Archive — August 2019
On the campaign to remove — or make less prominent — walls of portraits of old white men from academia’s past.
“It just sends the message, every day when you walk by it, that science consists of old white men,” says [neuroscientist Leslie] Vosshall. “I think every institution needs to go out into the hallway and ask, ‘What kind of message are we sending with these oil portraits and dusty old photographs?'”
While defenders of dude walls warn of erasing history, the counterpoint is powerful:
…some argue that the old portraits themselves have erased history, by glorifying white men who hold power while ignoring the contributions to science and medicine made by women and people of colour.
Celebrations of individuals in this way always make me wary. It seems to be particularly common in higher education, where awards and buildings are routinely named after white males.
But very few breakthroughs are truly the work of a single individual. The people honoured in this way are likely the people most adept at taking all the credit for other people’s work.
This piece builds on the idea that there is no such thing as neutral data, and combines it with the fact that humans are naturally drawn towards stories.
The problem is, data isn’t simple or neutral or even factual. The best data needs explanatory stories. The human mind is a story processor, and to understand something is to know a good story about it.
Why “brand voice” or creativity shouldn’t stop you making your content readable and accessible.
…a brilliant brand voice isn’t brilliant if it isn’t readable and accessible to all.
What3Words may have a good publicity operation, but as Terence Eden points out here, there are many problems with it. It’s not open, it’s difficult to work across languages, and at times it’s even culturally insensitive.
An excellent piece on the damage caused by conflating bad behaviour with mental ill health.
Conflating mental illness with cruelty adds to the stigma of mental illness…
Excusing horrible behaviour for a mental disorder makes it seem as though being horrible is the norm for people with mental illness. And that’s not okay.
A song I heard on the radio this week that made my ears prick up. I wasn’t previously aware of Richard Dawson. But this is a brilliant song — dark, funny, meaningful, relatable, of our time. Once again I’m beginning to think that the most interesting music is actually coming from rock music for a change. Consider the album pre-ordered.
Photo — 2019-08-22
Jarv Is… Yes yes yes yes
After completing the top tasks survey and the card sort as part of the Learn Foundations project, our next step was to create a prototype information architecture and test it.
This post is about how a policy (crashing out of the EU) that will do nearly everyone harm and some great harm seems to have considerable, albeit still minority, support…
You either have to assume that a third of the population has gone mad, or instead see this as a fundamental failure of information. The UK is a failed state because the producers of information have made it fail.
According to Simon Wren-Lewis, this information problem is being facilitated by the media.
In one sense, the idea that people don’t have enough information to make an informed decision is nothing new. As I’ve written in the past, ignorance is inevitable.
But there does seem to be something particular going on in Britain right now that is causing something even worse than mere ignorance.
It’s always great to see advice from Indi Young. Here are tips on how to better identify and synthesise patterns in qualitative data.
…when you’re looking at data, don’t group things together by noun. Group them together by verb. I’ve done a lot of work with the healthcare industry, and one thing I often see research teams do is bring together insights that are all about a noun — here is all of the data that we got about how people feel about the doctors. But when you do that the intent behind what people are really saying ends up all over the place.
Photo — 2019-08-18
Continuum — Bridget Riley — on exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery.
It’s Bridget Riley’s only ever 3D work. Entering inside it, I perhaps understood why. It wasn’t quite tall enough to fully immerse me.
I highly recommend you visit this if you can. It is a very comprehensive exhibition of her career, spanning more than 70 years, including paintings from this year.
The room containing her black-and-white works of the 1960s are of course a highlight. I am constantly in awe of how these static paintings can appear to be moving at great speed.
But I was also fascinated by the room containing her studies, where you can see her working out how to create these incredible mind-bending paintings.
A very good piece about why fears around grade inflation and the like are spurious. Even if everyone meets high standards, people continue to call for the standards to be made higher still. Moreover, people exhibit a damaging compulsion to rank.
But boy, do we love to rank. Worse, we create artificial scarcity such as awards — distinctions manufactured out of thin air specifically so that some cannot get them. Every contest involves the invention of a desired status where none existed before and none needs to exist. This creates an adversarial mentality that makes productive collaboration less likely, encourages gaming the system, and leads all concerned to focus not on meaningful improvement but on trying to outdo (and perhaps undermine) everyone else.
A fascinating study from YouGov around people’s understanding of what is meant by left-wing and right-wing, and what policies people who self-describe as left- and right-wing actually support.
The article sweeps aside the idea that politics is better seen through an additional authoritarian/libertarian axis. Presumably a study for another day.
But from a liberal perspective, and as someone who doesn’t clearly view themselves as either left- or right-wing, this makes interesting reading.
