User Interfaces Need To Evolve

This post titled Don’t Mimic Real-World Interfaces really resonated with me and reminded me of a post that I had done a while ago titled Evolution Of The Mobile Experience.

There have always been those few apps that insist on looking like their physical, real world, equivalent. Calculator apps, date books, calendars, note taking apps, “stickies” — you know what I am talking about. Despite there being better options out there, better ways of displaying the data, designers stick with the known representation of the tool.

Now, though, Apple is taking it too far.

If you have seen any of the screenshots linked across the web about the new iCal interface you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t seen those, iCal is looking a lot like it does on the iPad right now in Lion’s developer preview. It’s ugly, and we should be way past this style by now.

Ugly and harder to use than it should be. Designers need to focus on how to allow the user to fluidly access and manipulate their data not slavishly stick to the limitations of physical items.

Another dimension of this is how poorly developers/designers have approached the touch interface. The industry seems to be mired in button-driven-pull-a-menu-to-do-anything paradigm. Interfaces really need to take better advantage of long-tap context options and gestures to make the interactions more fluid. This is one of the things that drives me bonkers about the iPad – it is so modal; I have to close one app to do something in another. I guess I have gotten used to how easy it is in Android to just share data between apps without having to change apps.

Speaking of Android apps, I think that Feedly is the first really usable news reader that I have encountered on Android. I subscribe to a lot of feeds and that seems to be the death of most readers on mobile devices because the developers thought it would be a good idea to download all your feed updates at once. This typically results in the app going away for a long time. Feedly does it more on demand. And they are clever about using gestures in the app – swipe down and to the left and I have marked that page of articles read and moved on to the next. Brilliant. Much better than ‘pull menu, select mark read, select next page, close menu’ annoyance of other apps.

Why Are Downtown Cincinnati Bloggers So Bitter?

I spent a little time this morning browsing the blogs of people who live in downtown Cincinnati. After about 10 minutes I had to stop. Why do they all seem so bitter and angry? On one hand, they spent a fair amount of time talking about how great it is to live downtown, then turn and belittle people who come down from the (evil) suburbs to partake of the urban greatness. Leaves me wondering why I should hang out downtown with such cliquish bitter crowd.

They also seem to love to hate on people who have chosen to live in the ‘burbs (apparently all they we do is drive SUVs and go to the mall). We have nothing entertaining to do, nothing interesting to eat and nothing worthy to see. Look, downtown folks, it is all about choices; I made mine and you made yours – it doesn’t make either one of us right or wrong.

Does the anger and bitterness come from a perceived lack of awe at the downtown living decision? Should there be weekly articles in the local press about how wonderful the people who live downtown are? Do they not feel vindicated by their decision, don’t feel revered enough that they chose to live downtown? And where is the line? I am sure it exists. That is, the line beyond which you are no longer ‘downtown’ enough to be part of the in-crowd. Yikes, now I am doing it to. Downtown folks, here is what I have for you: respect. Care to share?

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to live downtown; especially if I worked downtown. But I don’t. I work in the evil suburbs (Blue Ash) and live in the even more evil exurbs (Union Township). I enjoy being able to commute to work on my Vespa. I enjoy being a few miles from the fantastic Little Miami Bike trail; my wife and I love to cycle down to Loveland for brunch on sunny Sundays. I am sure I enjoy a pint at the Brazenhead just as much as I would at the Lackman. I like that my daughter has a fantastic school system to attend. I enjoy having the largest YMCA in the country a few mile from my home. I enjoy not being able to see my neighbor’s houses. I enjoy having a large vegetable garden that feeds us through part of the year. Besides, looking at what condos are going for downtown I would pay about twice as much for what amounts to a two bedroom apartment as I paid for my three bedroom house on five acres of land here in the heart of evil-dom.

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Aberrant Behavior Online vs Real Life

I’ve been thinking further about my previous post on social media. In particular how some people behave very differently online that they do in person. Looking back at the example from my previous post, I have my doubts that the parties involved would have behaved the same if the online communication channel wasn’t available. In the one case, would a person exchange physical postal mail for months and then fire off a grudging missive? Probably not. Or they would skip right to the missive. It is probably the same thinking that motivates spammers – if they had to physically address and postal mail letters hawking boner pills and fake watches they likely wouldn’t. Put the ability to electronically send this same junk to thousands at a push of a button is just too easy.

