Design for the ears to provide information, to communicate and to experience.

I haven’t finished absorbing all that is contained in the article but it’s really worth digging into if you have any interest in the UX of sound. Sharing this also gives me a chance to complain about the poor sound UX (is that a term?) of Walmart in Charlottetown’s credit/debit card terminals. That extra beep drives me crazy as it infers an error.

As we move into an artificially intelligent world whose logics of operation often exceed our own understanding, perhaps we should linger a bit longer on those blips and clicks. Compressed within the beep is a whole symphony of historical resonances, socio-technical rhythms, political timbres, and cultural harmonies. Rather than simply signaling completion, marking a job done right, a beep instead intones the complex nature of our relationships to technology — and the material world more generally.

Things that Beep: A Brief History of Product Sound Design


One reason not to choose Public Mobile

I gave both my kids accounts with Public Mobile when they arrived in PEI for a combination of reasons: the price came slightly under any family plan offered by other providers, they supported their older iPhones, and I saw the lack of interaction with store personnel as a big positive. The fact that their website, with it’s wireframe aesthetic, seemed more task focused as compared to the others Campbell alphabet soup approach, worked in their favour too.

But, my son hasn’t had any data in what would appear to be over a month. We utilize all the features of the iOS platform, including the blue bubbles of iMessage, location sharing and etc. When these features never worked for him I figured he had just turned something off, and I didn’t have time to investigate further. It nows seems this is something with Public Mobile.

I’ve never had a network problem, at least in the past 10 years, that a simple restart wouldn’t fix. The problem seems a bit deeper this time and after spending 40 minutes on the community website looking for answers, the required course of action, I am left with the same unresolved problem.

This “You’re the boss when it comes to your account” philosophy sounds nice if the service works as advertised, but if you loathe troubleshooting mundane problems such as this, or don’t have time to waste it might be worth investigating someone else.


The index card was a product of the Enlightenment, conceived by one of its towering figures: Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, physician, and the father of modern taxonomy. But like all information systems, the index card had unexpected political implications, too: It helped set the stage for categorizing people, and for the prejudice and violence that comes along with such classification.

How the Index Card Cataloged the World


Whereby I torture my son into recording a video

We spent some time on the North Shore on Sunday and it was surprisingly pleasant. It’s a surprise as I hadn’t considered a beach visit during any time other than the summer. It’s a bit like beaches cease to exist once the cold comes – except in Thailand of course, where the beaches become more enjoyable and exist all year round.

My son’s interest in becoming a Youtube star has waned, he blames the fact that we don’t have our old iMac here, but I suspect it’s just part of his changing interests


Card sorting

Before going to China I expanded my collection of books to include all kinds of less generalised design topics – just in caseCard Sorting by Donna Spencer was one of them. Living without instant Google search results resulted in all kinds of changes to how I worked and remembered. No need to remember I’ll just Google it later. Kudos to the local Chinese designers who grew up with the resources linked to by Baidu – it’s a desert of quality info there.

I haven’t done a proper card sort in many years, but at the time it was one of my favorite methods. For the audience I was working with it was a respite from the monotony of their work and a somewhat fun activity (people love holding or working with things in their hands). It was also much more approachable than other methods at the time.

In order to procrastinate from doing tasks that I don’t want to start I decided to read a couple chapters to refresh my lizard brain. This opening piece could have been written by myself, as it is in part my justification for not just using card sorting at the time, but what piqued my interest in user/customer centered in the first place.

How did I find my way to card sorting?

I was designing the information architecture for a large government website. The navigation categories had evolved over time and weren’t labeled clearly, so people had a lot of trouble finding even basic information. I now recognize this as a common problem, but at the time I just felt overwhelmed. The fact that this was a government site, and so contained essential information, added pressure—if potential users couldn’t find the information they needed, it would be my fault.

