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To the Next Paycheck

As I’ve written on this blog before, for better or worse, I tend to watch most of the limited-release anime films that I can when they hit my local Cineplex theater. I had not yet been a reader nor watcher of the mega-hit Demon Slayer back when its absurdly high-grossing film hit theaters in that brief period of still-normal 2020. When I saw that Demon Slayer was heading back to theaters in early 2023, I didn’t need any further convincing to book my ticket.

I was fully aware going into the theater that Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village was not a traditional movie. Rather, it’s a preview of the first, hour-long episode of the upcoming third season of the anime, preceded by the last two episodes of season two. As someone who understood the hype behind this series’ crazy action scenes (‘specially those from the last two episodes of season two) a rewatch of those episodes on a theater screen in a room packed full of enthusiastic weebs sounded like a fun time. And yet, I was let down by To the Swordsmith Village, even though I knew what I was getting myself into.

The reason for this disappointment has to do with a mismatch of expectations. Given that To the Swordsmith Village was given a theatrical release and a trailer and a marketing budget, I thought, although it was advertised from the start to be three TV anime episodes back-to-back-to-back, that those episodes would at least be stitched together into one coherent program. Instead, it felt like someone hit play on Crunchyroll and then lost the remote control, leaving the viewers stuck watching every last opening theme, closing theme, and commercial bumper.

TFW you can’t fast-forward

While the recap of the first two seasons of the show was a sensible and not unwelcome way to start the movie, having to watch multiple opening and ending credits felt… out of place. Worse were the flashbacks that would play after what were originally commercial breaks in a televised program; the effect was that the theater audience had to watch recaps, goofy sepia tone filter and all, of scenes they had already watched literal seconds prior.

However, none of those held a candle to the most jarring sequence-break in the movie. After the end of the second of the three episodes showcased in To the Swordsmith Village, I experienced something I never had before in a theater – a false end credits sequence. Since the second episode marked the ending of season two, it concluded with some dramatic and extended end credits. I’m talking white-text-scrolling-on-black-background and everything. This moment was about an hour into the movie, so to some people it seemed like a sudden, albeit plausible, actual conclusion to the movie. I saw several people get out of their seats and walk out of the theater, evidently assuming this was the end.

The weird thing is that I get the sense that if I had watched this exact same footage on my TV at home, cozily rolling around on my couch, I wouldn’t have felt the same letdown. Of course, I’m assuming that in that hypothetical scenario I would have watched it in a context resembling what I mentioned earlier: hitting play on Crunchyroll. The application interface would have allowed me to skip opening and closing sequences, or fast-forward through parts I had already seen before. Now, admittedly flashback sequences after commercial breaks already feel “out of place” when I’m watching a TV episode outside of the context of a live broadcast. Yet that somehow feels less jarring to me since at least the experience of watching an episode of a TV show with commercials intact has in common with the experience of watching a commercial-less episode of a TV show on an app like Crunchyroll the likelihood that I’m comfortably slouched three-quarters of the way down my couch, curled up in a blanket, beverage in hand, watching it on my own TV at home. I have less of a sense of a mismatch between experience and place.

I’ve been looking at reviews of To the Swordsmith Village throughout social media. One complaint I see frequently is that it’s a “scam” or a “waste of money.” (Homer made the same point in The Simpsons Movie.)

I understand the frustration of people who went to see To the Swordsmith Village expecting an actual film adaption of the titular arc in the Demon Slayer story, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think the audience might have this expectation given that the last time Demon Slayer was in theaters, it bore the name of a story arc and was indeed a real film. I’ve heard from at least one reviewer on YouTube that he deliberately avoided reading any synopsis of To the Swordsmith Village so that he could avoid potential spoilers. Ouch.

But to be honest, I can’t make that excuse. Like I said, I knew what I was getting myself into. So does someone like me have the right to complain?

I think I do. The whole thing just felt out of place for something in a theater. And that sense of a mismatch with the anticipated experience derived from the embodied place of it is actually a problem of information architecture.

Content should match the expectations set by its placement in the experience-space

That’s right, information architecture! The discipline extends beyond the boundaries of websites and screens, after all. Given the physical placement of the To the Swordsmith Village experience inside a movie theater, as a user I came into it with certain expectations, just as much as a user of a website might derive certain expectations about content based on its surrounding labels.

Information architecture: Just as a user to a bank’s website might be forgiven for not expecting to find certain content (such as “Report Fraud”) situated under a “place” named “Ways to Bank,” it’s understandable when users expect certain content or experiences situated inside the place “movie theater” to resemble movies, not an unedited series of TV episodes.

