Making of a UX designer

In the fall of 2022 I began studying UX Design at IT-högskolan. The field was new to me and I did my best to navigate the concepts, methods and nomenclatures. I wished I could talk to people who were just a bit further along than I – ask them what I should focus on, what I shouldn’t stress about, and how their careers had turned out.

I did run into a whole bunch of nice people at school, at meetups and other professional forums, but I would have liked the info available in one place, and I wish I had a map of the terrain ahead. I don’t have a mentor in the field, so finding others who are ahead of me seemed like the next best thing.

This project was born out of a hope that perhaps those that come after me can benefit from the experience of myself and my classmates. I did an open call to my class of UX22 at ITHS and asked to interview as many as possible after our first year of school. My plan is to follow this up three years after our graduation, and then three years after that – in 2027 & 2030.

Out of my class of 30 odd people, I got 11 to volunteer, and I’d like to thank them all for entrusting me with their time and thoughts. The interviews are in Swedish, but the videos have English auto-translated subs (in addition to manually translated Swedish) so I hope that they can be useful for others outside of Sweden.

The questions I asked each one were the same, but I did edit the thing for brevity and omitted some of the answers. I’ve pasted all the questions below:

  • Who are you and what’s your background?
  • Describe UX Design to someone who doesn’t know.
  • What distinguishes a good UX Designer?
  • What makes you a good UX designer?
  • Why did you decide to study UX Design?
    • What was appealing about it?
    • Is it still appealing?
    • Has your understanding of what UX Design is changed?
  • Describe something you’re are proud of during your first year.
  • What has been challenging in your first year?
  • If you could advise yourself before you began studying, what would you say?
  • What would you like to work with after graduation?
  • Is there anything you’d rather not work with?
  • Describe a typical workday in spring 2027.
    • How will you get there?

I hope these interviews provide some insights and encouragement to others who are just starting out on their UX design journey. It’s been interesting to speak with my classmates and document their thoughts and ambitions at this early stage of our careers. I look forward to continuing the conversation and documenting how our perspectives evolve over time.

I welcome any feedback on this project or suggestions for future iterations. Please feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch – I’d love to hear from you: emaillinkedin

Thanks for joining me on this small attempt to map the unknown terrain ahead!

What’s wrong with UX – the binger aversion guide

When I started studying UX Design in the long ago time-before-time (fall of 2022) I promised myself that I’d abandon all other projects and cut back on distracting reading – giving myself time and energy to focus on the studies. This worked well for a week or so.

Turns out there are whole books written on ethnography, design and usability, and they are rather interesting – who knew! Anyway, I quickly got bogged down with extra courses and books and podcasts and so on and so forth. I took to walking an hour and a half to school just to have time to speed-listen to at least some of the stuff that’s out there.

Screengrab of six images from my Instagram account
Some images from my Instagram which gets no love. Go follow!

One of the podcasts that I stuck to was “What is wrong with UX,” hosted by Laura Klein and Kate Rutter. It’s now defunct, but the archive is still up at usersknow.com/podcast. Since I’ve listened to all 130 or so episodes I figured that I’d put together a selection most interesting to me as a beginner in the field. The show doesn’t rely much on callbacks, so skipping episodes isn’t that big of a deal.

An assumption about you: The selected episodes were useful as a complement to my full time UX Design studies – they gave a deeper understanding of the practicalities of what I was learning in school and reading about on the side. I’m assuming that this podcast isn’t your first exposure to the field of UX Design.

A note for us non-USA people: Americans love to talk and this podcast is no exception, but after an episode or two you’ll be able to look past the dad-jokes and forced geniality, and appreciate the content. Klein and Rutter are knowledgeble and passionate about their skills, and it’s worth sticking with the show to hear what they have to say. As a side note, I can recommend Laura Kleins book UX for lean startups as well as her course in Agile methods for UX Design over at IxDF [affiliate link].

The shows listed are in order of publication, and the descriptions are their own.

