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5. Design and Inclusivity

Episode 5 - January 16, 2020

Chris talks with Tatiana Mac about ensuring design systems, specifically components, are accessible. The two discuss:
-Accessibility testing tools
-Being sure to be inclusive in forms
-Considering inclusion and the "why" when asking for certain data
-And much more!

Guest

Tatiana Mac

Independent American designer

Tatiana Mac (she/they) is an independent American designer who works directly with organisations to build clear and coherent products and design systems.

She believes the trifecta of accessibility, performance, and inclusion can work symbiotically to improve our social landscape digitally and physically. When ethically-minded, she thinks technologists can dismantle exclusionary systems in favour of community-focused, inclusive ones.

Tatiana is an open source maintainer, currently focused on building a dictionary called Self-Defined. Self-Defined seeks to provide more inclusive, holistic, and fluid definitions to reflect the diverse perspectives of the modern world. The dictionary will eventually include integrated bots and an API to embed into enterprise software.

Never totally pleased with design tools, she designs in browser to bring performant, semantic, and accessible visual narratives into the web. Her current obsessions are optimising variable fonts, converting raster images into to SVGs, and recreating modernist paintings in CSS grid. When she can successfully :q vim, she finds new countries to explore (36 and counting) and designs tech merch at StyleDotCSS.

Show Notes

Want to learn more about Tatiana and her work? Here are some great reference links.

Other resources discussed:

Episode Transcript

Rochelle Miller:

Hi, everyone. This is Rochelle, one of the Design System Podcast producers. We wanted to give you a heads up that we talk with people from all over the country and sometimes, depending on how we can record with them, it can affect the sound quality. Because of this, sound quality may vary episode to episode, but we hope you still enjoy the podcast.

Chris Strahl:

Welcome to the Design Systems Podcast, we're all about the places where design and development overlap. We talk with the industry experts about trends in design, development and take a look at new ways to build digital experiences, typically over a beer or two.

On the program today, we have Tatiana Mac. She's an independent designer and a front-end developer. Welcome, Tatiana. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy travel schedule all over the world to spend a little bit of time with us chatting about design systems today.

Tatiana Mac:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Chris Strahl:

So where did you just get back from?

Tatiana Mac:

The final trip of 2019, which is so exciting to say, I just got back from Amsterdam.

Chris Strahl:

Oh, awesome. Did you have a great time?

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah, I love Amsterdam so ...

Chris Strahl:

Awesome. I've only ever been in the airport. I really want to go explore that city someday so ...

Tatiana Mac:

I highly recommend it. I would say that the airport there though is one of the best. If I have to do a tight transfer, I know that they're going to get me through really quickly there so-

Chris Strahl:

Awesome.

Tatiana Mac:

There could be worse airports.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, definitely. What little traveling I've done in Europe has kind of been in and out of there. So you do a lot of talks about design, about inclusivity, about a lot of different topics related both to your work and to your passions. Tell me a little bit about some projects you're working on right now.

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah, so a lot of the projects I work on outside of doing talks tend to be squarely within design systems and working within design systems on a couple of very different fronts. I've done work where it was finding ways to expand the design systems to create a more lively and energetic illustration and UI style to pair with the design system. And a lot of that work is in really kind of, I would say, dull industries like security where it's very challenging to find things like dynamic imagery, right? You can only have so many images of someone running through a server room.

And then on the flip side, my work is, I would say, highly technical in the accessibility space so accessing design systems to ensure that the individual components themselves are accessible and then, ensuring that as a design system is being manifested and used, it remains accessible.

Chris Strahl:

Great. So aside finding images of locks and keys and matrix code and stuff like that scrolling by, talk to me a little bit about what you mean by ensuring accessibility of components. What does that look like in practice?

