You're reading Sentences, etc., a design and development blog by Justin Michael.

Friday Links

February 10, 2017 • Link to this Entry

Ire Aderinokun provides an excellent explanation of the critical rendering path in web browsers. If you do any kind of front-end work on the web this is required reading.

The Public Domain Review showcases a number of stunning hand-drawn infographics showing the state of Black American life in 1900.

Alex Q. Arbuckle provides an incredible look at The Terra Nova Expedition of 1910, including some breathtaking photos from over one hundred years ago.

Bertrand Jayr shows us that anything can be whimsical, even toilet paper storage.

Lucas Zimmermann shows us that anything can be beautiful, even traffic lights. Don’t miss part two.

Jason Fried writes about the value of time and the importance of not letting other people steal it.

Julia Love gives us a peek at the incredible attention to detail Apple is demanding during the construction of their new campus.

Gordon Mah Ung performed some extensive battery tests on the new MacBook Pros.

Federico Viticci provides an in-depth look at the new Magic Variables in Workflow 1.7 for iOS.

If you enjoy bookstores you’re going to enjoy these photos.

Work from home? Read this.

Augmented reality + Portal = nothing would get done, ever.

GIF of the week.

I was about to put a warning here about the political links below, but these links aren’t political. The current state of affairs in the United States stretches well beyond the realm of politics. These links are about life, how people are being impacted by what’s happening in this country, where things might be going, and what we can do about it. So, warning, links about life are below.

Jason Kottke provides both an excellent summary of, and comment on, the senate stopping Elizabeth Warren from reading Coretta Scott King’s letter by invoking Senate Rule XIX.

Cecilia Kang pens a story about Trump’s F.C.C. pick targeting net neutrality rules.

Jake Fuentes shares his take on what might really be going on with the current administration. He hopes he’s wrong, and I hope so, too.

Under 35, progressive, and want to run for office? These people want to help.

Arianna Huffington writes about escaping the cycle of outrage many of us are trapped in right now.

And, finally, here’s a link to a tweet from the dictionary.


February 7, 2017 • Link to this Entry

What aren’t you doing because you don’t feel qualified? Are you not writing a book? Not creating art? Not building something?

Let me ask you this: What would have to happen for you to feel qualified? There’s no magical qualification fairy that’s going to flutter down and tap you on the nose with their magic qualification wand, so that’s not a valid answer.

Seriously, think about it. What would make you feel qualified? In some cases, for some jobs, it’s an easy answer because there are exams or boards to pass. Doctors and lawyers, for example, can be labeled as qualified once they’ve completed a certain series of tasks and trials.

Creative work, though, is a bit different. There’s no board certification you have to obtain before you start teaching someone how to write code. There’s no bar exam to pass prior to creating a beautiful piece of art. Most endeavors lack officials standing by to proclaim your qualified status to the world, or endow you with a sense of being worthy to do something.

So how do you get qualified? You do the work. You practice. You get started, even though you don’t know what you’re doing. No one knows what they’re doing in the beginning.

Think of someone doing what you want to do, someone who you feel is qualified. Why do you feel that way about them? Is it because of their accomplishments? Their body of work?

Do you think you would have considered them to be qualified back when they were first starting out, before they had any work to show for it? Do you think they, themselves, felt qualified without any evidence of their abilities to point to? A common refrain among accomplished creative people is that they had no idea what they were doing when they got started, but they got started.

People you see as qualified all have one thing in common: They didn’t let anything stop them from getting their work done. They achieved something, and now the world can see it and proclaim them qualified. They, themselves, can also look back at their work and feel the same.

Feeling qualified is the result of work and practice, not a prerequisite to it. You will not feel qualified to do something until you do it multiple times. You don’t start out qualified, but starting is the key to being qualified.

So are you going to continue to feel unqualified for the rest of your life, or are you going to get started?

Friday Links

February 3, 2017 • Link to this Entry

Marc Edwards shares his app icon design workflow, which contains a lot of interesting detail and links to some useful resources and concepts.

Tobias van Schneider pens a thought provoking piece about motivation and environment: The Broken Window Theory in Product Design.

Jonas Downey urges us all to remember that we’re creating things for people, and advocates designing with heart.

Some interesting thoughts and ideas relating to the constraints of working with non-profits and other clients that are resource constrained from Ethan Marcotte.

Lewis Wallace wrote a piece about the impossibility of true objectivity and neutrality, then got fired for writing it, which resulted in some interesting commentary and observations from Felix Salmon.

A great video about putting people in boxes from a TV station in Denmark.

I’m a bit late with this, but The New York Times has some great pictures of the women’s marches from around the world.

