The problems with email

A great post shared by Anna poses the question why is it so hard to innovate in the email space and gives a lot of good answers and ideas to our earlier in-studio rant about the Apple OS X Mail app.

If you don’t know the app, know that it’s really buggy. If you know the  app, you’ll know it’s really buggy. And if you used to know the app, know that it’s still buggy. The question that came from this mornings frustrations was pretty much the title of the Front app post, plus the extra level of, HOW can it be so hard for the wealthiest company in the world? 

My rant went along the lines of "How? How can it be getting worse? How can it not work well? Why don’t they fix it? I mean, seriously, why? Jamie. Why? Like, really, can you imagine at all how the OS X Mail app is not better than it is”.

To calm me down, Jamie, Anna and others in the studio that were unlucky enough to hear me, came up with some additionally great ideas (one from Anna as I say, was a link to the above post). 

  1. Maybe no one that’s good enough to fix it wants to work at Apple?
  2. Maybe there aren’t even that may people that are actually good enough to even solve it
  3. Maybe the good people just don’t wants to touch the old horrible codebase 
  4. Maybe some bureaucratic issues at Apple make solving such a difficult space, with such a long history, practically impossible? 

The most interesting idea here though I think is the idea that no one that’s able to, wants to. This resonates with my experience of good developers. They’re like Buddha’s that have gained enlightenment and know how to seek all that they need from life. Bending their skills of achieving happiness for a cause they’re not interested in, just doesn’t happen. 

What we need is a group of renegade genius devs, willing to give a year or two of their lives, to solve this old issues for the greater good.

Sign up here. And thanks in advance. x

Paying people for being unhappy

Pretty amazing deal / offer / strategy at Amazon (via Business Insider)

Amazon will pay employees to quit. If you’re unhappy, you can get $2,000 after one year on the job to leave. It jumps by $1,000 each year, and tops out at $5,000. It borrowed this from Zappos. The idea is that Amazon doesn’t want people who don’t want to be there. 

Which is a nice idea and all, and sounds cool from a PR point of view for them and Zappos alike, but it still feels a little like closing the door (with a wedge of cash) after the horse has bolted.

What about incentives and plans to ensure no one actually becomes that unhappy? A set up that invites people with an aspiration that are different to their job, to to have careers advice and to be supported on getting another job. Try to make it so anyone that leaves, leaves on good terms. That feels better than letting them leave being pissed off but with an effective payoff.

Standing on the shoulders of others

Having a play with the nicely-put-together little service that is Jauntful which once again our man Jamie introduced to the studio. It’s a simple way to create guides for places, that can be easily shared online or just as easily printed. It’s nice. Well done team Jauntful.

It’s another odd case though of building a product on the back of another service / API, the culture of which is feeling increasingly unsustainable to me. At it’s core, Jauntful is powered by Foursquare data but it goes deeper still:

Jauntful uses GeoNames to help you find the cities you love and Foursquare to make adding places to your guides quick and easy. We designed beautiful maps thanks to MapBox using data provided by ©OpenStreetMap contributors.

I’m not saying their team should have built their own versions of each of those four services before building Jauntful. And I understand that this is pretty much how everything is built in some way or another. Open soruce, APIs etc I get all these ideas, but of late I’ve seen a few examples of things falling apart, when the things they’re built on fall down, change, end or are revoked in part. 

Par to the course. Opportunity cost. Accepted risk. Known unknowns.  

If you understand this is the nature then of course it’s fine. Carry on. Make amazing things. My worry perhaps is for people (clients and users) that don’t realise these facts. The people that see a company and product as ‘the’ responsible party. To them, when something stops working and the team that built if says ‘it’s not my fault’ and points at the bigger kid, it smacks as a little childish.

Again though, that is if you don’t know that’s the deal. When you do understand that’s the nature of these amazing things, having those customers whine and whinge seems equally as childish. 

Street Typography from Tom Williams on Vimeo

Reminded me of the Extreme Typography shots I took a few years back. 

More interestingly, check out the stats on Tom’s video page! I found the video on a number of blogs recently, and looking at those numbers shows an amazing example of ‘viral’. Posted two years ago, it ticked along for what seems like months, then over the past few weeks on the blog circuit, it’s up with over a million views. 

Long tail / wait for it / if you build it / etc

Ask a friend

A month ago I set out to amass temporary expertise about balance bikes, with aim to confidently learn which sort to buy, and recommend.

