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Metamuse is a podcast about tools for thought, product design & how to have good ideas.

Hosted by Mark McGranaghan and Adam Wiggins
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61 August 04, 2022

Listener questions 2

All your questions about Muse, answered! Mark, Adam, and Wulf discuss the purposes of search in knowledge tools; the need for an infinite canvas file format; the many facets of board archival; and how to fund a research lab. Plus: the dangers of iPad use in a darkened plane cabin.

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60 July 12, 2022

Real materials with Dan LaCivita

Designers use general-purpose vector editors like Sketch and Figma to mock up mobile UIs. Play is a design tool that offer a different approach: designing directly on an iPhone or iPad. Dan from Play joins Mark and Adam to talk about the problem with mirror apps; how much time you should spend on sketching before “getting your hands on the clay”; and why developer handoff should be a collaboration, not a handoff. Plus: the correlation between the loudness of your mechanical keyboard and your coding skills.

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59 July 07, 2022

Infinite Canvases with Steve Ruiz

A new foundational document type is on the rise: the so-called infinite canvas. Steve is the creator of tldraw, an open-source canvas toolkit. He joins Mark and Adam to discuss why the canvas might be the ultimate fully-generalized form of all digital documents; why “infinite” refers to openness and possibility rather than just available space; and why canvases create a sense of place that is suited to multiuser collaboration. Plus: smash that fork button and own this thing forever.

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58 June 23, 2022

Product decisions with Paulo Pereira

If you’re on a team responsible for a mature and beloved product, how do you decide what to build next? Paulo is a product manager at Sketch, and he joins Mark and Adam to talk about managing the ever-growing backlog of feature requests and how to balance that against long-term product vision. They also explore the evolution in the design tools market over the last ten years; Sketch’s company culture which values sustainable growth over KPIs and dark patterns; and the privilege and responsibility of working on a beloved tool.

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57 May 26, 2022

Messaging with Hilary Maloney

Messaging is how your company talks about its product strategically and systematically. Hilary recently worked with the Muse team to create a new message for Muse 2.0, and she joins Mark and Adam to talk about her creative process. Topics include why product messaging exists to solve a problem at a particular point in time; how Apple builds its brand message into product marketing; work idealists; and the importance of creative trust on teams. Plus: some cliché phrases to avoid when marketing your productivity software.

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56 May 12, 2022

Sync

The foundational technology for Muse 2 is local-first sync, which draws from over a decade of computer science research on CRDTs. Mark, Adam Wiggins, and Adam Wulf get technical to describe the Muse sync technology architecture in detail. Topics include the difference between transactional, blob, and ephemeral data; the “atoms” concept inspired by Datomic; Protocol Buffers; and the user’s data as a bag of edits. Plus: why sync is a powerful substrate for end-user programming.

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55 April 28, 2022

Mac app design

Pro apps on macOS have a look and feel unlike apps on any other platform. Julia and Lennart join Adam to get into the details of designing and implementing Muse for Mac. Topics include the pros and cons of building with Catalyst, how the Muse canvas mixes with system conventions and UI chrome, and our experimental approach to developing the keyboard+mouse command vocabulary. Plus: how Julia rediscovered her love of right-click context menus.

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54 April 14, 2022

Support

Customer support is sometimes an afterthought for tech product companies, but it can be one of the most important parts of user experience. Mark and Adam discuss using support as a type of user interview; how to balance long-term product vision with listening to customers; and support reputations of companies like Zappos, IBM, and Comcast. Plus: the value of transparency vs why airlines conceal flight delays.

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53 March 31, 2022

Career with swyx

Your career is more than just a way to earn a living—it's a foundation for leading the kind of life you want. Shawn joins Mark and Adam to talk about navigating the non-linear course of a career; whether to correct weaknesses vs investing in strengths; salary negotiation; brag documents; and how to create luck. Plus: the Spinal Tap scale for rating software engineers.

