Philip Levy

April 15, 2024

Learning how to speak machine with John Maeda

Humanist technologist John Maeda understands the design past and sees the design future. What can he teach us about the new computational universe that is changing our world? You can also listen to this podcast episode on Designer Sketches. Lily pads on a pond, in a papier-mâché style, generated by Microsoft Designer When John Maeda’s ...
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April 1, 2024

Stitching together a portfolio site for Herschel—in a few hours

My son, Herschel, has been into making clothes for himself and his friends for a few years now. So rather than send him off to the woods for summer camp this year (which we’ve done a couple times now), we figured it was time for him to try something more applied and aligned with his interests. After doing a bit of research, we settled ...
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March 12, 2024

Google is shutting down their podcast player. So I made my own using old-fashioned web tech and new-fangled AI magic.

I work out so I can listen to podcasts. I can’t just sit around. I have to be moving, so I head to the gym almost every day after work, choose an episode, and press play. The exercise is a side benefit. A few months ago, I opened the Google Podcasts app to an un-dissmissible message banner at the top of the screen: “After April 2, 2024...
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February 20, 2024

How we built it: Talia’s Tutoring Startup Kit, Part 2

In Part 1, we covered how we came up with the concept and validated our idea for Talia’s Tutoring Startup Kit. When we created the landing page for pre-orders at the Merry Market in December, we had a plausible idea of what shape the kit would take. But now that we had an order, we had to work through all the details of actually making...
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February 4, 2024

How we built it: Talia’s Tutoring Startup Kit, Part 1

In a recent LinkedIn post, I shared a project I worked on recently with my daughter: Talia’s Tutoring Startup Kit. As she’s focusing now on getting her “next 10 customers,” I thought it would be interesting to reflect on the process we went through to design and build this digital product. Once I started writing, I realized there was q...
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November 12, 2023

Synthesizing an open-source high school music technology course

As I look at the homepage for my design history podcast on Substack as of today, I’m a bit saddened that the date of the last post is August 17 and we’re now only a couple weeks away from Thanksgiving. But there is, in fact, a happy reason for this hiatus. Over the summer, while she was visiting family with the kids in Indonesia, my wi...
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May 23, 2023

Dipping my toes into the pool of podcasting

A few weeks ago, I was listening to the My First Million podcast episode where they interview David Senra of the Founders podcast. I was already a huge Founders fan, but something David said stopped me in the middle of my leg press reps. Talking about what makes podcasting such a unique medium, David said, “we’re not creating content, ...
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April 20, 2023

Social network concept focused on high-quality interaction

I recently finished reading Little Women for a book club, and it got me thinking about how communication and social interaction in the mid-nineteenth century differs from today. In that pre-modern society, if you weren’t bantering in person, you were writing letters or — in urgent situations — sending a telegram. When information start...
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March 20, 2023

New “link in bio” site using GitHub Pages

As someone who’s old enough to remember dialing into America Online, it’s interesting to see how the kids these days are still coming with products that are essentially re-packaged web pages. When I see things like Linktree or, I can’t help but think of them as slightly more refined GeoCities or Myspace sites. That said, the...
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March 1, 2023

Reintroducing optional digital tech after the Digital Declutter

After taking a month-long break from optional digital technologies, I’m now at the point of making decisions about what I am going to allow back into my life. Cal Newport provides a helpful screen to ensure each tool you reintroduce is there for a reason by meeting these three criteria: 1. Serve something you deeply value 2. Be the bes...
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February 20, 2023

Tinkering with web typography

So, I’m still in progress on my digital decluttering exercise. And I realize Cal Newport implores us to “use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world” while exploring high-quality leisure during this time. But I couldn’t help permitting myself a small diversion to make progress on a digital project I had started toward t...
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February 6, 2023

How old is the practice of User Experience Design?

According to Wikipedia (with sources referencing IBM and the Interaction Design Foundation), user experience design, or UX design, is rooted in the fields of human factors and ergonomics dating back to the 1940s. As mass production began to hit its stride, industrial designers like Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy, and Norman Bel Geddes b...
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February 1, 2023

Letting go of the latest news and leaning into some leisure

As part of my digital decluttering plan, I’ve started focusing on aggressively exploring high-quality leisure. Here’s an update on how it’s been going: • Reading old, challenging books: I had previously started these two, but over the past week I finished Meditations and made good progress on The Republic. My daughter is going to be at...
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January 23, 2023

Aggressively exploring high-quality leisure

In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport makes very clear the goal of a 30-day digital declutter is not simply to spend time away from technology for its own sake. During the break, you should “aggressively explore higher-quality activities.” It should be a period of “strenuous activity and experimentation.” The reasoning is that by making s...
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January 19, 2023

Dumbing down my smartphone

As part of my digital decluttering plan, I’m going to be making my smartphone, well, less smart… Apps I’m deleting to reduce distraction • Social (Twitter, LinkedIn) • Email (HEY) • Financial (Brokerage, News, Budgeting, Digital Payments) These are some of my favorite, most used apps. So they also have the potential to cause the most d...
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January 15, 2023

The Digital Declutter 2023

As the new year gets rolling, I’m embarking on a digital decluttering exercise with a group organized by my friend, Michael Weinraub. We will be following the process outlined by Cal Newport in his book, Digital Minimalism: 1. Declutter: Take a 30-day break from “optional” digital technology. 2. Discover: Explore and reconnect with val...
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January 15, 2023

Hello, World!

Me: Hello, World! World: Me: I’m going to share some thoughts with you. I’m interested in things like designing software, reading books, solving crosswords, and studying Torah. World: Me: Well, OK then, good talk! I’ll see you next post. World:
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