Monday, January 28, 2019

Grimes, Music Epochs & UXD Reactions

Weekly Update 2019-05: Grimes keeps on surprising us with multi-genre music, the many music epochs of my early life and conveying user experience gripes with a simple internet meme.

Music: Grimes
What can be said about Grimes that hasn't already been said? She is a music genius of her time. Claire Boucher, native of Vancouver and graduate of Montreal's McGill University, makes music that mixes elements of several genres including dream pop, R&B, electronic music and hip hop. She was described by Tastemakers Magazine as an "alien love-child of Aphex Twin and ABBA", which I think is a very special and apt compliment for a young woman from Canada putting out music and doing her own thing.

She wrote her own Spotify bio! No one ever does that. Also, shoutout to the line break tag. "<br>"

I urge you to check out her whole discography, though I started with 2012's Visions.

DesignTO has come to an end - I completed and filled out the feedback form, and attached my Google Map too. I'm curious to see if the view numbers go up from that, and then from my upcoming culminating blog post on my week. I suppose it may sound silly to say: I feel like I lived my best self while I planned and attended these events. I met lots of cool artists, designers and interested passersby, I trekked to four different neighbourhoods during a season in which I'd otherwise be wrapped up in a blanket burrito at home (currently reporting from said location), and I found some amazing inspiration.

I'm feeling really prepped for my User Interface Design workshop tomorrow. I realized the activity portion of the class is exactly the same as the one I teach in Week 6 (the Visual Design lesson), which I taught only 8 weeks ago. Plus I found my name and photo on the website. If you scroll down the page, they also promise snacks!

I remember having this photo taken four months ago and then never seeing it again. Here it is!


I'm gonna knock the socks off this BrainStation UI Design workshop tomorrow night, and then eat a bunch of snacks. Wednesday I am taking a personal day to have three doctor appointments in one day (all rudimentary), one of which is my long awaited physiotherapy appointment. Seriously, I'm about two years overdue for this appointment. I've been doing a lot of back exercises and I want to know if I've been improving. Plus, Karen has the magic touch to be able to crack my back the way I need it done.

This weekend, Vena is sponsoring Ellehacks, a women and non-binary hackathon taking place at York University. I'm pretty excited to head up there on Friday to mentor the participants in Design, especially since I know firsthand about the gender representation in tech in Toronto (or perhaps lack thereof).  And as an added bonus, I'm going to check out all the ways the campus has changed. I've been by on the subway, but never up beyond track level. I wonder if my wall decal is still hanging out at the Faculty of Graduate Studies?! I must go and see that.

And if that didn't make for a full enough weekend, I'm also attempting to help my sister in a puzzle competition at Fairview Mall. Yep, it exists. Every team of contestants goes home with a puzzle, so I figure we've already won.

In between all of that, I'll be staying a couple nights up with my parents, so I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and MarieKondo-ify my sentimental papers. I want to try to find a solid system that rings true to me for identifying how much joy-spark something has to give me for me to keep it, because I have a lot of paper ephemera. Mostly I'm hoping to find my paper hexaflexagon (probably the coolest thing I made in university).

This one is from the internet - my version has six visual interpretations of death and dying to discover!

Random Thought: Music Epochs
Marshall McLuhan's famous quote "The medium is the message" rings true for me in various parts of life, but none so strong as through music. When I look through my old CD collection, or scroll through the library on my old iPod, or cruise through my older Spotify Playlists, I see this media as part of the flavour of the music it holds.


Dictionary result for epoch

  1. a period of time in history or a person's life, typically one marked by notable events or particular characteristics.

I guess my different phases of music tastes can be mentally and (and physically or digitally) bookended by the media in which I collected them. Let's take a stroll through the timeline...

My dad's computer
The beginning of time - 2004
I was raised on an assortment of Dad Rock that, quite literally, my dad had on his old Windows computer. He used to get his music from an online library shared with his friend in the United States. I would listen to the music using Winamp (with my dad's selected Jimi Hendrix theme of course). I made a few ripped mix CDs from some of this music, which I still own. They're awful and amazing at the same time.