I had been tasked with reorganizing and relabeling the main groups of content on the home page and second-level pages. I had some ideas for how the content could be organized, based mainly on my own intuition. But how could I be sure that the categories that made sense to me would also make sense to someone else? What’s more, the team I was working with had been developing the website from the beginning. They weren’t about to restructure it just because the new kid thought something made sense—they wanted “evidence” that my intuitions were correct. Whatever I came up with, I’d have to be able to back it up.
Donna Spencer

By way of a definition …

Card sorting is one of a family of user research techniques designed to give you insight into how people think. Card sorting is best understood not as a collaborative method for creating navigation, but rather as a tool that helps us understand the people we are designing for.

Card Sorting by Donna Spencer


Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame. Pain is an inextricable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible, but destructive: attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to give too many fucks about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not give a fuck about the pain, you become unstoppable.
Mark Manson


Spelling will come in time

I think it was my son who tried to fill out “Choir” on our fridge whiteboard. The latin alphabet and their connections to phonic sounds is still taking root, but I’m certain he will be speaking and writing like a local in no time flat.

For kids, putting these events on a physical representation of a schedule, and at eye level, seems to serve as a better reminder of the weeks activities than my preferred method of putting it all in a shared Cal. I’m debating whether to teach them how to manage their time using digital or analog tools; daytimer or iCal/reminders/etc. I’m leaning to the analog.


My Current Problem

While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience.

Naturally life is full of problems; how to convince your kids that money doesn’t grow on trees, how to convince your teenage daughter that yes I know some things about life and people, how to tell a young boy to do something once instead of ten times, how to make money, and perhaps the biggest of all – how to stop needing to sleep.

These are all real problems, but the one I have been thinking about recently, as I bob my way through Charlottetown bumping into people I used to know, and sort of making new acquaintances, is how to distill a lifetime of activity into a conversation, a sentence, a document or a resume (my CV makes me cry every time I look at it). And should I even care.

During a Pitch Camp workshop I attended, Robert (Bob) Williamson in a sideline conversation, provided me with some valuable advice in how to answer the simple, and somewhat annoying question, that I was failing to answer time and time again, “what are you doing here?” His advice wasn’t something new, but served as a reminder to keep responses to one complete sentence and then pause, allowing those truly interested to ask further questions.

But this doesn’t help with the broader problem.

My wife has a similar difficulties, but she’s pretty much had a singular focus all her life – different roles maybe – but easier to relate to. In short: She has taught kids from all over the world in a foreign country, worked with and managed Taiwanese and international colleagues, raised her family in Taiwan, and travelled the world. Pretty awesome.

Some people would say that I don’t care what you have done in the past, only what you can do now. Or 10 years ago is irrelevant, what did you do this past year? I don’t agree, experience has value, it matters.

Relating experience is tricky. My family (had) recognizes outcomes like a new car, a house, shiny useless objects and job titles with understandable nomenclature. A big house means you are either somehow managing a crushing debt load, or you “have made it.” Taking 6 years to be able to negotiate a contract in Chinese doesn’t compute.

My years playing trumpet have had a profound effect on me. Studying Chinese and subsequently using that ability to secure and hold employment changed me immensely. The struggle of living away from home without any support, government or family, shaped my (our) character.

Linear career paths in traditional corporate structures are easier to understand. You start as an intern, maybe get a masters, then your first job at the junior level, followed by no junior title, and then they add senior. If you like telling people what to do you get to manage ever larger amounts of people, then maybe dictate strategy, and by the time you have forgotten how to do the job as well as those with a junior title, you get a “director of,” added to your name.

I deliberately do not have such a complete experience.

My life and professional experience has been a windy road full of challenges, wonderful people and interesting work. As a jack of all trades, and just generally lucky, I’ve been exposed to projects, people, and responsibilities far above my station.

How can you possibly relate 30 years of experience in a LinkedIn profile with the route I have taken?

