Mass Exodus

Exodus International, the most well-known of the “ex-gay” advocacy organizations, announced yesterday that it’s “shutting down” and the president of the organization issued a public apology to “the people that have been hurt by Exodus International.” I’ve written about my experience in the ex-gay movement before but I’ve had a hard time formulating a response to this latest news.

The immediate and most obvious reaction is one of relief. The ex-gay message has been thoroughly discredited and has harmed thousands of LGBTQ people, many of them teenagers. So it’s good to see Exodus and its president publicly disavow it and apologize for the harm they have done by selling it.

But my next reaction was of concern. I was lucky in that it didn’t take me long to realize that reparative therapy was a sham. But what about the thousands of people who have invested years of their lives and hundreds or thousands of dollars on Exodus’ conferences and literature? What about the young people undergoing reparative therapy right now? My heart aches for those people, knowing the sense of betrayal they must feel today.

And my final reaction was one of suspicion. While I appreciate Alan Chambers’ apology, it doesn’t make me trust him. I think the appropriate course of action would be to apologize, shut down the organization, and then perhaps spend some time humbly reflecting on the damage to the world that I have caused and the responsibility I have to try to correct it. I don’t think I’d wait to make my announcement until my annual conference, for which I charge attendees hundreds of dollars to attend. I almost certainly would not forge ahead with the conference, continuing to assert myself as a trusted authority on the subject of what’s best for LGBTQ people. I definitely would not start up my new organization on the same day I shut down the old one. I think I’d probably take down the pages on my site that solicit donations.

I accept Alan Chambers’ apology as someone who was hurt by Exodus’ actions in the past. I’m glad that they’re no longer trying to sell Christianity to gay people by claiming to be able to fix them. But I’m not much more optimistic about them trying to sell Christianity to gay people by claiming to love them just the way they are.

Enraptured by Mockups

There’s a set of theoretical designs for iOS 7 going around, and while they’re pretty to look at I’m a little disappointed by those declaring that it should be Apple’s next move. John Gruber thinks differently:

“There are a lot of clever ideas and nice designs in this iOS 7 ‘concept’ by Philip Joyce of design firm Simply Zesty. But they’re only clever and nice in the abstract, as possible designs for a touchscreen phone interface. Nice and clever though they are, this would be a disaster as a new design for the actual iPhone. A new look is one thing (and we’re going to get it), but when you’re well established and have a large user base, as iOS does, you need to maintain familiarity. If users are asking ‘What is this? Where am I? Where’s all the stuff I’m used to?‘ it’s going to be a disaster.”

Daring Fireball

I haven’t been a user interface designer for very long in the scheme of things. I trained as a print designer, learned how to draw typography, and created color separations for press runs. Interactive design is still something we’re all making up as we go along. But one thing I have learned is that users have no fundamental problem with a redesign. They do, however, recoil in horror when you introduce them to something that is a top-to-bottom replacement for a product they’ve grown to feel comfortable with, while calling it a “redesign.” It’s fundamentally dishonest — Windows 8, whatever your opinion of it (and I am generally a fan), was not a “redesign” of Windows. It’s an entirely new design for an operating system that happens to still be called “Windows.”

Designers wanna design. It’s in our DNA to seek out and eliminate every trace of hokiness, or half-assedness, or what seemed cool at the time but now looks tired. If WordPress were run entirely by designers, it would likely have an all new interface every year, but a fraction of the user base.

This is the challenge in continuing to freshen and update the design of software that millions (or billions, in the case of iOS) of users already know and understand. But those millions of existing users are what makes the work worthwhile. It’s the guiding principle behind the MP6 redesign project for WordPress. We made it our goal to refresh WordPress’ aesthetic styling and improve accessibility by making the dashboard responsive — but doing this without making major changes to the way users interact with the software. It’s not that there aren’t opportunities for it — I could spend an entire cycle alone on the Edit Post screen — but through years of experience we’ve found how much users appreciate it when we separate visual redesigns from major, sweeping architectural changes. In short, it’s about iteration, something both WordPress and Apple have always embraced.

Flat design is sexy. And simplicity rules the day. Both of these concepts should inform the future work done by all interaction designers (including for WordPress and for iOS). But to paraphrase Gruber’s quote from above: a new look is one thing (and WordPress is going to get it), but when you’re well established and have a large user base, as WordPress does, you need to maintain familiarity. If users are asking “What is this? Where am I? Where’s all the stuff I’m used to?” it’s going to be a disaster.

MP6

If you like

and

you just might like MP6, an experiment in WordPress interface design.

All kidding aside, we would appreciate all the feedback and ideas you may have; please share them with us on Make WordPress UI.

Ex-Ex-Ex-Ex-Gay

A few years ago I wrote about my experience in, and rejection of, the “ex-gay movement.” I mentioned John and Anne Paulk’s book, Love Won Out, part of the materials that my youth minister gave me when I came out to him in 1999. I mentioned in that post that John Paulk was recognized while chatting in a Washington, D.C. gay bar less than a year later.

I hadn’t kept up with the Paulks much after that. I knew that they’d continued to peddle the ex-gay bullshit, though. It turns out someone was paying much closer attention, though. Last week Truth Wins Out published in great detail what the Paulks have been up to since moving to Portland, Oregon.

Instead of publicly exposing Paulk, as I had the first time in DC, I wanted to give him an opportunity to come out with dignity. It was my hope that he was now on a journey to self-acceptance and would gladly renounce his “ex-gay” past and demand that materials with his story were taken out of circulation. I called John on the telephone and he angrily yelled: “get out of my life. I never want to hear from you again.”

There’s a part of me that feels guilty for reading it; it’s exactly the kind of story that I usually feel like is no one’s business. But I don’t find it interesting because of the drama; it’s not entertainment for me. It’s a sad, cautionary tale of a man and woman who bought the lie that was sold to me, and seem unable to come to terms with reality even decades later. People should read about the Paulks so that they can stop this nonsense if it’s foisted upon a gay or questioning youth that they know. No kid should ever again be given a copy of a book like this when what they really need is support.