What Happened to Google Maps? — Justin O'Beirne
The primary route across Long Island — Interstate 495 — is clearly shown as such on the 2010 map. But on the 2016 map, it's suddenly unclear: the newly upgraded roads muddle the map and 495 is lost amongst them. Worse, you can't even tell which road the "Interstate 495" icon belongs to.

One of my favorite Edward Tufte quotes is: “Clutter is not an attribute of information, clutter is a failure of design... fix the design rather than stripping all the detail out of the map.”

Regarding the Long Island road network, it's as though the reversal of Tufte's suggestion was implemented between 2010 and 2016. The roads that are dark orange today were all on the 2010 map — but their design has since been changed, causing the map to appear unnecessarily complex. The coherence and clarity shown in 2010 has been lost in 2016.
visualization  maps  google  blog 
4 hours ago
If you really want to be more like a startup, you must optimize for Product/Market Fit. — Medium
Level 1: Vision
Have we articulated a clear and compelling vision? Do we know the change we want to create in our customers’ world?
Level 2: Problem/Market Fit
Is there a significant sized market for this, and do they REALLY care about the problem that we think they care about?
Level 3: Problem/Solution Fit
Does our solution REALLY solve this problem? Or does it at least significantly move the needle to warrant the time and effort the user needs to invest in it? Do users “stick” with it?
Level 4: Solution/Marketing Fit
Can we efficiently and sustainably reach the audience and convince them to buy the product?
Level 5: Product/Market Fit
Does it all come together, such that the unit economics of the business really make sense at the scale of our ambitions?
productmarketfit  prodmgmt  startup 
8 hours ago
Product Success
There are really three options to how teams work.  One is that the CEO or some other exec decides everything.  The second is that the weak product manager schedules a big meeting and invites all the executives into a room and they argue it out – this is called design by committee – which consistently produces weak results.  The third is that the product manager does her job and learns these constraints, and brings them to the team so that the team can figure out the best way to solve the problem.

Combine this with strong understanding of technology, and deep knowledge of the users and customers, and hopefully you can see why this is a tough job.  But also one that’s absolutely key to a strong product team especially if the team wants to have any meaningful degree of autonomy.
2 days ago
Who Will Debunk The Debunkers? | FiveThirtyEight
Yet despite all this complicating evidence, scholars still tell the simple version of the Semmelweis story and use it as an example of how other people — never them, of course — tend to reject information that conflicts with their beliefs. That is to say, the scholars reject conflicting information about Semmelweis, evincing the Semmelweis reflex, even as they tell the story of that reflex. It’s a classic supermyth!

And so it goes, a whirligig of irony spinning around and around, down into the depths. Is there any way to escape this endless, maddening recursion? How might a skeptic keep his sanity? I had to know what Sutton thought. “I think the solution is to stay out of rabbit holes,” he told me. Then he added, “Which is not particularly helpful advice.”
science  blog 
5 days ago
Irrational Realism: on QA versus testing
Traditional software testing processes have often fundamentally misunderstood people and the needs of testing. By approaching it as a tick-box exercise that follows repetitive and set user paths, they assume a level of rational predictability that is rarely present in human behaviour. Technical tests, especially those that are automated, don’t replicate the desire of users to click where they’re not supposed to, and can’t accommodate irrational human behaviours. In other words, the more structured and logical we are, the more likely it is that we will miss the opportunity to improve usability and remove the bugs that actually impact real users.
qa  testing  blog 
7 days ago
Bots won't replace apps. Better apps will replace apps.
But more than anything, rather than screwing around with bots, I want the tech industry to focus on solving these major annoyances and handling some of the common use cases I described that my phone ought to do better with by now.
bots  apps  conversationalui 
8 days ago
The Emoji Is the Birth of a New Type of Language (👈 No Joke)
All you social dystopians can unclutch your pearls; no linguist thinks this bodes the end of writing. Text is our most powerful, go-to communication tool. For most people, these ideograms are an upgrade. And what an unusual one! Language always changes, of course; slang is born, prances, and dies. But it’s exceedingly rare—maybe unprecedented—for a phonetic alphabet to suddenly acquire a big expansion pack of ideograms. In an age where we write more than ever, emoji is the new language of the heart.
14 days ago
Perceived Value in User Interfaces
Ultimately, what determines whether users will engage with your site is their assessment of the site’s expected utility: perceived value vs. the perceived cost of interacting with the site. According to the information-foraging theory, people behave on the web like animals in the wild: they assess the perceived value of a new foraging patch against the perceived cost (effort) of obtaining that food. On the web, each new page is a patch, and the food is the information. The effort of obtaining the information is the interaction cost. Thus, people derive the expected utility of staying on a site by weighing the value that the site is likely to deliver against the effort needed to engage with the site.
utility  vizd 
15 days ago
In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything and Look at Nothing - The New Yorker
"The definition of photography is changing, too, and becoming more of a language,” the Brooklyn-based artist and professional photographer Joshua Allen Harris told me. “We’re attaching imagery to tweets or text messages, almost like a period at the end of a sentence. It’s enhancing our communication in a whole new way.”

