ago I had decent front-end development chops, but I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was not a developer and would never be one. I’m a designer (who happens to have an aptitude for technical things).

I know about conditionals and loops and arrays and variable typing, but I use it to talk with developers, not to write my own code.

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Career