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A reflection in action

Recently, I have been introduced to the term reflection-in-action. Which, as one can draw from the name, means reflecting on something while in the process of doing it. Now of course this method can be used throughout basically anything that you are doing. And whether you have heard of it or not, the chances are incredibly high that you have been using it throughout your own writing process.

Two hands placed on the keyboard of a laptopImage from Unsplash

Writing down thoughts on writing might at first glance seem naively easy as a writer. However, the more one thinks about the own habits and behaviour during the individual writing process, the harder it gets to put it into words. (I realise the irony of it.) Here is a personal reflection on the most important steps in any writing process:

The Writing

Just start. And dive in. The practice of thinking about the written word is part of my daily work as a copywriter and UX writer. But in my very own personal experience and method, I tend to start with it only after sentences have made it onto the blank page (digital or not) in front of me.

Two hands placed on the keyboard of a laptopImage from Unsplash

My fingers dance across the keyboard and my pen struggles to keep up. Writing can be the easiest part of this process. It’s where thoughts–any and all of them, and all without judgment–deserve a space on that page. The title (and subtitle) is either always the very first thing I write or the very last, meaning the red thread is either there from the start or it is an open-end creative situation. When starting a sentence, whether its within a digital product, an article, a short novel or that of a blog post, in most cases I don’t know where it is going until I get there. The metaphor alone and surprise factor of what you will find on that previously blank page in front of you is what I love most about the entire process. It is very often that a text takes on a whole new course than initially anticipated. In this first step, my mind can switch off and I let my thoughts and creativity loose. However, even the very best writers only produce some rare masterpiece-sentences that remain exactly the way they were written throughout the entire process. Most sentences, very much so my own, receive some serious editing treatment.

The Editing

Write without fear. Edit without mercy. Hi and welcome to the least fun part of writing and the one that takes the most time. Please make sure you switch that mind of yours on again. And patience.

Two hands placed on the keyboard of a laptopImage from Unsplash

If you–like me–have a soaring perfectionism, your editing game will need some work. With both advantages and disadvantages of this trait, I personally feel that it becomes gold in the writing profession and gives the much needed attention to detail. However, one of course needs to be able to reach the point of “it is good enough” and send it off to whichever set of eyes it was meant for. This takes years of training. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as over-editing, so make sure you know when to stop. Here are some editing tactics that I use:

  1. Binding sentences together. Thinking more than one sentence ahead at a time when writing is tricky, therefore, a sentence is written without necessarily knowing what the next one will look like or which message it will contain. Binding them together will make your text more cohesively.
  2. Trying to read it from a different perspective. Reading a passage for “the first time” will allow you to notice areas that still lack relevant information or are unclear. I go ahead and add short sentences to passages when I feel like either important information is missing or the impact gets lost.
  3. Rewriting, improving and rearranging sentences while still keeping the meaning. Because they just feel off.
  4. Deleting. A lot. Hitting that return button is also part of any writing processes. Editing is not solely about changing, but also about removing text segments. The shorter and more compact a text is, the more impactful it is. Think about how you can say something, with as little text as possible. And then shorten that.

The Doubting

An almost official and absolutely indispensable step of the writing process is that you doubt everything that you have just done. While, it will most definitely take up time, make sure to give it the least amount of it.

Two hands placed on the keyboard of a laptopImage from Unsplash

Is it done?

Is it good enough?

Am I sure nothing is missing?

Is that one phrase within the second sentence of the fifth paragraph really the best one?

These are only some of the uncountable questions that can pop into your head after you have placed that final full stop–all depending on what is at stake and the size of your work, of course. But let me tell you this from my own personal experience: You will never be done. And it can be done differently, or even better. The biggest challenge you have to tackle as a writer is fully accepting the lack of certainty of when it is good enough. I just tend to work around this:

It doesn’t have to be good enough. Work on it until it feels good. And that will be enough.

External image

The Writing Process was originally published in The Startup on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



source https://medium.com/swlh/the-writing-process-7b0e8e3f2b3c?source=rss—-f5af2b715248—4
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Teaching - Digital Innovation Design - is better than studying

In the following article, I will share with you my experience and learnings from teaching a bunch of students. As I was hosting a course in digital innovation design, most parts are probably more relevant for designers than for anyone else. Anyhow, I think at least one of the three deep dives might be interesting for everyone. Moreover, I would be extremely happy if I can help you with anything I mention in the future or simply a coffee break talking about methods, remote, or storytelling.

I was in the right place at the right time before the right people.

I gave a talk on Empathic Listening at the world usability conference midway through the semester in front of an audience featuring professors of the user experience degree at the TH Ingolstadt. I was asked if I wanted to give a course, wrote the syllabus for digital innovation design, and said yes. If you want to host a course but do not have a talk or conference coming up, I recommend simply reach out to a faculty member with a syllabus suggestion.

