IndieWeb Book Club: Ruined By Design

Image artwork from the cover of Ruined by Design featuring a red filtered view of the atomic mushroom cloud explosion on a small ocean island

Some of us have thought about doing it before, but perhaps just jumping into the water and trying it out may be the best way to begin designing, testing, and building a true online IndieWeb Book Club.

Ruined By Design

Title and author on a white background at the top with a red filtered view of an atomic mushroom cloud explosion on the Bikini atoll in the Pacific Ocean

Earlier this week I saw a notice about an upcoming local event for Mike Monteiro‘s new book Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It (Mule Books, March 2019, ISBN: 978-1090532084). Given the IndieWeb’s focus on design which is built into several of their principles, I thought this looked like a good choice for kicking off such an IndieWeb Book Club.

Here’s the description of the book from the publisher:

The world is working exactly as designed. The combustion engine which is destroying our planet’s atmosphere and rapidly making it inhospitable is working exactly as we designed it. Guns, which lead to so much death, work exactly as they’re designed to work. And every time we “improve” their design, they get better at killing. Facebook’s privacy settings, which have outed gay teens to their conservative parents, are working exactly as designed. Their “real names” initiative, which makes it easier for stalkers to re-find their victims, is working exactly as designed. Twitter’s toxicity and lack of civil discourse is working exactly as it’s designed to work.The world is working exactly as designed. And it’s not working very well. Which means we need to do a better job of designing it. Design is a craft with an amazing amount of power. The power to choose. The power to influence. As designers, we need to see ourselves as gatekeepers of what we are bringing into the world, and what we choose not to bring into the world. Design is a craft with responsibility. The responsibility to help create a better world for all. Design is also a craft with a lot of blood on its hands. Every cigarette ad is on us. Every gun is on us. Every ballot that a voter cannot understand is on us. Every time social network’s interface allows a stalker to find their victim, that’s on us. The monsters we unleash into the world will carry your name. This book will make you see that design is a political act. What we choose to design is a political act. Who we choose to work for is a political act. Who we choose to work with is a political act. And, most importantly, the people we’ve excluded from these decisions is the biggest (and stupidest) political act we’ve made as a society.If you’re a designer, this book might make you angry. It should make you angry. But it will also give you the tools you need to make better decisions. You will learn how to evaluate the potential benefits and harm of what you’re working on. You’ll learn how to present your concerns. You’ll learn the importance of building and working with diverse teams who can approach problems from multiple points-of-view. You’ll learn how to make a case using data and good storytelling. You’ll learn to say NO in a way that’ll make people listen. But mostly, this book will fill you with the confidence to do the job the way you always wanted to be able to do it. This book will help you understand your responsibilities.

I suspect that this book will be of particular interest to those in the IndieWeb, A Domain of One’s Own, the EdTech space (and OER), and really just about anyone.

How to participate

I’m open to other potential guidelines and thoughts since this is incredibly experimental at best, but I thought I’d lay out the following broad ideas for how we can generally run the book club and everyone can keep track of the pieces online. Feel free to add your thoughts as responses to this post or add them to the IndieWeb wiki’s page https://indieweb.org/IndieWeb_Book_Club.

  • Buy the book or get a copy from your local bookstore
  • Read it along with the group
  • Post your progress, thoughts, replies/comments, highlights, annotations, reactions, quotes, related bookmarks, podcast or microcast episodes, etc. about the book on your own website on your own domain. If your site doesn’t support any of these natively, just do your best and post simple notes that you can share. In the end, this is about the content and the discussion first and the technology second, but feel free to let it encourage you to improve your own site for doing these things along the way.
    • Folks can also post on other websites and platforms if they must, but that sort of defeats some of the purpose of the Indie idea, right?
  • Syndicate your thoughts to indieweb.xyz to the stub indieweb.xyz/en/bookclub/ as the primary location for keeping track of our conversation. Directions for doing this can be found at https://indieweb.xyz/howto/en.
  • Optionally syndicate them to other services like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Optionally mention this original post, and my website will also aggregate the comments via webmention to the comment section below.
  • At regular intervals, check in on the conversations linked on indieweb.xyz/en/bookclub/ and post your replies and reactions about them on your own site.

If your site doesn’t support sending/receiving webmentions (a special type of open web notifications), take a look at Aaron Parecki’s post Sending your first Webmention and keep in mind that you can manually force webmentions with services like Telegraph or Mention-Tech

I’ll also try to keep track of entries I’m aware about on my own site as read or bookmark posts which I’ll tag with (ostensibly for IndieWeb Book Club Mike Monteiro), which we can also use on other social silos for keeping track of the conversation there.

Perhaps as we move along, I’ll look into creating a planet for the club as well as aggregating OPML files of those who create custom feeds for their posts. If I do this it will only be to supplement the aggregation of posts at the stub on indieweb.xyz which should serve as the primary hub for the club’s conversation.

If you haven’t run across it yet you can also use gRegor Morrill‘s IndieBookClub.biz tool in the process. 

If you don’t already have your own website or domain to participate, feel free to join in on other portions of social media, but perhaps consider jumping into the IndieWeb chat to ask about how to get started to better own your online identity and content. 

If you need help putting together your own site, there are many of us out here who can help get you started. I might also recommend using micro.blog which is an inexpensive and simple way to have your own website. I know that Manton Reece has already purchased a copy of the book himself. I hope that he and the rest of the micro.blog community will participate  along with us.

If you feel technically challenged, please ping me about your content and participation, and I’m happy to help aggregate your posts to the indieweb.xyz hub on your behalf. Ideally a panoply of people participating on a variety of technical levels and platforms will help us create a better book club (and a better web) for the future.