  • C-FWOTS: Kate and Laura talk about C-FWOTs or Colossal Fucking Wastes of Time. What makes a design project a C-FWOT, and how can we avoid them?
  • Don’t be a UX Designer: In this episode, Kate and Laura bitch about some of the most annoying things about being a UX Designer and do everything in our power to keep you from becoming one. You’ll thank us later.
  • The Worst Clients: In this episode, Kate and Laura talk about terrible clients (no, not by name. we’re not committing career suicide just yet.) and how we can deal with them better as UX Designers. If you work with other people as a UX Designer, this one might be helpful. If you have worked directly with clients, consider this a possible trigger warning.
  • 6 Things We Wish We Had Known: Kate and Laura talk about the things we wish we’d learned earlier in our careers as UX Designers.
  • Stop Arguing with Feedback: In this episode, Kate and Laura discuss how to take the feedback you asked for a little more graciously and maybe even benefit from it. Do not, in any way, think that this is a request for you to give feedback to Kate and/or Laura. Yes, we understand the irony, and no, we’re not having any of it.
  • Why You Should Care about the Business Model: In this episode, Kate and Laura give five reasons why everybody, even designers and researchers, need to understand how their products and companies make money.
  • Collaborative Design: In this episode, Kate and Laura fight about what it means to design things collaboratively and the ways in which everybody seems to screw it up. Hint: collaborative design does not mean everybody makes every single decision together! This is not a democracy, people.
  • Old Research Stories: In this week’s episode, Kate and Laura reminisce about old research stories and how much better things were before. Ok, mostly they talk about what’s still true of the things they learned in old research and what’s changed.
  • Starting Your Own Thing: In this episode, Kate and Laura give sketchy advice about starting your own freelancing or consulting business. Reminder: you should probably not take legal advice from drunk people on the internet.
  • Designing Beyond the Screen: In this episode, Kate and Laura complain about screen-based designers again. They also talk about designing for multi-modal interfaces in a failed attempt to sound modern and like they haven’t been doing this since the Paleolithic Era.
  • Choosing the Right Deliverables: In this episode, Kate and Laura talk about not wasting time making the wrong stuff. You’ll be completely unsurprised that what sorts of deliverables you should make for your team depends entirely on who you’re making stuff for and what you want out of it.
  • Whiteboard Challenges: In this episode, Kate and Laura talk about how to be better at whiteboard challenges if you can’t avoid them entirely, which you can’t, so just deal.
  • Protect Your Users froom Each Other: In this episode, Kate and Laura talk about how and why to protect your users from each other while they slowly lose what little faith they still had in humanity. Happy New Year.
  • Craft: In this episode, Kate and Laura argue about The Craft, which relates to neither witchcraft nor macrame owls, so honestly why do they even bother? Seriously though, tune in for 30 minutes of blathering about what words mean.
  • Should Designers Lead: In this episode, Kate and Laura discuss something (semi) topical. They argue about whether designers should lead and then of course somehow veer into what design even is anyway and it’s pretty much a typical mess.
  • Tips for New UX Designers: In this episode, Kate and Laura attempt to give advice to new UXers (something neither of them has been since dinosaurs roamed the earth). Laura advocates violence, surprising nobody who has ever met her.
  • Design Principles: In this episode, Kate and Laura take a decidedly unprincipled look at design principles. Kate proves that drinking does, in fact, affect your memory, when she completely forgets Laura’s entire work history.
  • Designing in Triples: Kate explains why she likes to make everything three times as hard as it needs to be. If you’re playing the What is Wrong with UX drinking game and drinking every time they mention Task Flows, then maybe don’t make any plans for after the podcast.
  • High Level UX Jobs: In this episode, Kate and Laura really go off the rails talking about the similarities, differences, and issues with various different higher level UX jobs, many of which they haven’t actually held in well over a decade, if at all.

If you’ve listened to the podcast and would like to suggest another episode to add to the list – or one to take away – feel free to comment below of get in touch over at Linkedin or email. And if you know of other curated lists of podcast episodes, let me know! The amount of info that’s available online is massive, and with all search engines being choked with listicles written by drunk potato AI:s and content farms, finding the good stuff is time-consuming.

Everything is fandom now

The title phrase and sentiment is taken from plagiarist & internet commentator Ryan Brodericks newsletter Garbage Day, but it might as well be one of the conclusions of an Adam Curtis documentary.

My childhood friend Matilda visited us in Gothenburg over the weekend, chaperoning her son who had a ticket to the three-day festival Way out West, and we binged most of Curtis series “Can’t get you out of my mind.” I still have the last hour of the last episode to go (“brevity” isn’t a word in his vocabulary I think), but the overarching theme of the disappearance of progressive ideologies is depressing and on point. What we’re left with after the fall of the democratic middle class & militant romantics, are fandoms jockying for position and angry people longing for a past that never were.

