good week for science, bad for UX

February 13th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

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Leopard watching two lions

Leopard watching two lions (Photo credit: Calle v H)

these days i’m under a strange combination of feeling victorious and nostalgic over challenges that used to make me seriously irritated and frustrated. tasks that i used to do much more frequently and really hated the convoluted way in which they were implemented.

several relatives asked me to help with different problems each:

  1. I had to update online bank certificate on a 4 years old mac mini running Leopard. it turns out, the bank doesn’t generate a valid certificate on firefox 12 anymore, and newer firefox version require Snow Leopard. *sigh*. download ISO (wait few hours), too large for DVD, copy to external drive, reboot, wait an hour ’till it upgrades, move the access point because the internet stopped working, download new versions of chrome and firefox, get the darn certificate, everybody happy.
  2. I had to convince an abandoned windows XP machine to connect to DHCP router – remove all obsolete dial up ‘connections’, create lan connection, ping, doesnt work. switch cable, switch router, ping, doesnt work. open LAN properties, add TCP/IP, open TCP/IP properties, set to ‘obtain IP address and DNS automatically’, OK, close, warks! [thanks wikihow - http://www.wikihow.com/Set-up-DHCP-Network-Settings-on-Windows-XP]
  3. I had to get new government-issued certificate for access to e-taxes. even though this is a whole different registrar that under (1), i noticed the emails and instructions were word-to-word same. good news is, that means i knew what to do immediately, bad taste left because of fake competition. bonus? the user now has three certificates from two issuers on the system, all made in the same name, with the same ‘name of the certificate’ that shows in the dropdown box when logging in, making it hard to guess which is the right one for each service. and it gets even better. one of the services accepts the wrong certificate as the right one. probably someone on the other end was equally confused and matched the wrong ID. *sigh*
A FRUSTRATED DRIVER SITS THROUGH A TRAFFIC JAM...

A FRUSTRATED DRIVER SITS THROUGH A TRAFFIC JAM IN HERALD SQUARE – NARA – 548272 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so much for the ancient technologies that still don’t work as expected. but there were some bleeding edged ones as well:

  1. my fancy new fitbit force wouldn’t sync. it just wouldn’t, for almost two weeks already. reseting the tracker or reinstalling the apps wouldn’t work. but the apps themselves made the whole process ultra frustrating, because of constantly changing behavior – random messages about not finding the tracker (that never moved anywhere), that it can’t find the server (even though @support claimed they are up), that the password is wrong, really didn’t help with debugging. and not everything was fitbit’s fault – once in the process, i tried logging in with facebook, which opened an oauth window, which was fixed size, but facebook loaded some security questions which were larger, which led to loading whole facebook, which was even larger. in the end, connection happened, but the app still wanted the same darn password. the tracker is now syncing, but the final step to this was to ‘add another tracker’, instead of ‘sync tracker’.
  2. and finally, i had to connect windows 8 laptop with external bluetooth speaker. this connection worked for months, and suddenly stopped working without explanation.  clicking on the speaker icon in taskbar and on devices and settings in left bar only brought up useless information. then i noticed bluetooth was disabled altogether, and it refused to switch on. so we rebooted (clicking on ‘start’ to shutdown was stupid enough, but now you have to click on ‘settings’ to find it, which is even worse). sure enough that switched the bluetooth magically back on, but the speaker still wouldn’t play anything. it turns out, the speaker icon in the taskbar had to be ‘right clicked’ (on a touch-first OS mind you), to reveal a ‘playback devices’ option, where you can switch the default device. and even that didn’t make the music come from them! i had to click on the darn speaker again (left click), and set the app-specific volume to more than 0. why i can set volume by apps, but not the output device as well, is beyond me.

all in all, it was a good week for science :) everything magically works, and it seems there is some progress in the art of UX – these days most problems are actually solved by rebooting everything and letting the defaults kick in. ten years ago you had only 50% chance that would solve it.

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that h...

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that he is a mouse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The real reason for Apple’s new HQ ?

