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Reading Notes, June 2022

Tweet: Evan You (@youyuxi)

It’s as if we care more about what Google considers to be fast than actual UX.

Gotta get those numbers.

Article: “SPAs: theory versus practice”

I think time and experience have shown that, whatever the promises of SPAs, the reality has been less convincing

Personally, I still think the OG spa—Gmail for desktop—is still the best spa (unless you count my local day spa, then that one is the winner 🥁).

What about real-world [SPA] websites that aren’t built by JavaScript framework authors?

The important thing, I think, is to remain open-minded, skeptical, and analytical, and to accept that everything in software development has tradeoffs, and none of those tradeoffs are set in stone.

Article: “Don't defer quality”

Ever find yourself about to ship something that isn't good enough?

…"We can always come back and fix it up later".

You can, but you won't.

New priorities pull harder than old ones.

Yeah. This is too true.

A lack of quality rarely qualifies as a bug, and it's hard to justify the time, effort, and tradeoffs required to come back with a polishing cloth down the road.

It’s interesting because the quality that comes out of companies who are renowned for it—like say Stripe—never seems like a follow up. Even on their initial launches. They always seem to have their best foot forward. I guess that can be attributed to their discipline for quality? They seem to know what deserves the highest quality and they make the right trade-offs to deliver on it up front, giving the impression to folks like me that everything they do is exceptional.

you can often see what a company values by what they leave unfinished or or unloved.

Article: “On online collaboration and our obligations as makers of software”

Is it the notetaking system that’s helping you think more clearly? Or is it the act of writing that forces you to clarify your thoughts?

Is it the complex interlinked web of notes that helps you get new ideas? Or is it all the reading you’re doing to fill that notetaking app bucket?

Is all of this notetaking work making you smarter? Or is it just indirectly forcing you into deliberate, goalless practice?

In taking notes, it’s the journey that matters (the habitual process of taking notes, synthesizing ideas, and re-articulating them) not the destination (a highly-organized and tagged library of notes for recall). Even if I had to throw away every single note I’ve ever taken, I’d still do it because it’s the process—the act of taking notes—that’s the primary value. The artifacts are of secondary value.

However, if my suspicions are correct, then the primary benefit from notetaking comes from regular, deliberate practice. It doesn’t matter if you’re sketching, journaling, collaging, jotting down bullet points, recording a daily video, or just writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re filing it all away with a detailed ontology into a structured database or if you’re dumping it all into a box. It’s the habitual practice—in a way that fits your skill, personality, and practices—that matters.

Article: “Re-evaluating technology”

The technologies are the easy bit. Getting people to re-evaluate their opinions about technologies? That’s the hard part.

Article: “Create a better slogan for your brand by ignoring these five stupid stereotypes”

Imagine you run a supermarket that offers fresh products only. A marketing message for this business may sound like “Fresh products every day.” Is it catchy? Probably no.

How can we make it look more interesting with the power of copywriting? — “We leave nothing for tomorrow.”

Why is the second option much more interesting and creative? — It makes you think! It creates a micro-conversation inside of your customer’s head: “Why don’t they leave anything for tomorrow? — Because they bring fresh product every day, and what’s left at the end of the day is probably donated to poor people”.

I marvel in jealousy at people who can write purposefully like this.

Article: “Color Spaces”

Leave it to human biology to be non-uniform and resistant to being easily mapped to a format computers want:

This may seem all like a pointless transformation, but there is a good reason for doing all this nonlinear mapping. The human eye is not a simple detector of the power of the incoming light – its response is nonlinear. A two-fold increase in emitted number of photons per second will not be perceived as twice as bright light.

What does it mean?

Linear encoding has the same precision of light intensity everywhere, which accounting for our nonlinear perception ends up having very quickly increasing brightness at the dark end and very slowly decreasing darkness at the bright end.

Article: “The difference between correct-ness and useful-ness in a design system”

Great post on design systems. Sometimes you need to make a concession and create something that doesn’t exist and isn’t standardized just so people can get stuff done.

Because this is the true challenge of design systems work: the difference between correct-ness and useful-ness. We could document everything—every disabled button hover state and every possible combination of components—within Figma. We could name them precisely as we do in the front-end. That’s correct-ness. I see a ton of design systems within Figma that are desperately trying to be correct. But if we want our design system to be useful to our team then we need to cut things out. We really don’t need everything in Figma, only what will speed us up as designers.

The fact is:

Stuff changes too much to ever expect 100% correctness within Figma.

What your users want will likely tend towards being useful vs. being correct. It’s classic product design. You want to make what’s correct—what’s logically self consistent. People who use it don’t care, they just want to get stuff done and use a tool to help them.

Speech: “Some Thoughts on the Real World by One Who Glimpsed it and Fled”

Commencement speech from Bill Watterson, author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Lots of insight in here from the life of a creative.

my fondest memories of college are times like these, where things were done out of some inexplicable inner imperative, rather than because the work was demanded.

You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your life in terms of other people's expectations

The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It's a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you'll probably take a few.

Drawing comic strips for five years without pay drove home the point that the fun of cartooning wasn't in the money; it was in the work.

Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you're really buying into someone else's system of values, rules and rewards.

The so-called "opportunity" I faced would have meant giving up my individual voice for that of a money-grubbing corporation. It would have meant my purpose in writing was to sell things, not say things. My pride in craft would be sacrificed to the efficiency of mass production and the work of assistants. Authorship would become committee decision. Creativity would become work for pay. Art would turn into commerce. In short, money was supposed to supply all the meaning I'd need.

You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing.

In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.