illustration for Turning Technical Concepts into Approachable Illustrated Metaphors - with Maggie Appleton

episode 43

Turning Technical Concepts into Approachable Illustrated Metaphors - with Maggie Appleton

There's a kind of "black box" mystery that surrounds illustrators and programmers, to someone who isn't one their skills seem like a form of magic, but to someone who is these skills are just the tools that they've been learning to use through time and hard work.

Maggie is the course logo illustrator at egghead.io, and she has the challenge of turning the concepts being taught in the course into something more visually concrete. The challenge isn't necessarily the drawing, but the research that is needed to understand a topic to the point of being able to create an accurate metaphor that people who don't know what is being taught can grasp. Maggie discusses her process in research and creative thinking to get to that point.

The beginner's mindset is critical to Maggie for creating these illustrations. When someone becomes an expert in something, they tend to overlook things that have become muscle memory to them that make beginners struggle. You don't have to be an expert to teach something to someone! The problems that you ran into when learning a topic and the things that helped you wrap your head around it are still fresh in your mind and can be extremely valuable for other beginners and even those with experience.

Maggie started a site called illustrated.dev to bring visual learning perspective of web development and internet concepts. There is a lot of content out there that teaches with language, but for many people, that style of learning makes it difficult for things to click. Never be afraid to teach things that are already being taught, often it is the way that you teach that matters most.


Maggie Appleton:

Resources:

Transcript

Joel Hooks: Hi, Maggie.

Maggie Appleton: Hi.

Joel Hooks: I'm really excited to talk to you. I mean, we work together so we talk occasionally anyway, but I have a desk that's essentially covered with sticky versions of your illustrations and I was thinking about it, and to us programmer nerds that are probably listening to this, it really comes off like you're some sort of wizard crafting these magical images that astound and delight us. But I'm curious about what sort of study and training actually goes into being an illustrator, because I think people look at developers in a similar way. You know, what we do is magical, but in fact it takes a lot of skill and lengthy dedication to get to where you're at. So how did you get into this and what's your kind of training and background as an illustrator?

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, there's definitely analogies there. There's a lot of black box mysticism that surrounds both fields as if ... the thing is that you're always told you must've been born with it. You're so lucky to be able to know how to draw, like as if it's not a thing that anyone can learn how to do, which yeah, developers get the same myth attached to them that yeah, you're born Mark Zuckerberg or you're not.

Maggie Appleton: So yeah, in terms of training and study, I tend do the usual thing that I think the vast majority of illustrators do, which is art school of some sort. I actually had a degree in anthropology and realized that wasn't going to get me a whole ton of jobs, and I'd always been into drawing, but you get told that it's not a career. So I had sort of written it off quite early and was focusing more on either politics or NGO work but got pretty disillusioned pretty quickly with that stuff and started training to be an illustrator only after earning my undergraduate degree.

Maggie Appleton: I was doing it I guess all independently and only because of the time that we live in. You know, the online learning was just taking off then. Like, Skillshare had just come up and they had some illustration courses online, but I pretty much learned probably the most ineffective way possible, by patch working together a whole bunch of different resources and sites. Like, some really notable ones for people that are interested in teaching themselves illustration online would be Schoolism was a big one for me, which is run by a guy called Bobby Chiu, which is really good.

Maggie Appleton: New Masters Academy, so definitely a lot of online resources, a lot of books. And I did spend a year in LA doing on the ground training with a lot of guys who worked in the film industry there, and they're very highly technically skilled so that leveled me up a lot.

Joel Hooks: So that's more like industrial design, like those folks that are doing concept art and that sort of thing.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, exactly. So it's much less, I guess, a what I might call wishy washy artistic illustration, which is a completely valid form of the discipline. But I very much love the more technical side, which I would maybe, you know, is a bit more like my developerish side coming out. I love, you know, formal perspective and correct lighting and stuff that concept artists really emphasize in their work.

