Beyond empathy with Scott Matter

Vol. 36
Scott Matter type portrait

September 2019

Anthropologist. Designer. Teacher. Ice Hockey Player.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some highly talented, passionate and intelligent individuals, and my time working on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age at Fairfax Media (Nine) was no exception. Whilst there I met and worked with Scott Matter, whose skill and knowledge in terms of design research and service thinking are only matched by his care and passion for making things better for all people.

In this interview, we’ll get his acute insights on system change and team building as well as an amazing story of personal development; from studying in Canada, teaching in the US, field research in Kenya and designing software products in Sydney. Scott has continued to grow and evolve, switching careers from Anthropology to Design by seeing the patterns and transferring his skills accordingly.


Scott Matter--- 15 August 2019

By Lorenzo Princi

So Scott, what do you do?

What do I do? So yeah, like my official gig is that I’m a Product Designer at Nine-- oh I said Nine and not Fairfax (Media)! [Laughs] And I tend to work on the old Fairfax products; The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The (Australian) Financial Review, some of our internal products like-- We’re building a new corporate subscriptions platform and my work on all that stuff is really in, like-- All the service design/strategic design space.

So, figuring out, “How we identify what’s valuable here”, how do we identify what’s going to be valuable to potential users, potential subscribers, how do we make stuff? How do we organise stuff as the whole business about making that stuff work well.”

Definitely interesting challenges but before we move forward, let’s take things back because your career didn’t start in Design. Let’s get into how you decided to study Anthropology?

Yeah, so I-- how did I get into Anthropology? We’ll there were two or three things, one is that my mum has a lifetime subscription to National Geographic that started the year before I was born. So all my life I’ve had National Geographic around and so a lot of maps—like the insert maps—that come in those things are like crack to me [laughs]. If I get the magazine when it comes, that map is mine and I’m going to be with it for hours!

But then also flipping through like-- they’ve got lots of great short stories, short article about different places around the world and I always found that super fascinating. And then when I went into high school I had this really amazing social studies teacher. I don’t know what the equivalent is here (in Australia); it’s like a combination of history and politics and that kind of stuff and he had this real fascination with Anthropology and so he kind of introduced me to it as a discipline.

I do feel like Indiana Jones played some role at some point because I toyed with being an Archeologist but then I learned it wasn’t all adventures and whips [laughs].

And yeah, that’s how I think I got into it and when I applied for Uni, I applied to major in Anthropology because I had this idea of what it was and I went into a four fields Anthropology program, which is; cultural, linguistic, physical and archeology as part of the undergrad degree. So I got that broad exposure to the whole thing and then decided to specialise in socio-culture, environment anthropology.

Is that what led to you're work in Kenya?

Yeah, so I finished my bachelor’s degree and was looking for something to do next. I took a year off and then decided to apply to grad-school and so Kenya come up because I had-- so I knew that I wanted to live in Montreal and I was looking at the different Unis there, and who the faculty were that I could do and work with and I found one that was working in Kenya-- It’s not entirely true, they have a really good Applied Anthropology program that’s based out of this research centre called The Centre for Society, Technology and Development and it was all about international development and Applied Anthropology and yeah, went and met up with a couple of the Profs there to meet them, find out what was going on and the one that I ended up clicking with the best had been working in Kenya for about thirty years at that point.

And so it was a really easy fit to sort of you know, join in, study with him. He was able to hook me up with a whole bunch of people in Kenya for my field research, which is a massive benefit because you don’t have to show up in a new country and not know anybody. So yeah, that was the connection, that was what ended up taking me to Kenya-- wanting to live in Montreal, do a grad-degree in Anthropology and field research had to happen.

Lorenzo: And how did you find it there?

Scott: It was amazing! The first time I went to Kenya was-- I had travelled a bit before that and spent a bit of time in Europe doing an exchange in Germany and spent time away from home in Canada but moving to-- the first trip was three months, just me-- went over there, no support team or anything like that, no other students or faculty and just like; plop me down in Nairobi, had a couple of contacts, met up with them and it was-- it was amazing-- it was also like, never have I felt like such a fish-out-of-water, you know, like you are walking around Nairobi and sometimes you’re like, “Wow! I’m the only white person here, this is amazing, this is what it feels like to be a visible minority.” And it’s just like, “Wow, that is really crazy.”

But I also found it was like, yeah it was incredible, people were super generous and welcoming and just really willing to build a relationship and to sort of-- to be open and I thought that was really cool because Anthropology has a really horrible colonial extractive history and so to be able to go in and sort of meet people and find common ground and find ways to work together I think was really cool.