My expectations crashed with reality

Being used to the daily pressure in a digital agency environment, I wanted to achieve as much as possible in a short period of time — 7 four-hour-long sessions. I assumed that the students were familiar with many methods and different kinds of design processes. Luckily we did short retros/feedback sessions regularly. Two quotes sum it up. “We never did such a complete run-through in such a short amount of time.” and “I believe the lecturer expected that we’d know more and had done things more often.”

The challenge

Slowly grasping what is awaiting me for the next five month, I would state the challenge was the following:

Guiding a diverse group of students through a design process, leading to digital innovation for whichever topic they would choose. I let them choose, to have them on board and work on something they are passionate about rather than solving the same standard design challenges everyone had to at least once in their life (I am talking about 1k-floor elevators, weather apps, and the like).

Of course, while teaching them what matters most from my point of view, having fun with them, and sharing practical insides Youtube videos do not share with you.

The outcome

I had lots of topics in my head that could need new innovative ideas. The one the students suggested and voted for was not even on my backup list. Bakeries. To be honest, I had to let that sink for a moment. I was even disappointed as I had so many awesome ideas for other topics in the discussion. But then I remembered I had stumbled upon many seemingly boring topics in my career — you know Thermomix, don’t you — which turned out to be super interesting. So without any details on the process — there will be an additional article on that — here are the final challenges and solutions of the three teams.

Team 🍩 worry (I did not choose or suggest the names!)

Challenge
We want orders to be managed easier and more efficiently while ensuring that customers can place their orders anytime, provide them with all necessary information, and show them a way to express their individual preferences.

Solution
A personalized bakery app with configurators for several product types, sustainable packaging options, providing food intolerance information.

Personalized bakery app screens and screen boardPersonalized bakery app
Personalized bakery app screens and screen boardBakery event platform

Team Bakery Machine

Challenge
How might we help customers to experience traditional baking craft in new ways?

Solution
A platform offering personalized events at bakeries near you and the possibility of influencing their offering.

Team Breadsavers

Challenge
How might we make use of left-over products?

Solution
Multi-stage, centrally placed vending machines offering different types of products to different types of target groups based on the age of a product. Accompanied by an app for ordering and tips and recipes for “old” products.

Personalized bakery app screens and screen boardMulti-stage vending machine app interfaces

What I learned

For those of you who do not want to take the time and get into the deep dives, here my top five learnings, that I was not necessarily expecting:

Google

Anything you say can be googled in five seconds. Yet this alone is not surprising. But I had to do more research before each session than I had expected. I really wanted to make sure my messages were clear, unambiguous, and correct. Even on topics where I thought I was pretty familiar with and used to, I could learn new things. Researching things you already know can be more rewarding than I ever thought.

Psychology

It is great to use psychological biases as arguments why one solution works better than another. It is however bad not to be aware of your own biases. I for example assumed that they would have certain skills or knowledge already just by roughly knowing which courses their degree included so far. My assumptions sometimes were far from reality.

Evaluation

Grading students is sort of like usability testing. You need to set up your criteria upfront and make clear in which cases which criteria is passed. Else you will never end up with fair, objective grades. If you like to share all of your criteria in detail at the start of your course is up to you. I would always fear that students might rather pursue checking of each of your criteria than actually grow.

Time management

Time management is crucial. I struggled to find out how much content fits into one session. I sacrifice lots of breaks especially in the first sessions of the course which in turn had a negative impact on attention and energy. Two more things I underestimated were how long it takes to answer emails with questions and interim results as well as how long it takes to read an 80 pages long documentation. Maybe a case study gives similar results with less work involved?

Emotion

Make it personal. Nothing is more authentic, credible, and interesting than your own stories and experience. Your own stories distinguish you from everyone else. All technical information can easily be found on the internet. Your stories are only available to the people with whom you share them.

Deep dives

If you want to learn a little more from my experience, I prepared three pieces going into a little more detail:

Process and methods (To be published)

For designers and consultants who do not have time or project budget to experiment with unknown methods or approaches.

Remote education/working (To be published)

For project managers and anyone who is responsible to make things work remotely.

Storytelling and argumentation (To be published)

For everyone who wants to be listened to and persuade someone.

Was it worth it?

For the money: No.
For developing and learning: Yes! I would do it over and over!

I really learned a lot about leadership and was really surprised by how comparable students are to clients who were never in touch with real innovation, digital transformation, or product development.

I had the opportunity to experiment with methods in an environment that is forgiving and under my complete control. If something would not work, it would only mean that I learned something and lost a little time, and had to adjust the following sessions.

