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Democracy is an ideology we’ve grown to love and historically fought for (still fighting in some cases) over the years. As human beings we share our opinions which need to be acknowledged and sometimes, incorporated by others.
Unfortunately while democracy flourishes in politics it can be quite dangerous in the design realm. Remember the saying “Too many cooks spoil the broth”? With too many people involved, lack of proper communication and responsibility you might end up with seriously over-cooked soup.
There’s no shipping with democratic design. There’s stagnation.
Creation and then exhibition (shipping) of our creations is the ultimate goal. But how can we avoid stagnation and infinite feedback loops that the try-to-include-everyone approach brings?
Designers are hired to do a certain job. Like a plumber fixes your leaking sink, we build and fix experiences that make peoples’ lives easier and thus, more pleasant.
With no trust there’s no design.
Unfortunately, we will fail if there is no trust. Trust is fundamental in human relations — both personal and professional, yet often is so lacking. Our clients tend to be scared and feel the need to control the process to avoid failure. Somehow, the trust that led them to hire us vanishes when they are presented with actual work that needs to be accepted.
We need to learn to trust each other. Trust our co-workers that tasks they own will be completed. Trust that the people we hired will use their expertise to our benefit. Trust their judgement and knowledge. If not, decisions will be always questioned and designs will never see the light of the day.
The lack of trust closely correlates to who takes ownership of a project. It’s easier to distrust flaky and uncertain figures. Often though, leaders have strong personalities. They’re not afraid to speak up and say: “Stop” when someone’s overstepping.
Ownership doesn’t imply dictatorship.
One could say this suggests that every single decision is made by the project owner. Nothing could be more wrong. Ownership assigns responsibility, both for success and failure. It enforces being as good of a listener as a dictator. Ownership is one of the key ingredients to getting things done.
Leadership doesn’t necessarily lay in the hands of designers though. If that isn’t the case, our job is to trust their judgement, give valuable feedback and empower them to create.
Request feedback responsibly
Being able to give, and more importantly receive, feedback is crucial. It’s easy to get offended and treat feedback personally. To doubt our skills. While some amount of reasonable self-doubt is necessary, the important thing to remember is that by requesting and getting feedback we make our creations better: No man is a an island.
Feedback is essential. Constructive feedback is priceless.
We need to learn to let go of our personal taste and preferences. Learn to hear (see Take ownership), but also learn to say “this is good enough”.
Design is by nature an iterative process. As much as we want to avoid design by the committee (unless you want a horse instead of a camel) we need contributions from others to make it happen. The key is to be responsible about the help you’re given.
There’s no perfection, nor will there ever be. Embrace it.
The bureau commissioner, in a federal court filing dated December 11., is seeking an order requiring Google hand over information about its business practices, including contracts.
A spokeswoman for the Competition Bureau said the decision to seek the order was based on the fact that Google has, or is likely to have, information relevant to the bureau’s probe of the company’s practices.
Last week saw the arrival of my delivery of coffee from Bolivia. Bolivia is a special place for me, somewhere I have visited more than any other non european country, and somewhere I love the coffee and love the people.
I have a very long blog post in me about Bolivia (I plan to lock myself in a room for two days over christmas to sort it), and I’ll go into detail there, but on the trip in August I found out that last year I bought about 2% of the entire coffee production from Bolivia in 2012. Now we don’t buy that much coffee (were are a remarkably small coffee roastery) so 2% is incredible.
But whats more incredible (and disturbing) is how the coffee industry in Bolivia is disappearing, and being eroded (again for my long blog post).
So anyway back on topic, for a couple of years (this is the third) we have been stocking a coffee called Finca David Vilca. Finca just means farm in Spanish, and David Vilca means well the man David Vilca. Its quite normal for the farms to be so small or so unidentified that they don’t have names in Bolivia and in particualr around Caranarvi. When visaiting for the first time I asked David what the farm was called, and that was it, its cute and its kind of stuck.
So the first couple of years I didn’t think David was so interested in my visits, when ever I spoke to him he either ignored me, or just looked at me strangely and grunted. Now my spanish is awful so I guessed this was my rubbish pronunciation or he just didn’t like me. But his coffee is so amazing I didn’t care if he never spoke as long as he keeps the quality of the cup up.