“Never have I felt like such a fish-out-of-water, you know, like you are walking around Nairobi and sometimes you’re like, 'Wow! I’m the only white person here, this is amazing, this is what it feels like to be a visible minority.”
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After studying, you also did some lecturing at The University of Vermont. How did you find the experience of teaching?

So, I really enjoyed that! So when I went into grad school I kind of had this idea that I was going to have an academic career because the reason I went into grad school was because I wanted to pursue a career where I could continue doing academic stuff—research especially but applied research—and thinking about like, you know, how can I?

So, one of my first weeks in grad school we had what they call a Pro Seminar. It’s like a professional skills seminar and the Prof. that was leading it was like, “Alright, so what’s everybody doing here?” And I was like, “I’m here to, like, have an impact on the world and I’m doing Anthropology so I can help make the world a better place!” [Laughs] and he sort of looked and me and was like, “ah, right, one of you…”

But I also-- in that sort of path that you get into in-- on an academic trajectory, you get into that path where part of you being there is you become a teaching assistant. It’s just assumed that you’re going to be in that academic track and you have to learn to teach because in Canada—maybe less so here, I don’t know—if you’re an academic, part of your job is to teach.

Right, so, you’re in a university, you have a teaching responsibility in addition to research but I like-- I came to really enjoy it, I really got a lot out of it. I found that when I had to prepare and really teach things, I found that I learned stuff way better and I was-- it was like you were saying before (the interview) about-- you see the kids who are doing their tutoring sessions and they get it and they get really excited, that’s like-- that’s addictive, when you see people get stuff like that and you see people start to lock things together in their brain, it just-- it’s so cool! It’s really rewarding and so yeah, I got really into teaching and started spending a lot of time doing, like, additional workshops and training on how to teach and how to design courses effectively and yeah, so I was pretty passionate about that.

“I found that when I had to prepare and really teach things, I found that I learned stuff way better”
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How did this all lead to more commercial research roles?

Yeah, so what happened is I was on a two year teaching contract, a lecturing contract in Vermont and that contract was running out. I was interviewing for academic jobs, tenure track jobs which would have been a mix or teaching and research and I didn’t get any and my partner was ready to go back to work after maternity leave because we had a baby right around that time. And so she called up her old law firm in New York City and said, “Alright, well I’m ready to come back to work. Happy to come back to the New York office but is there any chance of something in Sydney?”

And it turns out there was and so we decided to move here. And moving over here-- so my field research was obviously in Africa, that was my focus. Surprising enough there’s not a huge interest in Australia for African studies because all the focus is sort of South-East Asia and Oceania so there wasn’t necessarily a lot of opportunity for me to go into an academic track here and then so I spent you know, a few months waiting until I had work authorisation on a Visa and then I was stay-at-home parenting for a while, while I was looking for work and one of my old Profs-- one of my old postdoc mentors recommended-- it was like a mailing list or-- almost like a UseNet Newsgroup but it’s not one of those, right? But it’s called Anthrodesign and it’s all people who do, sort of like design research from an Anthropology perspective.

So I was looking at that and then met a couple of people who were telling me about UX (User Experience) and UX Research and up to that point I had no idea what that was and then through the playground mafia-- through a friend in the neighbourhood who had kids and I used to see them at the playground all the time she was like, “Oh hey, so I know you’re looking-- wanting to get into research, my boss at Fairfax is looking for somebody, do you want to come in and interview?” And so came in, had a chat and they were like, “yeah, you could be a UX Design Researcher, that’ll be fun!”

And that’s how it started…

“We're solving complex things, we're dealing with stuff we don't understand and so, let's work as a team!”

It’s interesting how these things just emerge! I’ve been thinking about a bit lately how Research is; What is, and why? Whereas Design is; What could be, and how? In your mind, how should they should co-exist?

Yeah, I think that-- so I was-- I’ve been trying to build my own website actually because I don’t have one right now but I’m trying to build it up-- so who am I and what do I do? And I kind of worked through this thing; well, I’m an Anthropologist and I started doing this-- now I do Service Design and Strategic Design and actually, now that I think of it, that’s actually just Applied Anthropology.

So-- because with Applied Anthropology the kind of staff that I was doing was really about, how do we-- how do we redesign policy environments? So, how do we try to influence, you know, land tenure regimes in small communities and so we’re not designing digital products there but it’s about, “how can we make changes in the world?” Right...