Another example that comes to mind is a former co-worker who began following me on Twitter and Facebook. He stands as the only person (so far) that I have had to ban/block online because of continual obnoxious behavior. In real life he is a likable enough guy and very opinionated. He is ultra-right wing, but claims to be a Libertarian. I always suspected that this was just cover so that he could support the most radical aspects of the Republican agenda but claim ‘I’m not one of them’ when they get caught in their inevitable lies and corruption.

As I said, in person he was fine; online it was just a constant torrent of right wing talking points and Fox News propaganda and spin. The really sad thing was, he couldn’t defend or explain any of it – only parrot the shout radio spew. I debated him a few times and buried him every single time because there were no facts or logic behind his diatribes. This just made him even more radical. Not liking his online shellacking; he began posting lies/distortions about me and what I said in other ‘safe’ forums where he knew he would get no challenge from his other right wing buddies. When he made some pretty overtly racist statements on my Facebook wall, I was done. It would have been one thing if there was some intelligent debate or discussion. Instead this was just tedious, willfully ignorant, offensive, poorly reasoned noise on his part. Banned.

If you need further examples of online bad behavior take a look at the sewer that is the comment section on most posts on the Cincinnati Enquirer site. Maybe I have too much faith in humanity, but I am fairly certain that in real life a person would react with ‘they probably had it coming’ upon hearing that a person had died in a car accident – yet you see this sort of response almost daily on that site. You’ll also see the full regurgitation of the shout radio sloganeering in response to any news posting with even a hint of politics in it.

I guess the anonymizing effect of being online seduces some into the most outrageous behavior. Of course this effect also exists offline as well. As I have pointed out: “there is never a line for the toilet at the public pool”. Yes, people will do the pretty obnoxious things in public if they think they stand a chance of getting away with it – least of which is peeing in a public swimming pool.

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Thoughts On Social Media And The Real World

On a recent trip I began reflecting on social media and being social ‘in the real world’. What follows is a somewhat rambling capture of those thoughts.

While there are varying degrees of concern that people who habitually play violent video games are more inclined to violence, there is no similar concern that people who IM or update Facebook constantly are going to become more loquacious and gregarious in real life. In fact it is the opposite that seems to be the case – the IMers tend to be withdrawn and somewhat socially inept. Why is this?

Both LinkedIn and Facebook attract people who don’t really understand the intent of social media but who seem to just be compulsive list makers or collectors. My LinkedIn inbox constantly sees requests from vendors who apparently are just dumping their contact lists into LinkedIn and requesting to network. Sorry, no. I am pretty strict in LinkedIn at only accepting connections for people I have actually met and could provide a recommendation for (isn’t that the intent of LinkedIn anyway?). Facebook hoarders seem to just send out friend requests to everyone who share a common school or workplace or surname. Again, I only ‘friend’ people I have actually met and care to hear from. I recently got a friend request from a co-worker who in real life won’t look me in the eye or respond when I greet them in the hallway. Anti-social in real life, but what to be my friend online? No thanks. It is also kind of creepy to get monthly friend requests from people I have never met – what do they want? And why don’t they get the message.

In recent years I have had old acquaintances approach me via social media and my blog. In most cases, it works out very amicably and it is nice to catch up with the individual. In other cases, it seems to start out fine and then goes amiss. A few examples:

A former co-worker that I hadn’t heard from in probably a decade left a comment on my blog about catching up. I responded in kind and exchanged several emails with her about the interval between our last contact. She announced that she was going to be in town and wanted to meet up with me and another co-worker for lunch. We met and had a nice conversation. I sent a followup email and got a very terse response. A few weeks after that, she deleted her email account, changed her LinkedIn status to ‘peon’ and moved away, never to be heard from again. What was the point of that whole episode?

