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Ivory tower

Christoph Ono
Christoph Ono
This was a week where I mostly wore my community manager hat. Editing the Bitcoin Design newsletter and organizing the community calls always takes a certain amount of time.
In addition, the FOSDEM presentation recording is due today, and Johns and I have been heads down on this. We presented at FOSDEM 2021 about community goals and ambitions, this year we share some of the progress, learnings and stories that happened since. It’s quite the challenge to do justice to “representing the community” and summarizing a year in 20 minutes. There’s a lot of personal reflection involved, as well as piecing together responses we got from various people in the community about their experience. The primary audience are non-Bitcoiners interested in supporting open design, but my hope is also that it provides an interesting perspective for people in the community. Let’s see. The presentation will be streamed on Jan 5.
Regarding the design guide, I had a conversation this week in which the question came up how we ensure that this is not a case of “designers in an ivory tower”, but that the recommendations made are actually applicable and effective. It’s a good and complex question and I’ll just post a few thoughts I have on this.
The guide can already be helpful if all it does is gather current best practices of existing products and make them accessible to the whole ecosystem. There is a certain amount of “creating new solutions”, especially with Lightning, but I don’t think it’s the majority.
With non-custodial Lightning, the “right” solutions might not even exist yet, as it’s still cutting-edge technology used by a really small number of people. In some ways, all we can do is put our best effort out there and adjust as the tech matures (looking at mobile nodes, payment request formats, etc), usage grows, a more mainstream audience joins, use cases expand, etc. We have to be nimble.
There’s also a good amount of simply spreading good general design practices and processes. Some projects don’t have a designer at all or a very shaky design process. Bringing in sensitivity for design in itself is super valuable. The guide, UI kit, and icons can embody those and instantly raise the bar. For all my initial work in the space, I did not understand how anything worked, but the devs covered that and my design chops still allowed me to make worthwhile contributions.
Open-source (done right) also has the benefit that the whole process is consistently exposed. So feedback comes in much earlier, more regularly, and is more direct. People are super open to share their experiences, so whatever goes into the guide has ideally already been closely evaluated by a broad group (including people who are deeply involved with various projects).
I am not sure how others go about this, but I personally like to pay very close attention to what the community (this one here, or ones for specific products) is talking about. It’s usually public on Twitter/Reddit/Telegram/… and provides really good hints at what problems need to be solved. I am also personally involved with several projects, which allows me to validate my ideas through practical design work. I think all the regular contributors on the guide are in a similar spot.
And one last thought. In 2021, we spent a ton of time on the guide. In 2022, the consensus is that we need to focus more outward, spread what’s in the guide and harden it by being closely involved with more projects. The Wallet Improvement Project should be a key part of that. Other things we have discussed are workshops, office hours, and hackathons. This will allow us to apply what we came up with, and also feed back new learnings in a glorious virtuous cycle. Something we’ll have to experiment with, but I think it’s a good direction.
I’m pretty positive overall. What do you think?
Also really cool to see go live was the update to the Requesting Bitcoin page in the design guide, and seeing the first applicants for the design track for Summer of Bitcoin come through. I think next week will be more about hands-on design work.

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Christoph Ono
Christoph Ono @gbks

Chronicling my design contributions to open-source Bitcoin.

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