Gathering in the Time of Covid-19

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A series of white circles 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter, spaced 8 feet (2.4 m) apart, are painted on the grass at Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the circles were in use on Memorial Day. Edited version with highlights suppressed.

I am not a health professional, but I’ve been charged with making health policy for my household that affects all of us. Yeah, you, too?

There’s still so much we don’t know about this virus. But you don’t have to be an expert to know that humans need some amount of in-person social interactions for mental and emotional health. After months of sheltering and with no clear recovery in sight, fatigue is real. We need to find a way forward that sustains us in all the ways that matter.

I made this Safer Gatherings tool for my family to help us make consistent choices as a household. As such, it is meant for families, especially those with tweens and teens, circumstantial households (e.g., Craigslist roommates), two-family pods, and any groups that need to align on Covid-19 risk tolerance.

The tool consists of a house agreement template and a risk assessment worksheet. The PDF also includes two examples.

A few remarks:

  • The tool is primarily a framework for thinking about and discussing risk — the risks of individual events and the overall risk of the cumulative choices of household members over time.
  • There’s nothing magical about the scoring. The risk matrixes are not weighted. Since we don’t know which factors contribute most significantly to transmission, it treats them all the same.
  • The tool has nothing to say about the value or importance of a backyard BBQ, graduation party, or a mass demonstration. Only you can determine which benefits are worth the risks for you and your household.

As you weigh the risks and value of any gathering, also consider these questions and practices:

  • Are any attendees or household members of attendees immunocompromised or at higher risk for Covid-19 complications? Think through the 2nd- and 3rd-degree risks of your gathering on extended members of your community.
  • Walk through what-ifs. For everyone, but especially for teenagers, think/talk through what to do if the safety parameters of the event change on-the-fly. For example, it starts raining, or one or more attendees engages in risky behavior.
  • Modulate the social cadence for your household. Pay attention to data and emerging conditions, and adjust your rhythm. Start slow.
  • Maintain a contact diary. Keep track of who you interacted with, when, and where to help determine who to notify if you get sick or are exposed.

Take good care out there.

Special thanks to Rebecca Petzel for her encouragement and thought partnership, and to Eveline Shen, Eugene Eric Kim, Sarra Ziari, Krista Colletti, Cari Croghan, and Natasha Black for their input and advice.

Photo: Memorial Day 2020 – San Francisco Under Quarantine. By Christopher Michel from San Francisco, USA / CC BY



DIY Strategy / Culture v2.0 — Available Now!

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After many months of hard work, I am pleased to announce version 2.0 of the DIY Strategy / Culture toolkits, available now! My design partner, Amy Wu of Duende, and I have done a thorough update of all of the toolkits based on feedback from many of you as well as lessons learned from using them ourselves.

The goal of these toolkits is to help anyone and everyone get better at doing strategy and culture work for their groups, regardless of experience or role. We’ve put these toolkits into the public domain in order to support this goal. In this vein, it’s been humbling and gratifying to see these tools spread and to hear stories about how you’re using them, what you’re learning, and how we might make them better.

The new toolkits are cleaner and clearer overall. We’ve also updated the web pages about them, offering tips and tricks, making it easier to purchase, and even including a new video.

Changes include:

  • Re-designing the paper toolkits to make them more sticky note-friendly and to emphasize certain design elements. Plus, they’re now in color!
  • Updating all of the instructions, including best practices for many of the toolkits
  • The Mindset Cards now come with printed (color!) instructions and a box
  • A new toolkit for developing group Working Agreements
  • Convenient links to buy printed versions of all of our toolkits via Duende. (But remember, you can download them for free!)

These tools were modeled after balance bikes. Using them repeatedly should help you strengthen your collaboration muscles. In this vein, we’re experimenting with other ways to support the practice of using these tools.

For example, Amy and I created a self-guided, online video tutorial that walks you through using the Goals + Success Spectrum.

I’m also offering online peer coaching for the Goals + Success Spectrum starting in September. (Registration deadline is August 10, 2018.) It’s based on several pilots I ran earlier this year.

I am humbled by all the things we’ve learned about these toolkits from all of you, as well as the growing word of mouth about these tools. Please continue to share with folks and groups who might benefit from them, and please continue to share stories with us about how you’re using them!

Originally published on July 25, 2018 on Faster Than 20.


Trellisto Saves Your Settings

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We’ve just released an update to Trellisto, our Chrome extension that lets you sort and filter by list name on your Cards page.

Version 1.1.0 auto-saves your Trellisto sort/filter settings so that you can see changes to your cards and boards when you reload your Cards page without having to reselect your lists. You can also save your favorite settings.

In my own practice, I use two views almost exclusively:

  • Sort by list name and filter On Deck, In Progress, and Done.
    I use this view every morning to see what’s still on deck this week and what I have in progress today.
  • Sort by board and filter Done.
    At the end of the week, I review the work done (story points totals) for each project/board.

Being able to save settings has made Trellisto much easier for me to use, so I’m excited to share this update with you.

Have You Tried Trellisto?

We’d love to hear what you think—write us at, or use the Feedback link in the extension!

Feb. 24, 2017 – Update: Version 1.1.2 released. Bug fixes:

  • Clicking “Use Favorite” button when no favorite settings had been saved would break filter list. “Use Favorite” button is now hidden if there are no saved settings.
  • List name case-sensitivity was inconsistently handled resulting in orphaned cards that could not be filtered. Filters are now consistently case-insensitive, e.g., Backlog and BACKLOG are treated as the same filter.

Afterword(s & design)

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After nine years, I’m sunsetting AMY WU words & design. I had a good run under the name—turned out solid work, made some money, had fun.

Hatched in 2006, words & design expressed the breadth of my services and functional approach to design, with an understated directness, like a well-tailored shirt. The wordmark itself in Times New Roman and Helvetica was revised once, when I went back to my maiden name following divorce, but the website design remained unchanged from its 2007 launch until October 2015.

As my focus evolved, however, words & design seemed to resist holding the meeting facilitation and collaboration work I was growing into, and I began to imagine a shift to something different. The new identity, Duende, emerged last year (its creation will be the subject of another post), and now it’s time to close the words & design chapter.

The scant content on the former blog has moved here, and I’m in the process of building out the portfolio. This site,, will be a professional landing page and personal platform for sharing my own creative explorations. I never managed to get into a blogging rhythm with words & design, but I’m making a change starting today. Stay tuned!

Originally published on February 16, 2015 on