James Mulholland

Thoughts

Here you can find a collection of my interests and beliefs. On the semi-anonymous internet, it's a way I can tell you a bit about myself.

Interests

These are things that I am currently interested in, reading about or working on. I try to focus on what is on this list and exclude anything that is not.

Design Systems and the Fusion of Design and Development

Since becoming a front-end developer, I have been fascinated by two recurring problems in my work.

Firstly, there is the issue of bridging the gap between design and code. Although lots of work is being done in this area, for the time being, I still feel there is too much of a chasm between pixels and code. I am interested in tools and methodologies which let designers deliver more useful deliverables to developers (i.e. code rather than images) and which let developers appreciate more fully the oft-undervalued world of design.

The second problem is scaling design. I am interested in making good design more maintainable and easier to implement. I see design systems as tools to abstract what makes a product aesthetic and usable.

Programming

Learning to code is the best example I know of a positive feedback loop: the more you learn, the more you want to learn. It is my favourite method for obtaining flow and is one of the most consistent tools I have for lifting my mood.

Currently, I am interested in nailing the last 20% of JavaScript and React. I am always looking to explore new CSS and HTML techniques and share a few examples from my newsletter on CodePen. For other projects, head over to my GitHub.

Philosophy

I studied philosophy at university and I think of it as a fantastic lens through which you can view everything else in life. It is a foundation that prompts you to examine first principles, not surface-level truths and its methodology of precise examination feels infinitely applicable.

There are instances where it is specifically and pragmatically useful (e.g. truth-tables making more complex uses of Javascript's ternary operator a breeze) and also when it helps improve broader skills (e.g. in the ability to construct a well-formed argument).

I am also still holding out that, despite still struggling to find a real-world application, decision theory might one day be useful to me.

Meta-learning and Productivity

When I began to learn to code while simultaneously studying for my degree, I became increasingly interested in meta-learning (learning how to learn) and its power to exponentially boost all other skills. It is an area I am constantly working and I always seek new ways of improving focus, knowledge retention and skill-acquisition.

Street Photography

My primary form of consuming and creating art is through street photography. It is a niche discipline that far too few people know about and I love its emphasis of content above and beyond mere aesthetics.

I'm working on a proper place to showcase the photos I am happy with but for now, you can check out my poorly-updated VSCO.

Future Interests

These are things I would like to learn more about in the coming months and years but that I don't feel knowledgeable enough about at the present moment.

  • The automation of design and creativity
  • AI
  • Learning how to use Vim
  • Healthcare

Beliefs

I find the act of explicitly articulating your beliefs clarifies them and separates the important from the trivial. This list is an ongoing attempt to do that.

  • Flow is the biggest determinant of enjoyment and meaning at work and it is, therefore, a moral imperative to maximise its occurrence.
  • Healthcare should be accessible to all.
  • You should block news content. You're better off consuming older information like books that contain higher quality information and will be useful for a longer period of time. Of course, if something is truly important news, you'll probably hear about it anyway.
  • Politics is an ineffective vehicle for change for 80% of people. Of course, some people **should be interested in politics but for most it serves only as a talking point on which action is never taken.
  • Driving should be avoided where possible. This covers both the personal and societal level; choose to live closer to work, walk and cycle, design better infrastructure.
  • Good design is as little design as possible
  • You should aim to be anti-fragile.
  • Creativity is not as magical as it's made out to be.
  • It is useful to remember your own mortality.
  • Decision theory is (almost?) always a waste of time.