Time To Design A New Blog
Today I had the afternoon off of work so I had some time to design a new WordPress theme for my new blog.
I had the idea to focus on the article and add some drawers to the left and right. Drawers you could pull out and push back in that would contain contextual information, calls to action and navigation. So big type in the center and three drawers, three beams with icons. In the
Each of the drawers can be opened separately. When the black drawer is opened, the yellow one is also pushed out. The black drawer contains information about the author with a link to more information.
The yellow drawer can also be pulled out. The yellow drawer contains the call to action: connect.
The grey drawer contains navigation elements. It’s the traditional WordPress sidebar.
All drawers can be opened in any combination, creating interesting cut-offs.
So the design is a new take on the traditional elements of a website: header, footer and sidebar. Like all good design this is inspired by other great design. In this case I already had the idea to do these drawers for years. Ever since I designed my previous WordPress blog:
I still like this minimal design, but always thought it needed it
In this new design, they use what they call The Stack, which is basically layers of Material Design sheets on top of each other. So I decided to use this as inspiration for my new blog design.
You can preview the design here.
Business As Usual Eats Change For Breakfast
Today I came across this great quote that is a variation on Peter Drucker’s famous quote:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”Peter Drucker
The variation was:
“Business as usual eats change for breakfast.”Eik Brandsgård
When we are talking about design leadership, we are talking about changing things.
Reasons to fall back
It’s not that people are not willing to adopt the designer’s way. I find that a lot of people do, but there can be many reasons to go back:
- It’s just that the old habits can be strong.
- Or they do not know what they could do different, they are not confident enough or don’t have enough knowledge or creativity.
- Or maybe different people get involved that are not familiar with the new ways or are not such fans.
- Sometimes they might think that the new designerly ways are not suited for this particular part of the problem.
- When things get stressed, it’s natural to revert back to doing what you know even if you know it’s not the best way.
- People who are not happy with the shifting power structures and things
donedifferently start to oppose.
The follow up
Creating change is not easy, but sustaining it is even harder. You have to stay alert, keep the big picture in mind, improvise, explain, educate, pivot a little now and then. Most stories I read, and have experienced myself, about failing interventions like Design Sprints are about the follow-up. Methods like the Design Sprint are pretty well engineered en tested and if you follow all the rules, tips and methods, they will produce results. But what you do with those results is quintessential. This will make or break your intervention. If you go back to the old ways after the Sprint has finished, you are not getting the most out of the experience. It can be a kick start to more Lean Startup / Design Thinking / Agile ways of working, doing, thinking. It can be a boot camp for a new way or an incident.
Think like a painter
This week I had this discussion in two different projects. Thinking about how to get from kickstarting change to sustaining it. Thinking about what the obstacles are and what you can do to get over them. Doing a radical intervention seems a good path. This is one of the things I learned while I was studying painting in art school. Sometimes you can make small changes to a painting to get it moving in another direction. But sometimes this is not enough and you have to do something radical like throwing paint at it, painting over a whole area, adding a totally unlogical color. Painters do that all the time. If you look precisely at paintings and understand a little about how they are made, you can see the changes, the interventions. Sometimes these interventions created a whole new school of painting. Sometimes mistakes lead to new innovations. Good painters are not afraid to do something radical, risk something when they are stuck. Business
The day my Medium account was restored
Because my Medium account was suspended, I wrote an email to my friends at Medium. I asked them about the reason behind the suspension
“It looks like your Medium account was mistakenly caught in our spam filter. I have now restored your account and all your posts. We apologize for this inconvenience.”Reply from Medium
Something must have triggered the spam filter. I’ll probably never know. But the good news is that everything is back in order and my account and all my posts are visible again. Hooray. All my posts, followers, claps, highlights are not lost.