Tatiana Mac:

Sure. So I think when we are looking at the accessibility of a site, we're using auditing tools to access the full site as a whole and how it comes together. But we have a lot of influence over the accessibility from when we're crafting each of the individual components. So if you're looking at something like the way in which a button or an input like a search form is being coded, the way that you code that into your design system is going to be copied hundreds, maybe thousands of times depending on how large your code base is. So I like looking at things from that really specific component base level because it saves me a lot of work in the end when I'm doing the full accessibility audits.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah. If it works in the component level, it's going to work in all the implementations of that component all over the place.

Tatiana Mac:

It's kind of maximizing and taking advantage of the fact that designers and developers tend to be lazy. We love copying and pasting, but if we're copying and pasting something inaccessible, we're going to be pasting something inaccessible. So that's why it's so important to start at that molecular level.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, that sort of modular encapsulated approach to things really lends itself to all kinds of testing. When you talk about specifically accessibility and accessibility testing, are you talking about things like Lighthouse and tools like ... The other name is escaping me. Is it Axure?

Tatiana Mac:

Oh, you're thinking of Axe-Core?

Chris Strahl:

Yes, that's it.

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah.

Chris Strahl:

When you're using those kinds of tools, are you actually running those tests in the design system as people are coding and building these components and releasing them? Or are you thinking about this as more of like an implementation kind of problem where the consumers of that design system are then responsible for their set of testing that they also run on those components?

Tatiana Mac:

I've been lucky enough to do both and they both are excellent for different reasons and suck for different reasons. So I've both worked with design systems while they were still being crafted, which is really lovely because you can have a lot more holistic influence over how accessibility is integrated into the language of the design system and how it's being spoken about. But then also, I've worked with really quite baked, old, archaic design systems that were inherited from print style guides, right, that have been "transformed" and completely into a design system.

So I've done a bit of both and I would say to answer your question about who's consuming it, I think that's the thing with the design system is that it's being touched at so many points. Not only the creators, but also, the maintainers and then, the executors and then, of course, the consumers. They consume a design system even if they don't realize it.

Chris Strahl:

Definitely. Yeah, and you mentioned content, not just content for the design system, but content for what ultimately gets consumed by these products. So when you think about content of the design system and specifically, the accessibility of that content, where do you look to?

Tatiana Mac:

Well, I think this is an area where you have to look at things from several axis. I think that making the content accessible both has a technical standpoint, but then, it also has an inclusion standpoint, which is, if I look at a website for a security firm and I'm doing the shopping, let's say that I'm working on a team and I'm reporting to a CTO and looking for some software, if I don't see anyone on that page who looks like me, that's going to give me a sense of the experience I'm going to have as a woman of color is going to possibly be not great. That's another level is what imagery you're using will tell your users who's welcome there and who's prioritized there.

Chris Strahl:

Right, it's a reflexive response to the content that people are seeing and so, those people that see imagery and content that speaks to them and their personality and their identity, that's going to make it a more welcoming experience for those groups of people.

Tatiana Mac:

Right. Now to add another layer, that if you do a good job of showing imagery and you clearly searched in your stock images, diverse teams, and you threw all those images up there, then I go to fill out a form and your form is asking me to give myself a title like Miss, Mrs., Ms., and you don't include Mx in there as a non-binary or a gender term, then I'm going to see that you aren't really reflecting the imagery that you're including in your site. So there's kind of three different layers of access that I tend to think about when crafting the content.

Chris Strahl:

So those three things are the actual content itself, things like input fields and that sort of thing. Maybe I missed the third one. What were you thinking about there?

Tatiana Mac:

So I think that the three axis are is it physically accessible for me given the tools that I use-

Chris Strahl:

Oh, got you.

Tatiana Mac:

So whether I am a screen reader user or whether I'm a power keyboard user or whatever assistive technology I'm using, so that pure access level. And then... From do I see people other than those who are generally centered within the imagery and within being featured on the site, so that can both be just actual images and who's on their staff page. And then, the third level is, are you actually understanding those principles of inclusion in the ways that you're collecting information? Why are you asking me for gender? Is gender necessary? If you need to ask for it, then are you doing a good job explaining that to me? How are you treating my privacy? Those are all things that are interconnected between accessibility and inclusion.

