How about that empathy

As much as I could, want to–and need to–there isn’t too much time for me to post right now. But I wanted to drop down a thought here. A snarky, spicy one. On empathy.

Yesterday, I was listening to Design Observer and Group Therapy, and hosts were discussing the unexpected universality of this truly shared human experience. As someone who has been called “Empathy Robot” before, the startling similarities between two discussions on very different podcasts pinged my subroutines, so to speak. We designers are some of the most inauthentic and even irresponsible proponents of empathy. The crux of empathy is being able to enter communion with the experience of another. Claiming to be able to have empathy for users as we enable the creation of things that we implicitly know will undermine their dignity…well that’s a variable load of bullshit, right?

For the first time in many of our designer lives, we’ll actually know empathy. I wonder what that’s going to do to all of us once we come out the other side of all of this. Will we throw around that word so cheaply?

IRL Epiphany

Happy Happy to those who celebrate today. No gifts from the three kings in my shoes this morning for me, unfortunately. This year, I think they showed up digitally:

I unexpectedly received an invitation from the Funsize crew late last year to appear on their podcast. Of all topics, to talk about that one post where I went all meta about design and Star Trek.

Check it out if you’d like. Sadly, they are not fellow Trekkies, which is totally understandable. At the very least, you might learn how I feel about Star Wars these days.

As for having any big epiphanies from doing a 100-day project, I can confidently say that I have none. The way I designed and scoped mine was such that I was doing little retrospectives along the way. The main intent was to get back into blogging and that’s why the posts ended up being the way they are. I didn’t set out to write about design, or the web, or identity. I definitely did not expect people to read it. But it’s safe to say I got my groove back and for that reason I am satisfied.

A corollary of that intent was to figure out if I was as comfortable today as I used to be with the level of personal information I put out there on the web, even if the content belongs to me. The answer is no, I am not. For example, I’m still not comfortable publishing the full details behind why I chose to completely stop blogging twelve years ago, but this project helped me move past the incident (because it’s now full of irony).

Being on one of my favorite podcasts was awesome, but my first reaction to listening to it was, “Oh no, people will find out how inarticulate I am in person.” My public speaking and interviewing skills are not what they used to be since I started working remotely. It makes total sense: as an INFJ whose English is her second language, it was something that I had to develop and consistently work on throughout my 20s. Like any other muscle, if it’s not worked on and kept strong, it atrophies and starts messing up adjacent stuff.

On the flipside, since people at work don’t hear my voice at all on most days, I could also reframe this as an impostor syndrome non-issue. “100 days of blogging has made me a better communicator.”

So if I had to pick one epiphany for today, this would be it. I’d love to spend this year working on getting my other groove back and showing off my new writing guns 💪. We designers (or ex-childhood-musicians and ex-childhood-ballet dancers, in my case–my gosh 😆) are always going to be perfectionists, right?

In the meantime, if you do stop by the podcast, you can hear my California Mexican accent and stammer through the roof.

Version 33

Back in the early aughts when I unknowingly started my web design career as part of a blog ring, every layout you designed for your blog represented a new version of your site.

Several of us Automatticians are dogfooding Twenty Twenty, the default theme for WordPress 5.3, as we approach the Gutenberg Block Editor’s first birthday (smash cake, anyone?). Twenty Twenty includes full support for the Block Editor, as well as functionality that narrows the gap between form and function. That’s all to say that it represents an exciting evolution for WordPress themes and the WordPress project altogether.

Since my design focus is on the underlying architecture of the end-to-end experience, it made sense to use it for my own blog and see how I can manipulate it. So far, it feels like being in a country where people speak a different language, but it’s close enough to one I speak. To me, this is one of the more exciting forms of awkward.