But in the back of my mind I want everyone too like me, so on the drive up to the farm this year, I asked the exporter if this was normal. Blushing he tells me that the last two year he explained to David why I was visiting, but his hearing is not so good and Davids didnt know why I was there.
His hearing got damaged from years of mining, and he had no idea who this crazy guy was walking around his farm. But last year after I had left he asked why I had come for a second year and who trhe heck I was.
They had told him what we had been doing with his coffee, and how much we love what he does. Inspired and embarrased he asked the exporter what he could do for us for next years visit.
We had just agreed with some other local producers to do some different processes and they told him about this. So he decided under his own steam to do some unique lots for us with a Natural and Honey (I have never seen Honey or Natural Bolivians this was so exciting). But not any old Natural he wanted to give us a farm lot and a mill lot. David has never ever done any processing himself, always rellyed on the mill, so this is amazing, and real progress.
This years visit was so so different, he welcomed me into his home, his wife insisted on giving us a snack and a drink, and the whole family came to see me (his daughter, son in law and granddaughter), and showed me these different processing lots.
The visit was amazing, they wouldn’t let us leave, night came and they were still keen to show us everything about the farm (and I if the truth be known I didn’t want to leave either). But eventually we did and on the drive home I asked why David didn’t have any hearing aids to help him hear (much shouting had gone on the farm that day).
The exporter began to tell me they gave him some money for the hearing aids a few years ago, but it got spent on a satellite dish to keep his wife happy (its a long way from any entertainment or any anything) so I can kind of understand.
So I suggested that we pay for them but the exporter gives the money to the hearing clinic. It seemed like a good idea, but David does not want the money from me, so I had a better idea, why not from you ?
I worked out that on the Washed lot we buy from him it would be an extra 44p a kilo, so instead of £5.00 for a 250g bag its £5.11 and someone can hear again. David liked this idea as much as we did, so…..
My friends aren’t using Instagram Direct, at least not yet. I’ve received just two IGD messages since it launched Thursday. In the meantime, over 20 close friends I regularly message with elsewhere have posted publicly to Instagram, and I’ve received about 60 Snapchat Snaps from 18 different people. It’s obviously early, but right now, I’m more inclined to bet against Instagram Direct than on it.
Yes, this is all anecdotal, but I have a few theories to back it up.
In most cases do people actually know what they want? Did people know they wanted iPods? Did they know they wanted Tablets? To 99% of the population the answer is no. So why does this mean anything? Going from a social network context do people see things wrong with Facebook? Twitter? Yes! But do they know the solution to the problems? Maybe (I say maybe because they see the problems, so they know what they want, they just don’t see the solution).
The two things which irritate users the most are advertisements and privacy issues. Advertisements being the obtrusive way they are displayed in the sidebar, and privacy being the way social networks sell data and distribute it to advertisers to turn a profit. People don’t feel safe online anymore!
I’m firstly going to divulge into advertising:
Most people have seem to come to the conclusion “well Facebook does have to earn money, so those ads need to be there.” Being the bearer of good news in this case, the answer is they don’t.
The whole perception for marketing on social media went wrong from the very start. The original social media platforms thought why not advertise like every other online site. The only inherent problem here is the lack of advertising innovation. Ads may have become more and more targeted, but they are still portrayed in the exact same way, and come from the exact same source: the platforms themselves. But users have no relationship with Facebook or Twitter, they do however have relationships with each other. Started getting my drift yet? No? Well then keep reading.
Image via CrunchBase
The difference between social networks and all other sites is users are able to interact with each other and share content. There therefore must be some way of working around this, and developing a new form of advertising which doesn’t annoy users. Got you thinking right?
Now, back to giving users what they want. Users know there has to be some monetisation strategy for social networks to function, but they don’t like the way it’s currently being done. So let’s give them what they want, let’s scrap all advertising and start from scratch.
We are at the stage of having no advertisements and having just content. So why not keep it like this? Well, social networks have to make money, but then users also only want to see content. So, lets combine the two and place advertising as just another piece of content.
