The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.
There’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it…
Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently. And it’s that process that is the magic.
The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.
Photo Credit: Alfonso Jimenez
Needless to say, the idea of leaving New York has sparked some mixed feelings. I moved to New York when I was 17 to attend NYU. The year was 1999, Guiliani was mayor, the dot com scene was bubbling, and there was a sense of possibility and excitement in the air.
Moving to NYC was leap of faith; I had only been there once before, for a few days with my family, in order to visit NYU. The city was huge, impenetrable - I remember being in a cab driving over the Manhattan bridge, completely dumbstruck that the highway descended into the vertical walls of the skyscrapers and projects. All the lights; each of them a person, living their solitary lives behind closed windows and doors.
Driving into the city from JFK, I feared I had made a huge mistake. It was pouring rain, and the dreary gray houses of Queens made for a gloomy welcome. I have always had an affinity for sunshine - I grew up in Arizona, a place where 60 degrees is considered cold. I don’t know what brought me to such a frigid city. I suddenly felt panicked.
However, once the rain stopped, I quickly began to embrace the city. I read Robert Caro and Jane Jacobs. I watched out the windows for a glimpse of the beautifully graffittied abandoned station at 18th Street and stowed away on a 6 train as it made its u-turn in the abandoned city hall station. Gradually New York became the language of my dreams; when I sleep, I’m frequently transversing a toy model version of the village, of downtown. Every time I left the city, I never felt quite like I could breathe until the car exited the Holland tunnel and surfaced in Manhattan.
Terrible things happened, of course. I ran from the falling Twin Towers and watched armored tanks drive down Canal Street. I lived through my 20s, which naturally included personal drama too petty to recount. I watched helplessly as 7 feet of East River water flooded my apartment during Hurricane Sandy. I kept moving further east until I finally ended up in Brooklyn.
All this is to say that NYC is a part of who I am. I have experienced my entire adult life here; in 2 more years I would have lived here longer than my childhood in Phoenix. But the pull has weakened; those breaths of fresh air are progressively weaker. And I’m getting older, and more appreciative of life’s creature comforts, which are increasingly hard to come by in New York.
So this is farewell, at least for now. I take comfort in the fact that New York will always be here, and I can come back. in the meantime I’ll be on another coast, looking at another ocean, absorbing the pulse of another city.
Long reads I enjoyed this week:
- How Disruption Happens - Manifesto from Greg Satell, at Forbes, on an an alternate model of technological disruption: he argues that a threshold model of collective behavior drives change rather than individual influencers. I enjoyed his “new rules for a disruptive age”, summarized below:
- Seek Out Interest, Not Influence
- Build Inside Before You Build Out
- Connect To Higher Threshold Groups
- It’s Not The Nodes, It’s The Network
- The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly of Parallax Web Design - Good primer for those new to the parallax effect in web design, with lots of useful examples.
- The Ten Commandments Of Efficient Design In Axure - I’m neck deep in a really complicated Axure file and this useful list of tips & tricks taught me a few things.
- Want To Read Others’ Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction - Validation on the emotional value of reading high-quality fiction. Good news for voracious readers like me!
Last week I took a well-deserved vacation to a remote location without a solid internet connection. It was lovely to disconnect, and to find so many interesting topics upon my return.
- Replacing The User Story With The Job Story - Alan Klement has a useful article that applies the "jobs to be done"a> strategy theory to user stories. Looking forward to giving this model a try when I next need to create this type of deliverable.
- What inner city kids know about social media, and why we should listen - Very interesting article about the unusual - and frankly, genius - ways that kids exploit social tools to serve various social purposes. Fascinating.
- N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens - The most interesting part of the ongoing revelations about the N.S.A.’s data collection practices, to me, is the fact that they have created a sort of shadow social network (codenamed “Mainway”) that tracks personal connections through phone and email metadata as well as publicly available information from places like Facebook. I think the combination of data that feels “private” (when I made a phone call and to whom) and data that is readily public (my Twitter feed) is what makes this issue so complex and confusing. It’s a perfect example of laws and organizational practices getting out of synch with cultural expectations, which seems to happen faster than ever with technology.
- Postmortem of a Venture-backed Startup: Lessons Learned from the rise and fall of @Sonar - Must read from Brett Martin about his experience building a widely downloaded, critically acclaimed, and ultimately failed app. Great insights.
- The Customer Journey to Online Purchase - Useful research from Google on the role of various channels in the online purchase journey. Good deck fodder!
The past few weeks have been tumultuous, between travel, family, and work obligations. To catch up, here are some of the long reads I’ve enjoyed recently:
- <LiDiary on the evolution of communications - Rebecca Solnit thoughtfully considers how our communications practices - from letter, to email, to text, to tweets - affect our experiences of community and connection.
- How to Present Your Animation Ideas - The always excellent Barrel NY has a tutorial on how to present ideas for animation in web design.
- I used to love her, but I had to flee her - A beautiful meditation of what it means to fall in and out of love with New York.