September 15, 2020

The Successor

I have been designing for a number of years (since 2007?!), and, after recently being promoted to Principal Product Designer at Salesforce, an opportunity to transition into management arose. As a result, I began reading to learn about the subject. The first book I read is The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou. She describes four possible ways one begins managing, and one rang true.

The successor transition is like the apprentice’s but with a twist: because your manager is leaving, you’re taking on supporting the entire team yourself, not just a portion of it. Though most successors have prior management experience, it’s still a significant increase in responsibility and you may feel you have big shoes to fill. While the advantages of this transition are similar to those of the apprentice (you have a sense of what works and what doesn’t, and you’re able to ramp up quickly because you come in with context, as described earlier), the differences are also striking.

I’m both anxious and excited by this opportunity. It feels like a natural transition because of my desire to teach what I have learned from my variety of experiences. Watching teammates improve their craft and presentation skills is incredibly rewarding.

Book Career
September 11, 2020

Dragon Breeder

In 2003 I took a course at Cornell University in the Music department named Advanced Digital Music: Film Scoring taught by David Borden. We used a plethora of applications like Digital Performer and Reason to compose music for short film clips. This course was challenging because as a composer you want the audience to not feel overwhelmed by your score. Music should accompany the scene; not dominate it. One must match the tone while allowing subtle noises like a door closing to pierce through.

Also in 2003 a professor in the Computer Science department began an unofficial course in game design. There were five teams building games and five students in the music course. Someone had the brilliant idea of assigning a music student to a game design team.

I was assigned to a game named Dragon Breeder.

Dragon breeding is a difficult business. You must breed, nurture, feed, and train your dragons in a growing dragon economy. Keep a good journal, as dragon species popularity changes yearly. (Java project)

Yes, it’s still available to download (if you have Windows). I worked with the game design students to learn the purpose of their game and where music was needed. I then retreated to the studio and began writing.

Before the player clicks Start” they hear a jovial melody to welcome them.

While the player is traversing the world they hear a majestic tune to encourage exploration.

When the player fights to breed their dragons they hear a battle theme that evokes a showdown.

Next time you’re watching a movie or playing a game, try to focus on the background music for a few bars. Think about the instruments and melodies. You’ll notice how the accompanying music was designed to enhance the moment by evoking certain emotions. You can also search on YouTube for your favorite movie or game plus the word score.”

Just listen.

September 9, 2020

Tokyo Muji Hotel Ginza by Kenya Hara

Kenya Hara, one of my favorite authors, writes about Japanese hotels in a beautiful newsletter named High Resolution Tour. The latest edition features Tokyo’s Muji Hotel in Ginza.

MUJI HOTEL GINZA opened in April, 2019 on the top five floors of a ten-story building on Namiki-dori Street. The new flagship store, on floors B1-five, replaced the former one, near Yurakucho Station. MUJI, founded in the values of anti-gorgeous and anti-cheap, is determined to provide simplicity and concision, pursuing a unique style of coziness and comfort. Visitors and guests at MUJI HOTEL GINZA can savor this concept as a context for living.

Sometimes restraint is more comfortable than extravagance. Here one finds a highly precise minimalism that can be implemented here because Japan prides itself on its high quality space design and construction. MUJI’s approach is reflected in every part of the space. Careful selection, refinement and constant improvements have been made to floors, walls, ceilings, their borders and corners, materials, furniture and fixtures. While the rooms are not especially spacious, there is pleasure to be had in staying in a new hotel in the very heart of the Ginza playground.

You can also keep up with Hara’s tours on Instagram. Staying at the Muji hotel would be a difficult sell for my spouse considering she organizes and manages all of our travel plans. Hopefully I can convince her to plan a stay at one of Hara’s featured hotels during our next trip.

If you are unfamiliar with Hara, I strongly urge you to read Designing Design in which he writes extensively about Muji’s purpose and brand. The way Hara illustrates craft, simplicity, and authenticity is inspiring.

Newsletter Japan Travel
September 8, 2020

The Science of Brewing Coffee by Mistobox

By the time a coffee arrives at your doorstep, it has traveled a long distance and has been transformed from an agricultural product into freshly roasted beans ready to be ground and brewed. We recognize the effort, time, and energy that goes into making the decisions about things like growing variables, processing, and roasting that factor into creating an exceptionally high-quality coffee. However, the truth is that none of that means it will be the best coffee you’ve ever had if it isn’t properly brewed. When preparing your coffee at home, you are the last factor in this long, energy-intensive coffee supply chain. You become an active participant in bringing the specialty coffee to life and ultimately influencing the taste, for better or for worse. That is why understanding the brewing process can help to turn that specialty-grade bean into something delicious, every time.

