Systems underlie the craft

  
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-2:06

Real talk, “practicing Stoicism” involves a lot of reading of the same core concepts boiled down to “get good at prioritizing what really matters” and “don’t lose your shit.” Tim Ferris calls Stoicism his operating system; I think of it - because I’m a dork - like an honor code. What’s appealing about Stoicism, I think, is its practical application devoid of woo.

It’s less common to run across letters about interconnectedness, but that’s precisely what I did this morning.

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p. 77 (Hayes)

Because it’s not reminding you how dead you’re going to be, it feels a little out of place - but when you do design work you learn to appreciate the systems of design, how the process of research dovetails with the realities of accounting, which lead to the creation of artifacts like wireframes or reports, that guide service provision.

Systems of work connect even the most siloed developer to the reference librarian, who in a higher-ed organization might not only be separated by departments but entire bureaucracies.

Unlike the interconnectedness between me and you across states and time, which is no less true, the connective tissue is much more tangible in an organization, where an individual has real leverage to improve those connections, and even engineer new systems entirely.

Stoicism is dogmatic about understanding what is and isn’t within your realm of control; in advice like the above from Marcus Aurelius, it also reinforces that your reach is extended through the systems that underlie the craft.

Craft virtuously.


Clicking that ❤ in this issue of Stoic Designer is an easy, no-sign-in-required way to signal to the great algorithms in the sky that this writeup is worth a minute of your time.

If it’s easier, you can listen to Stoic Designer in your podcatcher of choice.

Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield

Actionable insight overload

  
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-2:05

Sometimes the stars align just so and your to-do list explodes with actionable insights that, pursued, improves your design, makes your product easier to use, adds credibility to your cause, or grows your userbase. You find that except for substituting excitement for shame your anxiety around the to-do list isn’t too different than if it were a list of bugs.

A to-do list is a to-do list. You prioritize a positive one no differently.

  1. Will not pursuing this insight kill you, your colleagues, or leave either of you destitute and in shambles? Probably not. Don’t lose your shit.

  2. Will popping this insight from the to-do list entirely deprive the world of good? Making a form easier to use to join a mailing list is morally different from making a form easier to use to apply for government benefits. Both make a user’s life a modicum easier, but one is a niceness - the other a kindness.

  3. Does anyone really care if a thing gets done? You’d be surprised how many don’t - even your users.

  4. Is the pursuit of an insight out of your immediate control?

Pursue only things-to-do that are in your control, keep your business afloat, do good, and has a good Kano model score (meaning that users actually care), and you’ll find your list of actionable insights dramatically paired.

Craft virtuously.


Clicking that ❤ in this issue of Stoic Designer is an easy, no-sign-in-required way to signal to the great algorithms in the sky that this writeup is worth a minute of your time.

If it’s easier, you can listen to Stoic Designer in your podcatcher of choice.

Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield

Design for the recovery experience

  
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-2:05

Note: I don’t love “recovery experience” as a term, but I’m sorely decaffeinated. Halp.

We advocate this meditation-of-evils practice the Roman Stoics called praemeditatio malorum where, in planning, we imagine the worst-case scenarios and make contingencies for them.

The capital-d Design process common among many of us actually has mechanisms that embody this ethic like the beta test, like QA, and so on. We do our best to shore-up our thing against failure.

Inevitably, though, things break. A server goes down, an API key gets revoked, form validation fails on a legit phone number - there is such a sparkling variety to the things that can go wrong that they are hard to imagine in full.

So, when things will, we set-in to triage the situation where the pressure of time-constraint, reputation, and the like will strain even the most stoic constitution. Thus there is an opportunity here to design the recovery state so that rebooting the server, repairing the database, swapping-in a new key, fixing and redeploying the form UI, are as easy — as usable — as possible.

Consider this in your design work going forward. Murphy’s law comes for us all.

Craft virtuously.


Liking (❤) this issue of Stoic Designer is a super way to brighten my day. It helps signal to the great algorithms in the sky that this writeup is worth a few minutes of your day.

Stoic Designer is also now a podcast. You should be able to find it on your podcatcher of choice in the next day or two.

Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield

DevOps in the Shadow of Hurricane Dorian

  
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-1:45

There’s this satellite image of the hurricane Dorian that shook me. There are neither grids nor map-markers, no projections, no data. It is this still of a dangerously awesome-in-the-true-sense destroyer an “inch” — fifty or so miles — from the south-Florida coast. Somewhere there in the wisps of cloud that demarcate Dorian’s outer rain bands is Ft. Lauderdale - where I live.

My family and I spent the labor day weekend here moving shit inside, waiting in half-hour long lines to fill-up on gas, freezing ziplocks filled with water just in case Dorian wobbled from its projection and merc’d us.

It was too wet to really go outside. Traffic sucked because folks were in a tizzy. Collective anxiety put a damper on the holiday, like a mental fog luring the house to nap randomly, play games, and doze again. Such was the weekend.

Circumstances have me suddenly thinking a lot about DevOps - which for someone who styles himself a service designer is like pulling teeth, or rather should you imagine the technology stack as a pond where the end-user interface is the shore, then I am wading chest deep. I hate this shit.

But, on Monday, I sat here at my kitchen table fussing over an event queue while Freeport was blended by an eyewall churning property and people in roaring 200mph gusts for a dozen hours straight, stationary - roaring.

How lucky we are to be merely inconvenienced.

Memento mori.


Liking (❤) this issue of Stoic Designer is a super way to brighten my day. It helps signal to the great algorithms in the sky that this writeup is worth a few minutes of your day.

Stoic Designer is also now a podcast. You should be able to find it on your podcatcher of choice in the next day or two.

Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield

On systems of work and design

  
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-1:56

Getting sprint estimation right is the kind of headscratcher product management twitter fusses over on the daily, but while we can’t agree on the nitty gritty we imagine the same u/dystopia. Behind one door, deadlines* evaporate in favor of inspired predictions based on sane systems of work established organically by solid [design] principles and a light hand. Behind the other, a developer mill.

Both are modular agile blooms optimized for their hosts. A symbiotic relationship of system and culture. One welcomes the operational data like an omen, looking for signs of a flood so that it can move to higher ground; the other utters bullshit like “the sprint estimate is a contract.”

As a community we focus so intently on systematizing the craft both to adapt to the growing pains of scale and — I think — to legitimize our next rung on the career ladder — design systems, design ops, research ops, service blueprints, etc. — that we must strain to remember that systems, like algorithms, embody the biases of their creators.

The system is a tool. You wouldn’t fawn so over a hammer.

Craft virtuously.

*| When I ported Stoic Designer from MailChimp, the migration missed a few of the early-birds, like “The Deadline is Arbitrary.” I 👏 have 👏 feelings 👏 about 👏 deadlines. Anyway, I’ll copy it over soon with a touch-up and audio version.


Liking (❤) this issue of Stoic Designer is a super way to brighten my day. It helps signal to the great algorithms in the sky that this writeup is worth a few minutes of your day.

Stoic Designer is also now a podcast. You should be able to find it on your podcatcher of choice in the next day or two.

Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield

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