This was a very brief stint with the cheapest, crappiest music playing device you've hopefully never had the displeasure to use. I only had four songs (Two Backstreet Boys, One NSync, One Usher) and I listening to them constantly. It was my first foray into a portable music player.

2004 - 2008
I'm pretty embarrassed of my small collection of ripped CD-Rs ranging from things I picked off the Alt Rock shelf at the library to my first indie discoveries through the Wedge, to a series of regrettably terrible Mix CDs that were the most coveted giveaway each summer at overnight camp. It was a whole thing. This was also the era in which I would buy CDs at $20-30 a pop at Indigo and HMV.

iTunes/iPod Nano
2007 - 2011
I was very lucky to get my own computer around the time Facebook was starting to gain popularity, which I definitely used as a way to learn about new music. This music filled my iTunes library (those were the golden days of iTunes before it became bloatware). In 2007 I saved up enough money to buy a 3rd Generation iPod Nano and it became my workhorse for the next four years.

2011 - 2014
Quite a late adopter of my first smartphone compared to my peers, I got an iPhone 5 in 2011 and thus ended a long, storied relationship with my iPod Nano. I no longer needed to carry around an MP3 player and a phone, and it was wonderful. I continued to beef up my iTunes Playlists, though iTunes was taking longer and longer to open...

2014 - 2016
SoundCloud was an extremely formative time in my music listening youth...I look back on it fondly all those three years ago. I had been in an extreme rut concerning my love of electronic music. I was NOT into any mainstream EDM and couldn't find the words to describe the genre of what I did like. But then I found SoundCloud and was able to rekindle my joy for electronic music again. SoundCloud also showed me that I didn't really need iTunes as much as I thought. I had stopped keeping my library in order and barely ever even opened the program anymore. The SoundCloud app had its issues, but I lived with it. I was addicted and spent many an evening searching out the newest Disco House from Japan or Funk-Soul from Norway. Much of that era made it into this blog because those were my first years of strict weekly blog posts, recording my habits.

Insurance Measures (aka iTunes Library Corruption)
2016 - forever
Because music is so important to me, I have started taking measures to ensure I have backups in multiple places. Thank goodness I copied my iTunes playlists over to Spotify before my iTunes Library corrupted in 2016. That was a heavy blow, but I will be forever grateful to SoundCloud for softening as much as they did. When I heard rumours in 2017 that SoundCloud might be shutting down, I rushed to create a Spotify playlist with as many SoundCloud likes as I could find. That playlist is currently over 600 songs long, and I know all of them pretty much by heart.

2016 - present
With SoundCloud having freed me from my mental chain to iTunes, I was now a free agent in a world of Cloud-based music platforms. I landed on Spotify because it was the most popular, had the most performant interface, and honestly intrigued me with its lack of data (the complete opposite of iTunes). And it loaded super quickly. Nowadays I organize my playlists with extreme care, focusing moreso on classifying by feeling or emotion than anything else. This makes it really easy for me to access music that I love but that also fits every mood I need.

Even within this blog, the methods I provide for listening to the music in the first section pay homage to my medium of the moment. Here's a throwback to how I blogged about music in 2011:

I made this pie chart in Microsoft Excel. True story.

I suppose, rather than compare an image of my face from ten years ago, I'd rather focus on how my habits, technology usage and cultural consumption have changed. I wonder how I'll listen to music ten years from now...

Inspiration: UXD Reactions
For better or for worse, it seems like the best way to convey a concept today is with the use of a flashy meme.

Since their injection into mainstream culture, memes have been visual comparisons between our feelings or opinions on a subject with visual jokes or puns. I have a lot of gripes about user experience design and its mistreatment in products we use, and this Tumblr really encapsulates some of those gripes to a perfect tee.

Someone printed a CAPTCHA?!