Tyler does a solid job succinctly explaining the science behind brewing coffee on the Mistobox blog. Read through and try to remember one thing from this article, and then apply it the next time you drink a cup of coffee. Was the extraction ideal? Was the ground fine, medium, or coarse? Have you tried using turbulence?

In the Klein household we use a medium grind setting with the Breville Smart Grinder Pro for the Moccamaster KBT. I only use turbulence when I use my Hario V60 for a single cup.

Coffee Mistobox
September 3, 2020

Function Button Remote for Apple TV

One can argue that the Apple TV remote has a derisive design1 2. In my opinion it has several major flaws:

  • If the room is dark it’s difficult to determine which side of the remote should point forward.
  • It’s difficult to pick up because of its thinness.
  • It’s easy to lose because of its small size.
  • If the room is dark it’s difficult to differentiate between buttons.

One way to mitigate some of these issues is to place the remote inside of a case. I did this and it made picking up the remote much easier. However, it made differentiating between a regular trackpad press and fast forward/rewind very difficult. I often pop the remote out of the case before attempting to fast forward or rewind.

I’m surprised the only change to the remote’s design since its initial release is a slight bump in the form of a white circle on one of the buttons. This did not fix any of the problems. I often wonder how Apple can continue to ignore this considering many of its own employees must own an Apple TV.

When Salt, a Swiss TV company, announced in 2019 a remote specifically designed to work with the Apple TV, I was intrigued and even considered purchasing one on eBay. Patience, David. Patience.

Lo, Function now sells the remote directly in the United States for $29.95.

Like a typical remote, the Function remote feels good in your hand. It’s large, bulky, and not too heavy. When you set the remote down it does not shake back and forth like TiVo’s more curvy remote.

The dedicated fast forward, rewind, and pause buttons are a dream. You will never accidentally fast forward or rewind when you are trying to pause. However, the up, down, left, and right buttons are definitely a step backward compared to the Apple TV remote. It takes more effort and time to navigate Apple TV’s interface. When you temporarily pick up the Apple TV remote you feel again how easy it is to quickly traverse the screen.

The more traditional layout provide enough space for the button positions to enter your muscle memory. You can easily slide your finger around to find volume up/down and be confident you are pressing what you intend to press. Oh, and a mute button lets you… mute.

One major drawback is the lack of a Siri button. Occasionally I know exactly what movie I want to rent so I speak its name into the Apple TV remote. That is no longer possible. Apple TV offers a screen that shows you what apps allow you to watch a movie for free. Without Siri I’m not sure how to get to that screen.

Another drawback is the lack of a home button. Wait, David, the Apple TV remote has a home button?” Yes! The TV icon button in the upper right corner instantly jumps to the home screen with the grid of app icons. I have encountered multiple people who never tried pressing that button. They press the menu buttons repeatedly until arriving on the home screen. Can you imagine?! Those naive users will be comfortable with the Function remote. I, however, am instantly frustrated every time I want to return to the home screen.

The last drawback is visual: Function’s ugly logo is prominently displayed at the bottom of the remote. This is similar to LG placing their logo on the UltraFine 5K Display. I don’t need to be constantly reminded of who made your product.

If your household exclusively uses Apple TV for content (YouTube TV, Hulu, Netflix, HBO MAX, Peacock, Acorn, Disney+, Apple TV+, etc.), I recommend purchasing the Function remote. Interacting with your Apple TV should be simple and enjoyable, and that requires a better remote.



Apple Hardware Review Apple TV
September 2, 2020

Apple at Work

As an Apple fan since since 1990 with the arrival of the Macintosh LC in my home, this is an achievement of which I am particularly proud.

Transform how you get things done. The App Store has over 235,000 apps for people at work, and Apple devices are designed with powerful technology that brings out the best in every one. Discover apps for daily tasks, better customer experiences, and efficient operations. Or build custom apps across Apple platforms for infinite possibilities.

My work on the Salesforce Mobile App is on the Apple at Work website. Yes you need to scroll past Microsoft and Cisco.

Apple Salesforce Career
August 28, 2020

Siracusa’s Stories

John Siracusa, of Hypercritical, Accidental Tech Podcast, Reconcilable Differences, and The Incomporable fame, is an underrated storyteller. Whether it’s cooking, researching cheese graters, reviewing toasters, moving refrigerators, or, as I discovered this week, troubleshooting his new Mac Pro, I’m somehow always enthralled. No detail is too small, and subtle hints live amongst the minutiae.

