Jordan Koschei jordan koschei

Latest Writing
Thoughts on design, programming, business, and culture.

What I Hope for the Future of the Hudson Valley Tech Scene

I had several conversations at CatskillsConf about the present and future of the Hudson Valley tech scene, and several of the ideas I heard dovetailed nicely with my own thinking about this subject.

I’m cataloguing these here for posterity and comment. Some of these are my own ideas, some of them come from conversations with others, but all of them owe a debt to the spirit of cautious optimism that’s been in the air lately.

Read these, think about them, make suggestions. Better yet, pick an idea you particularly like and take action.

Table of Contents

  1. Anchor Tenant
  2. Hudson Valley Tech Meetup
  3. CatskillsConf
  4. Hudson Valley Talentbase
  5. Other Online Services
  6. Legacy Organizations
  7. Competitive Salaries
  8. Startups & Investment
  9. Coworking Spaces
  10. County/Government Outreach
  11. Higher Education
  12. Younger Students
  13. Conclusion

Anchor Tenant

I want to see a brand-name tech company establish a physical presence in the region.

When Google opened a NYC office, it jumpstarted the NYC startup scene. Google employees would leave to start their own companies with local headquarters, and other tech companies moved into New York with the knowledge that Google had already cultivated the talent there.

A small Facebook or Google office would legitimize the Hudson Valley in the eyes of the startup community, and would possibly jumpstart other tech companies starting secondary offices here.

(I’m not counting IBM; while it is a brand-name tech company, it’s both hardware-focused and a legacy company, so it isn’t attractive to the startup crowd in the same way as a Google or a Facebook.)

As the existing workforce at those companies gets older, some employees will want to move their families out of the city. Providing offices in the Hudson Valley would enable companies to retain mid- and senior-level talent who are ready to shift out of city life.

Though it isn’t as big-name as the FAANG companies, Foursquare would be a good choice for establishing a Hudson Valley presence for the following reasons:

  • The founder has a local connection already
  • The company is already headquartered nearby in NYC
  • Being a location-based service, having a presence outside a major metro area could provide valuable opportunities for regularly dogfooding the product in a non-urban setting

Hudson Valley Tech Meetup

The HVTM has been one of the most effective drivers of growing the Hudson Valley tech scene; in the four years since its founding, it’s gone from fewer than 50 members to over 2,500. I’d like to see this continue — connecting creatives and technologists from around the Hudson Valley is essential for fostering serendipitous connections, encouraging the cross-polination of ideas, and building a sense of community.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that the meetup has been losing some momentum lately. To regain that momentum, the tech meetup should:

  • Focus on consistency. The meetups need to happen on a regular schedule.
  • Schedule meetups well in advance, so that people can block off space in their calendar. At least a month’s notice is best.
  • Provide more time for conversation, and less for talks. The focus should be on fostering connections more than providing content.
  • Ensure that talks are about tech, creativity, or related subjects.
  • Keep the meetups apolitical. It’s exciting when local politicians want to speak — we’ve hosted congressmen, county executives, and candidates for federal office. Some of our speakers have gone on to run for governer and attorney general. That being said, the tech meetup isn’t an appropriate venue for stump speeches. One of the goals of the meetup is to create as welcoming an environment as possible, and introducing politics into the mix risks alienating some attendees. While local politicians can certainly speak, their message should be nonpartisan and relevant to the audience.
  • Resume having multiple types of meetup. Examples include:
    • The mainline HV Tech meetup, featuring talks of general interest to the tech and creative community
    • Dev O’Clock, featuring tech demos and more technical talks
    • StartupHV, focused on startup roundtables
    • HV Tech Socials, in which local creatives/technologists gather at a local venue to meet and talk, and possibly give a handful or 5-minute lightning talks

I think the HV Tech Meetup is the linchpin of the Hudson Valley tech scene, and I’d like to see it remain a vital and growing part of the regional creative ecosystem.

CatskillsConf

CatskillsConf is an annual tech & creative conference held in the woods of Ulster County. It gathers technologists from the Hudson Valley, NYC, and beyond to listen to talks, attend workshops (both tech-related and things like foraging and blacksmithing), and generally hang out and build connections.

Having a local tech conference has been huge for getting non-Hudson Valley technologists into the area, and I’ve heard of tech folks considering moving to the Hudson Valley after discovering it through CatskillsConf.

