Selected Quotes from What Screens Want

“Metaphors are assistive devices for understanding.”

“A screen doesn’t care what it shows any more than a sheet of paper cares what’s printed on it. Screens are aesthetically neutral.”

“Web and interaction design are just as much children of filmmaking as they are of graphic design.”

“A designer’s work is not only about how the things look, but also their behaviors in response to interaction, and the adjustments they make between their fixed states.”

— Frank Chimero, What Screens Want

A while ago I read Frank Chimero’s What Screens WantHere are some quotes that stood out to me while I was reading that I wanted to jot down.

A week with my 🍎⌚️

2015-04-27 12.34.16

I got a pretty nice tax return this year, and decided I wanted to buy in to all the hype and get an Apple Watch. I usually can’t afford to buy any first-gen tech, so it was a nice treat.

Before preordering, I dropped by the Apple Store in my local mall and booked an appointment to try it out. The entire process was kind of ridiculous — I went into a store and scheduling a guided appointment with an Apple specialist to try on a watch. Is this what rich people do, like, normally? It was honestly pretty cool.

When I was called over to try on the watch, I went for the Sport first. The 38″ felt perfectly proportioned on my wrist, while the 42″ felt way too big and clunky. The band felt perfectly smooth on my wrist, both comfortable and breathable.

While I knew going in that I was going to get a 38″ Sport, I decided to try out at least one or two other model as well. The specialist I was working with recommended trying out the Stainless Steel edition with the Milanese Loop bracelet, since it was “the most fun” to physically put on. The loop clasped into place with the hella satisfying snap of a slap bracelet. I also tried on one of the Leather Loops, but it was a letdown after the Milanese.

Picking between green and blue Sport was hard — I’d had the same issue when picking my 5C — but like my 5C, I went for the blue, because I’m ridiculous and it’s kind of fun that my watch and my phone match.

I ended up preordering right there in the store, and was bummed to discover the Watch wouldn’t ship until June. That’s when I was extra surprised last week when suddenly Thursday afternoon I found out it was going to ship and be delivered the next day (when I’d be on a plane to Minneapolis).

Finally, Monday, I had the box in my hand. The unveiling was just as great as any other Apple product: easy, guided, and seamless. When I finally got the Watch on my wrist it took forever to start up, which caused a fair bit of anxiety. Finally it finished booting up, and I was able to (manually, since the camera detection didn’t work) sync it up with my phone.

I spent my entire first day swapping it between my left and right wrists. I’m right handed, but wear my Fitbit on my right wrist, because that’s what feels most natural to me. I finally landed with the Watch on my right wrist, upside-down so the crown was reachable, and my Fitbit tucked mournfully into my back pocket, maybe forever discarded. Potentially discarding my Fitbit in favor of the Watch was the most painful part of the adjustment process. I’ve sunk almost a year’s worth of data into my Fitbit. It felt a little bit like I was losing all of that progress. I’m still not totally sure what I’m going to do with it. I don’t want to think about it.

Now that I’ve lived with my Watch for the work week, I’ve started to form some more thoughts. Physically, it still feels pretty great on my wrist, though my skin gets clammy underneath the sensor. Everything feels just a beat too slow.

The watch doesn’t always light up when I rotate my wrist towards me, but always seems to light up when I’m doing something else, like eating — which, as you can image, gets really distracting. Bring fork to mouth. Wrist lights up. It’s frustrating. What I’d really like is to be able to turn off the display, like a secondary Do Not Disturb, unless prompted by the crown.

The haptic feedback is absolutely fantastic — until it isn’t. When you get as many notifications as I do, it’s like this little creature sitting next to you and poking you, going “hey! HEY!” every couple minutes. I have to turn Do Not Disturb on during meals, otherwise I just get so distracted. It’s even harder to ignore than my phone, since all I need to do is rotate my wrist to see my notification, and the tap tap feels more urgent than the buzz in my pocket did. I also had to turn off sound notifications, since they disturb not only me but everyone else around me.

