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Grace, Kindness, Passion, Hope, Music

Fri Dec 22, 2017, 2:57 AM

Grace and Kindness

I started at DeviantArt in August. The people here have extended grace and kindness to such a degree and in so many ways, it's tough for me to articulate.

Until recently, I designed my life to include a very small number of people. Most of my professional career I've worked from home in a room, at a desk, alone. That life suits me better than it would most people, but it's not a sustainable way to live. Humans just aren't built to be alone.

I can't see the full range and degree of the effects of my self-chosen isolation. But I notice some. Broadly speaking, I could use some work in acting like a normal human person in day to day situations. hah

So, some of the grace and kindness I mentioned has come in the form of co-workers indirectly showing me how to interact the way that human people do. (ht: /r/totallynotrobots/ ) Probably some of this direction is done subconsciously, and some intentionally and with care. In either case, please know that I've noticed and that I am forever grateful. Got a lot more to learn.

Passion and Hope

On another work related note, I'm struck by the passion that I see in people from every single area of the company. People who work here care about what we're doing in a way that you don't typically see at other companies.

That's not to say that there are no days of burnout or disconnect. All of us have those days. But there are many more of caring deeply about what you are putting out into the world, however small your role is, or however distant your contribution might seem from the behemoth that is the DeviantArt community.

This is key: the assurance that what you think and do actually matters to your coworkers, including the ultimate decision makers. When you feel like you are listened to and understood, it makes it feel like more than just a job.

We're working on a lot of things at DA right now, and the community will be seeing some of those things in the coming months. Two things have the company very hopeful right now. Hopeful in a way that maybe it hasn't felt in a long time. First, the acquisition of DA by Wix earlier this year brought stability and resources.

Second, the breadth of the projects we're working on.. is vast. Which is very different from what we've seen in the past. Usually we see subtle changes that might be hard to see or feel, even for power users. What's coming are bigger evolutions. And we're feeling rejuvinated and full of hope. I cannot wait for the community to experience and provide feedback on all that we're working on.

Switching gears, let me share what music and art has moved me lately. I obsess over things for a couple of months before moving on to the next set of things, and this means listening to the same group of songs over and over, or looking at the same group or kind of art or web design daily. Here are some recent batches.

Hello My Old HeartThe Oh Hellos

HoloceneBon Iver

The Night We MetLord Huron

Sodom, South GeorgiaIron & Wine

Why do some songs just stick with you? Is it the music or the message or the memory? Because usually it's one of those three things, right? Or some combination thereof.

With My Old Heart, I think it's 99% about the music. I don't think the message is incredibly hard hitting in general, and it isn't one that touches me terribly much in this season of my life. And I think it's probably not much about the memory that is attached to the first few times I heard it, because I'm the circumstances were mundane. Just driving to work, or home from work whilst not deeply feeling any kind of way except a little tired and maybe impatient.

So it's about the music, with this song, at least right now. And the music is spectacular. It's straightforward, but layered.

My favorite thing about the song is how the chorus takes time to ruminate at around the 2:08 mark. Then at 2:34 the electric guitar starts a quiet riff, and this is the beginning of a build-up. Most of the other instruments are silent at this point, and the contrast between the silence and the lead vocals emphasizes the message of the song:

Nothing lasts foreverSome things aren't meant to beBut you'll never find the answersUntil you set your old heart free

At 3:04 the acoustic guitar joins in the strumming and the other singers continue the beat.

Twenty seconds later, all the instruments, and most obviously the drums, complete the build-up and now we're really rolling, with hand claps, lots of vocals, and just a jolly good time all around. I love it. It makes me happy.

I like songs that have interesting structure, maybe some time changes or mood changes. Songs that know when to take their time and when to run. It makes it feel more like a composition.

I love listening to music and thinking: someone composed that. They carefully crafted every piece. It is designed with intent. But it's music. So it flows. It's not too mechanical, it doesn't feel like a machine. Even with its thoughtful design, it's like a river that is the same and different every time you wade in.

I included four songs in the thumbnails there with links to Youtube, but I won't write about all of them since this is already pretty long for a journal. But I will mention one more lyric that really hit me in the face:

Papa died while mygirl Lady Edith was bornBoth heads fell likeeyes on a crack in the door

Who writes that?

