Communica­tion is key: Giving the hard sell on “soft skills”

(Cross-posted from Medium.)

A row of women seated in front of what appears to be an enormous telephone switchboard

Today at school we got an hourlong presentation on using LinkedIn effectively, which ended with a summary slide of statements we were to evaluate as true or false. One of these was “You should add soft skills to your skills,” and the “correct” answer seemed to be, more or less, false. My hand shot up, and I said that well, actually, soft skills are extremely important in tech, as they are everywhere, and that if you’re an excellent programmer who can’t communicate with other people, nobody with any sense is going to want you on their team.

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Getting to know you…🎶

(Cross-posted from Medium.)

Nice dress, Julie.

Tomorrow is my first day in the immersive curriculum of the Grace Hopper Academy full-stack JavaScript “bootcamp,” (as opposed to the part-time, remote portion, which has been going on since April), and we’ve been asked to write a blog post introducing ourselves to our classmates and anyone else who happens to stumble in.
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E-reading application showdown, part 2: Typography

Early-twentieth-century photo of two women boxing

Cross-posted at Digital Book World. Part 1 is also on both this site and DBW.

When I first decided to try reading an e-book on my iPod Touch, I assumed—since I’ve been designing and typesetting book interiors for more than a decade and have strong opinions about what makes text readable and appealing—that poor typography would be my biggest complaint about the e-reading applications I tried. In the event, it turns out that as with print books, I’m much more tolerant of ugly, poorly set text than I expected. Just as I’m capable of losing myself in the pages of a cramped, blurry mass-market paperback if the story is one I want to read, so, too, can I block out consciousness of the less-than-ideal typography of an e-book viewed on a small screen. In fact, though I haven’t tried to empirically test this theory, I believe I might read novels faster on my iPod than I used to do on paper. Or maybe I comprehend better, or remember more of what I read.

Still, I’d rather have the option of making the text look good, and if an e-book’s appearance seriously offends me, I’m batty enough to crack it open and change it. I now actually get paid to do this, which sometimes feels like I’ve hit upon the best scam ever. (Other times, not so much. See below under anchovies.)

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E-reading application showdown, part 1: Annotations


About two weeks ago, in a fit of pique, I posted some gripes about my current e-reading application of choice, which is Kobo for the iPhone/iPod Touch. I was pressed for time, so I didn’t provide any context, such as why Kobo’s is my favorite e-reading app, which apps I’ve chosen it over, and whether the things I find awesome and annoying about it are unique to Kobo or are universal across the e-reading–on–iOS world right now.

Here, finally, is the first in a series of posts providing that context. Specifically, I’ll be walking through five of the e-reading applications I’ve used on the iPod Touch, explaining what I see as the pros, cons, and OMFG-what-were-they-thinkings of each.

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Because I am mean and like to rain on parades…

A parade in the rain

All day I’ve been seeing tweets from @kobo and friends about their having the No. 1 e-reading app in the iTunes store—e.g.,

Breaking News: Kobo #1 Rated eReading App on iTunes App Store
Jason Gamblen | Kobo

I’m so happy for them.

No, really.

For several months now, Kobo’s iOS app has been, mainly because of the stats and the activity tracker, my e-reading application of choice. That said, it’s my app of choice in spite of several intense annoyances, so I’d like to take this opportunity to point out a couple of things that drive me up the fucking wall about it. From the support ticket I just submitted:

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What happens when an e-book gets corrected?

"No Parking" sign with the "n" inserted belatedly

So, here’s the partial answer to a question I’ve been wondering about:

Subject: Kindle Title [title] (ASIN:[ASIN]) has an available update

Greetings from

We’re writing about your past Kindle purchase of [title] by [author]. The version you received contained some errors that have been corrected.

An updated version of [title] (ASIN:[ASIN]) is now available. It’s important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version and your furthest reading location will be lost.

If you wish to receive the updated version, please reply to this email with the word “Yes” in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours of receiving the e-mail any device that has the title currently downloaded will be updated automatically if the wireless is on.

You can find more information about Kindle related topics at our Kindle support site below.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your business with Amazon.

Customer Service Department

It’s a book I’ve already read, so I went to to see if I had made any annotations. Turns out it’s one I’ve got multiple copies of (it was a freebie in all the major e-book stores for a while), so my markup’s on some other version. (If I’ve actually read an e-book, there is always markup; this is one of the biggest changes e-books have made to my reading habits.) I wrote back and said, “Yes.”

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The India, Ink. comedy show

I made myself watch the archived video of the thesis presentation I gave yesterday afternoon, and it’s not as embarrassing as I’d expected, so I’m posting it for your amusement. There’s a full transcript after the jump, including the slides, since you can’t read them in the video; a few citations; and one correction. I probably said some other things that are inaccurate—particularly, I’m thinking, in my answer to Nancy Hechinger’s question about combination audio- and e- books at the very end. All I know about Enhanced BooksEditions is what I heard in their TOC presentation, to which I arrived late. Smackdowns welcome.

In defense of the presentation’s being, um, a bit vague in parts—like, the last several minutes before the Q&A—I’d like to point out that (1) I was still editing my slides until one minute before I had to step up to get miked, and (2) InDesign decided to crash as I tried to print my talking points cheat-sheet, and I hadn’t been done writing them, anyway, so I didn’t have much to go on, especially toward the end. I wung it. It’s not the most unprepared I’ve ever been for a presentation, but it’s in the top three, I’m pretty sure. Also, (3) I’d had less than two hours of sleep.

You should watch some of my classmates’ presentations, too. I saw only a handful of them—not even all those that took place after mine was over—and I doubt the videos do them justice, but I can attest that in person, the following presenters slew mightily: Neo (Sangzoon) Barc, Sara Bremen, Marco Castro Cosio, Jayoung Chung, Ozge Kirimlioglu, Carolina Vallejo, and Filippo Vanucci.
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Three More Days

Thesis Book 2010

This Thursday at 12:40 p.m., I have to publicly present some sort of something about my vague and fugitive master’s thesis. The talk—about ten minutes’ worth—will be streamed online so you, my friends, can all point and laugh, and the video will be archived somewhere (hopefully somewhere dark and offline) after the event.

Oy vey.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what the hell to say and show, and I’ve had to write a short description of my work for a (printed!!) book of my class’s thesis projects—a book that was, of course, laid out by me, who obviously had nothing better to do with my time. The following is the lofty prose I came up with, sometime between birds-tweeting-time and sunrise this morning:
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E-book Abomination Index

I’ve been reading a lot of e-books in the past ten days or so, and I have seen a lot of messy formatting. But the latest one takes the cake: a McGraw-Hill Professional book in which the first letter of every paragraph appears on a line by itself. Thus:

he quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Hella annoying. And there was an egregious typo in the book, repeated three times in one paragraph. Annoying enough that I dug around on the McGraw-Hill site until I found a place to lodge my complaint.

But then I got to thinking, as I filled out their lengthy incident report form, that if I want to report every fucked-up e-book I come across—which is most of them—I could spend the rest of my life chasing around on publishers’ websites for the buried feedback addresses or forms. And then I thought, Why not set up a sort of Hall of Shame where not only I but anyone else who finds a crappy e-book can post the gory details?

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the E-book Abomination Index submission form?
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