The producers and marketers of To the Swordsmith Village can truthfully retort to their critics that the movie – no, the “theatrical experience” – never presented itself as anything other than the last two episodes of season two and first episode of season three of a TV program, and so anybody disappointed that they didn’t get a movie has no one but themselves to blame. But I think the overwhelmingly underwhelmed audience is a sign that the information architecture of To the Swordsmith Village was out of alignment. The designers, intentionally or otherwise, built certain user expectations by the mere fact that this experience took place in a movie theater, not on a video streaming app like Crunchyroll nor through a television broadcast. In my case, I expected at least some sort of bare-minimum editing between episodes. (Surely it couldn’t be too much to ask to include only one end credits sequence?)

Despite the negative feedback, To the Swordsmith Village is guaranteed to be a money-maker. It ranked #1 in its opening weekend in Japan. That being said, the producers shouldn’t be surprised if future theatrically-released TV anime episodes bring in fewer viewers now that their users’ mental models for what theatrical experiences can be has been stretched in a new, disappointing direction.

My Top Songs of 2022 (According to Spotify)


I don’t update this blog often, but when I do, there’s a strong chance that it’s December and I’m back to share my most-played songs of the year. As in previous editions, I will follow these three rules:

  • The ranking is determined by my personal Spotify Wrapped 2022 playlist
  • I will only count songs released in 2022
  • Only one song allowed per artist

Last year I lamented that out of my 100 most-played tracks on Spotify, a grand total of only six met my requirements. Luckily it appears that 2022 was a better year for music, however, since this time I actually had to leave songs out in order to create a proper top-ten list.

10. Beg For You – Charli XCX (feat. Rina Sawayama)

This repackaging of the classic 2005 dance track “Cry for You” by September is every bit as catchy as the original and even adds melodies that fit so naturally that you wonder why they weren’t there in the first place.

9. Otoboke Beaver – I am not maternal

I was so glad that I got the chance to see the Japanese riot grrl punk rock band Otoboke Beaver when they stopped by Lee’s Palace in Toronto earlier this year. They put on a great show, thanks to their short, relentlessly energetic tracks like “I am not maternal.”

8. ERRA – Stockholm Syndrome

Progressive metalcore band ERRA’s take on what is perhaps Muse’s greatest song lends a certain edge to the track that is curiously lacking from the original until that legendary breakdown at the end. To be honest, I still prefer Muse’s version, but both are worthy of including in my regular Spotify rotation.

7. Haunted Shores – OnlyFangs

The new album from Haunted Shores, the side project by Periphery guitarists Misha Mansoor and Mark Holcomb, had all the chaotic instrumental metal brutality we could have asked for. (Well, at least until Animals as Leaders and Polyphia released their albums later in the year.)

6. Pabllo Vittar, Rina Sawayama – Follow Me

I said I can only have one track per artist, right? Well, I’ll let Rina Sawayama appear twice on my list since she’s the featured (rather than the lead) artist on both this and “Beg For You.” Rina has a knack for finding catchy pop hits to attach herself to, and Brazilian singer Pabllo Vittar’s “Follow Me” is no exception.

5. Jeris Johnson – RAINING BLOOD (feat. ZillaKami)

Jeris Johnson uses Slayer’s classic riff to great effect here, creating a rap-metal banger that goes dummy hard, especially when the vocals come to the forefront of the mix to growl, “Make it rain blood; I could fill a cup.” I adore this song.


I’m a little surprised that this song made it so far up my list, since I tend to listen to only the intro of this track before moving on. But that transition from the “Saoco” callout to the drop about 20 seconds into the song is clearly enough to keep me coming back.

3. Animals as Leaders – Monomyth

Supreme djentlemen Animals As Leaders knocked it out of the park again this year with their album Parrhesia. “Monomyth” was the lead single, which is probably why I ended up listening to this track more times than my actual favorite track on the album, “Conflict Cartography,” which melts my brain every time it goes through that nasty tempo change halfway through.


Having gotten back in touch with my inner weeb this year, I, like many others, discovered this gem of a track as the first opening to Spy x Family. What hooked me was the wild piano and energetic melody. It’s a fun song to sing along with even when you don’t know what you’re saying!

