Harry Keller

May 31, 2022

↬ May 2022: what I’m doing next, hybrid work, tech lay-offs, plus some links and recommendations

it’s the end of the month again/already which means recap time! Thank you for being here and a quick reminder: you can simply reply to this mail in case you want to say hello! 📠

🚨 What’s new

I hosted an in-person workshop a few weeks ago for the first time “after” the pandemic and found myself quite puzzled during preparation: Will we go back to physical sticky notes, whiteboards and handwriting or still use digital tools while sitting in a room for easier conversation? What if one person decides to join remotely on a whim in the morning, do we have the setup to include them properly? How long should it go for, given that we’ve all become used to shorter Zoom workshops? Is everyone’s handwriting even more illegible now? All these questions clearly show why hybrid work is going to be super tricky and all-remote / entirely colocated companies have it somewhat easier. In the end we did do the workshop the old school way, sticky notes and all, and it worked out fine, yet I still prepared a full Miro board setup as a backup just in case. Fascinating to ponder how it could have gone differently in a remote setup and whether we would have reached the same/better/worse results.

Lots of sudden tech layoffs; hundreds of people being let go at Gorillas, Klarna, Getir and the like. Man, I gotta be honest here, startups can be such a shit show; I’m so tired of the hyper growth paradigm, tired of stupidly high valuations, tired of VCs pouring money into obviously broken business models, tired of workers being treated as expendable resources. I’m sure most of these people will get re-hired quickly, it’s still tech after all, but all this feels extremely wrong and broken.

I live next to a fairly large street and the other day a demonstration was supposed to come through, which meant the street was blocked off for cars in advance. I was ahead of the demonstration, couldn’t really see or hear them yet and you know what? It was blissful, the neighborhood was entirely transformed. No cars, no roaring noise, so calm, you could walk in the street, so much space suddenly available, hear other people talking, laughing, birds chirping … cities aren’t inevitably noisy or crowded or dangerous, it’s just the fucking cars everywhere

What’s good

Okay, enough rambling, only positive stuff from here on out!

First one is Muse, a digital whiteboard for exploring ideas in a messy, unstructured way. It really comes to life with an iPad and a Pencil, but has companion apps on the Mac and iPhone. Lots of good ideas here: the infinitely nested boards, the way you can annotate everything (text, images, PDFs), the non-linearity of text blocks, the “inbox” where you can park items, the sync status indicator, the complimentary feature set on each platform …  really excellent software design! And yet, how many buckets do we want or need for digital storage of thoughts? I already have multiple to do lists, read/listen/watch/play later lists and notes in several apps, plus thoughts in a PKM system, documents in the file system, photos and drawings in other apps, whiteboards in Figma and Miro, … and none of these easily interoperate, without producing endless duplicates of out-of-sync data. Almost feels like this would need to be solved on the OS level to unfold its full potential (like the file system all apps can tie into).

Our little poodle Freddy turned one year old! 🥰

I’ve found an early 2000s DV cassette camcorder in a box of mine, lo and behold, it still works – so I gotta film something with it, I guess? Getting the images off those cassette tapes is tough though. Here’s the adapter chain you need: camcorder DV port to Firewire 400, then FW400 to FW800 adapter, then FW800 to Thunderbolt 2 (Mini DP), then Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), then finally you can plug it into a laptop. You might be able to skip the second adapter going directly from DV to FW800 … I’ve ordered all these cables and it’ll be magic if it works! I shall report back! 📹

💡 What’s interesting

I started web development in the early 2000, naturally writing quite a bit of PHP back then, so I really liked this article about “The Demise of the Mildly Dynamic Website”

A friend sent me this incredible list of cooperatives active in the design/media/tech space! Woah, so much to sift through!

Informed simplicity: this concept really stuck with me and I remember more than one project which got stuck on the hill of informed complexity.

Amazon delivery robot in the woods – what a perfect artifact documenting modern life!

I feel seen

👀 What’s recommended

Many years after my girlfriend gifted it to me I finally started reading N.K. Jemesin’s Broken Earth trilogy, and well, it’s as good as everyone says! The setting is not 100% my jam, but holy moly, she is a skilled story teller! I’m in awe, been a while since I’ve been this hooked by a novel! Currently going through the last pages of the second one.

Speaking of books: I also bought Extra Bold –  “A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-Racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers”. I’m not a graphic designer myself, but I’ve worked closely with designers all my career and the field is littered with the same stories and case studies about old white male designers (nothing wrong with those guys, but a lot of their stories have been told to death by now) … so this one will be good to get a different perspective on the field and its history.

Lots of good tv series are coming back for new seasons or are about to premiere: Stranger Things s4, For All Mankind s3, The Good Fight s6, Ms. Marvel about to start, Westworld coming back, … oh, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is absolutely fantastic as well (if you like Star Trek, that is).

Trust me, you gotta watch the new Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers, especially if you have fond childhood memories of the Rescue Rangers tv show. It’s a completely bonkers movie, in a very delightful and whacky way – my favorite movie of May! A title I expected to go to Everything Everywhere All at Once, but I ultimately found that one to be a bit underwhelming. The scene with the stones though! 🪨 🪨

🔮 What’s next

Still here? Awesome, here are some real news for a change: I’m founding another company! 

Surprising absolutely nobody it’s going to be a worker-owned cooperative – democratically governed by all its members, remote-first and async workflows for calm and flexibility, running on a four-day work week, with a deliberately small team, putting planet and people over profit, only tackling purposeful projects (e.g. around journalism, democracy tech, empowering independent voices or serving the common good)! I feel the time is right for a different type of organization, which is more democratic and empowering, more opinionated and adaptable, more emergent and caring. There is no blueprint for how to do this, but we’ll figure it out, step by step, day by day, together, while being very transparent about everything we learn along the way!

If you couldn’t yet tell: I’m really excited – it feels like a lot of threads I’ve been interested in over the years (e.g. calm tech, org design, democracy tech, agile workflows, finding purpose in your work, overcoming late-stage capitalism, …) converge with this endeavor and I’m so lucky to have found two other wonderful people to start it with. Of course there are / will be open slots on the team, just in case this sparked some excitement in someone out there!

Currently we’re busy with all the legal aspects of founding a cooperative in Germany (not easy, I can tell ya), then we’ll build ourselves a website and then we’ll have more to share very soon! I can’t wait!

📷 What’s in the camera roll

Freddy climbing on stuff (in this case: me) and chili plants in various stages of development.

Absolutely cursed ice cream (black lemon + chocolate habanero) and a photo we (a childhood friend of mine, my dad and I) took on the 1st of May in Kreuzberg – we’ve been shooting the same picture every year since 2007 and it’s an incredible collection of how the neighborhood and ourselves have changed. Unfortunately, again, we had to do it remotely this year.

Alright, that’s all I got. See you next time, possibly even sooner than usual! 👀

Take care,

Harry Keller
based in Berlin
+49 178 55 29 111
@harryfk | .com | newsletter

About Harry Keller

Heya, I’m Harry, a software developer in Berlin/Germany—he/him, *351ppm, feminist, cooperativist, dogfather. I recently co-founded the somewhat utopian design+tech cooperative Village One and also diesdas.digital before that. You can learn more about me on harryfk.com and we can connect on Mastodon, Twitter, BeReal, PixelfedInstagram. Or you can simply read my newsletter below! 💁