The writing workflow
In the meantime, I concluded that even if my account would be restored, that I would switch back to a self-hosted WordPress blog as my foundation. Years ago I switched from WordPress blogging to Medium because the User Experience was much better at Medium. Today, the writing
It’s good to do a little coding
Plus I feel it’s good to get into coding a little bit more. My work has evolved from interaction design and development into strategic design consultancy. This means I don’t code a lot. A prototype now and then in HTML/CSS/JS. But I think it’s good to get my hands dirty from time to time. I used to develop sites in WordPress, but haven’t done so in a long time. And it’s good to be back 🙂 Next to the Gutenberg plugin, I installed the Askimet and Jetpack plugin from WordPress.
A new world
I like the feeling of exploring a new world, see what the options are, see to what new ideas and initiatives this environment leads to. Systems create behaviors. I’m curious to see what new behaviors this system creates. Today I bought a diary of René Redzepi, the chef and co-owner of the most creative restaurant in the world: Noma. The book is actually three books: a recipe book, a photo book, and a diary. It reflects the day to day life at Noma. I started my journey at Medium two years ago with a series of notebooks (Service Design Notebook and Design Leadership Notebook) with the idea of creating a travel-journal-notebook of my journey in service design and design thinking. It resulted in a series of articles. But maybe I have to add in some more blogging, day-to-day thoughts, in addition to more finished articles? René Redzepi kept a daily journal to document his journey. Maybe I should do the same? What would that create? What would that lead to? A year of daily journaling? When to start? Any day is as good as the other. If not today, then when?
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The Day My Medium Account Got Suspended
Yesterday was a strange day. It was the day my Medium account was suspended. For reasons unknown, Medium decided to block all my posts from the outside world. I could see my own posts when I was logged in, but the rest of the world saw a 404 page.
Medium account suspended
I immediately googled “Medium account suspended” and landed on a post on Medium by Medium titled “Medium Rules”. There I found all kinds of reasons for suspending accounts ranging from violence to hate, harassment, spam, pornographic content, exploitation of minors and privacy violation. Needless to say, I did not recognize any of these points in relation to any article I have ever posted on Medium. I am a positive, unhateful, non-spamming type of person.
I did not receive any warning from Medium. No email. No notification. Nothing. I found out that my account was suspended because I posted a link to an article on LinkedIn. The link did not work. I looked into it and found that none of my articles were available on the Medium platform. There was no way to find out what caused the suspension. There was no way to remove the content that caused the suspension. Googling “Suspended Medium Account” also didn’t give me any useful leads. The only thing I found were articles on banned alt-right trolls. Needless to say, I am neither alt-right nor a troll.
In their rules
If it looks like you’ve violated our rules, we may send you an email and ask you to explain what you’re up to and why.Medium Rules
They didn’t. They suspended all my articles without warning. So I sent them an email asking what’s up. I am waiting for a respons.
Although Medium welcomes views from the broad spectrum of viewpoints, my account was suspended for reasons unknown. I immediately started thinking about what I could have done to break the rules of Medium, how I could have offended anyone in any way with any part of the articles I posted. The suspension started on the day I posted an article with the title “Conservatism And Progressivism In Design Today”. In the article, I was thinking about progress, technological developments, alternatives for following all the trends and how this applies to design. Could the excessive use of the word Conservatism have caused a red flag to pop up?
We welcome discussion from the broad spectrum of viewpoints. Nevertheless, to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for a wide range of people to engage in meaningful conversations, we prohibit certain conduct.Medium Rules
Illegal calls for action
Another thing I started experimenting with is a call to action at the end of my articles. I like writing articles for the sake of writing. But I also like to get in contact with like-minded people. So at some point, I included a call to action on my posts. At the end of the post, I thanked the reader for reading my article and invited him to connect on LinkedIn with me. This worked. Reminding people of the possibility to connect on LinkedIn generates more invitations. In my last two articles, I tried to up the ante. I also reminded people of the fact that they can express their opinion of the article they just read by pressing the clap button. YouTubers do it all the time. And I decided to give it a try. I don’t have a lot of data yet. But limited data seems to suggest that reminding people to clap leads to a higher percentage of people clapping articles. Maybe this was a bridge too far for Medium? There is something in the rules about that:
Do not ask for claps or include other calls to action, including gifs of clapping, requests for donations, email list sign-ups, or other links or embeds for the purpose of capturing user information or soliciting money.Medium Rules
I did not include the clap call to action to capture user information or money. I did it because more claps means more visibility on the platform, which means more people can benefit from my insights, which makes the world a better place 🙂
I’ll have to wait for a reaction from Medium to find out the exact reason for the suspension of my account. I believe that we can come to an agreement. I believe my account has been restricted in error.
