ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN REPRESENT!

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This profile of Dao Nguyen, Publisher at Buzzfeed, makes me happy. So glad to see a woman of color recognized for being a badass and put in a position of power in our overwhelmingly white, male tech world. 

Meet Buzzfeed’s Secret Weapon (from inc.com)

In a digital media world stuffed with large personalities and self-promoters, Nguyen’s disarmingly ego-free approach is readily apparent in conversation. She’s quick to point out that some of her editorial ideas are “probably really bad,” admits that she can’t say that all of her “experiments have worked” and referred to a very cool diagram she dubbed “the growth funnel” she made when starting to analyze BuzzFeed’s traffic growth as “not, like, totally innovative.”

The problem with the Silicon Valley echo chamber..

"The startup world has an echo chamber problem. So many of the products and services were created to solve personal "pain points," but end up catering to a very particular demographic—generally white, male, young, and urban dwelling.

"We draw from the same cultural script. We have the same information at our fingertips. We tend to come up with the same solutions," explained Valerie Casey, who heads up Samsung’s in-house accelerator.

The phenomenon has led to, among other things, the oversupply of laundry apps, a glut of cars on demand, and a million and one dating apps. While some of these technologies are useful to some people, it leaves a lot of problems unsolved for everyone else.”

Source: Fast Company article “Escape From the Silicon Valley Echo Chamber,” by Rebecca Greenfield. 

The Story of the Tilde.Club, by Paul Ford

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The above gif courtesy of ~butts.

My earliest days on the computer were spent using platforms like AIM, Homestead, and LiveJournal, so the nostalgic references to “the past” in this article were before my time. Still, I can imagine the quietness of using Ye Olde Unix as described by Paul Ford:

Many, manymore people wrote me about how much they missed the old web, that sense of quiet and intimacy and patient thought—writing, coding, and learning as they went.

This made sense to me, because I miss it too. The modern social web is a miracle of progress but also a status-driven guilt-spewing shit volcano. (Then again, without Twitter no one would know about tilde.club.) Back in the 1990s—this will sound insane—some of us paid a lot of money for our tilde accounts, like $30 or $40 a month or sometimes much more. We paid to reach strangers with our weird ideas. Whereas now, as everyone understands, brands pay to know users.

The article includes a thoughtful perspective on the social networks of today:

In the last decade, social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook—even Google Plus—appeared. They tried to bring all those lonesome folks back together, into one enormous room. Not just a few dozen people on one computer but millions, even a billion people all sharing one giant meta-computer.

Many of those services make very heavy use of Unix under the hood. So: We collectively took a very social computing platform, papered over its social parts, and used it to build a social computing platform.

Ironic? Maybe a little.

Anyway, this article was an absolute pleasure to read. Paul Ford is funny, witty, and thoughtful. His article is a meditation on the past, present, and future of technology and social networks.

So go read his article! Here it is.

…..

P.S. This Tilde.Club page is an atomized version of Enya. And ALSO INTERACTION DESIGN AT ITS GREATEST. We can all just go home now. 

A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design

This article by Bret Victor, a Human Interface Inventor at Apple from 2007-2010, is a thought-provoking rant on why Microsoft’s vision of the future (where all of our technology comes in the form of small, thing rectangular touch screens) is unoriginal and completely takes from us humans an entire sensory experience: tactility.

This is the video from Microsoft that started his rant:

And his rant basically boils down to the following point:

Our hands offer us a large number of ways in which to interact with the world — gripping, picking, brushing, clenching, balancing, and a million more powerful interactions. By reducing our interactions with technology to swipes of the finger, we limit the kinds of experiences we can have. 

One of my favorite quotes from his article goes:

Now, take out your favorite Magical And Revolutionary Technology Device. Use it for a bit. 

What did you feel? Did it feel glassy? Did it have no connection whatsoever with the task you were performing?

I call this technology Pictures Under Glass. Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade.

[…]

Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness. It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.

Hilarious and so true.

His article was published in 2011, but is very much still relevant today. 

The only thing I would point out that IS good about reducing our interactions with technology to simple swipes of the finger is this: It allows almost everyone, not just people with fingers, to participate and interact with technology. It also allows us to interact with technology without using our hands.

A design professor once mentioned to me that he saw someone whose hands were occupied: One was holding on to the rail in the subway car, and the other was holding on to an iPad. In a fast-moving train with people pressed up against her, there was no way she was going to be able to let go of the rail AND interact with her iPad with her hand, so what did she do?

She swiped with her nose. 

If she had had to interact with her iPad in a more complex way? Forget it. 

Anyway, go read Bret’s article here.

A Brilliant Guide on How to Be a Kind, Productive, Pleasant Human Being: The Hacker School User’s Manual

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Photo from this WIRED article.

Hacker School is a free, full-time immersive school for people who want to become better programmers. “Batches” are 3 months long, and they typically have around 35 people. In their words, it’s “like a writer’s retreat for programmers.”

They’ve written a User Manual for their admitted students, but I agree with The Crated in that their manual can (and really should) be read and used by everyone.