This is a recurring theme in stuff I’m reading as well as in conversations. It’s not so much despair as resignation. Despair would imply that you have a goal but have failed to attain it. Resignation is when you realise that your goal doesn’t matter. And resignation seems to colour the zeitgeist quite thoroughly right now – the only remaining optimists are the religious fundamentalists and accelerationist of different stripes.

One of the ideas I floated to my friends after the last election (which saw a right-nationalist government take over from the previous centrists) was that we ought to start a political party which only focuses on one issue. This in itself isn’t new – there are populist parties and movements all the time – but I’m interested in what issue might give the biggest progressive leverage regardless of the political colour one has to collaborate with.

Worst case scenario: What single-issue would make such a disproportional progressive impact that it would be worth to collaborate even with the most toxic idiots of the far right? You’re sitting at the negotiating table with a bunch of wannabe nationalist socialist romatics from SD, and if they give in on one issue you’ll lend them your support. What would that issue be?

Depending on if we’re doing this locally, regionally or nationally, the issues will differ. Right now I only have two suggestions: A complete ban on private car use in the inner city of Gothenburg (a local issue) or a hard limit on the salary for public employees (with countermeasures in place for attempts to subvert this via bonuses, etc.). Both would have huge knock-on effects, which on the face of it would be progressive (citation needed).

Do you have any other suggestions for one law, policy, activity or ordinance that would have a disproportionally progressive effect regardless of which political coalition is in power? I’m all ears, let’s do this! There’s only three years left and we probably need to make some research and print some leaflets!

Reading and doing

I’m back from a short vacation to Side (Turkey) which I spent reading and drinking beer. Also, looking at ruins. Side is an odd place where a contemporary charter tourist village has sprung up literally built on top of 2000 year old ruins. As a result, you see ancient brickabrack all over the place – they use marble columns as doorstops – which in another context would be in a museum.

Anywho. Since I’m reading a lot (mostly related to my UX studies) I’m starting to feel mentally constipated. I need to put some of the stuff into practice, or I’m going to forget it, which seems a waste of my time. So: Going forward I’ll pursue some simple ideas/projects/experiments to implement what I learn from the books (as well as the IxDF courses I’m taking on the side), but with a rule not to turn them into huge projects or guilt-tripping obligations – I’m just doing it to experiment, learn and get feedback. Sounds like fun?

Speaking of which, I’m thinking of tidying this blog up a bit. Adding some “best of” posts in the left column and maybe even have categories of some sort. I know my readership here is in the single digits, but I ought to be able to use some material to inform a professional profile – my approach to work, research, thinking, etc. If you have opinions, get in touch through mail or on Linkedin.

Look who’s talking! (AI toys and tools)

My thoughts feel dated even before typing them up, but it’s spring of 2023 and the world has its panties in a bunch over ChatGPT and other Natural Language Processing AI:s, and I just want to put my scratch in the goal post for future reference. There are new AI products being churned out faster than even the press-release press technology media outlets can keep up with. (Subsequently, some have started publishing AI-generated content)

Still from Colossus: The Forbin Project – a 1970 movie about AI:s behaving badly

The economic downturn – combined with the class war waged by the tech sector on its workforce – has investment money salivating at the prospect of a new boom. Subsequently, there’s much said about the coming nerd rupture and ascendance of the machine.

Noam Chomsky et.al have some objections:

It is at once comic and tragic, as Borges might have noted, that so much money and attention should be concentrated on so little a thing — something so trivial when contrasted with the human mind, which by dint of language, in the words of Wilhelm von Humboldt, can make “infinite use of finite means,” creating ideas and theories with universal reach.

Noam Chomsky, Ian Roberts and Jeffrey Watumull: The false promise of ChatGPT [Archive.org mirror of NYT op-ed]

It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing around with the tools – I pay both for Midjourney and ChatGPT API – but it feels like intelligence pareidoila (seeing patterns in random data). You can have a really interesting discussion with ChatGPT, and you can be surprised by what seems like creative insights and suggestions. But I’ve had really interesting discussions with the birds on the poster over my bed, as well as with my drunk reflection in the mirror. I provided the meaning and the interpretation – and I did so because I played the game of “let’s pretend.”