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52 March 17, 2022

Product launches

If you’ve built a great product, a launch is how the world can find out about it. Adam and Mark discuss the anatomy of a product launches, including creating a “moment” in your social graph; why you should decouple product releases from your marketing launch; and mechanics like waitlists, feature flags, and press. Plus: how sharing your work with the world strengthens your team identity.

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51 March 03, 2022

Personal brand with Brian Lovin

Meeting potential collaborators online is easier when you represent yourself through a personal brand. Brian Lovin is a designer at GitHub, a podcaster at Design Details, and a prolific online maker. He joins Mark and Adam to talk about personal websites; the pros and cons of cold contact over the internet; whether follower counts matter; and how the Twitter algorithm can push back against your personal growth. Plus: the tension between thoughtfulness and daring.

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50 February 17, 2022

Build in public with Pirijan

What’s the best way for a solo entrepreneur to market their product? Pirijan is creating Kinopio, a spatial canvas on the web, and he publishes new features as screenshots or short demo videos on Twitter. He talks with Mark and Adam about how personality and building-in-public are a unique advantage of small teams; PC Magazine versus YouTube influencers; and why the struggle of building a business is best shared in realtime. Plus: choosing a tool based on vibes.

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49 February 03, 2022

Software longevity

The great works of human civilization can last for centuries—but software often decays in just a tiny fraction of that time. How much should this concern us in this increasingly-digital age? And as software creators, what can we do about it? Adam and Mark discuss the durability of papyrus vs CD-Rs vs the cloud; open-source Quake and remix culture; flat file formats; and digital preservation efforts like The Internet Archive and MAME. Plus: sometimes you just have to draw the rest of the owl.

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48 January 20, 2022

Rich text with Slim Lim

Rich text editing is a foundational interaction in productivity software. Slim joins Mark and Adam to explain how rich text is more than just bold and italics for prose, but also includes math equations, diagrams, slideshows, and sheet music. Their discussion includes WYSIWYG versus markup languages for end users; how block-based editors change our understanding of rich text; and why Pandoc is Slim’s favorite piece of software. Plus: how to choose the best wagon in Oregon Trail.

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47 January 06, 2022

Designing creative tools with David Hoang

Designing tools for creators is harder than consumer software, but also potentially more rewarding. David leads design at Webflow, and he joins Adam and Mark to talk about mental models, opinionated versus open-ended tools, and being true to the materials. Plus: why complexity is unfairly villainized in design.

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46 December 23, 2021

Industrial research with Peter van Hardenberg

Ink & Switch is a research lab inspired by Bells Labs and Xerox PARC. Peter is lab director, and he joins Adam and Mark to discuss DARPA-hard problems; the Ink & Switch academic-meets-web essay format; and how an independent research lab can fund itself through a spinout flywheel. Plus: Mendel and his peas, Thoreau and his ants, and the Arrakis attitude of the knife.

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45 December 09, 2021

Native apps

With Muse for Mac on the horizon, the team convenes to discuss the merits of native apps versus web technologies like Electron. Discussion points include the conflict between brand identity and apps that feel true to the OS; “proudly native” apps like Sketch and Nova; and the lost art of designing using system components. Plus: the business case for and against building native apps, and why great native apps tend to come from smaller companies.

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44 November 25, 2021

Media empires with Dan Shipper

Journalism is changing, as newspapers and magazines adapt to being online and internet-native media empires like Vox and Vice upend the status quo. Dan Shipper is part of this as a founder of Every, a writer collective for business writing. Dan chats with Mark and Adam about the paid newsletter boom; the impact of recommendation algorithms on creator mental health; and content platforms like Wordpress, Substack, and Ghost. Plus: the pros and cons of antigravity machines.

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43 November 11, 2021

Storytelling

What do the Bible, TED talks, superhero movies, and Steve Jobs’ product announcements have in common? They use stories to share ideas, culture, and worldview. Adam and Lennart discuss this, and the role storytelling can play in product marketing and design.

