Sometimes it takes time …

.. or in my case too much time.

In 2018 I was sitting in perhaps one of the worlds great cafés drinking tasty coffee and working on an app called Sleep Tight Stories. An app that would get finished, but sucked, and then transformed itself into one of the worlds most popular podcasts in its niche.

I never could revisit that code, in part because I no longer could understand what I wrote, and because it’s nigh impossible to find someone locally willing to write in Swift (on the cheap). Also, I’ve been working 7 days a week on something else.

Now that I have a few days a week to devote to creating new products, it’s time to revisit that bad code, write a tech. spec, and find someone online to help write the parts I will never be able to do alone.


What getting dressed means now

This photo of my father and I at the CDP was part of a section on garbage in a health/social studies text book.

For all of my adult life, with the exception of that period of time where I would wear a black suit to the office, my definition of work wear consisted at its most fancy, a pair of khakis and leather shoes. For the most part, I’ve dressed the same as when I was a kid – jeans, t-shirt and sneakers.

Today, I stayed home and didn’t make my weekly trip to the town centre for meetings and general conversation. But I still decided to dress for the office. Which meant ditching the comfy gym shorts and old t-shirt, and donning gym pants and a fresh sweat shirt. I don’t think it’s possible to get any more casual.

I’m in full support of this anti-fashion, super comfortable work from home office attire.


Turkey tip

Don’t multi-task browning meat, cooking vegetables and siting at your desk editing audio.

On Sunday I cooked a turkey we had in the freezer as a protein hedge in case the world came apart at the start of the pandemic. Cooking a turkey in of itself is nothing special, I cook most meals, but trying to multitask while browning a turkey proves yet again that multitasking is largely a myth.

With headphones on I heard a strange sizzling sound and came out of my daze to realize that I was actually cooking something. Water was boiling all over the stove. And the oven had been set to broil. A minute longer and we might have been met with disaster. Luckily the turkey, despite some charing, was moist and as delicious as turkey can be.


Short two days

I like trying different ways to organize my day. My current system using Omnifocus is getting tired and I’m now somewhat blind to the ever increasing list of tasks tagged “today”. So I have been having fun, as much fun as you can writing lists, trying different analogue ways to capture my attention and decrease the cognitive load associated with having to remember to do things. I saw this nifty little pad at Staples and almost purchased it until I realized that it was missing two days. Obviously this pad was created for people other than myself.


Up to

I was inspired some time ago by Peter Rukavina to keep a running log of the sort of things I am working on, or interested in during a particular month. A public pronouncement of sorts, in an effort for accountability. Unfortunately, I haven’t really been paying attention to it since last March and haven’t changed the updated date since July of 2019 (I just updated it now).

But much has happened since then, and since I shared a short progress report on our Instagram, which by the very nature of Instagram must be entirely positive, I thought I might give a slightly longer update here, and include some of our challenges.

🎧 In the past year I have almost completely pivoted to audio. I still do the occasional product consulting, and I try to approach all the work I do with the same approach I advise to others, but my hands on design and design research skills have been set aside. I’m not sure what the future will hold for me if our venture isn’t able to produce revenue but it’s often great fun.

🧑🏾‍🤝‍🧑🏻 Our company is now called Minzoo Studio Ltd, and I hold no title, other than what is required on the legal document. I cringe when introduced as CEO or some other nonsense.

🎙️ We currently have 4 podcasts with others under development. Of these 4, Sleep Tight Stories has proven to be the most successful, at least in terms of listener growth. Sleep Tight Relax passed the 1,000,000 download mark a few months ago, and Sleep Tight Science finished its’ 1st 10 episode season. We soft launched Sleep Tight Premium in the past month as a paid product.

💯 Sleep Tight Stories is currently ranked in the 0.5% of all podcasts according to Listen Notes and is consistently ranked highly in kids & family and stories for kids. Unlike most podcasts we share our data on our website.

💯 Our growth this year has been phenomenal, thanks in no small part to The Startup Zone. Sleep Tight Stories continues to grow and now has over 530,000 downloads per month and close to 4,000,000 downloads this past year alone.