Joel Hooks: I think we share a love for that, because I really love that stuff too. But then being creative with it as well, because I don't think that like the saps the creativity out of it, it just kind of adds a constraint to the work, I think.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. Yeah. I like to think of it as it's ... I mean, visual language has a lot of analogies to programming languages where it is just a language that you're using to communicate and build certain things. So I like to think of things like perspective and color and light, they're all just tools and you use them to communicate, you know, specific things. They're just a medium, they're not the thing in itself.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. And in a way that it's code, it's encoded and it's carrying some meaning and relevance to folks. You know, if that's the goal and it's done that correctly.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. Yeah.

Joel Hooks: You work at Egghead, and you do these amazing technical illustrations for programming courses and concepts, and I was wondering how you describe your work to your family and friends that aren't in this industry.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, it always depends a lot too on, right, the positionality of the person. So with my grandparents I of course just say I make things on the Internet and leave it at that. But when it's actually, you know, someone who has some knowledge of how the Internet works, I tend to use the tagline, I help explain web development through illustration, is sort of my one sentence. And some people don't know what web development means, so then you break it down to, you know, I help explain how things on the Internet get built through illustration.

Joel Hooks: Yeah, just kind of paring it back. A little more general, a little more general. Your undergraduate degree was in anthropology?

Maggie Appleton: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joel Hooks: You know like it's formative and we all are stacking skills up over time, and it feels like a lot of the work that you do is actually kind of related to anthropology and I was wondering if you thought the same and how it might be similar.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, yeah. It's definitely baked into my ways of looking at the world is how I would describe it. So I did love my anthropology degree. It was probably a little bit indulgent, but I did focus on digital anthropology. Like I wrote my thesis on the Quantified Self Movement, which is like over nerdy fantastic self tracking like Fitbit's and quantified data and how it relates to our personal sense of self. I love that stuff, so I definitely applied an anthropological lens to the programming community and developers.

Maggie Appleton: And generally, I mean, Internet culture is just sort of something I feel like I'm always looking at through an anthropological lens. And yeah, it definitely gets baked into the illustration because then you're always trying to look at things from the cultural angle. So things like looking at the JavaScript community from the cultural angle of how we perceive JavaScript in like a metaphorical way and how the culture of it builds up and how that affects how people might write JavaScript to the kind of things they might build with it. So I like thinking about it from that lens, I guess.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. And there's kind of the idea of what people say, right? Like what they say and what they, then on the other side of that is what they actually do and how approach it and how things really work under the hood as a kind of Zeitgeist and all that fun stuff comes into play I would think.

Joel Hooks: So when you sit down, you had this, a greenfield task of illustrating some sort of complex technical concept. What's the process like? Like, how do you get into that and even start. Do you start with a pencil in your hand and start drawing right away or what goes into creating an illustration?

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, well especially for the Egghead ones, right? So for a couple of years now I've been doing all the course illustrations on Egghead, and the way that usually goes is we'll have a course that's whatever's next in line to be released and I'll sort of dig first into figuring out on whatever the topic is. And of course it spans just an enormous range of any web development topic that someone's going to teach, everything from what if we had like dependency injection? Angular was like a whole course. There's always ones on React.

Maggie Appleton: So I got to sort of take whatever topic it is, you know, open up a thousand Google tabs, just make sure I have a good understanding of what the subject is, flip through most of the videos that are in the course, and that whole time I'll usually ... either on paper or on my iPad, it depends how I'm feeling, just me taking handwritten notes, and it's mostly or words to begin with. There's like very small, tiny icon type sketches of things, ideas of how I might visualize things, but it's all rather research based I suppose. Once I have a really strong, I guess, mental concept of the topic then I'll usually start brainstorming a good metaphor I think that might encompass it in a single image.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, coming up with metaphors is like a whole discipline in itself that I feel like isn't very well developed in the world in the sense. I've really tried to find as many books and people teaching it as possible and it's all rather vague, but the best tactics I found are just you sort of take a look at something and say, all right, what are the main qualities of it? What are the main functions of it? Then you just start doing lateral thinking. So lateral thinking is like ... you know, we all know linear thinking is what most developers are really good at. Right? Following one logical train of thought to the next, and lateral thinking is when you try to go sideways in the world.