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42 October 28, 2021

Self-made tools with Linus Lee

In a world dominated by mass-produced software, making your own tools is a way to take back agency in your digital life. Linus joins Mark and Adam to talk about his experiences building a personal software ecosystem; tools that are a reflection of the maker’s values and taste; and packaging/sharing solutions like Docker, CodePen, Replit, and Deno. And: is it possible for software to ever be “done”? — Linus thinks so.

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41 October 14, 2021

Local-first software with Martin Kleppmann

Local-first is a set of principles that enables collaborative software without the loss of data ownership associated with the cloud. Martin is a computer scientist on the frontier of this movement, and he joins Mark and Adam to discuss how creative people put their souls into their work; a vision for a generic AWS syncing service; and why local-first could be a breakthrough for indie app developers.

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40 September 30, 2021

Filmmaking with Maximilian Becht

The Muse team worked with Max and his film crew on the pilot episode of a new documentary series. Max joins Adam and Mark to talk about how making films compares to making software; why creative trust is the core of a great team; and why we should hire based on networks, portfolios, and auditions instead of CVs and interviews. Plus: 40 people stuck on a film shoot in the forest due to a forgotten shovel.

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39 September 16, 2021

Expressive tools with Weiwei Xu

Why are we driven to create, and to express ourselves online? Weiwei is the founder of Sprout, a collaborative creation space. She joins Mark and Adam to talk about how tools influence group communication and our sense of belonging; why we should make our online spaces feel more like bedrooms than stadiums or hotel lobbies; and why children’s tools have a special magic. Plus: Nintendo’s withered technology, Winamp skins, and cursor waves.

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38 September 02, 2021

Calm companies with Tyler Tringas

As the world’s economy is remade via software, some founders are finding the one-way ratchet of venture capital too restrictive. Tyler Tringas is working to expand funding options available to entrepreneurs via the Calm Fund. He joins Mark and Adam to talk about a return to classic good business practices; how founders can maximize their optionality; building an investment thesis out in the open; and how to be long-term ambitious.

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37 August 19, 2021

Visual programming with Maggie Appleton

Creating software is typically done in text-based environments—but would programming be more accessible with graphical programming tools? Maggie joins Mark and Adam to talk about the relative success of Scratch, Shortcuts, and Zapier; how to make the abstract visible; embodied metaphors; and the false duality of artistic versus logical thinkers. Plus: how to make blinking lights for your Burning Man art installation.

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36 August 05, 2021

Text

Text blocks are a new beta feature for Muse. Mark and Adam use the opportunity to discuss the origins and philosophy of text in computing, including text as a datum in environments like wikis, REPLs, and social media; the writing workflow of collapsing spatially-arranged ideas down to a linear text buffer; and company memo culture. And Mark shares his vision for how the Pencil could become the X-Acto knife for fast text editing on a tablet.

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35 July 22, 2021

The future of iPad

It’s been over a decade since Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s tablet as a “third device” between Mac and iPhone. Mark, Adam, and Lennart discuss iPad’s potential as a creative platform; multitasking, filesystem, and scripting/extensions; multimodal inputs; and the background process problem. Plus: why Apple should build its own pro apps for iPad to demonstrate their vision for the platform.

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34 July 08, 2021

Bring your own client with Geoffrey Litt

In today’s world, apps and their data are tightly coupled—but what if each person could pick and choose their own tool for use in a collaborative project? Geoffrey Litt is a researcher working on this problem at MIT. He joins Mark and Adam to talk about email as the original BYOC case study; how shared protocols enable niche software; whether it’s possible to design software for someone other than yourself; and how to accidentally become an expert.

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33 June 24, 2021

Cities with Devon Zuegel

Tech product designers could learn from the immense challenges of designing cities. Devon joins Adam and Mark to share her knowledge and passion on urban design and economics. They discuss how open source communities compare to cities; historical preservation versus growth and change; the messy middle of public and private goods; wi-fi spectrum ownership; and what to do when the neighbor’s new building puts shade on your vegetable garden.