1. Polyphia – Playing God

If someone handed me the aux at any point in 2022, there’s a strong chance that this is the song I put on. Even people with violent allergic reactions to lyric-less music seem to enjoy Polyphia’s flamenco-flavored “Playing God.” I distinctly remember a flight I took this year where the only two tracks that worked on my airplane-mode Spotify app were this and “一途” by King Gnu, but I didn’t mind. I can basically listen to this on repeat forever. The bossa nova breakdown tickles my eardrums so thoroughly that I almost feel like this song was written specifically for me. Honestly, “Playing God” is such a masterpiece that I can even forgive the fact that I lost my wallet at the Polyphia show I attended this year.

All of the Films I Saw at TIFF 2022

Toronto International Film Festival 2022

Among the reasons why I still live in Toronto is that the city offers all sorts of world-class cultural events, with one of its biggest being the yearly Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I saw a couple of TIFF movies back in 2019 and enjoyed the experience. With the festival’s in-person return this year, I made sure to take greater advantage of it. Every night after work during the week of TIFF, I saw one movie with a friend. While none of the movies I saw were life-changing masterpieces, I generally enjoyed my time seeing all of them in the festival setting, where oftentimes the filmmakers would take the stage and answer questions after each screening.

Here are my thoughts on the five movies I saw (with one bonus):

Queens of the Qing Dynasty

Queens of the Qing Dynasty

The first film I saw at TIFF was an avant-garde, slow-moving, limited-budget, coming-of-age drama; in other words, exactly the kind of movie that I was expecting from a festival such as this. Queens of the Qing Dynasty is not an epic period-piece set in China; rather, it is a thoroughly Canadian movie about Star, a mentally impaired young woman sent to a small town hospital after a suicide attempt, where she befriends the Chinese exchange student who is assigned to care for her. There are plenty of long, lingering close-ups of character’s faces, which might have been fine had not the defining characteristic of the protagonist been her affectlessness. Look, this isn’t the sort of movie that I would pick from Netflix to watch at home, but the experience of seeing it at the festival, with the director and main actors present at the start and ending of the screening, was neat. I enjoyed the soundtrack’s Aphex Twin-style synth bloops that swell in intensity along with the main character’s sensations as she is carted around to one invasive hospital procedure after another. I was also struck by the efforts of all of the care worker characters who try their best to help Star and grow to appreciate her unique perspective on life even as her nonchalance toward responsibility and genuine inability to take care of herself continually stymie their efforts to improve her situation. According to the director after the screening, Star is based on a real person and the actress who portrays her spent significant time talking to her and picking up on her mannerisms. This is a film that 90% of average moviegoers will not be able to sit through, but its depth is made apparent if you watch it with patient scrutiny.


Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Try as I might, I just cannot find a single Haruki Murakami story that I find enjoyable. After watching this animated amalgamation of several of that author’s short stories, my conclusion remains… unchanged. No, solidified, even. While the not-quite-rotoscoped animation was cool and genuinely unlike anything I had ever seen before, Murakami’s characteristic long, meandering dialogue and that leads nowhere left me unsatisfied – unsurprisingly – by the film. I thought all of the characters were intensely dislikable, with the lone exception of “Frog,” a mysterious and curiously polite human-size frog who magically shows up to solve one of the B-plot conflicts and then disappears without ever making it clear what the hell the point of any of that was. The director (and voice of Frog) introduced the movie and took questions at the end of the screening, which was fun despite being plagued by some recurring, annoying microphone issues.


The Greatest Beer Run Ever

The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Zac Efron gives an amusing performance as John “Chickie” Donohue, goofy New York accent and all, who leaves civilian life to travel to Vietnam to personally deliver beers to his friends on the battlefield. Along the way he grows out of his “America can do no wrong” naivety after seeing firsthand the true horrors of war. There’s a great line from Russel Crowe, who plays a war journalist who gets mixed up with Chickie when their hotel is unexpectedly attacked. The journalist says something along the lines of, “There are no good guys in war. It’s all one big crime scene.” That’s a fantastic and inadvertently timely message that I sure hope is not lost on all of those past-the-draft-age North Americans who are still rocking Ukrainian flags on their social media profiles.


The Woman King

The Woman King

This one had to have had the most straightforward Hollywood movie plot out of all the TIFF movies I saw. Set in the 1820s, The Woman King follows the Agojie, an all-female group of warriors who defend the West African kingdom of Dahomey. Much ado has been made online about the fact that the real-life Dahomey played a major role in the slave trade, but I can tell that people claiming that this movie somehow glorifies slavers haven’t actually watched it because the entire thrust of the plot is Viola Davis’s character, the Agojie general Nanisca, attempting to recenter the Dahomeyan economy around palm oil instead. The sets and costume designs were all on point, and the twist involving the relationship between Nanisca and another character had a heartwarming (and dare I say, vaguely pro-life?) conclusion.