I do my best to convey my work through complex methodologies and theoretical thinking processes, but sometimes it's best explained through a four-panel meme comic. Not only that, but these sorts of small slices of user experience are a welcome reminder that we must keep our users in mind to make true improvements. Check out more at UXD Reactions.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Weakerthans, Music Process & Stamen and Pistil Botanicals

Weekly Update 2019-04: The winter snowfall always reminds me of Winnipeg indie-rockers Weakerthans, noting the process and journey over the final product in the art of music-making and the simply lovely afternoon I spent at Stamen & Pistil Botanicals.

Music: Weakerthans
Well, true winter has finally come. Along with the penguin shuffle down unsalted, icy sidewalks comes the perfect music pairing: Winnipeg's own Weakerthans. It is Canadian Rock in its purest form, the twill of country-lilting guitar and that peculiar sound of the lead singer's voice that you just can't quite put your finger on...and the lyrics about biting your mitt off to show a transfer as you get on the bus. I love it. In perfect unison with the heavy snowfall is my favourite album, 2007's Reunion Tour. Take a listen:

My second semester teaching at BrainStation has kicked off, and I'm feeling like I'm hitting my stride. Some of the students came up to talk to me after class about providing their own topic for their app (as opposed to picking from a provided topic list), and their ideas got me really excited. 

I finally made time to drum at work this week, and what a time it was. I haven't touched the kit since mid-December when we had our office Holiday party, and it took some maneuvering to get the kit into a shape to play. I couldn't bring myself to drag the thing clear across the room to the private music corner (so to speak), so I was subject to the eyes of a few passersby on the other side of a glass wall...not ideal but I got over it. I'm learning an interesting beat for No, No, No! by Parquet Courts. The song is pretty short and the drum beat something simple, but it's a good foray back into the "rub tummy, pat head" kind of stuff. I tend to have trouble when the bass drum goes off the 1-3 (which this one does), so it's a good challenge for that issue.

I'm already halfway through my favourite week of the year (DesignTO Festival) and I am literally floating through the week in a cloud of inspiration. From Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone to Artscape Youngplace to the new MOCA to Dundas West/Roncesvalles to the King East Design District to a secret office tour in Liberty Village, it's almost too much. And that's only what I've done SO FAR. I can't believe what wonderfully delicious specimens of fine art and design my own eyes have devoured, with more to come on the weekend with my mom. 

Of course DesignTO continues, plus it'll get its very own blog post with all the amazing things I've seen over ten days. I also just really want to show off my custom-made festival Google Map.

I volunteered to lead a one-off Intro to UI Design course for BrainStation on Tuesday, which I take as a sort of rite of passage. Those one-night crash courses were favourites of mine when I was starting out in the industry; I liked to hop between them at all the different learning centers around the city core and get a taste of Data Management or Front End Development or Product Management from week to week. Now I get to be on the other side of the class, facing all the bright faces. Nice!

Random Thought:
I've been reflecting a lot on my own creative process lately, due to an influx of inspiration from the DesignTO festivities as well as my work-goal of improving some of our design processes at Vena. So it would only follow that I'm starting to see process examples in music as well.

One example is the musical style of LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy tends to build up these lengthy songs over 5-6 mintues, just layering sound slowly...before a huge culmination when the proverbial "beat drops". I think the only way a song of his, like, say Dance Yrself Clean could be so impactful is because you arrive at the destination after understanding the buildup and where the theme of the music actually came from. It's more about the journey or process than the culmination, though that's always really good as well. It feels well-established and built-up.

I also love what Harrison has been doing on Twitter lately. He made a decision to write a new loop every day in January, and it's no surprise that they're all awesome so far. Since it's a short video, I get the added bonus of seeing his facial expressions when he's working, and his setup. I do wish the segments were slightly longer or contained more of an explanation of each daily experiment, but I get that's not the point, it's more about the off-the-cuff nature of it. His method also keeps him focused on the actionable goal of making new music.

I'm not really a songwriter by nature, I do love to play other people's songs though. So I guess I'm trying to discover the songwriter in myself by exploring the process of others. Or maybe I just like to see when people show their work behind the scenes. That is the essence of a UX designer, anyway.

