“... once any one difference of any sort, even an idea, exists anywhere, then it demands or creates conditions for the evolution of subsequent events.”
Bill Mollison

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

Three Languages You Need to Take a Project from Dreams to Reality


A generally good reminder about speaking from and to context:

“… By distinguishing these languages and the needs that they serve, certain kinds of confusion may be avoided.

The Inward language is the way that those at the heart of a project make sense of what they are doing, the way of seeing the world that makes it possible. It may be a complex model of how things are and how they could be; it may be entirely intuitive and largely unspoken. It is a creative, living language. Over time, it comes to include the shorthand expressions and the charged words that build up among a group of people working together to bring about or sustain something that matters to them deeply.

The Upward language is the language of power and resources: the language of funding applications, the language of those who are in a position to intepret regulations and impose or remove obstacles. It is not a reflective or a curious language, it is a language of busy people who make decisions without having time to immerse themselves in the realities their decisions will affect. It is an impoverished language and when you have to describe what you are doing in its terms, you will feel that something is missing. You need a guide who is initiated into the relevant version of this language, who knows which words currently act as keys to which doors, what you have to say to have a decent chance of the gatekeepers letting you through. Yet even inside these institutions, you are dealing with human beings, so if you can allow glimpses of what matters about your project to show through the filter of keywords, it may just make a difference.

The Outward language is the language in which people who meet your project at ground level, in the course of their everyday lives, start to talk about it. It’s the language in which you can explain it to your mum, or to someone you just met in the pub, and realise that they get it — not that they have understood everything about what you’re doing, but that something here makes sense and sounds good. This is not about how your project works, it’s about what it does. In the corporate world, money is spent on people who are good at spinning words to create an Outward language for a product or a service or an organisation — much of advertising and public relations is about this — but the results usually have a synthetic aftertaste. You may get advice to try to imitate these publicity processes, but this is probably best ignored.”


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Software is Politics


Richard Pope, formerly of the UK GDS project, writes in Software is Politics:

“It’s time to stop designing digital services to just be easy to use and start designing them to be understandable, accountable, trusted, and easy to use.

1. Accountability at the point of use

Imagine if Uber made it clear exactly how much a driver earned and whether it met a living wage, directly on the email receipt …

2. Expose the rules

One obvious way is to examine the source code directly. The U.K. government increasingly opens its code …

3. Reimagine permissions

In a government context, that would mean explaining to users exactly what their data is being used for in a way that is understood …

4. Digital tools for digital consumer rights

For users to really trust stuff in the digital world, they need trusted third parties to do some of the hard work for them. And this means giving elbow room to some new digital watchdogs.”



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What design sprints are good for


Though I have never participated in a week-long design spring I resonate with the ideas of this post.

“Design sprints offer an apparently straightforward value proposition: get from idea to insight while skipping build and launch. High impact, risk reduction, and learning at minimal cost — all perfectly aligned with current trends …

Particularly for stakeholders who see design as all downstream aesthetics, a sprint demonstrates that design decisions run all the way through a product, like mould in a good cheese … If your sprint goes really well, your client will spiral into existential crisis about the difference between design and product management …

By the end of the week, you may all be convinced the project doesn’t have legs. Usually no one will say so on the spot, so as not to repudiate a tough week, but if the week’s primary outcome is to shitcan the project, that’s great …

Sorry. Even though you have to select tight boundaries for your prototype, you’re still going way too fast for considered design … A sprint is the opening gambit of a long, complex game — a tool of provocation, not delivery.

… The design sprint doesn’t really shine a light on more sophisticated research methods, and nor is it meant to.

… Don’t expect to learn much about market sizing or segmentation, customers’ propensity to pay, business model viability, or your propositional appeal against competitors … Proper market research this is not.

… The only acceptable approval decision after a design sprint alone is “Let’s not do this project”.”

I believe the broade subject hinted at in this post is how does a design-spring serve a wider product-making process. When such processes have holes and unmet expectations in them, stakeholders can pile-up incorrect expectations on processes/people/tools.

These days I am more interested in the activist/civic space and less in the corporate space. A popular pattern in this space seems to be the hackathon – a sprint of code writing. I am amazed that anyone believes that something substantial can be built in this way.

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Sharing Economy in Amsterdam


“Amsterdam has developed an Airbnb for city-owned offices, so residents can use them for free, and may do the same with municipal cars and tools.

… To avoid damaging the market for companies that provide office space, the project is available only to organisations that are working for a social purpose.

… Some of the groundwork for sharing the city’s car fleet has also already been done. So that people don’t need to pick up keys and vehicles from some particular garage, the city has converted its cars so they can be opened with a smartphone. The technology came from a local start-up called We Go, which also means the cars are tracked and can be parked anywhere. The scheme has been running for a year for municipal employees.”


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Asana Practice – December 2015 (Before Review)


My current practice is:


Some comments on asana:

  1. I forgot to note on the page that the practice begins with kapalabhati 20br + 30 br
  2. The repeated langhana pattern (3, 4, 16)  of midrange and micromovements was gradually introduced to introduce a sense of containment. During summer I found especially during the first part of the practice my mind was jumpy … and this pattern helped in collecting myself.
  3. The most prominent theme I have been exploring is softness. It is an extensive and subtle exploration … and I am not, at this time, interested in writing about it.
  4. During the recovery practice period I replaced maha mudra with janu sirsasana – I was not able to support a quality stay in maha-mudra. In the last 4 weeks I have re-introduced maha-mudra. I have left in janu sirsasana as I feel it is still supporting opening of the hips and is a good preparation for maha mudra. I may phase out janu-sirsasana in the coming weeks.
  5. I have been through of waves of distraction and regular practice and I feel I am the end of a cycle fo recovery … so finding my way back to a core stability I had not felt for some time. The length and quality of breath has been recovered. Most of the stiffness that built up in my shoulders and hips has softened.
  6. I have not explored the alternate practice path with shoulder-stand and lying back-bends.
  7. I feel physically strong, emotionally vulnerable, energetically stable. In recent weeks I have not been sleeping well.
  8. I have resume some semi-regular software development … and I do feel its disturbance.

In Pranayama I have only recently transitioned from an Anuloma practice to Pratiloma. I was practicing an Anuloma with a base ratio of x6br. I attempted a direct transition to Pratiloma but that was too much and exhausted me (it involved a transition of both technique and an increase in number of breaths from 6 to 8). I started a path of transition by gradually building up to 8 breaths in anuloma. But then I decided to shift down to an ratio so that I could access the more subtle quality of Pratiloma. I am now settling well in Pratiloma and hope to resume the path Paul outlined for me last spring.

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