Now we seem to be getting somewhere, we now have advertising displayed as another piece of content, but we still have traditional targeting set in our head. If a user “likes” or has mentioned something three years ago, they are still bombarded with advertising related to that like or mention, which chances are is not relevant to that person or his personal needs. So how do we get over this?
Well, how about we stop platforms displaying ads and give the power back to users? Now we are definitely making some headway. Users have the power, but how to make it happen? Why not match advertisers to users, and let the users display the ads. If a user is following someone, then they tend to have an interest in what that person has to say. So if that person was to display an occasional advertisement related to something he usually talks about would that annoy you? Chances are 9/10 times it’s no.
Now, you might be thinking there are still ads going to be displayed, but if someone you’re following starts to display lots of them which don’t actually interest you, then you can simply press the unfollow button. You are effectively making the choice whether to see the advert or not. You are in complete control. Give the people what they want.
So we have solved the advertising problem, but what about the privacy one? Well why do social networks hoard your data anyway? The frank answer is they need it to make money. It’s pretty simple. They need your data to make complicated algorithms to allow advertisers to target you, so they will advertise on their platforms.
But wait a minute. Didn’t we just come up with a new way to advertise? Oh yeah! If users are the ones distributing the advertisements, the network won’t need any user data. So, why not give it back to users, put them in complete control. Give them their privacy back. Give the people what they want: www.urbancloud.com/beta
So, what does a $65 burger taste like? It tastes exactly what you think it tastes like. It tastes like disappointment. If you’ve never tasted it, it’s hard to describe exactly what disappointment tastes like. Some know the acrid taste of disappointment—the kind imparted by an ordinary experience that’s been over-seasoned with hype. Others are acquainted with the bilious aftertaste that bubbles up with the revelation that you’ve just paid to be part of a marketing ploy. The M.N.O. offers up both of these flavors, but a refined palate will also identify another flavor—the disappointing taste that accompanies the realization that you’re the kind of person who would pay $65 for a hamburger.
I should clarify here that I have not actually eaten this burger. Nor will I. I know what you’re thinking—how can you review a meal you haven’t tried? Ordinarily I’d agree (and have been known to quote a Maoist maxim to this effect). But I think it’s pretty clear that Umami isn’t really selling a $65 burger. They’re selling a $65 ticket to a club that still thinks conspicuous consumption is cool. They’re selling a $65 prop for an #instabrag photo that not only tells your friends you’ve made it, but also lets them know that this is your first bubble.
Yes, it’s made with some of the priciest meat around (an 8oz. Waygu steak can set you back $350), and topped with truffles and ‘77 port reduction. In New York City—where foie gras hasn’t yet been banned for being inhumane—you can also round it out with a slab of fatted duck liver. I assume the hope here is that if you’ve never heard of Waygu, you’ll at least know that truffles are fancy, or that port is fancy, or that foie gras is fancy, and thus conclude that the burger (and ergo, you) are fancy too—kind of the way Donald Trumpcoats everything in gold so you’ll be sure to know he’s “classy.” But just in case four layers of iconically indulgent ingredients send too subtle a signal, Umami went ahead and gave it a name to remove all doubt. M.N.O. stands for “Money’s No Object.” Yeah, you read that right. And no, it’s not 1999.
Clearly, then, the exorbitant price of the M.N.O. is not about the provenance of the beef, or the rarity of the truffles, or the vintage of the port, or the patient torture du canard. It’s not about about the flavor—unless that flavor is the savory taste of smugness. No, like the name says, it’s all about the money—and the piquantly arrogant relish that comes from spending it with abandon. The M.N.O. is not a burger. It’s an edible trophy, a prize in a contest called “look at me.” It confuses opulence with ostentation at a time when neither should be admired. It’s a spectacular indulgence that may be as delicious as it is decadent, but if there’s one thing I can tell you without ever taking a bite, it’s that it’s tasteless.
Over the past decade there have been a couple of Donor Sibling Registry “copycat” sites. These sites offer some of the same capabilities that the DSR has offered. Recently I have seen some new ones cropping up.