💯 Audience measurement and its’ meaning continues to be a bit of a mystery. And downloads ≠ money.

💯 Numbers make for a great talking point, but don’t really expose the true value that this project brings to us and hopefully our listeners. Creating a product that resonates with children and has a positive effect on their lives brings us great joy.

📚 We continue to feature local independent authors on Sleep Tight Stories as much as we can. Authors generally are enthusiastic, but publishers, especially local ones, are less so.

🗞️ At the behest of an advisor, we created a press release, which resulted in a bit of local coverage.

🐝 At one point we (the 2 of us) were producing 6 episodes per week. It was 7 days a week, with our heads in front of Logic Pro amongst other tools. We’ve now managed to make the workload a little more manageable so that we can focus on creating more products for children.

🎨 Content creation as a business, despite the stories of successful YouTubers and Instagram influencers, is not a path to riches, and yet all my life I have found myself drawn to this type of work.

💸 Our original plan to be advertising free wasn’t sustainable as we had little time left to develop other products that people might pay for. It’s proven to be difficult to get people to pay for what was always free in the past but Patreon, private feeds and ad revenue is growing, albeit too slowly.

📚 Our first attempt at being a sponsor of the Island Literary Awards fizzled – this the idea of a generous Island teacher who offered to donate the prize money. For some reason since I have arrived on PEI every attempt to either volunteer or donate my expertise, or in this case our platform, has failed. For now we will focus our attention off-Island, but may revisit helping the local community in some small way once I understand what I have been doing wrong.

💸 Startup Zone has been the only source of government assistance we have received. We are an outlier in this regard, so it seems, as I don’t know any company in the StartUp Zone who isn’t actively pursuing money from the government. Some get government money to hire someone to help them get more government money. Without outside financing we rely upon our own sweat equity which slows growth but I think creates a more sustainable enterprise over the long term.

💰 We find living and working on PEI expensive, so if we grow, and we are able to freely travel again, we might start looking to work and hire from elsewhere. I miss traveling immensely.

🦹‍♂️ The hardest decision which is always waiting in the shadows is deciding whether or not to stop. The fact that we have worked so long on this project shows how lucky and how financially disciplined we are. It helps when you are bootstrapping to be cheap. There are many measurements of success, and I feel great about what we have accomplished to date, but playing the starving creative was never a role I ever was fully committed to – otherwise I would still be working in music today.


Office hours

I came out of my cave yesterday and had coffee with the outgoing CEO of the Startup Zone, who is moving with his family to Halifax. In our conversation he reminded me that I have been renting space at the fish bowl and rarely set foot in the space. So today I am sitting in my space away from the lure of the kitchen refrigerator.

It’s been since the pandemic that never goes away (because of people) since I have worked with any regularity outside of home. It’s also one of the few times I’ve been concerned with looking human – it’s t-shirts and sweatpants and an ever growing beard at home.

I get the feeling that working from home is here to stay. The travel time and cost of working in even Charlottetown doesn’t make the same sense that it once did.

If we ever finally settle down here in the Charlottetown area, ensuring that there is a dedicated space for work will be a priority.


My gift to myself

Fu

I think likely the greatest gift I can give myself this coming Christmas is to take some time off. I may be wrong, as my memory fails more often now than years past, but I don’t think I have completely disconnected from work since January or February. Working weekends has been the norm.

But my enthusiasm for the work and productivity have plummeted of late. Each day feels like I’m slogging through large drifts of snow. Which is pretty indicative of the need for a break.

I have no plans for the 4 – 5 days I plan on taking off. I’d love to proclaim a complete disconnect from the screen, but that might be too optimistic. Instead, I’ll likely eat, run, read books, and spend time with family. Hopefully I’ll fit some boredom in there as well.


For free

From J.B. Rainsberger’s latest newsletter titled Conversation Dojo. Would that help you?, comes a paragraph of which I love the tone of, and which I might just use in the future.