Chris Strahl:

On an aside, I've actually always wanted to ask somebody that is an expert in this area this question. So if you're a person that has a sight impairment or you're not sighted and you're talking about accessible content that speaks to that user group, what does that, and this is not intended to be a bad pun, what does that look like? What kind of content do you put in front of that person that allows them to feel welcome, that there's other people like them that are included in this group of users that you're reaching out to?

Tatiana Mac:

Well, I think that it comes back to have you included them from the research level in order to create it? Do you have anyone who's been included in the creation of it? In accessibility, there's a term we often use, which is nothing about us without us. So it's one thing for a bunch of sight-

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, where does that come from actually?

Tatiana Mac:

So I've actually looked into the origins of this word and not for long enough. It's, as an aside, very difficult to track down idioms and quotes. We're very bad at attribution as it turns out, but it's definitely been connected with accessibility. And someone once told me that it's like an old Polish expression.

Chris Strahl:

Interesting.

Tatiana Mac:

So I have to look into that a little bit more. But the principle behind nothing about us without us is that you shouldn't be creating anything without the people that you have in mind.

There was an article written recently, it was about a review of a bathing suit for hijabi folks and it was written in the perspective of a woman who's not hijabi, which is she does not wear a hijab. She was, I believe, a white woman and it was like of all the writers in the world, why would you pick her? She talks about what it was like to swim around in a hijab once in our life without understanding any of the cultural implications of living with the hijab and all of the discrimination that comes with being a person of color and being Muslim. I just read that and I was like, "This is the exact problem."

Tatiana Mac:

So in accessibility, we kind of have the same challenge where if I, as a sighted person, I'm trying to presume what an unsighted or low vision or vision impaired person experiences, that's not going to be possible. And sometimes we try to create these tests of like, "Oh, put a blindfold on." That's not the same. So I think it's about making sure we are including them.

And then, I think the second aspect of that is that we need to parse the technology from the users. So often, we conflate screen reader users with people who are blind or vision impaired. Well, someone can use a screen reader and not be blind, and we really shouldn't be referring to people based on the technology. Instead, we need to be referring to the technology and how it impacts its users, and then the people.

Chris Strahl:

This breaks into a really interesting topic I just actually saw a presentation about, about how Alexa is essentially a screen reader and how all these devices that now speak to people that are reading webpages and speaking to them in their home, I mean there is distinction obviously, but it's another form of that sort of screen reader technology.

And there's also a big push back in accessibility community and from what I gathered, this is pretty controversial, when you talk about user agents for accessible devices and those sorts of things and how that is a very double edged sword of being able to think about experience, knowing which device that experience is being consumed with, but also, the concern that that creates a different class of experience for those users than using that assistive technology.

Tatiana Mac:

Right. I think that it's a matter of listening to more users is kind of what it all boils down to, and I think that we have a tendency to, like what I said earlier, over conflate a screen reader user with a particular disability and we almost think about accessibility as being for the disabled, and it's really not. Accessibility is for everyone and I think there's, hopefully by this point, it's well documented that if any of us who, I'm presuming able bodied, have a temporary situation, we would benefit from accessibility. Being able to use an app with one hand, well, that not only benefits someone who has one arm. That benefits someone who has a broken arm. That benefits someone who's carrying their child. It benefits someone who's trying to do something else. So I think that in general, we just need to make sure that we maintain that clear distinction and separation between behavior and technology and humans.

Chris Strahl:

As always, this podcast is brought to you by Basalt, a full service digital agency. Basalt is committed to building a better web and specializes in creating design systems. Learn more at basalt.io.

When you're talking about empathizing with people that are unlike you that you need to understand more about, you take a research lens to that. And looking through that sort of research makes me have this question of like, if I have lots of different user groups with lots of different diverse needs, if I can't reach everybody, where do I go to fill that gap?

