Last month, Lauren Tischendorf and the lovely people at Code Like a Girl asked me to participate in a debate event at Thoughtworks Sydney office.

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Me singing for my supper at Code Like A Girl’s “Let’s Get Ethical” Debate, Feb 2020

Each speaker was asked to prepare both affirmative and negative positions on their topic statement (on the day, we chose sides by flipping a coin). The statement I debated was:

AI techniques like Machine Learning and Deep Learning inherently propagate biases and inequalities in the world

I found the exercise so useful for testing out different arguments, I thought I’d share my prep in case others found it stimulating. …

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The Columbia Pike/Walter Reed SuperStation — Payton Chung from DCA, USA — High curb: level streetcar boarding

There’s an interesting piece in Wired Today about Uber sharing data with cities.

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On the face of it, this seems great. After all, data sharing like this will make cities far more effective in their planning.

“The autonomous age is upon us but most cities really don’t even have the network password to log in,” says Janette Sadik-Khan, a former New York City transportation commissioner and the chair of National Association of City Transportation Officials. Some don’t have their curbs mapped at all. Others do, but the info is spread out across agencies, file formats, and incompatible maps. …

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Design Research at Scale. Art by Nadeem Haidary.

Melbourne was the final stop on this year’s Salesforce Basecamp tour, and the final keynote of the event was given by Shaun Paga from Soul Machines, a New Zealand company specialising in building what they call “Artificial Humans”. These are digital avatars with very detailed faces that respond to the emotional cues of the person they’re talking to.

Soul Machines was founded by Dr. Mark Sagar, who started out modelling body parts for medicine, then went into CGI, and has earned himself two Academy Awards for his work on Avatar and King Kong. …

We can use a classic script-writing technique to help shape positive experiences of change.


First, an admission: I’m deeply committed to human-centred design, but I’m also deeply skeptical about personas.

Like any design artefact, personas should be judged by their impact on the design process. As often as not, they reinforce stereotypes or simply lend legitimacy to marketing segments on which they’re based. Personas are not a silver-bullet, and they should not be treated as the sufficient evidence of a commitment to HCD.

Personas do not guarantee empathy.

But let’s not blame the artefact — it’s not the persona’s fault. The problem is that we build personas without reflecting on the reasons why we’re building them. …

The recent debate about whether everyone is a designer is an earnest, passionate, important debate that must die. And I hope to help to kill it.

The debate was triggered by the following, provocative tweet by Jared Spool

which quickly prompted responses defending the uniqueness of design as a craft, like this one from Andrei Herasimchuk

However, things quickly descended into a very passionate argument, where it seemed that design itself as a distinct profession was at stake.

Eventually, Daniel Burka weighed in with this thought piece that pretty much set the internet (or at least, the little bit of it we designers inhabit) on fire. …

When I started working in digital, there used to be a hard line between design and development. It was really a distinction between roles. Designers controlled the design phase, and the developers controlled the development phase.

Over the last 10 years this distinction has disappeared, and it’s a good thing.

Before, developers got involved much too late in the process. Designs were often infeasible. It was too easy for designers to neglect common interface patterns — even if they were more reliable and often more usable (because well-tested).

Designers were forced to (or simply thought they could) throw their designs over the wall, and so they couldn’t influence critical design compromises made during development. …

What if our discomfort with self-driving cars is that they can’t regret their decisions?

There’s been a lot of talk about self-driving cars recently. A lot of that talk focuses on how a self-driving car should respond to a nasty thought experiment called “the trolley problem”.

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The classic “trolley problem” scenario.

The trolley problem is pretty straight forward. You are in a situation with two bad options. If you do nothing, a group of people will die. If you act, then one person will die.

There are many variations on this theme. All of them try to tease out our moral intuitions. Does it matter if that one person is a child? What if the group of people were guilty of some crime? Would it matter if that person only had a few months to live? …

Perhaps it’s thanks to the organisers themselves, or maybe it’s the strength and depth of the UX community there, but either way, in it’s first year UX Ireland put on a warm, entertaining and informative conference.

Talks and workshops covered everything from messenger apps to the psychology of magic, and I found my brain buzzing with inspiration after nearly every session. There was also no shortage of people to talk to, or to drink with, and I want to thank locals (especially Kathryn Parkes) for making me feel so welcome.

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A somewhat misleading selfie, as the conference wasn’t at Dublin castle.

I hopped over from Paris specifically to hear John Kolko, Brenda Laurel and Frank Long. But I also enjoyed Alastair Somerville’s workshop on sensation, Benjamin Keyser’s talk on message threads, Sara Buxton’s storytelling workshop, Kevin Cannon on magic, and James O’Brien on complexity. I wish there were more women in this list, but female representation was the one area that could be improved. On the Friday, apart from Laurel’s keynote, there was only one other woman presenting. Hopefully, the organisers will make a concerted effort to improve the balance next year. …

Without new business, your agency will die. But that doesn’t mean all new business is good for your agency.

It’s time we took the same attitude to revenue as we do to calories.

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All revenue provides energy, but is it nourishing?

Not all calories are good calories. Not all revenue is good revenue.

There’s the sugar hit — it’s high energy, all excitement, but it places enormous stress on your system, and in no time, everyone burns out.

There’s the fatty comfort food — reliable work, easy to do, keeps everyone busy, but before too long everyone will be falling asleep.

What if we started thinking of revenue as nourishment, rather than fuel? …

A review for the Sydney UX Bookclub (@UXBookclub_SYD), February 2014


I wrote an earlier version of this synopsis, in which I got all academic and knitpickety, looking for ways to be critical and sound really smart and stuff like that. Fortunately, I sat on that version for a few weeks. I say fortunately, because I would’ve regretted being anything but positive about this book.

The other reason I would’ve regretted posting that version is that it wouldn’t have been in a format that was easy to read, or easy to use as a template for future bookclub synopses. …


Justin Tauber

Strategic Innovation Director @ Salesforce (though these are my own thoughts). Sydney/Paris. Bass player. Recovering philosopher. Twitter:@brtrx

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