I’m not going to lie: I would like to be paid for this work. Even so, I recognize the need to give some of this away before I can reasonably expect to charge for it. Accordingly, I bring this idea to you, my faithful readers, so that you can participate before I feel justified asking for money.

I’ve been giving my time away for free for so long, to the tune of often having no days off whatsoever, that the very concept of getting paid for work seems almost novel. It’s especially difficult when I see people out enjoying the Island summer while I sit in a hot office; I’m not sure what I would do as I don’t golf and sitting on a beach is boring to me, but at least I would be away from this monitor and outside where it’s cool.

I’m sure I will come to my senses eventually.


What have I become?

When we lived in Taiwan fellow parents used to say to me that I was more Chinese than they were, referring to my attitude towards education I suppose. It would seem I still harbor some other Taiwanese characteristics that I didn’t know I had.

Here it is Saturday morning, and I remarked to Sheryl that I still haven’t received an email reply from a potential partner for a project she is developing. I thought it was strange that she wasn’t working Friday night and Saturday morning. Sheryl gently reminded me that people don’t work Friday night and weekends here.

I’ve become what I used to constantly rebel against when I worked for those bosses in Taiwan and China.


Digital water cooler

One of the most powerful nudges Humu has found during this crisis is a reminder for people to set up what we call virtual watercoolers.

“Set up a meeting, and have it run on Zoom or Google Hangouts on whatever platform you want, forever. … Set up a three- month long meeting. So anyone can just pop in when they need support. That reinforces affinity and kind of replicates that randomness and serendipity you have where people bump into one another,” Bock said.
What we’ve learned about how remote work is changing us

This is an interesting idea. One of the things I miss, not just since self-isolation but since returning to PEI, is the lack of idle chit chat around design or the work we are doing.

There are a lot of traditional graphic designers, fine arts folks, and a handful of talented people in UX, but there is very little in the way of afterwork mixing going on, or much taking at all really. Likely people get enough of that in their workplace, and treat 5pm as a time to leave that behind. There was a meetup of sorts, but it was generally poorly attended and as far as I can see has been put on hiatus.

There are many avenues online to have serious discussions about design or design research et al., but that’s not really the same, and to be honest not as interesting to me as it was before.

What I did try last week, was starting a Facebook Live session. I thought since my goal was to continue to ignore Twitter and read something of interest I could in a short video share what I was reading. This would have the added effect of some accountability and perhaps most importantly, help me confront my hatred of seeing myself talk on video.

So I started the session early in the morning while I was drinking coffee, picked Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction By Nathan Shedroff as my first read, and pressed Start Live Video. All of a sudden I had I think 700 people watching my live stream, a number of who peppered me with questions like, “Where are you from?”, “What are you doing?”, and etc.

Not exactly what I was expecting.

The beauty of having an audience of a few (like this blog) is you can do whatever you want. All of sudden during that live-streams I realized that someone might actually watch it and that might require some preparation, which gives it a sense of seriousness I was not really counting on.

I may try it again, by embracing the banality of it (fitting extension of this blog) or by trying something else. But like a casual talk, I hope I don’t have to prepare.


Call after call

Yesterday was a flurry of calls over Zoom and Google Meet (gone are the days of Skype). It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a remote meeting with a dozen participants and it reminds me just how poorly it feels, especially on mobile, which I think is the only safe way to use Zoom.

One to one, or one to a few works ok, but the more people you add, the less natural the conversation becomes. This isn’t a problem with centralized systems in large companies I’ve experienced, as people can speak and act freely.

While it’s great to talk to and hear from people from disparate backgrounds during this time of isolation, I don’t foresee this as an ideal way of working for me going forward. There just isn’t enough communication bandwidth.

But I concede that I perhaps just need more practice.


I hate open offices even more now

Most open offices I have worked in have the din of idle banter, or the sound of hushed conversations, but have unwritten rules about noise and rampant interruptions. The din is still disrupting, resulting in a requirement for headphones which also serve as a do not disturb sign.