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah, so I think on the first point, I have a very radical stance on empathy, which is that I think empathy is a complete scam. I don't think that you can really empathize with other people because empathy is the ability to essentially experience what someone else is experiencing from their perspective. I, right now, don't know what it's like to be a wheelchair user. I don't know what it's like to be a black woman.

And so, when we say empathy, I think that it has a few problems because it's us validating other people's experiences through being able to understand them and we can't understand everyone's lived experiences. We can only understand our own. So that's point number one.

Tatiana Mac:

I think that in terms of this idea of, but there's so much research to do, how do we tap into so many groups, I think that we need to, instead of trying to be so holistic, I think we need to instead look at who we tend to center in the research that we're already doing. Right now what we do is we center the experiences of basically white cisgendered men and to some degree white cisgendered abled women as well. And so, the people that are most vulnerable are the ones that are societally on the periphery, which is people of color, queer people, non-binary people, disabled people.

And so, if we invert that and we focus our attention on several marginalized groups, the needs of the majority are always going to be met. The majority is always going to have enough power to ensure that that's the case. So I think that what we have to do is we have to pick people that are in groups that tend to be isolated and ignored and ensure the experience is safe for them because those people's lived experiences force them to think about their safety all the time. I think about all the technology that we've created like I just read an article about how hackers are now starting to hack into Ring and watching children and speaking to children through the Ring.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, that's creepy.

Tatiana Mac:

Right? That's super creepy. But that happens because people that are on the staff for those types of technologies aren't ones that are chronically thinking about their safety. I'm so curious like how many parents were on that? How many folks of color were on that? How many queer folks, folks that are chronically thinking about our safety, I would guess very few. And I think that that's the thing is we need to center those experiences because those are the ones centered around protection, safety.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah. And I mean being a parent of a nearly 2-year-old myself, it's definitely something that I think about a lot in the products I buy and the things that I use. We intentionally have a baby monitor that's not connected to the internet, for example, right?

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah.

Chris Strahl:

And a large part due to the fact that there's a lot of creepy things that happen with kids these days and it's definitely top of mind for me. And I think that maybe that sort of thought process might not be baked into all the products that enter the shelves that ultimately do touch children.

Tatiana Mac:

So I have a question for you though. Were you thinking about safety as much as you are now before you had a child?

Chris Strahl:

Oh, certainly not.

Tatiana Mac:

And then before you were partnered, I'm assuming?

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, I mean before I was partnered, I think that I had a different notion of it that is maybe not as big of a change is when I became a parent.

Tatiana Mac:

Sure, that makes sense. So when you became a parent, when you were shopping for technologies and someone who works in tech, tell me about your thought process when you're shopping for things.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, I think that it depends a lot on where the technology is going for me, right, like the use case for it. If it's something that's in my car that is like a Bluetooth adaptor in my car, that's a relatively hackable device, right, I don't really care that much if somebody in the car next to me listens to my phone call. What I do care is if it's something in my kid's room or if it's something that is I'm dependent upon for the safety of my home. That's why I don't have a Nest. That's why I don't have any of the Ring doorbells or anything like that because if it's not a physically hardwired connection to something that I own that doesn't go into the cloud, there's definitely a risk of that data being exposed somewhere, and that's something that is a risk that I'm not willing to take personally.

Tatiana Mac:

And that's super interesting because for me, not being partnered and being single and being fem, I do worry about that ability to hack into anything I own at any given point because I'm likely alone and much more prone for stalking. And especially as I become more visible online, I'm starting to think more about like where are all the places on the internet that my address could exist, my phone number?

Chris Strahl:

Yeah. And I can't even imagine. I think people that put themselves out there in the public sphere and speak about topics that stir up a lot of controversy and stir up a lot of strong emotions and feelings in people, I think that safety automatically becomes a major concern. You think about journalists, you think about activists, you think about speakers out in the world. I mean you even look at what's going on in places like Hong Kong and India right now and how the technology that just sort of surrounds us constantly, unintentionally exposes those people to a lot of risk.

