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Jorge Arango's

No. 25
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Do I offend?

When I was a boy, I read a short story that made a big impression on me. The details are fuzzy (I’ve tried Googling it, but haven’t found it), but the gist of it was that the main character — a young person — was constantly feeling slighted by others. One day, while riding on the bus, s/he looked up and saw an advertisement with the headline “DO YOU OFFEND?” This sparked the realization that s/he too may be causing the very thing s/he was railing against. The dawning of self-awareness.

Every once in a while, I’ll post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter telling folks about this newsletter and inviting them to sign up. In my latest such call, I positioned the newsletter as help for meeting the challenge of being productive and present in a world of digital distractions. A friend rightfully called me out on this. Couldn’t the newsletter itself be a distraction, albeit a worthy one? Good point. DO YOU OFFEND?

You have enough distractions. Why should you give me your attention? Am I helping by sending out this newsletter, or am I adding to the problem?

When I compile these emails, I try to include a mix of things that will inform and entertain you. My aim is to help you be more aware of your use of information environments, so you can be more effective. Of course, I’d also like for you to check out my book and my workshops. Like everybody else, I too have something to sell. What’s the right mix?

I see this as a system — one I’d like to optimize. There's only value in it for me if it generates value for you. My feedback mechanisms are limited: I can tell how many people have signed up and how many have unsubscribed; I can see if you’ve opened the email and if you’ve clicked on any of the links, but that’s about it — not a very rich source of information. What I really want is to know if this is serving you — if it’s worth your (and my!) time.

How could I improve this newsletter? What would you like to see? Is it too long? Not long enough? Too frequent? Too infrequent? What could I do to help you use information environments more productively? Please let me know. (You can reply to this email.)

Digital Minimalism

And on the subject of being more productive with your information environents... Cal Newport’s new book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, is out.

As with his earlier book, Deep Work, here he argues that we need to lay off digital distractions if we are to do our best work. However, Digital Minimalism presents a more nuanced (and IMO more feasible) approach. It’s become my new go-to recommendation for people looking to be more effective amidst digital distractions. Read my book notes or buy it on

Making controlled vocabularies easier to use

One of the most memorable talks at WIAD Switzerland 2019 was delivered by experience designer Memi Beltrame. In a hilarious presentation, Memi laid out a problem we all encounter sooner or later: we invest time and effort in building a controlled vocabulary that then goes unused.

The primary problem is the distance between the system where the vocabulary is managed (often some variant of a wiki) and the point where content authors need it (usually text fields in a content management system.)

Working with a client, Memi developed a solution: a Chrome extension that brings the content from the controlled vocabulary to place where it’s most needed: input forms. Now he’s turned this extension into a service call Lexical that anyone can sign up for.

I haven’t tried it myself, but Memi showed videos of the system during his presentation and it seemed compelling. Does this seem like something you could use? I’d be curious to hear from folks who’ve tried it.

The Informed Life with Andrea Kates

Episode 4 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with innovation consultant, author, and speaker Andrea Kates. Andrea has worked with a broad range of large organizations around the world to help them discover new lines of business by seeing things differently:

I perceive anomalies. Whereas within the four walls of a company, they don't see these different pieces of information as anomalies, they just listen to information and put it all into the same sets of categories. Whereas a lot of times it's the outsider or the guide of a growth process… I see anomalies. And it allows them to have a fresh set of eyes, quite frankly, and move in new directions.

Andrea trained as a choreographer, and brings to her consulting practice a kinesthetic/visual approach to information management that breaks norms — to the benefit of her clients. I had a blast talking with Andrea; I hope you enjoy our conversation too!

The Informed Life Episode 4: Andrea Kates

Other things I’ve been thinking about…


Upcoming Workshops

March 13 — Orlando,FL
Information Architecture Essentials

About Living in Information

Living in Information book coverThe book's description and table of contents are on its web page. If you want a succinct overview, my presentation at UX Week 2018 is a good introduction. You can buy the book from... 

... and other fine purveyors of the printed word.

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”

— Jose Ortega y Gasset

Thanks for reading!

-- Jorge

P.S.: If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. (If you're not subscribed yet, you can sign up here.)

Disclosure: this newsletter includes Amazon affiliate links.
Copyright © 2019 Jorge Arango, All rights reserved.

Jorge Arango
P.O. Box 29002
Oakland, CA 94604

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