So there’s the; what is and why? So we can understand what we might want to change or that people that we work with might want to change and then how do we bring that about. So I actually find that there’s a really clear connection there. It took me a while to see it…

Lorenzo: The labels are often our worst enemy...

Scott: Yeah totally, but now I don’t know-- I find that working, doing more Service Design kind of work, that having a background in research helps me to do that way more effectively than I otherwise could probably.

Lorenzo: I think that’s fair, I often find that the execution of things has created these labels. Going into design I always thought about it as problem solving; you’re going to define it and offer a solution and it might require this and it might require that, and you kind of figure it out but the more that we specialise into things like UX and UI, etc problem solving makes way for execution of solutions and you can find yourself looking at the wrong thing at the wrong time!

Scott: I wonder if, sometimes I wonder if that’s because we get really focused on; “here’s a solution, here’s a thing that we should do and I need somebody to mock it up and make it look beautiful, make it work on both Android and iOS because that’s what we need.” And forget sometimes that like, “well, is that the problem we need to be solving?

Lorenzo: It’s the faster horse thing… and it’s also that we want to do things! And the general idea that people just need to work and have things to do and anything that perceives to block execution can feel like an unnecessary hold up. To that end, in order to get work you need to assign yourselves a label appropriate to what is being sought; so all designers start calling themselves UI Designer because--

Scott: Yeah because, “that’s what I need to be called--” So yeah, I totally feel that and I think like; I felt that most when I was trying to find a job here in Australia because I’m an Anthropologist; nobody’s hiring Anthropologists, because nobody knows what an Anthropologist is. So how do I put myself in a bucket somebody can recognise? And for whatever reason, like, a lot of the people who are that first sort of layer of filtering on CVs and applications don’t necessarily-- I don’t know if they maybe don’t have an incentive or don’t have the skills to actually say, “Oh, well this might actually be a good fit!” But they have to think differently about it, right? “Does it tick the boxes on this list? Then it passes through.” Honestly, software could do that! Buckets and labels are interesting right...?

You’re a big proponent of teamwork and collaboration; why do you think they’re so important?

Why is that? Oh, it’s because I’m a hippie Lorenzo [laughs]. No, I think-- one of the things-- I should probably have a better packaged answer for this at this point. I think one of the things I’ve seen over the years is that we really can understand better when we triangulate. So you know the para-- there’s this parable, I think it’s probably an old Buddhist parable but maybe it’s Hindu, of the blind men and the elephant.

So there’s this group of blind men, they hear an elephant’s coming to town and they’re like, “Oh, what’s this elephant thing? We’ve never heard of an elephant.” So they all go rock up to where the elephant is and because they can’t see, they’re all touching the elephant with a hand and one of them feels something that’s like smooth and hard-- I forget how the parable actually goes but it’s this tusk thing right? One feels the tail and he’s like, “Oh I think an elephant is like a rope”, right? One of them feels the body of the elephant and he’s like, “Oh no! An elephant is like a mountain!” And it’s only when you put it all together that you can actually see what the thing really is.

And so I think there’s something in there about diversity of perspectives, bringing a diversity of perspectives together that help you to really see the whole and yeah, so I think there’s something really valuable there that we can-- by working directly together you can get people to-- you can actually unlock more creativity and different-- problem solving in different ways. And if it’s facilitated well, you can actually do it pretty quickly, and if it’s not facilitated well it can spiral into disaster and fights.

Lorenzo: For me it’s always been-- teamwork doesn’t work if everyone’s the same player and if they’re not all the same type of player they need to know their role on the team.

Scott: Yeah totally, I had this kind of conversation with my partner who used to be an elite swimmer, right. Swimming is a very individual sport, yeah, they have relays and sure they train in teams but it’s all about individual performance. Whereas I grew up playing ice hockey and it’s a team sport, it’s really fast, ridiculously dynamic, shit is moving all the time and you know you have to rely on everybody else on your team to get it done.

For me, that’s a really good metaphor for like; we’re solving complex things, we’re dealing with stuff we don’t understand and so, let’s work as a team! Whereas if it’s, you know-- if it’s a very known thing than pick it up and be an expert but-- you’re right-- if you flip that to soccer-- if you have nine strikers or ten, eleven strikers on the pitch, you're team’s going to suck.They’re all going to end up in the attacking zone and they’re not going to have any defense, so they’re not even going to get the ball.

Lorenzo: Yes, we want teamwork - but what does a good coach look like? I think that sometimes gets lost in the discussion...