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32 June 10, 2021

Pricing

Pricing a product is one of the most difficult and high-stakes part of running a software business. Adam, Mark, and Lennart discuss the latest pricing updates for Muse; the pros and cons of selling through the iOS App Store; concerns with subscription payments for software; and why it’s important to be experimental and iterative with your prices.

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31 May 27, 2021

Social media with Tobias Rose-Stockwell

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have transformed how we come to a shared understanding about our world. Tobias has been writing about social media for half a decade. He joins Mark and Adam to discuss velocity and virality in information dissemination; how to train your YouTube algorithm; rage tweeting; and how to improve the internet we all inhabit.

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30 May 12, 2021

Computers and creativity with Molly Mielke

Great tools can enable co-creation between humans and computers. Molly Mielke joins Mark and Adam to talk about her thesis on the subject. They discuss product design as a fusion of creative and analytical; how consumer preferences may conflict with the Engelbart/Kay vision of computing; the emerging social norms of collaborative software; and why we should bring back skeuomorphism.

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29 April 29, 2021

Thinking in probabilities with Taimur Abdaal

Probabilistic modeling is useful for answering all kinds of questions, from assessing financial risk to making engineering time estimates. Yet spreadsheets are poor at this job, which is why Taimur and his colleagues are building Casual. Taimur talks with Mark and Adam about ranges as an intuitive way to estimate; the usefulness of Monte Carlo simulations; and the role of math in dating cave paintings.

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28 April 15, 2021

Learning from games

Video games are often on the leading edge of technical, design, and social innovation in the software world. Mark and Adam discuss what productivity tools can learn from games including the culture of performance; tools like Twitch and Discord; and end-user programming via scripting and modding.

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27 April 01, 2021

Playful software with Rasmus Andersson

Design and engineering polymath Rasmus Andersson joins Mark and Adam to talk about his new project, Playbit. Play as a means of discovery and learning; virtualization as an underexploited technology for making safe playspaces for programming; and whether macOS will still exist in ten years.

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26 March 18, 2021

No data moat with Balint Orosz

When you pay for software, are you paying for the data storage or the interface? Balint is the founder of Craft, a writing app designed for iPad. He chats with Adam and Mark about design conventions for multimodal input; why import/export is so important; and how to have humility about how your product fits into your customer’s life.

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25 March 04, 2021

Time-based notes with Alexander Griekspoor

Agenda is software that encodes an unusual philosophy for note-taking. Alex of Agenda joins Mark and Adam to talk about being an indie developer; note-taking as a technique for calming the mind; and the benefits of community and learning tools socially.

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24 February 18, 2021

Small Giants

A “small giant” is a company that chooses to optimize for mojo instead of growth. Mark and Adam describe how Muse was inspired to follow this path, designing the business model, team makeup, and funding source accordingly. Plus: a digression into tender offers and the fine points of US tax law.

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23 February 04, 2021

Collaborative creativity with Nikolas Klein

Tools for collaboration are changing team culture. Nikolas Klein has been a part of this shift in his academic work and on the product design team at Figma. He joins Mark and Adam to discuss creative collaboration including how guardrails can increase comfort with working collaboratively; changing mindset from “my ideas” to “our ideas”; and screensharing as an intimate act.

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22 January 21, 2021

Brand

Brand is not just a name or a logo—it’s the character of a company and its products. Adam and Mark discuss the memetic and emotive elements of branding; brand as tribal identity; and Muse brand values like thoughtfulness and curiosity.

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21 January 07, 2021

Listener questions

How to prototype advanced gestures; how to organize your Muse boards; and how to spot good ideas. Plus, a peek at the long-term Muse roadmap.

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20 December 24, 2020

Thinking in maps with Anne-Laure Le Cunff

Maps can visualize space, time, biological processes, social graphs, and much more. Anne-Laure of Ness Labs talks with Mark and Adam about the multi-thousand-year history of map-based thinking, and how we can use maps in our own creative work today.

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19 December 10, 2020

Progress with Jason Crawford

Jason Crawford writes about the history of technology and the philosophy of progress. He joins Mark and Adam to talk about technologies like messenger RNA vaccines, nanotech, and supersonic jets. Plus society-level questions like whether we are in a period of stagnation, how we fund maverick ideas, and why we need hubris.

