Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Saks, are hobbling toward Black Friday. Someone send them a Christmas miracle.

78 percent of Americans born between 1980 and 1996 surveyed in a 2014 Harris poll said they would rather spend their funds on experiences than on purchasing goods. “Millennials feel that shopping in department stores is a chore,” retail analyst Walter Loeb noted in Forbes earlier this year. “The theatre is gone.”

Source: Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Saks, are hobbling toward Black Friday. Someone send them a Christmas miracle.

This is a huge number. Of course what we don’t know from this Harris Poll is what non-Millenials report in a similar question;  maybe this isn’t so shocking. But for a moment take this number at face value. Then combine this with another number in the same survey that shows 60% of Millenials share these experiences online and worry about “missing out”.

If I had to do something to attract Millenials as shoppers I would spend less time sorting out hip, cool, fun and more time thinking how I could make shopping a social, online, venue-based thing. Why isn’t shopping more like dining out or a concert?

Introducing Silver : Lightweight Mobile Prototyping in Sketch 3 — Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking — Medium

Silver is a combination of an iOS app, a Mac app, and a Sketch Plugin that seamlessly communicate with each other to mak…

Source: Introducing Silver : Lightweight Mobile Prototyping in Sketch 3 — Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking — Medium

Very intriguing idea. Sketch is quickly becoming the design tool of choice and allowing designers to go from wireframe to mockup to interactive design in the same tool is wonderful.

My favorite tool remains Balsamiq but that lacks in the ability to jump from wireframe to interactive prototype. In other words at some point in the journey you will need to move into a proper design tool whether that is Sketch/Adobe or Xcode directly.

The silver bullet / holy grail for hybrid designer/product/tech people like me: re-usable controls.

Ugh, stalled

When I first moved to Tumblr one of the ideas I had was picking a good habit monthly and trying to incorporate it into my life. Or findings bad habit and cleaning it up. Either way was fine.  …

Source: Getting back to it…

Somehow I’ve managed to get off track and stop writing. I am stalled at 20k words and it’s November 20th. Thanksgiving next week won’t make this any easier.

I’ve just added a reminder to my calendar to “start working” each day. This is to ensure that I organize Wunderlist and start PomoDone (my two go-to tools to keep me cranking out tasks).

And then there were three – Rdio is shutting down and Pandora is buying up the scraps

Source: Rdio is shutting down and Pandora is buying up the scraps | The Verge

Not surprising that a streaming music service went under; it’s a brutal business and the labels don’t do anyone any favors. So now we have:

  1. Spotify – on demand, decent playlists, bad radio.
  2. Apple – on demand, bad playlists, bad radio.
  3. Pandora – not on demand, no playlists, great radio.

I sure hope whatever Pandora picked up is going to help with providing on demand and soon. Competition is always good.

Kudos to Facebook – Safety Check is a good start, more work needed

During Friday’s horrible Paris attacks by Da’esh nut jobs, Facebook turned on ‘Safety Check’, a function allowing people in Paris to check in and say “I’m Safe”. I have a lot of friends in Paris and I was absolutely relieved to see those check-ins.

Criticism was quick: why not for Beirut which had been the victim of a terrorist attack too. That’s a fair critique. Facebook replied essentially saying “yep, fair critique, we’re working on it.” The thing about building a system like this is that it’s hard and often takes multiple tries before all the wrinkles are smoothed. Some things that immediately come to mind:

  1. People marking themselves as ‘safe’ when they aren’t there. This is a tough one as I saw several people who I know no longer live in Paris but still list their home city as Paris check in.
  2. People gaming the system with false emergencies. What are the criteria for a real emergency? Is it number of dead? Worldwide impact? Hard to say and this will be a very difficult conversation for Facebook. Can this be turned on by community/area owners who could best judge whether something is ‘big enough’ or not?
  3. The simple act of making it work on a system this big and complicated is not the work of days.

I give full props to Facebook for building this; they didn’t have to. I give them more props for acknowledging that there are gaps and issues but they are committed to making it better.