I took the time to reflect on how I do things and why I do them in that way. I re-read articles and books. I read things for the first time. I did something I had never done before.

Your turn

Please ignore that this last paragraph might read like the end of a Youtube video:
Let me know what you think, learned, or surprised you in the comments.
Reach out to me if you have any questions.
Like and follow for more content (or simply click the deep dive links).

External image

Back to School was originally published in The Startup on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



source https://medium.com/swlh/back-to-school-584100c9ef5b?source=rss—-f5af2b715248—4
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Finding the Sum of All Primes Equal to or Under a Given Number in JavaScript (and Then Again in Ruby)

No, no, not that Prime…

So, as promised here I am with the answer of how to get the sum of primes under a given number. JS and Ruby have very different ways of managing this, as before I will first approach the JS solution, then will go into the much swifter Ruby version.

So lets get into the JS shall we!

Our task is as follows, For a given number (num) we must find the sum of all the Prime Numbers under or equal to the value of num.

The full JS code is below

function sumPrimes(num) {
     let primes = []
for (let i = 2; i<=num; i++){
          if (i == 2){
                primes.push(i)
          }
          else if( i % 2 !== 0 ){
               let prime = true
               if (prime){
                    for(let j=2; j<i; j++){
                         if (i % j === 0 ){
                              prime = false
                         }
                     }
               }
               if(prime){
                     primes.push(i)
               }
      } 
}
const reducer = (accumulator, currentValue) => accumulator + currentValue;
let total = primes.reduce(reducer)
return total;
}

Oof, look at all those nested brackets. However they are important if we want to make sure we are making a good old array of primes.

Let’s go through this step by step shall we.

Firstly we create a nice empty array to be ready to get filled with our Primes

let primes = []

Now is the part where we start doing some nested for loops, the reason behind this is we need to make sure that no number we are going to push to the primes array is going to be divisible by anything except itself and 1.

First we check if the number is 2, which is we are starting counting at 2 it should hopefully be. If so we push it to the array

if (i == 2){
primes.push(i)
}

You could alternately just start the primes array at 2 and get rid of this step all together, I however wanted to keep it in for a sense of completeness.

Anyway now lets get to the real core of the function. Checking if the rest of the values are primes.

else if( i % 2 !== 0 ){
     let prime = true
     if (prime){
          for(let j=2; j<i; j++){
                if (i % j === 0 ){
                      prime = false
                }
          }
     }
}

We first check to see if the current value for our ‘i’ is divisible by 2, as if it fails this very first check, it is definitely not a prime.

If the number is not divisible by 2 then we move on and set a variable to ‘true’ (call it whatever you like, but I just called it prime).

We set up a secondary for loop here, to iterate through all the numbers lower than our current value for ‘i’ and then checking if when ‘i’ is divided by these numbers if there is any remainder.

If the remainder at any point is 0, then our value for ‘i’ is not a prime and we set our prime variable to false.

As soon as our prime variable is set to false the ‘for loop’ stops due to the if statement checking to see if prime remains true.

if (prime)

This just saves time, as soon as prime is set to false the loop stops as the number is definitely no longer a prime and no point in keeping on going!

Then if prime gets through all this testing whilst remaining true we push ‘i’ to the array.

if(prime){
     primes.push(i)
}

‘i’ will continue to increment for all the numbers until it equals our given num value.

Now we have our wonderful array of primes!

Phew!

To now get the sum of these we just now need to create out reducer constant and pass it and the array in into the glorious reduce method provided to us by JS.

const reducer = (accumulator, currentValue) => accumulator + currentValue;
let total = primes.reduce(reducer)
return total;

This gives us our final total which we can return! Victory is ours!

Now have a break, have a walk about, stretch those aching legs. I’ll wait here

Now onto the Ruby method for completing the same task:

require 'Prime'
def sum_primes(num)
    Prime.each(num).sum
end

So thats quite pleasant! First we need to require ‘Prime’, this then allows us to access Prime.each(num) returns an object made of all the Prime numbers equal to or under the given ‘num’, then adding .sum to the end tallys them all and with Ruby methods having implicit returns we don’t even need to tell it to return! Gloriously concise!

I hope this has been a helpful journey! I shall do another next week, if anyone has any suggestions of challenges they want looking at I can give them ago and report back!

Keep calm and code on.

Dan

External image

Finding the Sum of All Primes Equal to or Under a Given Number in JavaScript (and Then Again in… was originally published in The Startup on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



source https://medium.com/swlh/finding-the-sum-of-all-primes-equal-to-or-under-a-given-number-in-js-and-then-again-in-ruby-b4fb872a7e4e?source=rss—-f5af2b715248—4
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