Daily Archives: December 28, 2013

‘Breakdown’ in the Indian EDM scene?

Credit Sameer sattar

Credit Sameer sattar

In the recent past, we have had a booming electronic dance music (EDM) scene in India (thanks to Submerge and others who are genuinely trying hard to build it bottom up). However, with any booming scene, we have a lot of noise that starts to spread and override the real signals. And in the process the entire process is fragmented. Purpose defeated.

The noise in question at the moment is, the overuse & misuse of #hashtags and localisation of twitter handles. With fans having quick and easy access to voice their excitement and in most cases faddism to the world, this noise is amplifying faster than ever.

We now have new twitter accounts created for Zedd, Deadmau5, Eric Prydz, KnifeParty, Tiesto, Hardwell,Calvin Harris and many more I assume, each appended with India to it. What value do you bring to the followers in doing this? What are some of the reasons you feel like creating these accounts? Do you share things that otherwise we will not get to know from other sources? Do you tweet interesting and less known facts about artists, that fans would be interested in? Do you share secrets about artists that a fan would find it hard to dig up?

Appreciate the excitement and intent, but IMHO this is just diluting the entire purpose. You might get a follow from the artist himself/herself, but honestly that doesnt mean nothing. You will just end up feeding into his already flooded twitter stream. If you really have to get the artist’s attention then simply @replying helps. It’s easier for them to analyse their reach too. If you really want to let the artist know that we in India are excited about them, love them and want them to visit us, then just “tweet to them”. Trust me this localisation has no end. Do I go ahead and create a TiestoBangalore account? and then TiestoKoramangala?

Remember, fans who love an artist and their music are already following them on twitter. They are in most probability already following promoters and festival organizers such as Submerge, Sunburn etc. as well. So adding another account for fans to follow doesn’t help. Plus, if you are just another super enthusiastic fan creating the account then in most likelihood, you will not have the latest information and insider news on when the artists are coming down to India amongst other details. You then end up depending on research, googling, artist websites/facebook pages/twitter handles and updates from promoters etc. to spread the word. Isn’t your effort redundant? Why take so much effort to repeat something that’s already happening. Again, no one is questioning your intent but you might rather support what’s already available and spread the word. If you see a tweet or facebook post from the artist which hints at India, retweet it. Involve Submerge, Sunburn and others you believe in, to take note of it. Reach out to them asking for more details.

In a similar state is the misuse of #hashtags. Assuming most people understand it’s utility, it makes me wonder how having random hashtags created help. It again has the same side-effects as the twitter handles, wherein you end up fragmenting the conversations around it. You don’t need a fancy new hashtag, but just one that allows you to curate and filter tweets based on a particular topic. Just because someone created a hashtag in the past and it worked doesn’t mean it will, always. Think before you create a new hashtag. Oh and remember, this is just a suggestion for one’s own good. It’s not a written rule, but being in this field, this comes from that experience.

In summary, if you are an electronic dance music fan in India, and are excited with the booming scene, then try to focus on building the right scene. There is a thin line between being a fanatic and patron. We need more patrons THAN fanatics, of course some fanatics will be there. We need more people to support the cause. Spread the right word and a positive vibe. Build an environment that we can call ours, which promotes India in the most respectful way in the international dance music world.

It’s not yours or mine, its ours. So lets work “together” towards achieving what we really want to see as the future of electronic dance music in India.

Further Reading

What’s with the Rift in the Indian Electronic Music Scene?

 — our second article in the series, reflecting some of the concerns and highlighting the rift seen currently in the Indian EDM scene.

Written by

Social Collaboration & Strategy Consultant/#CMGR at ThoughtWorks | Emerging Technologies & Social Media | Loves Electronic Dance Music & Travel Enthusiast

Published April 15, 2013
Thanks to: PWN Star


How to Be a Super Connector

Create better relationships to be better thinkers

Who are super connectors?

«Super connectors are people with more than just a strong social media followings and lots of friends. They’re people who are making high-level connections on a regular basis through methodical and well thought out — albeit “simple” — introductions.»

Listen to Ilya Pozin: 7 networking tips from the most successful super connectors

Why to be at the intersection of social groups matters

«Ideas are like germs: they don’t diffuse through populations of people at random; they make their way through networks—that is, the relationships you have with people and the connections they have with others. As University of Chicago professor Ron Burt has found, your network predicts your career success. But it’s not about knowing the most people possible. Instead of being about size, a successful network is about shape.»

«Rather than looking like a spiderweb, your network (probably) looks like a chemical compound. Why is this? Because we tend to form clusters of relationships: maybe you went to school together, maybe you worked at the same company, maybe you go to the same yoga studio or shooting range.» Image credits at FastCompany

Read the full story: Why successful people have so many groups of friends

An Example: The Author Platform

What happens when we come to publishing and try to find out if the author platform actually works and eventually has an impact on sales?

