Sunday, November 24, 2019

Surf Curse, Low Tier Connections & Making It

Weekly Update 2019-47: Bright, beachy tunes from Surf Curse, testing digital products with low-speed internet connections and everything that's great about reality television in NBC's crafting competition show Making It.

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman are back at it - hosting a reality competition show?

Music: Surf Curse
Sunset was as early as 4:50 or something terrible this week, and it's only getting earlier for a few more weeks. In alignment with my seasonal affective disorder, I need happy, summery music to lift my spirits a little. Surf Curse's sound isn't necessarily happy per se, but it feels like that good California rock associated with the beach and summer rays.

Their 2019 album Heaven Surrounds You is full of bright sounds, references to cult films of the two bandmates' youth, and a lust for life that floats the listener through December and into April (I hope).

I've been switching back and forth between two bikes because the weather can't make up its mind. It's nice to have options to continue biking safely through the gross months of the year, this is now making me feel like I should invest in a fatbike and never have to take days off biking. It's really not the cold that's the problem, just the snow on the ground compacting into slippery bumps in the road. Skinny tires definitely don't like it.

I also made a tuna casserole as a quick pinch dinner food (every ingredient can be stored in a pantry) and when I was heating some up at work, a coworker I didn't know made a point of complimenting it. This made me reflect on how much I've developed my cooking skills since I moved into this apartment four years ago. Tuna casserole is one of the easiest, "cop-out" meals I can make but someone thought it looked so good (three days later, stuffed into a tupperware) that they made a point to say so! :) It's the little things.

I can't believe it's mid-November, which means I get to plan out my DesignTO schedule. Yes, it's true the event is at the end of January but the schedule is always released around now and I get to plan my own series of events over the course of my favourite week in winter. I'm especially excited to see what events are happening in Liberty Village this year - there aren't too many but I can always count on one or two to visit after work on a random day. Who knows, maybe there will be an event IN my building?!

Speaking of my work building, Women in Tech Toronto will be using our big open space to host a women-centric networking and job search event, so I volunteered to help set stuff up and give tours of our office. Maybe someone will drop by who's interested in design as well.

Random Thought: Low Tier Connections
I was poking around in Chrome's Developer Tools the other day, as one does. As a rule of thumb it's always best to test digital work on a variety of real devices to ensure the experience is the same, but I do appreciate Developer Tools' built-in device toolbar in a pinch.

Readers using a desktop Chrome browser can open Developer Tools with these shortcuts:
Mac: cmnd + alt + I (then cmnd + shift + M to open the device toolbar)
Windows: ctrl + shift + I (then ctrl + shift + M to open the device toolbar)

That's all well and good, but I noticed something new in the device toolbar that really excited me...

Test with a low-tier internet connection?!

I personally haven't seen such a testing concept so easily provided before - designers and developers can test their digital products with mid-tier and low-tier internet connections. I find this absolutely revolutionary. It's actually a practice of inclusive design to take the time to provide a good experience for those who may not have access to 4G/LTE service. Whether you're in a spotty service area or have no data left in your plan, it is truly responsible of digital creators to take into account that not everyone will be able to load those fancy hi-res animations or videos (or even simple images).

Since I am a designer and not a developer, I recognize that there are most likely already products that do this sort of testing. Alongside practices of providing alternative, lower-size assets for those with limited internet speeds, I'm sure any developer worth their salt will be testing to ensure experiences are as optimized as possible.

But the magic of having this tool inside Chrome is that it's available more readily and easily to anyone with Chrome installed (most of my readers, from what I gather) and can provide a healthy dose of empathy with only one use.

That said - I dare you to try loading a favourite website on the mid-tier or low-tier speed. You'll be amazed with how little time goes by before you get frustrated that the page is "taking too long to load" - we're talking fractions of seconds here.

This feature puts things into a bit of perspective as well, perhaps we don't need everything to happen instantly, getting into the habit of waiting an extra half a second for a page to load might even be a good thing.

Inspiration: Making It
Reality television is mostly garbage in my eyes (I think its fans might actually agree with me), but every so often I find an exception to the rule. True magic can be found in some creativity-based competition shows, though the amazing completed works are often undercut with a negativity in working against one's fellow artisans.

Somehow, one competition show has at once removed that dark undercut of negativity toward one's competitors and created some of the most inspirational works I have ever seen. And did I mention it's hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman? Yep, the amazing duo from Parks and Rec fame are back at it.

I suppose this confirms my sneaking opinion that they were just playing their real personalities on the 2009-2015 sitcom. The duo treat the contestants with love and admiration as they share their project ideas. In between shots of the crafters, Poehler and Offerman go head-to-head in pun battles and other un-scripted banter.

The design of the challenges is also extremely dear. For example, the prize for each one is a unique handcrafted patch that the contestants can attach to their working aprons.

Contestants are challenged to work with reclaimed materials, and applauded when they craft ideas that viewers at home could easily recreate. Most notably was a wonderful children's playspace by contestant and interior designer Joanna Gick.

The rainbow is made of pool noodles wrapped in felt, which slide on and off a set of wooden dowels to be easy to put away when playtime is done.

There are so many things I like about this show, but the #1 lesson it teaches me is that competition shows don't need to be cutthroat. This show features contestants who share their allotted materials, who help to brainstorm ideas communally as they work, contestants who often finish their projects early and volunteer to help their opponents finish their projects in time. The atmosphere is one of love, and it feels extremely genuine.

Season one is available today, with season two airing on December 2 (Christmas comes early this year!)

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