Scott: There was-- so, was it last Wednesday? Might have been two Wednesday ago; Peter Merholz came in and did a talk at IxDA (Interaction Design Association) and he did his, The Experience Is The Product talk which I think he like has adapted from an earlier talk that he used to do called What is a UX Designer? Or something like that and he kind of makes this argument that designers have had to invent UX because there’s gaps in what product people are doing. They’re derelict in their duty to do all of this stuff we now have to do.

But he puts up this Org. Chart from Disney and it’s the org chart of a Disney film and they’ve got The Director in the centre and they’ve got all these specialists around in concentric circles and he’s arguing that often times the UX person is that Director, right? So they’re the person that has to think about-- and I think you could just as easily say, yeah, “Your service design person is in the centre, maybe it needs to be your Product Manager.” That person needs to facilitate and coordinate and get all these specialists to work together.

Lorenzo: And have a vision, not be an, “on the tools” person...

Scott: That’s right! And if you don’t have that person in the middle, you have; everybody wants to do their thing...

Lorenzo: What I've found is-- you’re right that the designer is someone who can jump into that role, but they kind of shouldn’t, but it does need to be someone. Like with a director, they probably were a cinematographer and now they’re a director, so you get another guy to sit behind the camera and get the shots to look right and you just say, “what we’re looking for is this or that” and then they’ll figure out the details but yeah, the Director needs to be able to switch gears, and probably a designer is someone suited to that, or at least certain types of designers.

Scott: Well that’s it right-- so often you see that or hear stories about that where, “well you're designers have leaned in because a lot of designers are that kind of person. Where you’ve got that background and that training and like, problem solving thinking and when there’s a vacuum there sometimes designers fall into it and do it.

There was an article-- I forget her name but a Medium post where she’s talking about The design capability gap in Australia right and so basically saying, like, “look not all designers are the same and so you need to be thinking about what kind of designer or where in the spectrum the skills are” and also what you need but also people don’t necessarily know how to hire designers right?

When people think that, “Oh, well a designer, that’s somebody who does visual design and that’s what I’m getting and that’s what I need,” there can be real friction there when you know, people are like, “Why would our designer be telling us about product design or product priorities? Like you’re meant to paint the thing,” [Laughs]. “You tell me the colour palette and then you put them in nice places.”

Lorenzo: What I see happening is that very senior, probably too senior people in the company are given the product owner roles. However if they are, to use the film analogy again, a Producer, they probably have fifteen other projects going on and can’t actually commit the time needed to own the product. Or the reverse is, a project manager is told that they’re now the product owner but have no real authority. They’re probably good at road maps and tasking up work but maybe not so good at, “Hey! Some random question just came up and we need an answer from you now, you can’t go and get an answer.” And the director analogy you brought up might be exactly it because a Director needs to give answers then and there, not go and get them; it’s like an unwritten rule of film directing that I’ve heard. And there’s some real courage in that and that’s hard in a corporate environment. Who wants to commit to giving important answers, who’s going to get blamed etc...

Scott: Yeah, I wonder if there’s a difference when you’ve got maybe like a startup—and there are pros and cons of this—but you know a founder who actually has skin in the game who is willing to make decisions, whereas if it’s somebody who’s just an employee of a big company that has shareholders and it’s like, “Well, it’s not my money, I’m just paid to be here, so do I really have the decision? Because I’d like to keep my job!”

“We really can understand better when we triangulate.”
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Changing gears now, you have a social justice philosophy; what role do you think technology people have when it comes to important socio-political issues?

Yeah, I don’t know where that comes from, I mean, partly it comes from Anthropology and having that perspective where, “Look, the world is shit for a lot of people and we’ve made it shit for a lot of people and we need to fix that.” But I think there’s probably something before that, before I ever got into Anthropology and I think that’s maybe sort of growing up in the 80s and seeing like the environmental movement growing and becoming a thing and that’s really important but so-- but yeah a more personal thing is that my grandfather, my maternal grandfather was a union rep so he started out working on like cranes and like operating machines and sort of became a union rep and the became you know really active as one of the leaders and the union that he was a part of.

And I used to spend tonnes of time with him; I was really, really lucky you know-- he wasn’t-- he was always able to be around and I spent a lot of time with him, you know I’d see like three, four times a week and, yeah, I think just being around him and seeing that he was like, really passionate about doing right by people I think was something that stuck with me all my life.

Lorenzo: It’s interesting because our generation—here in Australia especially—we really haven’t had to-- we have it pretty good...