«When people hear the word “platform,” they often think about social media, or doing self-promotional activities. What they forget is that one’s body of work is the entire engine behind any author’s platform—it all starts with the writing and its appeal to a target audience—and also includes relationships developed in the process.»

See what Jane Friedman has to say: How Much Does Author Platform Impact Sales?

Written by

«The NET is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.» Per Apogeo: Editoria digitale e Oltre la carta. Su Twitter: @letiziasechi


Keys to success, handling procrastination, and dealing with stress

Thoughts on some of the challenges with entrepreneurship

I just had a great email exchange with Wilbert Liu. He’s a really ambitious guy and actually emailed me 5 times before I replied. He was kind and gracious every time, even though I hadn’t replied. Thanks for the hustle, Wilbert! I learned from you here.

Wilbert has been following my startup journey and is excited to create something himself, and he had some great questions for me. I asked him if I could make the answers into a blog post, and here we are. So here are some random thoughts on success, procrastination and stress:

WL: What are your keys to success?

JG: I think the key in terms of entrepreneurship is to focus entirely on trying to find a problem people have and solving it. It’s harder than it sounds, and it took me many tries. You have to actually talk to people and learn if they have a problem, not just build something randomly and see if it works. The other key to success I would say is to do something before you think you’re able to. Before you have enough savings, or before you have enough experience. That’s always been important for me and it’s something I have to keep reminding myself of.

WL: How do you deal with procrastination?

JG: I think my favorite advice for procrastination is from Tim Ferriss: “I deal with procrastination by scheduling for it. I allow it. I expect it.” — so basically I know it’s going to happen, and I let it happen, and then I reflect on things and try and improve. I go for a walk when I have my usual productivity dip in the afternoon. I walk from the office to a coffee shop, get a coffee, take 15 minutes to read some blog posts, allow the procrastination, then get back to work. Not allowing myself to get frustrated by procrastination helped me to lose much less time from it.

Wilbert really showed his hustle, since I asked at this point if he would be happy for me to create a Medium post from the answers and he replied with a third (great) question:

WL: How do you deal with stress when doing startup? You said that you always do something before you are ready. I’ve tried that recently, but got stressed when there is no reward for what i do, feeling expert of nothing, and sometimes i don’t know what i do.

JG: The two best activities I’ve found to help in dealing with stress in startups are daily exercise and daily meditation. Exercise helps me to feel healthy and have a higher capacity physically and mentally, and meditation helps me to be more mindful about every day activities and not be as easily affected by speed bumps. I have even learned to crave the challenges that cause stress, because this is where the real personal growth happens. It’s kind of a paradox, but powerful to embrace.

I’m happy that this was useful for Wilbert and I hope by sharing it, it can be useful for others too :-)

I’ve written about these topics in more depth previously:

Written by

Founder/CEO & Product at @buffer, a smarter way to share. Focused on the lean startup approach and customer happiness. Say hello on Twitter @joelgascoigne.

Published December 28, 2013


I’m 22 years old and what is this.

Fighting to get the open web back sounds great. But I don’t know what that means.

Recently, a lot of people that I admire and look up to have raised their voices, advocating for getting the Internet back to what it once was. An open web. A web we shared and owned together. The old web was awesome.

It sure sounds awesome. Currently, our networks and our personal data are controlled by major corporations with no respect for privacy. Silicon Valley, that so-called tech hotbed of “innovation” and “disruption,” is by most reports becoming a culture of inequality and vapidity. Getting back to the founding open standards the web is, I’m told, a solution to all of this. The web should be a place where we can own our data, where our best developers focus on solving the problems we need to solve as a democratic society. An open web accepts all people and creates a culture of inclusion.

“here’s a photo of back in the day” — @dansinker

Again, sounds great. As a webmaker, I want an open web. But as someone who has never experienced that, I don’t know where to begin in making it. I’m not sure simply reverting back to what we had is the right path if we want to include people who have never experienced the open web or understand its principles.

I had a Xanga in middle school, and I wrote a bunch of bad music criticism on various music blogs in high school, but I wasn’t cognizant enough to recognize what else was out there or understand what the web meant. I was a user of the web as I am now: I used services made by large companies so they could control my content. From Xanga to AOL Instant Messenger to MySpace to Facebook to Twitter, my main modes of participation on the web have been through major web corporations seeking to own my data and sell it to advertisers. Back then, I didn’t know any better. Now, it seems like I don’t have much of a choice.

Aside from the music criticism, my story is not unique. I know this because I used all of these products to communicate with my friends. For my generation — you know, the dreaded Millenials — the Internet has been about networking, about telling everyone about what is happening to you at any given moment. And as we age and our lives take different paths, we can stay in touch. This is the promise that the social web kept. We do not lack for ways of staying in touch, no matter the distance. Better yet, we’re pretty good at using these networks! We’ve become adept users of the web.