There are repercussions of creating these new small “registries”. Most urgently, they dilute what has been a single focused searching capability. I hear all the time from adopted people who wish that they too had only one source to search on. The more “registries” the less likely people are to find one another. When pressed on this, these copycat sites responded with messages like “the more the merrier.” These people haven’t a clue.
Bill Cordray, one of the most outspoken donor conceived people in the US, had this to say: “I think it is a bad idea to undermine the reputation of Wendy’s work by setting up a competitive registry. Although it’s a free Internet and you can do what you want, it will just weaken the value of DSR if several similar registries are set up and you’d have to go to all of them to do any cross-checking. As far as the fee goes, it is more than reasonable.”
Creating more “registries” only does a disservice to donor families around the world. If the focus is taken off of us, it makes it harder for people to know where to post themselves so that they have the best chances for being found. Ultimately, people will not have the chance to connect that they have now, through the DSR. If you post on a copycat site, you may never know that your matches have been sitting on the DSR all along. I am frequently on several of these sites having to tell people that their matches are already posted on the DSR. (A lot more work for me!) And if you lurk on the DSR without posting, you’ll never know how many of your matches are also lurking, also waiting for someone with their donor number to post first.
These new sites boast that they are free. Well, it’s easy to be free while you have a few dozen members, or even a few hundred. We were also free for the first five years of operation, as I ran and built the site with my own money and a few small donations. When we hit more than 7000 members, it became clear that I would need help from members to continue growing our charity organization, as we received no outside funding. The website is still completely free for browsing, and the $75/year or $175/permanent membership fees are only for people wanting to post their information or make contact. With more than 41,300 total members (children, parents, egg and sperm donors, adult donor conceived people and “others”), and more than 10,700 people matched- your odds are pretty good for matching on the DSR.
Academic journal companies are eating up PDF management software and the employees who make it. Should we be afraid?
I awoke this morning to an announcement that Mendeley, a PDF management tool I use regularly, has been bought out by Elsevier, an academic journal publisher. The e-mail was downright déjà vu as just months earlier I’d read a similar product, Papers (which I also use regularly), had been acquired by the journal company Springer.
The hallways of the local ivory tower have been quiet about this news, so what should we make of it? Are these talent and product acquisitions good or bad for science and the researchers who practice it? It’s unclear for now, but let’s consider two different scenarios, two possible worlds:
Will journals use PDF management companies to make science better?
Image by None via CrunchBase
The rosy outlook requires us to offer an optimistic “yes.” Science is already a challenging enterprise before the organization of hundreds to thousands of different academic articles comes into play. These different PDFs often contain incomplete metadata, may differ in version, and vary in quality. Literature is fragmented and interoperability is poor all around.
Fortunately, journal publishers are the font, so to speak, of scientific PDFs. They provide the ground truth for metadata and have access to original articles of the best quality possible. Connecting the source of scientific papers directly to tools which are designed to organize these papers seems like a no-brainer.
So if things go well, these changes will mean that researchers can spend less time organizing science and more time doing it.
Or will journals use PDF management companies to make science worse?
But as soon as you ask the question, “Why are academicPDFsso poorly organized, anyway?” you may hit upon the troubling answer — well, it’s partly because academic journal companies make it that way. The walled garden (i.e., non-open source) nature of many publishing companies (and individual papers) means that many of the copies that make it out to the internet are bootlegged, in a sense — author’s personal copies, scanned from original text, in weird formats, or several revisions behind. To academic journal companies, these bootlegged copies should not exist. Thus, it’s easy to imagine a PDF management tool 2.0 that is capable of deciding whether you have the rights to access a particular journal article. This tool could easily delete papers you were not authorized to view from your machine — after all, it may be illegal to own them.
Because these two programs have been purchased by competing companies, too, it’s easy to imagine that interoperability may remain poor (or worsen). Will individuals have to download and maintain two different PDF libraries, one for articles published by Springer and another for those published by Elsevier?
At any rate, this is a fascinating time for those who love science as well as those who are fascinated by the methods of it, like me. I have a feeling that in the next several years, one of these visions will come true. It will take more of a betting man than me, however, to guess which one.
Muhab, a 21-year-old former student and laborer from northern Syria, has been arrested on separate occasions by opposing armed camps in the nearly three-year-old civil war.