A great little story.

And, finally, step zero of the development process, illustrated.

Reverse Engineering Your Goals

January 31, 2017 • Link to this Entry

Figuring out how to accomplish goals (especially long-term goals) can be difficult. The gulf between where you are now and where you want to be is often overwhelming. One of the most effective things you can do to overcome that overwhelming feeling is to bring the path to your goals into focus.

The best way to figure out the steps required to accomplish your goals is to work backward. Your destination, in this case, is actually the best place to begin. This might seem counterintuitive, but trust me, it works.

I’ve developed two variations to this method of planning. The two variants work well in different situations. Neither is better than the other. Pick the one that works best for the goal you’re trying to figure out, and switch between them if you get stuck.

In order to make this process easier make sure you pick only a single goal. Things will quickly get out of hand if you try it with multiple goals at the same time.

Both versions of this method require you to have a very clear vision of your goal and what, exactly, your life looks like once you’ve accomplished it. Before you start make sure you have a solid understanding of your destination.

Method One

Pick a single goal and write it at the top of a blank piece of paper or new file. Then, right under your goal, write the thing that has to happen immediately prior to that goal being accomplished. Be specific, and make sure it’s a single thing.

Now, on the next line, write what has to happen prior to the previous item. Again, be specific, and only write one single thing down.

Keep repeating this process until one of two things happens:

  1. You find the beginning of the path to your goal.
  2. You intersect where you are right now.

When you hit one of those two points you’ll have a map that will guide you from where you are now to where you want to be.

A simple example would start with a goal:

The first thing I write under it might be “Cook Eggs” since that’s the thing I do just before I sit down to eat breakfast. The item before that could be “Cook Bacon”, and so on. This example might eventually end when I get to something like “Buy Ingredients” or “Learn to Cook Breakfast”.

Method Two

The second method is similar to the first. Start with a single goal written at the top of a blank piece of paper or new file. Now, instead of starting immediately under the goal, start midway down the page, and write what the halfway point between where you are now and your goal looks like. Then, at the bottom, write “now”.

Now you have three points: Now, the midway point to your goal, and the goal itself. The next step is to figure out the two midpoints between those three points. Then you’ll have five points with four new midpoints to figure out, and so on.

Keep repeating this process until you’re confident that there are no midpoints (read: no gaps) left to fill in.

Working backward like this is difficult and time-consuming, but it’s worth the effort. At the end of the process you’ll have a map that will lead you right to your goal, and it’s hard to overestimate how useful having that map would be.

Friday Links

January 27, 2017 • Link to this Entry

Lulu Miller gives one of the best talks I’ve ever seen about radio journalism, pillow forts, the power of voice, and empathy.

Tom Gauld’s The Life-Changing Magic of Decluttering in a Post-Apocalyptic World made me smile.

Jamie Wong provides the best explanation of bezier curves I’ve ever come across. Don’t let the math intimidate you; the animated diagrams work wonderfully on their own.

Brad Mangin, a freelance sports photographer who’s primary clients are Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball, explains how and why he earned more from photo gigs shot with his iPhone vs. his DSLRs in 2016.

Outlinely is an interesting outlining app for the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Elizabeth Sampat tweets 100 lessons that are well worth your time.

John Gruber links to an article and a tweet that might make you think about Facebook a little differently.

Oliver Burkeman penned a fantastic long read about why time management is ruining our lives.

My wife and I produced and released the second episode of Introvocabulum, a game show on The Incomparable podcast network.

If you have an Amazon Echo and you’re a Star Trek fan I have good news: You can now use “computer” as the wake word.

Lucy Rycroft-Smith shares her experience wearing men’s clothes for a month. (It’s more interesting and enlightening than it sounds.)

There’s a lot of interesting stuff coming from Apple in the iOS 10.3 update, which is now in beta.

Warning: Political links below!

Regardless of how you feel about the current political situation in America it’s important to stay informed. Track Trump is a site that will track and document the policies put in place by the Trump administration for the first 100 days, concentrating on the pledges made during his campaign. Their goal is to be a useful and informative resource for everyone regardless of their political viewpoints.

Dana Hunter writes about Trump gagging various government agencies, and the employees of those agencies defying the censorship by creating alternative social media accounts.

Shani Silver wrote an eloquent piece explaining why she marches for what she believes in.

On January 21st millions of people around the world marched to protest Trump and his policies. Some of the people behind the marches launched a new campaign, 10 Actions for the first 100 Days, which provides steps everyone can take to make sure their voices are heard in a meaningful way.

Want to take even more action? The 65 provides weekly calls to action to fight for a vision of a diverse, inclusive America.