You can’t. Experts will tell you to contextualize, to build a personal brand, have an online profile, engage on social media, and blah blah blah. I’m not so interested in their advice anymore, I’ve tried those things, and I’ve never really been comfortable taking a loud approach.

In Taiwan it was easier. No one really cared, as it often just seemed about status, so I would share in Chinese that I worked at such and such a company, graduated from such and such a university, and where I lived for the past x number of years and I was done.

So why care at all? There are only so many things we can give a f**k about and devoting any cognitive time to this may be stupid. For years I didn’t bother, no one knew what I was doing and where I had been. Few care to hear about your 15th trip to Thailand anyway. But my kids do and finding a way to share what there mother and father have done with there lives seems like a worthwhile effort. Of course, since I am poor, and need to work, there is that whole are you any use to me thing.

And so it goes.


Reducing the volume of a track in Garageband

Isn’t it amazing how a company can create polar opposite experiences – magic and distress.

At the same time that I was watching the magic of the new Apple watch during the Sept. 12th keynote, I was cursing the time I was spending trying, through trial and error, to reduce the volume of a simple audio track in Garageband.

It should be simple, and since it is Garageband it doubly should be, but it isn’t. The first course of action is always a Google search but nothing I found applies as they have changed the interaction design of the app. so many times over the years people can’t keep track.

Volume control at the master level and track level doesn’t work (it doesn’t appear to function as a real mixer). Gain is for input but it sometimes worked with an already existing track but other times didn’t. When Gain works it’s from a massive change, fine tuning results in no discernible difference.

So after an hour of stubbornly trying to effect change I gave up, downloaded Audacity, and created the effect I needed in 4 minutes.

Later, after a required cooling off period I found the required controls staring at me in the face in the mix menu. Generally, in desktop software you should have 3 ways to perform an action, as an ex: to delete a file on the desktop you can drag it to the trash, select and then go to the file menu and select move to trash, or right click on the file to move to trash. Garageband does not follow this heuristic and for the context I was in, listening to a keynote and doing what should have been a mindless task, brought about frustration.

I’ll be spending more time these coming months editing audio for a podcast and for our app. Perhaps it’s time to venture outside the Apple software ecosystem and try something that offers basic controls that fit my mental model of how audio software should work.

/end complaint


Mastering the Problem Space for Product/Market Fit

The above video is from an earlier talk from a year ago and tends to have a slightly different focus than below.

The term Product/Market Fit was coined by Marc Andreesen back in 2007 and it’s been a key goal for any new product or startup ever since. But like any buzzword, it is often oversimplified and misunderstood.

For the next month I am spending as much time as possible addressing #3:

While each company and product is obviously different, this is a framework covering the universal conditions and patterns that have to hold true to achieve product/market fit. Each layer in the pyramid is a key hypothesis that you need to get right in order to build the next layer and ultimately achieve product/market fit.

1. Target Customer – who are we trying to create value for?
2. Underserved Needs – for that target customer, what are their needs?
3. Value Proposition – your hypotheses about which customer needs your product addresses, how the customer benefits from your product, and how you meet their needs better than other products
4. Feature Set – the functionality that conveys those benefits to the customer
5. User Experience – what the customer interacts with in order receive the benefits

Taken together, the first two layers – target customer and underserved needs – are the market. You don’t control the market – you can choose which customers and needs to target but you can’t change those needs. What you do control are the decisions you make at the next three layers in the pyramid – the product.

Mastering the Problem Space for Product/Market Fit by Dan Olsen


The start of an adventure

Last week not only marked the first day of Canadian school for my kids but also the first time they have had the opportunity to ride a school bus. In the days since, all seems to have gone well, with the biggest complications being that the girls that my daughter has met “only seem to only talk about their looks”, and the fact that everyone plays Fortnight and my son doesn’t. I think we can live with challenges like that.