Another still from Colossus: The Forbin Project – before everything goes poopy

I’m in school right now, retooling myself into a UX design & research person, and AI crops up in more and more omnious tones. I talked with a couple Javascript students who felt vaguely threatened by AI and uncertain of what their value proposition was. And to my ears they were basing their fear not on anything specific, but rather a general sense of the AI is coming for us all! Which is being fuelled by writers on Medium with fiften susbscribers who need to write hyperbolic articles in order to – oh irony! – impress the AI of Google Search.

We had a guest lecturer the other week who talked about AI tools as something which we’ll have to learn to use within UX, in particular graphic / UI generators. That’s definitely a use I can see and which doesn’t cause me much consternation – I’ve been using generative software the past thirty years in different capacities, this latest breed just happen to be easier to talk to – but when people start writing about using ChatGPT as personas for user research, that’s just difficult to take seriously. That’s really giving into pareidoila, and you’re better of doing astrology or divining from entrails.

From Colossus: The Forbin Project – there’s now a souvenir shop to celebrate human subservience!

I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this. Of course I’d like to have my cake and eat it – by which I mean I’d like to seem clever and reasonable without missing an opportunity to piss on the AI parade – but in the end I think I come down on the side that the current iteration of AI will lead society down a shitty path where the first line of contact with other humans will be through our mutual AI:s, and as usual those with more resources will be able to have better tailored tools (as usual) to make the most of the world (as usual) and ensconce themselves in bubbles where they can have plausible deniability even more than today.

Because it will not only be “the market” which will have decided that you can no longer afford your medicin, your education, or your vacation – it will be an AI which will have endless patience to listen to your litany, but no semblence of decency to react to it.

— update 15 March —
ChatGPT 4 has just been released, and the discussion on Hacker news is full of hot-takes on what it means and you don’t know what it means and ooh, shiny.

Saving souls, one nail clipping at a time

Since I’m fascinated by rituals, secular and otherwise, I might have taken the whole “short nails as a way to salvation” thing a bit too far. Regardless, I’m making a tract for people to hand out!

No source, looks like a Jack Chick.

My goal is to have the tracts distributed by people in the street in at least five locations across the world, and get documentation from the events. I’ll send the tracts out for free to my missionaries, and might put them up for sale if others want them. Shipping will be the expensive part, since manufacturing is dirt cheap on the Risograph, and paper is more or less free.

The content of the tract will be made up of Jack Chick style comic panels generated by Midjourney, and I still have to put together a text and the gospel itself. It would be great if I could get my homepage up before doing this, but a link to this here blog, with some project background might serve just as well (and I’ll do a writeup for the portfolio later on).

The impetus for this is just a shitpost Insta I did a while back, but since that post got very little traction I’m thinking either using Reddit (maybe /r/cults?) or some rando Discord server. It’s all about finding other people who find this kind of stuff fun, and from my informal polling among classmates, not many people share my sense of humour.

Tracts are today tied to Christian evangelism, particularly in the USA, and even here in Sweden I’ve found Chick-tracts on subways and whatnot. But my point isn’t to make fun of religious evangelism, but to confuse recipients and allow participants to get some fresh air and entertainment. It’s not elaborate enough to be design fiction, so maybe it’s a cargo-culting event – a light social prank? Anywho, let’s see how it’ll all come together, and let’s be open for unexpected results.

We make tools, the tools make us

Actor Lewin Lloyd in Hid Dark Materials on the left, quick Midjourney v4 prompt on right

We just finished watching the first season of His dark materials – a great show based on a great adventure book – and I was struck of how the look reminded me of the moods created by some of the Midjourney prompts. And this feels new. The newness isn’t that an AI generated something in the style of a particular artist – the lawsuits for infringement have just begun – but that many scenes looked like part of the “prompt space.” My thought wasn’t that “ah, this looks like this artist/director,” but “ah, this looks like that bunch of stuff I’ve seen on Midjourney.”

Lewin Lloyd left, one minute Midjourney prompt right

This is unfair since HDM came our before Midjourney was a thing, but we’ll get more and more of this, and it will force artists not only to find something which is outside of the AI:s wheelhouse, but it will also force artists to work in secrecy to preempt trends. Imagine that you’re a director for a movie where you have a modicum of visual ambition, and you’d like to woo your audience with your cinematics. You might want to keep photos of your set & costumes a secret as long as possible, so that your superfans don’t swamp the net with AI generated fan-art. Otherwise, once your movie comes out, the look will feel old and overdone.