Tatiana Mac:

I would say intentionally exposes those people to a lot of risk.

Chris Strahl:

How so?

Tatiana Mac:

I think that we think a lot about and speak a lot about intent and that's something that's another hill I'll die on, is that we focus a lot on the intent of the creator and not a lot on the impact of the user. And I think that anything that's being created in the world that can have mal-intent has been intentionally designed so ...

Chris Strahl:

So I can see what you mean, but I definitely ... Something like Instagram, for example, right, so you have Instagram pictures and you have things that go up on the internet, and there's people that relatively innocently take pictures of their families out having fun or plates of food or whatever, and that exposes a risk to people around them that are, like I said, activists or journalists or something like that where they could unintentionally show up in the background and have like facial recognition tag them or something like that. I can definitely see where that becomes this system that is rife with abuse.

Tatiana Mac:

But that's the problem with intent is that we're focusing on the intent of the innocent user who is taking a photo of their family on vacation and accidentally capturing a journalist. There is also intent there from the creator, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, which is our largest surveillance capitalist corporation right now. And so to me, their intent is to exploit our privacy for money and for political gain. And so, that's why I try not to focus on the intent because we can parse intent forever and we don't really ever know, but the impact doesn't change. The impact is that those people are being put at harm because of this surveillance technology effectively.

Chris Strahl:

It's interesting. I actually had a conversation that was kind of akin to this on the plane flight yesterday back from San Francisco. I was chatting with this woman next to me about web design because she worked for government and climate research. She was talking about how her and her team didn't really view design as a holistically valuable thing for research professionals in large part because she's like, "I've seen what people call great design and I deleted my Facebook account because I didn't find the design of Facebook being compelling," but it points at things like that as these beacons of great design.

And it really struck me as kind of a funny thing, right? Where I was like, I don't think that Facebook is being designed for that person as a user. I think that it's being designed to have this sort of darker pattern to it, right? Cultivates addiction, it cultivates this idea of me wanting to provide more content and post more content because that's ultimately Facebook's intent for that platform, right, is to have people post more, to have more interactions, to have these continuing engagements with this platform. And the funny thing, at the end of the conversation, she goes, "But I do like Instagram though."

Tatiana Mac:

Well, see and that's the thing is the, and I invite us to use anti-pattern because dark being connotated with bad is another way in which colorism and anti-blackness in particular perpetuates itself, but that anti-pattern of creating something where you have notifications for nothing, right? Like you'll click on it, I deleted Facebook years ago, but I know that it will generate just these red notifications for no reason. And yes, that's certainly addictive. But I would argue, and I think this is what you're getting at, that it's designed as intended and it's working as intended, which is in order to not only get users stuck in it, but to collect as much data about users as possible, and keeping them there as long as possible.

I remember when someone discovered, and I don't know if you know this, that there is a lot of metadata that's embedded into photos once you upload them to Facebook. So they become encoded with tons and tons of data that collects like where they were downloaded from. That's all for surveillance. So it's designed super well. From an accessibility standpoint, Facebook is one of the worst offenders. They do things like parse out, they parse out different HTML tags in such a way that make it so that ad blockers and stuff don't work. Well, that has a, intended or unintended, doesn't matter, impact on people that rely on assistive technologies to use the site. It becomes incoherent to use it with a screen reader or voiceover.

Chris Strahl:

So how can we push back against this sort of thing? As designers, as tech professionals, what is our role in this? What is our responsibility to take hold of here?

Tatiana Mac:

I think that so much of it, and I don't think I ever answered the second part of your question, but it ties to this, which is I think that people that have the most power in our industry, which is people that look like you need to center the experiences of people who look more like me and to be able to read about experiences. I think one thing that you asked is in lieu of talking to people, what is it?