The first year was big, with lots of attendees (including some from Germany and Australia) and big-name speakers. The second year was similar to the first, I missed the third year (honeymooning), and was there for the much-smaller fourth.

I want to see CatskillsConf have an expanded profile; it still doesn’t rate in lists of well-known design/tech conferences. It should:

  • Announce CatskillsConf much further in advance — preferably 4+ months, so people from abroad can get plane tickets and make plans
  • Have a specific theme for each year. The talks are always good, but they’re often thematically disconnected. It’s hard to buy tickets for an event whose focus is unclear.
  • Advertise it further afield. Attendees tend to come from NYC or the Hudson Valley, and tend to be working at the same sorts of companies. I’d like to see more people from the Bay Area and other tech hotspots attending, but we need to (a) tell them about it, and (b) give them a reason to attend
  • Have a larger variety of workshops and activities, so longtime attendees will have something new to do each year

Hudson Valley Talentbase

This one’s on me.

I want to see Hudson Valley Talentbase build a richer map of the regional creative community. I want to be able to do the following:

  • View a map of local creative people and projects
  • See a map of local creative hotspots like galleries, museums, coworking spaces, coffee shops, etc
  • Find potential collaborators for new projects
  • Find potential employees/employers
  • Get more information about locations and events of interest to the local creative community

The idea is to persist the connections and conversations that happen at live events like the HV Tech Meetup. Those only happen every month; the local tech community needs ways to connect the rest of the time.

The Hudson Valley is geographically distributed, and we need a way to foster serendipitous connections that are similarly distributed.

Other Online Services

I want to see a job board that can connect local tech workers with local tech companies.

I want to see a thriving online discussion community that enables local tech/creative workers to maintain persistent conversations, share advice, etc.

Legacy Organizations

I heard recently that, in the entire IBM Poughkeepsie design studio, not a single designer is originally from the Hudson Valley.

We have talented designers graduating from quality design programs at local universities. I’d like to see more local designers placed at local companies like IBM. Of course, a company like IBM draws applications from all over the world. But hiring local designers is an investment in the Hudson Valley’s future crop of potential workers; a strong local engineering and design culture begets more strong engineers and designers.

Legacy tech companies largely built the infrastructure that makes the Hudson Valley a viable location for a tech renaissance. Hiring local talent is a way to maintain that investment.

Competitive Salaries

Local agencies/companies don’t have competitive salaries; from what I’ve seen from local job listings, a front-end developer in the Hudson Valley can make about half of what they can make elsewhere.

This incentivizes local workers to work remotely. Nothing against remote work — geoarbitrage is great, and brings outside money into the local economy. However, we can’t have a competitive tech scene if the salaries for design and engineering work are depressed.

One of the reasons why outside companies want to set up shop in the Hudson Valley is the lower costs, including salaries. That doesn’t have to mean 50% lower salaries, though — we’re still in the New York metro area, not the middle of nowhere.

Startups & Investment

We haven’t had a big Hudson Valley tech success story yet.

I don’t think we want the next Facebook or Google, but it would be good to have at least one notable startup known for being homegrown in the Hudson Valley.

There’s some VC available through organizations like the Hudson Valley Startup Fund, but without many eligible startups nearby, there isn’t much reason for more VCs to set up shop here.

We need more VCs to get more startups, and we need more startups to get more VCs.

Better yet, it would be nice to see local startups bootstrap themselves; that feels more consistent with the overall Hudson Valley ethos: sustainability vs. “growth at all costs.”

Hudson Valley VCs shouldn’t try to mimic what Silicon Valley VCs are doing; they should develop a model that’s more in tune with the Hudson Valley startup ethos.

The solution to this is to continue growing the local tech scene. Fostering connections between local creatives and technologists increases the odds of great ideas becoming real, and those great ideas strengthening our position as a viable tech hub.

Coworking Spaces

There are already great coworking spaces in the area (Beahive in Beacon, One EPIC Place in New Paltz, Co in Rhinebeck, etc), but all of them are fairly pricey. I suspect lots of potentially eligible coworkers stick to local coffee shops or home offices instead.

A county or counties should invest in some cheap space and set it up as dirt-cheap coworking. By getting lots of local creatives and technologists into one place, we increase the opportunities for serendipity and increase the odds of economy-boosting companies and products being founded by people who wouldn’t otherwise know each other.

Let’s say a local engineer needs a designer for a project. If they don’t know anyone local, they might go online to find someone elsewhere. If they work at a coworking space, there’s probably someone qualified at the next desk.

