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Pat Dryburgh

The Plague Nerdalogues is a collection of speeches from genre film & TV as read by famous genre actors. Access to the collection is provided by making a donation of any size, all to benefit Black Lives Matter.

Initially created as a response to and in support of those affected by COVID-19, the project is the brainchild of podcaster and producer on Star Trek: Picard, Marc Bernardin. On last week’s episode of Batman Beyond, Marc’s podcast with director Kevin Smith, Marc shared his thoughts and feelings about the history of violence against African Americans and other People of Colour.

Once you’ve made your donation, access to the videos will be available for as long as the site is online. It’s so simple that the collection isn’t even really behind a paywall; it’s just an HTML page you are redirected to after you’ve made your donation. I could share that page with you right here, right now and nothing could stop you from accessing the videos for free. It’s a project built on the honour system, and I for one choose to honour the system and ask that you donate to Black Lives Matter, as well.

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It’s been nearly three months since I deleted my Twitter and Facebook accounts and a week since I disabled my Instagram account.

Apple News+ has kept me abreast of what’s going on in the world in a way I’ve found far more insightful and far less frantic than Twitter. I still have my account and follow a dozen or so people there, but only check it once every few days. I’ve continued reading RSS feeds and listening to podcasts as I have since 2007.

I miss seeing updates from the majority of my friends who are locked into the big social networks. As a transplant from Ontario, social media was a window into the lives of people I care about but can’t be close to. Having now deleted my Instagram account, that window is now mostly shut.

I’m calling friends and family more, which you may be surprised as I was to learn is far more enriching than faving a tweet or liking a photo. iMessage, WhatsApp, email, and Slack are my primary methods of text communication. I’ve found that if I don’t initiate contact, I have only a small handful of friends who will reach out to me first. I am grateful for those people.

There are big changes coming to my life in the coming months and I want to be as present as possible to both savour and safely navigate the experience. Removing the most addictive social media apps feels like a good step toward that goal.

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Responsive design turns 10 years old today! The originator of the concept, Ethan Marcotte, has written the story of how the concept of Responsive Design came to be and how it eventually led to one of the greatest sea changes in web design since the introduction of Cascading Style Sheets.

The original article on Responsive Design by Ethan came out the same month I quit my first design job in order to freelance full time. It was an exciting time in the industry with so much to learn and so many interesting challenges to tackle.

I took to Responsive Design immediately. Unlike designers who came from the world of print design, I considered myself a “native web designer”, which basically meant I could code anything I designed. Just a few months prior, Meagan Fisher had reintroduced the world to the idea of designing in the browser rather than starting in Photoshop, which was tailor-made for designing responsive websites.

I can’t at the moment count the number of responsive websites I’ve designed since Ethan first published that article, but I am forever grateful to him, Meagan, and everyone else in this community who have taught me everything I know.

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In times of despair, it is important for people to have the ability to communicate in order to avoid adding isolation to the mix. One of our primary methods of digitally communicating emotion is through the use of Emojis.

I wasn’t surprised to find that there is currently only one Emoji that includes a visible face mask. However, I was sad to see that its expression looks rather gloomy.

No doubt when the original face-mask Emoji was first introduced, face masks in Western society were primarily worn by professionals or those under medical care. However, we have since joined our global neighbours in places where face masks are worn by everyone and as some people have pointed out, this makes communicating emotions through facial expressions really tough.

Given this, I think we need more expressive face-mask Emojis. I think a suite of Emojis expressing alternate emotions through a face mask would allow us a small opportunity to show solidarity with one another as we brave this new world.

Below is my attempt at melding Apple’s current Face With Medical Mask Emoji (top left) with a few of their other Emojis to create my proposal for new face-mask Emojis. I’m sure a better artist could come up with more effective examples; I simply hope to illustrate the idea.

Original 'Face With Medical Mask' Emoji on the left, proposed 'Smiling Face with Medical Mask' on the right

I’m probably breaking some sort of copyright by doing this, but who cares? Come at me, Tim Apple.

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I guess by the end of the year I won’t be listening to The Joe Rogan Experience. As John Gruber reports, Joe Rogan has announced his decision to remove his podcast from the open web and baracade it behind a walled garden through an exclusive license with Spotify.