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18 November 26, 2020

Privacy

Thinking and creativity require privacy. In this data-intensive age, what does “privacy” mean for a tool for thought? Mark and Adam discuss product decisions in the context of digital privacy for the tech industry and society overall.

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17 November 12, 2020

Rethink the OS with Jason Yuan

Jason Yuan believes that we all should feel empowered to think about ways to improve our computer's operating system. He joins Mark and Adam to talk about stage design, dreaming big versus delivering practical products, and why software should be fun.

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16 October 29, 2020

No more boring apps with Andy.Works

Andy.Works believes in design-forward products, as seen in his work on Paper for iPad to a handmade analog clock for his young kids. Mark, Adam, and Andy discuss products as vector for culture; maverick game designers; innovation budgets; and pushing back against the idea of scale in software.

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15 October 16, 2020

Leaving San Francisco

It's a new world: many creative professionals can now choose where they live, independent of where their employer is headquartered. Mark and Adam discuss the implications of this. Plus: the magic of Silicon Valley, cities that feed your creative soul, and strategies for making big life decisions.

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14 October 01, 2020

Onboarding with Jane Portman

Jane Portman of Userlist joins Julia and Adam to share her expertise with onboarding. Why guided tours don't work, the legacy of Clippy, and drip campaigns that are more personal and considerate.

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13 September 17, 2020

Interface innovation with Josh Miller

Josh Miller from The Browser Company joins Mark and Adam to discuss how to make a better web browser in 2020. The conversation ranges from user agency in software to architecture to social capital to end-user programming.

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12 September 03, 2020

Growing ideas with Andy Matuschak

Andy Matuschak joins Mark and Adam to talk about rituals for deep thought, how to develop an inkling over time, and the public goods problem of research.

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11 August 20, 2020

Authentic marketing with Lisa Enckell

Lisa Enckell joins Mark and Adam to talk about picking a category, aspirational creativity, and the purpose of product launches.

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10 August 07, 2020

Tools for thought

The rich history of tools for thought stretches back to the 1960s. Adam and Mark talk about how today’s computing, from iPads to Twitch to AI, might help us gain knoweldge and develop novel ideas.

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09 July 23, 2020

The Information Age

This modern Information Age can make it challenging for a creative professional to keep their focus. At the same time, there are many benefits to being plugged in. Mark and Adam discuss.

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08 July 11, 2020

Principled products with Max Schoening

Max Schoening of GitHub joins Mark and Adam to talk about principled design, authentic marketing, tools for thought, and more.

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07 June 24, 2020

From prototype to product with Lachlan Campbell

Lachlan Campbell of Hack Club joins Mark and Adam to talk about path from research prototype to released product.

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06 June 12, 2020

Human-Computer Interaction

HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) studies how people relate to their digital tools. Mark and Adam discuss their journey into HCI, how others can get into the field, and its influence on Muse.

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05 May 26, 2020

Gesture programming for the iPad

Developing an iPad app with a rich gesture space and unique spatial-zooming visual model is technically challenging. Julia joins Mark and Adam to break down the software engineering behind Muse.

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04 May 11, 2020

Partnership, freedom, and responsibility

The company behind Muse is structured as a small partnership. Mark and Adam talk about why the team wanted this unusual approach and how it's working so far.

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03 April 29, 2020

Read the fabulous manual

Professional tools need a manual to explain how they work, but not all manuals are created equal. Mark and Adam discuss their mutual love of manuals, what makes a manual great, and why we chose video as the primary medium for the Muse Interface Handbook.

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02 April 16, 2020

Having good ideas

Ideas are foundational for creative and knowledge work. Mark and Adam talk about fodder, making time to ideate, and the value of fresh surroundings.

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01 March 24, 2020

Tool switching

Muse has a modeless interface with no onscreen toolbars. Mark and Adam talk about the long research journey that led us here.

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