In another case, a woman that I went out with briefly in college contacted me via LinkedIn. She seemed kind of depressed at having just lost her job (and not having luck finding a new one) and seemed to want to connect with the past for some reason. We emailed back and forth with me trying to be supportive and not getting too entangled in her venomous tirades against being single, jobless and largely friendless. Then, a few days before February 14th, I got a scathing email missive from her about how I ruined her life by not sending her flowers for Valentine’s Day when I was in college. Really? Not that I was living off of about $30 a week and eating meals out of a vending machine. If I had the money to spare, I probably would have – but I didn’t, so I couldn’t. After the VD missive, no further word from her. Was that really the purpose of contacting me? To blame me for every bad thing that has happened to her in the last two decades? I don’t get it. I am no saint, but I also don’t think I have that kind of influence over people or events.

The last example happened on Facebook. Another woman I dated in college sent me a friend request that I accepted. After the usual quick history exchanges, we would regularly comment on each others postings on Facebook as we share a number of common interests and a similar sense of humor. This went on for about a year, then suddenly not only did she unfriend me, but banned me in FB. The only reason that I can think of is because I told her (via a private message) that she looked great in her new profile photo, but that quality of the photo was low. Seriously? What kind of vanity or insecurity does that reveal? I would have never thought that paying someone a compliment would create that sort of response. But as the previous examples show, people can behave erratically online as in real life. Disappear here, indeed.

When I travel, I like to try to connect with fellow travelers. Trains seem to be an excellent ‘social medium’ for these conversations. I’ve had some great conversations with folks from Uruguay, Chile, New Zealand, and Wales (to name a few) to pass the time while on the rails. But sometimes, there is a bit of a disconnect. On a recent trip, two women sat down next to my wife, daughter and I on a very full train. They were speaking English and the conversation I was having with my daughter made it clear that we shared a common language. The older of the two women didn’t say a word to us, sat down, crossed her arms and stared off into space. The younger one sat across the aisle furiously updating Facebook, sending emails and reviewing photos on her phone. After about an hour of silence I asked her where she was from and she looked at me in utter surprise that I had spoken to her. Again, social online, deer-in-the-headlights in real life. After a while, I let her to most of the talking about what she had been doing in Spain since August (apparently not a lot).

Photography is another shared interest that has led to some real life encounters. I have been using Flickr for years and at one time there was a very active ‘Living In Cincinnati‘ group that would occasionally have meetups for fun and photo ops. One member of the group even arranged for some of group members to have their photos exhibited at a local coffee shop (me included!). I actually wound up selling one of my prints because of the exhibit. My observation about photographers in the digital age: the ones who think they are really good aren’t; the ones who really enjoy taking and sharing images are a delight to hang out with. I’ll take laid-back and playful to the ‘You can tell I am an awesome photographer because I have a $5K camera that I never take out of auto-mode’ and ‘I spend hours in Photoshop tricking up an image because I don’t know what composition is’ annoyances. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have the time to visit/contribute to Flickr as much as I did previously. From what I can tell, the LiC core members seem to have moved on as well as there is little or no activity on the group RSS feed.

I am an avid Vespa rider and participate in both the local and international scooter discussion sites. These are a great way to keep in touch with folks that you might only see a handful of times a year at a scooter rally. These are really not much more than old-school bulletin board systems and perhaps the simplicity of it is what makes it work so well. Maybe someone will come up with a social media site for riders – Scootr, perhaps?

One thing I observed in Spain is that Spanish women will look you in the eye when they walk down the street. I like that. Beats the ‘hundred yard stare’ that most American women sport. Dunno, somehow it makes them seem more alive and engaged rather than always merely on their way somewhere. This made me think of what could be the future of social media/real world interactions. What if there was an augmented reality application like Layar, but people focused rather than building focused. So you could hold your phone up in a crowd and using face recognition or some sort of near field technology you would get an overlay of the interests, language, etc of the people in the crowd. This would be a cool way of tying online social profile to real life interactions. I’d buy that app!

