1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such astoe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles’ heel, swan song, and hotbedcome to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic.
For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
Long words don’t make you sound intelligent unless used skillfully. In the wrong situation they’ll have the opposite effect, making you sound pretentious and arrogant. They’re also less likely to be understood and more awkward to read.
Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree (Ezra Pound). Accordingly, any words that don’t contribute meaning to a passage dilute its power. Less is always better. Always.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
The man was bitten by the dog. (passive)The dog bit the man. (active).The active is better because it’s shorter and more forceful.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
This is tricky because much of the writing published on the internet is highly technical. If possible, remain accessible to the average reader. If your audience is highly specialized this is a judgment call. You don’t want to drag on with unnecessary explanation, but try to help people understand what you’re writing about. You want your ideas to spread right?
6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.
This bonus rule is a catch all. Above all, be sure to use common sense.These rules are easy to memorize but difficult to apply. Although I’ve edited this piece a dozen times I’m sure it contains imperfections. But trust me, it’s much better now than it was initially. The key is effort. Good writing matters, probably more than you think.
Dépaysement: The sensation of being in another country.
La douleur exquise: The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have. Even a Sex in the City episode was named after it!
Chômer: To be unemployed, but because it’s a verb, it makes the state active.
Profiter: To make the most of or take advantage of.
Flâneur: As defined in the book Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, it’s “the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.”
Esprit d’escalier: The literal translation is staircase wit, but it means to think of a comeback when it’s too late.
Retrouvailles: The happiness of meeting again after a long time.
Sortable: An adjective for someone you can take anywhere without being embarrassed.
Voila/voici: It’s so necessary that we use it all the time. “Voila” literally means “there it is” and “voici means “here it is.”
Empêchement: An unexpected last-minute change of plans. A great excuse without having to be specific
Different kinds of work have different time quanta. Someone proofreading a manuscript could probably be interrupted every fifteen minutes with little loss of productivity. But the time quantum for hacking is very long: it might take an hour just to load a problem into your head. So the cost of having someone from personnel call you about a form you forgot to fill out can be huge.
This is why hackers give you such a baleful stare as they turn from their screen to answer your question. Inside their heads a giant house of cards is tottering.
“To say that we learned everything from the ground up is literally true. I began by filing square angles into metal, and making the surfaces as smooth as possible. In a direct visceral way this gave us a feel for the materials, a respect for precision, and pride of workmanship.”—
Stefan Daniel, Division Manager, Product Management at Leica Camera AG
How many product managers do you know who are this intimate with the product they’re managing? How’s the quality of their product compare with Leica’s?
How is it that phones can find our exact locations using a network of space satellites, and broadcast it to our real and virtual friends via high speed wireless internet, but that can’t detangle the reciprocal voicemail tangle that follows a just-missed call?
“Travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move: On the road, we often live more simply, with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance. This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear” — disruption, in other words, (or emancipation) from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide.”—Pico Iyer, “Why We Travel”
“My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.” What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”—
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.
“If you’re not a programmer or a designer, you need to seriously ask yourself what you’re bringing to the table. Ideas are a dime a dozen—it’s the execution that makes great apps excel. This doesn’t mean non-coders and non-designers shouldn’t release iPhone apps, but they should realise that their situation comes with more risk and financial investment attached—they’re competing against people who are more comfortable with the platform and have less time and costs getting to market.”—http://bjango.com/articles/golddigging/
“At the moment we’re the most sold, paid task manager in the AppStore — even though there are so many other to-do apps out there available for free. To us, that really shows that the extra level of polish and thought that we put into Things is really valued by our customers.”—Werner Jainek, Cultured Code. From Apple’s Developer Stories.
In today’s road race I worked hard on the front, in the wind. Some others did too, but a few did the minimum. Last season it made me mad, this season I just wonder what racing looks like to those guys. They are often there at the finish contesting the sprint. Sometimes they post decent results, ahead of me. It’s competition and they are racing, using all of the tactics available to put themselves in a good position to win. They save themselves for the finish but what’s lost along the way? I think we’re here for different reasons.
I’m not here to save myself.
I am here to destroy myself.
I am not here for the smart if smart means shirking the work.
I am here for The Hard.
It may look like I’m here to lose or give the race away.
But when I win one I will have fucking earned it.
I just don’t get it. We’re amateurs. It’s a hobby. The sport is tough. That difficulty makes the feeling of finishing well after having utterly smashed yourself so satisfying. I know that feeling. I wonder what it feels like to finish after having sat in, after having done the bare minimum for 99% of the race, and then shooting to the line on reasonably fresh legs ahead of the chasing, faltering pack. Is it a good feeling, that win? It must be.