Building Habit-Forming Products

Hooks, according to Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, are “experiences designed to connect the user’s problem with the company’s product with enough frequency to form a habit.” In his bestselling book, Eyal describes the 4 steps of the Hooked Model and provides case studies for how the stickiest technologies use hooks to keep users coming back.

Here’s the gist:

  • The degree to which a company can utilize habit-forming technologies will increasingly decide which products and services succeed or fail.
  • Habit-forming technology creates associations with “internal triggers” which cue users without the need for marketing, messaging or other external stimuli.
  • Creating associations with internal triggers comes from building the four components of a “Hook” — a trigger, action, variable reward, and investment.
  • Consumers must understand how habit-forming technology works to prevent unwanted manipulation while still enjoying the benefits of these innovations.
  • Companies must understand the mechanics of habit-formation to increase engagement with their products and services and ultimately help users create beneficial routines.

From: Hooks: An Intro on How to Manufacture Desire


The different age demographics in Charlottetown

I’m not interested enough dig up data so this is just an observation after spending a couple months back in Charlottetown.

For the last number of years in Taiwan and China I was often the oldest in almost any social gathering or professional setting. Whether it was Chinese school, working in a tech company, or attending some kind of professional development, for the most part most people were very young. I often used to wonder where they put the middle age workforce out to pasture, as I seldom ran into a design professional my age. An oversimplified reason is that in the case of tech companies, many successful R&D talent retire early to start their on companies or try something new. The stress level in these companies is not for everyone.

In Charlottetown it’s interesting just how different the demographic is. Sure, the Start-up Zone and other incubators have their share of young people, and I would guess the small cluster of tech companies here have their share of young recent graduates, but by and large most of the people I have met or seen are well above their 30’s. Middle aged even. My observation could be totally off, perhaps only people my age have time for professional development here, and everyone else works to the wee hours. Or perhaps as I suspect, the young have long since left for Toronto and beyond. Either way, it does make for a far different dynamic than what I experienced living elsewhere.

No one treats me like their father here.


Endless stream of marketing

Via the many workshops and presentations I’ve been attending these past couple months, I’ve been immersed in a totally different vocabulary: branding, marketing, influencers, digital marketing, ROI on social media campaigns, and on and on. Sometimes, it feels a bit like eating too many carbs, as I am ultimately left feeling empty.

This is the world of business I have not been exposed to. When we were pioneering blogs at work and creating “personal projects” online, it was in some small way about self-expression, or in some cases creating value. Now it’s all about sales. It feels fake.

When you are using your second language it’s difficult to talk deeply about subjects around art, design and engineering. But I am starting to miss those conversations, as basic as they often were, when I communicated in Chinese.

I’ve often lamented my lack of marketing knowledge, my lack of business acumen too, and naive as I am, I thought that somehow if I listened and studied, it would be somewhat akin to taking a pill that would magically transform me with the ability to successfully promote products and services.

I’m oversimplifying. I’ve picked up some ideas and met some brilliant people. Charlottetown must have more marketing/ communication professionals per capita than any other place I’ve lived, so there are plenty of people’s brains to pick. I’m only at the very beginning of my study, with much more to learn, and at the very least I’ve realized that I much prefer making products for people, and the language surrounding that, than selling.


Band camp

Camren doing his Freddie Hubbard impression

Camren participated in band camp this past week for fun, and as a means to get a start on playing trumpet in the band program in the fall. His motivation for playing trumpet may have been in part due to my own long history with the instrument.

If the amount of students who participated is any indication, the band program is thriving on Prince Edward Island. Fantastic. The benefits of music education are apparent, and of all the places I have visited PEI would appear to have one the more successful programs. Too often music education is positioned as an extracurricular, at a high cost, forcing parents to make hard choices based on their available resources. More often than not, this results in many children missing out on this valuable experience. In Taiwan in particular, music education is expensive, and often neglected after elementary school, in favour of language or math. It’s a shame but I’m so happy that my son can take advantage of this opportunity, like I did when I was his age, while we live here on the Island.