Inspiration: Stamen & Pistil Botanicals
Nestled into a hip little strip of Dundas West is the cutest little plant boutique I have ever seen. I originally learned about Stamen & Pistil through their wildly popular Toronto-themed "Trash Panda Terrarium", and they've been on my list to visit ever since.

My dear ex-roomie Erika surprised me at Christmas with a voucher for Stamen & Pistil, in the form of a Kokedama-making workshop. Now, what is a kokedama, you may ask? Kokedama directly translates as "moss ball" from Japanese. It is usually a single plant whose roots are encased in a ball of moss-wrapped soil. This type of plant doesn't require a pot, and you water it by allowing the ball to sit in a bowl of water every once in a while to gather the moisture it needs.

And I got to make two of them!

It was simply lovely to spend time with Karen and Maria at Stamen & Pistil for a couple of hours and get my hands dirty in some kokedama soil. The shop is extremely beautiful and stuffed to the brim with all kinds of greenery.

If you need some brightness in your dreary winter, look no further than a stroll through this store. If you've got any sort of affinity for plant life, you'll have a smile on your face in no time. Check out their website for more info.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Maribou State, Recipe Layouts & Slack's Redesign

Weekly Update 2019-03: Dreamy tunes from Maribou State, the anatomy of a recipe and Slack's new logo.

Slack's got a new logo! More on that below.

Music: Maribou State
England-based Chris Davids and Liam Ivory make up the dreamy tunes of Maribou State. Ambient piano and synth music back a series of guest vocalists to comprise a lovely set of tunes that are really good to study along to. Their music is peaceful yet exciting when it seeks to be; it's a really good range of upbeat and downbeat tempo.

Check out their newest album, Kingdoms in Colour.

Maribou State comes to Toronto's Velvet Underground on February 16.

I got to see two of my favourite ex-coworkers from EventMobi earlier this week and get the old team back together with Feng and Scott. It was obviously awesome to catch up, but also unexpectedly to reminisce and realize how much I've grown in my professional design practice since then. Nice!

I also played a lot of board games this weekend, both with a group of friends and with my family. With the snow so delayed I have been feeling lucky that it's still easy to get around and spend time with the people I care about. I really hope this doesn't mean we'll have terrible snow in April.

I start my new BrainStation semester tomorrow! I'm pretty excited to level up in my teaching and public speaking skills. I've already added all the new students to my UX Slack channel and read up on their profiles, so I'm excited to meet them in person.

Random Thought: Recipe Layouts
I've been doing a fair amount of cooking to recipe lately, which got me thinking about the user experience of a recipe. It's not a new concept to this blog - we all know that recipes consist of two separate lists: ingredients and steps. But why are they separated? Supposedly because you gather your ingredients as Step Zero, aka the mise en place. Well that's fine and good, but am I meant to do all my measuring at this point as well, and dirty up all my little pinch pots before everything just ends up in one big bowl or pot anyway?

So many pinch pots to wash...

A radical notion: it's completely ridiculous that these two pieces of the recipe - the ingredients and steps - are separated, as though I have time or inclination to measure out all my ingredients into tiny little bowls before I use them in their step. Nope, I'm consistently moving my attention between the two lists, trying desperately to remember which step required which of the six of the spices I am trying to collect from my spice drawer. Really I feel that the measurement of ingredients should be repeated inside each step; such as

3) Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin to the bubbling mixture.

With the right type hierarchy and layout, you don't even need an ingredient list at all. I'm for the integrated recipe layout!

Then again, maybe it's my anarchistic tendencies in the kitchen that are getting me into trouble. I've been wondering if I can get better at free-pouring and eyeballing measurements. You may remember the giant cookie I made last week - well that was baked entirely without measuring spoons, eyeballing much of the recipe's ingredients. I don't bake much due to these anarchistic tendencies to stray from exact measurements, though the cookie turned out really well and the seven people who ate it did not get sick. So while my eyeballing freepour skills seem to be tried and tested, I think I can practice easily with water, which is a hilarious way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Inspiration: The New Slack
Long gone are the wondersome days of MSN Messenger, in front of which I would spend hours chatting, doodling, playing Minesweeper Flags, creating custom emoticons and updating my status. Facebook's Messenger has attempted to fill that void in the heart of many millennials such as myself, and come up quite short. It lacks the pure expression and joy that chatting with twenty of your friends in at least as many conversations over MSN would bring.

