A Proud Time to be Canadian

According to Vox, Canada has accepted over 36,000 Syrian refugees since 2013, with only Germany having taken in more. Considering Canada is an ocean away from Syria, this is quite impressive and makes me incredibly proud to be Canadian. It truly exemplifies our values and beliefs.

Syrian Resettlement statistics by country. Top 3 are Germany (38,500), Canada (36,300) and Norway (9,000).Apparently some Americans haven’t heard this news, since Global News reports they are threatening to move to Canada if the US takes in more Syrian refugees:

Disgruntled Americans voiced their threats of heading north of the border on social media this week as the U.S. debates whether to open its doors to those fleeing the Syrian crisis.

Personally, I think we shouldn’t tell them; they might just like it once they move. Welcome to Canada, eh.

Rupert Murdoch Takes Over National Geographic, Then Lays Off Award-Winning Staff

ReverbPress, on the National Geographic takeover:

The memo went out, and November 3rd 2015 came to the National Geographic office. This was the day in which Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox took over National Geographic. The management of National Geographic sent out an email telling its staff, all of its staff, all to report to their headquarters, and wait by their phones. This pulled back every person who was in the field, every photographer, every reporter, even those on vacation had to show up on this fateful day.

As these phones rang, one by one National Geographic let go the award-winning staff, and the venerable institution was no more.

While I’ve never been an avid reader of National Geographic, it has always felt like a staple in the world. I remember flipping through their magazines (in paper!) back in my high school library.

I truly hope that this doesn’t spell the end of the National Geographic as we know it. Like ReverbPress, I can’t help but be worried.

Opt Outside with REI

This Black Friday, I’ll be Opting Outside with REI. Where will you be?

On Black Friday I’ll be hiking \#optoutside

Social Anxiety

Brent Simmons, on social interactions as an introvert:

If you speak a sentence to me, I hear a paragraph. If you speak a paragraph, I hear your life story.

...But if you raise your hand for a high-five, or hold out a fist for a bump, it won’t even occur to me to wonder why you’re doing those things. You’re just doing those things. Why would there be a reason?

For years I’ve been searching for how to explain why I have social anxiety, why social interactions are so exhausting. Brent’s experiences match mine to a tee.

I wonder if all I’ve done here is to describe why introverts frequently describe being social as tiring.

That you have, Brent. That you have.

Satisfactory is Worse Than Not At All

Upon purchasing a product, the user has implicitly placed their trust in you and your company. They trust that you are going to provide them with an excellent, if not outstanding experience — that you made the tough decisions about how that product should look, feel and behave.

This trust can also be found for each feature. The act of including a feature, no matter how small or large, gives the impression that it’s exceptional and something to be proud of.

Herein lies the issue. If including a feature sets the expectations so high, the user is disappointed if the experience is merely satisfactory. In addition, a feature’s existence prompts its use, so users become repeatedly frustrated.

What if you ship a feature only when it meets the expectations of the user, or even exceeds them? While the feature is being refined, the user can only set the same expectations as if it were included, as that is what they are able to imagine. When the feature ships, they will be delighted that the experience is so wonderful. While waiting, they will desire the feature, but not be directly frustrated because of it.

As an example, my Android phone supported copy/paste when I purchased it. However, only some apps supported the functionality and, when I could use it, it was horrible. Text selection was extremely difficult and I usually used a different solution in the end, but I would always try copy/paste first since it was available. This contributed in no small part to my overall frustration with the product and lead to me leaving the platform. Since then this feature on Android has been overhauled to be far easier to use and work consistently across apps.

Contrast that with iOS and when copy/paste was implemented. It received copy/paste later than Android (over two years after the iPhone’s initial release), yet hasn’t been largely modified in the three years since. Every time I utilize copy/paste on my iPhone, I barely notice it as it works so well and it worked in all apps immediately.

Had my Android not had copy/paste in the first place, I would have always resorted to the alternatives and not had the chance to become frustrated. I may have desired for it to be implemented, but frustration is far worse than desire.

As a user of many products in my life I would appreciate if more companies would refrain from releasing features until they are exceptional.

The Real Trick to Waking Up Early

Devir Kahan at The Geek’s Companion recently wrote a post about The Trick to Waking Up Early.

This post caught my eye since recently I’ve been trying to reform my sleeping habits and start getting up earlier in the day. In doing so I faced the challenge of actually waking up when the alarm clock goes off, then getting up.

Devir suggests:

…when you wake up, roll over, grab whatever screen you choose to use, and use it. Go through emails. Catch up on RSS and Twitter. […] Write. Read. Whatever.

Being a fellow geek, I love this idea. In addition, I can speak from experience that it is effective in waking you up; however it can have a major drawback, depending on the type of person you are.

First, let’s differentiate between waking up and getting up. Waking up is going from sleep to awake. Getting up occurs when you actually crawl out of bed to start getting things done, and this is where the issue is.

On my laptop and phone there are so many things to do that I could spend all day on them without getting anything productive done. Processing email. Reading articles. Reading Twitter. Reading Wikipedia1. Reading Reddit. Playing games. I could go on and on.

I found that I would stay in bed for far longer than planned by wasting time on my phone or laptop, often making me late for classes. While I would wake up, I wouldn’t get up. In addition, by starting the day unproductively it set the pace for the rest of the day and I would have trouble getting things (e.g. homework) accomplished.

This problem certainly won’t apply to everyone, and clearly it doesn’t apply to Devir. It was, however, a real problem for myself and one to be wary of for those trying this technique.

How do I wake up and then get up in the morning, then? A combination of two things:

  1. I have a morning routine, or ritual, that I perform without exception.
  2. Get at least 8 hours of sleep, always.

Let me explain those in a little more depth.

I first learned about the morning ritual from Asian Efficiency — a great site on how to improve productivity. They have an excellent podcast (with transcript) and blog post explaining what a morning ritual is and the kinds of activities you should have in it.

In their podcast, they sum it up quite nicely:

A morning ritual describes what you do from the time that you wake up until the point where you start your day, whether that’s at work or elsewhere. It’s basically your default autopilot way to start every single day.

I would consider this the key for me to wake up and get up in the morning. Having a set of tasks that are easy to accomplish and already laid out is a huge motivator. In turn, it forces me to start my day productively, setting a great pace for the rest of the day and letting my mind fully wake up.

While the morning ritual is the key to me getting up in the morning, getting a proper amount of sleep sure makes everything easier. I realize that getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night without exception is a pipe dream though. Life gets in the way sometimes, and that’s fine. What matters is getting 8 hours of sleep overall. Once again I refer to Asian Efficiency and their post about how to manage sleep for productivity; in particular, the section on Sleep Debt.

The basic concept is that your body requires a certain amount of sleep every night on average. If you fall short one night, you can recoup that through naps or getting extra sleep a following night. I follow this theory religiously, sometimes having to perform a “sleep reset”, as I like to call it, where I get far more hours of sleep than I require (e.g. 12-14 hours) in a single night, then the next night return to my normal schedule.

By being well rested, I find that I am naturally more motivated to get out of bed and then be productive throughout the day.

Ultimately, these are suggestions and I encourage you to try different techniques until you find one that works for you.

  1. In case you haven’t noticed, I really like reading. ↩︎

China Drawn Pixel by Pixel

Design Dare has found something truly incredible:

In China, because of the stifling censorship, they decided to recreate the satellite maps by hand-drawing everything.

It is an incredible accomplishment and well worth taking a look at.