Now if we can just get those photo overlays “in support of” to actually link to something that does real support for places in need we’d have something. I changed my profile photo to a shot of happier times in Paris. Many people are using the French flag overlay. But other than “thinking of you” what does it do? It’s a nice gesture but why not allow those overlays to do something (e.g. donate money to the Red Cross) useful for a region that was just clobbered?

One key thing about remote work: move!

Telecommuting can blur the boundaries between work and home, to the detriment of both, but it doesn’t have to.

Source: 7 Ways to Make Working Remote Work Better

Most articles point out some of the key items about remote work and these are important: routine, space, good headphones, standing desk, etc.

But what these articles miss is one of the joys of remote work: You can get up and move to somewhere else! In the early weeks of getting a remote startup going I felt pent up, trapped in the house. Then I wondered why I was feeling that. When I had a corporate job I would leave the house, commute, walk outside to get lunch, and move around the office all day. Why then did I feel compelled to be in one place in my house now?

The tip then is to make yourself portable:

  1. Love your laptop. Get a good one you feel comfortable using anywhere.
  2. Keep documents, data, anything you need for your job in the cloud. Dropbox is good, Box too, iCloud if you are 100% Mac, etc.
  3. Have a good laptop bag. Mine has a power cable for my laptop, a cable for my iPhone, headphones, pens, some paper, and an umbrella. Pretty simple but it means I can grab it and go.
  4. Find a few different spots you like. For me this is a coffee shop or two nearby and also a pub or two for late afternoon working (doubles as a social meeting spot later).

Bottom line: you have a remote job, revel in it.

Too much in Slack defeats the purpose

“It’s putting content into a useful pre-made notification format that really works for our clients.”

Source: How Storyful is turning Slack into an extension of its newswire » Nieman Journalism Lab

The summary of this story is that Storyful integrates with Slack and can pump their content straight into a Slack feed. I have a few RSS feeds and other integrations that push ‘news’ into Slack and from that I know that:

  1. The Slack UI is not a lovely experience for news feeds. While it can subscribe to RSS and pull in content it quickly gets overwhelmed when the feed is fairly rich e.g. 10 or more articles.
  2. The Slack UI is not a lovely experience for comments and discussions. It’s not meant to be, it’s a stream of work and chat. There are very few UI elements that help with lengthy discussion and for the most part Slack channels are designed to be forgotten (other than as archival / search tools).

Good luck with this push, but it seems like Storyful has a hammer and now everything looks like a Slack nail.

Beats Music Is Shutting Down On November 30

Apple is encouraging users to migrate to Apple Music, which it touts as a better discovery tool.

Source: Beats Music Is Shutting Down On November 30

Not a surprise really and that includes whether Apple bought Beats Music or not. The bottom line is that the service wasn’t very good. Sure, it had some interesting curated playlists when it came out. But they grew stale very quickly. And the UX, while less confusing than Apple Music, was hard to navigate as well.

The lesson to be learned from this is that the music business is *hard*. A long time ago we built MSN Music in Europe. Later we built Zune/Xbox Music components. And each time we did it we struggled with building a better mousetrap; UX is touchy, people have high expectations.

Farewell to Beats Music, nice try, hopefully the competition from this spurred Spotify to greater things.

November: 15,451

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 3.38.25 PM

Wrote my 1500+ words today. It took me approximately 40 minutes (two pomodoros if you use that system). What’s amazing is how much you can write if you simply sit down and write. Well in my case stand up and write. My technique so far:

  • Stand-up writing station. Standing has been my norm for about 10 years now.
  • I’m writing with Ulysses on a Mac. Comfortable keyboard, great app (other than what a memory and CPU pig it is). With Markdown support I never fidget with fonts and such, just write.
  • Spotify playlist of some sort, mellow music to block out other sounds.
  • Pomodoro app set to 20 minutes. I use PomoDone as it integrates with Wunderlist and other task trackers. The default for pomodoro technique is 25 minutes but I find that is too long for my easily-distracted brain to deal with. So 20 minutes on, 5 minutes off to get water, tea, etc.
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