In other words, “the term ‘photographer’ is changing,” he said. As a result, photos are less markers of memories than they are Web-browser bookmarks for our lives. And, just as with bookmarks, after a few months it becomes hard to find photos or even to navigate back to the points worth remembering. Google made hoarding bookmarks futile. Today we think of something, and then we Google it. Photos are evolving along the same path as well.
17 days ago
The problems with forcing regular password expiry | CESG Site
The new password may have been used elsewhere, and attackers can exploit this too. The new password is also more likely to be written down, which represents another vulnerability. New passwords are also more likely to be forgotten, and this carries the productivity costs of users being locked out of their accounts, and service desks having to reset passwords.
17 days ago
Is That Even a Thing?
“A thing,” then, corresponds to a real need we have, to catalog and group together the items of cultural experience, while keeping them at a sufficient distance so that we can at least feign unified consciousness in the face of a world gone to pieces.
17 days ago
“Genius hesitates”
Genius hesitates. I love that! When we approach a truly enormous idea, of the sort that tilts the world on its axis, we’re not excited and arrogant and confident. We’re unsure; we hesitate. I’ve noticed this in the scientists I interview. The ones who are doing really groundbreaking work are tentative, cautious, almost unsettled by the implications of what they’re saying.

It’s not a bad litmus test for the people around us in everyday life. The ones who are proposing genuinely startling and creative ideas are liable to be … careful about it. It’s the ones with small ideas who are shouting them from the rooftops.
knowledge  blog 
19 days ago
Context collapse and context restoration
Context collapse is a sociological term of art that describes the way social media tend to erase the boundaries that once defined people’s social lives. Before social media came along, your social life played out in different and largely separate spheres. You had your friends in one sphere, your family members in another sphere, your coworkers in still another sphere, and so on. The spheres overlapped to a degree, but they remained distinct. The self you presented to your family was not the same self you presented to your friends, and the self you presented to your friends was not the one you presented to the people you worked with or went to school with. With a social network like Facebook, all these spheres merge into a single sphere. Everybody sees what you’re doing. Context collapses.
facebook  blog 
22 days ago
Facebook Wants You to Post More About Yourself
“Personal sharing has shifted to smaller audiences on Snapchat, Facebook’s Instagram and other messaging services.”
25 days ago
Embracing Imperfection — Awesome AI
“Machines are designed to handle state, organize information, and present it in context based on relationships. People are good at assigning relevancy, deriving meaning, and uncovering insights from well-organized information.