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Changing Online Channels

Yesterday, while prepping the Thanksgiving meal, I began thinking about how I interact online has changed over the years. In the early days, it was primarily read-only consumption of Usenet groups and BBS forums (this was before spammers made these outlet unusable). Then AOL opened up its walled garden version of the Internet with slightly easier, but in many ways more-cumbersome access. AOL also served much the same function that Facebook does today – a place where everyone went to find/connect with people.

I quickly grew tired of AOL spam and set out to get my own dial up Internet connection through This made FTP and gopher much more workable and provided my first non-corporate Internet email address. At some point the guys who were running lost their minds and got greedy so I dumped them an went with a national provider. Things then evolved from dialup to ISDN (!) and eventually to DSL.

Well, that is the connectivity side of the story. Now for the interaction side. In the beginning, I was also very careful to keep my name off of the Internet. Around 2005, I decided to try out this ‘blogging’ thing that had been going on for a few years.

The original intent of the blog site was to answer the question that I was getting more frequently regarding what I was doing, reading, listening to, etc. The Blogger site had very limited customization, but I customized it as best as I could. Then one day Google decided that to lock my blog for no reason and with no explanation. Shortly thereafter, I when with the self-hosted site that I use now.

As is typical, I suppose, blog postings were a mix of re-posted links with commentary and longer essays and/or rants on various topics of interest (to me anyway). I created a Facebook account about five years ago and didn’t do much with it until the last 18 months or so. Most of my online ‘presence’ was via the blog. I created a Twitter account in 2007 and experimented a bit with that off and on. I also had a Jaiku account and tended to use that more as it had a better interface (and a mobile client).

Of late, I have noticed that my online channels have begun to shift (or at least stratify). Links that I would normally post on the blog, I put into Facebook. Links that I would normally share via email, I began putting into Twitter. Email is for much more directed communications. I have never been much of an IM person. The blog is seeing fewer updates as a consequence – which may be for the better. My plan going forward is to create longer ‘essay’ posts for the blog and shift more of the straight link sharing via Facebook and Twitter.

I have been toying with the idea of using things like Pixelpipe to update multiple channels at one time but that almost seems a bit too indiscriminate, like a form of spamming. Rockmelt promises to make it easer to share on Facebook and Twitter in particular, but I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet to know what it can do.

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Slow Reading

As the internet has become more and more mainstream, I often wondered if there my be some sort of impact to the way that people absorb data. Apparently, there are some that are of the opinion that the internet is having a pronounced impact on reading habits. The reaction to this is a ‘slow reading’ movement.

So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual tidbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, “we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion”.

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Easy Fix For Postal Woes

I was listening to a report on the radio the other morning about how postal rates in the US are going to increase and how this was going to cause issues for some people. I had to laugh. To me it seemed that if they did it right, they could solve two problems at once.

The obvious solution to me was to eliminate the ridiculously cheap ‘bulk rate’ (aka corporate welfare) that businesses have enjoyed and abused for years. Bring this to parity with the ‘first class’ postage rate that the private citizens that fund the postal service have to pay. The net effect of this should be two fold: 1) less junk mail being sent out 2) less junk mail being thrown away. Those who wish to continue to send me 4 catalogs a month from which I have never ordered a single thing may continue to do so — only now paying their fair share.

And while we are at it, require all those tax-dodging corporations who have incorporated offshore to pay international rates for all of their domestic mailings. After all, for tax purposes they are a ‘foreign’ company, they should be for postal purposes as well.

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Is Reason Always Right?

Several years ago I committed to myself to try to trust my intuition more and (perhaps with a bit of bias) I would say that commitment has served me well. This essay from The Guardian explores the topic a bit more.

Albert Camus said that the body is as good a judge as the mind. We know what he means. When we meet someone for the first time the whole of us responds to that person. Later the mind may reflect on the encounter and think that they were likeable, or not, but that first meeting will be an important element in whether we want to follow up the relationship or not. Yet, though there is a great truth in what Camus said, I believe that in the end the mind must be the final judge. The body, with its instinctual response, can orientate the mind in a particular direction or nudge it in another one if it feels it is going wrong, but in the end the mind must decide, using rational criteria.

