Friday Reading #29

This week it seems I have been collecting articles that actually relate to my job, which is increasingly rare these days. The fact it is half year review time and our team is going through some organisational changes I am sure has not had a subconscious impact on my reading of choice. A heady mix of innovation stuff, organisational working attitudes and styles, Google’s attempts to become a real enterprise software provider, the failure of platform thinking at Facebook, two interviews with innovators (innovatorviews?), dark UX patterns and what happens when you test the prisoner’s dilemma with actual prisoners (not obviously work related although maybe it is). Read them and be ready for your appraisal…sort of.


Slow Ideas

In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.


Stop Backing Visionaries

…if you examine the births of the most successful consumer internet companies, you’ll quickly realize that initial product and “vision” are flawed criteria. More often than not, founders, early employees, and investors of the largest tech companies will tell you that the product that took off was never part of (at least not fully) the original “plan.” Twitter spun out of Odeo, Instagram was a Burbn pivot, BuzzFeed evolved from one of many “for fun” experiments?—?the list goes on and on. By and large, innovative products aren’t strategically imagined ahead of time – they’re stumbled upon while experimenting on-the-go.


What gets done is what gets done

The opposite of the work hero is the person on the team who has kids. Well, they’re probably more of a hero than the work hero, but that’s another story. They do good work, they’re prompt, professional, committed and they’ve got experience. The trouble is, that if you have work-heroes around, you’re bound to have a nasty moment where the people who just can’t work late or drop weekends to satisfy the heroic workload pattern end up looking like they’re slacking or are uncommitted.


To Do to Done: Jank ‘n’ Drank

According to Ford, who came close to dubbing the Tuesday night sessions Work ‘n’ Twerk,”jank” is a very specific category: “Long-standing bugs, slightly broken user experiences, processes that could be automated or improved, visual imperfections in the product, development environment annoyances, hacky code that’s on the verge of causing that one bug, again, and other tasks clinging to the bottom of a to-do list.”


The sad story of Platform, Facebook’s gigantic missed opportunity

Today, just after its sixth birthday, Facebook Platform is a shadow of what it could have been, a missed opportunity that might amount to tens of billions of dollars of squandered revenue. Outside of games, there has been no killer Facebook app. Other than Zynga, you’ll struggle to name a single business that has built itself entirely inside the Facebook framework. Once-promising startups Slide and iLike would ultimately abandon their big bets on the platform, selling to Facebook rivals Google and MySpace for amounts smaller than their one-time valuations.


Google wants to own enterprise, but it’ll do it Google style

Petlon didn’t want end users to perceive that this new technology was being jammed down their throats, so nothing was taken away and growth toward Google Apps was organic. If users wanted to use an Outlook client to access the Gmail back end, they could. Two years in now Petlon estimates that 90 percent or more users are happy Googlers. Collaboration using Google Apps probably doubles every month, he estimates, and having to use Microsoft Word documents with “track changes” turned on feels as old school as getting a fax.


IFTTT Puts the Internet of things in your pocket

“But with the Internet, there’s no common understanding,” he continued. “There are things everyone gets like email or hyperlinks, but there’s still this lack of concrete rules. Could that cause-and-effect thing be turned into one of these fundamental rules? How do we productize that? How do we make this available with an interface anyone could use? What are some of those other rules that might exist?”


Interview with Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, inventor and CEO of Sugru

One night, I was giving myself a really hard time and my boyfriend, James, brought me into the kitchen and pointed out all the humble little solutions I had done. He said, “What if it’s not you that’s the creative person, and what if it’s not one perfect design or solution? What if this could be a humble, handy household product thateveryone could use to make their things better?” Suddenly, it was about everyone’s potential; users know why things don’t work, from the teapot that doesn’t pour properly to the shoe that’s really uncomfortable. That was a real light bulb moment for me. I saw this huge potential and everything clicked. I thought that if I could make it simple enough and attractive enough, then millions of people could use it—I felt very sure from the start that it had the potential to be something universal.


The slippery slope

So how would you react when your boss says to you that you have to cut wait times to under 5 minutes per patient or you’re fired. Just think about this for a moment. You’ve got no spare capital, no spare staff time, no way to stretch your resources. How can you possibly do this? Well here’s a little idea. How about you create a job role for a nurse where their job is simply to say hello to new patients. Nothing more. That way the patients are seen to, that way the wait time problem is solved. You get to keep your job. Sounds devious – but this really happened throughout the NHS in the 90s.


They Finally Tested The ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ On Actual Prisoners — And The Results Were Not What You Would Expect

In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well.  However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation. Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.


Bonus Aden Link i.e. blatant inclusion of my own writing.


Six Little Fields

I assume that most people who own financial services products, be they current accounts, credit cards, loans, savings, insurance etc. do not have them all from the same organisation. Even though I work for a bank, and I should probably whisper this, I do not have all my products with that organisation. This is of course the benefit of a free market, competition and choice, which is a fantastic thing. The big issue from my point of view is what is known in the banking industry as single customer view i.e. the ability to see your full financial picture in one nice shiny interface. This is not a new problem in the industry it is also something I have written about before, but it is one that seems far from being solved or even on any of the banks to do list.


Enjoy the rest of your Friday. Feel free to subscribe to these reads via email or via the much cooler (and more content filled) RSS here

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