There’s a clear partnership staring us right in the face:

Let’s embrace our imperfect communication and leave the structure and overhead to bots.”
team  remote  work 
28 days ago
The User’s Journey
Both analytics funnels and stories describe a series of steps that users take over the course of a set period of time. In fact, as many data scientists and product people will tell you, data tells a story, and it’s our job to look at data within a narrative structure to piece together, extrapolate, troubleshoot, and optimize that story.
journey  storytelling  storymapping 
29 days ago
From Productivity to Workflow Engineering - Study Hacks - Cal Newport
The goal with workflow engineering is not to maximize convenience or to minimize cost and disruption. It is instead to start from a blank slate and ask: “if my goal is X, what is the absolutely most effective way to get there?”

This, in turn, requires a willingness to consider major, annoying, complicated changes if you have evidence that they’ll end up helping you ship a hell of a lot more metaphorical cars.
4 weeks ago
Netflix’s Grand, Daring, Maybe Crazy Plan to Conquer the World
Think of your own block. Your neighbor binging Arrow doesn’t mean you’ve ever even heard of it. In fact, you may well hate it, if that same neighbor’s taste in blared 3 am music is any indication.

The upshot? Netflix uses a global algorithm. The titles you’re shown when you sign onto Netflix are just as likely to be influenced by someone from Abu Dhabi as Des Moines.

Freedom from worrying about signals like geography, gender, and age allows Netflix to hone its recommendations more sharply, and against less obvious criteria that for competitive purposes it doesn’t divulge. It’s what lets Netflix group its titles into a couple of thousand “clusters” based not on where people live, but what they like.
4 weeks ago
Laughter Doesn’t Scale — Track Changes
This is one of the reasons why Twitter is such an existential pit, because the moment you have any success (i.e. lots of retweets) you are immediately punished by complete inanity, forced misunderstanding, nonsense—and, sometimes, if you’re a woman, by a miscellany of invasive threats. There’s no medium that punishes success like the Internet.

It’s not that people don’t get the jokes you make; they don’t even get that there is a joke at all. To them you are not funny, and never will be. They are the ones who are perfect for the medium, because they will repeat the same nostrums over and over, while funny people just drift away. (This is the market gap that Slack fills. It is a product that lets less funny people feel hilarious, successfully marrying enterprise groupware to local improv groups.)