Of course, if you’re not relying on original visuals, this will play into part of your marketing instead; You can hold competitions for imagined scenes, most sexy action poses, or whatever. Regardless, there’s a whole new world of creative and business practices knocking on many doors, and they’re not knocking politely.

If I were to start a cult, I’d make short nails the primary dogma

Image from Wikimedia

There’s a hypothesis of the Cortical homunculus – that our brains map motor control and sensory input in different proportion to their size. In practice it means that your hands, one of our primary exploratory tools, have an outsized “mental space” in your brain. Along with parts of your face, genitals and feet, they are considered “primary interface”.

Perhaps this might have something to do with my dislike of the sensation of uncut fingernails. It’s not an æsthetic consideration, but rather a persistant feeling of my fingers being tight or constricted, where my nails start to grow into the lateral nail fold. It drives me bonkers and I find myself clicking my nails or otherwise fidgeting once a minute – even if I remind myself that I can’t do anything about it at the moment. It’s instinctual, and it makes me uncomfortable.

This seems tied to whether I’m sick, since I’m more aware of it if I have a flu or such. When you’re sick you can get hot, a bit swollen or more sensitive in general, and whatever slight pressure you’re feeling is increased – for example from your growing nails against your skin.

This also means that one of the best ways of feeling better is to cut your nails.

And this is where the cult comes in: Every religion, health fad or cult needs a few gimmicks. You can put a jade egg up your snatch, you can pray four times a day or you can avoid beans. In my case, I would make an edict that nails had to be trimmed. I already have a clergy class and/or profet class in the wings – those with anonychia, congenital or otherwise. We can work in cermonies and punishments related to nails, force heretics to smoke clippings, decorate them for coming-of-age ceremonies, etc. I can actually see people handing out pamphlets for this. I’m just lacking a name.

Pythagoras the vegetarian did not only abstain from meat, he didn’t eat beans either. This was because he believed that humans and beans were spawned from the same source, and he conducted a scientific experiment to prove it. He buried a quantity of beans in mud, let them remain there for a few weeks, and then retrieved them. He noted their resemblance to human fetuses, thus convincing himself of the intimate relationship between beans and humans. To eat a bean would therefore be akin to eating human flesh. Equally, to crush, smash, or dirty a bean would be to harm a human. Thus the very strict rule to abstain from beans.

Bruce Pennington: The death of Pythagoras

As long as you can convince others either by the strength of your own conviction, association to good outcomes or just plain placebo, you can get people on board all kinds of philosphical vehicles.

So hear ye, hear ye! For the nails of thine hands, and the nails of thine feet are the yellowing stiffened discharge of your otherwise Godly body. Lo! Cut them from you and cast them away – and let the healing power infuse you with calm!

Reading for ones fun and furtherance, 2022 edition

Once again, I’m at the beginning of a new year, writing a post which isn’t scheduled to publish till a year hence. Physically, I’m starting this year in my winged chair, in Majorna. I haven’t made any drastic new years promises more than the usual ones of dressing a bit better and getting more fit, but perhaps I ought to make a concerted effort to have some more ambitions with my reading. Looking through the last two years reading lists (2020 & 2021) there’s a lot of stuff there that I’ve read either as a distraction or to keep updated on the geek scene – and there’s nothing wrong with that as reasons go – but perhaps I would benefit from actually challenging my mind just a tad bit more? A muscle not used atrophies, and much the same goes for ones brain – and my brain is seriously starved for exercise.

With that, let’s setup the headings and categories, and let’s see where I end up!

Books read

Ed. Michael E. Porter, James E. Heppelmann: HBR 10 must reads on AI, Analytics and the New Machine Age. It’s wise to follow Chomskys advice to read the business press to find out what is really going on in the world, and this anthology of ten pieces is an interesting example of this. I’m reading this while considering a change in career, and looking at AI as one possible field to get into. Seeing the topic from the business perspective is helpful in thinking through my decision. Also, the essays are short, written as they are for busy folk with little time for fluff.

Johan Fyrk: Svartjobbsfabriken. Based on a series of articles in the union magazine Byggnadsarbetaren, chronicling how organized crime is behind exploitation of foreign workers in Sweden, cooking the books and using illegal labour in both large governmental building projects, as well as projects for well-off Swedes looking to save on costs. Disturbing facts and interesting read, albeit not very surprising: Those who have, want more, and they don’t care how they get it, etc.

