Putting on some wait

I’m generally patient over the long term, but I can be impatient in the short term. But, really, what’s the rush? Why the hurry? I’ve been asking myself this question more and more lately.

A new year is a good excuse to make a change, so in 2019 I’ve decided to put on some wait. In practice this means choosing the slower option whenever possible.

For example, when shopping online, I’m picking the slowest shipping option (I used to always pick the fastest one). Related, I’ve also cancelled my Amazon Prime membership. I only used it for fast shipping, so it’s of no use anymore.

When confronted with two lines at the grocery store, I’m choosing the longer one.

Even small things like waiting for the next walk symbol. Yeah there’s a good 8 seconds to get across the street, but it’s close enough to just wait.

Whenever there’s an opportunity to pick the wait, I’m picking it. And I’m not filling my time with other things I have to do while waiting – I’m genuinely waiting. Waiting while doing nothing. Idling. If I’m in line, and it’s moving slowly, I’m not reflexively reaching for my phone to soak up the dead space. I’m just enjoying having absolutely nothing to do.

In the end, after all this waiting, I suspect I won’t miss anything. I’ll just have waited. In fact, I think I’ll actually find something: Additional, special moments with nothing to do. Sacred emptiness, a space free of obligation and expectation. New time to simply observe.

In a world where everyone seems to be super busy all the time, bumping into more moments with nothing to do seems like a real discovery.

Imagine a world without ads targeted by personal information

Elephants wouldn’t be killed for their tusks if there wasn’t a demand for ivory. We can do all sorts of things to discourage poachers, but as long as the market is there, the killings will continue.

Likewise, the flood of privacy scandals involving Facebook, ad exchanges, and other privacy poachers all tie back to the same root cause: Personal information is valuable because we use it to target ads.

But what if you couldn’t do that? Then the personal information would cease to have value, and the flood of privacy scandals would stop (or at least greatly diminish).

The world of commerce spun around just fine in the era before ads could be targeted by personal information. When ad buyers would place their spots based on context. Got a new car to sell? Put an ad on a website that talks about cars. Maybe it wasn’t as efficient, or maybe it was. Either way: The societal price we pay for allowing ads to be targeted is far too high.

We’ve placed all sorts of other restrictions on advertisement, so it’s not like this is a new thing. You can’t advertise tobacco products in many places. Some countries restrict advertisement against children. Regulation like this works.

Just try to imagine that world without ad targeting. It’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t be a better one.

How to: Back-to-top button without scroll events

Web developers: here’s an alternative way to build UI features that rely on scroll position without actually observing scroll events. Using the Intersection Observer API we can know when an element enters or leaves the viewport and respond in a way that’s much more performant.

It’s a very, very, bad idea to attach handlers to the window scroll event.

— John Resig, Learning from Twitter

You probably don’t have to be reminded of this but there are few other options when you want an element to behave like the back-to-top button we recently added to Basecamp. Here’s how it looks:

The back-to-top button appears and disappears as-needed

The design dictated that the button wouldn’t always be visible but rather just when you most need it. That meant only on pages that require scrolling at all and only after you’ve scrolled a good amount — at least a couple of screens.

Enter Intersection Observer

The Intersection Observer API provides a way to asynchronously observe changes in the intersection of a target element with an ancestor element or with a top-level document’s viewport.

Perfect! Since we only want to know when the user has scrolled a couple of screens we just need an element in the DOM that’s the right height to observe. When that element leaves the viewport we’ll reveal the button.

Here’s how it works 

The mark-up has two elements: the button and its container.

<div class=”back-to-top-container”>
  <button class=”back-to-top--button”>Back to top</button>
</div>

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Why I ignore the design industry on purpose

I’ve been a designer for nearly twenty years now (😮), with the last seven years spent happily at Basecamp. I enjoy my work and I care about it a lot.

Since I’ve been doing this for a long time, occasionally people ask me to predict next year’s big trends, or reflect on some industry controversy that’s been brewing.

That’s when I have to sheepishly admit: I pay almost no attention to what’s going on in the design industry. I don’t hang out on Dribbble or Product Hunt. I don’t read Hacker News. I don’t go to design conferences or Creative Mornings. I don’t look at inspiration sites or read designer blogs or tweets. I’m also not out there networking, hustling to make connections, hard-selling my personal brand, or fighting to stay on top of the game.

…I guess I’m kind of a professional hermit?

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Signal v Noise post from the year 2000. The more things change, the more they stay the same 😂

Signal v Noise exits Medium

Three years ago we embraced an exciting new publishing platform called Medium. It felt like a new start for a writing community, and we benefitted immensely from the boost in reach and readership those early days brought. But alas it was not to last.

When we moved over, Medium was all about attracting big blogs and other publishers. This was going to be a new space for a new time where publishers could find a home. And it was. For a while.

These days Medium is focused on their membership offering, though. Trying to aggregate writing from many sources and sell a broad subscription on top of that. And it’s a neat model, and it’s wonderful to see Medium try something different. But it’s not for us, and it’s not for Signal v Noise.

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Every little bit helps

Quitting Facebook. Renouncing Uber. Avoiding Amazon. There have never been more or greater reasons for turning your back entirely on much of Big Tech.

The last few years have brought an endless stream of scandals and unflattering revelations. There aren’t many starry-eyed optimists left who still believe that Silicon Valley is just here to build a better world. We’ve almost all come to accept the fact that Big Tech is here less to help the world and more to devour it.

If you’ve reached a similar conclusion, the natural dichotomy is one of apathy vs revolt. And let’s face it, apathy is the far more common out. What am I, in my lonely being, able to do in the face of such power and abuse? Best not to think about it too much, and – will you look at that! – these companies are experts at helping you not think about the structure and stranglehold of their businesses.

Revolt: deleting your accounts, swearing off the services, advocating for alternatives, is draining and even isolating work. No wonder most people can’t fit in such a fight in their daily routines of anxiety. Quitting cold turkey ain’t no feast.

But these aren’t the only options! You don’t have to either resign yourself to your utter insignificance or don a cape while shouting in the wind. There’s power in the margins. Tremendous power.

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Down in front!

Doug gets it, most don’t.

Look around YouTube at car reviews, and you’ll see a lot of people standing in front of cars. Below I’ve snapped captures of early frames in six car reviews. These represent the first time the car is shown whole, in profile.

Who’s on review here? The car reviewer or the car? Get out of the way people!

Take it from Doug DeMuro. His reviews always start with him standing behind the car. The car is in full view, in all its glory, at center stage. Doug comes second — he understands what the viewer is there for.

Doug in the background. Car in the foreground. Doug gets it.

True brand awareness

Fantastic branding

It’s been said that your name is your favorite word. Likewise, a brand’s name is its favorite word. Pair their name with their logo, and it’s a self-love fest.

You can see this play out when you order a physical product from an online store. The shipping box is often branded. Sometimes the tape is even branded. Then once you tear into it, the internal packaging is branded. Then the item, too — often in multiple places. Name, logo, name, logo, name, logo.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about this. Many brands use shipment packaging as advertising. And it’s nice to know when you ordered something from Brand A, and a box from Brand A is waiting for you on your doorstep when you get home.

Except when it’s not for you.

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