A month later, I think I’m done with the temporary expertise idea. It’s not as easy as it was a few years back. Ease being the reason the investment is worth the temporary status.

The amount of time I’ve spent though, reading terrible forums, spammy reviews, manufacture spiel and simply trying to navigate various Google search result types, has just not been worth the result of still having no idea which bike I think might actually be good. Let alone which might be best.

I conclude that there was a golden age for temporary expertise, and that when Alex and I discussed it 2010, we were approaching the end of it. A decade of maturing after the dot com bubble burst, the web, and Google in particular, had gotten pretty good at policing itself and making clear-ish when people were telling lies and when others had decent information. 

The sites that made it to the top of search were, for the most part, the ones that most people actually valued. And the market of review sites managing to turn a profit was still low enough maybe to keep the bar high. Only if you really cared about your subject and persisted could you build enough rank, of any sort.

Searching and reading the web now though feels very different to ‘back then’ and generally, my experiences of searching and researching a new subject recently has led me not only to give up on that search, but also slightly on the web as an easily navigable resource.

That’s a petty grand statement, granted, but the balance bike experience, along with two other searches in areas I do actually know about (cameras and BMX bikes) have left me feeling that it’s not worth it. Or, more specifically, that it’s not worth it until I’ve simply asked advice of someone I know first.

Then, armed with a real life recommendation, I’ve (nearly) been sorted and able to use the web like I feel I used to: Quickly, efficiently and with an end result that I felt gave value.

Thanks then to all those parents I’ve asked that led me to believing that, for a 2 years old, Micro Scooters are perhaps the best bet for now.

And to Brendan for his recent proof and promotion of the quality of the awfully named (and impenetrable via web search only) world of the Sony a6000 and accompanying 1.8 35mm lens.

And to Mike Wong (who I know and trust) owner of FTB, and in turn to Mario who led me to Nic who sold me his second hand FTB frame.

[And with that, Mathew concluded his post, and published it onto the web…]

The fourth wall in everyday life

Utterly intrigued by this photo from Samuel Wilkinson on Instagram.

Limited to 140 characters is was a little hard to explain… 

… but I really do love how intimate it feels, despite the fact it’s a demolition photo from Kilburn. There’s just something about the exposure of so many previously private spaces, the disappearance of others and the pending destiny of those that remain.

Overthinking it perhaps, but it pushes all my metaphor buttons and I’m incapable of not imagining all the stories that must have happened in those rooms. Conversations over colour choices. Guests that were welcomed. Parties that were had. People that were conceived. People that died.

Love also how it breaks the forth wall as it were, of buildings and rooms being large solid states, when in reality they’re just thin divides containing space. Makes things seem less defensive somehow. Look at a building now and think how it’s just a collection of intimate environments harbouring life.

OK, totally romanticising now, but it’s nice to be moved by something, even if it is a demolition site.

A bit of a sprawling Narrative

The Narrative Clip is a chest mounted camera that takes a photo every 30 seconds. A simple enough idea, but the concept, the reality and the story of it actually reaching the market alongside everything else that’s happening in the body-mounted-candid-image-capture industry, has been a bit intriguing.

I saw Narrative on Kickstarter when it was called Memoto and where it did pretty well for itself: Looking for $50,000 it ended up with $550,000 + 2,871 customers and a lot of positive buzz. That was November 2012 with estimated delivery of February 2013.

Come February ‘13 it didn’t ship. Google Glass did though: A face mounted camera that takes a photo when you ask it to.

Glass was instantly attacked and has become a sort of tech industry pariah. Slammed by almost everyone as daft and inappropriate. An insulting infringement of privacy to anyone in the vicinity of a wearer, or the glasshole as they’ve been dubbed.

Time passes. Restaurants, businesses, public places and government bodies ban Glassholes and Google continue to get panned*.

Memoto meanwhile still hasn’t launched, in fact it’s not until March ‘13 that sample pictures from an actual Memoto are released. Meanwhile, another and more direct competitor has already launched (Autographer) and was actually on the market before the Memoto Kickstarter had even started. Come on Memoto, you can do it!

Or perhaps not, because by October ‘13 there is still no release. There is news though: Lifelogging camera maker Memoto has a new name, $3M in capital and a ship date.

In consistent form the ship date slips but, in December ’13 Narrative is released and in the hands of real people by January ‘14. Fifteen months or so after they funded the project.