Michael Ely: Centauri dawn. A novelization based on one of the better Sid Meier games, Alpha Centauri. In the novel, just as in the game, seven fractions colonize a new planet, and their priorities bring conflicts to a head. Surprisingly fun read, and I do enjoy the worldbuilding that goes into computer games – I can create my own headcanon for each playthrough.

Blake Crouch: Recursion. A great story about love, regret and time travel. Nicely written and an exiting story which leans on the people rather than the technology. The first third of the book is confusing in a good way, you don’t really understand what is happening but it’s compelling enough that you keep going. Well done!

Tim Maughan: Infinite Detail. A polemic against FAANG and capitalism in the shape of a post-catastrophy world where a young girl helps grieving people reconnect with their dead friends and relatives. Convincing setting and partially a call-to-arms against the technoutopianism we’re surrounded by.

Seth Dickinson: The Traitor Baru Cormorant. A young girl is plucked from her family by an expanding hegemony, taught their ways and customs, and put to work administering another province. She seeks vengeance for her ravaged homeland and plotting ensues. Well written and occasionally brutal – what and whom do we betray to reach our goals, and how does it change us?

Blake Crouch: Dark Matter. A man is kidnapped by an unknown assailant, drugged and showed into a box. He wakes up in a parallel universe which is similar to his own, and now has to manage his own sanity as well as a multiworld world. Interesting twist on a familiar story.

Arkady Martine: A desolation called place. A sequel to A Memory Called Empire and not as good but still good enough. The world building is great, but the characters have a bit too much plot armor and the empire is oddly lax in discipline for being an interstellar hegemony.

Jonathan Courthey: The Workshopper Playbook. A short read where the author (and CEO of AJ&Smart) gives a hypothetical example of a short workshop, as well as evangelizing the job of meeting facilitation – or workshopping. Clear and easy to follow, and inspires me to taking down notes on workshop exercises.

Ryan Holiday: Ego is the enemy. A modern take on the necessity of being honest and humble – a self-help book for the ambitious startup founder. It would benefit being cut by 80%, forcing stringent arguments instead of relying on cherry-picked anecdotes as filler, but there’s a kernel of usefulness in it all: our egos often become limiting factors of our fulfillment, and poison the wells of ambition and self-awareness.

N.K.Jamesin: Emergency Skin. A short story about a future human from a space colony going to Earth to bring back necessary cell samples. It’s a fun read in the context of how we exalt successful tech billionaires and the reductionist dog-eat-dog worldview.

Isabell fall: I sexually identify as an Apache helicopter. A short story about how sexual identity can be weaponised. Good read and an interesting premise (reminds me of a scifi story where people bonded with cats as battle-pilots, forgot where I read that one) which drew much attention due to the perceived mocking of trans-folks in the title (apache-helicopter is a shitpost meme-gender). The publisher removed the story and it later reappeared under a different title, and the author – herself a non-out MTF trans person writing under a pen-name – decided to stay in the closet due to the negative attention and attacks on her person…

Erika Hall: Just enough research. Part of my voluntary reading for the UX-design course I’m taking. Well written and to the point. I read the first edition, but ordered the updated second edition in order to do a closer read once I’m further along the studies.

John Lanchester: The Wall. In a bleak future there is the Wall and Defenders guarding the Wall against the Others, who will try to get from the sea over the Wall. Should that happen, the Defenders who failed to stop them will themselves be put to sea. A short novel about a late-anthropocene Britain where we follow one Defender as he does his tour of duty on the Wall. Bleak and well written (and very poignant in Sweden where the racist shitheals nationalist Swedish Democrats just became the second largest party in the country)

Don Norman: The desing of everyday things (2nd edition). A classic in the field of design and often referenced in other books I’m reading while studying. Some of the parts seem a bit speculative – as if the author is more concerned with the symmetry of his graphs than the arguments they present – but that might just be my ignorance showing. I’ve taken a bunch of notes, and will have to reread it once I’m further along my studies.

Harvard Business Review: The Year in Tech, 2022. The HBR antologies are useful primers on issues, and it’s especially useful in a meta way: If you’re working with reasonably ambitious managers, chances are that they try to stay ahead of trends, and they might have read the HBR guides to do so. And now so have you. So even if the topics aren’t that revolutionary, they provide a buisiness perspective on them, and might tell of things to come. The essay by Maëlle Gavet on the end of the Silicon Valley gold rush, as well as LeBron L. Bartons being Black in tech, are both worth a read on their own.