But we don’t know how to make these networks. We, as a generation, do not know how the web works or how to make it. More importantly, I don’t think my generation cares about knowing how the web works, as long as someone else is making it work. Hell, I know how the web works, but I’m still writing my post on Medium, where I control next-to-nothing, instead of my personal site, where I control everything, because it is easier and hopefully more people will see it. If we don’t care about how the web works, how can we understand why it is important to own our data? Why would we try if what we can do now is so easy?

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons

When we talk about getting the open web back, let’s not forget the openness that comes from ease and power for the end user that we’ve created in the past few years. I’ve been around for conversations where more experienced webmakers talk about how they used to publish their content or put up their data servers. They owned all that data, and man, those were the days, but to me it sounded awful. Anil Dash reminisces:

In the early days of the social web, there was a broad expectation that regular people might own their own identities by having their own websites, instead of being dependent on a few big sites to host their online identity. In this vision, you would own your own domain name and have complete control over its contents, rather than having a handle tacked on to the end of a huge company’s site.

Are we suggesting everyone needs their own personal website and domain name on the open web? I understand the benefit of having a personal site — that’s why I have one — but everyone? That’s a tough sell. Making a Tumblr to do the same thing is so much easier. Anil’s follow-up post on how to rebuild the open web is smart: It acknowledges that the UX gains we’ve made on the social web are not to be forgotten. But we also have to acknowledge that not everyone wants in on this greater individual investment on the web. Some people will want to be passive users. We have to acknowledge that this is okay.

The open web of the past — at least, the one I’m told about — had its own barrier to entry: You had to care about your data and understand why it was important to own all of it. That’s not going to work this time around. People who have grown up not caring about owning their content and identity online are not going to start caring all of a sudden. Snapchat is successful for a reason.

We do need to fight and make the web more open. I do not deny this; indeed, I fully support the cause. But we need to think about what is going to work at the next stage of the Internet. What will create the most inclusive future? After all, it was our old open web that gave rise to our new social web.

Instead of reminiscing about how great the old open web was, yearning to go back to that, let’s talk about the present questions:

  1. How can we assure users of the web that their data and identity are safe online?
  2. How can we get social content back into the hands of its creators?
  3. How do we include everyone?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here is a crucial aspect: web services cannot exploit the general user’s ignorance about the web. Even if users do not care about owning their data or understand what owning their data means, the web service cannot take advantage of that and sell their data. This is where the social web has failed us. The social web has exploited the ignorance of the average user of the web for profit.

The important step forward is that, while users own their data, they do not need to know what to do with it. The future open web must be easier to use than the current social web, and knowing what to do with your own data cannot be a prerequisite. We will have passive users of the web, and the web needs them. If we exclude them, we risk creating a walled garden that lacks the perspectives and experiences of different types of people. Where have we heard that before?

Further Reading

The Pastry Box Project

 — Our office is in one of the worst neighborhoods of San Francisco. I walk home from work every day. Helps me unwind. I walk a few blocks u…

The Web We Lost

 — The tech industry and its press have treated the rise of billion-scale social networks and ubiquitous smartphone apps as an unadulterated…

2013: The Year ‘the Stream’ Crested

 — The Stream has been the organizing metaphor for the web for the past several years. In May 2009, a high-ranking editor of TechCrunch iden…

Written by

Medill ‘14, @AP/@Google scholar. @knightlab undergraduate fellow. I’ll be at @nprviz from January — March. Alum of @tribapps, @Gannett

Published December 27, 2013


Developing strategy for your firm

In Five Steps

1. What’s the problem ?

Identify a real problem — a customer need or want ; something that someone will pay to solve. The ‘someone’ who pays does not always need to be the customer.

2. How can the problem be solved ?

Identify ways to solve the problem. If multiple problems can be solved by a single solution, first choose to solve the problem that matters most; Do NOT try to solve all problems at one go.

3. Can we solve the problem ?

If there are multiple such problems, prioritize the problems you want to focus on after you answer this question — ‘ Do I have all the relevant capabilities ?’ or ‘Can I build those in time ?’.

4. Build your SWAT team around the problem you choose to solve and invest in focus.

This is the execution part that many fail to do. Prioritize and build capabilities that will solve the problem.Design your operating model to evolve around your product-service-solution portfolio.

5. Obsessively measure your progress and watch the market, your customers and buyers.

When anything mentioned in steps 1,2,3 or 4 changes, be willing to stop, edit ideas and go back to the drawing board.

Lastly, recognise that all strategy( and leadership) is situational. If you feel too confident that a type of strategy mentioned in the title of the latest bestseller is exactly what you want, you’ve really not learnt the art and science of strategy.Each of the five steps involve extensive amounts of data, diagnosis ,hypotheses testing and willingness to experiment.

List of books that influence how I think about strategy

Alexander Osterwalder’s book on Business Model Generation is the classic text on figuring out the model and capabilities.

Paul Leinwand & Cesare Mainardi’s book — ‘ The Essential Advantage

Mark Gottfredson & Steve Schaubert book — ‘The Breakthrough Imperative’.

Richard Rumelt’s book, ‘Good Strategy, Bad Strategy’ is the whack on the right side of your head whenever you find strategy convulted or confusing.