A recap and extended order of events in the body mounted camera sector via some online archeology:

2011

August
Rumours of Google Glass begin with the filing of a dead giveaway patent

2012

September
Autographer is a new wearable camera that automatically documents your life

October
Memoto (Lifelogging Camera) funding opens on Kickstarter with a $50,000 goal

Memoto: A wearable camera that gives you a photographic memory

November
Surveillance camera man points camera at strangers without permission

The “most important ramification” of wearable lifelogging

Memoto Kickstarter funding closes at $550,189

2013

March
First look at photos shot using a Memoto wearable lifelogging camera

Google Glass Explorer Edition (not a commercial product) made available for developers

April

Google Glass may have built-in “wink to shoot” camera functionality

July

UK set to ban Google Glass for drivers

Around this time?
’No Google Glass’ signs start to appear

October

Lifelogging camera maker Memoto has a new name, $3M in capital and a ship date

December

We. Are. Shipping.

2014

January

First user impressions of Narrative Clip: Round-up plus our responses!

Interesting. On listing it all like that I realise that there’s more to unpack here than I thought. Narrative, Kickstarter, photography, rights, content creation and Google. And I thought it was just a quick bitchy post about Narrative taking a while to make.

Best to break everything out in to smaller and less sprawling posts then I think. A needed opportunity to reapply my 15 minute strategy which I’ve been bending and not always for the best.

Up next on Documenteering…

Kickstarter: Venture Capital without equity or a return

Candid and constant photography: A troubling evolving market

Innovation: Mostly about making mistakes. Let’s make some! 

Quantified Self: I’ll take Qualitative Self please

Recording all the things: Mutually assured disinterest

Why does everybody hate Google?

Yeah, 15 minutes on each should be enough…

Indispensable: Cloud app

I use it daily without thinking but would miss it loads if they closed it down. Such a simple utility doing one particular task perfectly seamlessly. If you’ve not already installed Cloud app for OS X, do it now.

Drag and drop, take a screen shot, or use a Raindrop and share the link immediately. CloudApp gets out of your way leaving you to focus on communication.

Scenarios: I’ve taken a screen shot of an error and need to post it on a feedback form that won’t allow uploads. I’ve got a zip of assets that I want to give to someone without clogging their inbox with a 20MB attachment. I’ve got a very important animated gif to share and want to be sure the recipient’s mail app doesn’t prevent it animating on open.

All very small file sharing needs, but nothing makes it as easy as Cloud app. Not even local network file sharing in our studio, because we regularly share files in house using Cloud app rather than via Finder, despite the fact that we should be filing things in job folders rather that tossing them, unreferenced, into the cloud.

That said, the Cloud app service includes a browser view that’s also incredibly useful for searching back through previously uploaded bits and bobs.

(Another great bonus is the view count that allows you to see if someone has clicked what you sent them. Very useful when they say down the line that ‘oh, no, I never got your email with the link…)

How it basically works: Find the file you want to share, drag it to the little cloud icon in your tool bar, and it copies the final destination URL straight to you clipboard, ready for pasting.

In a recent version it even gives you the URL as soon as you drop the file (you used to have to wait until it uploaded, and the cloud went blue with a friendly ‘ping’). The web page will also show an ‘in progress’ indicator while the files is still uploading.

There are extra ways to make screen shots automatically upload, or have certain key combinations do other things, but off the shelf, it just does the basics. A great lesson for not letting your product becoming feature laden over time. In fact, I signed up in July 2010, and day to day, the product is the same as it ever was. Just, ace.

In all that time it’s baffled me that Dropbox or Apple haven’t bought it, or just destroyed it by adding the exact same simple functionality, but the easiest user journeys that either has right now, are still far more fiddly (relatively) and time intensive.

Sharing a file, too big for email, on a local network, with someone sitting next to you:

OS X Option 1: Find file in finder window > Open another Finder window > Navigate to shared server > Navigate to shared folder > Which is probably a few levels down > Copy file across > Tell person next to you where it is (and then talk them through every step of the Finder trail to where the file is).

OS X Option 2: Open Airdrop > Try for ages to make it work with the person next to you > Change numerous settings > Google ‘how does Airdrop work’ > Read Apple forums in which no Apple rep has joined in to help resolve the issue > Try once more > Guiltily ask the smartest person in your studio that you know hates being asked mundane tech support tasks only to find they’ve never bothered using it* > Give up.

DropBox: Find file in finder window > Open another Finder window > Navigate to Dropbox folder > Copy file across > Wait until you’re able to right click and get the share link > Wait for the file to upload, which with Dropbox tends to take a while these days > Share link in chat.

