Last week had more pep. I started it off feeling tired again due to this low-level cold that is 5% there – not a full cold – but after Kelly recommended I take Monday afternoon off and nap, I felt much better. Thank you, Kelly.
I completed 25 tasks last week, which is about the average. Last week I
- caught up with Kelly
- planned as a group of leads how we’ll give the team some feedback
- finalised plans for the last coaching session with Stefan
- joined the organisers’ retro for Design System Day to identify what changes might make it a better event (and better to organise) next time
- joined the mid-sprint review
- spent too much time with my head in Slack, which lead to me keeping it closed for most of Friday
- prepared the slide deck for Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s final coaching sessions
- drafted feedback for people on the team
- finished off the agenda for a team creative week
- joined the first lesson in the ‘Ethics in design’ course
- threw together a proof-of-concept and put it down again
- prepared some slides about the proof-of-concept for show & tell, telling people which user insights gave birth to the idea, and helping me frame how I’ll show it
- scoped an epic to migrate our website from one host to another (iterating on the light planning I did last week)
- helped someone at MOJ describe what a content designer does on a design system team
- put out several calls for teams to share their findings from researching and testing components and patterns
- spent time with David, who’s handing the WCAG 2.2 work over to me
- joined the GDS product management community catch-up and heard what Mind the Product’s conference was like, thanks to Tobi and Mehmet
- spoke to some folks at HMRC, following on from the service assessment, and applauded them on their assurance direction
- helped David deliver our third WCAG 2.2 inspection workshop, this time on Accessible Authentication
I achieved 1 of the week’s goals, progressed 2 other goals, and didn’t start 1 goal, but that wasn’t time-sensitive, so it was OK. A lot of my work was unplanned last week too, as illnesses on the team meant I had to cover other people or people reached out for help and advice.
At the start of the month, I set way more goals that I did previously: 14 in total! My achievement rate was 28%, which was lower than last month, but I did make good progress on 50% of my goals for the month, which I’m happy with. Combining the achievement and progression rate, I got about as much done this month as last month.
The 3 goals for the month I didn’t achieve feel like the most important to get done at some point, hopefully soon, but we’re taking chunks out of them by running some strategy days in Manchester next week. So perhaps I should just break them down.
Ethics in design
I’m doing this to fill a knowledge gap and keep abreast of developments in the design, data and technology industry. We weren’t taught ethics at my school, it wasn’t part of the curriculum, and it didn’t come up in my degree either. Literature comes at ethics from a different angle. It presents ethical dilemmas and asks you to dig into the characters, or the message the author is trying to get across, or how the author’s context might have informed the scene. But it doesn’t give you the tools to explore the dilemma, to weigh it up.
We didn’t learn it in Economics either. You’re sort of near it when learning about monopolies and oligopolies, or minimum fiscal and productivity thresholds for being a part of the EU’s monetary union. But no one ever said we were looking at a system which had impacts on people, though it could have been a good idea to acknowledge that.
The first class was really good, met my expectations. I’m glad it started with some homework, it helped me get my head into the subject…although I have been reading Ariel’s book so I’m not totally alien to the concepts. We had to reflect on Mike Monteiro’s article, A Designer’s Code of Ethics, the language of which was the thing that surprised me the most. Something close to vitriol that I imagine would scare and overwhelm new designers early in their craft. Ariel’s review showed how other language is available.
One really useful part of the lesson was how ‘ethics’ can seem like a big word, with big implications, like ‘strategy’, which can be scary or make people worried. But when you get down to it, we’re just talking about our values and seeking some alignment on those because we care about the impact our designs have. And most people care about not making a negative impact, not hurting people, it’s something we have in common. So let’s start there, with what’s common amongst us.
There are jobs with a clear, heavy ethical weight to them, like soldiers and surgeons, for example. They make life and death decisions! But as designers, product managers, developers and researchers, there are implications on millions of people from the technologies we make. So we’ve walked into that sphere and there’s some ethical weight to our jobs too. What we produce can cause people to decide how to live their lives.
At one point I asked Cennydd about the line between ethics and politics, and he presented a helpful framework: ethics is how we treat each other well; politics is how we structure society to treat each other well.
The most blazed note I’ve written is ‘A value framework is moral telepathy’. Helping you speak to someone or imagine how they’d react through a shared model or view of the world.
One super helpful concept to learn was multistability, from Don Idhe. You can design something for one purpose but it might get used in other ways. A hammer is a classic and simple example. The engineering of a machine gun was what made Remington really good at making typewriters too. “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck,” as Paul Virilio said.
The law of unintended consequences says you will always miss some consequences, so just design for the intended outcome. But we really should talk about unconsidered (not unintended) consequences: things that we haven’t bothered to try to foresee. The choice not to anticipate potential risks is itself an ethical choice.
It’s a small class, 6 or 7 students, which should mean we can have some good conversations. A few people didn’t speak much, though. I’ll try and encourage them in the next session, I’d love to hear their views and responses, which are no doubt different to mine – there’s people based in Europe and other, more far-flung countries on the course.
Went to my recently deceased grandmother’s home to help my mum and aunt with clearing the place out. She’d got rid of a lot of things when downsizing, so the majority of what was left was what she cared about (I presume). I took some small sentimental things – pictures, photographs, her rolling pin – and found a Braun Type 4746 AB1, a clock designed by Dietrich Lubs.
It’s the photographs I love the most. Pictures of my grandparents enjoying themselves as young people, before they had children. It’s them, it’s their characters, exuding fun and conviviality. Happiness after years of war. Moments of joy.
A steady return to marathon training. I’ve switched to running at lunchtime, so that I don’t have to deal with cold, rainy mornings, a trick that worked well last year. That’s disrupted when I have to go into the office, though, so I need to work that out. And it’s so nice to have lunch with colleagues, I’d rather not be running, alone. So maybe I’ll just stick with the cold and rainy mornings on those days.
Started planning a couple of fastpacking trips. One for April, one for May or June. I learned that Wales has some bothies – old stone houses and sheds used for shelter – so I’ll do a trip tying together all the bothies in Eryri. Should be fun! Then I’ll do Offa’s Dyke, south to north, too. I grew up close to the borderlands so it’ll be a nice long-distance trail to have under my belt.
- A Designer’s Code of Ethics, 7 mins
- Ruined by Design reviewed by Ariel Guersenzvaig
- Box101: Heat Death, 7 mins
- In 12 months you’ll be an AI organisation, like it or not, 3 mins
- On starting this
- Back to weeknotes after a hiatus: 23 to 27 October 2023, 3 mins
Got comments? Contact me, let’s talk.
Highlight of the week was getting big strategy thoughts out of my head and on a whiteboard. But did some thinking about asynchronous communication and ‘AI patterns’ too.
A 3-day week this week, all of it spent doing strategic work with colleagues in the Manchester office.
Slack is annoying, wine is nice, the product community rules.