Loren’s Amazing Sometimes Blog

I’ll update when I get around to it.

Art Conversation on the Subway

A wonderful moment happened to me the other day. Living in NYC, you get used to strange coincidences happening all the time, but I thought this one was particularly good.

The other day, while listening to my favorite radio show The Brian Lehrer Show, I heard about a super interesting bit of research around how we interact with strangers. The paper, titled Mistakenly Seeking Solitude, finds that talking with strangers on public transit increases happiness. A lot of the conversation revolved around why it is that people use their phones or headphones to block out strangers, and it was interesting to hear that a lot of this is due to a simple anxiety of breaking the ice. But once people got over that small roadbump, the conversations were easy and comfortable.

And so… Right after listening to this, I took the subway into Manhattan for a work meeting. These days, I’ve been doing master copy sketches to keep me busy. I’ll bring along a book on anatomy or a collection of master works and study their technique by copying them in my sketchbook. On this particular trip, I was continuing work on a Delacroix piece titled Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.

As I was sitting there, sketching away, my seat neighbour complemented me on my drawing. I of course thanked her, but it led to a long conversation about the importance of art. We talked about what art is today, its importance to our lives, and why it’s so rare to see someone practicing art in public. We got so caught up in the conversation that I nearly missed my stop.

Afterward, I really did feel happier – noticeably so.

Managing UX Projects in Scrivener

Lately I’ve been experimenting with using Scrivener for managing UX projects, and so far, so good. In the past, I would have things spread out across word docs, emails, PDFs, excel files, and text notes saved all over my desktop. But after starting the EMC Store project, I decided to consolidate everything into a scrivener file. This way, I can keep everything in one spot, and still access it quickly during meetings.

Here’s a quick rundown of how I organize my Scrivener project.

Blogging With Octopress

I’ve always been frustrated with blogging platforms. Either you need to wrangle a database and write posts in a web editor (Wordpress, etc.), or you’re stuck on someone else’s platform. (E.g. Tumblr.) I’m not a fan of either of those things, but I do like Git, Ruby, and good old HTML. (Well, HAML / Markdown.) So I was quite pleased when I discovered Octopress.

In short, it’s a blog generator that uses simple Markdown files for posts. It compiles the whole site using static pages, which results in a super fast site. (No debugging SQL databases, which is nice.) And, because everything is text-based, it can all be backed up using Git. I use Bitbucket to keep a copy of the source code.

I’m a big fan of independence when it comes to web services. Octopress lets me keep all the control I want while still enabling enough convenience so that I’ll (hopefully) keep posting.

Octopress Sidebar Categories

Here’s a little aside I put together for this blog. It’s a modified version of this post. I swapped out the Bootstrap specific code and replaced it with the more generic stuff that Octopress likes.

To install, just add the category_list.html file to source/_includes/custom/asides then list the new module in _config.yml.

Designing With Checklists

Happy Thanksgiving! I wanted to start this blog off with something design-related, so I figured I could talk about how I use checklists in my design process.

At EMC, we’ve got a whole bunch of requirements when it comes to designing web properties. Security, mobile, accessibility, etc… There are so many things to keep track of, it’s often too much to remember. So, taking the advice of The Checklist Manifesto, I’ve started putting together a master checklist for everything I need to remember.

I’m still working on it, but here’s a preview of some of the sections I’m including:

  • Accessibility
  • Globalization (Localization and internationalization)
  • Mobile (Responsive, native apps, etc.)
  • API Integration (Use within internal EMC systems)
  • Branding / visual design
  • Privacy & security
  • Error handling (404 pages, wrong inputs, server errors, etc.)
  • Usability (Basic checklist)
  • Measurement (click tracking, KPIs, Omniture, etc.)
  • Testing (Usability testing, A/B testing, etc.)

I’ll post some of my checklists later on, once I’ve had some time to test-drive them.

New Blog!

Hey! This is the first post. Everything’s got to start somewhere!

I’ve finally gotten around to setting up my site, and it’s about time I put some content on it. I won’t promise any regular updates here, but I’ll post when I can, as long as it seems worthwhile.

Anyway, stay tuned for more. (At some point.)

Loren