By default, social media platforms flatten you into a single profile that makes your interests legible to advertisers. But users are beginning to challenge this norm. From alt Twitter accounts to finstas to private Snap stories, Very Online people are incubating new models of digital selfhood. What happens when the internet gets inside of us? How does our media technology re-shape our identities?
In the past, gods and demons allowed us to talk about phenomena that we didn’t fully understand. During the Enlightenment, we tried to kill them and explain everything in reductionist scientific terms. But it feels to me like we’ve come full circle. We’re back to using oversimplified metaphors to wrap our minds around the uncontrollable complex systems we’re embedded in. Who are the “gods” of 2019, and what can they teach us?
There’s no real beginning or ending to Ribbonfarm. It’s an infinite middle. This is my own personal starter guide.
I know I’m not alone when I say that I can feel the gap between my world and my parents’ world widening. They barely know what memes and influencers are — and yet, our culture is being completely re-shaped by them. How do reality bubbles get created and distorted, and how might we begin to bridge the divides between them?
We’re witnessing the rise of a new online medium — the threadweb. It started on Twitter, but its logic is quickly expanding to other parts of the internet. What are its origins, and how might it change the way we consume content in the future?
Why do words and phrases lose meaning over time? How can we keep our most treasured ideas from going stale?
Digital calendars were supposed to make us feel at peace and in control. Instead, we feel scatter-brained, anxious, and over-booked. How have these tools shaped the way we think about time? And how might we free ourselves from the prison of the Gregorian grid?
In the not-so-distant past, we diagnosed people who feared they were always being watched with paranoid schizophrenia. Now, that same fear is just a realistic understanding of how the world works. What are we to make of this shift?
A simple, spontaneous, and meaningful app that makes it easy to keep in touch with friends and family.
A new Chrome extension that helps you understand the overall bias of your news diet.
Until recently, I assumed that mindfulness was a relatively new development in American life—a product of the West’s recent obsession with yoga and Eastern mysticism. Now, I’m beginning to realize that this is not our first rodeo. What can we learn from previous revolutions in thought, and how might we make sense of the underlying patterns in our ideological evolution?
A rough map of 21st century worker tribes. Why they work, what work is for, and what makes their work worthwhile.
Why do we read the news, how does it change the way we relate to one another, and how can we create more connectedness amongst strangers?
Why do we feel like we need willpower at all? How can we make sense of the fact that people’s preferences are super inconsistent over time, and why is it that people keep so often undermine their own long-term goals?
My computer recently informed me that I’ve typed over half a million words in my journal since 2013. This mind-bending stat got me thinking about what a digitally-native journal could be like—and what it could teach us about ourselves.
A brief reflection on invisible assumptions and the wisdom of crowds (or lack thereof).
A Chrome extension that helps you be more intentional with your money, so that you can spend your time on the things that actually matter to you.
Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing last week reminded me of some absurd things I learned about power when I was a ghostwriter for the Illinois State Treasurer.
I created a Figma deck template so you can design and present in one place. No more exporting, importing, and updating when things get out of date. Finally—your presentation stays in sync with your designs.
I know what you’re thinking—the internet does not need another self-indulgent post about goal setting. You’re right. And yet, here we are. In general, I’ve found that pop psychology articles about goals are unhelpful and uninspired. I’ve tried to draw on ideas from evolutionary biology, complex adaptive systems, behavioral finance, and engineering to offer a (hopefully) unique and helpful take on the design of goals. I pray the self-help gods of Medium will forgive me for this post.
Let’s imagine what an alien would think of our corporate cultural norms—the rituals and scripts that govern daily office life. Our alien friend is like an annoying little kid who can’t stop asking why. The explanations are left as an exercise for the reader.
I’ve been using Figma to do UX workshops with engineers, marketers, salespeople, & designers at Uber. It’s a super fun way to collaborate in real-time—especially with remote teammates. I put together a kit to get you started.
User interfaces are maps of complex territories, and all maps are incomplete truths. In light of Facebook’s controversies, it’s clear that UI designers need a code of ethics. How might we create interfaces that hide complexity without obscuring too much truth?
