Magic Grips for my Magic Mouse

Several years ago I stumbled across Magic Grips, a fascinating silicon accessory to the Apple Magic Mouse. For those who prefer more ergonomic mice, or are used to a trackpad on a computer, the Magic Mouse probably looks like a weird contraption that is more form than function. After many years of use I can attest to the absolute value of touch functionality on a mouse. I love it. I can’t go back to manual click buttons, and I just don’t like the trackpad for my precision design work. However, I like to find ways to protect my hands over the long haul, so I’ve sought a compromise.
The Magic Grips are amazing. They help to make my mouse feel more hefty in my hands, more sturdy in a way. Each time I’ve installed the grips – we’ll get to that in a minute – I’ve preferred the larger size and found that usage of the mouse just feels better. My hands can hold onto the silicon bits and movement is more comfortable in my hand. That, combined with an awesome mousepad from UgMonk, makes moving across the screen a near delight. Pro tip on that point: I like to increase the speed of my mouse to whatever max the system allows.
The problem though, is the adhesive. About two days a week I travel into a Coworking space. That helps me switch things up a bit, and not always work out of my home office. I put the mouse into my backpack each time, inside a specific compartment. I’m pretty sure that the stress of movement is a problem for the grips. After about a year of doing this the adhesive starts to come off. I’ve tried to figure out a good way to fix this, and asked the company if I could just buy replacement adhesive strips. So far I haven’t had any luck on that front. However, to their credit Elevation Labs has been awesome on customer service (their absolute lack of any help with my adhesive problems on the DraftTable V1 notwithstanding – but that’s another article), sending me full product replacements several times. That gets tiring though, and makes this product less than perfect for my use.
Going forward I’m going to need to live without the grips, buy a second mouse just for travel (sans grips), or find an adhesive that I can more readily re-apply whenever the grips start to fall off. The last option, and I have spent a small amount of time looking, is to find a case designed for the Magic Mouse + Grips. No luck on that front yet.

M1 Max battery update

The reviews and analysis have started coming in for battery life on the New MacBook Pros with the M1 Max and M1 Pro chips. I feel partially vindicated in that I wasn’t going crazy, but questions still remain. The 14” Max model is the worst of the entire M1 line in terms of battery life. In every other regard it’s an absolute beast, and a joy to use; no matter what I throw at it, the computer doesn’t even break a sweat. However, the thing I was used to, not thinking about plugging in or needing to be aware of a charging location throughout the day, is no longer an option.

At one point I switched to low power mode for a cycle, and tried that out. It helped, improving battery usage substantially. However, and this is a deal breaker for me, screen scrolling became worse. I noticed it after an hour or so, and had to switch back.
I haven’t learned the exact reason, but I think power usage is related to the higher performance chips sipping battery regardless of user activity. Some folks speculate that Monterrey, the operating system update that shipped with the new devices, is responsible for some problems as well. If that’s true then there could be resolution to this in the near future.
As mentioned before, it’s also interesting to use a device that gets warm. The MacBook Air stayed cooled all the time, and in the Winter it offered little support in warming my hands. Now, I’m reminded of the old days where the device is capable of heating up my legs when I’m using it as a laptop device for several hours. It’s a minor point though, since it doesn’t reach the scorching – burnable – levels of my 2010 MacBook Pro.
All things being equal I’d be tempted to try an M1 Pro chip, but the process of switching devices – especially since I already sold my Air – is not an easy one. This is supposed to be my three year laptop, at least, so I’ll be curious how I feel when the M2 chip starts to ship in the redesigned MacBook Air. Either way, I’m glad that battery is the only thing I’m talking about now. My one year with the Air may just have been a wonderful anomaly.

Divergence and convergence

A few years ago, Leo Postovoit, shared a concept with me. While we were chatting I remember being surprised and not having a mental model for applying the ideas to my work. It’s not that I’d never done it, but I hadn’t consciously thought of it the way he described. The concept was divergence and convergence within design, or really within anything that requires gathering of information. Divergence means going wide, and convergence means coming back to a narrow point.

