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A Book Apart

Get to know Ethan Marcotte (again!)

Sep 07, 2023

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Black and white photo of author Ethan Marcotte, a white man wearing glasses and smiling.

Up next in our Meet the Author series, we’re getting to know Ethan Marcotte—author of You Deserve a Tech Union. He lets us in on what’s in his TBR pile, where his running ritual takes him, why he keeps a certain piece of life advice close to his heart.

A Book Apart: In your opinion, what should someone consider before starting out in web design / development?

Ethan Marcotte: I’ve written about this before, but my most valuable design tool is a question: “What if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?” It’s always helped me remember that the way I encounter one of my designs isn’t representative of everyone else’s experience. If I don’t actively work to step out of my own biases and assumptions, that can translate into real harm.

ABA: Is there anyone you’re following the work of right now, who you’d recommend others pay attention to?

EM: This will come as zero surprise to anyone who follows me, but: Ursula Franklin. If You Deserve a Tech Union does nothing more than introduce readers to Franklin’s The Real World of Technology, I’ll consider my book a massive success.

ABA: What tool, object, or ritual could you not live without to get you through a week?

EM: I mentioned this in the book, but running really has become something I build my weeks around. It’s not so much about the physical fitness, though there is some of that. But in the last few years of the pandemic, I’ve found that running alongside the river has become a real balm. If I don’t do it a few times a week, I really do miss it.

ABA: What is a piece of professional or life advice you’ve gotten that has always stuck with you?

EM: My grandmother always used to tell me to “offer praise in public, but offer criticism in private.” That one’s always stuck with me.

ABA: What are you reading right now?

EM: I’ve got two books going right now. On a friend’s recommendation, I picked up a copy of Rebecca Subar’s When to Talk and When to Fight, and I’m learning quite a bit from it. I listen to audiobooks when I go out running, and I’m currently working my way through Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!. I read the inkbook version ages ago—it was my first Pratchett, I think—and the narrators do a fantastic job bringing the book to life.

ABA: What’s the last book you read that you wanted to share with others?

EM: I just finished Rosemary Kirstein’s The Steerswoman, which I loved. It’s a cozy little (scifi? fantasy?) novel about one member of a group of semi-nomadic scholars, nearly all of them women, who travel the world to accumulate knowledge—and to share it with everyone they meet. There’s some intrigue, an uneasy friendship with a surly barbarian, and some surprisingly gripping applications of the Socratic method. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

ABA: If you could write a book in any genres, what would it be?

EM: I’ve secretly always wanted to write a fantasy novel. Sadly, I have absolutely no ear for dialogue, so that particular project is probably a few decades years off.

ABA: What’s your favorite place to read?

EM: Before the pandemic, I would’ve said Vinal Bakery or Trident, or maybe even by the second floor windows of the Cambridge Public Library’s main branch. But these days, I’m grateful to have a home with several comfy reading spots, as well as two adorable kittens.

ABA: What’s in your To Be Read pile?

EM: oh no my TBR pile is too big, this is my secret shame, don’t look at meeeeee

…yeah okay fine, let’s look at the books that are literally about to fall off my nightstand, here we go:

I’ve also got copies of Sameera Kapila’s Inclusive Design Communities and Senongo Akpem’s Cross-Cultural Design in the mix, but those are both rereads of old favorites. (If you haven’t read them, do!)

Learn more about all our authors—check out the rest of our Meet the Author series!

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