Aaron Douglas: Being Mindful During Video Calls

Tips from my coworker and prodigious mobile app maker Aaron Douglas on being mindful during video calls. Great tips, not just for remote workers, either. “I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.”

The Dangling Pointer

Working remote means I’m on a lot of video calls. I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.

Look at the camera often

When you’re in person you look at people’s eyes to show them you’re listening. Doing that on a video call requires a bit of counter-intuitive body language by looking at the camera. You won’t be looking at the person but they’ll see you looking directly at them. It’s a subtle difference but I’ve found it highly effective.

Also try to place the video call window up the screen towards the camera. Also decrease the size of the window so the person’s eyes are naturally closer to the top of the window (closer to the camera). When you’re not looking at the camera while the person is speaking it’ll still look…

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Kerry Liu on Team Leadership: Three Important Things

Insight on team leadership and management from my colleague and technical team lead extraordinaire Kerry Liu.

Remember these three things: don’t fall into the safety of your old job, listen, and provide useful feedback.

These are the three most important insights I gained from working as an Engineering Team Lead at Automattic. 

Read the full article: Three Important Things.

2018 Design in Tech Report

The 2018 Design in Tech Report from John Maeda is alive and kicking (I’m late to sharing this as it debuted at SxSW in March.) This year’s deck places a strong focus on inclusive design and artificial intelligence.

2018 design in tech report by John Maeda

Computers aren’t good at inclusion. They’re good at exclusion, because they’re only based on past data. The business opportunity for the future-thinking designer is in inclusion. — Fast Company

View the key highlights summarized on LinkedIn and visit the website for more: designintech.report.

Perception Versus Reality

Question: “How are things going, both in perception and reality?”

This topic comes up a lot for me lately. As I dig into a reply I find myself grappling with a significant gap. I know there’s bound to be a distance between perception and reality, yet often I don’t know how something is perceived because I’m not listening well. Or, I don’t know the truth in order for my answer should point to something real.

Answer: I have work to do on both ends in order to answer first for myself, then provide the feedback to the original asker.

The beauty of this prompt is that it rewards more questions.

Agile Thinkers Know When a Best Practice Isn’t Best

I have a hiring heuristic called ABCDEF, which stands for: agility, brains, communication, drive, empathy and fit. For gatekeepers, I’ve found agility is the most important attribute. To test it, I ask them: ‘Tell me a best practice from your way of working.’ Then I ask: ‘Tell me a situation where that best practice would be inappropriate.’ Only agile thinkers can demonstrate that a best practice isn’t always best,” says Ries. “For an attorney, that might be probing for a situation where you shouldn’t run everything by a lawyer. Hopefully they don’t say ‘criminal conspiracy,’ but you want someone to say something like: ‘You know what? If you’re a two person team, and you’re just doing an MVP, and six people are involved, you don’t need a lawyer.’ It requires some common sense and mental flexibility.

Via First Round Review: Lean Startup’s Eric Ries on How to Make ‘Gatekeepers’ a Source of Power and Speed.

Hitsville

You can build something that the cool kids love. You can build something that the bystanders love. Or you can build a cult favorite. Best to do it on purpose.

Via Seth Godin’s new podcast, Akimbo.

Inclusive Design, Day 7/15: Roku and the 10-Foot Rule

This is day 7 of 15 in a short series on inclusive design. If you missed earlier posts, see day 1 here or view the full list.


“Solve for one, extend to many” is a key principle of inclusive design which I learned from Kat Holmes and her work with Microsoft.

Via fellow WordPresser Leo Postovoit, I learned more about how Roku followed this principle to achieve commercial success. “From a small hardware start-up to a publicly listed company with an estimated 2017 revenue of $500 million and a $5 billion market cap,” according to Variety.

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A typical Roku home screen. One click Netflix is as simple as it gets.

Roku is successful because of how user-friendly everything is. Along with Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, and others — the experience is a big improvement over traditional TVs.

CEO Anthony Wood explains in Variety:

Roku’s original user interface was anything but flashy. Wood instead aimed for simplicity, banning all but the most essential buttons from Roku’s remote control, and calling apps “channels” to help TV viewers in their transition to the new medium. “Companies commonly overdesign something and make it kind of pretty, but not easy,” he says. “Customers, what they really want is easy.”

Here’s what people love about Roku:

— The minimal interface takes full advantage of “10-Foot UI” principle by using simple, intuitive navigation based on a grid. Large and readable from ten feet because you have no mouse/keyboard, viewing from the couch. (The navigations options are limited to left, right, up, down — click to select). Requires no fancy 100-button or huge user manual. Setup is a breeze.

— A trimmed down TV remote with programmable buttons; plus dedicated buttons for popular streaming services like Netflix. No menus to scroll through, go straight to viewing.

— Voice commands to search via the remote, and the search matches available content quickly from your input. Leo says: “My favorite feature is the universal search, where it actually queries every channel for listings, fuzzy searches too. You can find every “Batman” movie, including the Dark Knight!”

