Use The Microcopy Canvas to collaborate, not design by committee

“A camel is a horse designed by committee.” Allegedly, Sir Alec Issigonis, designer of the iconic Mini car, made this comment, referring to what results when teams lose sight of their vision. Maybe he didn’t like working in teams at all, or maybe he was someone who had a tyrannical, Steve Jobs-like approach to design. He might not even have said it, but somebody did, at least as far back as the 1950s.

But no matter how much we value teamwork and collaboration, and regardless of how good we are at cooperating, everyone probably recognizes this frustration. You’re working on…


Structural violence in, structural violence out

Like most of the tech world this week, I’ve been committing the low-level self harm of watching Mark Zuckerberg testifying to Congress, looking like he got caught stuffing the ballot box in the 8th-grade class election, getting softball questions because the rich boys in school never actually have to serve detention. Congress is asking a lot more about content than about how they use data that isn’t for advertising, and a few of them are hitting hardish but it’s it’s hardly going to lead to demands. …


Where does the person stop and the personal data begin?

One of the most important lessons I learned as an archaeologist was this: if you are in possession of a human skull, do not put a cigarette in its mouth and a hat on its head and definitely don’t take pictures. You might be holding it in your hand, but it’s not your skull — you already have a skull.

Artist’s depiction of a big ‘don’t’.

This was part of a section of my archaeology MA on the ethical treatment of human remains. Our lecturer was giving us a series of real-life examples of archaeology lab gags, but what made this one stick is the reminder…


Stop watching me, Jeremy

In the main building of University College London, there’s an embalmed corpse in a glass box, dressed in a black suit with an on-trend ruffle down his front. This is Jeremy Bentham, now known as the ‘auto-icon’, and when he died in 1832, he left his body, along with his archive, to UCL. His real, preserved face was considered too creepy to display, so the one you see is made of wax; just about the only ‘real’ part of the body visible today is a clump of hair that peeks out from under his hat. Two years ago, a team…


It’s never too soon to build content maturity on your team

If your company is like most companies, you never have enough time or money, and something always gets shoved to the side. For a lot of teams, especially in developer-driven companies, that thing is content. You might not be sure what actually counts as “content”. Is content words? Is it images? Is it the user interface? Where does it stop? It always feels like you can defer the consequences of ignoring it, so you drop the question again. And you can do that for a while.

The reason it’s so hard to define is that it’s everywhere: your website, your…


One weird trick to get domestic violence data for Ireland

In Ireland, domestic violence is not considered a specific offense, which means there is no law against it. The rationale is that the acts that comprise domestic violence are already criminal, and therefore we don’t need it, and besides, it’s too complex to actually prosecute. Some, but not all of that is true, since the terror of living with abuse is a pattern, and individual incidents, even where they are technically criminal, may in themselves be too small for police to take seriously.

The title of this piece is a statement of fact, not a tricky twist just to get…


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For technology to be a revolution, it needs to include all bodies

Last week, I attended a women-in-tech event, the kind for a general audience that is supposed to inspire and fill the audience with self-empowerment. It was, as these things almost always are, fine in the kind of way that confirms to me that I am not the target audience.

It’s refreshing to hear women talking about big innovations, like an engineer working on hybrid and electrified powertrain projects.

It was nice to hear talks from women working in virtual reality, and at least acknowledging that with a market that is mostly made up of men, men are still setting the…


Bravery doesn’t make the bull less dangerous

When the statue of the Fearless Girl appeared in front of the Wall Street bull on International Women’s Day, it was a nice, if a little saccharine thing to wake up to. I’ve always loved imagery and stories about little girls saving the world, and that will never change. Besides, I’m physically tired of being a feminist buzzkill all the time, so I just enjoyed the positive spirit with which it was being shared on social media.

Companies and brands have a role to play in reinforcing messages that make our world better, so the fact that the sculpture, by…


If you fully understood that headline, you’re probably a little sick in your mouth right now. If you’re lucky enough to have missed the trend in ‘lean’ thinking, the aim is to use short product development cycles and ‘fail fast’, to reach what’s called ‘minimum viable product’, which is the name for the least-worst thing that human beings will tolerate from you. …


The industry, the media, and the ‘five little questions’.

A few weeks ago, a startup founder for a pretty mundane app called Need tried to get the attention of a tech journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle by sending her a swag basket. In it, there were oysters, tequila, a vibrator, and some lubricant. The package had nothing to do with his business, a question and answer app, but he wanted to get the writer’s attention. …

janeruffino

Relapsed archaeologist. Content designer and UX writer. I’m already friends with your dog.

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