Abby Covert: How to make sense of any mess. Not so much a book as a thicker pamphlet with a step by step suggestions for how to navigate uncertain research and design situations – or any situation which requires you to make decisions – with practical lists and charts. I’m gonna copy some of the stuff onto a Miro board or something, cause I think they have a “tips från coachen” quality to them.

Peter Hollins: Mental Models. A short and useful book on different thinking patterns – mental models if you will – and how to apply them. I took notes and will try to use them more rigurously. The 30-70% rule is interesting, where you act when you have at least 30% of required information, but no more than 70%. Seems handy, let’s see if it’s actually useful! This whole mental models thing is interesting when I try to map what I’m already doing after many years of trial and error, and what I’m still struggling with.

Sara Wachter-Boettcher & Eric A. Meyer: Design for real life. Another A List Apart publication, this time about inclusive design. It’s well timed since we’re reading about doing user journeys and testing at school right now, and their suggestion to “design for crisis” is both practical and reasonable. Good read, can recommend!

Paul Tremblay: The Cabin at the End of the World. It wasn’t until I wanted to write this up that I saw that this book is more recent than the movie The Cabin in the Woods – the underlying themes are alike, and with such similar names, I had assumed that the book had inspired the movie. Which it didn’t, it seems. Anywho, the book is a short tense story of four people showing up by a cabin in the middle of nowhere, forcing the family which is renting the place to make a terrible choice, or face even more terrible consequences. It’s unsettling and tense.

Sam Ladner: Practical Ethnography. A great primer for ethnographers who are moving into the private sector. It’s full of hand-on suggestions for academics who might be fearful of what they will have to compromise when they move into the commercial arena. What’s interesting for my purposes though – since I’m not an academic – is that Ladner pairs down the ethnographical practice into what is useful for me as a UX Researcher with little regard for academic rigor. Well written as well, which is a boon!

Adam Wathan & Steve Schoger: Refactoring UI. If feel a bit silly to add this book to the reading list since it’s more of an illustrated guide to a very prescriptive design rule-set, but whatever. It’s short, to the point, and crystal clear – I think I’ll have great use of this once we start prototyping and doing UI:s at school this spring.

Books listened to

Tyler Hamilton: The secret race. A candid tell-it-all from a world class cyclist who doped for a bunch of years before he got caught. He was on the same team as Lance Armstrong, so he has plenty to say about Lance and his steadfast denials (until the Oprah interview in 2013), but there’s plenty of damning information on just about everyone in the cycling world. Fascinating read – I was unaware of how much goes into racing, especially the big tours, and with the complication of evading doping controls it makes for a worthwhile listen.

William Gibson: Neuromancer. Reading these as a teenager I was fascinated with the world Gibson painted, with more gobbledygook than you can shake a Tessier-Ashpool AI-Core Rastafarian Hitachi cyberdeck at. The story itself is a mess, and I’d forgotten that they end up in space – which feels like a dismantling of golden age scifi romanticism – but this book presaged and created so much of what now are cyberpunk tropes, that the mess is forgiven.

William Gibson: Count Zero. Seven years after Neuromancer, it’s one book told through three storylines which merge toward the end – a disposition which Gibson would keep to in most later books – and tells a tight story of AI’s and Voodoo gods in cyberspace, and the people entangled in their scheming. One story has a discgraced art dealer trying to find the creator of some fascinating art pieces, and it’s always difficult to describe something sublime only through the reaction of the character – she’s moved by the haunting beauty of the object – and my acceptance of the characters motivation can only go so far.

Books given up on

Samantha Downing: My lovely wife. Suspense novel about a serial killing married couple, told in first person by the husband. I’m not sure if the narrator is ment to be dumb or if the writing is poor, but imagine if Homer Simpson was Dexter. I’ve seen it recommended because the twist was supposed to be great, but I gave up halfway and checked out the twist on wikipedia, and it was as stupid as the characters.

Blake Crouch: Pines. Too poor writing to motivate me past the first few chapters.

Herman Melville: Moby Dick. It’s just to laborious to read. I’m an hour into this and really don’t care enough about Ishmael to continue – 200 years ago people were still romanticizing a frontier that no longer existed, increasing their appreciation of this book, perhaps? Nevertheless, it feels nice to cross a classic off my list – I’m done with Moby Dick in this lifetime, and it’s an odd feeling.