Look at all these wonderful trumpets:


Social revisited

I wrote back in February about how I am increasingly aware of the clicking of father time and how I don’t have the time to waste today, as I felt I had in my late teens and early twenties. Ideally I should spend my time on activities that have value for me, and reject all the other “things” we get caught up in in an effort to look busy or fill in time..

Specifically, now as then, I questioned exactly what value I get from spending time on any kind of social media. I think the answer is generally none. Its like carbs vs. protein, or filler for my day, or sometimes with the extreme politics of today, its bad for my blood pressure.

With the exception of this blog, which serves as a quick exercise in writing semi-complete sentences, I’ve thought of giving up all my social accounts completely. But lately after attending event after event touting the importance of having a “social media strategy”, or a “digital marketing initiative” for your business, I’m going to try broadcasting more (PEI seems to have a dis-proportionately large number of marketing professionals, it’s like Hsinchu and the number of engineers/researchers). I’m an introvert, seemingly anti-social, so conversations with strangers online, like in real life are infrequent, but I might be able to handle sharing more of the banality of my professional interests. This should make for some interesting ads on Facebook at the very least.

Against the advice of the marketing folks I have recently met, I’m going to see how it goes for a shortish period of time (they suggest much longer), say a month or so, and see if it doesn’t work out to be a waste of time.


Mobile phone use in Taiwanese children

The Journal of the Formosan Medical Association graciously had released the following under Open Access.

The overall prevalence of MP use for Taiwanese children aged 11–15 years was estimated at 63.2% (95% CI = 61.1–65.3%). The prevalence showed a small sex difference, but presented evident age and geographic variations. The prevalence increased steadily from 45% for 11-year-old children to 71.7% for children aged 15 years. Children living in the Central area showed the highest prevalence (69.3%), whereas those from the South area had the lowest prevalence at 58.3%. We also noted that children who attended private schools had a higher prevalence of MP use than public school students.

Some 71.1% of guardians reported that the main reason for their children to use MPs was because of safety considerations. However, 27.6% admitted that peer pressure was the main reason for their children to own MPs. Forty-five percent of children used MPs for calling or receiving every day, 30.7% talked >2 days/week, and 18.9% used MPs 1–2 days/week. More than half (45%) of children had used MPs for calling or receiving daily, 34.8% reported daily MP use of 21–40 minutes, and 4.4% of children used MPs for at least 1 hour every day. During weekdays, children often (41.7%) talked on MPs in the evening. The MP use pattern during the weekend was somewhat different; children often used their MPs for calling or receiving in the afternoon (33.3%), and then in the evening (24.6%). Of the children studied, 9.8% frequently used MPs for calling or receiving after 10:00 PM, a time of lights out for many families during weekdays, and the corresponding figure for the weekend was 6.7%
From Mobile phone use and health symptoms in children in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association
Volume 114, Issue 7, July 2015, Pages 598-604


Things just got real

Last Friday early morning I took my wife Sheryl to the airport so that she could begin her long journey back to Taiwan. That marked the start of what should be a challenging, and I hope rewarding, year here on Prince Edward Island. For all practical purposes I am now an unemployed single parent of two kids.

We’ve been planning this move for years now; saving money, taking on new responsibilities, and making time for experiences that we had procrastinated on. But as my early morning inspiration Jocko Willink has said, the best laid plans don’t survive contact with the enemy, so in the end in order to make this plan a reality, one of us had to stay behind working (we made the move realizing that I likely would never work in a job in Prince Edward Island like I had in Taiwan or China). I could have gone back to China, but there are few jobs as stable as my wife’s, so she volunteered.

We have experience living apart from my year in China, but I was home frequently, just a 90 minute flight away, so this will be very different. We won’t see her but twice this coming year.

So far, other than some boredom on the kids part, something I hope will disappear when school starts, everything seems to be going fine. They are experiencing some culture shock and some communication issues, as am I. It will be a good chance for them to learn some independence, something lacking in their lives in Taiwan, and I can be assured that they will survive, if not thrive, no matter how many mistakes I make.