The predictive processing model is a promising and powerful new way of understanding how the brain works. But it also suggests some inconvenient truths about the way we process information and news.
An investigation of the hidden social norms and etiquette that dictate how we use Bitmoji.
Tristan Harris is the founder of the Center for Humane Technology—an organization that is trying to get technology platforms to stop hijacking our minds. His message is spreading like wildfire, but it hasn’t yet caught the attention of conservative media. What fault lines will emerge when this movement goes mainstream?
A brief warning about the corporatization of human-centered design.
This is a story about why “coming out” is such a terrible misnomer, and also a story about stories, game theory, changing minds, and how we humans might unravel the mess we’ve made.
Last month, I challenged myself to create one drawing per day during my 15-minute commute. I turned to an unlikely medium: Snapchat. There’s something inspiring about its constraints. A drawing tool. A color picker. 4.7 inches of screen. A few emojis and stickers. It’s the anti-Photoshop. What could go wrong?
Eight thought experiments on the nature of digital communication.
No class could have prepared me for what it’s like to be a designer at a multi-billion dollar startup. The Uber Design team taught me a lot about why the company is so successful and how to create great products for a global audience.
By now, you’ve probably seen the video of a Yale student yelling at a professor, the Facebook post about a “white girls only” party, or the email about offensive Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, the short YouTube clips and articles I’ve seen don’t even come close to painting an accurate picture of what’s happening at Yale. I’m a senior here, and I’ve experienced the controversy firsthand over the past week (and years). I want to tell a more complete story and set a few facts straight.
They call my generation digital natives, but the word “digital” is starting to feel very dated to me in most contexts. I think I’ve finally figured out why.
Can a web design be as timeless as a book design or a piece of artwork? Wha twill mobile OS designers steal from wearable OS designers?
Designer Fund invests in design entrepreneurs who are solving problems in markets that traditionally lack design innovation — from healthcare, to education, to energy. Allen and his team also run Bridge, a design education program that connects experienced designers with top tier companies. I sat down with him at Designer Fund in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood to learn more.
A profile of Ankit Shah—the founder of an organization called Tea With Strangers. Though some might peg Tea With Strangers as an organization, Ankit prefers to call it a movement. The idea is simple: a website that allows people to sign up to get tea with five strangers, one of whom is a “host” that gently guides the conversation.
Now that users can spend money via Snapchat, the company has created a whole new set of opportunities for itself. I mocked up a concept for how big media companies could use Snapcash to create pay-per-view live streams on Snapchat.
User interface designers work in a world of pixels, and perfectionism is part of their job description. They notice if an icon is slightly off-center, if the line-height of a text block is a little tight, if the border radius on a button is too large. Designers are opinionated, and they’re not easily satisfied.
My parents refer to Snapchat as the “sexting app,” but no one I know uses it to share photos of their nether regions. The app, which allows people to send self-destructing picture and video messages to their friends, is for me a G-rated destination. Its bright yellow icon features a faceless ghost that greets me each time I unlock my iPhone.
If Instagram is a word, then Storehouse is a sentence. The Storehouse app allows people to combine photos, videos, and text in a magazine-like layout and easily craft a narrative around the content they care about. I sat down with Mark to get his take on starting a company, the role of design, and the future of publishing.
Reflecting on a strange experience at Jaunty—an “education dojo for human relations” that organizes workshops on social intelligence.
A lot of people say their interests lie at the intersection of X, Y, and Z. Here’s why I left that metaphor behind.
The flaws of video conferencing reveal the important characteristics of a quality conversation.
A brief exploration of why walking meetings allow us to tap into the full power of spatial memory.
Though it’s easy to roll your eyes at Yo, it’s worth at least taking a moment to consider why the app has proven so popular.
How the counterintuitive theories of linguistics explain brand psychology and the mysteries of communication.
Because we’re more than just the sum of our professional experiences.
How a relationship with your future self can help increase accountability.
