Since 2015, my friend Taylor Trask and I have created a weekly-ish podcast on comics and pop culture. It’s gone through various names but has settled on Panelism for a while. Listen and subscribe at Panelism.ink. Or right here, if the embed works.


Complexity — whether by negligence or design — creates power but never power for the user. This is why a relatively new discipline called UX (User Experience) design is crucial to business. We must appreciate the users’ experience when we make a product.

It is a UX designer’s job to design the experience to make it better, to empower users. They start a design process by creating the flow and the opt outs that a user will follow through a transaction (and ideally any interaction) on a website, app, or physical product. A product or graphic designer gives this flow its appearance and a developer makes it work. …


The story of two cassettes

Over the last two weeks, I’ve released a couple of short, electronic records on my Bandcamp that I made in 1998 or 1999 and basically never told anyone about. I’ve known I had copies of the recordings somewhere like hundreds of other sketches and demos. Recently, I listened to many of these old cassettes and decided to convert some to digital. The process of converting these two forced me to re-examine this music I’d made the year before I started a fairly intense punk band and became a (slightly) more social musician.

I named the project Krankenschwester Automat for the Kraut-rock overtones and a persistent impulse I have to send people to dictionaries and reference materials. I also liked that the name could be shortened to Krank Auto and possess an entirely different meaning. The first record, asthmatic mathematics [short form], was completely sequenced and labeled on my archived cassette. The only slight frustration was that I could not figure out where I intended one of the song breaks to go. So in converting to digital, I split a track in two. …


In their book Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write a chapter advising us to “Say No by Default.” This is a great way to force simplicity in a project. When it comes to presenting a product, we should still think that we’re saying “no.” We should make it simple by default.

When Microsoft Word was the only word processing game in town, every new version made things more and more complex in an attempt to help users out. The menu grew. The auto-complete functions expanded. If we typed a number and hit return, it automatically indented the line and inserted the subsequent number on a new line. This annoyed the hell out of me. …


I often hear individuals voice a concern like, “I’m the only one who knows how to do this” or “I spend 5 days a month dealing with this system” to be answered with the phrase, “hey, it’s job security.” This is a dangerous attitude in an employee.

I remember a story about an IT manager who purposefully wired everything in a confusing way so that no one else could figure it out. He hoped this would make him appear indispensable. It shouldn’t. It appears to be a threat. Employing this individual is a huge risk for the company.

As an independent contractor, I worked on a website where another IT manager purposefully made everything difficult for the developers. He didn’t give us a proper staging environment that was identical to the production server. He wouldn’t allow us to use FTP but only SSH to transfer files to the server. When code didn’t work, we couldn’t troubleshoot properly nor fix quickly. The result was that he couldn’t test properly either. One night he crashed the production web server bringing down the live website and had to launch our half-built site to try to cover his mistakes. …


I recently wrote about how “There is only so much promotion you can do.” It is part of a theme in my writing about making music: focus on the important stuff. Or as that paragon of creative thought, C. Montgomery Burns, once taught: “Push out the jive, bring in the love.”

In my last article, I suggested using “there is only so much promotion you can do” as your mantra (but “push out the jive, bring in the love” is pretty good too). …


I write a lot about strategies for a musician — digital strategy, social media strategy, email strategy, release strategy — and the world wide web is full of more advice for musicians than you’d ever have time to implement. It’s overwhelming. This is a theme to which I hope I’ve devoted enough time even as I talked about strategies. There is one huge piece of wisdom to understand:

There is only so much promotion you can do.

No, really. Meditate on that. Let that become your mantra. Do what you need to do but leave some space to breathe.

When your band or your music project is new, you’ll have more energy. Go do all the promoting you can then. But as you settle into a groove of writing, recording, and playing live, don’t punish yourself by thinking that you still have to do all the promoting you did when you started. Don’t think you’re missing out on that crucial Tumblr audience or not hanging enough flyers. …


Emulate the drug dealers but with an email list

If you’re serious about doing any work that breaks the rules to succeed, you should read REWORK from the makers of the project management software, Basecamp. REWORK has a chapter called “Drug Dealers Get It Right” — that is: they give a sample of the product away for free to get you hooked. You should be doing the same with your music.

Last week, a friend told me that he had recorded a song for a documentary and was spit-balling ways to use the song in promotion of the documentary. I suggested one simple strategy: give it away for free on Bandcamp, require an email, and then use the email list collected by Bandcamp in a MailChimp campaign. It’s more important that you be able to touch base with people who might be interested throughout the life of the project than it is that you simply give away something for free in hopes that they’ll remain interested. …


I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.

John Lennon

I read that quote from John Lennon when I was just starting out on guitar. It made sense to me intrinsically. I figured that was what I was doing and would do: I would bring something out of the instrument with me even if I’d feel silly playing with B.B. King (the example Lennon gives). Often this is the attitude that separates the artist from the hobbyist. …


Recently, given some stories of really half-assed performances that I’d heard, I wrote about your job as a live musician. We gigging musicians often get the short end of the stick in live situations. That post was meant to address the basic requirements you gotta do as a live musician. Now, let’s talk about what the venue ought to be doing.

Communicate with the musicians playing your venue

Communicating clearly with the bands and musicians playing your venue whether it’s a club, coffee shop, restaurant, art gallery, or anything else, buys you buckets of goodwill. And here’s the thing, you don’t have to overburden yourself with communications, just put together one email that answers all the questions — tells bands when to load in, when to soundcheck (if they get one), who their contact at the venue is, how long to play, how much they’ll be paid — and then send that same email to every band or musician you book. …

About

Todd A

I write about work, belief, music, and the politics of superheroes. Support my books and music at http://heytodda.com

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