The fishbowl, where I work out of now seems to not follow these rules. Few will ever interrupt you since we are all working on our own thing, but people will still think it’s ok to be on calls half the day, which since are generally voip, people believe they need to talk at twice their normal volume. Loud team meetings are also not uncommon.

It’s rude and annoying.

Open Office Etiquette and Ground Rules


Lots of people procrastinate, of course, but for writers it is a peculiarly common occupational hazard. One book editor I talked to fondly reminisced about the first book she was assigned to work on, back in the late 1990s. It had gone under contract in 1972.

I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features. “Well,” he said, “first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.”
Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators

I set aside this week to write, which was obviously a mistake, as I sit here staring out the window at the wet winter-like weather, getting nothing done, much like every other day this week.


That everyone is participating in the same way, that age or background doesn’t somehow disqualify contributions, and being treated as having an equal stake in being there.
Crafting {:} a Reflection

A common mantra for me is that leadership can come from anywhere. Leadership can come in many forms; ideas, expertise, authorship and well … leading, and it does not depend on age, title or any other hierarchical construct. Thats not to diminish experience but to accept that we all have our limits and everyone has a voice.

I learned this lesson very early when I had an ego the size of Charlottetown and a young kid straight out of high school took over the lead chair in a big band I was playing in. I had seniority but he simply had more potential in the role than I. It stung at the time and the conductor didn’t sugar coat it, which has made it stay with me all these years later.


The Value of Ritual in Your Workday

His acrobatics were impressive, but they were merely a demonstration of his strength. The source was this tea ritual and many other rituals like it. His power as a warrior came from his patience, precision, attention to subtlety, concentration, and his reverence for the moment.

Both of my children had the benefit of attending a private elementary school in Taiwan which eschewed the current trend for using tech for tech’s sake in schools, and instead focused on more giving children more time to slow down and think. They took classes in Chinese calligraphy, Farming, Kendo, Art, and Tea Making. All required otherwise hyper kids to slow down and focus on what they were doing at the moment, and importantly, all were physical to some degree. Tea making not only taught them the importance of ritual, but also taught them how to make a proper cup of tea (a not to be dismissed skill).

The power of ritual is profound and under-appreciated. Mostly, I think, it’s because we live in a time-starved culture, and ritual is time-indulgent. Who can afford the luxury of doing one thing at a time? Who has the patience to pause and honor an activity before and after we do it?

[…]

Here’s what makes it easy to get started with this: no one needs to know.

Start with just yourself. Sit at your desk in the morning, pause before booting up your computer, and mark the moment. Do this by taking a deep breath. Or by arranging your pens. Whatever it is, do it with the intention of creating respect for what you’re about to begin. Do the same before you make a phone call. Or receive one. Or before you meet with a colleague or customer.

Though I find computers to be lifeless things, preparing yourself for a work sprint seems like a good idea to me.

From The Value of Ritual in Your Workday


A New Chair

For the past 7 months I have been sitting on a solid old kitchen chair in my makeshift office and wondering why I was experiencing general stiffness and pain in my hamstrings. I knew part of the reason, but despite checking out various office supply store sales, I couldn’t justify spending the money required for a chair that could adjust to my body. I flirted with the idea of exercise balls and fashioning a standing desk, but when I sit at a computer I don’t want to exercise, I just want to finish quickly whatever task I have set for myself.

Luckily this week I noticed that Carrie from Balance Consulting had purchased a couple of great chairs from Restore, and she graciously agreed to sell me one. What a difference a proper chair makes!

By rights I should post a picture, but my workspace is so small, I would need a fisheye lens.

The next task is to find a workspace that strikes a balance between having no windows, where I am now, and the fishbowl effect of the StartUp Zone, where I often go to get out of this closet.


If someone cares enough to dislike our work, the best response is, “thank you.”

Thank you for taking the time to consider it, thank you for caring enough to let me know…
Seth Godin


What I am up to now

Following in the foot steps of Peter, and others, I’ve created a what I am up to now page which is linked to on the right (if you are on a PC) or on the about page.

