Subform is probably the last Kickstarter I backed

subform

In 2016 I found out about a new digital design tool called Subform on Kickstarter. At that point I'd already been fully commited to Sketch but I was intrigued by this approach around dynamic layouts and what seemed like incredible flexibility.

I waited until pretty much the last day to actually back this project because I'd been disappointed by previous Kickstarter projects in the past. (Haven't we all?)
For some reason though I was cautiously optimistic with this one. In the final hours the creators Ryan Lucas and Kevin Lynagh managed to surpass their initial goal of $100,000. When it was all said and done they were sitting on $112,651.

Shortly after the end of the campaign I received an email with access to the beta software as well as the forum exclusive to backers of the project. I honestly had very low expectations but still had a quick play with this first version of Subform to see what it's about.
However I didn't bother investing a lot of time in it until more progress was made. It seemed overly complicated compared to something like Sketch or Adobe XD which didn't appeal to me initially so I left it at that.

subform_screenshot

Over the next few months I would get weekly updates of trending forum posts and while I didn't particpate in the discussions at all it still gave me a sense of progress. The developers were interacting with the community and I would check the app for updates every now and then.
Things seemed to be on track and I was expecting a major release in the near future. Then something weird happened.

The weekly updates had less content. Backers seemed to have deserted the forums or lost interest. I decided to look into Subform's status when a backer voiced his concerns about the development of the tool. A week later the creators made an announcement:

Hi friends,
We have some bad news: We will no longer be developing Subform.

[...]In testing and talking with a huge range of designers, we found that the promise of Subform was different for everyone. Many wanted a more efficent drawing tool, but only if it has full feature parity with Sketch. Some wanted complex conditional logic for prototyping, a la Axure. Others wanted a tool for visually composing React components, a WYSIWYG web editor, and so on.

Unfortunately, what we’ve found is that there isn’t a single product scope that’s achievable in the near-team—and is still useful and usable for the majority of testers. Going forward, we suspect that we’ll see more specialized tools for specialized tasks, rather than monoliths. (We released Sketch.systems37 as a standalone tool, rather than a complex integration into Subform, for this reason.)

We appreciate all of the support and feedback ya’ll have given us over the past three years, from funding our first prototype on Kickstarter to the many long conversations here on this forum that convinced us that we needed a better layout engine and friendlier UI interactions.[...]

So that was it. Boy am I glad I didn't waste any time on this. I already learned my lesson with Macaw. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still disappointed. Not because of the money but because they tried their best and couldn't make it work which is always a shame.
What is a bit weird in all this though, is this thing called Sketch.systems. I think we can all agree that the name is a terrible choice. I'm not sure how to feel about it, especially since they released it before they stopped working on Subform and mentioned it in their final announcement like it was no big deal.

As a designer I think it's an interesting concept. As a Kickstarter backer I get the impression that somewhere along the way they saw this shiny new thing which seemed more promising than Subform and decided to call it quits.

I've had my fair share of Kickstarter disappointments, which is probably another post by itself. But for now I'm staying away from these types of projects until they've made it to the commercial release phase. Design tools especially tend to vanish very quickly in this space lately. Whether it's through acquisition or abandonment.

That might mean that in the future I'll have to wait longer and probably pay more which is fine by me if the product is worth it.

In the meantime we've got Framer X to look forward to so things could be worse.

Books read – June 2018

In the past month I finished what was probably the longest book I've ever read – A Little Life at just over 800 pages. I'm pretty proud of that achievement as it didn't even take me that long all things considered. My self-imposed break from social media also made things easier.

Lately I also realised how much I enjoy commuting to work by bus instead of taking the car since it gives me plenty of time to read and chill. Random I know.

A Little Life

life_bg

A Little Life is one of the deepest reading experiences I've had to date. I'll be honest in saying that it's not a book I would've necessarily picked up, especially due to its size. I used to think that 500-page books are quite chunky already so this seemed daunting but I'm glad I stuck with it. A Little Life is best described as an emotional rollercoaster that will tug at your heart strings on several occasions before finally unleashing the flood gates.

It's the story of 4 childhood friends with very diverse backgrounds and upbringings. You follow their journey from high school to late adulthood, discovering intricate stories and secrets along the way. By the end of it I felt as if I actually knew the characters and watched their lives unfold from distance similar to The Truman Show.
I was a little disappointed by the end of the story as it was overly (and perhaps gratuitiously) dramatic and felt a bit rushed to wrap up the book.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

lamb_bg

This is definitely of the funniest books I've come across. Christopher Moore tells the story of Christ through the lens of his best friend: Biff. Among other things he invented sarcasm and makes brilliant use of it throughout their journey in search of Joshua's purpose in life.

The inseparable duo meets a variety of people and cultures along the way which sometimes challenges the readers religious preconceptions. Pick this one up if you're looking for a few laughs and an entertaining story.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

one_bg

What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

That's the main question you'll have to ask yourself before you set your goals according to this book. It's full of helpful little tips but looking back, I think it could have been much shorter and do the point instead of putting a different spin on the same concept for a few chapters.

The authors recommend to narrow your focus drastically and unapologetically ignore any distractions that could prevent you from reaching your goals. To do so you should start small and build a long term vision incrementally. For example, think about what you could do today to help you achieve what you want? What about this week? This month? You get the idea.