Still, why wouldn’t you work hard enough to break and redefine yourself? Afraid of what you might find?
Speaking of whom, explaining your approach to life is a great way of understanding your approach to life.
Speaking of which, I have - as usual - far too many awesome things to do. It’s not the worst problem in the world to have, and I’m getting better at doing them. I’m starting to understand that it’s ok to not do some things. To say no, you need to first let go yourself.
Two years and three months in. Being a Dad is still awesome.
New iPhone City Guide design is almost put to bed. I’m confident that unless someone else is cooking up something very special it’ll be the best of its kind in the marketplace. I love working with this team.
Pinhole camera work is 99.9% done. The rest of the effort is in the promoting.
New Baum work has the big green light. All I have to do now is floor it.
“Nicola Marzovilla runs a business, so when a client at his Gramercy Park restaurant, I Trulli, asks for a children’s menu, he does not say what he really thinks. What he says is, “I’m sure we can find something on the menu your child will like.” What he thinks is, “Children’s menus are the death of civilization.””—
A nice little profile on Nicola Marzovilla, who continues:
“The table is very important,” Mr. Marzovilla explained as we sat around one at his restaurant early Sunday evening with our five collective children. “It’s about nutrition, it’s about family; you go right down the line. And the children’s menu is about the opposite — it’s about making it quick, making it easy, and moving on.”
Hm. Shortcuts. I’d suggest going to read the full thing, but it ends wonderfully:
“If you don’t ask your children to try things, how will they ever know what they’re capable of?” Mr. Marzovilla said. “And isn’t the same true of us?”
Pete and I have been thinking pretty intensely about what travel looks like through the lens of the social web this week. We have an opportunity to get about two years worth of ideas up and out. That time frame isn’t meant to represent a volume of ideas, but it begins to do some justice to the maturity of them … a lot of big, unwieldy questions seem to be falling into place as our sketches are unfolding.
Meanwhile, we’ve been chewing hard on what might just be the crux of it all: what is the essential socialobject of travel?
The ideas unfolded over an email thread with our director of innovation, with furious sketching, brow furrowing and chin stroking between exchanges.
….the reason a lot of of the successful 2.0 startups have got traction is that they’ve been really clear about what their social object is going to be and lazer focused on it:
Flickr social object = photos (their razor focus on this meant that they did not really get into video and compete with youtube when they could easily have chased that rabbit)
YouTube social object = videos
Twitter = messages
Facebook = friend status updates (initially at least)
I’m wanting to hear from the various thought leaders that are contributing to the concept what they feel the core social object is and really try to narrow that down before we plunge in because we’re guilty of trying to be too many things to too many people but not nailing any of them.
Thought starters: Is it… > destinations? > itineraries? > trips? > advice? (answers to questions) > guides? > travel experiences > travel stories? > etc
You could say it’s experiences, but it feels much more natural to call it destinations, or rather places (regions, countries, cities, POIs). There’s a very strong inter-reliance between the two because experiences are interactions with destinations and other travellers. You can have experiences anywhere, but it’s where we had them that makes travel special. You can have destinations without experiences, but then you end up with dry factoid place-pages. But the crux of it is that the destination is still the pivotal object that travellers gather and create stories around. “Oh man, when I was in <destination> we … blah blah blah blah blah.”
It falls very nicely in line with the vision of helping people ‘get to the heart of a place' too. Socially, LP (a community of travellers) should be where people can get to the heart of a place via other travellers. Sharing places via the experiences we had there, is both an act of creating something beautiful (a memoir – something valuable to myself) and a way of helping others to discover the heart of that place for themselves.
CB wasn’t so sure.
What is it that travellers create? What do they share? What is it we’re compelled to gather around? The verbage is important.
If it’s experiences, I said, it has to be experiences of destinations. If it’s destinations, then we can only know them by the authentic, funny, happy, colourful and tragic experiences we’ve had there. Otherwise where’s the value? Objective facts (make-it-happen-now practicalities aside) are completely commoditized.
the experience is far richer than the destination, but for our users one doesn’t exist without the other.
I think I can happily settle on our S.O. as a travel experience, but if the object is an experience, the destination a required field in the metadata.
So long as it’s emotive and alive – “I met my wife here” / “I danced til 5am with strangers here” / “I almost died but had the time of my life here” absolutely kills the usual vote of “I’ve been here”. You want to be able to look up a sketchy destination to see what kind of crazy adventures people have had there.
I passed CB again on the stairs, on my way back up to the cafe to give some more shape to page ideas with Pete and discovered we’d both been wondering how Tony would call it. What have the books been getting right all this time?