Coworking should be cheap or free for students — maybe a local college could pay for its CS or design students to have unlimited access. Getting students in the same space as local tech workers would help grow the tech pipeline, expose everyone to new ideas, and build connections between groups that don’t otherwise work in proximity.

County/Government Outreach

Local governments need to settle on a consistent message for the region. Right now, the messaging centers on two themes:

  • “Come to the Hudson Valley, you can work remotely from here.”
  • “Come to the Hudson Valley, we have our own local tech scene.”

These are both true, but the messaging is scattered. It’s unclear if we’re trying to convince tech workers to move to the Hudson Valley because

  1. They can work remotely, so if it doesn’t matter where they live, why not live here?
  2. There’s a growing tech industry here already, and they can be on the leading edge.

Perhaps the answer is both. But this messaging should be clarified so it’s clear what the goal is.

Higher Education

Local universities need to modernize their web programs to reflect the changing requirements of the discipline. Basically: stop teaching design students Bootstrap before the fundamentals of HTML, and pretending that makes them web designers. Also, talk less about “web design” and more about UX, UI, and digital product design.

Build cross-disciplinary courses that combine computer science, design, and business. This will better prepare students for work in tech, which is fundamentally cross-disciplinary.

Local colleges should integrate more with the local tech community (such as HV Tech) and local tech companies and studios, so that students get more hands-on experience. Startup skills aren’t learned in a classroom; by the time web stuff is being taught in schools, it’s already outdated. Get more students into the real world earlier.

Younger Students

I want to see venues and opportunities for younger students to be exposed to coding and design early. Particularly for disadvantaged students, this would empower kids with the knowledge that, with a little bit of computer skill, anyone can make their ideas become real.

Getting local kids into the tech pipeline early would help to fill out the local tech pipeline, too, providing more local students for college CS/design programs and, eventually, more local candidates for tech jobs.

Conclusion

These are my provisional thoughts on how we can continue to grow the local technology sector in a way that encourages human flourishing and helps the Hudson Valley to thrive.

Assumptions

  1. It would be beneficial for the Hudson Valley to have a thriving technology sector.
    1. It would bring in more money to the local economy, particularly via remote workers pulling salaries from outside the HV and spending them locally, and via outside businesses establishing a presence here and paying taxes.
    2. Rather than consuming a larger piece of the pie, it would expand the pie for everyone.
    3. It would increase the diversity of available jobs, the diversity of people, and the creative diversity of the region.
    4. Without the spatial constraints of a city, an influx of new residents and companies shouldn’t have the same gentrifying effect that it’s had in San Francisco or New York.
    5. The HV’s tech sector should grow, but not become all-consuming the way it has in places like the San Francisco Bay Area.
  2. The Hudson Valley tech scene is starting to take off, but its success isn’t inevitable. It needs to be carefully stewarded and cultivated.
  3. By “tech scene,” I mean the overall startup and creative scene in the Hudson Valley, not just the legacy tech companies in the area like IBM.

Thanks

Thanks in particular to Chris Garrett and Mike Zamansky, with whom I had some really thought-provoking conversations during CatskillsConf.

Long Dock Park, Beacon NY

We took the dog to Long Dock Park in Beacon yesterday. The weather was perfect (a far cry from today’s freezing deluge), so here are a handful of photos to commemorate the sunshine.

Path at Long Dock Park in Beacon, NY
Long Dock Park, or Riven?
My wife and dog at Long Dock Park in Beacon, NY
We got the dog to look at the camera!
A view of the Hudson River towards Newburgh from Long Dock Park in Beacon, NY
The sun setting over Newburgh, looking towards New Windsor.

Apps, Stop Infantilizing Your Users

I’m getting tired of that cutesy, flat-shaded, CalArts-style aesthetic that so many apps seem to have adopted.

Headspace Website
This is the homepage for Headspace, a meditation app designed for adult humans.
Duolingo App Store Page
Duolingo is a great app. This character looks like it came from a startup promo video with ukelele music in the background.

These feel just a few steps removed from Clippy to me. Am I just getting cranky in my old age, or are there a lot of apps that infantilize their users, as if we wouldn’t be interested in a product if it didn’t look like it was designed for toddlers?

Digital Terroir

Hello, CatskillsConf! This is the written version of my talk, given on October 20, 2018 at 4:00pm. There might be some slight differences between the written version and the spoken verison. All images are from Unsplash, except for the Hudson Valley image, which I took myself from the top of the tower at Mohonk.