Cloud app: Find file in finder window > Drag it to the Cloud > Share link in chat.

Crazy that the easiest way to get that file to the person next you is to upload it hundreds of miles away to a server somewhere, but hey. Internet. 

OK, I’m sounding like an evangelist or Sponsored post (though at least this would be one I believe in) so the cons list: The pro account has a max file size of 250MB (if it did 1GB it could easily kill Wetransfer which I still don’t understand why people use rather than Dropbox).

And they’ve removed (I think) the little link in the Cloud icon to your personal library page.

And, they’ve got that ‘Raindrop’ feature which even for Dr Metaphor me, is pushing the cloud metaphor a little to far into cutesy.

What an ironically over-long-winded post about something so beautifully simple. Here then are some of my most popular shared files as a reward for making it this far:

A PDF of The Elephant newspaper we made using Newspaper Club in 2011.

The lyre bird gif I made from a David Attenborough documentary for Lawrence.

The photo from that day that nearly everyone wore grey.

And the example of the real Apple site vs a version I Photoshopped with poor quality product photos in attempt to illustrate that good design is about good content.

Anyway. Love you Cloud app. x

* And sorry Erin :)

PS. There’s also a version of sorts for Windows

Every user lies, albeit unconsciously

A great piece on Coding Horror titled Every user lies shared by Jamie plucks at a lot of my currently wobbling strings (see my post on Horizon and user manuals).

Personally, I think the title is a bit leading, as I doubt anyone in the field of cognitive economics (if there is such a thing) would accuse all ‘users’ of consciously lying all of the time, but the fact that we think and say things that aren’t necessarily true, feels very very true indeed.

The piece supports my long held belief that someone should have made a decent semi automatic compact camera without all those awful icons of mountains and flowers (Lomo got closest by philosophy - Rule #4), because no one ever really uses them (do they?).

Sadly, it also points out the flaw in such a desire to simplify things, in that people will always want the one with more options, even if they don’t use them.

We allow ourselves to feature creep.

Our aspirations are bigger than our stomachs. 

Again I’m left feeling bad for pondering how this knowledge of a weakness can help the design process. Placebo features maybe, that don’t really work and that don’t get in the way of core functionality. Or even just mumbo-jumbo science like in shampoo commercials. Make people feel like they’re buying something important. 

Late evening SEO email

"I was asked if you can tell what and how much SEO has been done to your own website. Is there a record? A friend being charged for work on SEO but they can’t ‘prove’ anything.”

A friend of mine asked this recently and my frustration led to the following late night email rant on a topic that I think we’ve spent more fruitless time talking about than any other:

- - - - - - - - 

SEO is so amazingly warped it’s crazy. It stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Which means the practice of optimising a website for search engines. Optimising means tweaking and doing things to improve. Search engines are things that help people find the most likely best result, amongst everything on the internet, for the words they searched for.

Our tact for years has been to translate this to mean: Designing and building websites that follow the standards that search engines applaud and encourage. Standards such as semantic mark up, clear and descriptive labels, non-repeating or stuffed content, and basically W3C standards

We then encourage businesses to create content that people want to read. Everything and anything relevant about their company that their audience or target market wants to / needs to know.

People are out there and wanting information. Literally searching for it, asking third party services to help them find the thing they want. If a business has that thing being searched for, then they should simply and clearly write about it online. Make it accessible and easy to navigate to. Just spend your time providing the service that people are searching for. 

Don’t ‘do SEO’. Do a service. Do content. Do value. And TO HUMANS, not robots and spiders that crawl the web looking for value for their human overlords.

Rant aside (though thanks for this excuse to put these thoughts into writing again as I’ve not done so for a few months now), if anyone has charged for SEO work, then they must be able to provide a list of exactly what they did. What code or methods they identified as wrong, and the code they wrote or methods they put in place to remedy the wrongs, toward better standards compliance.

If the page titles of the website were blank or non-descriptive for example, then maybe they made them descriptive and say what the page was about. Or if all hyperlinks on the site were just linking off ‘click here’ then maybe they made the links contain relevant words. Better / more basic yet, maybe they actually added external links to a site that had none. 

Slightly more trixy, they may have added footer navigation with direct keyword links to improve internal page findability, or have rewritten content to make it contain desired keywords (you won’t believe the number of business that hate and avoid the common words in their sectors, but expect to show up when people search for them. “Oh we dislike the words ‘flowers’ and ‘buy’ so use ‘floral delights’ and ‘purchase’ instead…. Why are’t we on page one for searches for ‘buy flowers’?”).