This factor is rarely considered by product people, or by anyone, but it’s real. Humor is an amazing means of reaching a large audience, jokes are naturally viral—but there is a powerful immune system that kicks in with any successful joke. The Internet is the world’s greatest joke killer—and yet everyone thinks they are funny. Consider this chart of how funny you can be as the number of users increases.
blog  comments  twitter 
4 weeks ago
The Propaganda of Pantone: Colour and Subcultural Sublimation — LOKI
Pantone’s cultural influence shouldn't be underestimated. Every day countless designers reference their products, and this year’s announcement was particularly well mediatized. This has resulted in RQ+S being marketed within a multitude of product categories, all released with Pantone's inscribed meaning, with many products directly profiting the company through partnerships and licensing. Beyond filling corporate coffers on the backs of subcultural labour, the truly grievous effect is the erasure of a critical aesthetic tool from the subculture and its associated social movements. It blunts the critical teeth of the colours’ usage within these contexts and undermines the visual self-representation, self-determination, and autonomy of these subcultural groups. Joyous, rebellious anger is being cynically muted into a gentle, weightless calm by designers everywhere, blindly following the authority of Pantone’s proclamations.
color  aesthetics  art  culture 
4 weeks ago
How to choose the right UX metrics for your product
Happiness: measures of user attitudes, often collected via survey. For example: satisfaction, perceived ease of use, and net-promoter score.
Engagement: level of user involvement, typically measured via behavioral proxies such as frequency, intensity, or depth of interaction over some time period. Examples might include the number of visits per user per week or the number of photos uploaded per user per day.
Adoption: new users of a product or feature. For example: the number of accounts created in the last seven days or the percentage of Gmail users who use labels.
Retention: the rate at which existing users are returning. For example: how many of the active users from a given time period are still present in some later time period? You may be more interested in failure to retain, commonly known as “churn.”
Task success: this includes traditional behavioral metrics of user experience, such as efficiency (e.g. time to complete a task), effectiveness (e.g. percent of tasks completed), and error rate. This category is most applicable to areas of your product that are very task-focused, such as search or an upload flow.
5 weeks ago
Dispatches from the ruins
This is what our fiction is telling us. This is what makes it so mesmerising, so satisfying. In our stories of the post-apocalypse, the dilemma is resolved, the fragility laid bare. In these, humans are both villain and hero, disease and cure. Our doom is our salvation. In our books at least, humanity’s destruction is also its redemption.
apocalypse  zombies 
5 weeks ago
Notifications, Interruption, and Performance
Several papers describing studies at Microsoft Research on the nature and effects of interruptions on users' performance and experience.
notifications  resources 
5 weeks ago
Scandi Crush Saga - Curbed
The term "Scandinavian design" first appeared outside of the region in 1951, in the title of the Scandinavian Design for Living exhibition in Heal’s department store in London. Since then, it has often been accompanied by adjectives such as "democratic," "functional," "natural," and "minimal," in attempts to fuse a diverse potpourri of influences and tastes. In the catalogue for an exhibition of Scandinavian ceramics and glass at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in 1989, curator Jan Opie writes that Scandinavian works typically share "craftsmanship, quality, humanity and restraint combined with a sympathetic respect for the natural materials and a concern for their ‘proper’ use by the designer and their consumer." While myriad definitions of the style have surfaced over the years—many more ambiguous than Opie’s—the precise description is likely to vary depending on who is asked.
5 weeks ago
Why Do So Many 20-Somethings Want to Stream Friends​?
I asked Elizabeth Entenman, a 27-year-old Friends fanatic, if you could make a version of Friends about the 20-somethings of today. “No,” she said, “because you wouldn’t find six people doing nothing in the same room.” Or if they were, they’d all be on their phones, seeing what else is out there.
culture  tv  socialmedia 
5 weeks ago
How To Attract Millions of Developers to Your Product
But before you ask the question, “How do I acquire more developers as customers?,” you need to understand if developers love using your product. Because once they do, your product can go viral almost instantaneously through the socially active online developer communities (e.g. Hacker News, Reddit, Stackoverflow, etc). Bottom line: marketing is the fuel to the product’s fire and is very rarely the fire. Once you’ve built a product that developers love, you can harness that momentum to drive growth by building an organic flywheel effect using these strategies.
devpersona  prodmgmt 
5 weeks ago
The Cult of User Personae
The more we invest in our personae, the more present they become in our work—and the more our “usability culture” begins to resemble an honest-to-goodness culture. Ultimately, I can envision a style of work that bears some resemblance to many traditional societies’ casual relationships with their pantheons, in which our personae influence most of what we do and crop up in our conversations, jokes, and collective memories. What will happen, I wonder, if Silas becomes important enough—perhaps “venerated” enough—that our QA engineers “feel” him with them when testing, like a Spartan felt Ares with him in battle?
5 weeks ago
“This is strictly a business decision” — What’s The Future of Work?
We have to stop telling ourselves that we are forced by the market to outsource jobs. We have a choice to reduce corporate profits instead.
business  ethics 
5 weeks ago
How Facebook Became Cool Again -- Following: How We Live Online
“Weird Facebook” takes its name from “Weird Twitter,” the loose association of comedians, parodists, writers, and weirdos — mostly refugees from the influential message board Something Awful — whose dry, troll-y jokes have helped shape the culture of Twitter. “Weird” in this case refers both to the tone of the humor and the ways that the site is being used. The “Weird” version of any social network is the one in which its tools are pushed past the bounds of their intended purposes, usually for the purposes of inscrutable, self-referential humor.

Last fall, for instance, fictitious planned events like “Listening to drake and crying” and “Push moshing to korn” suddenly became popular, with thousands of people pledging to meet up at places like the “vacant lot behind the abandoned circle k.” Around the same time, a very public abuse of Facebook’s poll feature called “Was Al Gore Hot?” also took off. A winning faction of 3,713 users would eventually determine that we don’t think Al Gore was hot, but we “get it.”

