For the first time ever, I’m tempted to get a PlayStation!
Simple Steps to get the shit out of your newsfeed
I’ve done a bit of cleanup on Facebook in the last few days, and with great success. All I did was “Hide all from …” for a handful of pages on Facebook. In the iOS app, it’s two clicks: the … on the upper right of the post and then “Hide all from…” Once I started, I was truly surprised how few it took before my Facebook feed was noticeably better.
I have a big pile of friends. My life has taken me many places and connected me to many people and though I have not kept up with all of them as well as I might, Facebook has helped. It has reconnected me with many wonderful people and I love it for that.
But there’s some stuff that’s shared that diminishes the rich experience of connecting with my friends and family.
A lot of that stuff comes from just a few “pages” on Facebook that seem to exist just to drive people apart. Well, maybe some exist just to make money, but their formula is to create “memes” that play on divisions and drive “us vs them” attitudes.
Important: Many of the pages that I’ve blocked express ideas that I agree with, mostly. But I still don’t want them in my Facebook feed. Because it’s easy to fall into the trap of letting yourself get riled up by stupid shit that you agree with. This is very important, because I see this hurting a lot of my friends and family. They are constantly looking at and sometimes sharing stuff that turns the ratchet on their anxiety, anger, frustration, or even hatred.
What I’m not going to do is give you a list of the stuff I’ve blocked. I am giving this idea to you and hope that you also will do a little cleanup of your Facebook. Do it for yourself. The good stuff, the fascinating stuff, the important stuff will still find you. And you’ll enjoy Facebook more and also enjoy more all those wonderful people in your life, wherever they are.
From Hobbies to Trade Skills to Artistic Expression, developed knowledge and improved craft is the mark of accomplishment — Coding is no different.
– Darius Dunlap
I wish schools still had Shop, and Band, and Art. I believe there is a kind of mental development that’s missing without them. And I believe that these kinds of classes — focused on doing and making — support and expand the skills of reading, writing, arithmetic, problem solving, and other key skills we all want kids to develop.
These days there is a lot of talk about “Learning to Code.” And that would be great, except for this aura of magic around it. Because learning to code is really a lot like learning carpentry, or photography, or learning to cook. The basics are pretty simple, though that is not evident to the uninitiated. And full expertise is a lifetime pursuit. And most of us are content with a modest competence.
Learning to code is easier than it has ever been. Not because it’s become simpler, but because the tools have become better, specifically in that they allow you to do something useful more easily and with less knowledge and skill.
Photography is undergoing and transformation in a similar way. It’s not that the pictures we take with our phones and fancy digital cameras are better than film for the expert photographer, but that these new tools provide immediacy. You can take a picture and instantly see it. You can learn from every photograph taken, right there, right then, and take another and another until you get the photo you want. You take more photos, too. Your photography improves at a pace and in ways that would have required much more patience, organization, focus, and effort a couple decades ago when the turn-around was so much slower.
Deep expertise still takes years, but the basics are more accessible than ever.
It’s the same for coding.
Mastering coding, or more properly Software Engineering and Computer Science, is not something every needs to do. it’s probably not something every could do, even if they tried. It’s a deep field and the complexity of the most advanced techniques are beyond those without an aptitude. At the very highest level, it requires not just superior mathematics and problem solving, but also philosophy and compassion — designing systems requires thinking beyond the immediate technical problem to understand how the system fits into the world and how people are going to use it. The people who can do all of this well are rare.
But for the rest of us, our needs are simpler. We can create something that solves a straightforward problem, using the excellent tools developed over the last several decades, and never have to think about the mathematics of drawing the curve at the corner of our icon or the physics of making our animation look natural, or the details of setting up a server and keeping it reliable and secure.
So “Learning to Code” is a lot like learning to cook. It doesn’t mean we will all become master chefs with Michelin-rated restaurants. But it does mean we can learn to make a good loaf of hand-made bread from natural starter that’s better than what you can get off the shelf at the grocers.
Most importantly, learning to code, like taking shop or joining the band in high school, helps you get better at other things. It helps you solve problems in other domains, and it develops your mind.
Yesterday I was cleaning up around the house and enjoying the latest Tim Ferris Show, What I learned in 2016, and right in the beginning was reminded of Oprah’s idea that there are only two emotions, Love and Fear.
We push back from this sort of idea. It’s too simple, we say. “I’m not afraid of anything”, we say. But as Tim Ferris says in his rapid-fire style:
June 20th, 1986 I started a new adventure at a new job and in a place that would become home.
I wrote a short thing about our long journey together creating and building Square Peg Foundation. It’s over on the Square Peg blog:
I’ve occasionally thought about grabbing this domain, dariusdunlap.com, for some time. As I was getting some new things setup on my various blogs, I realized that now was the time.
More will appear here over the coming days, including some of the archives from my old consulting business website and other stuff.
I’m working to articulate what this will be. I’m learning toward making my professional presence here, and so limiting it a bit. We’ll see.
For now, welcome!
The One You Feed is a show I often listen to on my hikes or while doing chores around the house. It starts with the parable of the two wolves. You know the one. They have great guests and it’s always an interesting conversation.
Conversations on depression have been flowing around the tech community for the last few months. It’s important, and many people have written about their experiences. There is some wonderful, helpful, and deeply personal insights out there.
A key principle when thinking about a product is to understand, deeply, the needs of the user of the product. What job are they hiring it to do? Why – What are they trying to accomplish?
But this is difficult – and not just because it takes long hours and many cycles of iterative improvement. It’s not just that the things people tell us about what they want are wrong, or at best incomplete. It’s not just that it’s difficult to simultaneously have deep belief in your insight and also question every assumption.
It’s difficult because we get in our own way.
We have difficulty sorting out our own motivations, dealing with our own emotional responses, and knowing our own mind. So how can we really understand someone else? At the same time, we also tend to attribute motivations and meaning to the actions of other people —as if we know what they are thinking.
Look at your personal life. Have you ever been accused of some transgression that all turned out to be a misunderstanding? Now, be honest, have you ever made that sort of assumption about someone else, later to find out that you were wrong?
These emotional examples just highlight a more pervasive problem. Our minds tend to make a leap of meaning, a shortcut of sorts, to help us understand the world around us. We tell ourselves stories about things that happen around us that build our concept of how things work. This skill is useful. But we also tend to stick to stories that reinforce our ideas about the world. We resist, and explain away, anything new or different —especially if it challenges our core ideas.
“If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies behind it: the contrarian truth.”
– Peter Thiel, Zero to One
We can never perfectly understand the motivations, aspirations, emotions and thoughts of other people. We can probably never perfectly understand our own. But by working at it, we can grow and become better at it. We can see our own thoughts as just thoughts. We can turn them over, examine them, think about alternatives, and decide what to think.
This is the beginning. It’s not about having a formula for success, but rather a skill of being present and self-aware so that we can make better use of any idea, method, formula, or framework. It’s not about being perfect. Just notice that you are making assumptions or assigning motivation, and come back to self-awareness.
Be Present. Be Self-Aware. Innovate.