Above all else, the Watch has made me realize that I want less notifications, and I want the notifications I receive to be more meaningful. Tap tap — someone liked your post! Tap tap — someone else did, too! It gets tiring. I really only want to know when someone’s trying to talk to me.

The rest is just distraction.

So far, the periodic “you need to stand up!” notifications have been pretty annoying, and not really accurate — especially when I receive them while standing, or after having walked around a bunch. It just doesn’t feel like it knows when I’m actually doing something. I need to play around with the health settings more to boost my target activity, but exploring the Watch sometimes feels intimidating — I’m still getting the hang of the controls, which are not as intuitive as I was hoping. There’s a lot that’s hidden behind new gestures, and I keep discovering new ones. It feels a little bit like trial by fire, since there was no sort of orientation.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun, embarrassing moment I experienced — answering a client call on my Watch, assuming it would answer on my phone. Surprise! Suddenly a voice was coming out of my wrist. (She took my “Crap! Crap! Hold on! One sec! Sorry!” very well.)

Another things I’ve noticed it that overall, usage of my phone has gone way down. I no longer take my phone out to check a notification, only to get sucked into something and then realize fifteen minutes later that I’ve just been dicking around on my phone the whole time. My phone is now mostly just used when I want to kill some time, or really check something. For all that notifications are distracting, it’s getting easier to ignore the desire to immediately check them at their source. I can just glance down at my wrist, see if it’s important, and keep moving.

I’m liking my Watch so far, and I’m glad I got it. I’m really excited to see where the technology is going to go in the future, and how we as people are trained by it, and in turn influence its development and the way we shape our technology moving forward.

Isn’t it fantastic

Later that day, I asked Ive about an Apple design that shares the new campus’s formal simplicity: the circular “hockey puck” mouse that was included with the first iMacs. Many found it hard to control, and it is widely considered a design failure. Ive didn’t accept that description. He referred to different schools of thought about arms, wrists, and mice. “Everything we make I could describe as being partially wrong, because it’s not perfect,” he said, and he described the wave of public complaint that accompanies every release. He went on, “We get to do it again. That’s one of the things Steve and I used to talk about: ‘Isn’t this fantastic? Everything we aren’t happy about, with this, we can try and fix.’ ”

— Ian Parker, The Shape of Things to Come

I’ve been slowly working my way through the New Yorker’s recent piece on Jonathan Ive. A bunch of quotes have stood out, but this one in particular really resonates with me.

A Year of Saying No

One of my personal goals this year is to improve my focus.

However, I have an embarrassing confession to make:

I can’t say no.

Whenever I’m approached by a friend or a colleague to work on a side project, I’m usually pretty excited. I like helping people! Side projects are fun! But sometimes, I just don’t have time to give my full attention to another project. It’s at these moments that I experience a crippling sense of guilt. Saying “sorry, but I don’t have the extra time right now” becomes this huge, anxiety-producing task that I can spend hours stressing about afterwards. So most of the time, I say yes. And some of the time, saying yes means either doing the task half-heartedly, or sacrificing my actual job to work on something else for someone. Either way, I don’t perform well.

This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t feel this guilty about saying no. From a logical standpoint, I understand this. People will understand if I don’t have time. If I say yes and then can’t finish the project, or do a poor job, it’s honestly worse than just saying no in the first place. My brain understands this, but my heart doesn’t yet. So this year, I’m pledging to get over that, and to learn how to say no.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up on this wonderful aspect of the Automattic Creed:

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague [Full]

…It just means I’m going to learn when to say yes (and to what extent I can say yes to), and learn how to let go and say no, without feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt. This does mean cutting down on projects for friends and colleagues, and even WP core. But only by learning how to say “no” can I gain a better sense of focus this year.

Women, WordPress, & the Web — Two Years Later

Two years ago today, I published Women, WordPress, & the Web.

A lot for me, personally, has changed in the past two years. I got a lot more involved in contributing. I joined Automattic. I’m currently on a team meetup in Hawaii. Two years ago, I could have never imagined where I’d be today. Literally! I’m in Hawaii!

My experiences are not the industry norm.