The same point can be made in relation to what is called conscience. Some people think of conscience as an inner voice making them feel guilty, or telling them what to do. But conscience, as Thomas Aquinas said, is the mind making moral judgements. It is a matter of the mind, not any inner voice. In short it is the considered judgment we make when we weigh up all the pros and cons in the light of our values and overall perspective on life. This is not to say that guilty feelings, or intuitions are unimportant. They are. Sometimes they can stop the mind going down a wrong track altogether. When we make a rational decision it is very good to take into account the totality of what we are feeling. But in the end we must try to think as rationally as possible.

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Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?

So maybe the recent crazy for anti-bacterial everything is not necessarily a good thing? From Science Daily:

Exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior, according to research presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

What next, the discovery of midichlorians and their impact?

Also previously Cut Down On Infections By Cutting Down On Antibiotics

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Gestural Interfaces – Bad For Usability?

Question is whether this just seems awkward because it is a new way of doing things or whether it is truly a bad thing. In any case, the iPad certainly takes it’s knocks in this discussion:

In a recent column for Interactions (reference 2) Norman pointed out that the rush to develop gestural interfaces – “natural” they are sometimes called – well-tested and understood standards of interaction design were being overthrown, ignored, and violated. Yes, new technologies require new methods, but the refusal to follow well-tested, well-established principles leads to usability disaster.

Recently, Raluca Budui and Hoa Loranger from the Nielsen Norman group performed usability tests on Apple’s iPad (reference 1), reaching much the same conclusion. The new applications for gestural control in smart cellphones (notably the iPhone and the Android) and the coming arrival of larger screen devices built upon gestural operating systems (starting with Apple’s iPad) promise even more opportunities for well-intended developers to screw things up. Nielsen put it this way: “The first crop of iPad apps revived memories of Web designs from 1993, when Mosaic first introduced the image map that made it possible for any part of any picture to become a UI element. As a result, graphic designers went wild: anything they could draw could be a UI, whether it made sense or not. It’s the same with iPad apps: anything you can show and touch can be a UI on this device. There are no standards and no expectations.”

Why are we having trouble? Several reasons:

· The lack of established guidelines for gestural control

· The misguided insistence by companies (e.g., Apple and Google) to ignore established conventions and establish ill-conceived new ones.

· The developer community’s apparent ignorance of the long history and many findings of HCI research which results in their feeling of empowerment to unleash untested and unproven creative efforts upon the unwitting public.

After cataloging some of the issues with gestural interfaces in a bit more detail, the article attempts to conclude on a positive note on the ‘promise’ of GI. It comes off a bit mixed (if not mildly scolding):

The new devices are also fun to use: gestures add a welcome feeling of activity to the otherwise joyless ones of pointing and clicking.

But the lack of consistency, inability to discover operations, coupled with the ease of accidentally triggering actions from which there is no recovery threatens the viability of these systems.

We urgently need to return to our basics, developing usability guidelines for these systems that are based upon solid principles of interaction design, not on the whims of the company human interface guidelines and arbitrary ideas of developers.

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“What If The Tea Party Was Black?”

I had to pass along this absolutely brilliant posting that should shine a bright light exposing the hypocrisy and idiocy of the (Fox sponsored) tea tantrum ‘movement’.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

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In discussing location-based sites like foursquare, britekite and the like I coined the term ‘incentivores’ — people who live to chase after virtual incentives (badges, titles) by participating in social web sites. I suppose this could just as easily apply to coupon chasers and the like.

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Cut Down On Infections By Cutting Down On Antibiotics?

In Norway, they have founds that by cutting down on antibiotics, they can reduce serious infections and even deaths by infections. Counterintuitive, but effective:

Aker University Hospital is a dingy place to heal. The floors are streaked and scratched. A light layer of dust coats the blood pressure monitors. A faint stench of urine and bleach wafts from a pile of soiled bedsheets dropped in a corner.
Look closer, however, at a microscopic level, and this place is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia last year, soaring virtually unchecked.
The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs.
Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway’s public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

This is, of course, not to say that antibiotics themselves are evil. It does, however, point to using anything in moderation and with a clear assessment of the consequences of over use.