I think Peter described it as “Think of what you’d tell a friend you hadn’t seen in a year”, but for me if that was the case I would limit it to a few sentences. So in addition, I think of it as an experiment to both keep myself honest by publicly declaring what I plan to do month by month, at least in a general big picture sense, and inspired by Hello Code’s business stats, being far more open about the activities I choose to do. Being open, or sharing what I do is something I’ve always had problems with – it reached a point that at one time my wife couldn’t even describe what I did all day (to be honest I had a hard time describing it too). Hopefully this page will over time help with this.


Office Ergonomics in 2019

Carrie Jones has written a well thought out article on her hopes for a shift from reactive to proactive ergonomic strategies in the workspace.

How many who work in an office environment, receive training on the hazards of prolonged sitting or on the optimal placement of the monitor when they start at a new job? How many are shown the features of the chair they were provided with and how to adjust it and why? My guess is not many. If any. More typically, one has to wait until they are experiencing symptoms (i.e. until after they’re injured) and even then it can be somewhat like pulling teeth. Some companies will require that an employee provide a ‘doctor’s note’ before they can obtain an ergonomic consult. Do companies require a doctor’s note in order to be fit for their fall arrest equipment or be trained on how to safely use a forklift?

I think we all experience the side effects from poorly thought out workspaces – in the spirit of fairness and efficiency we are all stuck with the same height desks, cheep chairs, and etc. Outside of smaller start-ups, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company give much thought to office ergonomics. This is something we all should focus more of our attention on, especially more aged workers such as myself, who require more time to heal from long or short term stresses to the body.

Looking forward to Office Ergonomics in 2019


Pretending to be busy

A couple photos by the venerable Rachel Peters whereby I, and a bunch of other people, pretend to busy working at the fishbowl. She also was kind enough to take some headshots which turned out much better than the last shoot where I looked like I was a giggly drunk. This time I just look like the unkept old guy that I have become.


Just Do It

Good advice for myself, not just for art, but just about everything else I do:

Lesson 1: Don’t Be Embarrassed

I get it. Making art can be humiliating, terrifying, leave you feeling foul, exposed, like getting naked in front of someone else for the first time. You often reveal things about yourself that others may find appalling, weird, boring, or stupid. People may think you’re abnormal or a hack. Fine. When I work, I feel sick to my stomach with thoughts like None of this is any good. It makes no sense. But art doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t even need to be good. So don’t worry about being smart and let go of being “good.”

Lesson 5: Work, Work, Work

Sister Corita Kent said, “The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.”

I have tried every way in the world to stop work-block or fear of working, of failure. There is only one method that works: work. And keep working.

Every artist and writer I know claims to work in their sleep. I do all the time. Jasper Johns famously said, “One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag, and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.” How many times have you been given a whole career in your dreams and not heeded it? It doesn’t matter how scared you are; everyone is scared. Work. Work is the only thing that takes the curse of fear away.
How to Be an Artist 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively). Via kottke.


Blind Faith

I thought I had my backup strategy all figured out. I have time machine backups, a NAS for archiving and remote access, a back-up of the NAS, a back-up drive in a safety deposit box, iCloud, Dropbox for collaboration, and I have been using Google drive for my active projects folder. Some redundancy, and though it may seem complex, it isn’t, and it should just work. Except it doesn’t.

I’ve been working on a podcast, and wanting to hear the final file on my iPhone before uploading for distribution, I looked for the file on Google Drive for iPhone. It wasn’t there. Neither was the file folder, or any new folders and files added since this past April. The same with the GD web interface.

The Google drive icon is spinning, and every time I check, it says it is syncing, except it isn’t. All the right boxes are checked and I looked for the usual silly errors that I might have made. Nothing.

I’m sure after digging deeper the problem will resolve itself but I think it wise in the future to not believe that software services should just work as advertised. Because if they don’t, and the rare failure occurs, the results would be disappointing to say the least. From here on out, I’ll be setting a reminder to check data versions between local and remote files – or perhaps set an automator action to do it for me.

