Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Kurt Vile, Vancouver & Toolkit for Equality

Weekly Update 2019-11: Content warning for a LOT of Vancouver tourism photos. Twangy banjo rock from Kurt Vile, the proper timing of notifications for the best user experience and Pansy Lee's amazing gender equality toolkit. 

Erika and I went to Whistler!

Music: Kurt Vile
More of a twang than I usually swing with, Kurt Vile has been providing me the melancholy lo-fi folk rock tunes for my trip out West last week. He just has a real penchant for writing songs, really coming more into his own since his departure from his past band The War On Drugs.
At the age of fourteen, Kurt Vile was given a banjo by his father, with Vile noting, "I kind of wished [it] was a guitar. So I'd kind of just play it like a guitar anyway. I was really into writing pretty primitive tunes, and really into recording. I pretty much knew I was going to do music [with my life] then.
Such a prominent moment in his life, when he realized he knew what his calling would be. I find Vile's music sad, but still upbeat and joyous at times, and always in a different sort of way. Check out my favourite of the discography, his 2013 album Wakin On A Pretty Daze.

I made it to Vancouver and back in under a week with minimal damage, I do so reckon. I was sent by Vena to represent the Product Development department for some of our esteemed Vancouver clients on Thursday, which left the weekend for me to do some heavy tourism with my friends who have fled Toronto for the West Coast.

We ended off our workday with a delicious steak dinner - I don't think I've ever been that full in my life.



The sides.

Mac & cheese baked into a waffle. I would come here just to eat this.

Crazy desserts. The left one was maple cotton candy!

We topped off the evening with a stretch limousine ride for a ten minute journey back to our hotel - so unnecessary but so amazing.

The next day, I made a morning pitstop in the downtown core to visit the Vancouver Brainstation office. They happened to be taking a photo for International Women's Day, and graciously invited me to be a part of it. What a great moment!

After that, I fled across the water on the Seabus and into Erika's arms. She showed me around the Think Tank building where she goes to school, and then we hopped in a car with her classmate and friends northward to Whistler via Squamish. It was a lovely drive and a lovely place.

It's a mountain, alright!

Back to the city for Erika's evening class, and I was back across the SeaBus to the south side to meet Mia and Simon for dinner. We went to a super cool sushi restaurant with weird toy sculptures hanging from the ceiling...sort of like a spin on a hunting lodge? Really eccentric decor and amazing maki rolls.

I don't even know what this sculpture was.

One more SeaBus ride for good measure back to Erika's school, and we spent the night at her apartment near the school. She had class again the next morning (it never ends) so I explored North Van a bit on my own. Lonsdale Quay and The Polygon Gallery were both right beside Erika's school, and I wandered into a costume shop for fun too.

The Polygon Gallery lights up beautifully with diagonal lights at night.

The boardwalk.

I'm not sure what this was.

After Erika's class, her brother Kurt picked us up and whisked us to Surrey to see Erika's family and especially my nephew Ario Speedwagon aka the furry scarf-boy. He ran up to me and jumped all over me so I think he remembered me. Still as cute as ever.

What a furry goober. 

It was Erika's dad Karl's birthday, so I got to see her mom Deb's parents Karen and Bill as well. Almost the whole family except Alan, who's on a Eurotrip right now.

And that's it! I literally could not have fit anything more into such a short span of time. I also win the award for travelling eastbound on the worst day of the year - Daylight Savings time, when a three-hour jetlag magically becomes a four-hour jetlag. Bye Vancouver, hope to see you soon.

I get the distinct impression I will be required to lead band practice on Wednesday, which is always a barrel of anxiety...but I haven't done it in a while and I have enough time to prepare mentally, so I have no excuse not to do it. Plus, very regrettably I haven't attended in four weeks or so. Shameful.

Double up the drumming this week in repentence, as I'll be staying late tonight for some more kit practice. I can't wait to try out a B Boys song called Sound Frequency I've been listening to on repeat lately.

This Thursday is the penultimate class of the semester, and Friday marks the VentureOut Conference (another delegation for Vena), a very cool tech conference in celebration of LGBTQ and intersectionality. I've got to pick my tracks for Friday - which is hilarious since the conference has chosen EventMobi for their event app.

On Saturday I'll visit my parents and do a little Spring cleaning there, and Sunday will be another trip to Woodbine Beach for a guided walk of Winter Stations.

Random Thought: Well Timed Notifications
I've been designing a user activation experience for new users to be welcomed into the Vena platform. Between that and everything I've learned from the onboarding teardowns of esteemed Samuel Hulick, I can tell you that one of the most important things is well timed notifications.

Never send a verification email to your users right at the moment they sign up. Odds are at that point that they'll be exploring your app, and if you drag them into their inbox to verify their email, they're going to get distracted and not return to your app. Maybe ever!

A lot of notification user experiences are quite broken, so much that it was painfully easy for me to capture two issues in one screen last night.

What do you see here?

I see that it's 12:16am and I'm checking my phone one last time before bed as I set my alarm. I see a bunch of notifications and feel slightly annoyed at the "work" I have to do now before bed. But then I realize the first notification is just a reminder that Do Nut Disturb is on, and that I won't be bothered by any notifications...except this one? This feature is new in iOS 12 by the way, and it can't be turned off.

The second notification is a message from Stepz (don't laugh), an app that keeps track of my daily step goal. It's reminding me that I am close to my daily goal before the day is over. 600 more steps to go, and two minutes left to complete them. First of all, that was straight up not gonna happen as the kids say, as I am bed-ready and not about to leave to walk 600 more steps around the block in the cold night. 

Furthermore, this notification was from 18 minutes ago. I can't achieve that goal now, even if I wanted to. It's an extremely final situation, if you think about it. So why doesn't that notification just clear itself out at the end of the day? Don't shame me when there's nothing I can do. It has an expiry date.

Time is a huge factor in user experience and must be regarded in kind. Take time and strides to understand your users' feelings and attitudes when they enter your experience. And the entry may be earlier than you currently identify - long before they're online on your actual product.

Inspiration: Tech Needs More Men: Toolkit
I mentioned Pansy Lee last week and her inspirational talk about how men can be better allies in our strides toward gender equality. I have seen this over and over again as a barrier to this goal, interacting with men who are not being their best selves or helping to advance us all toward equality.

Pansy's toolkit for men to better arm themselves with knowledge and understanding of the facts about feminism and gender equality is an amazing approach to solving this issue. She brought up a very common problem through a now-famous scene from HBO's Silicon Valley:

The issue is that men, and especially white North American men, aged 18-50, have very little or more likely no concept of what it means to live without privilege or even that they have privilege themselves. Because of this, they are generally poorly armed with understanding or capability to identify or make strides to change the inequality. They don't experience it personally, so they don't know how to deal with it.

I love that this toolkit (created by Pansy, a woman) makes strides to understand and empathize with this group of privileged people, understanding that in a dark, twisted way, having so much privilege that you're blind to a lack of it, is in itself a lack of privilege. 

Take a look at the guide and see if any part of it can't help you to understand a little more about your fellow humans, no matter how you identify. Check it out here.

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