And then I met Slack. In the summer of 2014 I started an internship at a digital design agency in downtown Toronto and immediately understood the joy of what a well-designed messaging system could do for the culture in the office workspace. So much more than a tool to cut down on email communication (my least favourite), Slack is simple to use, witty, customizable and has quickly become the industry standard of intra-office communication.

And they've just redesigned their brand with the illustrious Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram out of New York City. The new logo:

Versus the old logo (directly above)

I had a penchant for the old logo but will no less than 11 colours, it needed a simplification. The new logo carries the same wit and charisma of the old one, but with an air of modernism that is simple and breezy. I would love a logo tshirt in that beautiful plum purple like no other tshirt I currently own. 

Yet of course, there are already many dissenters online. Many say that the new logo has lost the charm of the old one, stripping the brand of everything it had going for it: the iconography of the letter S, the hash symbol, the plaid. It cannot be argued that no one else has even thought of branding with plaid in the past decade; it's so inherently well-ingrained into the brand that it's hard to see them losing it.

Though I suppose those who know and love Slack are no longer the target of the brand; it's heading after the larger companies and cleaning up its image. No matter what you think you see in the negative space.

Read the design statement on Pentagram's website.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Point Point, Hands-Free Rideshares & Clothing with Pockets

Weekly Update 2019-02: Upbeat yet melancholy electronica from Paris' Point Point, voice-based interfaces that give rideshares that true bus-feel and the quiet revolution of adding pockets to women's clothing.

Music: Point Point
Paris-based four-piece Point Point prove that France electronica is more than just Daft Punk and Justice. Made up of Aazar, LH4L, Nömak, and DVTGD, Point Point has been making a name for themselves with their Filet Mignon compilation series. I like their music because it's upbeat and melancholy, hard and somehow soft at the same time. Point Point passes my litmus test of being good music to cycle to, which I consider quite high praise.

They don't have a ton of music on Spotify yet, so start anywhere.

Last Saturday marked another in the books for my craft day with my sister and our friend Ruth-Ann. We hot glued lots of buttons and bottlecaps onto mannequin forms and made a Wendy Kou-inspired big cookie.

That pull tho.

I also hosted the most recent meeting of my Feminist Book Club - we read Bad Feminist Essays by Roxane Gay. I appreciated Gay's take on how it's the responsibility of the media to reflect the proper treatment of women in popular culture, and how we as consumers should demand that the media do so. We discussed the portrayal of women in our favourite television and movies, as well as intersectionality and feminism. It's always a good group of people to be around. I can't wait for the next one.

I met up with Britney, my teaching assistant for the next semester of BrainStation. I'm getting excited for class to start again, especially since I'm still able to bike over there from work for the time being.

I attended my first BrainStation Instructor Onboarding yesterday evening. I suppose I had missed the last one due to being added to the team on short notice, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Honestly I found it quite inspired and appreciated the care that went into planning such an event. All the part-time instructors were invited to have dinner, network and have a mini "class" on teaching, complete with a presentation and workshop component. We were also given personalized name cards (did they pick a strategic seating arrangement?) and everyone got a personal shoutout in the slide presentation. Instructors with one or more years of experience were labeled as such, as well as the top instructor with 41 cohorts under his belt. I honestly cannot even fathom fitting that all into the amount of years BrainStation has even been running. Anywho, the exercise was useful for my class and I felt that the company really values me. The brainwashing worked.

My second cohort of Brainstation starts next week. I'll be going through my notes from last semester and making sure I read through the student profiles before class.

I have some free time this weekend and definitely stuck in the crafting way so maybe I'll finally do the cross-stitching kit I bought a couple years ago. I strongly believe that winter is for hibernation and that's what I intend to do.