Project Wolf Hunting

Project Wolf Hunting

Project Wolf Hunting delivered on the over-the-top action and violence one would expect from a film in TIFF’s “Midnight Madness” category. I didn’t pay too close attention to the plot, partially because the screening of the film began with a protracted real-life argument between several people in the front row of the theater. I was too distracted to internalize what was going on in the movie for the first few minutes. With the bombs and blood on screen blocked by standing, shouting moviegoers, I wondered if the aggressive behavior playing out in front of me was what I should have expected from an audience who had self-selected to see something as relentlessly violent as this film. It was really too bad, because that incident seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the audience, who was noticeably quieter afterwards, despite their noisy cheers and even synchronized clapping during the intro advertisements. What’s important to know about Project Wolf Hunting is that a group of police and a gang of psychopathic prisoners are stuck onboard a ship with a nigh-invincible monster in their midst. Think Predator, but Korean. In the Q&A after the screening, director Hong-Seon Kim said that the crew used 2.5 tons of blood in the making of the movie. I believe him.


Bonus: Goodbye, Don Glees!

Goodbye, Don Glees!

Okay, this movie was not part of TIFF, but the timing of when I watched it made it feel to me like it was part of the festival. For better or worse, I tend to watch all of the limited-release anime films that I can, so I made sure to catch Goodbye, Don Glees! when it hit my local Cineplex only days after TIFF ended. This is a story about a group of boys reminiscing about a time that they traveled off-the-grid to retrieve a lost drone camera. The part that stuck with me the most is how their dire worries at the beginning end up being no big deal and give way to much deeper and more mature concerns. However, the movie officially lost me during an extended music sequence where the boys sing none other than “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in some heavily, and I mean heavily accented English. That scene had me break my gaze from the screen, look around the theater, and ask myself, “What the hell am I watching right now?” Likewise, the phrase “Don Glees,” the boys’ name for their group and namesake for the film, is based on a bizarre and ungrammatical interpretation of the English words “Don’t glee.” Somehow I feel like this would have gone over better with its intended Japanese audience. There’s some emotions in the film, but overall I thought most of it was forgettable.


Under the Influence of the Apple AirPods

I’ve loved my Apple AirPods Max since the moment I first placed them over my ears. Overpriced as they may be, they are comfortable, even after resting on my head for hours at a time. Everything from music to Zoom meetings sound phenomenal through them. And when it comes time to shut out the world and focus, the noise cancellation is better than any I have ever experienced.

But my appreciation hit another level when I noticed with surprise that the AirPods could automatically switch connections between my Apple devices. Both my iPhone and MacBook sit on my desk, but I can rest assured that the Bluetooth connection from my AirPods will follow my attention and connect to the most pertinent device. If, for example, I receive a phone call while listening to Spotify on my MacBook, the headphones will pause the music and reorient me towards the audio on my phone. When the phone call ends, the audio will switch back to the music on my MacBook. It’s seamless.

The automatic device-switching feature of the Apple AirPods is to me a stand-out example of good information architecture. Source.

To me, this is a stand-out example of good information architecture. In order to make sense of why I feel so intuitively and strongly that what I’m describing is not only indeed “information architecture” but good information architecture, I’ll attempt to analyze this experience through the lens of the Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model.

A Sense of Place

The Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model. Source.

The Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model, first shown at the 2022 IA Conference, seeks to answer the question “What is the thing you’re doing when you ‘do IA’?” The answer that information architects Abby Covert and Dan Klyn provide is, “Influencing a sense of place.”

Information architecture, especially as applied to experiences that exist beyond a single two-dimensional screen, is all about creating a “sense of place” for the user. In their presentation, Covert and Klyn define “sense of place” as, “The confluence of architecture and information on how people feel, comprehend, orient, and act.” As I see it, my “sense of place” as a user tells me (1) What do the content and its context tell me about where I am, and (2) What can I do here?

The “sense of place” I had before I discovered the automatic device-switching was that only one-to-one connections were possible between my AirPods and any one of my other Apple devices. My assumption was that if I wanted to switch which device controlled the audio pumping into my ears, I would need to manually disconnect from the first device and then manually connect to the new device. I imagined an invisible and mysterious “Bluetooth space” enveloping myself and all my devices that would not know to reroute the wireless connections between my devices unless it received my explicit say-so. I figured this had to be the case since it would presumably be a chaotic mess otherwise – everyone’s Bluetooth devices would hijack each other all the time, right? Imagine being on a crowded bus or airplane, where you can be fairly certain many people at any given moment will be fumbling with smartphones and Bluetooth listening devices. If anyone could connect to any device without permission, wouldn’t that cause problems?