St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse Beach

Just up the coast from the more popular Lakeside Beach sits what must be one of the best beaches I have enjoyed in some time. What a gem. My kids prefer the beaches in Thailand, I think banana smoothies play a factor in their choice, but I think the beaches here are as good as any. And they are largely deserted, which plays a factor in my choice.

I’m not much of a fun at the beach person but spending time here is well worth it, especially when you factor in a short drive to Lin’s Take Out on Greenwich Rd. for some monstrous ice cream cones.


Changing Country for iTunes Account

One of the last bits of 麻煩, or “troublesome tasks”, that must be accomplished now that I am becoming a resident of Canada again, is changing the country for my iTunes account. I have yet to apply for health cards but I suspect the application for health cards (and not the actual getting to see a doctor) will be actually much easier than changing my iTunes account.

Apple very clearly states what you must do prior to changing your account:

What to do before changing your country or region

  • Spend any store credit remaining on your Apple ID. You must also wait for any pending store credit refunds to process before you can change your country or region. Learn what to do if your remaining store credit is less than the cost of a single item.
  • Cancel any subscriptions, including Apple Music, and wait until the end of the subscription period to change your country or region. You’ll also have to wait for any memberships, pre-orders, iTunes movie rentals, or Season Passes to complete.
  • Have a payment method for your new country or region on hand. For example, only German credit cards can be used to buy content from the German iTunes Store, iBooks Store, and App Store.
  • Back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iTunes. You might need to temporarily downgrade your iCloud storage until you switch to the new country or region.

The tricky part here is waiting for memberships to complete. I subscribe to iTunes match, which only recently renewed, and as such won’t complete until the Spring of next year. Though I’m not an avid consumer of Apple services, considering I no longer have a Taiwan credit card, that seems like a long time to not be able to use iCloud, Apple music, and the other services I subscribe through Apples platform. So it’s a mess.

I won’t go into how you can’t actually change your country via the web.

I’m on hold with Apple support and will document this journey as it unfolds.

Update:

After 1 hour on the phone with Apple support I was finally able to change my Apple iTunes account from Taiwan to Canada and am now basking in all the media that Apple delivers in this country. I talked to 3 different support personal including a “Senior Advisor” in order to make this happen.

Apple was polite and professional throughout the whole process, but it really should not have been this hard. Changing my developer account seemed much easier.

It also raises the question, what other company in the world would I bother going through so much effort to remain their customer? I can’t think of one. Though it’s somewhat of a stretch, you would think that the importance of my Apple ID is somewhat reaching parity with my national ID number.

A few points about the change:

  • I was a subscriber to iTunes match. That database was deleted and I must upload all my music files anew. I’m not sure I’ll bother.
  • I was told my Apple music playlists would be gone, but I haven’t seen any changes. Perhaps some music has been affected, but I haven’t noticed any problems yet.
  • Local apps. cannot be downloaded again, but I think I can live without local Taiwan bus and taxi apps.
  • My Apple music preferences were reset. This could be huge for my daughter but I always found Apple’s music curation to be subpar.
  • iCloud was unaffected.
  • International media regulations suck, particularly in Taiwan, which is largely the source of all these problems.
  • My other subscriptions, particularly Evernote, so far remain unaffected. I think it’s a good time to revisit these subscriptions as my usage of Evernote in particular doesn’t warrant the money spent.

Keyboard, hello again

I haven’t had much time to be in front of the keyboard since my family arrived from Taiwan, but I’m glad that the above keyboard, in all its bent and dirty glory, made the trip along with them. I’m not a fan of most recent Apple keyboards, especially on their laptops, so though I’m not much of a typist, being able to use this again is a relief.