Interestingly, in my regular review of where my “cloud service” dollars go, I gave Google Drive a pass, accepting the status quo. I think I’ll revisit that decision and perhaps GD will join Flickr and Evernote in the no longer useful column.


My Current Problem

While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience.

Naturally life is full of problems; how to convince your kids that money doesn’t grow on trees, how to convince your teenage daughter that yes I know some things about life and people, how to tell a young boy to do something once instead of ten times, how to make money, and perhaps the biggest of all – how to stop needing to sleep.

These are all real problems, but the one I have been thinking about recently, as I bob my way through Charlottetown bumping into people I used to know, and sort of making new acquaintances, is how to distill a lifetime of activity into a conversation, a sentence, a document or a resume (my CV makes me cry every time I look at it). And should I even care.

During a Pitch Camp workshop I attended, Robert (Bob) Williamson in a sideline conversation, provided me with some valuable advice in how to answer the simple, and somewhat annoying question, that I was failing to answer time and time again, “what are you doing here?” His advice wasn’t something new, but served as a reminder to keep responses to one complete sentence and then pause, allowing those truly interested to ask further questions.

But this doesn’t help with the broader problem.

My wife has a similar difficulties, but she’s pretty much had a singular focus all her life – different roles maybe – but easier to relate to. In short: She has taught kids from all over the world in a foreign country, worked with and managed Taiwanese and international colleagues, raised her family in Taiwan, and travelled the world. Pretty awesome.

Some people would say that I don’t care what you have done in the past, only what you can do now. Or 10 years ago is irrelevant, what did you do this past year? I don’t agree, experience has value, it matters.

Relating experience is tricky. My family (had) recognizes outcomes like a new car, a house, shiny useless objects and job titles with understandable nomenclature. A big house means you are either somehow managing a crushing debt load, or you “have made it.” Taking 6 years to be able to negotiate a contract in Chinese doesn’t compute.

My years playing trumpet have had a profound effect on me. Studying Chinese and subsequently using that ability to secure and hold employment changed me immensely. The struggle of living away from home without any support, government or family, shaped my (our) character.

Linear career paths in traditional corporate structures are easier to understand. You start as an intern, maybe get a masters, then your first job at the junior level, followed by no junior title, and then they add senior. If you like telling people what to do you get to manage ever larger amounts of people, then maybe dictate strategy, and by the time you have forgotten how to do the job as well as those with a junior title, you get a “director of,” added to your name.

I deliberately do not have such a complete experience.

My life and professional experience has been a windy road full of challenges, wonderful people and interesting work. As a jack of all trades, and just generally lucky, I’ve been exposed to projects, people, and responsibilities far above my station.

How can you possibly relate 30 years of experience in a LinkedIn profile with the route I have taken?

You can’t. Experts will tell you to contextualize, to build a personal brand, have an online profile, engage on social media, and blah blah blah. I’m not so interested in their advice anymore, I’ve tried those things, and I’ve never really been comfortable taking a loud approach.

In Taiwan it was easier. No one really cared, as it often just seemed about status, so I would share in Chinese that I worked at such and such a company, graduated from such and such a university, and where I lived for the past x number of years and I was done.

So why care at all? There are only so many things we can give a f**k about and devoting any cognitive time to this may be stupid. For years I didn’t bother, no one knew what I was doing and where I had been. Few care to hear about your 15th trip to Thailand anyway. But my kids do and finding a way to share what there mother and father have done with there lives seems like a worthwhile effort. Of course, since I am poor, and need to work, there is that whole are you any use to me thing.

And so it goes.


Social revisited

I wrote back in February about how I am increasingly aware of the clicking of father time and how I don’t have the time to waste today, as I felt I had in my late teens and early twenties. Ideally I should spend my time on activities that have value for me, and reject all the other “things” we get caught up in in an effort to look busy or fill in time..

Specifically, now as then, I questioned exactly what value I get from spending time on any kind of social media. I think the answer is generally none. Its like carbs vs. protein, or filler for my day, or sometimes with the extreme politics of today, its bad for my blood pressure.

