Ink Café

A couple photos of one of my favorite places to drink my favorite beverages with a side of cheesecake. I haven’t yet found a coffee shop that compares – certainly nothing in Charlottetown. As I contemplate our relocation here I realize that my interest in having a hobby roasting coffee beans may take on a more urgent need.

Coffee is one of my favorite subjects on my instagram feed, including my many visits to Ink Café in Hsinchu.

The above photos are from Inks’ own Instagram photos.


Why you need to code

Recently I have yet again fallen in to the trap of trying to find a ready made solution to an easy to solve problem.

My portfolio website was quickly put together years ago and has languished ever since. From the time it was launched the extremely slow load times have made it embarrassing – it is a wordpress theme created by a talented German developer living in New Zealand. She has a love for JS loaders which for a host of reasons make each page take minutes, yes minutes, to load.

These past few weeks I have wanted to get a feel for employment opportunities here in Canada so a fast simple site is a good option as a way of introduction. My current site just won’t do.

Seeing as I have a lot of things occupying my time and thinking, my mental bandwidth has limits, and that I’ve let my web development skills languish somewhat, I chose to seek out a ready made template, thinking that I could then just focus on the typography, message, and load times.

First stop was the original developers themes but unfortunately, though matching my minimalist sensibilities, most suffer from the same load problems and they also have a host of usability issues.

Squarespace looks promising, but they also suffer from usability issues. Most of my work leans towards text vs. lovely art directed imagery, unless of course you find UX reports set in Times New Roman attractive, so their themes haven’t worked. ANd as soon as you step outside their defined templates, things become messy and difficult.

The point is all of the time I have spent trying to massage someone else’s work into something that would work for me I could have developed my own – except at the beginning it’s often difficult to see it that way.

In favor of prototyping for iOS I’ve let my web development skills fall by the wayside. This year I’ll work on polishing these skills so that I can quickly put together little projects without wasting time trying to fit some general purpose template into my needs.

Being able to code saves time.


Prince Edward Island Reverse Culture Shock

The reverse culture shock W-curve was developed by John and Jeanne Gullahorn. Upon arrival in the “home” culture, the returnee experiences a “honeymoon” period where all that is grand about home seems to shine through. Visits with old friends and family are refreshing, and you may notice some exciting changes. The honeymoon period doesn’t last long, though, as cultural differences and the stresses of reentry continue to mount. For people not expecting reentry stress, the challenges can be even more severe, plunging repatriates into the pit of reverse culture shock. As returnees cope with the cultural differences of their home culture and manage the logistical tasks, they climb up the slope of re-adaptation and again regain their psychological stability. As with initial culture shock, the duration of this phenomenon varies from person to person, but the phenomenon itself is prevalent among returning members of the foreign affairs community.
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When working in China I’ve often looked forward to the time when I would leave, now that I back in Prince Edward Island I’ve been missing some of the differences that set the places apart.

I’ve been doing more than my far share of moaning, complaining and generally far too critical of all things local of late. Which is to say for the first time I am experiencing reverse culture shock. Over the past 18+ years the majority of my experience on *the Island* has been on holiday, always immersed in the honeymoon period, but now that I have returned to live the experience is naturally entirely different. Here are some of the differences I am adjusting to after almost 19 years in China and Taiwan:

  • No one seems to reply to email – of all the email I have sent to local businesses and government none have replied. I’ve often thought that email was broken, and I guess this proves it, as despite advising you to get in touch via email, the most I have gotten is an unrelated automated reply.
  • The weather makes training difficult. This is my first Canadian winter experience since I left. It’s cold. I opted for a membership at a local gym vs. the hefty investment in winter running gear required to survive running in -10 temperatures.
  • Sugar sugar sugar. I tend to make most meals myself and rely on whole unprocessed foods but in the few times I’ve tried a few treats I’ve almost gagged on the amount of sugar — even spicy Chinese style food hurts my teeth.
  • Mobile phone plans tend to emphasize voice and text messaging – I haven’t used either regularly in years. In fact the phone app isn’t even on my home screen. It’s a data device for me and most people I know; communication is via WeChat, iMessage, FaceTime and others. The plans themselves are easily twice as expensive as what I pay in Taiwan and China. Data speeds are ok.
  • At many places cash is still most convenient. In China I grew accustomed to never needing to take cash with me – everything was paid with my mobile. Even little fruit stalls in a market allows for payment via WeChat wallet. Here in PEI my pockets are flooded with change, it’s a never ending stream of metal, and this annoying nuisance even has resulted in huge innovative machines at the grocery store where it will sort and give you real money in exchange for a fee. Splitting a bill here also requires far more work than simply sending money via mobile.
  • Online shopping seems far less prevalent here. In China I would order everything via mobile and despite living in a rather remote location it would be arrive quickly; it was almost a nightly habit. In Taiwan, items would arrive within 24hrs. The few items I felt like ordering here all required 2 weeks to just prepare the order, then another length of time to arrive at my door. I understand that this is a big country but surely orders could arrive within a week. I ordered a razor 3 weeks ago and it’s still stuck in some clearing centre somewhere. Online grocery shopping doesn’t seem to exist.
  • Jobs. I always knew the job market was … difficult on PEI, otherwise so many wouldn’t leave, but I hadn’t really thought just how challenging an environment it is for design all over Canada. The economy here really is different and it takes a great deal of time to really understand the fact that there aren’t a seemingly unlimited number of companies “making things”.
  • Big box stores abound. I suppose that there are similar problems in Taiwan, but you soon get tired of dropping in to each and every big box store just to grab an item or two (and you can’t buy online). I really don’t see the attraction of all the big box stores, but I guess this just requires better planning skills. Taiwan’s convenience stores really are the best.

