Matt Gemmell

Thinking slowly

As I write this, my wife is sewing a skirt. Everything is laid out: the skirt itself, the fabric she cut the material from, the thread, the scissors, a measuring tape, some pins, the sewing machine and the pattern. It’s the first piece of clothing she’s made from scratch, and she’s thoroughly enjoying the process. I find the chatter of the sewing machine very comforting.

I’m a fan of analogue tools. I depend on them. I incorporate them into my creative process no matter what I’m doing. When I’m thinking about the architecture of a piece of software, I use a whiteboard (and index cards attached to the board with magnets) long before I launch Xcode. When I’m designing a user interface, Photoshop isn’t touched until I’ve filled several pages of a paper notebook, and I have multiple uncapped pens rolling around on the desk.

And then there’s writing, of course. I mostly do that on an assortment of electronic devices – some new, like my 2013 MacBook Air, and some old, like my gorgeous PowerBook 150 from 1994 – but right now I’m using something a bit more vintage: a typewriter.

Sponsor: SyncSpace

My sincere thanks to SyncSpace for sponsoring my writing this week. It’s an app that I use myself, and I’ve had first-hand experience of the degree of care that its author has put into the app over the years.

More than 20% of the worldwide workforce works from home, and many more routinely work with people in other locations. Many services have emerged to help your teams coordinate: Basecamp, Slack, HipChat, Campfire, and countless others. These services are great for sharing text, events, and files, but constrain the ideas you can share to those that can be expressed in words or photos.

SyncSpace is designed to help multiple people express and explore ideas together, wherever they are. It’s a shared virtual whiteboard without the physical limitations: you’ll never run out of space to add detail nor be limited by physical borders. You can enjoy real-time sharing during a meeting or just sketch your ideas anytime and watch your contributions automatically sync up with those of your colleagues.

Burying the URL

Last week, one of the nightly builds of the Google Chrome web browser experimented with hiding the URL in the address bar, instead showing what Google calls an “origin chip” – essentially a button for the domain you’re currently on.

It is just an experiment, and it has some potential usability problems, but it got me thinking about our old friend the URL.

Trabalhando em Casa

This is a Brazilian Portuguese version of my article about working from home. I’m very grateful to Halex Pereira for the translation.


Eu trabalho na minha casa em tempo integral há mais de sete anos, e sou dono do meu próprio negócio há igual tempo. Muitos de nós temos pelo menos uma oportunidade eventual de trabalhar em casa, e ouso dizer que muita gente gostaria de fazer disso algo permanente.

Só que não é algo tão simples quanto colocar um laptop na sala de estar. Trabalhar em casa traz uma série de dificuldades e desafios. De muitas maneiras é uma batalha de autocontrole. Queria falar sobre alguns dos problemas que encontrei e como lido com eles.

Working from home

I’ve been working from home full-time for more than seven years, and running my own business for the same amount of time. Many of us at least have the opportunity to occasionally work from home, and I daresay that many people would like the chance to do so permanently.

It’s not just as straightforward as pulling out a laptop in the living room, though. Working from home has a number of difficulties and challenges. In many ways, it’s a battle for mastery of yourself. I’d like to talk about a few of the issues I’ve faced, and how I handle them.

Sponsor: Accessibility TV

My sincere thanks to The Accessibility TV Network for sponsoring my writing this week. Accessibility is a topic that’s incredibly important to me (here’s why), so I’m delighted to share this important initiative with you. Please do help out with the crowdfunding campaign if you can.

The U.N. estimates that there are more than 1 billion disabled people living in this world today. With their billions of dollars in marketing power, it’s important to reach them by making your digital experiences fully accessible. No matter whether you are a project manager, a usability professional, a designer, a developer, a consultant, a marketing or an HR professional, knowing what you can do to enhance the experiences you can offer can only lead to a better world for all.

There are many resources on the web where you can read about accessibility; or you could hire consultants to teach you or your company. Support The Accessibility TV Network and its crowd funding campaign. and you can avoid the frustrating search for learning material while finding affordable options to gain the knowledge you need. Keep up with increasing legal and regulatory requirements to make digital experiences accessible and include people with disabilities in the new digital world.

Little guys

I’ve been asked two questions far more than any others during my career: “What’s wrong with my code?”, and “How did you build your audience?”

The first one is no longer my department, and I’ve never really been able to give a satisfactory answer to the second.

I’m not a big time blogger. I don’t even like the term “blogger”, honestly. I certainly don’t consider myself “internet famous” (which is a bit mean-spirited to my ear, though rarely intentionally), even though I’ve been called all of those things.

Small screen productivity

In his piece The Perfect MacBook, Thord Daniel Hedengren talks about a hypothetical 12” MacBook Air:

Cut the bezel and you’ve got a machine that is essentially the size of the 11” Air, just a wee bit taller, but closer to the 13” when it comes to productivity.

I enjoyed the article, and I’d love that machine too. But I have to take issue with the (very common) idea of “productivity” as a consequence of screen size.

Sponsor: Milk

My sincere thanks to Milk 2 for sponsoring my writing this week. If you’re a Tumblr fan with a Mac, you’re in for a treat.

Milk 2 is everything you love about Tumblr, from the comfort of your desktop.

Work your way through your dashboard, search tags, post and reblog without any interruptions or contextual switch. Milk offers a distraction-free reading experience to suit to your taste. And it looks great in full screen.

Taking credit

I read an interesting quotation the other day:

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

Harry S. Truman

At first glance, the sentiment here is straightforward: ego and the pursuit of grateful attribution hinder accomplishment. Probably true, in most cases.

My first response when reading that quote was a grin: yes, that’s pretty good. My second response, a moment later, was a sort of vague, directionless sense of shame. Do I live the way that the remark seems to implicitly advise? Well… no, not at all.