If you believe your content or account have been restricted or disabled in error, or believe there is relevant context we were not aware of in reaching our determination, you can write to us at email@example.com. We will consider all good faith efforts to appeal.Medium Rules
But this suspension got me thinking about freedom of speech, creative freedom, filter bubbles and the power of large publications like Medium, Twitter and Facebook. We all know about the effects of Facebook algorithms on the recent Presidential Elections in the US. The algorithm of Facebook favors negativity. Posts from and about Trump were more negative than those of Clinton. Ergo more attention for Trump on Facebook. This is business. More interaction on the platform means more money so Facebook program algorithms to stimulate discussions and sharing. The effects of this on other systems like elections are logical but unwanted.
The case of the suspension of my Medium account will not have that much effect on the world at large, but this type of suspension has effects. The fact alone that your account can get suspended if you break any rule or interpretation of rule creates behavior.
The rules are not like laws. They are very high-level. The rules of Medium are communicated in less than 2000 words. So there is a lot of room for interpretation. Laws tend to use more words to explain what the rules are. The room for interpretation that 2000 words give Medium gives them power. Power to interpret their own rules. You can only appeal to Medium. There is no separation of powers. If you publish on Medium, you submit to their power.
The behavior that this creates is fear. Fear to offend anyone, fear to break some interpretation of some rule, fear that not humans, but robots and algorithms uphold the rules, fear that these algorithms count certain flagged words and don’t understand the context, the point, the story, the context. So every time somebody writes something on Medium, he is afraid of offending. Offending means suspension. A suspension means the loss of all content, followers, claps, interactions, highlights. If you have built up a following with years of work, it’s lost. The audience you built up is gone. Medium owns your audience and they can take it away.
Do I want to live in this type of world?
If you write on Medium, you become dependent on Medium. You are subjected to the power of the platform. They can set and change the rules. They determine what is offensive and what not. They own the audience. And every time you wander into a grey area, where you want to explore thoughts around
The answer is no. I don’t want to live in an environment where I have to fear suspension and loss of content and audience. I have no bad intentions and I don’t want to hurt people. But I want to be able to offend people a little bit from time to time. I want to be able to take an extreme standpoint from time to time. Because this helps critical thinking and the world ahead.
Back to WordPress
So I went back to WordPress. A couple of years ago I left WordPress for Medium because my WordPress blog was hacked and Medium offered a better User Experience. Now WordPress has developed a plugin called Gutenberg that will be the standard interface in the next generation of WordPress. This interface is similar to that of Medium. The User Experience is not totally the same and I liked to be in the cloud without the hassle of installing and updating and hosting a WordPress. But the creative freedom is worth the extra hassle. So I’m back.
The second thing I want to do on this WordPress blog is to post the article that probably got my Medium account suspended: http://dennishambeukers.com/2018/09/29/conservatism-and-progressivism-in-design-today/
The third thing I have to do is enhance this theme. I now used the Gutenberg theme, but it misses a couple of things I need. So back to the drawing board and to the code editor.
Conservatism And Progressivism In Design Today
Conservatism or progressivism is about choosing what new inventions, ideas
Conservatism kənˈsəːvətɪz(ə)m/: attitudes or opinions tending to favor established ideas, conditions, or institutions
The tendency to hold on
Holding on to things that are good in favor of new inventions is not necessarily conservatism if we use the common definition of conservatism above. The common definition of conservatism is about a tendency, a default of holding on to things of the past. It’s about a mindset. It’s about not usually liking or trusting change.