Maggie Appleton: So you try to look at something and say, "Well what else is like this from another discipline?" Which can be really difficult because you're trying to break your brain out of its normal structures of how it thinks about things.

Joel Hooks: Yeah, the preconceptions, right?

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. The ways we think get so rooted in ... it's really difficult to break them and sort of think of things that we've never thought of before on purpose. But one field I really have loved that has helped me a lot with this was called Synectics. There's these two books, Design Synectics and Art Synectics. They're really old. I've had to like hunt for second hand copies of them, but they're worth getting if you're into creative thinking, and they work through different techniques for how to break up your patterns of thinking. So you'll do things like substitute, reverse, morph, maximize, minimize. So it's just like adding like twists to things. So I'd say, React is a little bit like a car, but how would you reverse, minimize, maximize that?

Joel Hooks: Like, what if it was a giant car?

Maggie Appleton: Exactly.

Joel Hooks: That kind of thing. I think that's kind of like oblique strategies or thinking obliquely too. Right? You try to try intentionally to think outside of what is commonly understood is like the metaphor or whatever.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. Yeah.

Joel Hooks: Do any sort of common metaphoric structures appear when you're dealing with programming in general? Do you have like a favorite or go to is or something like a common thread that you see throughout the way we think about code?

Maggie Appleton: Well, we definitely always end up in the mechanical analogies, right? I, of course, fall into these as well because it does feel so natural and this is where the anthropology ties in, where you remember that it's all culturally constructed. Our association with the Development Wells being mechanical or everything nowadays being mechanical, right? The brain is a machine, the body's a machine. Everything's a machine. Like that's like industrial revolution forward. We haven't been able to think of anything else.

Maggie Appleton: So yeah, machines are always a good one to dive into. You know, could it be a set and type of tool? And that's when you like, I have fun thinking about certain disciplines. So you say, "Okay, what gardening tools could this be? What a financial tools could this be? What sort of cleaning tools could this be?" And you can sort of pick categories and test out different things within them. Yeah. So that sometimes helps.

Joel Hooks: Because there's those also like the cultural, like global, we're teaching a global audience with these things. And like we were going through our course development process and we use as an example driver's education just to explain how we do the thing. As it turns out, not everybody does that now, because we thought, "Yeah, this is universal. Everybody has to do drive." And somebody was like, "Oh we don't do that in my country." And I was like, "Oh." crosstalk 00:10:40

Maggie Appleton: I've never been through driver's Ed.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. And that's, you know, like we just assume. It's kind of, maybe it's even, you know, USA centric. I don't know. But we generally speaking do driver's Ed here. So, you know, it's just interesting to me that like these metaphors and these ways of looking at things across the board can change. So finding something that's common enough that the people understand it, that has to be a challenge.

Maggie Appleton: For sure. And it's also a bit difficult to test too. I don't know if we've ever had feedback on any of the illustration saying they don't make sense. I mean, sometimes you'll get Twitter commenters who just want an opinion.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. Reply guys.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. But most of the time people either take it has is. I suppose that's probably why the mechanical ones are an easy cop out because it becomes a bit global. But yeah, I suppose some probably do get lost in the mix that we just never hear a feedback on.

Joel Hooks: Yeah, that's probably true.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah.

Joel Hooks: How has illustration similar to program? We talked about this a little bit, but I'm curious because I feel like the process, and there's of lot of interesting kind of crossover in programming computers and illustration.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. Well, I suppose my approach to illustration is probably more like programming a lot of other illustrators approach. So like I mentioned before, I am quite technically inclined with it. I do just see it as a language to express ideas through and not necessarily ... well I suppose if you're doing illustration for illustration sake, it becomes art and then that's a whole different debate.