Of course, if you feel the itch to build pieces of infrastructure into your own website for improved participation, dive right in. Feel free to document what you’re doing both your own website and the IndieWeb wiki so others can take advantage of what you’ve come up with. Also feel free to join in on upcoming Homebrew Website Clubs (either local or virtual) or IndieWebCamps to continue brainstorming and iterating in those spaces as well.

Kickoff and Timeline

I’m syndicating this post to IndieNews for inclusion into next week’s IndieWeb newsletter which will serve as a kickoff notice. That will give folks time to acquire a copy of the book and start reading it. Of course this doesn’t mean that you couldn’t start today.

Share and repost this article with anyone you think might enjoy participating in the meanwhile.

I’ll start reading and take a stab at laying out a rough schedule. If you’re interested in participating, do let me know; we can try to mold the pace to those who actively want to participate.

I’ve already acquired a copy of the book and look forward to reading it along with you.

44 thoughts on “IndieWeb Book Club: Ruined By Design”

  1. 📖 15% into reading Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It by Mike Monteiro
    Read Chapters: The Ethics of Design, How Designers Destroyed the World, and Moving Fast and Breaking Things
    I was very reticent about this book at first, but it is way more essential than I initially thought! I knew I was going to know almost all of the examples, and I’ve generally been right on that account so far, but he’s going beyond the problems with potential solutions. I was worried it was going to be something that I would appreciate and heartily recommend to others without getting much out of it myself, but it reads quickly and easily and there’s a lot here that I want to come back and ponder about further.
    Despite the fact that I don’t feel like a professional web designer by trade, what he’s talking about here are standards of human care and interaction that anyone who makes anything should be thinking about on a daily basis. Whether you’re building or creating things for others or even making your own daily life, at heart, you’re designing something.
    If Chuck Chugumlung hasn’t come across this book yet with respect to his Design X Pasadena group, I’ll recommend it heartily to him.
    I also find myself thinking a lot about how people are building and designing technologies in the edtech space. May of the researchers, professors, and instructional designers I know are immersed in some of the ethics and morals behind using these technologies. Generally I hear them talking about what they “wish” they had as tools, but often they seem to be stuck with things they don’t really want and are then attempting to figure out ways around these technologies after-the-fact so that they can use them in an ethical manner. They really need to stand up, refuse to use what they’re given, and demand better design from the start. Even if they’re incapable of building their own tools, they’re slowly, but surely going to loose the war if they don’t move upstream to where the actual decisions are being made. Fortunately some of the work I see in the OER space is being done at the grass roots where people have more choice and say in the design, but I worry that if they’re not careful, those tools will be siloed off with bad design choices by for-profit companies as well.

    Syndicated copies to:

  2. Sigh. I would love to participate in a book club but … I suspect the subject matter of the books that the IndieWeb community, which I think is mostly technologists, would not be of much interest to me.

    Cool idea though.

    1. Khürt, while on first blush this seems like a somewhat more technical book on design (my first impression too), it’s definitely written for a much broader audience. I’d say it’s more about morality and being a human being whether you’re designing websites or even designing your own life.

  3. Using Indieweb.xyz to form an ad-hoc book club.

    This is cool—and now I’m trying to think of ways I can improve Indieweb.xyz for a purpose like this. One thing that comes to mind is possibly offering a few moderation tools for you. I think with a sub like this, it would be nice for you to have a “pinned post” or something at the top of /en/bookclub so that you can advertise the current selection for the club and some links to how to vote for the next selection—things like that. (This post would just be a syndicated post from your blog, Chris.)

    1. Thanks Kicks Condor! I did contemplate creating a more specific stub name for the particular book, but suspected that starting out with something simpler maybe a bit easier and more user friendly. New functionality would be cool, but don’t kill yourself as proving the basics are a good first step.

      I was listening to a podcast the other day that talked about services like Ning that offered a lot of additional administrative functionality for groups (like this) versus some of the other social silos which generally haven’t given power to administrators to tamp down on bad actors. This is an area which may be fruitful for the IndieWeb to experiment within. I know that having a solid (private) group experience is something that is keeping a large number of people tied to Facebook and that if there were other places to go, many would jump ship.

  4. IndieWeb Book Club: Ruined By Design (BoffoSocko)

    I’ve been wanting to read Mike Monteiro’s Ruined By Design, so I’m happy that @chrisaldrich suggested this book for an IndieWeb Book Club.
    My first impression (based on the publisher’s blurb and Chris’s description) is that Monteiro’s book shares a lot of concerns with my research, namely how we can design systems that reflect our values. The blurb lists examples of designs working as intended, and in the process making the world worse:

    The combustion engine which is destroying our planet’s atmosphere and rapidly making it inhospitable is working exactly as we designed it. Guns, which lead to so much death, work exactly as they’re designed to work. And every time we “improve” their design, they get better at killing. Facebook’s privacy settings, which have outed gay teens to their conservative parents, are working exactly as designed. Their “real names” initiative, which makes it easier for stalkers to re-find their victims, is working exactly as designed. Twitter’s toxicity and lack of civil discourse is working exactly as it’s designed to work.

    The world is working exactly as designed. And it’s not working very well. Which means we need to do a better job of designing it. Design is a craft with an amazing amount of power. The power to choose. The power to influence. As designers, we need to see ourselves as gatekeepers of what we are bringing into the world, and what we choose not to bring into the world. Design is a craft with responsibility. The responsibility to help create a better world for all.

    I strongly agree with the claims of responsibility made in this passage. When we make things, we are responsible for carefully considering their potential consequences. And if we make things with negative effects we failed to foresee, we should respond to those effects with diligence and purpose.

    I feel some apprehension about how this book might present designers’ “amazing amount of power.”  I think designers work within a profound network of constraints, and I’m curious how this will be addressed. That said, I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read the book, and I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say.

    Syndicated copies to:

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