Scott: Those of us who are very privileged, and I’m definitely one of those people who's very privileged; never had a lot of real hardship in my life personally. Doing field research in Kenya, I worked in communities that were suffering real poverty and hardship you know. Like, I worked in a community where over a series of years the government and the county council police were there to burn their houses down repeatedly, right? And I’ve seen the effects of it in person and still, I’m distant from it, right? Like, intellectually I can understand it and I can absolutely empathise with people and I’ve seen people in really rough shape but yeah I always had-- I could just like head back to Nairobi and fly home if I needed to, which I did.

So, like the year I was there-- the main-- the first year of my PhD research was 2007 and at the end of 2007 there was an election and the election results were contested, and there was a whole wave of ethnic violence across the country and so I was able to just be like, “Well, I’m just going to head back (home) for a while because this is not really safe to be here.” Meanwhile, like all of the people I’d spent time with where like, “Yeah, we’ll be alright but you should probably go…” And I’m sitting back in Montreal being like, “Well, I hope nobody’s been killed that I know!” You know, but I had the freedom to just fuck off and be safe.

And I think yeah, like my Grandpa, he was-- was he born in like, 1929 or so, so he lived through the depression as a young kid, but he also lived through that whole era of the 1950s and 60s, where like everybody’s becoming middle-class.

Lorenzo: Which is now pointed to as a bit of a problem...

Scott: Well yeah, people in developed countries, sure, the boom was happening; everybodies upwardly mobile, obviously not everybody because we know about racism and classes and stuff but then, that’s only-- thinking with that anthropological lens, and thinking about, “Alright what’s been happening globally? Oh, well that’s only possible because like, all the shit work is being offshored and people are being oppressed there to extract raw materials so that we can get cheap goods.”

It’s just like this constant cycle of debt, right? Sure, we’re doing this now and it benefits us but in fact we’re incurring all this debt...

Speaking about empathy, I heard you mention something called The Empathy Project? Is that what’s next for Scott?

So, The Empathy Project thing-- I’ve kind of been thinking about it and writing a little bit about it and trying to reach out to people who are doing it but yeah one of the things I’m kind of on about is like, how could we like actually restructure all of the organisations that we work in to be actually more inclusive. Right? So, oh yeah we could go on for hours and hours about this, but a thing that I wrote, it was probably in November or so; I posted it on Medium and it was about; what if empathy isn’t enough? And like-- so as designers and as UX people we create these artifacts, we create personas, we create user stories, we create journeys that help us to understand what people might be going through but then we kind of use those artifacts to stand in for people and you can very easily take those artifacts, take what we know about people’s needs and struggles and experiences and do things that are completely unfair and unjust and at odds with what their best interests are.

So, one of the-- I was kind of thinking through, like, well, how could we break that down? How do we actually change the way that we think of the relationship between an organisation and the people who are using the services and products that we’re producing and I think I’m-- where I kind of got to is; what if we actually break down that boundary between inside and outside the organisation? What if we were able to make the people who use the services and use products actual stakeholders in the process?

So that-- imagine if Facebook-- let’s pick on Facebook-- imagine when they were developing the news feed and that whole variable reward system, what if instead of-- I assume they tested and found that it increased engagement-- what if they actually had people from the user base in on that and said, like, “Well here’s how it works, here’s what we’re trying to get you to do and why...” Would those people have agreed to let Facebook go ahead with something like that.

Lorenzo: That’s the thing when you do research, you don’t want to ruin your test by allowing the user to understand your intent--

Scott: It comes back to research ethics in a way that academic disciplines and medical professions have treated that-- in theory and often in practice we have this whole principle of ethics review and informed consent and people can opt-out at any time but I-- I was talking to-- so, one of the people in my neighbourhood, we used to go to the playgroup at the Uniting Church with my daughter and the pastor who runs the church, she’s on these ethics review committees and they review proposals for like charity projects and stuff like that and-- what if we actually had sort of ethics review committees that included the beneficiaries of the products we’re trying to develop, even for private companies.

A lot of government agencies might think of doing that kind of thing and they might be a little more relational and inclusive, maybe not but like what if instead of seeing those people as the users and the customers, we actually recognise that they’re stakeholders and the consequences of the thing we release into the world is probably a lot bigger than what we’re willing to take responsibility for but we kind of pass it off as, “Well, we’re giving them a service they’re finding useful or enjoyable or delightful” and we just say, “oh any unintended consequence, well, that’s personal responsibility…”

Lorenzo: One thing digital software in terms of the industry, in its need to be apart from the practices of more established industries is almost an extreme dismissal of everything which exists in those areas, even those which are positive, for example, accessibility practices which are closely monitored and regulated in commercial construction.