‘Performance Without Compromise: How Emerson Consistently Achieves Winning Results’ by Charles F.Knight is a great book on how to establish a cadence for executing a strategy.

‘Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation’ by IDEO’s Tim Brown is a good primer on how to use innovation as a starter for strategy.

The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by Roger Martin is a great introduction to the mindset needed to think through the strategy development and implementation process.

Written by

Exploring, Amazed and Curious

Published November 28, 2013


Can Your Users Win?

Designing a product that keeps people engaged requires thinking about how users win and lose

We all like to win. If we lose we might try a few more times but after a while we’ll usually give up. More products should be designed with this in mind.

For me winning is learning and sharing. When I grow up I want to be a professor but in the meantime Quora promised to fill that gap. And it solved a real problem too. Instead of having to come up with a blog post I could share knowledge to a self-selected audience that was literally spelling out what they want to learn. So I set out answering questions. And nothing happened. I got a few upvotes here or there and while I recently became aware of the Views tab (thanks Octav) it wasn’t a rewarding experience. There are people who are winning at Quora but I couldn’t figure it out, so I gave up.

Enter Medium. The promise of delivering your learnings to an audience that cares about quality and design. Sounds like my kinda crowd. I hashed out my first post on a topic that I care about, Communication Design — it felt like an overnight success. Now maybe I got lucky with Medium, or maybe I had more incentive to share the article in all it’s typographical splendour, but I instantly started getting emails saying people had recommended my post. When I logged into my stats I could see people were not just viewing but actually reading my post. It felt good. I felt like I was winning.

Here’s what I learned about these two experiences which you can use to design more engaging products:

  1. Define what “winning” is to your users
    Medium clearly defines winning on it’s stats page with views, reads, and recommendations. These are also things I inherently care about as they align with my own internal definition of “winning” which in this case is teaching.
  2. Design flows that help users get to a point where they “win”
    Medium helps you through constraint, the only features that exist are designed to help you win. They make it easy to create a beautiful post. They help you get feedback by inviting collaborators, who also get to “win” through being recognized. And they make it easy for people to recommend your post.
  3. Give users feedback so they can get better at “winning”
    The stats in Medium promise to help you understand which posts worked and which ones didn’t. Meanwhile, their help documents suggest that the most popular posts are 400 words in length. In the future I hope we’ll see even more guidance on crafting winning content.

Of course this all assumes you know what “winning” means for your customer. If you’re hunting for the answer, try looking at the intersection of your business objective and your user’s needs.

Do you design products? Say hi on Twitter @nikDOTca.
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What Does It Mean to Have a Design Style?

Beyond the buzzwords: what is design style, and what is its purpose in the design process?

The internet is saturated with information on how to follow different design styles and trends. But missing from most of this discussion is a more rigorous definition of design style, its uses and limitations throughout the design process, and how to approach consistency or variability in style for different design work and contexts. (I’ll primarily be focusing on communication design, with a slant towards technology and software interfaces.)

What is design style?

In a historical context, we often mean a visual style localized to a time, place, and purpose—Russian constructivism in the 1920′s, grunge in the 90′s. Many styles take the name of the time period (Victorian), aesthetic movement (Art Deco), or design philosophy (Swiss/International style) that spawned them. A style might also be associated with a certain subculture (e.g. urban street art’s spontaneous, constructed letterforms and frequent pop-culture references).

Posters by designer Armin Hofmann in the Swiss/International style. Images from Flyer Goodness.
Art Deco–style posters by Steve Thomas. The style of the type and the gentle colour gradients are typical of this style.

In a colloquial context, when we talk about a “design style” it’s usually through buzzwords. Grunge. Swiss. Minimalist. Skeuomorphic. Flat. These words are used to describe a whole set of visual conventions and commonalities. Grunge typography can be overlapping, chaotic,exuberant, and use 10 different typefaces on a single poster. This is in opposition to Swiss typography, which is legible, ordered, reserved, and stark in typography.

What does a design style encompass?

Superficially speaking, what we recognize as a “design style” is a set of particular colour harmonies, typefaces, compositional styles…But on a higher level, design styles usually carry with them certain principles of what the goals of design are, and techniques for how to accomplish those goals.

Some of these associations are borne out of clichés; others represent a very real part of the philosophy of that style. Skeuomorphism uses gradients and textures because employing physical metaphors is thought to make things clearer and more usable. Flat design is partly a reaction to skeuomorphic design, and employs flat planes of colour to clear away visual confusion and promote clarity.

Designers often characterize themselves by a fondness for certain styles and a repulsion to others; their work may clearly show a point of view through a consistent set of patterns and tropes.

Products may characterize themselves by having a consistent visual language—Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for iOS, for example, establish patterns for how menus should look and work, how buttons should be styled, and so on.

