All Captains Worth Their Salt Keep a Journal

I love sailing. Wait, let me rephrase that. I am obsessed with sailing. There is something magical about the combination of art and science that takes place when you're out on the water, making your way with nothing but mother nature for propulsion. 

As a result of this obsession, I've stumbled upon a book called  Captain James Cook's Journal During the First Voyage Round the World (available free from Project Gutenberg), which is a daily account of the happenings aboard the H.M.S. Endeavour during the years 1768 -1771. While it may bore the pants off of the average reader, I find it completely fascinating to see into the mind of a seasoned sailor, and leader. Cook details everything from the mundane ship inventory to the tactics employed to survive a major storm. 

In this excerpt, Cook records the days events in a single paragraph, but this single entry leaves one with so much to think about.

Friday, 16th. The most part fine, Clear weather. Punished Henry Stevens, Seaman, and Thomas Dunster, Marine, with 12 lashes each, for refusing to take their allowance of Fresh Beef. Employed taking on board Wine and Water. Wind Easterly.

Punished for refusing to eat their rations of food? At first I was repulsed at how heavy-handed Cook seemed to be. But then, considering the enormity of what they were attempting—a trip around the world in a sailing ship—I understood why he needed to discipline his men in such a way. A leader with his experience knows intimately the importance of a strong, healthy crew, without which he would not be able to achieve the mission. A crew member refusing to eat puts the entire crew at risk because that one crew member may lose strength or focus from lack of proper nutrients and protein, thus putting all other crew members—including the Captain himself—at risk of injury or death.

Hidden within each of Cook's entries is a little nugget of wisdom to be gleaned for anyone in a leadership role. Every ship has a log, and every captain honors the tradition of updating the log. One may wonder why? For what purpose? Who will read these logs, if anyone? These hand written logs serve many purposes. 

Learning from ourselves

The process of writing our thoughts is a magical process. It converts ideas, images and emotions that exist in our minds to a physical artifact. While recording our thoughts, it's as if the memory becomes strengthened in the transcoding process that takes place from thought to letter form, through the medium of the hand and ink.

Allowing others to learn from us

Once committed to paper (or to blog), our thoughts live on beyond our personal experiences and can be read by others in the future. Total strangers can learn from our successes and failures quite far into the future. What may seem mundane at the time might be just the thing someone else needs to think through a problem, or avoid it in the first place.

Keep a journal!

You may not be the captain of a ship setting out to sail around the world in a primitive vessel, but I'd bet you're the caption of something—be it your own business, or as the leader of a team of any size. Even if the writing never sees the light of day, it will help you become a better thinker, a better speaker, and you'll get to know yourself in a way you've never imagined. But keep in mind, there is someone out there that might need that little nugget of wisdom you might not even realize is sitting there in front of your face. Write it down, then share it.

Do you keep a journal? What benefit do you get from the process? 





Penultimate Sketch Templates for desktop & iPhone design

Penultimate just launced an update to their iPad app that lets users make their own paper backgrounds from photos or images in your library. Just a few days ago I was wishing for that very thing! So I've quickly modified a few of the existing templates I've been using in Omnigraffle to fit the Penultimate canvas, and will continue to create some more. Enjoy them and let me know how they work out for you!



  1. Download these PNG files
  2. Get them into your iPad photo library (email or SMS them to yourself)
  3. Make sure you upgrade to the latest version of Penultimate and then hit the paper icon in top right
  4. Add new paper background templates
  5. Design away!

I'd like to give credit to Adaptive Path (for the desktop web schematic) and (for the iPhone schematic) All I did was reformat them for use within Penultimate. All lawsuit-related inquiries can be posted as comments here ;)


Desktop web - One Up

Desktop web - Two Up

Desktop web - Four Up

iPhone - One Up

 iPhone - Three Up




OK, HSBC, it's time to bring your website into the modern era.

  1. it takes FOREVER to simply get into my account, with so many odd hurdles and redirects.
  2. this screenshot is at 100% zoom. wow, optimized for dinosaur screen resolutions


Posted via email from tomcdaly's posterous


Injecting humanity into your product

I'm really loving the way some sites and apps pay attention to the fact that an interface is a dialogue and that there are real people with real needs on the other end of the GUI. Two examples that stand out this week are:

1) Think Vitamin (from the folks at Carsonified)

Ryan Carson and the team behind the Future of {Insert Topic} Conferences drop little nuggets throughout the interface that show they're thinking about their customers. Such a simple little thing, no heavy development required, not much production work at all, can do so much. They don't have to tell me I'm rad, but they do. Nicely done.

(notice the blue chat bubble coming out of the weird skull illustration telling me why i'm rad)

2) Kayak

After searching for a flight, and setting up my fare alert, I was curious about their travel check lists they were promoting on my dashboard. I clicked on the "Business" checklist, and the last item in the list was "TPS Reports." They got me. So simple once again. A humorous cult movie reference poking fun that the business world was the perfect way to inject some humanity into a system that could just as easily be all about spitting out row after row of boring tabular data. A+ guys.

Kayak includes "TPS reports" in their default business travel checklist


Establishing Design Principles

There has been a lot of talk lately about design principles: why teams need them, how to establish them, how to know if the ones you've come up with are useful or just a self-indulgent exercise. In a recent episode of the Big Web Show, Aarron Walter, principal user experience designer at MailChimp, discussed the principles he established for the his team that serve as a guiding light during the design process. Aarron mentioned one of TiVo's design principles titled "It's a TV stupid!" which was a comical reminder to their design team that people are sitting on their couches in their living rooms or their bedrooms.

"It's a TV, stupid!" ~ TiVo Design Principle

Jared Spool also recently posted a piece about what makes a successful set of design principles, using those established by the Windows 7 desktop and mobile UI design team as an ideal example. Based on his experience working with teams to create principles, he recommends that design principles be based on actual research. He continues to list six points with which to evaluate a set of design principles.

So while the topic is fresh on everyone's mind, I'll take this opportunity to share the design principles we have established here at House Party, Inc. to guide our team through a massive redesign. The core team is small, but since we also work with a few remote contractors it becomes critical to ensure everyone is on the same page as they press their noses to their screens designing interactions. Every company will have a different set of high level goals a design will aim to address, and design principles should map directly to them.

Design principles for the redesign:

  • It's about parties! These people are having parties...make it fun, but not goofy or childish
  • Face it, House Party is not Facebook. People come here for specific things and then go back to their lives. Make sure they are successful at what they need to do while here
  • Make it social! Create opportunities for sharing! How can people let their friends and family know about what they just did? bake in social when it makes sense and feels natural. Don't be afraid to push the envelope a little bit without being too pushy.
  • The desktop is not the only show in town. Always think about how it would work on a device with a smaller screen. Are you sure you've boiled the task into it's simplest steps?
  • Don't complexify it. Would your mother or aunt Millie know how to use it? is it intuitive? make it so!
  • Create reusable components: Think about how it would work in a column half the width? Twice the width? Embedded on someone's blog?

These principles (or values) are fairly new, and they have been working well for our design team so far, and score fairly well after running them through the six tests Jared Spool offered in his article.

I'd love to get your feedback on our design principles. Post a comment below.