Screaming at screens


Screaming at screens and taking back control of your content.

Do one thing and do it well.

– Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike

Taken from the 1984 Program Design in the UNIX Environment manifesto, it’s one of the many principles for designing today’s digital products and services.

39 years later, software creator’s appetites have ballooned. No longer content with doing one thing well, they seemingly want to do everything because they can. Every log in at Service A announces the same feature from Service B, so much so that it’s hard to differentiate between them two. What is clear is that want our time and data. All of it.

  • Slack wants our project notes,
  • Miro wants our conference call,
  • Google Docs wants our instant chat messages,
  • Figma wants our comments,
  • Trello wants our files,
  • Google Calendar wants our tasks,
  • and all the while every byte of data is being piped up the orifice of the AI overloads without an opt-out in sight.

What used to be a trivial decision has now become a paralysis of choice.

It reminds me of a talk from dConstruct. The speaker, Josh Clark 2015 I think, described our mobile phones as babies, their rings and notification bells begging for our attention. Today’s software feels like the toddler-temper-tantrum equivalent. They want it all and they want it now.

Keeping abreast of activity and cross-linking services has become a daily activity that just no longer feels productive. I’ve been integrated to an inch of my life and yet the flow of information isn’t bidirectional.

As the team size grows so does the complexity. As individuals we have our own tool preferences for thinking and experimenting, these are seldom the repository source of truth… if there is such a thing. This might be less of a problem for in-house design teams but for agency side it becomes compounded by system onboarding, unfamiliar working methods and short timelines.

Keep it simple stupid

As a reaction to the nebula of services and data I’m working in my own system of choice, Obsidian. There’s a few things I’m hoping to achieve by doing this:

  1. Own my data
  2. Create a system that works for me
  3. Build knowledge over time
  4. Increase productivity and value of my practice

Obsidian is a great example ‘Do one thing and do it well’. It’s core feature set is relatively small but can be customised by a huge volume of community-created plugins. It’s offline-first so I’m not tied to an internet connection. Files are saved as Markdown files so it’s future friendly.

Over the past year I’ve bendt and twisted it to suit my needs, resisting the urge to feed other systems my data and slowly retiring them outright.