Tortured by the regime of Syrian Pres. Bashar Al Assad and later detained and subjected to farcical legal proceedings by Islamic rebels, Muhab—not his real name—fled Syria to neighboring Turkey in late September. A self-described patriot, he nevertheless says he doesn’t ever want to go back to his home country.
Muhab’s experiences a window into an aspect of the grinding conflict that’s under-appreciated outside Syria’s borders. The abductions of foreign journalists and humanitarians have captured headlines, but the detention of thousands of unnamed, everyday Syrians—by the regime and by rebels—is by far more common.
And for Syria’s future, more troubling.
Tortured and questioned
Muhab was a college kid studying English literature in the city of Homs when he was arrested the first time. It was Sept. 11, 2011, a few months into the fighting. Muhab was stopped by government agents and asked for his ID.
Like many university students, Muhab had protested the regime’s corruption and brutality. But he had no weapons and was not an opposition fighter or organizer. His father had been arrested—and is still missing to this day—but the student had no reason to be on anyone’s list of wanted figures. He handed over his identification card fully expecting to be waved on through.
Instead the agents seized him. Later Muhab learned that the regime had arrested a colleague of his and, presumably under torture, the detained man had named Muhab as an opposition organizer—a false charge, Muhab insists. The student would soon discover for himself that men being tortured will say anything, however untrue, to end the pain.
He was taken to a local branch of the government’s political security apparatus and kept there for four days. On the fifth day, they began hurting him. They hit him with a rod. They shocked him with electrodes. They demanded to know where he kept his gun, how many government supporters he had killed and exactly what role he had played in orchestrating protests.
“I confessed everything,” Muhab says, even though he says there was nothing to confess. Who knows how many other innocent people were falsely implicated, just as Muhab had been.
After 20 days, he was released. He immediately left Homs and moved to Aleppo, a city near the Turkish border, where he took odd jobs to survive. The war soon followed him, transforming Aleppo into a worldwide symbol of the civil war’s horrors. Muhab stayed just six months before fleeing.
He settled in Al Dana, 20 miles west of Aleppo, and took the only work he could find, assisting a Syrian charity group. Around him, an already terrible war took a chilling turn, as Islamic militants—some Syrian, some from Iraq or other countries—slipped into rebel-held areas and began imposing their harsh interpretation of Islam.
On Sept. 24 this year, the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria, one of the biggest and best organized militant groups, sent men to kick down the doors of Muhab’s employer. The fighters grabbed everyone inside including Muhab—and seized their documents and all their electronic devices.
They were dragged before the local sharia court. They demanded to know what the charges were—and got no answer. The judge apologized for the confusion, explaining that the court had been in disarray since the local emir, Abu Abdullah Al Libi, a Libyan, was killed on Sept. 22. “These troubles will not happen again,” he promised, according to Muhab. The judge released the detainees but kept their IDs, thus limiting their movement.
The next day Muhab returned to retrieve his identification and those of his colleagues. A French fighter tried to re-arrest Muhab, saying the young laborer would be jailed for six months unless he brought his coworkers back to face the court again. Muhab protested. The other charity workers were too frightened to return. As for Muhab—losing her youngest son in addition to her husband would devastate his mother, he said.
A Syrian member of ISIS overheard the young man’s plea, gave him back his ID card and told him he could go. Just as he had fled Homs, Muhab got the Hell out of Al Dana. He met his older brother on the border with Turkey and slipped across through a hole in the fence.
Slumped outside a hotel in a Turkish border town, Muhab says he’s never going back to Syria. “I’m fed up,” he moans. “I just want my country to be safe.” The one-time student of English literature says he’ll find work in Turkey doing … anything. But work, even the most basic manual labor, is in short supply in border regions choked with refugees just like him.
Caught between a murderous regime and the clumsy machinations of Islamic militants, many Syrians have no place to go but out. Syria’s neighboring countries are now home to more than a million refugees, just shy of a twentieth of Syria’s population.
Muhab says if he can’t find a job he’ll reluctantly go back to Syria. “I’ll curl up in my mother’s lap.” And pray for better days.