How lessons from game theory can help us have more intellectually satisfying conversations.
Today marks almost one year since I first started using Anki—a flashcard app with a twist. Anki minimizes the number of cards I have to review on any given day while maximizing how much I remember over the long term. And to my surprise, what started as a simple experiment has changed the way I approach my education.
How teaching design in the classroom environment can create a harmful bias against implementation.
Yale University keeps its brains in the basement of the Medical School library. The Harvey Cushing Center is home to over 400 of them, all of which are stored in their own separate jars of urine-colored formaldehyde. Visitors to the exhibit are greeted by a large Brain Society poster and a message that says: Leave only your name. Take only memories.
Yale grads Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory think they’ve found it in Rap Genius—a website where thousands of users publicly annotate everything from Emerson to Eminem. Each line in a Rap Genius entry is a clickable link that reveals information about the many allusions and metaphors hidden beneath the surface of a text. With 1.4 million site visitors per day and $15 million in venture capital funds from Andreessen Horowitz, Rap Genius has expanded to include annotations of political speeches, poetry, legalese, and even art. “This is the thing you have to understand about the magnitude of the opportunity here. We can be the website people go to to understand all of human culture,” Tom told me. Last week, I sat down with him, Mahbod, and Dan Berger in a Brooklyn cafe to hear about Rap Genius’ wild ride.
In 2012, zero out of forty-four students at New Haven’s High School in the Community completed their freshman year. Local papers and parents alike lashed out against the school for producing such seemingly abysmal results. But to my eyes, that zero marks progress. Though 100% of its ninth graders were held back, HSC is finally moving forward.
It’s Valentine’s Day, 2013 and Chris Randall is sitting all alone in his apartment. Leftover snow from New England’s biggest winter storm in decades still covers the ground. Feeling isolated, Randall ventures out into the Connecticut cold in search of some company. He takes with him a stack of printer paper, a box of colored pencils, and his Canon camera.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech. As a kid who’s half-black and half-white, the speech has always meant a lot to me. It’s at once an inspiration and a solemn reminder of the way things once were. Textbooks, however, sometimes have a way of making historical events seem less-than-real. After you’ve heard the stories enough times, they can begin to seem more legend than fact. My grandma was one of the many faces in the crowd at the March on Washington in 1963. And so, I decided to talk with her and get a more personal take on this iconic moment in history.
I started my summer off with a heavy dose of nitrous oxide and four cavernous holes in my mouth. My wisdom teeth had overstayed their welcome, and the orthodontist finally did me the pleasure of yanking them out. For the next few days, I was couch-ridden and responsibility-free. With more time on my hands than I knew what to do with, I decided to write a manifesto of sorts and called it Thoughts from the End of Freshman Year. Near the bottom of the doc, I wrote some key takeaways and advice for my future self. I’ve posted this little list below with the hope that you’ll be able to take something from it as well.
In all my years in science and math classes, there was always one question we weren’t allowed to ask. Any mention of it would almost guarantee you an eye roll from the teacher. Underlying it is a simple feeling of exasperation. Many kids don’t enjoy manipulating what seem like meaningless symbols all for the purpose of receiving another meaningless letter on their transcripts.
Standing in front of a sprawling image of planet Earth at Google I/O, Larry Page seemed more benevolent world dictator than tech CEO. He made a surprise appearance at the end of a marathon keynote address and offered conference attendees a few Sermon on the Mount-style closing remarks about the state of the tech industry. But some of Page’s doctrine isn’t as innovation-friendly as he chalks it up to be.
My hometown is something of a movie star. From Risky Business to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Sixteen Candles, Glencoe, Illinois has been featured in a number of Hollywood flicks over the past few decades. Even the famous Mean Girls line “You go Glen-CoCo” is a subtle reference to the town. The Glencoe I saw on the big screen, however, always felt more exciting than the one I experienced in real life. I was born twenty miles south of Glencoe in the heart of Chicago, but my family didn’t stay there long. A murder next door to our townhouse and the city’s 52% graduation rate were enough to convince my family to escape to the suburbs.