With the exception of this blog, which serves as a quick exercise in writing semi-complete sentences, I’ve thought of giving up all my social accounts completely. But lately after attending event after event touting the importance of having a “social media strategy”, or a “digital marketing initiative” for your business, I’m going to try broadcasting more (PEI seems to have a dis-proportionately large number of marketing professionals, it’s like Hsinchu and the number of engineers/researchers). I’m an introvert, seemingly anti-social, so conversations with strangers online, like in real life are infrequent, but I might be able to handle sharing more of the banality of my professional interests. This should make for some interesting ads on Facebook at the very least.

Against the advice of the marketing folks I have recently met, I’m going to see how it goes for a shortish period of time (they suggest much longer), say a month or so, and see if it doesn’t work out to be a waste of time.


Looking for a desk

I spent the better part of a week going store to store in Charlottetown looking for a hard surface I could work on. My needs are simple, a flat surface, preferably wood, that is of a certain modest size and cheap. The cheap part is a bit tough here. For years I have bought kitchen tables from IKEA for this very purpose – often I would leave them unfinished but have also taken to staining them to help cover the change in color brought on by age and the effects of humidity. I wasn’t able to find much of an equivalent here, with most furniture stores opting for larger more showcase like units. My desk is going to be hidden away in a room, unseen by anyone but me. Staples had an inexpensive stand-up desk, but I imagined one frustrated fist on the desk would bring the whole surface crashing down. Eventually I realized that IKEA does indeed ship to PEI and for a price cheaper than local furniture stores.

Finding a figurative desk has thus far been easier. For the years that I freelanced while in Taiwan I often found the experience extremely … lonely. First when we were in Hsinchu’s equivalent of the suburbs, I would never come into human contact for weeks on end. When we moved to the Science Park, there were world class coffee shops aplenty but they were noisy or not conductive to longish sprints of work. Most of what I was missing was the “water cooler” talk and the opportunity to learn from people smarter than myself, collaborate, or ask for help. Hsinchu is full of big brains, but they work 12+ hours a day and there was little in the way of support for independents or small entrepreneurs. Taipei was the centre for that. So in Charlottetown I find myself in coffee shops, and at least for now occupying a hot desk at the Startup Zone. I find it a tad expensive but at least I get to see people walking by the windows and hopefully later absorb the work ethos of a bunch of young people working on their new companies (the office is generally empty these days). Despite being an introvert, I do find surrounding myself with people healthy for work. Just don’t ask me to “work the room”.

Later as I get my sea legs I might rent a more purpose built space, maybe joining the underground society, but I think the combination of working from home and getting out a couple days a week might work for now.


In user experience design (UX) research, we think a lot about mental models — how a user believes a process works vs. the system model of how it was actually designed; and framing — the context in which an interaction is interpreted. In essence, your satisfaction within an experience can depend a lot on your initial expectations.

For new employees, the expectation we need to set is that while the initial learning curve is steep, the on-boarding process actually never ends nor does it move in a predictably straight line.
The UX explanation for why you hate your new job after three months

Companies should approach new hires with the same vigorous approach they have, or wish to have, with product development. People aren’t software but understanding each new hire, and their needs and expectations, to the extent that you know the users of you product would go along way to producing happy talent. And happy talent has a whole slew of side benefits. Unfortunately, to my knowledge this is seldom done in Taiwanese or Chinese companies.


Interruption is Not Collaboration

Hey, are you busy? Can you listen to this real quick? It’s an episode about interruptions in the workplace. You’ll hear from academic researchers, Basecamp’s head data wrangler, and the CEO of a remote company about how they’ve tackled not just the disruptions themselves, but also the workplace culture that allows those intrusions to flourish.


It’s not a failure until you stop trying.
[…]
I don’t think you can achieve anything remarkable without some risk. Risk is actually a rather tricky word because humans aren’t wired to tolerate it very much. The reptilian part of our brains wants to keep us safe. Anytime you try something that doesn’t have any certainty associated with it, you’re risking something, but what other way is there to live.
An interview with Debbie Millman.