There's so much written and so much trauma that's been turned into words and into videos by people's lived experiences about how difficult it is to exist in this world and how technology in particular intersects with that. I think focusing our efforts on hearing more of those stories, amplifying more of those stories and centering those stories when thinking about the technology that we create.

And then I also think it can be very easy to get futile when you start to think about things. I think, especially today with the vote that's happening in the UK, I have been reading a lot of very futile tweets from my British friends, and I think that we just have to remember that we can't ever search for perfection in the accessibility of our design systems or in the inclusivity of our design systems. We can only seek progress and progress can be incremental and small. And that doesn't often feel like enough, but I find that what happens more often than not is that people want to make such grand gestures in progress and then, they end up doing nothing. And it's like, I don't want you to do nothing. Do something. Recognize that it might be small, but small things can compound. So I guess my wish would be for everyone to just take small steps everyday to making things better.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, it's sort of like software development, right? You got to ship something small before you're able to make that big goal.

Tatiana Mac:

And for the love of God, write detailed release notes. I'm so sick of reading performance enhancement and bug fixes. I'm like, "What does that mean?"

Chris Strahl:

Where did that go? Yeah. It's interesting actually, bringing up my particular background and the way that I look and kind of who I am, I grew up in a community that was 99.9% people that look like me, and trying to find my way out of rural Oregon and kind of experience what racism even really was. Because the biggest difference between me and the vast majority of the people around me was income and socioeconomic background. It wasn't ever about skin color or even really sexual orientation because it just wasn't something that people talked about. Not that those differences didn't exist. I'm sure they were there and present beneath the surface, but trying to go on this personal journey of trying to be more aware of what other people experience and yes, I guess build empathy, but in a way that just trying to broaden my own understanding of the world.

What do you say to somebody that is looking to embark on this journey of understanding that maybe comes from a background like mine or a background not too different than mine to be a champion and to be somebody that is helpful?

Tatiana Mac:

I think it's about, honestly, the shortest, most concise way I can put it is to talk less and to read and to listen more. Because I think that people that look like you take up a lot of space in tech and that's because people like you created an infrastructure that was comfortable for people who look like you, right? And so, that's that self-fulfilling prophecy is that if you don't see anyone that looks like you ...

I just listened to an excellent talk by Angie Jones. She's someone I really admire because she is very present in tech. She's a software engineer and she doesn't talk a lot about inclusion very intentionally. She did one talk about how to code the future coders and it was released and it was great because she talked about being visible within spaces where there's a lot of young black women and young girls that could see someone who looks like her doing what she's doing. And that's so rare to see someone who looks like me or who looks like her in the industry.

So I think for people that see a lot of themselves reflected within the industry, for them to take a backseat and to give up their conference talks and to take up less room in meetings and to take the time to ask questions of the people in the room that aren't being listened to and not being amplified. It's really just about taking up less space, and using the space that you once took up to leave that space for someone else to fill.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah. I mean, I guess that latter part of that is the more ... the part that speaks a little bit more to me like how to gracefully cede the soapbox, if you will. Yeah, it's interesting, right? You hear all these articles about people talking about how they miss the old days of tech, right, when the internet was fun and all this other stuff like that. And my response has changed from like, "Oh, yeah, I feel that sense of nostalgia, too," to like, "Well, who is it actually fun for?" And having it be fun for the people that built it I think is very different than having it be fun for the people that are a part of it now. And as we go kind of through this collective evolution of what technology is bringing to us and all this things like that, I do kind of realize that there's this sense of receding ownership and I hope that that's on the right pathway.

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah. And I think even that idea though of who owns and who created tech is somewhat misinformed, that software engineering was something that women did first.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, Ada Lovelace, yeah.

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah, and many, many more folks. So I think that that idea, there is that baked idea that tech belongs to dudes and it doesn't. They took credit for a lot of the work that was established long before they ever got there. So I think sure, yes, it's about them ceding the power, but also recognizing it was never theirs to begin with.