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Anniversary Irony

Today is the 7th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Bet you won’t hear the Tea Tantrum people raving about how many trillions and trillions of dollars have been spent there. Well, at least in Iraq and Afghanistan they have free, universal health care paid for by US tax payer dollars. The irony is, there it is called ‘Democracy’ here the right condemns it as ‘Socialism’ (without understanding what either of those words mean).

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The Death Of Uncool

Interesting thoughts from Brian Eno on the impact art and culture diversity and availability is having on society. I share his hope that this will translate into advances in politics and other attitudes as well.

We’re living in a stylistic tropics. There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness.

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SuperFreakonomics Gets It SuperFreaking Wrong

Apparently, in their haste to produce an even more controversial followup to the first book, the authors of Freakonomics get the facts colossally wrong (from the New Yorker):

Given their emphasis on cold, hard numbers, it’s noteworthy that Levitt and Dubner ignore what are, by now, whole libraries’ worth of data on global warming. Indeed, just about everything they have to say on the topic is, factually speaking, wrong. Among the many matters they misrepresent are: the significance of carbon emissions as a climate-forcing agent, the mechanics of climate modeling, the temperature record of the past decade, and the climate history of the past several hundred thousand years. Raymond T. Pierrehumbert is a climatologist who, like Levitt, teaches at the University of Chicago. In a particularly scathing critique, he composed an open letter to Levitt, which he posted on the blog RealClimate.

“The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them,” he observes. “The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking.” Pierrehumbert carefully dissects one of the arguments that Levitt and Dubner seem to subscribe to—that solar cells, because they are dark, actually contribute to global warming—and shows it to be fallacious. “Really simple arithmetic, which you could not be bothered to do, would have been enough to tell you,” he writes, that this claim “is complete and utter nonsense.”

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Interesting Smartphone UI from Nokia

I thought this was an interesting clip showing a smartphone UI ‘concept’ that “Puts the ‘Friend’ in User-Friendly“.

Though the implementation has a slightly too childish feel to appeal to many potential users, it does expose the current crop of Apple, Palm, Nokia and Android UIs as catering to the look-and-feel of glossy futuristic, nay sci-fi-esque gadgets. And while that’s resulted in some sleek technology, it may be missing out on the softer, more human side of human-gadget interactions, rather than “putting people first…”

Food for thought, but I think it also needs to be balanced with the lessons learned from the VRML/Virtual World interfaces that cropped up in the 90s: Cute to look at, frustrating to use and ultimately limited in what can be expressed in a purely visual interface metaphor.

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Credit Cards and Gas Prices

After listening to the rapacious credit card industry whine and cry and hew over the prospect of some regulation that will reel them back from their semi-usarous ways, I was struck by a thought. One so obvious that I don’t know why there is no media discussion of it.

During the artificial price spike in gas last Spring and Summer, pundits were going on about how ‘high gas prices are a good thing’ because they change consumer behavior. By the same logic, why aren’t high credit card interest rates a good thing, because they should prevent consumers from over spending? If credit card companies what to react to regulation buy jacking up rates and fees, so be it. There will always be one or two who won’t and that is were consumers will take their business.

Of course, credit card companies have already proven that they don’t operate on a rational basis anyway. Personal example: I had a credit card with CapitalOne for over 20 years, used it regularly, paid it off every month with great consistency. My reward for that was that they first changed my fixed rate to a variable rate (effectively doubling it), then doubled it again while simultaneously shortening the payment period to 15 days. All of these changes were though no actions of my own. When I called a CapitalOne rep to ask why the changes were made the response was ‘I am sure it was done for a good reason’. When I pressed the matter, her supervisor basically said ‘if you disagree with the changes you can always stop using your card — would you like me to cancel it now for you?’ Thank you for your years of patronage, shall I poke your other eye out, now?

To answer my own question, the reason why high credit card rates won’t have the same effect is because the impact is deferred. The purchase is made and the balance goes up on next month’s bill, with very little friction. However, at the pump, it is very real as you watch the numbers click by for you $100 fuel up — do that twice a week and it really drives it home.

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