As a product designer, it’s my job to help solve a lot of problems for my clients, the products, the wonderful teams I work with, and ultimately the folks who get to use what I make. There are quite a few mental models I’ve developed over the years for doing my work, and this one stands as an important pillar.

When I start a project, I try to keep things wide open for divergence. Practically, that means taking in all sources of information about the thing I’m working on. I collect data via scraps of paper, typing things into Bear notes, capturing to-dos in Things 3, Google docs, JIRA tickets, Github issues, screenshots with Droplr, Miro boards, Figma boards, and more. I love this, taking crazy chaos from everywhere and trying to make sense of it all.

This divergent, collective part of the project is messy, and can take a lot of time if I don’t put a constraint on it. Going wide, receiving new ideas, is necessarily an unlimited task. You open up to all the things that could apply to your work, and follow rabbit trails across the digital and analog spaces. This is beautiful, a lot of fun, and often immensely frustrating. Often you’re digging around in areas that don’t even feel tangentially related to the project in front of you, hoping for some kind of parallel example to bring back to the problem at hand.

Sometimes I’ll go on a walk and stew over the problem. Other times I just need to take a break and sleep through it, coming back fresh in the morning.

If that was the only part of a project, I’d likely finish nothing, and it’s caused problems at times in my work. My sense of perfectionism can kick in here and I’ll think that I need more research, more time, more data.

However, and this is where convergence comes in, at some point I have to switch mental modes and start culling the information, sorting the signals from the noise, and pulling out the relevant parts. This part looks a bit less messy from the outside. It’s the part where I cross items off on my digital boards, start checking to-dos in my task managers, and begin striking out text in areas. I take all that data and sort through the pieces in my mind.

After that point, I’m often ready for feedback; whether from my team or from customers in the real world. I’ve now taken in a bunch of stuff, sorted it, and spit out an editorial opinion on that stuff. This is where unique creativity comes in. There’s not really anything new in the world in terms of ideas. I can just hope to bring my own spin to something, taking inspiration from all those who came before. It’s a lot of fun, and it doesn’t require true originality, rather it takes wisdom to sort through what applies to the project and what I can toss.

This convergent phase can, in theory, be the end of a project. However, in reality, it’s often just the middle part. Going back to the client, the rest of the team, or our customers, and showing this convergence of information, often reveals flaws in the thinking. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to embrace those flaws. I get excited when someone points out an error in my mental model, or a misstep in where I’ve landed. These are opportunities to correct and improve and continue to editorialize the information.

Sometimes minor tweaks are enough. I can change my direction and iterate a bit and ship to the world. Other times, though, my approach to thinking is off, or the direction we took had a flaw from the beginning. This happened recently with a small project. We planned a specific direction based on the design brief, and I went divergent, thinking up ideas and trying to understand the brief. I went back to the team with my insights in a Google doc and shared some concerns about the design direction. That gave us a quick opportunity to pivot and switch things up, to try something new. From that meeting I dove back out, continued to spread out and look for things, then came back to earth and converged on a new direction.

This continual process of divergence and convergence, when appropriately timed, can help to move a project forward, and often conveys the pulse, or heartbeat, of the team. Anxiety, happiness, concern, euphoria, and a dozen other emotions all get bound up through the rhythm of the work. I love it, and this is a tiny piece of what gets me up each day and inspires me to continue to learn and grow.

Instead of being worried about this process, about being wrong about things, I embrace it, enjoying the natural flow of things, and use this opening and closing as a tool. As with any tool, there are limitations. You can spend too much time going wide, or focus too narrowly on a problem and stay stuck in that rut. With experience comes understanding of when to apply each, and therein lies the rub. That’s a thing I’m still learning and tweaking on every single project; trying to find that balance and understand where I am in the cycle. There’s more than this, of course, to being a great product designer, but it’s a start, and when uncertainty abounds, I can come back to this model and find a reset point.

Thanks Jonathan for inspiring me to write this, and for those following along this counted as my 1,000 words for the day.

