Most work is pretty mundane. Even work on meaningful things. The most profound stuff is built one mostly boring brick at a time. Even the most creative ideas, the best art, the breakthroughs have to be assembled, and assembly isn’t typically what fires people up.
You don’t get to the exhilarating end without going through the mundane middle. And the beginning and end are the shortest parts — the middle is most of it.
Human consciousness is the most astonishing thing, and most of it happened in deep time, beyond the reach of any writing and most legends. Human experience, in general, is prehistoric. And prehistoric experience was just as full as yours and mine: just as deeply felt, just as intelligent, just as real. What we know of it is mostly from durable artifacts and graves. I’m thinking of the woman found near the Snake River, buried at the end of the ice age with a perfectly crafted and unused stone knife tucked under her head. I’m thinking of the huge conical hats, beaten from single pieces of gold and inscribed with calendars, found north of the Alps. I’m thinking of Grave 8 at Vedbæk, where a woman held her premature baby on the spread wing of a swan. These are snapshot that experts can assemble into larger ideas, but what they tell all of us is that we’ve been people, not just humans, for a very long time.
“What if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?”
In this terrific essay by Marina Benjamin on the scientific and mathematical quest for ever-more dimensions, she offers this lovely insight into the mind-altering effects that the art of Giotto and Uccello must’ve had on their medieval audience:
By consciously exploring geometric principles, these painters gradually learned how to construct images of objects in three-dimensional space. In the process, they reprogrammed European minds to see space in a Euclidean fashion.
In a very literal fashion, perspectival representation was a form of virtual reality that, like today’s VR games, aimed to give viewers the illusion that they had been transported into geometrically coherent and psychologically convincing other worlds.
A lovely interactive photo essay charting the results of what happens when evolution produces a life form that allows a planet to take selfies.
Can an opinionated flat design still have depth and truly be free of drop shadows?
Scott proposes a technique that mimics atmospheric perspective—y’know, when things in the distance look hazier than things in the foreground.
The fact is, we are surrounded by a world that is full of depth, and very little of it is defined by shadow. If we are going to replace drop shadows in our visual UI metaphors, we should look at other options that create depth in the world around us.
Suppose the internet is “rewiring our brains” …what of it? Perhaps we can also rewire the brain of the internet.
I’m getting more radical in my view of the internet, this unconsciously-generated machine for unconscious generation. I’m feeling more sure of its cultural value and legacy, and more assertive about stating it. We built this thing, and like all directed culture of the past, it has an agency and a desire, and if you pay attention to it you can see which way it wants to go, and what it wants to fight. We made that, all of us, in time, but we don’t have full control of it. Rather, like the grain of wood, it’s something to be worked with and shaped, but also thought about and conceptualised, both matter and metaphor.
On the fifth anniversary of Pinboard, Maciej reflects on working on long-term projects:
Avoiding burnout is difficult to write about, because the basic premise is obnoxious. Burnout is a rich man’s game. Rice farmers don’t get burned out and spend long afternoons thinking about whether to switch to sorghum.
The good news is, as you get older, you gain perspective. Perspective helps alleviate burnout.
The bad news is, you gain perspective by having incredibly shitty things happen to you and the people you love. Nature has made it so that perspective is only delivered in bulk quantities. A railcar of perspective arrives and dumps itself on your lawn when all you needed was a microgram.
A beautiful reminder from Ben of the scale-free nature of the web.
We must recover our sanity where 100 million users does not represent the goal criteria of every new service. We must recover the mindset where a service used by 10,000 users, or 1,000 users, or 100 users is admired, respected, and praised for its actual success. All of those could be sustainable, profitable ventures. If TechCrunch doesn’t care to write about you, all the better.
If you are fortunate enough to work on your own product, with your own idea, and build it, and ship it, and reach enough people willing to sustain you financially for that immense amount of work, you should be applauded. You have poured in inordinate effort, and succeeded in making something that improved lives.
I should just have a recurring event in my calendar set for every week that says “Go watch this again to regain your sense of perspective.”