How many of you have ever been to, or ever seen, a coffee shop that looks anything like this?

Coffee Shop

You know the one I’m talking about. It’s probably got white walls with some artwork on it, reclaimed wood somewhere, concrete floors or something else similarly industrial chic. They all have the same smell — coffee, predictably enough.

I think everyone’s been to a coffee shop like this. And it’s not surprising, because these things are everywhere.

I’m not talking about Starbucks, where it’s a chain, but coffee shops that have independently developed this same hipster coffee shop aesthetic.

You can find these in New York; you can find them in San Francisco. They’re in Chicago and Dallas and Detroit. You can find them in Sydney, Singapore, Dubai, Frankfurt.

I’d call it an epidemic, except I actually love coffee shops like this. They have great music and great coffee. The baristas have great beards.

But the world is getting flatter. Our culture seems to be compressing, regressing to the aesthetic mean. It’s easier and easier to find things that look the same, no matter where you go. Not just in terms of Wal-Mart being everywhere, but in terms of things that are totally independent and would’ve previously had their own personality, don’t really have their own personality anymore.

But we’ll get back to that.

I haven’t introduced myself yet, have I? I’m a designer and programmer, and I make apps and websites for a living. I’ve had the privilege to work with a variety of companies and clients, from independent creatives to startups to global megacorporations. So today I’m here to talk to you about… wine.

Well, not wine exactly. I know almost nothing about wine. But something tangentially related to wine. I’m here to talk to you about terroir.

Terroir

Terroir is the idea that wines made in different places will taste like that place; they’ll assume the characteristics of the geography and culture in which they were produced.

Wines made in Bordeaux, taste like Bordeaux. Wines made in Napa, taste like Napa.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Wine comes from grapes, grapes are grown in the ground, so the growing conditions of the grapes will influence the taste of the wine. Things like climate — the precipitation and temperature the grapes were subject to. Even the nutrient composition of the soil will alter the taste of the wine.

But terroir is deeper than that. The local bacteria will impact the taste of the wine. Different places have different strains of bacteria floating around in the air, and present in the soil. Those bacteria will alter the growth of the grapes, and involve themselves in the fermentation of the wine. You could say that the essence of the place imbues itself into the wine.

And so wine is the product of the bacterial culture in the environment, but it’s also the product of the human culture of the environment. Wine is cultivated by a vintner — a winemaker — and so that winemaker’s instincts and methods, their approach to making wine, greatly affects the resulting wine. The winemaking culture in which they were trained will imprint itself on the wine.

You can take identical grapes and make wine using the same recipe in two different places, and those wines will not be the same. That’s terroir.

Other things besides wine have terroir.

Beer has terroir. There are varieties of beer that are fermented in open air, allowing any local flora and fauna to fall in and influence the flavor. Coffee has terroir, tobacco has terroir, and cannabis has terroir. Cheese has terroir. Even vidalia onions have terroir.

I think we can expand this into a more general principle:

The things we make are imbued with the character of the places in which they were made, and the people who made them.

Music takes on the character of the place and time in which it was written. Writing can’t help but be part of an oeuvre. British film feels different than American film feels different than Japanese film or French film. New York pizza tastes better than any other pizza on earth (come at me, Chicago.)

Anything handcrafted, whether it’s wine or cheese or furniture, has terroir.

The things we make feel like the places where they were made. And, moreover, they are imbued with the character and personality and culture of the people who made them.

I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately. Being a designer and developer, I wonder: do digital artifacts also have terroir? Obviously they wouldn’t be impacted by the bacterial environment or the precipitation in which we code a website, but does the culture and gestalt of a place impact the websites and apps made there?

I had big plans for this talk. I was going to get screenshots of websites from all over — Russian websites and Indian websites and Japanese websites and French websites, and websites from different cities in the US — and put them up on the screen, and triumphantly declare: “Yes, software does have terroir!”

But instead I found… this.

Nope!

Everything looks the same! It’s not just that everything shares the similar, Bootstrappy layout — full-width header image, center column of text, blocky layout — but that everything looks like it’s trying to copy the same sites. Everything’s trying to look like Stripe or Medium. Everyone’s looking at the same inspirations on Dribbble and copying the same code snippets from Stack Overflow.