I recommend listening to the post-show portion of this week’s episode of ATP: We’re the Bit Company. Start at 1 hour, 53 minutes.

Casey: So right before we started recording, something appeared in the after show section of the show notes. And it says, John’s Mac Pro woes.” Oh no. What’s going on…

Marco: I saw this too and right at that moment I’m like Oh no… This is not good. Oh John. What’s up?”

John: Hmm… Well… This is one of those things where… it’s not a slow-moving disaster, but it’s kind of a gradual thing… I’m trying to pinpoint when did this all begin.

Who knew troubleshooting could be so entertaining.

Podcast ATP
August 27, 2020

IGTV Launch

Sarah Frier’s No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram closes with the launch of IGTV. One anecdote regarding the app icon caught my attention.

An hour after presenting, Systrom was reminded of Facebook too. His iPhone flashed with his new boss’s name, and he went to a quiet spot to take the call. Good, he thought. Even if Cox and Zuckerberg weren’t attending the event, they were at least acknowledging the accomplishment. He swiped to answer.

We have a problem,” Cox said. Mark’s very angry about your icon.”

Are you serious? What’s wrong?” Systrom asked.

It looks too much like the icon for Facebook Messenger.” The IGTV logo had a sideways lightning bolt shape inside a TV-shaped box. The Messenger logo had a similar bolt, but inside a cartoon dialogue balloon.

After the drama of the day, there was no praise from on high—only Zuckerberg’s concern that Instagram would step on Facebook’s branding.

This similarity did not occur to me. Take a look for yourself.

Each icon includes a lightning bolt, but they are different enough to not be confusing. However, one wonders if the IGTV design team was winking, nodding, waving, or sneering at the Facebook Messenger team.

This reminds me of when Facebook Places launched in 2010. Facebook partnered with Foursquare and Gowalla on their new product for sharing your location. But, if you look closely at the Places icon, you’ll notice the Places icon includes a 4” inside of a square. Were the Places designers winking or sneering at Foursquare?

Book Facebook
August 26, 2020

The Last Interview by Marcin Wichary

Marcin Wichary writes about an interview he conducted for his upcoming book about keyboards on his corresponding Shift Happens newsletter.

I have a feeling chasing people isn’t the right take, anyway. You have to chase stories. But stories don’t announce themselves as such. Many are hiding inside people’s heads, feeling like nothing very exciting. It haunts me that somewhere within the readership of this very newsletter, there are great stories that will never see the light of day; even if I had time to talk to everyone, and you had the willingness to engage me, well… I’m not a great interviewer.

I’ve had some luck with chasing stories on Twitter, and I’ll write about that some other day. And I was pretty lucky with finding some wonderful people who surrendered great stories too: fans of mechanical keyboards, people who typed on the oldest of computers, ergonomics specialists, inventors. To the extent I could determine it, I thought I was already done with interviews about a year ago.

And yet, despite that, the most unusual interview I‘ve done happened only last month.

Marcin is a master storyteller. If you have never seen him speak at a meetup or conference, I recommend watching his latest talk from Config 2020: I Pressed ⌘B. You Wouldn’t Believe What Happened Next. I absolutely cannot wait for his book.

August 21, 2020

Systrom’s Vision for Instagram

This week I began reading the highly entertaining No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier. Sarah writes about Kevin Systrom’s approach to designing and building Instagram.

The biggest was community first,” meaning all their decisions should be centered around preserving a good feeling when using Instagram, not necessarily a more fast-growing business. Too many notifications would violate that principle. Then there was simplicity matters,” meaning that before any new products could roll out, engineers had to think about whether they were solving a specific user problem, and whether making a change was even necessary, or might overcomplicate the app. It was the opposite of Facebook’s move fast and break things,” where building for growth was valued over usefulness or trust. There was also inspire creativity,” which meant Instagram was going to try to frame the app as an artistic outlet, training its own users and highlighting the best of them through an editorial strategy, focusing on content that was genuine and meaningful.

It’s clear today that these early values, especially simplicity matters,” are lost. Instagram is a confusing mess. There are 3 camera flows each with their own interfaces, features, and content placement.

The book also includes several passages discussing Systrom’s refusal to build a regram” button that would allow me to post others’ photos to my feed similar to a retweet” button on Twitter and a reblog” button on Tumblr. He believed Instagram should be a place for expression and creativity; not viral content. This button does not exist today, but sharing others’ photos and videos to Instagram Stories is possible. This functionality means my Stories are filled with impersonal nonsense.

I continue to look forward to either a new photo sharing social network, or Unsplash finally building out their social features.