One piece of advice in particular stood out to me: at work, block out time slots in your calendar to focus on your ONE thing every day and stick to it.

Weekend getaway to the Far North of New Zealand

This year the Queen's Birthday weekend didn't sneak up on me for once and I was able to plan a little 4-day getaway. I initially wanted to go to Australia for a few days since my girlfriend hadn't been there before but in the end we decided it would be more fun to rent an RV and explore the Far North. Cape Reinga to be specific, which is located at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand.
Neither of us had been to that part of the country yet, so it seemed like a good choice.

We picked up our surprisingly spacious RV on Friday morning and drove up to the beautiful Bay of Islands (while stopping for a walk in Whangarei) where we spent the night. By the time we got there it started raining heavily as the weather forecast had predicted.

The next morning we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds which was simply amazing. Despite the bad weather our tour guide showed us around and taught us a lot about this historic place. The museum was also a great experience and I would definitely recommend going for a visit as it's well worth it. We stayed for about 3 hours, had a short lunch break and headed further up north.

As we made our way to Awanui, the rain became so bad that we thought about abandoning our trip right then and there to return to Auckland. In fact, fields and roads were flooded which made driving quite dangerous. We kept driving though and fortunately it got better once we arrived in Awanui.

On Sunday we had one goal in mind: reach Cape Reinga. We woke up to beautiful sunshine and were really happy we didn't cancel our trip. We were advised to fill up on gas before taking the road all the way up north which we did (had to get coffee as well!) and off we went!


We arrived at Cape Reinga around 11am and made our our way to the lighthouse. It was a short, enjoyable walk with a breathtaking view.
As I mentioned earlier this is the northern end of New Zealand where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea collide which I think is really cool to see.

Once we took a bunch of pictures and admired the view, we drove back down. Before returning to Awanui for the night I insisted on stopping at Ninety Mile Beach as I had to see this massive beach for myself.

By the time we got back to Awanui we were too tired to go anywhere so we spent the night at our previous camping spot.
The following day we returned home and skipped Waipoua as it would've been too much of a detour. We finally arrived in Auckland early afternoon without having to deal with too much traffic on the way. What a fun little trip that was!

GDPR and cluttered inboxes

If like me you have an email address, you might have received a bunch of emails about companies you may have forgotten about telling you proudly how they updated their Privacy Policy.

Some of the ones I read felt like they were almost asking for a high-five at the end. Cool, so it seems like everyone is finally starting to take the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) seriously and may even be afraid of the consequences if they're not compliant with the law.

The GDPR basically gives people more control and ownership of the data they provide. Companies like Facebook won't be able to sell personal information to third parties anymore unless you consent that your data may be used specifically for that purpose.

That's really great news if you're a European citizen. However even if you're not you're likely to have your data treated the same way by GDPR compliant business regardless of your location which is nice.

Now, I get that companies must update their privacy policies to make them easier to read and understand but they don't actually have to tell you about it. As a customer (and EU citizen) the basic expectation is that businesses which handle my information are compliant.

That being said, during the barrage of emails announcing updates to privacy policies, the companies that really stood out to me are the ones who remained low-key about it.

For those it's just business as usual.
I trust that they respect my privacy, my rights and also my inbox at a time when others don't.

My recent social media diet

Over the past weeks I realised just how much I use my phone on a daily basis and decided to do something about it.
Whenever I had some free time alone such as on the bus or while waiting in line, I would almost instantly reach for my phone and look at social media apps. I was impatient and looking for some sweet distraction that all those endless timelines and newsfeeds would provide. Whether it was Facebook, Twitter or Reddit I would check them multiple times a day just to make sure I didn't miss anything interesting.

At some point I would even religiously read through the "Here's what happened while you were away" feed of Twitter. You know, just in case.

It's only when I started to actively observe this behaviour that it became apparent:

  • During my bus commute I used to do nothing but read books (and sometimes sleep) but now I was glued to my phone.

  • During any meal (when I was alone) I would be glued to my phone.

  • Whenever I was anywhere waiting on something or someone, I would be glued to my phone.

  • Even when I was talking to my parents via Skype I would often browse on my phone at the same time.

As you can see my phone became my escape from boredom and as a result my attention was scattered all over the place.

I noticed it the most, when I was done browsing through various feeds. I didn't feel happy or productive. Instead, I felt like I just wasted time that I could've used to do other things. More meaningful things.

I've been trying a few different methods to change how I use my phone. For starters, I curated every single app that's currently on my phone. This meant deleting all social media apps that weren't direct messaging apps. For example I still use Messenger to stay in touch with friends even though I stopped using Facebook.

After that I also re-arranged my home screen. I copied a little trick from Francois Chartrand and keep the first screen of my phone completely blank. Not a single app whatsoever. That way I don't randomly open apps on my phone out of boredom anymore. Instead I try to only open apps to get things done. Having that little moment of friction when I first unlock my phone certainly helps.

In addition all of my notifications have been silenced ages ago, except for instant messaging. I only see updates if I choose to instead of them getting pushed to my screen constantly.

These days the only things I check on my phone are emails and messages, which are means short, intentional and focused interactions. As a result I don't reach for my phone nearly as much as I used to. And when I do it's for a much shorter period of time.

At times it feels almost as if I lost interest in it which is probably a good thing.