NY Times Mystery Album

The photo above is from the article Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street in The Times. The photos are wonderful, but they only tell part of the story. Annie Correal did the detective work to uncover the rest of it. Spend the five or ten minutes it takes to read and enjoy these pictures.

These pictures are from a time long before most of us started carrying cameras everywhere. Photographing something meant you not only had to get the camera out, but you also had to get the film developed and printed. Many of these photos just show everyday life, but one has to wonder, what made these moments special enough to record? Was some far-away family visiting? Was it a special occasion? Sometimes, we’ll never know because the moment has been long forgotten, or the people who would know are gone. I’m glad they took these photographs, and I’m glad they fell into the hands of someone who was curious enough to follow the story.

It’s a bit sad to think that our digital past won’t be so easy for someone to stumble across. When we go, the electronic record fades quickly. If we’re not alive to click on the ads, our everyday images are of little use to the companies that currently keep and display them. Perhaps it’s worthwhile to print a few of the pictures that depict our everyday moments once in a while.

Here’s an interesting bit from some research on how often people check their email, reported in The New York Times:

Although the only thing we changed about the participants’ lives was how often they checked their email, we observed a significant reduction in stress when they checked email less frequently.

The article is worth a read, they delve into why this might be the case.

My advice is, at minimum, turn off all of your email alerts. This isn’t an option for everyone, but I think most of us will do just fine by dealing with email only a few times throughout the day.

I have an upcoming doctor’s appointment, I know because I’ve received two emails and a text reminding me of this. Reminders are great, but do I need so many? The text reminders are the most frustrating, especially since I never asked for them. This one joins a growing list of texts I receive that I never asked for–and can’t turn off. I have two companies that send emails and texts when a new bill is available AND when it has been paid–even though both are set for auto-payment. This feels less like helpful information, and more like nagging.

Do you really want to nag your users? I hope not. Notifications should be used judiciously. Those of us responsible for user experience (I’m looking at all of us, including product managers, developers, customer service, founders, CEOs… everybody) should really take a hard look at our notification strategy from the user’s standpoint and make sure it is serving them.

Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • Seriously, consider whether you need to send that notification at all, really.
  • Give your users the ability to tailor which notifications they will receive, how they will receive them (email/text/in-app/etc.) and how often and/or when.
  • Be smart about initial notification preferences, don’t just turn them all on by default. Most of your users should be perfectly happy to never adjust their notification preferences. A little user research goes a long way here.
  • Make sure notifications make sense, they should be specific, succinct and actionable.
  • Speaking of actionable. Instead of ending your messages with “Don’t reply to this message.”, figure out a way to let the user reply to the damn message. You’re the one that decided to send it, let them reply.

Now I’ll sit back and take my lumps from anyone who was notified of this post. At least none of them are getting a text about it, as far as I know anyway.

As I write this, I’m enjoying some Boston piped through the Robusto Amp. This was a pretty simple, yet satisfying build.

Robusto Assembly

The Verdict

With the bypass switch, I can compare the amp’s sound to the source. So, how does it sound?

  • With crap earbuds, there’s no difference.
  • With slightly better headphones, it sounds a bit “fuller” with the amp, maybe.

Overall, the difference is pretty minor (if it exists at all). I need to try two things: Line level input and higher impedance headphones. Even my good headphones are fairly low impedance.

Lessons Learned

  • The polarity protection diode payed off. While messing with the power supply, I reversed the polarity at least once.
  • I’m not so good on perf boards. Next time, I think I’ll spend a little more time up front laying things out. Also, I think I’ll try not using the component leads as traces, this makes it really hard to get them off the board if need be.
  • Don’t underestimate the time the enclosure fitting and final build will take. Granted, I’m pretty slow, and I don’t have much of a workshop, but this is a big part of the project. Where putting together a simple circuit on a breadboard is fast, fitting everything and soldering the final circuit can take an order of magnitude longer (for me anyway).