This isn’t meant to sound like an indictment of similar work, by the way. It’s not wrong that the whole English-speaking Web seems to have coalesced around the same limited sets of layouts. It makes sense that websites should have a common vocabulary, so users don’t have to relearn the interface every time they visit a new website. It makes sense that apps use the same set of UI conventions, or that every piece of desktop software doesn’t look vastly different than its peers.

It’s not wrong, but as someone who likes the world to have some character, it is kind of disappointing.

For the first time in history, we have instant access to things made in places all around the world. And for the first time in history, things made in those places all look exactly the same.

It makes sense. A startup in Mumbai isn’t just competing against other startups in Mumbai, it’s competing against startups halfway around the world. Websites and apps aren’t really aimed at a local audience, they’re aimed at a global audience, so the place they’re trying to feel like is just: Earth.

But I can’t help but feel like the world would be richer if the digital products we build were imbued with a sense of the place in which they were built, and the people who built them.

And so we’re back to the beginning: the world is getting flatter.

There was a time when you could drive coast-to-coast across the United States, and if you kept your radio on, you’d hear different things in different cities. Let’s say you started in Kingston, New York — you’d hear a Kingston radio station, with music selected by a Kingston DJ. As you’d drive, Kingston would go out of range, and a new radio station would fade in. You’d hear music selected by a Pittsburgh DJ, probably with some local flavor mixed in. You’d keep going and hear different music in Saint Louis, and Detroit, and eventually California.

Each place would’ve had its own sound, and in addition to the geographic place-building happening in your head, you’d be building a cultural map as well.

If you try that again today, you’ll find something very different. There are pockets of independent radio, of course, but by-and-large you’ll find the same thing in every city. Pittsburgh? IHeartRadio with Spyder Harrison, playing some Taylor Swift. Saint Louis? IHeartRadio with Spyder Harrison, playing some Taylor Swift. Detroit? IHeartRadio with Spyder Harrison, playing some Taylor Swift. California? Well, probably some M83 or something, but you get the drift.

Am I romanticizing a little to make a point? Yes, absolutely. Maybe we never lived in a utopian world of local DJs with impeccable, geographically-informed taste. Then again, maybe it’s just hard to remember a time before demographic data ruled every decision and “mainstream taste” was defined as whatever the most people find inoffensive.

That’s where we are now. Lots of coffee shops that look the same, because Instagram can bring in foot traffic, and this is the style that gets lots of likes on Instagram.

Popular fashion that looks the same, because it gets lots of pins on Pinterest.

Places and things in the physical world optimized for algorithmic engagement, where the only thing that matters is that they are similar to other things that have gotten lots of engagement.

One of the great promises of the Internet was that anyone could find their tribe. We’d no longer be bound by whatever suited mainstream culture — we could watch shows that would never find an audience on TV, and find songs that would never get played on the radio, and meet people who shared the same obscure, esoteric hobbies.

And yes, that happened, to a point. But as the long tail got longer, the mainstream got flatter. What was local, got more local; what was global, went more global.

And so the culture flattens towards a unified, global aesthetic; a pleasant mediocrity is favored above distinctive personality. It’s better to have something that a lot of people kind of like, than something that a few people love and a few people hate.

“Algorithms are great at giving you something you like, but terrible at giving you something you love.” — David Perell

In agriculture, there’s the concept of “monoculture.”

Monoculture

In traditional farming, a single plot of land would support several types of crops. These crops would be rotated seasonally and annually, and because different crops take different nutrients from the ground, this would ensure that the soil never got worn out. Rotating crops actually strengthens the soil.

With industrial farming, however, came the rise of monoculture. Huge swaths of land are planted with the same crop, season after season and year after year. It’s more economical to do things this way when producing food for a huge market, but it wears out the soil. Farms need to add chemicals to the soil to replenish the depleted nutrients, making things less natural and less environmentally sound.

Monoculture is fragile, too. If you grow multiple types of crops in a year and one crop is hit with blight, you won’t lose everything. If you only grow one thing and it gets wiped out, though, you’re done.

Our culture right now is a monoculture.

I’m not saying that the Internet will one day get struck with a blight and suddenly all the Bootstrap websites will go away. I am saying that it’s all just a little… boring.

The Internet is the predominant culture-making force in our society. Want to learn something new? You go to the Internet. Looking for entertainment? Go to the Internet. Need to shop for something? Go to the Internet. As the Internet goes, society goes also.

The movies we watch, the books we read, the clothes we wear, the products we buy — all suggested to us by algorithms. The Internet keeps giving us more of what it thinks we want, based on the aggregated taste of people just like us. We’re trapped in an echo chamber of our own making.