A guide for “non-newcomer” newcomers

There are so many unknowns when moving to a new place, everything from finding a place to live, to where to find certain foods, but also cultural norms, and the all important how to receive health care. Health care is of particular importance and the “uniqueness” of Prince Edward Island’s system has left me with many questions. Luckily the Prince Edward Island Association for Newcomers website answers this question and many others, but leaves with one. Why isn’t there a resource like this for people who don’t qualify for their program? I’d appreciate, maybe even pay for, a little handholding, or guidance, with all the issues involved with relocating a family to PEI. I’m sure others would benefit as well.


Day One of New Glasses

I’ve procrastinated for weeks but I’ve finally got around to wearing my new progressive lenses today. It’s absolutely maddening so far, especially trying to find the sweet spot while working. Generally, I don’t need to wear glasses when I work but I’d like to add a bit of distance between my face and monitors. This places the laptop and external monitor just outside the realm of crisp text, but the glasses don’t seem to be much clearer.

Moving my head from side to side while looking at my desk produces an “Inception” like effect, which I think if I kept repeating I might actually enter into some kind of trance like state, or fall out of my chair.

I get the feeling this is going to take some time.


The pot calling the kettle black

The Kettle Black

Cafés that you want to sit in and spend time enjoying always seem to have this unplanned homemade look to them, unlike say Tim Hortons whose experience is all about speed of delivery. Starbucks has systemized this, so that I can have a similar experience in Charlottetown, Hsinchu, Fuzhou or anywhere else the Starbucks brand intrudes upon. But with any large system you tend to lose the uniqueness of the place, and water down the experience so it can be consistently replicated. Which is one reason why I prefer local independents, each one placing unique emphasis on some part of the experience – my favorite spot is Hollatte馥拏鉄 自烘咖啡, located in a small alley in Hsinchu Science Park. Even after moving their location it’s still just a small shop store with a couple Ikea Tables at the center. Their mix tends to be coffee expertise vs. experience of place. Ink café in Hsinchu is a more balanced mix of the 2.

Their are a number of decent cafés in Charlottetown’s downtown area. The Kettle Black pictured above is my current favorite.


Looking for a desk

I spent the better part of a week going store to store in Charlottetown looking for a hard surface I could work on. My needs are simple, a flat surface, preferably wood, that is of a certain modest size and cheap. The cheap part is a bit tough here. For years I have bought kitchen tables from IKEA for this very purpose – often I would leave them unfinished but have also taken to staining them to help cover the change in color brought on by age and the effects of humidity. I wasn’t able to find much of an equivalent here, with most furniture stores opting for larger more showcase like units. My desk is going to be hidden away in a room, unseen by anyone but me. Staples had an inexpensive stand-up desk, but I imagined one frustrated fist on the desk would bring the whole surface crashing down. Eventually I realized that IKEA does indeed ship to PEI and for a price cheaper than local furniture stores.

Finding a figurative desk has thus far been easier. For the years that I freelanced while in Taiwan I often found the experience extremely … lonely. First when we were in Hsinchu’s equivalent of the suburbs, I would never come into human contact for weeks on end. When we moved to the Science Park, there were world class coffee shops aplenty but they were noisy or not conductive to longish sprints of work. Most of what I was missing was the “water cooler” talk and the opportunity to learn from people smarter than myself, collaborate, or ask for help. Hsinchu is full of big brains, but they work 12+ hours a day and there was little in the way of support for independents or small entrepreneurs. Taipei was the centre for that. So in Charlottetown I find myself in coffee shops, and at least for now occupying a hot desk at the Startup Zone. I find it a tad expensive but at least I get to see people walking by the windows and hopefully later absorb the work ethos of a bunch of young people working on their new companies (the office is generally empty these days). Despite being an introvert, I do find surrounding myself with people healthy for work. Just don’t ask me to “work the room”.

Later as I get my sea legs I might rent a more purpose built space, maybe joining the underground society, but I think the combination of working from home and getting out a couple days a week might work for now.