Once my AirPods automatically switched devices – without my prompting – I realized that my sense of place had been wrong. Because all my devices are signed into the same Apple ID, they can work together and easily reroute my audio. Other Bluetooth devices cannot disrupt me because they are not connected to my Apple ID.

Learning that one’s mental model is wrong might be cause for a disorienting or jarring user experience, but it did not have that effect on me in this case. The surprise was pleasant because the space I was in was more connected and feature-rich than expected. The ecosystem of devices foresaw my needs, empathized with me, and accommodated me in a way that surpassed my expectations.


Sensemaking is empathizing and modeling, according to the Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model. Source.

The three devices that make up the ecosystem at hand – my AirPods, MacBook, and iPhone – are no more physically connected to each other than they were before my sense of place was altered. But now I feel like they’re connected, thanks to the experience of my AirPods automatically switching between devices. The designers at Apple empathized with my desire to move from one device to another without needing to clumsily disconnect from one device and reconnect to another. The unexpected interactions between these devices changed my mental model of how they work together, thus influencing my comprehension of the information space.


Placemaking is arranging and realizing, according to the Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model. Source.

My realization that the devices within this ecosystem are arranged in a far more connected way than I had initially expected allowed me to reorient myself in space. Now I don’t have to commit my attention to (or even physically face) any particular device, waiting and watching for notifications in case I miss them. As long as my AirPods are over my ears, I can peel my eyes from the screen(s), get up from my desk, and walk freely around my apartment without “disconnecting.” I can redraw the boundaries of the “place” I’m in to include even the device(s) that I’m not actively using. I can keep my phone out of my attention because I know that if it rings, the ring will automatically take over whatever else I might be listening to.


My experience of this device-switching feature has so far been pleasant. However, I’ve found comments from others online who have actually expressed their frustration with this feature.

Reddit users describe their poor UX with the device-switching feature. Source.

During the second half of their presentation of their model, Covert and Klyn describe four archetypes of imbalanced information architectures, each archetype overemphasizing two of the four “skill families” (empathizing, realizing, modeling, arranging) that go into creating the sense of place. I tried to identify the imbalance archetype that most closely matches the complaints about the device-switching feature that I found online, but I found this to be a challenge since each of the archetypes seemed to describe team dynamics among the designers rather than a sense of place that results from their information architectures.

The four archetypes of an imbalanced information architecture, according to the Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model. Source.

The closest fit I could identify was the “Hobby Horse” architecture, which describes information architectures that “look” good but are not actually good in reality. (Maybe “perceived as good” would be more appropriate than “look good” here, since the Bluetooth-based automatic device-switching feature I’m talking about is physically invisible.) The automatic device-switching seems “good” on paper, but to some users it is an undercooked feature that rears its head at the wrong moments and disrupts the experience, lacking the nuanced logic to prevent situations such as, for example, switching abruptly to a family member’s iPad. This was not my experience, however, so I don’t personally see this as being a Hobby Horse architecture.

In fact, I’m unsure if a user who was not embedded in the design team would have the background information necessary to know which imbalance archetype influenced any given information architecture. Is this something that I, as only a user, can identify? This is an open question I have about the Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model.

After analyzing my experience, I appreciate the Covert-Klyn IA Influences Model as a way to understand information architecture as a sense of place – as an embodied experience in a real, physical, three-dimensional environment. Tools like this will only become more important as digital experiences continue to spill out of screens and across devices (not to mention metaverses). Of course, there’s a chance that I might have applied this model entirely incorrectly; I’ll send this blog post to Abby and Dan to get their thoughts, and I’m eager to see how other information architects analyze their experiences and creations through this model. Watch this blog for follow-up discussion!

Microcontent Migration: Making the Move to New Content Opportunities

Microcontent Migration: Making the Move to New Content Opportunities. Josh Anderson, CPTC. 15-18 May 2022. STC 2022 Society for Technical Communication Conference & Expo. #STCSUmmit.

Earlier this week I enjoyed being in Rosemont, Illinois for my first in-person STC Summit conference. I presented on my team’s microcontent migration of an important company document. My slides are below. Download the PowerPoint file for all the animations.

There is no recording of the presentation. However, you can read the full proceedings paper.

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