Chris Strahl:

Yeah, I think that mostly, what I was referring to is the idea of the dominant group, right, and trying to understand how that changes.

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah. Usually it's just stepping down and also fending off other people that look like you is a big thing because if you step down from your soapbox and you've done a little bit more work say than the next Chad next to you, they're going to try to take over the soapbox because that's what society conditions them to do. So I think another second step is not only stepping down yourself, but then also, finding ways to ensure that you're helping to keep the people that normally would be centered at bay.

Chris Strahl:

So we were talking about other projects you're working on, you had, before we started recording, talked about this modern approach to a dictionary, and I'm really curious to hear a little bit more about that. Can you describe what that's all about?

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah, so my dictionary is called Self-Defined and it is an open source project that I started this year, which is a dictionary that is made for people to self-define themselves and to create and to perpetuate vocabulary that isn't centered in common vernacular. It really was inspired by this idea that ...

I get a lot of Twitter trolls on a day to day basis, and one of the things that they chronically do is paste in the dictionary, i.e., the dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of racism. And that definition says that racism is prejudice against any race, which completely neglects infrastructural and systemic racism as being the foundation and that racism is intrinsically tied to white supremacy.

Tatiana Mac:

So out of frustration, I created this project, not only for the negative points like that, but also so that terms that people don't often hear about like the difference between bi and pan or why someone would use disabled versus person with disability. There's a lot of nuance within those terms that doesn't get addressed in mainstream dictionaries.

I also saw that dictionaries not only lack that ability to progress rapidly to match social evolution, but also from a technical standpoint, I find that most of the dictionaries don't seem very integrated with modern platforms. And so, my hope is to build an API that can allow the dictionary to integrate with things like Slack. So imagine if you could integrate with Slack, and some folks have already created versions of this, but within your Slack community, you could integrate the dictionary and if someone's about to use a term that's been flagged as ableist or racist or culturally appropriative, it would first alert you and be like, "Hey, did you know this term means this? Are you sure you want to use it?" And instead of being flat censorship, it invites a reflection and invites pause. And then makes you commit to your decision.

Tatiana Mac:

So in addition, on Twitter, being able to have a bot situation where someone could say, "Self-Defined bot, please define polyamory," and then it would kick back the definition for you. A lot of that labor right now is being placed on people that identify in those ways and those minoritized and marginalized people are tired of having to define the same things over and over and over. But at the same time, I recognize when you Google stuff, it can be very overwhelming. You can read dozens of articles and not really get a clear sense. So my hope is to automate a lot of that, create something that can adapt with the times and that utilizes modern technology to do so.

Chris Strahl:

Interesting. And maybe you thought about this, but how do you prevent the Twitter trolls from infecting that platform, right? How do you make it so that there's some sort of federated idea of what the right thing is?

Tatiana Mac:

Yeah, I think that's something that will be a challenge with growth. I think that that'll be critical to having a core group of contributors that help to review. So akin to a board of directors that has very diverse representation and then, making sure that whatever model for approval does have some sort of checks and balances so to speak.

Chris Strahl:

Got you.

Tatiana Mac:

Because if I allowed for it to be completely federated, like you said, that would just invite abuse, and because of my lived experiences, I'm always thinking about how the platform can be abused.

Chris Strahl:

Definitely, definitely. Well, hey, I wanted say thank you for your time today. It's been really great to have a chat with you, very enlightening as all of the things that I've seen from you are.

Tatiana Mac:

Thank you.

Chris Strahl:

Keep up the great work you're doing and don't let the trolls get to you.

Tatiana Mac:

Thank you. I will try not to. I appreciate being here and chatting with you.

Chris Strahl:

Thanks so much.

That's all for today. We'd love to hear from you with questions, ideas for new episodes, beer recommendations or comments. You can find us on Twitter @thedspod. Cheers, and thanks for listening to the Design Systems Podcast.