This study shows that the majority of people who:
- Want a greater redistribution of wealth
- Think the minimum wage is too low
- Want to nationalise the railways
- Want to nationalise utilities
- Think the criminal justice system is too soft
- Want tighter restrictions on immigration
- Support capital punishment
- Favour powerful government over individual freedoms
It’s almost as if believing the government should have more control over economic activity, and believing the government should have more control over people are… somehow… linked. 🤔
Note — 2019-08-13
Photo — 2019-08-13
White chocolate Coco Pops are the greatest/worst invention because it looks just like you’re eating Rice Krispies.
At this stage, I wonder how Helmut Marko gets away with this. His driver/vanity programme is a monumental failure. Pierre Gasly’s demotion to Toro Rosso after only 12 races is just the latest in a trail of destruction wreaked upon drivers ever since Red Bull Junior Team’s inception.
At Toro Rosso he joins Daniil Kvyat, who has also been rejected by Red Bull’s programme multiple times, only to be invited back due to the scheme’s utter dearth of talent.
Meanwhile, Red Bull lack the patience required to build their drivers’ confidence and skill.
Luke Smith’s tweet sums it up neatly:
This means a driver once dropped by Red Bull's junior programme replaces a driver dropped by Red Bull, who himself becomes teammates with a driver dropped by Red Bull's team and programme before being re-signed by Red Bull's programme #F1
— Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1) August 12, 2019
I’ve been using the Inter typeface on this blog (and other things) for 1½ years now.* I love it.
Rasmus [Andersson, the designer of Inter] did some research and experimentation and eventually realized there was no free, high-quality text typefaces for computer UIs. That felt backwards to him given how type heavy many UIs are. So he set to work creating one and released the first set of glyphs in August 2017. He’s been iterating on it continuously ever since.
What I really admire about Inter is the way it looks brilliant at both small sizes and large sizes. There really are not many typefaces you can say that about.
It also feels like it has genuinely been designed for our time, while seeming familiar like Helvetica or Univers. While those classics fall down somewhat as digital typefaces (no surprise given how old they are), Inter manages to improve on other digital-first typefaces like Roboto.
Incredibly, while Roboto has the might of Google behind it, Inter is one person’s side project. I have a lot of admiration for this project.
* Yes, that was just an excuse to use the ½ glyph.
I fear the writing is on the wall for Valtteri Bottas. It was bad enough that Toto Wolff has now explicitly said he’s considering replacing Bottas with Esteban Ocon.
But when even Bottas himself is talking about having a plan B and plan C, surely the game is up. It’s not just the fact that he’s considering it. That’s only sensible for anyone to do.
But in talking about it, he is exposing his weakness. A more driven individual (even if he is talking to other teams behind the scenes) would surely still say he is fully committed to Mercedes and, determined to retain his drive, and not thinking about anything else.
Talking like this just makes Bottas seem like he’s already thrown in the towel.
Note — 2019-08-07
Is there a way to force all mobile apps to open web URLs in my actual browser of choice, instead of the crappy WebView they make you use? This is one thing I am truly fed up with now.
How we used card sorting to help us devise a consistent information architecture for Learn VLE courses at the University of Edinburgh.
775 students participated in the study — and no two students submitted the same card sort. This highlights the great challenge faced by the Learn Foundations project in attempting to create a more standardised template that meets the wide variety of needs across the University.
Note — 2019-08-02
My Omnichord normally gathers dust in the corner of a room. So when someone retweeted into my timeline Karine Polwart asking if anyone in Edinburgh had an Omnichord she could borrow for some filming, I was happy to help, and to see the Omnichord out of its case for a change!
Dear @DuncanBSS thanks for the borrow of your Brand New Omnichord! It’s having its own wee moment in the spotlight this morning via @AdmiralFallow Louis for my Scottish Songbook. pic.twitter.com/Y4WUYfUexP
— Karine Polwart (@IAMKP) February 26, 2019
It makes its little appearance in this video for her cover of Chance by the Big Country.
This is part of her new album of Scottish covers, Scottish Songbook. It’s out today on lovely red vinyl.
I had always wondered what it would take to get a ‘thank you’ on the back of an album. Now I know. 🙂
Hopefully one day I’ll get round to playing the Omnichord more often myself…
It has been found that having a conscientious spouse helps lead to an increase in income, number of promotions and job satisfaction. Why?
First, conscientious spouses handle a lot of household tasks, freeing employees to concentrate on work (“When you can depend on someone, it takes pressure off of you,” Solomon told me).
Or, put another way, if someone else is doing all the dirty work at home, it gives you the privilege to focus on your career.
I wonder if there’s research to say what the effect is if both people in a relationship share household duties equally. Hopefully if both partners are conscientious, both feel the benefits in their careers.
Support each other. Teamwork! 🐌🐢
You can support your spouse in supporting you. If you depend on his or her reliability, diligence, and goal orientation, don’t take those traits for granted. Maybe you’ve been standing heroically at the bow for so long that you’ve forgotten how much effort it takes to row. So sit down and row for a while.