Scott: Well there was that story a couple of weeks ago in the (United) States where they’re trying to bring in, what was it-- they had like an inquiry or one of the committees had people in to talk about dark patterns and coercive technology right, and so now they’re going to put in some sort of regulations against coercive technology and on the other hand it’s like, “Well that crazy, how can you regulate the internet?” But on the other hand it’s like, “Well, we have building codes and we have transportation safety codes.”

This is just part of the cost of doing business, “we have to consider access into the business, we have to ensure it’s structurally sound…”

So many of the big software companies-- they’ll raise-- you talk about regulation, “you can’t do this to people” and they’ll be like, “well, why would you try to constrain growth? What are you, like anti-progress?”

“What if we actually break down that boundary between inside and outside the organisation?”
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To finish up, since we were picking on Facebook; social-media, good or bad?

Oh! So, I’ve-- I still have my Facebook account but I think I’ve posted maybe three things on Facebook and I haven’t looked at any replies of anything in the past, in almost two years. I wrote this massive long thing about why I’m getting off Facebook and I’m basically done, except to post things about why people should get off Facebook - maybe three times in the past few years and when I got off Facebook I basically, like, dove into Twitter, right?

Yeah, Twitter’s a shitstorm, Twitter has the Nazi problem, Twitter has hate speech, Twitter has harrassment and abuse. The thing that I love about Twitter is that I actually have access to this like global community of people in-- who are doing design work, who are doing research, who are doing research, who are doing all this really cool stuff that I otherwise wouldn’t have any contact with.

And I have the ability to actually-- and you know, they may not reply but-- and that’s totally their prerogative but I can tap someone on the shoulder and be like, “Hey, so I saw you say this, what about this?” Or like, “Hey! That’s really cool, I might try and use that.” And you sort of-- you startup communities. So, there are pros and cons...

I haven’t actually looked at Mastodon but Mastodon apparently they're sort of like more closed communities in a way, but on Twitter they’re all open communities and you can be in multiple of them and there’s cross-pollination that’s really interesting - and that was kind of the promise of the Internet in the first place, right? Is that we’re going to create this technology that allows us to interconnect over great distances which is just mind blowing right. Right? Just think of the scale of communities you can build and, like, space is much less an issue now whereas before, before social media and before the Internet, space was a massive issue and like, sure you had newspapers that created communities out of whole nations or whole cities or parts-- different classes in different cities if you had two different newspapers but with social media you can transcend space a little bit…

Lorenzo: The rules of Twitter seem to enable that more than Facebook...

Scott:Yeah, what was that-- in a classic Twitter thing, there was-- so Twitter did their new web experience which-- I use the app on my phone, so I haven’t really looked at it-- I saw it, was like, “This is weird and different; I don’t think I like it, I’m going back to my phone.” But there was a-- there was some Twitter thread a while back and somebody was asking, like, “What do we do about this whole Thought Leader problem?” Because if you’re on Design Twitter there’s, like, you're people with a hundred thousand followers and they ruin a thread, right? And somehow Dan Saffer who used to be at Adaptive Path and now works at Twitter, he was on that thread and I replied something to him saying like, “What about this language of ‘following’”? Like, that automatically sets up this dynamic that, “I’m broadcasting to all of my followers and they will follow me and listen to me!” It’s like, what if we used a different word and I mean, his reply was something along the lines of, “Oh yeah but it’s conventional now, it’s really hard to just conventions.” It’s like, “Fair call but maybe consider it?”

I mean and LinkedIn is another weird one and I know a while back Erika Hall; so I know her from her book, Just Enough Research - amazing - and then I know her Twitter feeds—I don’t actually know her—but I saw her saying a while back, like, “Really people, we should get on LinkedIn, there’s all this great content and all this interaction on LinkedIn and, no Nazis, or at least the Nazis there hide it!” [Laughs] And I was, “Oh, yeah, but it’s LinkedIn!” [Laughs] and I also see LinkedIn-- the interactions there, that I have are all like recruiters sending me emails that I tried to ignore and then they have like birthday messages on LinkedIn which is just bizarre, like why does that exist? [Laughs], I don’t want a cake!

Find Scott on Twitter @Scott_Matter.

Proofreading by Luke Yates. Photography by Lorenzo Princi.