The purpose of style

So what’s the purpose of organizing ideas and patterns into distinct visual styles? This is by no means a comprehensive discussion, but I’ll present some reasons below:

Similar principles

When you borrow from certain design styles, it might be because the principles of that style agree with the principles of what you’re designing or how you design. For example—the Swiss International style prioritizes objectivity and readability, so the clean, neutral type might be appropriate for an international, corporate behemoth. Since the style grew out of similar design concerns or issues, the ways in which that style manifests may be the most effective for the situation.

Cultural references

You might also want to use a style to reference a certain time period and philosophy. Advertising that’s intended to produce nostalgia will often borrow design patterns from past decades. Doing this borrows from our collective culture and aesthetic literacy—whether consciously or subconsciously, we recognize certain visual devices as modern or old-fashioned. Political advertising will attempt to convey authority and reliability through a nationalistic colour scheme or certain icons and symbols; anarchist publications might will tap into a sense of rebellion with haphazard, grungy typesetting. Cosmetics companies that want to tout their eco-friendly, organic products will veer towards allusions to nature—in colour and type and imagery.

Political posters for Reagan’s 1984 presidential campaign. Using the American flag and White House evokes national imagery and ties Reagan’s image to American icons of power and patriotism; the type is solid and authoritative. Image from a report by Andrew van Alstyne.

Specific styles may also be co-opted as a critique or parody of a particular message—themes from WWII-era propaganda posters being used in contemporary design criticizing current military actions or advocating for peace.

Uniformity of expression

Using a design style to guide the creation of a particular product can help preserve consistency and clarity. Certain visual motifs are often associated with others (certain typefaces may be considered playful, and are expected in conjunction with a youthful and vibrant colour scheme), and knowing what expected conventions exist might help in designing something that has a consistent voice and character.

When designing within a system—one book cover in a series, an app for Android or iOS—a design style which dictates common motifs for the system at large helps to show cohesion and interconnectedness. Having consistent design principles and some measure of consistent visual design between all iOS apps, for example, leverages the existing familiarity and trust users have in the entire iOS interface and app ecosystem, and makes each individual application a little friendlier and accessible.

So that’s style. But it’s worth taking a look at not just what a design style is and what it is for, but what it is not—and where a discussion centered around design style may fall short in the design process.

Style in the design process

Designers tend to self-identify as practitioners of particular style, or take great pains to develop an identifiable signature in the work they do. Having some kind of calling card and distinct look isn’t a bad thing—famous designers are often characterized by how they employ type, grids, and colour in highly individualistic ways—but personal style should only go so far in dictating design decisions.

The limitations of a personal design style

Designer and blogger David Airey recently published an interview with Eric Karjaluoto, the writer of the book The Design Method. When asked, “You say the voice of the designer is irrelevant — what do you mean?”, Karjaluoto responds:

I’m speaking specifically about individual personality and style. Design is often considered a close cousin to art, and this misunderstanding clouds what our industry is about. New designers, in particular, want to imbue their work with their own sensibilities, but this desire isn’t actually that important.

Clients…need design that is built around their needs and amplifies their organization’s values and aspirations. Designers need to gear themselves to think about their clients’ needs first.

Although this specifically references client work, it’s easy to extend this rhetoric to any design work that is intended to reach and communicate with more people than just yourself. A rigid adherence to one “design style” could be a very real threat to the work you produce—whether for yourself or for a client—if you allow your personal preferences and habits to overshadow the needs of the project you’re working on and the message you need to communicate.

Making aesthetic decisions without context can result in design solutions which are inappropriate for the medium, inappropriate for the voice of the content and speaker, and inappropriate for the information being presented.

Style without context

When we talk about design, it’s convenient and easy to talk about design styles to express what a design is or what it strives to be. “I want this to be really minimal” might be your way of expressing “I want the content to be front and center, and I don’t want unnecessary visual details to detract from it.” Usually—hopefully—people are translating the names you use to the principles they symbolize.

But a verbal shortcut can quickly become a cognitive shortcut, and it’s all too easy to start equating a design style with what it looks like, not what it does. We start treating a design style not as a set of problem-solving techniques, but a coat of paint. Minimal means whitespace, monochrome, sparse visual details. The principles behind minimalism—although critical in determining how appropriate and effective a minimalist style might be—are left behind.

When we see style as visual conventions for how things should look, instead of visual solutions, we trivialize design. We have to remember that design is a process, not just an end result—then we can think of different design styles as different means to an end, not recipe books for how we create. Design styles are sets of techniques we can employ, not ideologies that require absolute commitment or loyalty.

A great example of the pitfalls of design-style-as-ideology can be found in the skeuomorphic vs. flat design debate. The advent of the chromatically bold and visually adventurous Windows Metro design style, as well as the iOS interface redesign that dispensed with certain skeuomorphic vagaries for a more consistent, “flattened” design, have sparked considerable discussion on the decline of skeuomorphism and the rise of a flat trend. But it’s also a particularly instructive example of the limitations in how we talk about design style and its use.

