Published in Super8 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from March.

Ah, March. A month quite like no other in the last few years. Marking the changing of the seasons, daylight savings, international women’s day, the anniversary of a global pandemic, St. Patrick’s day and March madness, it’s a busy time of year.

As the mayhem of March draws to a close, it’s only fitting that we stop and take a moment to think, reflect, and question everything. And this month, Matt Agar has compiled eight intriguing and insightful articles that will allow you to do just that.

By creating time to think and then re-thinking what it means to be productive, we can find opportunities to ponder, question everything, and keep things simple.

So, pop the kettle on, sink into your favourite armchair and put your feet up. It’s time to dive into Super8 in March.

1. What makes writing more readable?

Writing content that can be understood by as many as possible seems an obvious best practice. But the way we write often creates barriers as to who can read it.

Rebecca Monteleone and Jamie Brew provide an interactive example of ‘plain language’, a style of writing that uses simplified sentences, everyday vocabulary, and clear structure to remove those barriers.

We often talk about ensuring the things we create are accessible. For those with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and limited access to education, plain language translations allow us to engage with a wider audience (and let’s not forget our multilingual friends!).

So, next time you get stuck for words, keep in mind that simple is sometimes best.

2. Should you ever NOT listen to user feedback?

Most people are faced with a flood of feedback each day, be it direct feature requests from customers, rating websites, or social media.

User feedback is always a valuable source of information. But if you aren’t careful, user feedback can quickly become a to-do list organised by who has yelled the loudest and most often.

Jessica Tenuta explores how you might separate the most important insights from the sea of feedback. The key: look for user insights, not feedback.

3. On workplace productivity.

The shift to remote work has necessitated a shift in how we think about productivity. Tracking hours isn’t what signals an individual’s or a team’s productivity — and in fact, studies have shown that these superficial metrics can be gamed.

If we don’t seriously consider re-evaluating how we measure — and therefore better target fixes to — our productivity problem, we won’t have a productivity problem to think about.

Nicole Forsgren looks at how we might rethink what it means to be productive, and how multidimensional measures across a range of areas like satisfaction, well-being, activity, communication, and collaboration might play into that.

4. Time to think.

Most people think they listen well, but they rarely do – not at this level. Listening this way is a radical act. In this book, Nancy Kline describes how we can achieve this and presents a step-by-step guide that can be used in any situation.

Whether you want to have more productive meetings, solve business problems, create bold strategies, or build stronger relationships, this book offers you a new world of possibilities

5. Sabotage: Code added to popular NPM package wiped files in Russia and Belarus.

The war in Ukraine has impacted millions, including people in tech roles. One impact you may not be aware of, however, is the uptick in Protestware via open source libraries used by millions.

Recently, a developer has been caught adding malicious code to a popular open-source package that wiped files on computers located in Russia and Belarus as part of a protest that has raised concerns about the safety of free and open source software.

6. Don’t ask to ask, just ask.

It’s safe to say we’ve probably all been in a meeting or a conversation and have heard an impromptu ‘can I ask you a quick question?’. No doubt, we’ve all done this at some point ourselves.

But with a large majority of the working population in hybrid form, it’s important to keep our lingering questions clear and concise. By asking to ask, you’re asking for more than what you think you’re asking.

You’re asking people to take responsibility and unnecessarily walling other people out.

Someone who is idling in the channel, zoom call or hallway every now and then glances at what’s going on, and is unlikely to answer your ‘asking to ask’ question. But describing your actual problem might pique someone’s interest and provide you with a better answer.

7. (A few) Ops lessons we all learn the hard way.

Technically speaking, this isn’t a traditional article, but this Twitter thread can prove to be a tongue in cheek reminder of a multitude of lessons many of us may have experienced during an outage.

Whether it’s turning it off and on again (which is quite a reasonable way to fix many things) or understanding that “Ancient” is a very relative term when it comes to software and protocols, there is plenty to be taken from Jan Schaumann’s 51 (give or take) tweets.

And if you’re only able to take one thing away from this thread, just remember that one in a million is next Tuesday.

8. Eight counterintuitive marketing strategies that actually work.

Sometimes marketing is counterintuitive. Surprise, surprise, there’s nuance! From adding eggs to an off-the-shelf cake mix to improving conversion through longer sign-up forms, sometimes the extra effort is better in the long run.

In this article, Amanda Natividad outlines a bunch of principles and examples that help demonstrate how something counterintuitive may be the most effective in certain situations.