These examples are basic but I just mean to show that the ‘SEO guru’ can only do work that is changing something. To optimise is to do. So ask them for a list of what they did. Changed X to Y. And for fun, ask them why they did it and see if they actually know or can justify it (lots still suggest meta keywords which practically every search engine ignores now, but lazy SEO types have old cheat sheets so keep suggesting them).

Proving that SEO work has been carried out should not be the job of the client: it’s the second duty of the SEO expert after actually optimising the things that needed optimising. 

Hope that helps a bit! Sorry to go on but it’s an amazing scourge of the industry. An honest enough practice if looked at from the perspective of the search engine. In fact, they even offer directions and support:

Google Support Search Engine Optimization

Google webmaster SEO starter guide

But, dishonestly practiced, SEO is homeopathy at best and steroids at worst, with relative punishments if you get caught. I wrote a bit on SEO and other evils recently, linking to an articles like how Halifax got caught for bad SEO practices. 

Tell me how they get on. Fingers crossed they sort it out. 

Mathew

- - - - - - - - 

I shared this with Jenifer at WA to ensure it made sense considering how late I wrote it, and she made a valuable additional note: 

One thing that’s worth adding is how difficult it is to quantify the ‘success’ of SEO - and how difficult to prove and maintain over the long term (as Google’s algorithms change etc), which is why we don’t use any tricks, because they don’t pay in the long run. 

And then there’s the expense when they get caught - the Halifax and Expedia stuff looks like it could’ve been very costly indeed.

Just be nice and make nice content nicely. Or as one of the best posters and messages ever made says: Work hard and be nice to people:

image

SEO consultancy is generally not hard work, nor nice. 

In response to: On not taking LinkedIn too seriously by Andy Matthews

Andy’s post. Firstly, I’m not saying there’s any harm in having some fun with your LinkedIn profile page, and so salute the endorsements that you’ve collected for Laughter Yoga, Dogs and Making Coffee.

But I think your frustration with LinkedIn posing the question “Does Andy know about Architecture?” is giving the automated system too much credit and getting in the way of what it actually achieves.

It’s not asking the question consciously, with any decent awareness of the fact that you actually are a fully qualified Architect. Nor does it comprehend how difficult it is to train as an Architect. And I very much doubt it has any inkling of Section 20 of the Architects Act:

(1) A person shall not practise or carry on business under any name, style or title containing the word “architect” unless he is a person registered under this Act.

Architecture is an edge case profession that simply falls outside of the softly crowdsourced method of endorsement that LinkedIn has implemented in this feature.

It doesn’t intend to disrespect or qualify you with the endorsements it lists, but rather to show how your professional peers view and rate your entire skill set. It’s about endorsements after all, not qualifications.

Let’s put ‘Architect’ to one side for a moment and use another example: The word I have to deal with (as previously moaned about): ‘Designer’.

Having graduated as a Graphic Designer, I described myself as one for a few years, before realising I wasn’t that specialised / narrow. I did graphic, user, experience and even just general design. I designed, decorated, adorned, planned, created, tweaked and made, things. And stuff.

In short, I didn’t know which flavour of ‘design’ title suited me, until recently, and thanks to LinkedIn endorsements / my peers. Firstly, Graphic Design doesn’t even feature in my list.

Number 3 on my profile page, with 7 votes, is ‘User Experience’, and along with ‘User Interface’ which also features on my list, I happily hold my hand up.

Number 2 endorsement, with 11 votes, funnily enough, is ‘Information Architecture’ which I remember hearing ‘real’ Architects like yourself getting quite angry about once for Section 20 reasons.

Personally, if I was told it was illegal to say I did that, then fine, but let’s be realistic for the record and make clear that ‘Information Architecture’ uses the word almost metaphorically and does not for a second expect anything like the credit awarded to a ‘proper’ Architect.

Back to the chart and my number 1 endorsement on LinkedIn: ‘Interaction Design’. Something I’ve never introduced myself as or written on a business card or added to an email signature. But it’s actually pretty spot on.

That 18 of my peers have attributed that definition to me then is great, and it’s actually helped me punctuate the fact that I’m not a Graphic Designer but that I’m recognised for a kind of design I actually enjoy.