Joel Hooks: The what's art debate, you mean?

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. Yeah.

Joel Hooks: We can get into that if you want. No, I'm just kidding. crosstalk 00:12:14

Maggie Appleton: No, no, no. Whenever I get called and artist, I'll always sort of argue against it and say, "I'm really not. I would never call myself an artist. I don't call what I make art. Art seemed something different to me." Whereas, I see illustration as you know, even the definition of the word is to explain something clearly. And that's not necessarily art goal, but it's always illustration's goal.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. So when I take your sketch pages and print them and then hang them on my wall, that's like a little cringey. Is that what you're saying?

Maggie Appleton: I suppose then maybe it becomes art. Unintentional art, I suppose.

Joel Hooks: Speaking of like unintentionally, right? Like not ... like it feels like in a way, and just because I know you and I see your work, like you've become, kind of like, I describe it as an accidental web developer crosstalk 00:13:07 into it you've done, you know, like you've done some web development in the past, but like while you're doing this research, while you were studying these, you have to go in depth, and I can't help but think you would also pick up some of the skills and I was wondering if that's the actual case.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, definitely. I do love now the concept of the accidental web developer, because it's absolutely happening. Where I feel like it's not like I was resistant to it, but I have so much fear around web development and imposter syndrome that no matter how much I learn I think I'll always say I'm not a web developer if I was speaking to a web developer. I know how to build a React App and like know how to get Gatsby and MDX up and running, and when I get really in the weeds, at least I have the whole Egghead team to message and ask to come save me.

Maggie Appleton: But I think that's maybe what motivates a lot of my work too is because I very acutely feel the pain and frustration and fear of not knowing what you're doing and trying to figure it out in the web development world right now where everything feels broken all the time and we can't figure out what anything is, and I don't know how Webpack works. It's always broken. Both of my parents were programmers, one of my brothers is a programmer working in California, so it definitely runs in the family and I taught myself HTML at like age 13 on neopets.com, if anyone else remembers that.

Joel Hooks: I'm sure there's crosstalk 00:14:25.

Maggie Appleton: So, it's in the history. Yeah. And Myspace, gosh, you've got to like customize that page. But in, yeah, it's so complex now and I feel like people, it's not as easy for people to get into the world and I know everyone in the community talks about this all the time, but one of my big motivations for illustrating web development concepts is hopefully making it less frightening for other people. Yeah.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. That beginner's mindset one, because you're interested, right? Like, you have this background and you're interested in the technical side, both with your illustrations and with the concepts that you're illustrating, and does your kind of like beginner's mindset, which is hard to retrieve after you lose it. But you have that. Has that helped in the process of creating these and thinking about, you know, "How do I illustrate this where people will gain some knowledge from it?"

Maggie Appleton: Absolutely. I mean, the beginner's mind thing is definitely critical to making them, and I also think it's fairly critical that I'm especially slow at learning web development concepts or it really takes me a lot of energy to wrap my head around it where I can see other people maybe get it quite quick and I have to really draw the whole thing out and get a really strong visual mental structure in my head of like how you know the Gatsby product is structured and how it talks to the Babel and how that's all talking to some server on Netlify, like I really need a drawing strongly in my head but then also on paper to like see how it all works.

Maggie Appleton: So I think the fact that I'm a little bit thick in that sense makes it better because then I really have to break it down to micro pieces and hash it all out. Whereas, when I read a lot of other tutorials written online, I think they're skipping a thousand steps because their brain is just working through the logic faster than mine would.

Joel Hooks: Yeah, they're making assumptions. Because it's a struggle for me too. I don't instantly understand any of this and feel like I'll be, you know, learning these concepts forever. Then at the same time, a lot of that work is hidden and yours gets exposed. You know, because you're actually trying to visualize it and create something visual for people. So in a way you have to attack it that way I don't think.