Random Thought: Hands-Free Rideshare
On the morning of a snowy January 3rd, I was greeted by a friendly notification from Lyft that I had $5 off my next ten rides. Now, the bike ride to work is not too far or dangerous, but there are downhill parts that present their own special challenge. And if I can take a Shared Lyft to work for literally 10 cents more than TTC, I'm gonna do it. It's basically a bus, anyway.

During that ride and the subsequent few I have used with the discount, I always notice the same thing. The drivers use phone holders that attach to the dashboard, but are still using their phones in a non-handsfree manner and taking their eyes off the road to do this.

In the same vein as food bike couriers being dangerous and daring cyclists, I am disappointed in the system that forces its employees to make these unsafe choices. Yes, everyone has free will to make their own decisions (like swerving through heavy traffic to deliver one more meal or concentrating on one's phone instead of the road to pick up one more passenger), but this is the perfect situation for good design and technology to remove the aspect of danger and improve the experience for everyone.

If voice interfaces are the future, this seems like the perfect application for it. Not only would the driver no longer need to be distracted by their phone screen, but everyone in the car would have automatic updates about what's going on - just like a bus. That's what I want, anyway.

Inspiration: Clothing With Pockets
In a world that is slowly but surely moving toward non-binary gender norms, I hope we also manage to do away with the ridiculous features found in women's clothing that are somehow exempt from most men's clothing.

To me, the most frustrating "feature" is the lack of pockets on most women's clothing. I rarely deign to carry a purse around because I find it cumbersome and don't bother to carry around more than would fit in a normal set of jeans pockets, but it's true that most women's clothing does not feature pockets. Even on jeans and jeans-like pants, some pockets are fake and sewn together for the look, which is even more angersome.

It's such a normalized thing that I even see it in myself: pockets are a superpower. Whenever someone compliments my outfit, I MUST inform them that it has pockets. It's newsworthy. According to this meme I found in a Dungeons & Dragons group, a dress with pockets has magical powers.

As I mentioned before, we are in a time of great political change, and some people are breaking the norm. One such example is the dress line of American clothing designer Svaha. All of the dresses have pockets, and manage to make a flattering form of a dress at the same time. It's really not that difficult of a concept to grasp. 

I also really like that Svaha's website navigation isn't organized by gender norms (i.e. dresses are not under a "women" category), which is to say that all of their clothing is for humans. I honestly just find the idea of gendered clothing so boring - wear whatever is most comfortable/makes you the most happy. 

Some might argue that we need the gender labels on clothing in order to locate the fits that meet our body types, but I think the current labels are not doing our figures enough justice. In order to find clothing that truly fits, why stop at a binary of men's/women's? Why not apply some logic and science, and use measurements? Heck, we could even find non-gendered terms to generalize how about small, medium, large?

Anyway, while labels do matter, the thing I want most in all clothing is POCKETS. They are the great equalizer.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Perfume Genius, Hand Tutorials & Experimental Features

Weekly Update 2019-01: All about watching others complete tasks to understand their behaviours and goals. It's not creepy, it's design! Necessary sad music from Perfume Genius, learning by watching hand tutorials and Spotify's experimental features.

Music: Perfume Genius
Commonly found on playlists with titles like "Sad Indie" and "Happy Cry Music", Perfume Genius has started to catch a wave with his range of soulful ballads and swaggering glam rock. Also know as Mike Hadreas, the Washington-based singer/songwriter brings forth topics of homophobia, sexuality, and domestic abuse with poetry, artful craft and often brutal honesty. Through pain, I get the feeling that Hadreas shares his catharsis with his audience. It makes for some special music.

I suggest starting with 2017's Grammy nominated No Shape and working backwards to earlier work.

I made a cute little ladder for my hoya!

She's got a lot more vertical energy going now.

I've also been trying to figure out the smart plug equation I mentioned last week. If This Then That actually doesn't support the idea of "two thises" aka two requirements needing to be met to trigger a "that". So I may have to see about a custom system like I've been reading about on Reddit. Yes, sadly my idea is far from original and many have made an attempt at turning on a heater based on location AND outside temperature.