June 24th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (Photo credit: Kashmir Global)

Apple‘s new HQ build site opened this month, after some delays and quite some rise in costs. A lot has been written about it since Jobs gloriously unveiled the plans in Cuppertino last year, and all articles seem to gravitate towards one of the two conclusions:

  1. it’s going to be grand, beautiful, cutting edge office space for generations to look up to
  2. it’s a sign of the beginning of the decline of Apple, just like it happened to all other IT giants

Everyone agrees with the first point, but the cynical second point sounds like a stick in the mud. Sure Jobs wanted to build a monument for himself, but how can people possibly assume he was at the heights of his intellect, reinventing the whole home computing industry, and at the same his judgment clouded by a simple human sin of vanity. I don’t believe that Jobs would approve such an expensive project without a very deep and in Jobsian manner convoluted brilliant plan.

I was reading a very in-depth article covering more details of the story in Bloomberg Businessweek that exposed much more details than any before – about the builders, the challenges, the approaches. They even performed interviews with employees to shine some more light on how this spaceship is really going to be built and how it’s going to look like from inside. These interviews give a new clue about the possible real reason for the project that’s more expensive than WTC.

Supposedly all the insides will be assembled with a pre-fab modules for “bathrooms, utility closets, and banks of offices complete with carpets and window treatments”. nothing special, except that Jobs wanted high precision and attention to detail everywhere, so these pre-fab modules will be supplied by a purpose-built factories. At the same time, the building will have one of the largest private arrays of solar panels and a number of other technical advancements in construction and furnishing.

What if Apple’s new headquarters is not just a beautiful monument to the creator, efficient way to house 13000 employees and homage to HP labs and California, but also a pilot project for the next grand stage in Apple’s business expansion? After successful move-in, they will be left with a lot of public attention, a tested supply chain, solved first set of technical challenges to leapfrog one of the largest industries on the planet.

So to all you cynics out there, what do you think Jobs would do? Waste $5B and risk the success of his life work to build a building, or leverage it to expand business?

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putting instagram into perspective

May 19th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

it’s always wise to check and keep in mind data from the wider field, not just the outlier. everyone fascinated by instagram and facebook should know all these other acquisitions by heart before talking about ‘the bubble’:

Instagram’s Buyout: How Does It Measure Up?

Instagram’s billion-dollar sale to Facebook raised eyebrows yesterday, renewing cries of a new bubble. But relative to other major acquisitions of the past, how does it measure up? I crunched the numbers, pulling together data from a selection of 30 notable internet acquisitions over the last ten years, from Broadcast.

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via: waxy.org

The dangers of relying on startup steroids

May 14th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

all the entrepreneurs and VCs are drinking the same cool aid most of the time, and some get away with it. most have to come back to earth sooner or later and actually build business that provide hard value.

I find this metaphor of startup steroids very telling:

The dangers of relying on startup steroids

Startup steroids: Pinterest feels the burn of Facebook‘s Open Graph By Ben Popper on May 3, 2012 09:30 am 23Comments A packed room of more than 200 founders, VCs and internet bankers took a moment to look up from their iPhones and listen in hushed reverence as one of Silicon Valley‘s top investors explained what he looks for when choosing the…

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via: www.theverge.com

… another buzzword in the valley these days is ‘virality engineer‘. everyone want one, who will save the startup by providing the growth everyone wants to see.

it’s great that we are aware of the users and obsessed with them, but the hockey stick is the end goal. the goal of an entrepreneur should be to create a sustainably growing organization, mix of products, people and processes that ensure continuos creation of value, with or without the original entrepreneur.

ComScore: Value And CPMs Are Out Of Whack

April 12th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

Onomatopia "Whack" hitting ball. Cre...
Onomatopia "Whack" hitting ball. Cre...

Onomatopia "Whack" hitting ball. Created in Adobe Illustrator by Jeremy Kemp, 2/24/05 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the wild wild web is not a romantic place, it’s just senseless, and here’s another proof:

ComScore: Value And CPMs Are Out Of Whack

Not only are an average of 31% of display ads never even seen , but there’s little to no correlation between the CPMs sites are charging and the value they’re delivering to the advertisers – where value is defined as ads being viewed and delivered to the primary demographic target.

via: marketingland.com

as a geek i’m sad that in a world driven entirely by data and algorithms, well on the way to the promised land of perfection and frictionless and justice, such stories are a normality, rather than anomaly.

meh.

19 months from launch to $1,000,000,000 acquisition: Instagram

April 11th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Instagram

this story reminds me of MyBlogLog – acquired for $10M after 9 months in 2007, only 4 years later and 2 zero-s added:

19 months from launch to $1,000,000,000 acquisition: Instagram

On October 5th, 2010, Instagram launched My first instagram photo We’re really excited to launch our first version of Instagram today, free in the App Store. Instagram makes mobile photos fast, simple, & beautiful.