James Clear: Atomic Habits. The book came recommended from a friend when we were discussing ambition and goal-setting, but I gave up after thirty pages. The metaphors and anectodes are poorly strung together and counterarguments are strawmanned. I’d recommend the Bullet Journal by Ryder Carrol instead, which in passing makes better arguments concerning productivity than Atomic Habits.

Devora Zack: Networking for people who hate networking. It’s a book presenting itself as a “field guide for introverts” which would be super useful for me as I’m trying to get into a new field, but more than halfway through it still hasn’t offered more than assurances that “it’s ok to be an introvert” and self deprecating jokes. The dichotomy intro/extrovert is an alluring one, but it’s not useful enough to spin out to a book, apparently…

Samanta Schweblin: Little eyes. People buy robotic companions – Kentukis – which are linked up with random human operators, and the link is a one-time activation; if the operator loses interest, the Kentuki becomes useless. People across the world become fascinated by the experience and reach out for the limited but real human interaction it offers. Really unconvincing world building and flat characters – after a tense first chapter it all dissolves into random nonsensical vignettes.

A vegan – transgressing

Earlier today, I took my lovely girlfriend for lunch, and at first we had raw oysters and then mussels & chips. It was the first time in the 22 years that I’ve considered myself vegan that I’ve eaten something animal-based.

Foto: Sara Henriksson

Ok, that’s not totally true. When I came down with Covid last year, I had a terrible cough and the only lozenges we had at home contained honey. I allowed myself to have three of those, but not without quite a lot of thought. And I once bought a pair of jeans with a leather patch on, but asked the store to remove it first – which Sara rightly brings up occasionally to mock me.

Obviously, over the years I’ve inadvertenly eaten animals in some form or another – restaurants fuck up orders, a friend offers something promising that it’s vegan, I misread a lable, etc – but I haven’t done so on purpose. Sometimes, I haven’t enquired as dilligently as a fifth level vegan would – if you’re pouring me red wine I’m not googling what kind of clarification was used, for example. But I’ve gone hungry when there’s nothing else to eat, and the issue of animal rights and not causing suffering serves as a daily guide when I go about my human buisiness.

Which takes us back to todays lunch expedition: I live a vegan life because I find it to be a practical solution – a mental model – of one aspect to a moral life. I believe that causing suffering is a bad thing, and since animals experience suffering (to a varying degree) we shouldn’t exploit them, and going full-vegan is the easiest shortshand for achieving this. Easy enough: If you believe we ought to minimize suffering, but you’re not some kind of vegan – you’re either consciously immoral, haven’t thought through the issue, or you’re an idiot.

Midjourney: Cow made of pieces of meat

But since oysters and mussels don’t seem to experience suffering, eating them doesn’t fall under the purview of a utalitarian argument. So to challange myself, or perhaps because it felt so transgressive, I decided to eat them. After all, if I want to make a convincing argument for a particular moral approach, I should be stringent in my application of it, no?

So we went to Luckans fisk & skaldjur in Majorna and had them prepair three different oysters for me, which I ate in the order they proposed. The last one had a very pronounced iron taste, but all three reminded me of canned mushrooms in brine. I ate them mostly without condiments to get a feel for their taste, so I’ll give them another chance when they’re prepared differently. According to wikipedia, oysters were a popular working class food 200 years ago, which is difficult to reconcile with how expensive they are now.

We continued on to Hasselsons where we had steamed mussels with chips and (vegan) mayo. This was more palatable – easier when the food is warm and served with dill and mayo – but the mussels were less slimy and less challenging to eat. It was tasty and I can see myself making steamed mussels or perhaps a spaghetti Vongole at home.

Midjourney: Cow made of pieces of meat

I feel a different person this evening than I was when I woke up, but I’m not sure what has changed. The feeling of transgression is strong – I can understand the point of those who would abstain all animal-based food because it’s either a simpler argument to make, or a more practical way of living – but I can’t point to what my transgression consists of. Perhaps it’s just that habits die hard.

For all intents and purposes I’ll still present myself as a vegan. Even though it’s technically no longer true, I don’t feel that my values have changed. And saying “vegan” is just so much handier than saying “I won’t consume anything which has caused an unacceptable amount of suffering, please refer to this pamphlet for more information.” But I can understand that others might have other opinions on the matter, and breaking moral rules is never without consequences.