I did manage to get to the IMAX Cinesphere to see Interstellar, and it was just as good as the first time. I've learned my lesson to get there early though because the theatre was PACKED and we had to crane our necks a bit to see.

All in all, it was a great holiday week once Christmas came and went. I got to see a bunch of friends I hadn't seen in a while and spent New Years on the 52nd storey of a condo overlooking the Scotiabank Arena (which is how I can tell you they've wasted no time putting two huge LED Scotiabank signs on the roof of the arena.

My New Years Resolution is to talk to more clients at work. I find it so interesting to listen to their processes and flows, and how our product is usually around 80% of the way to being everything they need. These users LOVE our product and honestly want to help us to make it better for them.

I've also set an Official Crafting Day with my sister and our friend Ruth-Ann for this weekend. We haven't had a day like that in a while and there's lots to do. I'm warming up my glue gun as we speak. We're also going to attempt to make one of Wendy Kou's amazing cookie masterpieces. It's really her lovely videos showing her hands breaking open the cookies that make it for me. Watch them here.

Kou often breaks her cookies open on camera to show the surprise fillings.

I am hosting my book club next week (as well as moderating) so I've been reading like mad to finish the book and start piecing together the discussion topics this week. If you haven't heard, we're reading a collection of essays called "Bad Feminist" by Roxane Gay. I appreciate her tone and take for all sorts of different topics on feminism, especially what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century while also consuming popular culture and loving the colour pink.

Random Thought: Hand Tutorials
Most likely since it's my literal dayjob, I love to creep on people around me on the subway and see how they use their phones. I know I shouldn't be doing it but I'm not retaining any personal information if I can't remember what I ate for breakfast this morning so I think it's a moral wash. I really do love to see how people use apps in their own personal ways, especially when it's an app I use too.

I specifically remember watching a woman use a dating app (highly entertaining) and inadventently show me a feature I had never discovered on my own during a short stint with said app. It was really inspiring - it made me wonder if there might be some kind of following for a YouTube channel that shows you a power use of different apps. Watching and replicating is one of the best ways to learn (certainly one of my favourites) so why not learn the quickest way to do things so you can spend less time on your phone, use less battery power, be more productive with your time, anything. I would definitely be able to make a how-to power user video for Bunz - I have a bunch of replies saved to my keyboard and have the numbers to back up my smooth trades.

The only thing I'm missing is a pretty pair of hands!

Inspiration: Experimental Features
While some people complain that Spotify hasn't released many new features in the past year and certainly doesn't allow the user much access to their listening data beyond a yearly summary, I did manage to stumble across something new (to me) the other day.

Experimental features?!

Don't get too excited; there are only two of them at the time of this publishing. The Affinity Survey allows users to take a short survey to sharpen Spotify's algorithm for providing them new music that aligns with their taste - and you get a new customized playlist out of it too. The other feature, Classical Works, is a tab on artist pages that can be optionally turned on to provide more depth and information (Classical music only). I turned it on in the hopes that Spotify would throw me more Classical music, but no such luck yet. 

Neither of these features are earth-shattering to me (honestly, why can't the Classical Works tab just always be turned on?) but I really do appreciate the experimental nature of development, and while Spotify hasn't been showcasing it too much to the public, this feels like a step in the right direction. 

Back when iTunes wasn't terrible bloatware that updated so often that it corrupted my Music Library (ten years of listening history and playlists down the drain), I did appreciate the flexibility it provided in allowing users to customize their own listening data and manipulate the service in unique and personalized ways. Smart Playlists are just one of the examples of this. 

Spotify's outward stance is arguably the opposite of what iTunes once was, freeing its users of recorded data like how many times they've played or skipped a song. I do like the idea of simplicity, especially in an interface that is the visual representation of a non-visual product (music), but Spotify generally leaves something to be desired in my self-reflection of my music tastes. So when I see something literally labelled as "experimental" inside the Spotify interface, I get pretty excited. I wonder what they've got cooking for 2019.