My writing goal for the year

From September, 2019 – December 2020 I managed to write four novels. The process was long and messy, and one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever undertaken. Those four books may never see the light of day, as they were a process of learning and understanding, and it would be hard to publish them now. One book, my first, is sitting in Ulysses with iteration number 17; meaning I’ve gone over the darn book 17 times. It’s a mess at this point, and I don’t know how to finish it, but that’s oaky.

As 2021 kicked around the corner I set a goal for myself to publish four novels in this calendar year. That was far different than the previous months where I wrote books, rewrote them, and toiled in obscurity. The new goal meant getting something out the door, being vulnerable with my work and letting the world see it.

So many doubts crept in with that goal. Is the quality of my content good? Is the subject matter good? How do I create book covers? What do I do about editing?
Those all remain to this day, and I have spent countless hours trying to learn how to handle these and hundreds of other questions.

Still, as of November 10, 2021, I’ve published three books, and, I’m 19,021 words into my fourth novel for the year. It will top out at about 40,000 words. I’m starting to cut it a little close, but I’ll get it done. That knowledge, knowing I’ll get this fourth book out and meet my goal, is motivating.

Does it mean these four books are great novels? Well, I’ll leave that up to my readers to decide. I’m continuing to learn from each one and striving to improve my writing as I move forward. Pushing my books out into the world is part of that process, and it’s rewarding.

There’s still so much to learn and figure out, and it’s nerve racking at times, but I’m glad for it. I’m also wondering about 2022 and starting to think about goals for the new year.

Growing a voice

Writing has been a thing I’ve done for most of my adult life in one form or another. I’ve tried out a few blogs over the years and attempted ways of putting out regular content. The problem with a lot of my writing was the inability to make anything stick. I don’t mean the amount of people reading, but rather the consistency on my part. The things I put out didn’t really interest me, and were being done as part of an obligation of sorts. That might have been a desire to hit a daily goal of creating posts, or a scheme to monetize my words.

For anyone who has followed along the past two years, you’re well aware of my writing fix. Six days a week, one thousand words a day, starting around September, 2019. It’s been a wonderful habit and brought about many unexpected benefits. I’ve written a few books, journaled more than anytime before in my life, and put out an exponential increase in blog posts.

Another benefit, and I think the one that matters far more than any other, is the start of finding my inner voice. I define that voice as the ability to say things in a way that’s unique to you.

I’ve noticed this voice from other writers over the years; whether in fiction or non-fiction, books or blog posts. I’ll pick Gruber as one example. He’s written for years, put out countless articles and bits of content, and has a comfort level with stating his opinion and building content in a way that invokes interest from his readers. It’s something I notice listening to his podcasts. When he sits down to review a piece of Apple hardware he seeks to find the angle that’s interesting and new. He doesn’t want to write words that will feel like copies of all the other product reviews, and finds joy in discovering a unique take. Does that mean everyone will agree with him, or find his words relevant for them? Not at all. But it does mean that a subset of readers, myself included, enjoy the nuance he brings to a given topic. If something happens in the tech world I want to know what John thinks about it.

Finding a voice in content creation takes time to cultivate, and therein lines a joy for me. I don’t like to pursue something when I perceive it’s too easy to accomplish. There’s an interest that comes in pushing my curiosity and challenging my abilities. Writing is one such activity. No matter how much I write I still see mountains in front of me. I may get better, bit by bit, but a few minutes immersed in words from my favorite authors helps to inspire me to do better. That’s exciting and motivating. I see my own skills increasing over time and, some day and in some specific pieces, matching the quality of what I love to read.

My voice is starting to grow. I’m getting a sense for the things I want to write, and the specific angle that applies to those topics. If this is what two years of solid writing brings, I can’t wait to see what things look like in the future. That, tied with an understanding of why I write – because I have a unique take on something that is often different from others – keeps this whole exercise interesting.

This ties in with a growth mindset on this whole topic. The world is a better place when more people create. I read more than I write, so encouraging others to become writers helps to make the whole pie bigger. In an odd way this is the only pyramid scheme that works. I may put out a thousand words or so a day of content, but I can easily consume far more than that.

If you’re curious about your own voice, and want to cultivate it, I encourage you to find a way of creating that works for you.