This is the part of the talk where you start tuning me out, because I sound like I’m getting all doom-and-gloom about the present and romanticizing the past. I promise that’s not where I’m going with this!

Where I’m going is here:

Let’s say we’re all agreed that the world would be a richer, more vibrant place if our digital artifacts had a sense of place, like our physical ones. How would we go about doing that? How would we go about encouraging terroir in the things we make?

We should start by considering the character and personality of the places we inhabit. For me, that’s the Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley

When I think of the Hudson Valley, I think of places like the Ashokan Center. I think of towns like New Paltz and Beacon and Rhinebeck, which each have their own personality but still share the values of the Hudson Valley. I think of the places to hike, and the places to eat, and the farmers’ markets and independent stores.

The Hudson Valley is about small farms, slow food, and good neighbors. It’s about doing good work, but avoiding the mentality of “growth at all costs.” The pace is a little slower here than in New York City, but thanks to the easy train access, we still have the cultural benefits.

Wherever you’re from, you know that place’s character and personality. And you can express that character and personality through your work.

For the Hudson Valley, that might mean a few different things:

On the superficial level, we could make color and typographic choices that reflect the environment. Use colors that are present in the local environment, typography that’s authentic to the history of the Hudson Valley, etc. We can even go so far as to use visual forms that reflect the geography of the region.

But all this sounds a little contrived, doesn’t it? You can’t just tell a client, “I’m going to use lots of greens and blues, even though those aren’t your brand colors. And I refuse to use Helvetica, because that’s a Swiss font, and this isn’t Switzerland.”

No, we have to go deeper than that. Just like with terroir — it doesn’t hit you over the head, but it’s the subtle undercurrent. The things we make can be imbued with the character of the Hudson Valley. We can make software with breathing room, both in the design and in the user behavior it encourages. We can reject the idea of “growth at all costs” and instead build products that promote our users’ wellbeing. We can design and program things in a way that respects work-life balance, and helps people to thrive, for no other reason except that they’re people, and people have infinite worth. We can make software that shares our values, knowing that our values are influenced by the place that we’re planted.

I can’t tell you what terroir looks like for you. I don’t know your place as intimately as you do, and I don’t know how it might express itself through your work. Honestly, these are just ideas that I’ve been chewing on, and I don’t have any final conclusions yet.

But that’s a poor way to end a talk, so what I can tell you is this: If you consider terroir and consider the character and outlook that you’re putting into your work, the world can be a richer and more vibrant place. Our corner of the Internet can start unflattening, and gain more character. It might start to feel a little more like the early days, when the Web was wonderful and weird.

I never told you the literal translation of “terroir,” did I? It’s a French word that means “of the earth.”

Isn’t that perfect? “Of the earth.”

Just because we build digital products doesn’t mean they can’t be rooted and grounded in the soil beneath our feet.

Thanks

Thank you.

Resources

Hurry Slowly Interview with Adam Greenfield

Adam Greenfield, author of the book Radical Technologies that I quoted recently, was interviewed on the Hurry Slowly podcast.

The conversation retread familiar terrain from the book, but it's always worth a reminder. The episode focused mainly on the sociology of the smartphone, and I found two parts particularly interesting:

  1. The idea that we're losing some of the "thinginess" of the world by allowing so many of our interactions to be intermediated by abstract bits floating around a noncorporeal network. We used to carry so many things in our pockets: credit cards, photos of loved ones, access cards for buildings or public transit. Many of the artifacts we used for navigating the world have been replaced by a homogeneous set of gestures performed on the same screen. We read the news and check the stocks on the same device that we find love and hail a cab. Everything is taking on a bland sameness.
  2. The way we live is being shaped by a tiny group of homogeneous people in a handful of nonrepresentative places. Our new "normal" is being defined by young knowledge workers in Western tech hubs who assume that everyone needs things like constant calendar notifications, email in their pocket, news alerts, etc. It's getting hard to remember a time before those things were normal — it's now sort of assumed that everyone should run their lives like a Silicon Valley designer or engineer.

Fascinating, and worth a listen.

The Generosity of Making

For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?

Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

This quote is about making food, but I think it goes for making anything: artwork, music, or even an app.

It’s easy to get caught up in the abstract side of what we do, but it’s so important to remember that behind every email answered, line of code committed, and pixel pushed are the people we’re doing it for.