Skeuomorphism yesterday, flat today

Skeuomorphism here refers to the practice of imitating real-life effects and metaphors and a 3D-ish look in digital interface design. It was largely popularized by Apple software interfaces which had ebook reading apps take a very literal approach to the reading interface—you had to literally “flip” digital blocks of text and watch a page animation bring you new content—and calendar apps which mimicked the pebbled-leather bindings of physical desk calendars.

Apple’s heavily-criticized skeuomorphic iCal interface has: a pebbled texture for the application chrome, simulated stitching, and a page tear effect to mimic a real-life calendar. Image from the Apple support site.

The strengths of skeuomorphic design were in employing real-world metaphors to aid usability and familiarity. Buttons that feel 3D clearly state, You can interact with me. I’ll do something. I’ll respond.But the weaknesses of skeuomorphic designs were in introducing those metaphors without a clear intent and purpose. What about a navigational device where you have to “flip” pages of text like a book? Does mimicking a book have a use here? Are the pixels-pretending-to-be-pages more effective than just using forward-back arrows? Does that physical metaphor have a place?

Flat design has come into vogue largely as a reaction to the excesses and weaknesses of skeuomorphism. It eschews physical metaphors for digital design patterns. So we’ve moved from leather-and-wood-textured surfaces to flat, bright colours; inset text to dimensionless, straightforward text; physical metaphors to purely digital paradigms. And in the conversation around the large-scale abandonment of skeuomorphism and the adoption of flat design in many, many interfaces, it’s too easy to focus on the what instead of the why.

An example of the Windows 8 flat design style, with large iconography on flat colour. Image from an MSDN blog written by Doug Holland.

The what—what your buttons should look like, what your menu bars should look like, what your colour palette should look like. These things are straightforward questions with straightforward answers. But the whys complicate things. Why were the skeuomorphic-style buttons ineffective? Why are these flat design paradigms more usable? Why are we dispensing with things that mimic corkboards and notepads for unabashedly digital interfaces? What have we gained in the capabilities of our designed objects? What have we lost?

It’s really easy to read design blogs and tech press now and get the sense that skeuomorphism has been entirely disavowed as the old and inefficient way of designing things. But it’s too absolutist to characterize this trend as entirely abandoning one style for another.

As software product design drifts away from heavy skeuomorphic metaphors to the visual style and principles of flat design, the core requirements for a well-designed application still hold. A Smashing Magazine article called “Flat And Thin Are In” champions the rise of the “flat trend”, but its discussion on the best practices behind flat design end up being best practices for design in general. Focus on content, use grids for order and hierarchy, pay attention to colour and typography. Sound familiar?

And even if the visual style of the redesigned iOS 7 interface might signal a departure from skeuomorphism, the principles of employing physical metaphors and effects is still there—in a subtler form. Technology blogger Rene Ritchie has an excellent writeup on the richer interactions and effects in iOS 7, and emphasizes how the physics of small interactions and movements has been beefed up. These are skeuomorphic ideas applied to a different aspect of the interface.

The app switcher screen for iOS 7. From the iMore writeup.

Skeuomorphism had—and still has—a purpose. Flat design will also have its strengths and weaknesses as a design style, and figuring out how far to lean in either direction—or which elements to borrow from one or both styles—requires an understanding of design beyond the what. Figure out the requirements for a designed object, and employ a visual style which can most elegantly meet those requirements.

Design style is an immensely helpful framework throughout the design process. But the use of style should go beyond hardcoded rules and regulations. Taking a larger view of design style, one that emphasizes pragmatic problem-solving over trend-driven ideology, leads to a more thoughtful design process—and, hopefully, the creation of more nuanced and effective design.

Moving beyond design style

In exploring a style, remember that it is one way of seeing the world and the possible design solutions that exist, and not the only way. Be thoughtful, and consider a style not just in terms of how it looks but what it does. Combine motifs from different styles as appropriate. Consider the relative merits of different styles. What purposes can one style serve better than another? What associations does one style promote more clearly?

The most compact explanation I’ve seen on the limits of relying on a particular style comes from designer, writer, and educator Frank Chimero. In his response to “What advice would you give a graphic design student?”, he says—

Aesthetics are fleeting, the only things with longevity are ideas…Be wary of minimalism as an aesthetic decision without cause.

Design is communication. In choosing a visual style, be able to articulate—if only to yourself—why you chose it.

Expect your style to evolve and adapt—for the purpose, for shifts in trends and preferences, for different periods of your career and life. As designer and webcomic writer Rosscott advises design students,

Having a style is another way of saying you’re predictable.

Be inventive. Surprise yourself. Surprise others. Let your design be adaptive and reactive to the situation, and your design work address the purpose of the product and the context it inhabits. Investigate different design styles, adopt them, appreciate them, employ them—but in ways which enhance the expressivity and effectiveness of your work.

Written by

Studying computer science & communication design at CMU. I subsist off bubble tea, good books, and Markdown.


What Not to Do Every Day

A Recipe for Better Ideas

There’s prevailing notion that in order to make it as an artist or creative person, you have to keep working and working and working.