Of course we do not know the specifics of the deal, however I would assume that Spotify remain the exclusive licensee of any episode of The Joe Rogan Experience recorded under the deal in perpetuity, meaning it will now be impossible to share any content generated under this deal with people outside of Spotify’s distribution.

And for those of us who don’t want to install Spotify? Too bad. Even though Spotify will force targeted ads at me? Too bad. Even though, according to their privacy policy, they can hold my data indefinitely? Look, someone’s gotta fund the move to Texas.

It’s a strange decision because of the discrepency between Joe’s concerns about contact tracing (00:29:40) when you consider Spotify’s privacy practices. As Joe might put it:

Give up a little bit of your privacy, give up a little bit of your freedom, and I’ll give you a show.

I’ve been a fan of The Joe Rogan Experience for several years and I have learned a lot. I don’t agree with everything said on the show, but if I only listened to things I completely agreed with, my podcast feed would be empty. However, his unfiltered conversations with scientists, anthropologists, historians, astro physicists, athletes, coaches, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and even politicians have expanded the worldview of myself and countless others. Listening to the show has been educational, inspirational, and more often than not, fuckin’ hilarious.

And soon, it will be missed.

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Disclaimer: I purchased shares in Slack days after their IPO, when the price was at its highest. Currently, the stock is worth ~78% of what I paid. I feel like this blog post isn’t likely to cause any real change in the value of the 9 shares I own, but I am probably obligated to let you know this before I continue.

Slack recently updated their iPhone app and it looks really nice. Where before the menu for viewing your channels was always set to white text on a dark background regardless of your device’s Appearance settings, now every screen in the app matches the Appearance setting of Light or Dark. It’s a nice refinement that I think makes Slack feel more at home on the iPhone.

The update also introduces a new tab bar along the bottom of the screen that improves how you access your conversations. The tab bar includes:

  • Home, which lists all of your channels;
  • DMs, which shows just your direct messages with one or more people;
  • Mentions, which shows you all of the messages in which you were mentioned;
  • You, where you can update your Status and update other aspects of your Slack profile.

All of this feels really great, however I have one complaint that reveals the designers at Slack are not reading my blog:

Slack’s new first-run experience sucks.

I wish I had taken screenshots, but I couldn’t. Why? Because I opened the new version of Slack in an attempt to join a meeting with my client that was just about to begin. However instead of having the freedom to use the application, I was forced to quickly skim my way through a first-use tutorial instructing me to swipe from one screen to the next in order to appease their desire to show me their new-fangled navigation design.

Maybe there was a “Skip” button I missed. Regardless, just like Brent Simmons predicted, I don’t remember a goddamn thing Slack was trying to teach me.

As it turns out, I was unknowingly 5 minutes early to my meeting, which ultimately got rescheduled, so all my rushing about was for naught. But, do you see where the issue is? Instead of helping me, Slack impeded my ability to do what I needed to do in the moment I needed to do it.

As I look at the app now, there’s only one thing I see that I feel isn’t quite as discoverable as the rest: the menu for navigating between Slack organizations (it’s your organization’s icon in the top left of the screen). I don’t know the numbers on this, but my assumption would be that the majority of Slack users belong to a single organization, so making this less prominent than the other areas of the app is A-ok by me.

Other than that, I don’t quite get why Slack felt the need to include this first-run tutorial.

It’s easy to criticize from a distance, though I imagine it’s pretty clear that despite this complaint, I still love Slack. I think the people that work there are among the brightest and most compassionate in the industry.

My only intention for bringing this to light is because I think it is a perfect example of how easy it is to slap a first-run tutorial into an app without fully thinking through how it will impact its users. Far worse things have come out of tech companies in the last decade and this is no where near that level. But, as my friend Shawn once wrote, “delight is in the details.”

My work is decidedly not “essential” (a realization I had well before this pandemic, though its truth has certainly been deepened and reenforced), but I do believe it is important. I strive to design and develop systems that are respectful of the user and accessible to everyone. I don’t always meet my ideals and I’ve made my share of mistakes. We all do. The beauty of the Internet and in particular of independent personal blogs is that we can all learn from one another’s mistakes and together find a better path forward.

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