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Jorge Arango's

No. 24
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Up in the air

Long flights are one of the few contexts where I'm disconnected from the internet for a long period. As a result, I'm often very productive in airplanes. Much of this work happens on my iPad Pro. The iPad is light and compact and has a long battery life. It's a perfect computer for working on a seat tray. I've even grown to like typing on its keyboard cover. And once I'm done with work, the iPad also doubles as a great entertainment device. All things told it's a great little travel computer.

However, there's one caveat to working on the iPad while flying: Doing so requires more planning than doing so with a regular laptop. In particular, I must always remember to download the stuff I want to work on to the device before getting on the plane.

In some crucial ways, the iPad functions more like a phone than like a laptop. I have lots of files I can call up at any time on my laptop. If I'm working on a presentation and want to copy a slide from an older deck, I look for the document and open it. Not so on my iPad; older files are usually in one of the various cloud services (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, etc.) rather than on the device itself. This isn't a problem on the ground; my iPad has a cell radio that keeps me connected to the internet everywhere. Except for airplanes, of course.

In this particular flight, I was planning to work on the slides for my WIAD Switzerland workshop. After I boarded I checked to ensure that I had all the files I needed, and — sure enough — I was missing three of them. These are relatively large files, with lots of images. I started downloading them as the airplane was taxiing. The process became a race against time. I could see the download progress bars slowly nearing completion, download speeds varying as the airplane moved around. The files finished downloading a few minutes before we took off; I got everything I needed and was able to work on the slides during the flight. Still, it was stressful.

There are many advantages to being device-independent. It's great to be able to work anywhere using any one of various computers, phones, tablets, etc. If any one of them dies or is stolen, it won't take my work with it. Being device-independent also means being able to work from the device that's best suited to current conditions. That said, being device-independent also means being network-dependent. It's easy to become complacent about network access when we're in our home region. That dependency can impair our effectiveness when we don't have good connectivity, such as when we travel.

The Informed Life with Fabricio Teixeira

Episode 3 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with designer Fabricio Teixeira. Alongside his partner Caio Braga, Fabricio publishes UX Collective, one of the most popular online publications about UX design. They’ve created an amazing system that makes it possible for just two people to manage a large publication. In this show, Fabricio describes the setup that makes UX Collective happen.

I was impressed by Fabricio’s drive to control what information comes to his attention and when:

Fabricio: Sometimes it's not about too much information, but it's about information trying to get to you too many times throughout the day, if that makes sense. I think five years ago I redesigned my phone experience to turn off all notifications except for one or two apps, removed the number of icons that I have on my home screen so there's not a lot of visual clutter and information every time I unlock my phone. Removing all those red badges from the app icon, so there's no anxiety or tapping them and opening them. So in a way, it's almost like I designed my technology experience so that it doesn't get in the way of the actual information I want to get access to, if that makes any sense.

Jorge: It sounds like you're configuring your environment so that you can be more in control of your attention, right?

Fabricio: That's right. Yeah, and that's not only around technology. Of course, technology plays an important role there, but being mindful of my surroundings... I always try to keep I always try to keep the books from authors that I admire next to my desk. So I'm always surrounded by that feeling of... It's hard to describe, but even my apartment walls are a hundred percent white; there's no paintings or anything. My desk has as few objects as possible. As a designer, I'm making sure that I'm designing the space around me to avoid too much cognitive load throughout the day.

Jorge: The degree to which our environments and the busyness of the environment impinges upon your ability to be effective. Right?

Fabricio: It's really hard to measure. It's not a quantity, right? It's hard to measure the return over investment over those things because ultimately it's really qualitative. It's really about feeling lighter at the end of the day. I guess that's my KPI, ultimately.

I left this conversation inspired to simplify and automate as much of my information ecosystem as possible. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The Informed Life Episode 3: Fabricio Teixeira

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.

"We know that we are continually subjected to a huge range of sensory inputs and internal experiences of sensations and thoughts. In fact, almost anything existing in our universe, that can come into human and other animals’ purview, can be experienced as information."

— Marcia Bates

Thanks for reading!

-- Jorge

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Copyright © 2019 Jorge Arango, All rights reserved.

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

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