A year ago, this retrospective would have been a lot more positive. But after the past few months, I honestly feel like there has probably never been a worse time to be a vocal, prominent woman in tech. Levels of harassment have escalated from casual misogyny and sexism to outright terrorism. Men in tech and gaming are organizing attacks on women who speak up. Just look at some of the harassing tweets Anita Sarkeesian receives in a week. Recently, Model View Culture CEO Shanley Kane’s entire family was doxxed after she criticized Linux leader Linus Torvalds.

Despite all of this, WordPress kind of remains a relatively safe haven for women in tech. This isn’t just an accident, or a fluke — the WordPress community, and most importantly, WordPress leadership, has carefully cultivated a culture of inclusion, acceptance, and diversity. WordCamps are adding code of conducts. People who say obviously shitty things are called out. The WordPress community team has been hard at work doing diversity outreach and event planning and creating opportunities for mentorship (More, more). Helen Hou-Sandí, a total badass and top WordPress contributor and committer, was promoted to Lead Developer this week. This promotion has so far gone off with nothing but congratulations and support, without people questioning her (impeccable) qualifications.

Quite honestly, you literally can’t turn around without walking into an awesome woman doing something great with WordPress. Women are designing, and coding, and supporting, and speaking, and leading. Seeing that kind of representation, from people who look like you? It’s incredibly empowering. It makes you want to become a part of the community, because you know that people like you have already been welcomed.

Sure, it’s not perfect. There are plenty of ways we can continue to improve. Outside of gender, we’re not super diverse. There’s still a lot more we need to do, and we need to make an effort. Jerks are still going to be jerks. Well-intentioned people are still going to fuck up, and we’re going to have to apologize and try not to do it again. We need to keep this in mind as we move forward to create an even more inclusive and global WordPress with a variety of diverse perspectives.

But as a woman in a world where our colleagues are getting doxxed, and swatted, and harassed on a daily basis, dealing with a couple microaggressions, some casual patronization, and the occasional inappropriate email feels like a cakewalk for me.

That said, given the current tech climate, the act of publishing this post is a significantly scarier idea now than it was two years ago.

I’m not sure where to leave this off. I hope this is the worst of it. I hope this is the one last hurrah of assholes in tech before things do get better. And I really, desperately hope that it doesn’t take an act of violence to turn the tides.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy some waves of my own with my amazing WordPress friends and colleagues.



My Top WordPress Pain Points

Don’t get me wrong — I love WordPress. But every time I set up a new site, the same issues keep jumping out at me. So in no particular order, here are some of my top WordPress pain points:

  • When you switch themes, the menu you’ve set to primary should remain set to primary in the new theme. More likely than not, if you’ve already set a menu to be primary, you want it to remain primary.
  • Same for widgets. When I switch themes, there should be a good way to easily transfer these over without having to go into your inactive widgets and reset them all. (Widgets are much more complicated, though, so I’m not sure there’s a good solution to this one. Maybe themes should be able to set a “primary widget area?”)
  • I want an image widget.
  • There isn’t an easy way to turn comments off on pages. Comments on pages should be turned off by default. 7/7/15 edit: mission accomplished!
  • The first thing I do when setting up a new site (unless it’s a blog) is go in to my Reading settings and set a page as front. This usually requires a kind of irritating dance, since first I need to create a blank “home” page, then set it as front, and then I can start customizing the rest of my site. I want to be able to do this when setting up my site in the first place, and have WordPress generate a blank page for me so it’s ready to go when I’m dropped into my new dashboard.

Maybe 2015 will be the year some of these issues get tackled. :)

WordPress 4.0 “Benny”

I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to mention that WordPress 4.0 “Benny” was released last week. As of writing this post, it’s been downloaded a total of 2,527,700 times.

The release revolved around polishing the way we manage and create content. There are a lot of things to love about 4.0, including my favorite new feature: previewing of embeds within posts and pages.

I played small role in a lot of different small design tasks during the release, including:

  • The design for the new plugin “cards”
  • Minor design tweaks to the new media grid and media grid attachment modal
  • A small Dashicons update
  • The design for the “About” page

If you’re already running WordPress, be sure to update your sites to 4.0.