I like change. I change things all the time. I get bored if things stay the same for too long. But I don’t follow each trend. I:
- experiment with the new thing,
- analyse the systems that are created by the new thing,
- evaluate if this makes my life better or not,
- see if I can hack the new system,
- see if and how I can live without it and
- decide to participate or not.
Recently I switched back to a dumb phone after years of using a smartphone. I used this new invention, found that it added some positive things to my life but concluded that it created more damage than it did good, so I returned to a life without a smartphone. That is a different form of conservatism. It’s not fueled by a tendency to hold on to things of the past. It’s driven by systems analysis, critical thinking, and experimenting. There are many things in which I stick to good things of the past: I use LPs over MP3s, I cook food from scratch over microwave ready-to-eat meals etc. I see the advantages of new inventions but selectively chose. I don’t judge people who make other choices and hold no absolute values whether
Conservatism comes from Latin conservatus, past participle of conservare: to keep, preserve, keep intact, guard.
Some things are worth keeping, are worth protecting, even from popularity. Being popular is a big force in systems. But the fact that something is popular, doesn’t mean it is suitable for all. You could even argue that, if you leave
Populism ˈpɒpjʊlɪz(ə)m/: the quality of appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people.
Conservatism can be populism. Conservatism can be about closed-mindedness or about open-mindedness. The same goes for progressivism. Mindlessly following innovations is also a form of close-mindedness. It’s about challenging assumptions like “progress is good”.
Progressivism prəˈɡrɛsɪvɪz(ə)m/: the support for or advocacy of improvement of society.
Improvement is good. The questions is whether all new things are improvements or not. Sometimes it is better to keep things the way they are, and sometimes it is better to change things. Some things that might seem improvements are actually steps in the wrong direction. All new things come with benefits and downsides. If you want to change things, you first look at the upsides of new things. At some point, maybe some downsides come to the surface that you couldn’t predict in advance. Systems are complex and unpredictable. With all new things, some values of the old ways are lost. Sometimes this is not bad, sometimes it is. The best way would be to do things in a new way without loosing the values of the old ways. Not discarding the old ways, but let them co-exist with the new ways. Have a Spotify account, but also a record player. Read blogs and books.
If we take this train of though to design, we see two tendencies in the design world. There are some new thoughts about design that are getting some traction. These new ideas position design as a way to solve fundamental business problems by opening up the process becoming part of the business process. Some call it Design Thinking, others Service Design, Strategic Design or Business Design. And there are the old ideas about design that see design as making beautiful things in a closed studio setting. You could view this in terms of conservatism and progressivism, but that is not really productive. These are both views that can co-exist and even help each other. The beauty of design can benefit from a more open process and Design Thinking processes can benefit from the beauty of design.
Some things are worth keeping, worth defending. And in design this is the function of beauty, the craft of adding emotion to objects. In a business world that values performance, tasks and usability, the Design Thinking process is incredibly valuable. But it runs the risk of losing the beauty. The beauty is what powers design, what makes it truly powerful.
Some things are worth changing. And in design this is the value design can add to business. If business just sees design as beautifying interactions, it cannot tap into the true power of design. Design can dramatically improve the performance and creativity of business problem solving. But that requires the design process to be opened up and the connection of design to fundamental business elements. If designers stick to the idea of beauty from the studio, they have to way to access this power of design. If designers go the business problem solving way and trow away the beauty, they will be less powerful and not make a sustainable impact.
The most power resides in the combination, in the hybrids. If you take a look at robots. Robots can do things humans can’t. Humans can do things robots can’t. The most potent mix if humans can work together with robots. If we can keep the powers that make humans unique and add the powers that make robots unique, we can achieve the greatest wins. This is conservatism and progressivism in one. Keep things and let them co-exist with new things. get the best of both worlds. Do not mindlessly follow the new thing and discard the old. Do not fearfully hold on to the old and dismiss the new. Live boldly at the intersection of opposing forces.