When smart people get important things really wrong

Technology is but one of the tools to potentially solve a problem:

What’s hard is synthesis – learning to use technology as part of well-designed sociotechnical solutions. These solutions sometimes require profound advances in technology. But they virtually always require people to build complex, multifunctional teams that work with and learn from the people the technology is supposed to benefit.

Source: The worst thing I read this year, and what it taught me… or Can we design sociotechnical systems that don’t suck? | … My heart’s in Accra

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Design for Time Well Spent

I’ve actually ended up doing quite a few on this list thanks to the limited storage and diminishing battery capacity on my iPhone 5s:

9 MINDFULNESS TIPS

How can we live more mindfully with technology today?

On iPhone:

  1. Create a Tools-Only Home Screen
    Limit your home screen to the top 4-6 tools you use frequently to get things done. Move all other apps off the first page and into folders.
  2. Open Other Apps by Typing
    Typing filters out unconscious choices while keeping conscious ones. Open apps by typing their name.
  3. Keep Only Two Pages of Apps
    With six pages of apps, we find ourselves swiping back and forth through them mindlessly. Keep to two pages, the first with tools and the other with folders.
  4. Turn Off Notifications, Except from People
    Only get notifications when people want your attention, not businesses or machines.
  5. Keep the M&M’s, but Hide the Wrappers
    Colorful icons are designed to trigger us to use apps unconsciously. Put these on the second or third page inside folders, and open them by typing instead.
  6. Stop Leaky Interactions
    Set your Alarm or Camera without unlocking your phone so you get kicked out automaticaly afterwards. Swipe up on the lock screen to quickly access.
  7. Reduce Phantom Buzzes with Custom Vibrations
    Create your own unambiguous vibration pattern to distinguish between when people need you vs. a machine. (Go to Settings > Notifications > Messages > Sounds > Vibration > Create New)
  8. Buy a Travel Alarm Clock and Charge Outside the Bedroom
    Waking up to check our phone sets our day off to a bad start. Get a separate alarm clock and leave your phone outside to charge.
  9. Know your Bottomless Bowls and Slot Machines
    Know which apps are bottomless bowls (trapdoors) and slot machines (constant checking) for you. Move them off the first page of apps.

Source: Design for Time Well Spent

Typography for enhanced safety

These are particularly interesting:

NASA’s List of Design Recommendations

  1. Sans-serif fonts are usually more legible than fonts with serifs.

  2. Avoid using a font that has characters that are too similar to one another, as this will reduce the legibility of the print.

  3. Avoid using dot matrix print for critical flight-deck documentation.

  4. Long chunks of text should be set in lower case.

  5. If upper case is required, the first letter of the word should be made larger in order to enhance the legibility of the word.

  6. When specifying font height, or accessing graphs to determine the size of a lower-case character, the distinction between “x” height and overall size should be made.

  7. As a general recommendation, the “x” height of a font used for important flight-deck documentation should not be below 0.10 inch.

  8. The recommended height-to-width ratio of a font that is viewed in front of the observer is 5:3.

  9. The vertical spacing between lines should not be smaller than 25–33% of the overall size of the font.

  10. The horizontal spacing between characters should be 25% of the overall size and not less than one stroke width.

  11. Avoid using long strings of text set in italics.

  12. Use primarily one or two typefaces for emphasis.

  13. Use black characters over a white background for most cockpit documentation.

  14. Avoid using white characters over a black background in normal line operations. However, if this is desired:

    1. Use minimum amount of text.
    2. Use relatively large typesize.
    3. Use sans-serif to minimize the loss of legibility.
  15. Black over white or yellow are recommended for cockpit documentation.

  16. Avoid using black over dark red, green, and blue.

  17. Use anti-glare plastic to laminate documents.

  18. Ensure that the quality of the print and the paper is well above normal standards. Poor quality of the print will effect legibility and readability.

  19. The designer must assess the age groups of the pilots that will be using the documentation, and take a very conservative approach in assessing information obtained from graphs and data books.

Source: How Typography Can Save Your Life – ProPublica

Understanding “iPhone is synced with another iTunes Library. Do you want to erase this iPhone and sync with this iTunes Library” Message

That’s a relief, but they really ought to reword it now that we are exclusively on iOS devices:

What it actually does: Erase the iTunes media only, nothing else is erased

For example, if you have a large music library on the iPhone and click on the Erase and Sync button, that music library will instantly vanish, but all of your contacts, photos, apps, customizations, and other media remains untouched on the iPhone. Only the music and iTunes content will disappear. That means the entire large music library will vanish, but nothing else will.

Source: Understanding “iPhone is synced with another iTunes Library. Do you want to erase this iPhone and sync with this iTunes Library” Message

Messaging app wars – a redux of the browser wars

Messaging apps are definitely posing a challenge to mobile OSes, particularly in countries where open web access is limited and consequentially browsers have lower utility. However, this time around the competing platforms are working on incompatible standards unlike the browsers in the 90s which largely adhered to some form of specs. Plus the user bases have a lot more zeroes to them and are heavily entrenched.

It also makes it pretty clear why Facebook has been doubling down on Messenger and their acquisition of Whatsapp. Possibly a matter of time before the two start talking to each other. The really interesting things will happen if they ever start talking to other messaging platforms.

Link: Dan Grover | Bots won’t replace apps. Better apps will replace apps.

Power efficiency of AlphaGo’s victory

So another decade maybe before it achieves power parity?

Lee Sedol used about 20 Watts of power to operate. By contrast, AlphaGo runs on a whopping 1920 CPUs and another 280 GPUs for an estimated power consumption of approximately 1 MW (200 W per CPU and 200 W per GPU). That’s 50,000 times as much power as the amount of power that Lee Sedol’s brain uses and the two are not quite evenly matched but it is close enough to use for comparison.

Source: Another Way Of Looking At Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo · Jacques Mattheij

Reliving the hostel life through startups

If you really miss hostel life after graduation, just work at a startup I guess.

How can you get hundreds of people to work in sales and marketing for the lowest possible wages? One way is to hire people who are right out of college and make work seem fun. You give them free beer and foosball tables. You decorate the place like a cross between a kindergarten and a frat house. You throw parties. Do that, and you can find an endless supply of bros who will toil away in the spider monkey room for $35,000 a year.

On top of the fun stuff you create a mythology that attempts to make the work seem meaningful. Supposedly millennials don’t care so much about money, but they’re very motivated by a sense of mission. So, you give them a mission. You tell your employees how special they are and how lucky they are to be here. You tell them that it’s harder to get a job here than to get into Harvard and that because of their superpowers they have been selected to work on a very important mission to change the world. You make a team logo. You give everyone a hat and a T-shirt. You make up a culture code and talk about creating a company that everyone can love. You dangle the prospect that some might get rich.

Source: My Year in Startup Hell at Hubspot – Fortune