Maggie Appleton: Right. You can't have it just be abstract code. You have to ... I always like to think of the explainers that I've been drawing at Egghead. It's really like building a real, physical world of all the stuff. That's a bit how it gets back into that. The concept artists that I originally studied with is they have to really build imaginary worlds. And I like to imagine I'm sort of drawing this imaginary world and building in my head of web development and of the Internet and how everything on the back end of a website actually works as if it's some like animated film, you know?

Joel Hooks: Well yeah, because while you're learning it you're also thinking about explaining it, which explaining the thing and teaching is generally, that's an advanced concept, right? Like people associate that with expertise. I actually don't think that's true. I think you can learn something and come up with an explanation, and your explanation solidifies your own learning and shares, you know, like helps others learn the thing too, so you can kind of share that even if you don't have the years of experience.

Maggie Appleton: People talk about this all the time too, that someone who knows something really well has forgotten what it feels like to not know it and doesn't actually remember all the bits that were difficult to learn in the first place.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. If you watch somebody that's like totally new to web development try to like even like figuring out the terminal and the inaudible 00:17:50 and how to get their code to run it's pretty enlightening, and you forget about that, all that stuff when it becomes just second nature over time. There's so many steps and pitfalls along the way.

Maggie Appleton: I know I'm always amazed talking to "normal people" in the world, as in people not in the development community. The vast majority of people don't know the word JavaScript and they don't know ... I mean they maybe have heard of HTML and CSS, they haven't a clue what a compiler or transpiler is. The level of awareness I think most people have is very, very low. So I always try to think about it as if they're able to understand things that I make. Like, I've won. Like, I need to use language that they would get.

Joel Hooks: Somebody was like, "Oh, everybody knows HTML." And I was like, "Statistically speaking, nobody knows HTML. Literally nobody. If you take all, you know, seven whatever billion of us that are on this planet, then all the people that know HTML or even know what it is, statistically it's approaching zero." I'm making that up, so it's not real statistics, but you know.

Maggie Appleton: I bet you, yeah.

Joel Hooks: It's somewhere close to that.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. I work in a shared studio space with a whole bunch of people who are not at all techie. They're like marketing or sales or all sorts of other things. And they're my favorite people to test content on. Yeah. Like I had a bunch of them read the ... I made an explainer about what is an API a couple of weeks ago and had them all do read overs of it, and everyone was just like, had never had the what API, had never given a thought to how their email might talk to her like another app or anything of that sort.

Joel Hooks: So you're talking about explainers and you mentioned this, so you've been working on illustrated.dev, and this is a project that takes programming concepts, takes Internet web development concepts, then you're creating essentially explainer comics for these concepts. And I was wondering, who is this project built for and like what are the goals that you have for illustrated.dev?

Maggie Appleton: This project is one, I've been mulling on for a while and only finally got off the ground this year, but thankfully now it's like it's something I have way too much excitement about. The target audience is definitely a bit of a range, because while I initially thought it was definitely beginner focused, I tried to not use a lot of technical language and really sort of do fundamental concepts, so things like APIs, or I'm working on one right now about the very basics of what a database is in conjunction with an Egghead course coming up that's about SQL, which will be a little bit more of the advanced side.

Maggie Appleton: I really wanted it to be people who wouldn't naturally get into web development through all the other types of tutorials that are currently available. I think if you're the kind of person that really loves watching sort of get into the weeds quick, fast logical thinking tutorials, there's an endless amount on the internet for them. People who are good at just like fearlessly opening up VS code and just trying it out and being able to problem solve their way through when they get stuck.

Maggie Appleton: Whereas, all the people I feel like who probably more visual and maybe have a bit more fear or have never thought of themselves as potentially being able to be web developers might need a different language to be spoken to in. I thought this might be an interesting way that maybe we could get people in who wouldn't, yeah, be naturally inclined to the all the other ways that web development gets taught right now.