These are just little things – there are many habits that need to be changed and it’s just a matter of time. There are a whole host of other deeper cultural differences which I face, or observe, which will may never be adjusted to, but like arriving to a foreign country, I’m sure I will eventually accept or move on.


5 Talks on Empathy

Empathy, the essential element of good design.

To understand someone’s worldview that is foreign to yours is the hard work of being human. We need space to critically think and also have the support of people who possess a compassionate understanding so that our assessments aren’t entirely self-serving.

…five talks … that teach the beauty of empathy in multiple contexts: leadership, product design, social change, technology, and for the people you work with (including yourself).

5 Talks on Empathy That Will Change How You Connect and Create


It was shallow thinking to maintain that numbers and charts were the cold compression of unruly human energies, every sort of yearning and midnight sweat reduced to lucid units in the financial markets. In fact data itself was soulful and glowing, a dynamic aspect of the life process. This was the eloquence of alphabets and numeric systems, now fully realized in electronic form, in the zero-oneness of the world, the digital imperative that defined every breath of the planet’s living billions. Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole.
Don Delillo, Cosmopolis: A Novel (Scribner, 2003).


創造行為

“創造行為”的結果是一種產品,這種產品的價值大致可以用“新穎性”、“原創性”和“適應性”來進行評價。“創造行為”,或者說“創造過程”指的是一連串的事項,包括形成最終產品的腦力創作。有些文化(特別是現代西方文化)僅僅聚焦於產品本身,而不太重視創造者創造產品的過程。“創造過程”通常被視為一連串的線性事項,這些事項將個體從一個已知的起點帶入一個新的領域。在理想的狀態下,這個新的領域盡可能遠離起點。這種觀點與“東方”的觀點形成了對比。在東方的觀點中,創造性的關鍵是過程,而不是結果。創造的過程不是線性,而是環狀的,並且是以“啟發”為導向的。它涉及與更廣泛的現實相連接、重新配置或重新發現已有的元素。在這種方式下,尊重傳統與創造並不矛盾,因為“創造行為”正是為已有的元素找到新的解釋、給老舊的觀念和做法帶來新的氣息。

基於Todd Lubart的研究。


Design Creates Meaning (中文版)

“我們身處一個‘情報’時代,面對無數的選擇。由於我們獲取資訊的渠道五花八門,越來越多的人開始自己進行研究,進而自己作出判斷和決策,而不再依賴專家和權威。然而,資訊爆炸的另一面是:多達99%的資訊都屬於垃圾資訊,沒有任何意義或不可理解。所以,我們需要反思我們所提供的資訊,因為人們渴望得到更精細、有用的資訊。想要在當今的世界取得成功,我們需要精選出我們所需要的具體資訊,然後把這些資訊應用於我們的實際工作中。”
摘自Richard Saul Wurman所著的《信息焦慮症2》

數據
我們周圍充斥著未經處理的原生數據。儘管很多人都在說這些數據,但它們並不是我們這個時代的驅動力,而只是一些相互關聯的積木塊兒。未經處理的原生內容或數據的意義是極其有限的。
事實上,只有經過轉化的數據才具有實用價值,而原生的數據毫無意義可言,唯一有用的地方可能就是緩解人們生活中的焦慮罷了。

真正的資訊是意義的開端。
真正的資訊是把數據放入某種語境中,同時在表達和呈現中加入思考。從“數據”到“資訊”的過程意味著從“感官認識”到“概念認知”。
如果不對原生數據進行處理和轉換,那它就一文不值。

知識
“知識”與“資訊”的區別在於“知識”的複雜性決定了你需要對它進行學習和研究。舉例來說,一個學生如果想學到某一方面的知識,他就需要通過不同的渠道、不同的角度獲取相同的數據,並且通過自己的實際體驗來學習。“知識”無法由一個人轉給另一個人,而是必須通過個人自己的學習來獲得。

“資訊設計”是一門“將原生數據轉化為資訊”的學科,可以說是“知識構建”的一個載體。


From “The case for designing offices more like bars“:

Face-to-face interactions increase empathy, which is a cornerstone of trusting relationships. “Patterns of face-to-face engagement and exploration within corporations were often the largest factors in both productivity and creative output,” says Sandy Pentland of MIT’s Media Lab in his book Social Physics. Neuroscience also backs up these ideas. In her book Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glasser states that when you are connecting face-to-face, “Mirror neurons are firing off, forming a bridge of insight and empathy with others.” Glasser explains that these “exchanges within our trust networks make us feel more positive, open, and closer to others…Strong bonds of trust serve up a cocktail of the brain’s feel-good natural chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.”
Therefore, to make workers happier in both social and professional structures at work, we need to understand how to manufacture more eye-to-eye happenstances.

Click bait article title aside, nothing beats face-to-face interactions, especially in multi-cultural, multi-lingual teams. Our dependence on chat software for communication is not a strength nor an advantage, it’s a weakness.


Get Out Of Your World Of Expertise

The most inspirational people, not just inspirational, but the best people period, that I have had to good fortune to work with or know have all been experts in more than one discipline. An engineer who was an expert in classical music, a designer who could play the violin, a doctor who could play the drums; all were multi-dimension and great at what they did. These kind of people are a joy to be around too.

Throughout school, I was laser-focused on learning everything I could about design. When I came to IDEO, this passion for design was no longer something that made me unique. It’s what you know beyond design that allows you to come up with a solution that your peers haven’t considered. Good design skills are most powerful when they are applied with another discipline or two, or three. I found the designers I most admired were experts in some other area—neuroscience, climbing, magic, baking.
From 3 Ways to Fight Impostor Syndrome