“I think Facebook polls are the best way to communicate online,” said Tim Faust, the creator of “Was Al Gore Hot?” “They're clunky, inconvenient, badly designed, difficult to use, and infrequently useful. Thus, perfect.”

Most examples of Weird Facebook are slightly less focused on subverting the actual software, and more focused on taking full advantage of it. Facebook now has dozens of pages that just post bizarro riffs on the site’s overcompressed and crudely watermarked detritus. Check Dis Shit Out and Laughapalooza, for instance, operate as deadpan parodies of the corny jokes and T-shirt-ready slogans that once seemed to fill the social network — though their creators would surely never admit it.
facebook  blog 
5 weeks ago
How Silent Discos Bring Us Together
None of this is to say that music listening isn’t individualistic. It’s just that individualistic listening can be social and communicative—like the waltz, the jam session, or the drumbeat that sends soldiers into war. “It’s incorporating the technology into a particular vision of being together,” Sterne says.

Critics who lament private listening cuts us off from one another and tear the social fabric don’t have the full picture. Evolution has stitched the intersubjective powers of music into our brains. Technology hasn’t diminished the social bonds of music. On the contrary, we’ve created and adapted technology to enhance them.

“If you talk about social-media listening, or silent raves, where people are listening to the same music but they’ve got earbuds in—those kinds of activities are completely consistent with the history of music as a collective practice,” says Sterne. “But it’s being remediated and re-performed through the technologies of the moment.”
music  blog 
5 weeks ago
Ideas for building a family friendly culture | Wildbit Blog
Unless you’re saving lives, nothing is urgent at work. Everything can wait. But a sick kid needs hugs and someone to help them blow their nose.
wildbit  parenting  workbettertogether 
5 weeks ago
Why are our kids so miserable? - Quartz
Gray has another theory: kids aren’t learning critical life-coping skills because they never get to play anymore.
“Children today are less free than they have ever been,” he told Quartz. And that lack of freedom has exacted a dramatic toll, he says.
“My hypothesis is that the generational increases in externality, extrinsic goals, anxiety, and depression are all caused largely by the decline, over that same period, in opportunities for free play and the increased time and weight given to schooling,” he wrote.
6 weeks ago
User journey mapping
This user flow may seem an obvious solution, but it wasn’t obvious to the company hired to design the app before I got involved, which had up to that point resulted in some very limiting and confusing design flows. I don’t say this to blow my own horn. The point I’m making is had they explored the designs with some rough, high-level journey sketching upfront, they probably would have realised this themselves.
blog  journey 
6 weeks ago
Pinterest giveth, and Pinterest taketh away
You may ask why I’m telling you all this instead of telling it to Pinterest. Good question. The answer is, I tried telling Pinterest, but they don’t provide a forum for it. And that is the biggest problem. A company that makes products people love should have a way to communicate with those people. Not grudgingly offer them a few character-limited form fields on a “survey” page that isn’t even referenced in the site’s navigation.

When the features stopped working on my iPhone and iPad, I assumed something had gone wrong with my apps, so I deleted and reinstalled them. (Remember, there was no announcement; but then why would any company announce that it was taking away loved features for no apparent reason?)

When deleting and reinstalling didn’t help, I sought help and contact pages on Pinterest (and was only able to find them via third-party search engine).

In trying to file a bug report, I ended up in a pleasant (but confusing) conversation with a very nice Pinterest employee who explained that I wasn’t experiencing a bug: the software engineers had made a conscious decision to remove the functions I use every day … and had no intention of restoring them. She wasn’t able to tell me why, or point me to a URL that would offer a rationale, but she did tell me I could use Pinterest’s “Recommend a feature” form to “recommend” that the software engineers put those features back.
support  blog  pinterest 
6 weeks ago
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