Practice makes perfect. Nothing good comes easy. Persistence overcomes resistance. Ten-thousand hours!


While I agree with the idea that overnight success is largely a myth, that doesn’t mean that one should spend their hours just toiling away. If you curled a dumbbell with improper form day after day, no matter how many times you did it, your bicep wouldn’t grow.

Repetition obviously has value, but art, music, TV/film, design, writing, technology… these are industries of ideas. When you break them all down into their simplest components, that’s what they’re built on. Creative projects built on terrible ideas are like a million dumbbell curls done with bad form. They’re useless!

And yet so much creative advice deals with the production of the work— keep curling that dumbbell!— not the ideation upon which its founded. Take writing, for example. Everywhere you look you see writing challenges.

One thousand words a day! Five-hundred words a day! Two-thousand words a day!

These challenges teach you to produce, but they don’t teach you to think about anything. They’re just telling you to fill a page with words. Maybe that’s good practice, for potentially getting better at the technical part of writing, but what purpose does it serve if you have nothing to write about? You’re just spinning your wheels. You need something to inform your work. How are you going to get that if you’re just sitting in front of a computer?

You have to live in order to create. You have to walk the earth and see, touch, feel and experience as many things as possible, then take that back and let it find its way into whatever it is you’re creating. Otherwise you’re just like everyone else. Boring.

The most interesting stories are waiting to be told. The most beautiful art is waiting to be made. The most incredible songs are waiting to be written.

That stuff will never come to you by just sitting down and methodically plugging away every day. They’ll only come to you by getting out there and living.


If you like this please click “recommend” below!

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? EMAIL ME: paulcantor@gmail.com

Written by

music producer | writer and editor for AOL, MTV, Vice, Billboard, Village Voice, Complex, Vibe, XXL, … etc.

Published December 27, 2013


50 Tips and Insights About Productivity, Happiness and Life.

What I’ve learned/dicovered so far.

In no particular order:

Meditation is a Powerful Medication: http://bit.ly/18tXcTa

01- MEDITATE!!! Seriously, meditation is the most fundamental practice you can do Just 10 minutes a day. You are not that busy.

02- Don’t buy lots of stuff, only buy the stuff you really love.
03- Declutter Magazines, DVD’s, and Books.
04- Sleep well!
05- The present moment is the only thing you have.
06- Declutter your kitchen.
07- If you take it out, put it back.
08- If you open it, close it.
09- If you throw it down, pick it up.
10- If you take it off, hang it up.
11- Get a library card.
12- Drink your coffee black.
13- Go to the grocery store with a calculator.
14- Bring cash instead of using your debit card.
15- Take inventory before going to the grocery store to avoid buying repeat items.
16- Only use your credit card for emergencies.
17- Pay down your debt.
18- Make a six month emergency fund.
19- Start setting aside money to invest.

The Monster Collection of Moleskine Tips, Tricks and Hacks

20- Write your ideas down (trust me). Get a Moleskine just for this particular task. They look awesome and they will make you want to get think about more great ideas. Also, chicks love guys with moleskines ;)

21- Get a passport.
22- Go to bed, and wake up, early.
23- Take cold showers. It has an awful lot of benefits
24- Get a deck of index cards. Use them.
25- Also get a deck of Post-its.
26- Go for a walk every now and then.
27- At from a smaller plate to help control portion size.
28- Instead of carbonated drinks, drink water.
29- Do what you say you’ll do. No one likes a talker.
30- Don’t check email first thing in the morning
31- Daily baby steps are better than giant steps on the weekends.
32- Start your own blog.
33- Spend more time around people you love and admire.
34- Read more.
35- Learn something new everyday.
36- Don’t skip breakfast.

European Culture on the Breakfast Menu by malzekri

37- Learn a new language. It will make your life more interesting.
38- Don’t discriminate. Connect with everyone in your network.
39- Be humble.
40- Be curious.
42- Turn internet access off from time to time.
43- Learn to love a challenge.
44- Skepticism is a good thing.
45- Address those two-minute tasks right now. They can become bigger.
46- Go to lots of conferences and seminars.
47- Learn as much as you can about everything.

Books as Muses by Jessie Wender http://nyr.kr/Jw4bA2

48- Books and travels are the only two thing that you can buy that actually make you richer.

49- Learn to program.
50- Regret is the only thing you should fear (also, fear itself).

Written by

Indie Game enthusiast.Writer. Magickian. Currently working on an audio program that will help charity.@Ricardo_Fabila

Updated December 16, 2013


Fight Fair

A “Social Contract” for your Social NetworkingDebates

If you’re anything like me, you are experienced in the art of “keyboard warrior Facebook fights.”
And if you’re even further like me, you know that Facebook is as much to a formal debate format as Apple Jacks is to Apple Orbits off brand cereal.

