Hello Friday you weekend cuddling, third best day of the week. Another week draws to a close so let’s have a look back at some things I read on the Internet this week. Last week I mentioned how my Twitter favourites i.e. how I capture the vast majority of the things I read, show an interesting pattern around my main interests at the time. There is still a clear skew recently to all things ‘design’. I am in no way a designer but I am fascinated by the science and craft of it. There were some cracking articles on the subject this week that made my brain hurt. An interesting debate around No UI, UX behind the firewall (a subject close to my heart, as in it clogs my arteries) and a look at the importance of design on the impact of the stock price. The other things that caught my eye were APIs being dead, the constant pursuit of authenticity, innovation hypocrisy, views my own, Pixar storytelling and shrinking otter appendages.
We already have plenty of thinking that celebrates the invisibility and seamlessness of technology. We are overloaded with childish mythologies like ‘the cloud’; a soft, fuzzy metaphor for enormous infrastructural projects of undersea cables and power-hungry data farms. This mythology can be harmful and is often just plain wrong. Networks go down, hard disks fail, sensors fail to sense, processors overheat and batteries die.
IT departments are not like sales and marketing teams in that they have not purchased services that would fall into the “creative” category. Therefore they are often wary of UX providers, creating a cultural clash between IT and “design.” Some from the UX world may think that this is similar to any project where developers are involved. However, in this case, the developer is firmly in charge. There will be resistance to UX providers, and more than ever the concept of UX will need to be evangelized at all levels from the board director down.
What makes Google’s efforts so striking is that the firm has long had a reputation for caring far more about algorithms than aesthetics. In 2009 Douglas Bowman, its top designer, quit and complained that Google’s obsession with data was preventing it from listening to its designers. In a farewell missive, he wrote that it was hard to work in a culture that insisted on testing 41 different shades of blue to determine the right colour for web links displayed in search results.
Is an app that helps you manage your Netflix queue driving meaningful new subscriptions for Netflix? Probably not. Is another Twitter client helping Twitter sell and show you ads? Definitely not. When the most important transaction for Twitter was someone putting content into the network, it made sense to allow that content from anywhere. That’s no longer important to them. This is the future of Twitter APIs.
Innumerable industrial products now advertise themselves as “real”, following the lead of Coke’s slogan “the Real Thing”. In 2011, even Starbucks began selling salad-based lunchboxes labelled “Real Food”. A box of Rombouts’s disposable one-cup coffee filters describes its flavour as “Original Blend . . . Medium 3 AUTHENTIC”. Even Marks & Spencer’s men’s underwear is branded “authentic”, posing the nice question of what an inauthentic pair of boxer shorts or trunks would look like.
In fact, “innovation” is something of a magic word around here, shape-shifting to fit the speaker’s immediate needs. So long as semiconductors and coding are involved, people will staple it to anything from flying cars to the iFart app.
Cultures in which diverse opinions are encouraged are more open, innovative and honest than those in which they’re censored or distanced from official policy. This is true on both a national and a corporate level: censorship in North Korea hinders political change, while free speech in the Western world empowers people to oust governments; Google’s 20% time encourages employees to pursue visions not on the company’s main agenda, while a culture of subservience in the financial sector inhibits creativity. Encouraging opinions fosters innovation, while discouraging them is at best stifling and at worst dangerous.
In those halcyon days, the entire nation would sit down with bottles of stout and plates of dripping to watch a programme in which an enthusiastically cigarette-smoking Bertrand Russell, or someone of similar super-intelligence, sat motionless in a chair and discussed for hours the finer points of philosophy in incredible detail with an equally un-televisual man. Their noses and ears full of tufts of hair, their brains crackling with mental electricity, their flappy trousers hoiked biffin-tight, and their little odd socks showing, they reassured the hoi polloi that, although they were very clever, and we needed and valued them as a society, these people were loonies.
9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.