Highlights from the Social Rules section of their User Manual:

  • No feigning surprise - Makes people feel bad about themselves. e.g. “What? I can’t believe you don’t know what the stack is!”
  • No well-actually’s - Used to correct someone. Makes them feel diminished. e.g. “Well, actually…” 
  • No back-seat driving - Don’t offer solutions for conversations you aren’t a part of, unless you fully engage in and join the conversation.
  • No subtle-isms - Subtle racism, sexism, homophobia, any kind of bias. These are called “subtle-isms” because they can be hard to pinpoint and are often not immediately obvious.

You can read the Hacker School User Manual here.

Exciting Wearable Fitness Technology from Athos

Fast Company published an article yesterday about new wearable fitness tech company Athos

TL;DR: 

Basically, they’ve created workout clothes that can sense exactly how hard you’re working when you work out. The clothing takes the form of either compression shorts or long-sleeve shirt (they have to be tight and touch the skin) that are embedded with electromyography (EMG) sensors. You can then view the data in real-time on your smartphone.

The shirt and shorts, along with “The Core” (essentially the electric brain of the system) will cost you about $200. (I believe this is stated incorrectly in the Fast Company article above.)

Here’s their article.

Article: Alan Cooper and the Goal Directed Design Process

This article was published in 2001 by Hugh Dubberly (Cybernetics, Stanford HCI) and is a summary of Alan Cooper’s influential design philosophies as well as a short profile and history of Cooper himself.

Cooper advocates five significant changes to the conventional methods of software development in his goal-directed design process: 

1. Design first; program second.

2. Separate responsibility for design from responsibility for programming.

3. Hold designers responsible for product quality and user satisfaction.

4. Define one specific user for your product; then invent a persona—give that user a name and an environment and derive his or her goals.

5. Work in teams of two: designer and design communicator.

We’ve come far since Cooper originally published his book 15 years ago, but old habits die hard. In the last year, I’ve worked with a number of companies and startups that continue to make mistakes like programming first and designing second.

Again, here’s the link to the full article.

Article: “Designer Duds — Losing our Seat at the Table”

A meditation on what it means to do “design” in light of a number of high-profile, highly “designed” apps that have been turned out to be completely useless and mostly just pretty. The apps in question are Dropbox’s Carousel photo app, Facebook’s Paper app, and Biz Stone’s Jelly app. 

In reference to these apps, the author asks:

Again one wonders: what were they designing for? What outcomes did they hope to catalyze through the software and service? Whose life will be improved, or even affected? How seriously are they even taking this?

This article is another important reminder that “design” ought to be user-oriented, empathetic, and human. Not simply a “beautiful” solution to a nonexistent problem. 

In order to avoid losing its place atop organizations, design must deliver resultsDesigners must also accept that if they don’t, they’re not actually designing well; in technology, at least, the subjective artistry of design is mirrored by the objective finality of use data. A “great” design which produces bad outcomes —low engagement, little utility, few downloads, indifference on the part of the target market— should be regarded as a failure.

"Design must deliver results." Amen. 

Read the full article here at Quora.

Article: “Recruiting a Designer? Here’s What You Should Know”

This article breaks down all the different kinds of designers that someone might be referring to when they say, “I need a designer” in the tech industry.

It goes over the following different kinds of designers:

  • User Experience (UX) Designer
  • User Interface (UI) Designer
  • Visual Designer / Graphic Designer
  • Interaction Designer / Motion Designer
  • User Researcher / UX Researcher
  • Front-End Developer / UI Developer
  • Product Designer

…Yes, they are all different!

This is a great article to send to someone who approaches you for a design job, but might not know exactly what they need or want. :)

Read the full article here.

Article: “From Google Ventures: 5 Rules for Writing Great Interface Copy”

TL;DR:

  1. Clarity is king. (Be specific, avoid jargon/abbreviations, important words in the front, don’t use defaults when you can be more specific.)
  2. Personality doesn’t matter as much as you think. "Personality" can sometimes mean less clarity.
  3. Just tell me. Add headlines and help text.
  4. By the way, people do read. Copy makes you look legitimate, so don’t be afraid of big blocks of text (when appropriate and clear).
  5. Writing is part of the design process. It doesn’t come at the beginning, the middle, or the end. It happens throughout.

Plus: An interesting case study on Blue Bottle Coffee wherein including the founding story on the homepage of their website made them seem more serious and legitimate.

Read the full article here.

Article: Ten CSS One-Liners to Replace Native Apps

Written by the father of CSS himself, Håkon Wium Lie. 

Deferring figures? This is all news to me. O_O

Also, he calls CSS poetry:

To me, this is where CSS code morphs into poetry: one succinct line of code scales from the narrowest phone to the widest TV, from the small print to text for the visually impaired. 

..It’s true. So beautiful and simple and elegant.. *____*

Read the full article here!

Article: “Why Apple’s Swift Language Will Instantly Remake Computer Programming:

TL;DR:

Swift is built specifically for programming iOS devices. Compared to the current language used to program iOS devices, Objective-C, it’s easier and faster for a number of reasons:

  • More regular syntax. Swift features a more regular syntax than Objective-C.
  • Already linked with developer tools. Swift is faster, because it’s already linked with a number of other developer tools, like an IDE and a debugger.
  • Way faster, easier to learn, and easier to find errors. Swift comes with Playground, an interface that allows you to write your code on one side of the screen and instantly see the results on the other side.

Read the full article here.