Marquess, a bash script that makes it easy to use PrinceXML for templated collateral generation

May 21, 2015

document automation, marketing, princexml

Typically, marketing assets like whitepapers, datasheets, and case studies are maintained by the graphic design team.

This can be frustrating for everyone who’s not on that team, because when you want to make a fix or update, even if it’s just fixing a typo, you have to get graphic design involved. And it can be frustrating for graphic design, too, because who wants to spend all day fixing typos?


Responsive diagrams and photos

April 6, 2015

design, mobile, photos, responsive, ux

Responsive design is critical for a high-quality, well-designed site. Many layouts are fairly straightforward; there are decisions to be made, to be sure, but you can accomplish a lot by stacking things up in one long column, especially on informational sites. But if you have complex images, such as diagrams, or even if you have photos, it’s a lot less clear what to do. Simply shrinking what you have down to a mobile device width might make it unintelligible.


Why does enterprise software look so bad?

April 2, 2015

design, enterprise software, ux

I’ve become a big user of enterprise software in the past couple years. The design of most enterprise software ranges from unattractive to hideous. Color schemes don’t make a lot of sense. There’s no whitespace. Interfaces are busy and unintuitive. There isn’t any sense of fun, either. I’ve seen a few explanations for this. All of them seem like they’ll go away pretty soon. “Enterprise vendors have no taste” A recent post on Hacker News speculated that enterprise software looks bad because enterprise software vendors have no taste.


Accepting error to make less error

April 1, 2015

decisionmaking, decisions, error

If you accept that you will make some errors, you’ll probably make fewer errors overall. In this post, I wrote down some ideas about why people don’t trust algorithms (by which I mean sets of decision-making rules). I speculated that people don’t trust algorithms in part because of a desire to maintain control over their lives; we want our decision-making to matter. But the research pointed to the idea that people don’t trust algorithms because they hope for perfection in their decision-making.


Why don't people trust algorithms?

March 28, 2015

algorithms, decisionmaking

Here’s an interesting article: “Why People Don’t Trust Algorithms To Be Right”. (The actual title is “Why People Don’t Trust Machines To Be Right”, but algorithms don’t always run on machines, and the article also conflates algorithms with data). Anyway, it’s an interesting problem. A good algorithm can be an extremely efficient way of making decisions. Gerd Gigerenzer, a German psychologist, talks more about this. For example, in his book Risk Savvy, he spends several pages talking about the 1/n stock market portfolio, which basically just means that you allocate your money equally to each of n places.


Styles of translating Ancient Greek

March 23, 2015

greek, lattimore, translation

One thing that I reliably get huffy about is modern translations of Greek and Latin classics. (Yes, really.) I can’t remember exactly why, but I was recently reminded of the Fagles translation of the Odyssey, which I’ve never really liked, and I wanted to compare it to my favorite, Richmond Lattimore’s. Reading Lattimore is about as close as you can get to reading Ancient Greek, without actually reading Ancient Greek.


Entertaining yourself is a key part of learning

March 21, 2015

entertainment, learning

If you like to learn — and I certainly do — you might fall into the trap of believing that learning is always fun. It often is, but not always. At least part of true learning is what I’ll call schlepping. (I was inspired to use this term by Paul Graham’s essay about schlep blindness; I’m using this term in a similar, but not the same, way.) Schlepping is all the non-creative work that’s involved, usually to build basic skills.


Writing good email copy

March 19, 2015

conversion, copy, email

Here’s a set of email guidelines I’ve been putting together over the past couple of years. There are many great, similar, guides all over the internet. This one’s mine! While these are good for marketing emails, they’re also extremely good guidelines for your personal correspondence as well. General guidelines Be a real person Send from a personal email address that accepts replies and has a name. Obvious for your personal correspondence, often not done by businesses.

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