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via: swizec.com

Instagram

Instagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

when I saw this news on TV, and sitting trough the whole story, it felt like they were announcing a war or a new terrorist attack. it was not good news for anyone but those three founders.

these valuations have only market-sense, but no connection to the real world. Lot’s of friends have been talking about new bubble for over a year now, and I couldn’t agree with them. I believed that this time it’s different, that everyone is building real companies, with real value, and that exits happen only after they prove it or run out of resources.

not anymore apparently. instagrams valuation makes sense only in relation to facebook’s valuation, not in relation to the world or the users.

i am not saying that they are useless, like some bubble 1.0 ideas were – not at all. instagram figured out how to make pictures of urban reality, full of smog and with poor natural light, beautiful again. it gives a chance for new kids to live in a visually nice world again. like bauhaus did a century ago.

but that on it’s own is not worth 1/30th of world hunger.

Creative is in Detail

March 14th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

Spine of the Americanized Encylopedia Britannica
Spine of the Americanized Encylopedia Britannica

Image via Wikipedia

I spent some time last weekend creating my first e-book. I’ve done hardcopy books before, but e-pub is a new thing for me.

Converting couple thousand pages of text into a book that I can read on my iPhone was fun, and it remembered me just how much work goes into getting all the details just right. If you don’t do them, it’s not a book anymore – table of contents, named index, both cross-linked to correct pages, cover design, font sizes, headers and footers,… as a reader, i really appreciate these ‘features’, and I miss them when they are not in.

As I was programming these features (because doing it manually in some Adobe software would be just too long give the size of the book), I realized that it’s not much different than programming a web site – getting core content online is easy, but these days to actually call it a website, it has to have so many more features working hand in hand with the content, that it takes 5x longer to do it than it did 10 years ago.

and I realized it’s the same with any creative industry / work – there’s so many details in every good picture or motion picture, that a random viewer can’t really grasp, but she will nevertheless recognize ‘good’ from ‘bad’ based on them. Print is just the oldest ‘industrialized’ creative industry, and web the youngest.

This is why this is sad news – there will never be as much effort put into making such large volume so useful, as EB was for over 200 years.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Gives Up On Print Edition

Encyclopaedia Britannica will stop publishing print editions and go digital-only – a huge step for the encyclopedia which has been in print since 1768. The sales of Britannica print editions has been on the decline since 1990, when 120,000 32-volume sets were sold.

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via: mashable.com

 

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Calypso Cases

February 15th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

Didn’t get a chance to write about them earlier, but this Ljubljana-based company is truly amazing.

the little case you see on the picture bellow – it’s made of 17 different parts and materials. I was privileged to see the drawer with all the variations they’ve built for testing purposes – 3 feet long row of cases of all shapes and sizes, with one common denominator: they all fit the phone perfectly, and they are all without a sew.

Calypso Cases

I’ve been heavily testing (read: beating up) a new Calypso Case for more than a month and it’s easy to say simply put, I’m impressed. Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia the founders are hand making iPhone 4 cases which are simply perfect in fit, function and design. They’re made of conite, titanium, leather and specially designed microfabrics.

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via: joshspear.com

great work guys!

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A Whole Lot Of Reading: Social Publisher Wattpad Hits 1B User Minutes Per Month

February 14th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Image representing Wattpad as depicted in Crun...
Image representing Wattpad as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

amazing, i didn’t even know about it! if you like reading short stories, this is perfect!

i’m happily finishing my first real e-book now – 1Q84 – a 1000 pages of fantastic fiction, and was thinking about what to read next. after i’ve read all murakami’s, i’m actually in a state of void – a readers’ dilemma – should i try finding the next author, and risk a few months of agony of trying different ones, or should I go read Proust‘s In search of lost time, and have guaranteed a few months of agony? I think i’ll try with short stories for a while :)

A Whole Lot Of Reading: Social Publisher Wattpad Hits 1B User Minutes Per Month

Wattpad, a Union Square Ventures-backed platform for sharing stories and interacting with writers, has been growing steadily, and it hit a nice milestone in January – during that month, users spent more than 1 billion minutes on the service.

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via: techcrunch.com

now, if only they had better recommendation engine… hm hm hm… :)

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