Joel Hooks: Maybe like click, like click for somebody because they see it in a different way. Maybe they didn't ever think they could do this or could never understand these concepts, then they see this and it's very friendly and they're explained very well. So they see that and it would click for them and maybe inspire them to dig further

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, even though it is ... I had those people in mind, I guess, or I do when I make them. It seems to be resonating with even people who have been web developers for ages, and would fall in the expertise category. I think they at least maybe have things reinforced or just enjoy seeing it done in a simpler way. I don't know. At least a lot of the people that I see following it appear to be like well established web developers already.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. I mean, I really enjoy it and I know what the concepts are to begin with, but then seeing them visualize like that is always like, wow, look at that. You know, I feel like it adds depth to my knowledge. It gives me a new way to look at it or even explain it to others, which is great.

Joel Hooks: So like taking that further, right? Like you have illustrated.dev, and it's pictures and as you've gained these like programming skills over the years in your illustration skills and you're working on both of these things, what's the potential of combining those two worlds and making something, I don't know, that moves or is interactive or taking it to that next level? Have you put any thought into that?

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, that's definitely like the only thing my brain can think about at the moment. I've been diving into a lot of, actually a lot of Sarah Drasner's content on SVGs. She's been great teaching that, and trying to look at ... so we're using Gatsby to build the illustrated.dev project, which is really fantastic, because it uses MDX, so that's mark down but has JSX integrated into it. So you can use React components, which just feels like magic because then, yeah, you can write all these really cool little pieces of things and bring them into articles and I'm sort of, yeah, full of ideas of ways that we can ... I like the idea of like putting, you know, just simple stuff, right, as like links in into these what look like hand drawn images but you can hover over things and have maybe a tool tips pop up that link to resources of where I might have originally read something. So like further readings.

Maggie Appleton: Then definitely SVG animation I've been studying a lot for the last two weeks, and inevitably ended up dreaming about SVGs last night because that's what happens when you-

Joel Hooks: Oh, yeah. I love that, though. When you're learning something new and all of a sudden it appears in your dreams. It's like, "Oh, this stuff is really sinking in if I'm ..." Or if it's really mind boggling, it can also be the case.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. Like I definitely did like a solid two weeks of just Reacts dreams when I was first trying to do that.

Joel Hooks: Yeah, for sure. I've had so many like database programming nightmares too where you're basically stuck in a box nightmares, but like they're horrible code centric versions of that.

Maggie Appleton: Well my brain isn't even creative with them. It's always just like the dream is that the code doesn't work and you can't figure out why.

Joel Hooks: But yeah, exactly. But it's so frustrating in your dream, like beyond this, just generally speaking as an illustrator, do you have any sort of longterm plans or ideas and with regard to what you want to do or create?

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, I mean definitely. I've always kind of went into illustration with the driving passion that it was about explaining more academic concepts or explaining things that are more cognitive concepts that are usually only expressed in language and that I didn't see anyone explaining in visuals. So like I'm also a huge economics nerd, and of course anthropology, I read a lot of ethnographies, and no one has really visualized those in meaningful ways. So that was what got me excited about the idea of learning illustration in the beginning, but getting so deep into the web development world now.

Maggie Appleton: I'm starting to think of myself in this concept of like an embedded illustrator, a lot like in anthropology, people embed themselves in cultures for decades and they really become the anthropological expert on that culture. So I'm sort of analogizing it to me being the illustrator for the web development community where I'm sort of all in now and just very excited about being able to illustrate as much web development stuff as I can in my short lifetime. I mean, I'm sure.