Iron & Wine does. That's the stage name of Samuel Ervin Beam. He's from Columbia, South Carolina, where I was born.

When I first heard these lyrics, I thought it was, "Both hands felt like eyes on the crack of a door". I imagined what it would be like to hold my dads hand as he died. And I know what it's like to hold my daughters hand just after she was born.

Whether it's "fell" or "felt", the impact on me was the powerful. To liken this experience of dieing or being born to eyes looking through the crack of a door.. it's not just clever. It sets the table for you to imagine what it feels like in your last moments or your first moments in this life. Or, as the observer, to imagine what it feels like to see the door closing or opening for someone else.

Bah. Good stuff.

Thanks for reading. Next time I think I'll share some interface design stuff that I've been collecting on Instagram, as well as some more of my favorite deviations from the community.




Many people I speak with about deviantART immediately form opinions about the site based only on the domain name. I think the initial reaction for most people (and interestingly enough, especially those people above the age of 30) goes something like, “Deviant? Hmm.. I wonder what that site is about..”

After many conversations in which I found myself trying to convince a person that the site does not focus on or dedicate itself to deviant sexual behavior or images (one of the more common meaning of the word, “deviant”), I decided to write about how I perceive the meaning behind the name of the site (And it is important to note that I write not as a founder of DeviantART but as a member of the community. The founders/staff may or may not agree with what I have to say).

I wasn’t in the room when jark and matteo came up with the name, “deviantART” but as a part of the community, as someone who has watched it grow from day 1, I think I have a pretty good grasp of what it means. Let’s take a look at some definitions.

"Deviant" adjective: Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society. noun: One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

"Devious" adjective: 1. Not straightforward; shifty: a devious character. 2. Departing from the correct or accepted way; erring: achieved success by devious means. 3. Deviating from the straight or direct course; roundabout: a devious route. 4. Away from a main road or course; distant or removed.

"Deviate" verb: 1. To turn aside from a course or way. 2. To depart, as from a norm, purpose, or subject; stray.

Now, in the case of deviantART.com, I think the site/community conform to the definitions above very well except when it comes to the standard definition of, “devious.” Look, we’re not about being evil in any way, shape, or form. We’re about deviating from the norm on the Internet. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Rock n Roll is dead?” Well, for many of us who were around when the Internet first became a phenomenon – before the “bubble” burst, we feel that the Internet died there for a while. Even now, very few businesses have been able to succeed. Even the sites on the Internet that weren’t about making money, the sites that were all about spreading information and building community, even most of those sites have long since been forgotten. In the post-bubble-burst days, in a time where the Internet is considered by many to be worthless, DeviantART grew to become something truly amazing. And it continues to grow – exponentially!

Having spent the last few years building Internet Companies, and as a member of the devART Community, I have a certain perspective about the site, the community and what it stands for.

A quick glance at the Forums and some userpages should demonstrate for you the diversity of the community. Thousands upon thousands of deviants (as we are called) hail from hundreds of different cultures and climates, each with our own distinct political, religious, spiritual and economic backgrounds. Fierce debating takes place on forums, userpages, shoutboxes and chat rooms. Sometimes we exchange harsh words; sometimes we share our most intimate thoughts and feelings. On many things we agree, but on many more I think we strongly disagree. In the offline world, hundreds of wars are being fought as we speak. In the United States where I live, we sometimes can’t even go to the store without yelling at someone who we feel is driving like an idiot. Yet at DeviantART we come together to form perhaps the fastest growing community in the world. And why? Well, we may not agree on everything, but we share some common bonds. In short, it’s amazing.

I have always considered deviantART with the idea that the word stemmed from a root word “deviate” rather than the word “devious” because I think that with DMusic.com (which I helped to build) and with deviantART, the idea always was to deviate from traditional methods of building communities. And I really believe that because of our deviation from the normal paths one might take to build a site, because the technology was build from the ground up, because of all the original ideas that were put into motion here, we have seen DeviantART reach levels of success that only a handful of sites have ever seen.

Change hurts. Pushing and pulling and molding; breaking down and building up; bleeding, healing, and moving forward; these make up the ingredients of growth and these things must happen in order to truly live. And deviantART has become a living organism; in that, it grows when you feed it and it dies if you do not. Further, it is grown by the community. Everything is dynamic; everything changes on a day to day basis. In that sense, the site truly deviates from the norm.