— Packaged as low-cost hardware — basic streaming kit sell for $29 — Roku positions itself as an attractive alternative to regular TVs that require a cable or satellite subscription. Streaming requires WiFi, and increasing broadband speeds boost the value of high-quality, always available content.

— One of my favorite features is the earphone jack in the remote control — great for private listening and for those who need a little extra hearing assistance.

[More about the 10-foot UI, if you’re curious like me: Wikipedia article and a user design guide.]

Though I couldn’t find evidence for it, the person Roku seems to have in mind in solving the typical TV problems is a cost-conscious, non-technical person over a certain age. Your grandparent might prefer a simple gadget that does one thing well, for example.

Fewer cords to plug in. No need to tinker or walk through endless steps of complicated menus to set up the TV. They certainly don’t love or wish to understand how to operate 100-button remote controls. [That’s why they call you over! “Fix my TV again, please.”]

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Roku — a player for every kind of streamer; and more than a smart TV.

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Featured-packed. Entertainment filled.

The beauty of “solve for one, extend to many” is that the same elegant UI and intuitive remote works well for seniors and the elderly — but also works great for everyone else.

As Leo told me, “It benefits all people.”

Erica Manfred explains her love for Roku as a hard-of-hearing senior citizen: Aging With Geekitude: Why Roku is My New Crush:

Roku has terrific little feature, a headset jack on the remote so you can listen to your favorite shows and movies without bothering anyone. For a hearing aid wearer like me this is a godsend. The Roku also supports closed captioning, another huge benefit for the hearing impaired and anyone who can’t understand current slang.

(Leo notes 30-40 percent of Roku content still isn’t captioned.)

Roku proves to me that simple and inclusive hardware+software is good design and good business.

For day 8 of 15 of inclusive design, I’ll share a business success story — how to expand your market by solving for one, extending to many. Because inclusive design is great for business.


About this Inclusive Design series Coming up next week I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’m publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 7 of 15. Read more about the series.

Top 5 Recent Sensible Leader Posts, and What’s Up Next

Here are the top 5 posts on this site — as measured by your visits and likes — published in December 2017 and January 2018.

What else interests you? I’d love to hear your thoughts for what I should write about next. Do have any burning questions? Want to hear more about a given topic? Let me know in the comments here, or privately via my contact page.


What’s up next? In February: 15 days of Inclusive Design

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Automattic is passionate about inclusive design: design.blog/inclusive

Next on Sensible Leader I will share a short series — “15 Days of Inclusive Design” — the stories, principles, products, and people that I’ve found most compelling and inspirational in my journey of learning more about inclusion in technology. Fits with our clear and public company goal for Automattic to share everything we’re learning.

This short series leads up to my talk on Inclusive Design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018 in two weeks.

Stay tuned!

Tide: Automated Testing for WordPress Plugins and Themes

Yet another way to contribute! Remember this 20-piece WordPress contribution chart with the tester Easter Egg? Even though testing is growing stronger in WordPress core with each release, it’s still mostly manual — usability, visual regression, accessibility, and beta testing with real sites before launch.

Now the tide is turning a bit more toward automation. I’m beyond thrilled to see this!

Tide is a new software test automation project kicking off in WordPress core.

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Screenshot of the Tide page on Make WordPress.

Announced at WCUS 2017 Tide is: “A path to better code across the WordPress ecosystem” — tools to run automated tests for all themes and plugins in the WordPress official directories.

From the XWP team announcement:

Tide, a project started here at XWP and supported by GoogleAutomattic, and WP Engineaims to equip WordPress users and developers to make better decisions about the plugins and themes they install and build.

Tide is a service, consisting of an API, Audit Server, and Sync Server, working in tandem to run a series of automated tests against the WordPress.org plugin and theme directories. Through the Tide plugin, the results of these tests are delivered as an aggregated score in the WordPress admin that represents the overall code quality of the plugin or theme. A comprehensive report is generated, equipping developers to better understand how they can increase the quality of their code.

Once up and running these automated tests would update the plugin and theme description with a status and score so everyone knows whether they pass the tests or not, from PHP version compatibility to the quality of the “front-end output.”

The Tide project is now officially moved over to the WordPress project. See the related story on WP Tavern for a longer history. And, if you’re curious like me about the tech “innards” — take a look at the source code on GitHub.

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Screenshot of the Tide API plugin code on GitHub.

I love the genesis of the name:

…inspired by the proverb ‘A rising tide lifts all boats,’ thinking that if a tool like this could lower the barrier of entry to good quality code for enough developers, it could lift the quality of code across the whole WordPress ecosystem.” Rob Stinson

One key to success: Tide makes it super easy for developers to identify weaknesses in their code — and learn how to fix them. It’s not just about getting a high score or to ranking better against a minimum requirement. It’ll teach us all to improve. I love that.

Stripe Connect, Frontend Experience

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Connect: behind the front-end experience is an extraordinary frontend engineering knowledge drop from Stripe’s design team — how they built engaging landing pages with next-generation technologies like CSS 3D, CSS Grid, and the Web Animations API — including the (new to me) Intersection Observer API to detect the visibility of an element. A must-read.

Via Twitter / johnmaeda.