Joel Hooks: I mean there's like a flavor of journalism involved too, right? Like if you combine these things and how it works, it feels like embedded journalists and anthropologists. I think that really has a ring of truth to what it is you're doing.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. And definitely a lot of the illustrators I follow. I suppose most of the ones that I really follow closely are ... it's called graphic journalism. But yeah, they draw journalistic story through illustration and they probably do something that's most similar to what I'm trying to do.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. And you see a lot of that. And I think the New York Times does a really awesome job of combining journalism and data visualization and illustration through like the scrolling pages style articles and stuff that really show you concepts or are complicated concepts in a way that's like, "Oh, look," and you can really understand it," and I love that stuff and where the world's going in that direction.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. And especially like, I have to mention the pudding, I stalk them endlessly.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. For sure.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. And it is. I do love that stuff as well. It's just so fantastic to see the mediums blending in a way everyone's be waiting for it to happen for so long. I still feel like we're not quite there yet, but things like MDX open up the field a ton more and make for a lot more possibility in what we can do in it.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. I can't express how excited I am about MDX and the potential for education and learning and interactive, you know, like flipping books on their head where you're kind of like this full multimedia experience that it feels like it's been promised since the late 80s to me. But yeah. And we're finally getting there, and like we're getting the confluence of all these things that's getting us to the point where we can actually realize that.

Joel Hooks: So I wanted to close it out. I was looking on your website and you listed a few books that you said were formative for you. One of them in particular stood out to me, which was Addiction by Design. I was wondering how you would describe that book and it's effect on your work or your outlook.

Maggie Appleton: Oh yeah, that books one of my favorites. So I think like the majority of my thesis just cited that book endlessly. So it's an ethnography of a woman who went and studied the gambling machines in Las Vegas, and the people who get addicted to gambling there but the ways that it had changed in recent years since the machines had gone digital and she even goes in and interviews a lot of the programmers who programmed machines and how they ended up being consultants for all the social media companies. And I'm sure a lot of people in the tech world might have heard snippets of this story through other sources, but if anyone wants a good addictive read, this one is like a very well written ethnography that makes you look at the entire digital world very differently.

Maggie Appleton: And a lot of the tech world has gotten on this bandwagon too. I'm sure everyone else does. I use a ton of blocking software and the gray scale phone and whatever limits you can do to set around the tech in your life. But when you start to see the analogies between how the gambling industry and how the social media industry like played off each other, it's really frightening. But again, this won't be news to web developers. As like every, you know, as people building this stuff and responsible for it, I think everyone's well aware of the ethics nowadays, but I was reading this back in 2013 and no one was really talking about it and it sort of blew my mind at the time.

Joel Hooks: Yeah. I don't know if everybody is aware of the ethics these days. Maybe they're getting better. Another in like in that line is this a new book by Mike Monteiro of Mule who says it's called ruined by design and basically the premise is that that everything is by design. Like, if you look at literally everything in our world, it's all kind of outside of nature, right? Like it's all by design, right? So it's like the good, the bad.

Joel Hooks: Like people using, you know, we have all these social media networks that are always trying to ... they read that book, right? Like, they read Addiction by Design and took it to heart and have applied it. And there's all like, in a way like we try to do that with our work too. But you know, like generally I want people to learn more, so I try to figure out how to encourage them and motivate them to do that. But then that's by design too, whether you know it's good or bad or you can take these and make it a good thing or it can end up being used for, you know, the opposite of that.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. All just about intention. I love Mike's stuff too. I didn't know he had a new book out though. I think I only read his design as a job one.

Joel Hooks: Which was good and he has, Fuck You, Pay Me, which is one of my favorite talks.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, that one's great.

Joel Hooks: All time and every freelancer, I think everybody should listen to. It should be canon in our public education system in my opinion.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah, he has a pretty good podcast too. I forget what it's called.

Joel Hooks: I haven't listened to that one at all. I imagine, he's so smart and just has a lot of interesting things to say. This book is brand new. It just came out a few weeks ago. It just showed up at my house. I can't wait to look at it.

Maggie Appleton: Oh, nice.

Joel Hooks: I also ordered Addiction by Design, because I'm want to check that out too because it sounds great.

Maggie Appleton: Oh, yeah. It's an addictive read.

Joel Hooks: Yeah, that's cool. I liked that they dog fooded their own concept.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah.

Joel Hooks: Maggie, thank you very much for chatting with me today and have a wonderful rest of your day.

Maggie Appleton: Yeah. Thanks for chatting.

Joel Hooks: Cheers.

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