And you’ve probably noticed, these Facebook feud “debates” stem from the stupidest sources. Take for instance, someone posts a picture of your childhood male golden retriever, wearing a pink santa cap, getting caught drinking out of the tree’s water bowel and then your good ole’ Uncle Chuck (or your family’s equivalent) makes a comment like:

“Dog on get dat dog out of that pink cap there, he a boy, whatcha thinkin’?” (minus the punctuation I inserted for the most trivial aid in understanding…)
And now, we know it, deep down, ‘just leave it be, you can’t change Uncle Chuck…’ But we can’t help ourselves. We comment.
“Uncle Chuck, why do we have to associate pink to a non male denotation?” Besides, the dog’s color blind, he won’t care…” [smiley face] (We insert a smiley face to show it’s a friendly non argumentative comment.)

…It does not work…

Out of nowhere, like a war flashback, Uncle Chuck goes to his keyboard in a word casserole of expletives, assumptions, conspiracy theories, talking about how ‘the south will rise again,’ calling me a “Commie trader” and comparing me to the Al-Qaeda…

But, for those of us with a little hope, (Sorry uncle Chuck…) I propose a “Social Contract” of social networking. I love me a good debate, but I’ve had the advantage of having been on actual debate teams, where a very formal formatting is followed. Social Networking debates don’t need to be structured to that extreme, but understand what is fair game and what is off topic will help nurture more intelligent and sanity worthy communication between two people who share different views.

I will share a very recent disaster of a “debate” I just experienced. I’ve removed names and pictures from the other person (please respect privacy and don’t try to find this person…) I was talking with and will use it to show where it went “unfair and off-topic” (and why, ultimately, they left feeling agitated because, while they won’t admit it, their deferring tactics ended up hurting them.)

Here was the initial post that started it all:

Now, before I continue, this person and I have a history. So, knowing I can’t change certain views, I go for the ones I feel I might have a chance at for making my claim. (And this is a good strategy for your debating too, don’t argue a point you know they won’t hear. Approach it from a Socratic Method type of argument: find their argument and use it against them.)

Here’s my first response:

As you can see, I played to his fight, instead of addressing the racist undertones to his post, I showed the impracticability of half-mast honors to all fallen troops. In debate, that is the “formal” challenge to his “thesis.” I follow that up with my own “counter” argument about solider benefits.

Here’s his response:

Now, this is a sloppy reply from him, but not horrible at retaining decorum. He stays on topic (mostly) with his original thesis argument, now bringing in specific examples (i.e. Janet Jackson, and then the solider, Chris Kyle.) That’s good debate strategy. Again, I’m not going to argue to his racist comments, because knowing him, it’s a lost cause not worth spending time on.

Me again:

Here, I stay on topic, arguing my main point again, showing how weighing one “war hero” over another is going to open a can of worms.

His next post:

First off, I address this in a post I’ll put after this, but he goes to counter my “solider benefit” argument here, but confuses it with an argument about welfare as a whole, not what I was talking about.

I give him benefit of the doubt, and correct that to steer the topic back on track.

This is where I call out that he is no longer on topic and making assumptions about my political standing (when he mentions [stop defending the president’s every decision…])

He briefly agrees with me, but then makes another assumption about what he thinks I will respond to [Bush’s fault comment]without me even having the chance to go there. Which is a bad debate strategy, you are basically preventing yourself from pinning me by letting me know ‘don’t bring this up as your counter…’ After that, he goes completely off topic on his assumption claim.

I try to move it back onto the original topic:

And the he moves to the last frontier: personal attacks

Also here, he pretty much proves my point [not every soldier can get buried at Arlington] but then goes to contradict himself by saying [lack of patriotism by saying Chris Kyle doesn’t deserve that] (Which I didn’t even say…) but, like the realities that not every soldier can be buried in Arlington, not everyone can get half-mast honors.

And then following another racist comment and a personal attack, I decide I’ve had enough and refrain from going further. Which I reccomend. No wants a shouting match (in person or over the internet) and you don’t want to say something you’ll regret. So, just leave it be when it goes this route.

But as you can see, when he deflected or changed topics, it really ended up just hurting his own arguments.

Now, I’m not posting this for you to go out and trump all your family, friends, and strangers in arguments. (You may lose all your friends & family if you do that…) But I can honestly say, learning how to think this way helps you when having more civil disagreements or arguments with your significant other or a good friend and can strengthen a relationship and open up healthy communication. By being able to look at what someone else is really saying (or what they are saying by not saying certain things or deflecting) you can see where their intent is and try to understand them better.

So, no more below the belts, know your audience, admit when you’ve “lost,” and most important: know when a “debate” just isn’t worth it all together.

*I am not a “professional” debate teacher (or student really either…) Feel free to leave a note where you disagree or think up something I missed. Oh, but keep the notes in line with the “rules” we just went over. =)
If you liked this, here’s some more stuff where I pretend I know political stuff: https://medium.com/law-of-the-land/8403e658b428

Written by

Just your typical humdrum, socially awkward, introverted, twenty-something -year-old undergrad undergoing the self seeming mandatory quarter-life crisis.