The point is, you may well be an Architect by qualification and years clocked, but people click that button because they think you’re good at it. If you were shit, they wouldn’t click, and all you’d have would be a CV saying one thing, and group of people that you respect, passively encouraging you to spend more time on your Yoga practice!

People aren’t clicking my Graphic Design button for this exact reason. In support of my personal dislike of the practice, it’s a message that I’m not actually all that good at it, despite what it say on the certificate my Mum has on her wall (sorry Mum).

I think these endorsements then are more about peer review than an attempt to qualify us academically. A supportive nod from people we know. Which is where your more irreverent entires come back into play perfectly, because if I had a dog, I would totally trust you with it. I clicked that button for real!

Real world error states


I encountered a load of real world error states recently when trying to sort a new passport and it gave me another great perspective on how hard it is to make a web form work well.

Forms are hard for everyone. Those making them and those filling them out. Stressful even, when it’s a particularly important form that could cause a penalty cost, or loss of access / service / rights.

A nice post shared by Jamie in the studio expresses some of the nuances from the developer side: 1 error(s) prevented this form from being saved by Paul Battley.

But on the human, real world side, my passport experience was an eye opener and actually an oddly great piece of user testing on myself.

I got loads of things wrong, that the form and supporting guidelines did actually make very clear. Next to me at the Post Office (on all three occasions that had to go back), there was another person having their own issues. They too, will have had all the necessary information, though encountered similar errors.

Errors in the real world are being told you missed a box or being sent home to get something you’ve forgotten. Worst of all is having the form returned to you after a few weeks, with a re-request for something you missed off.

A digital form doesn’t have these real life luxuries and expectations. Yes, it’s bloody annoying when those things happen in real life, but people understand at least. “Where is your deed pool certificate? You forgot it? Well you have to go and get it. NEXT”.

When errors happen on a web form, that doesn’t have the luxury of a human to instantly check and help, it’s the code that has to check. Every eventuality. It has to ensure that people get things right. Things that take them days to get right in the real world, with help from people, guides, and friends.

Writing is reminding me of the wonderful Google Analytics In Real Life - Online Checkout video. A great way to illustrate and remind devs, designers, users and clients, that everything we do is being used by humans, that will make mistakes and get annoyed. Let’s help people make mistakes and ease their annoyance.

PS. Frustrated with the whole process I felt quite vitriolic when I spotted a typo in the Passport application form!

Interestingly, Jame who follows me in Instagram looks to know Edward at GDS who looks like he works on the team putting this actual form online. *Swoon*

Horizon: How You Really Make Decisions

Watched another brilliantly eye opening Horizon tonight: How You Really Make Decisions (on iPlayer for another 16 hours at time of writing).

I’ve heard, watched or discussed variations of most of the ideas in the programme, as will have anyone that’s keen on TED, Radiolab or BBC science programmes, but they’re so nicely put together here that it got me plotting and thinking again about cognitive biases.

We are so ruled by them it’s scary, and if the programme is correct, they are flaws that evolved in us millions of years ago and so something we are utterly unable to avoid in our everyday lives.

There’s a great list of them on Wikipedia and another on the Rationalwiki if you’re in a multiple sources mood.

Classics are the optimism bias and the seemingly obvious loss aversion effect but I’m also a fan of the planning fallacy and the IKEA effect, which caught my eye while scanning the list!

There’s an great piece on the Guardian on the man most credited with discovering and developing the ideas of cognitive bias: Daniel Kahneman changed the way we think about thinking. But what do other thinkers think of him?

The plotting that all this stirred in me again is the possibility of deliberately design into these biases. Rather than thinking of a nice idea or product (that itself is probably manifest from our own biases), could we pick one or more, and consciously leveraging the tendency in others?

The denomination effect for example. Perhaps there’s an even more effective version of the pound shop that could encourage the spending of coppers and loose change, if that’s what we’re inclined to spend more freely (my Mum used to ‘say take care of the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves’, so maybe she knows it works)?

Or perhaps hoping that people will be nice and leave positive reviews on review sites is just fighting the negativity bias and so an outright negative review service could be more successful in that sector. Bait grumpy trolls and people that really like to moan, then extrapolate good things as the ones that don’t get reviewed. “We have zero ratings on moanr.com”.

This idea is horrid, obviously. To consciously identify weaknesses in humanity and then design into them with intent to extort, but once you see the list, it’s hard not to see the exploits and at least consider how you yourself can or have been had.

Our optimism and confirmation biases for example make us susceptible to break-ins I think: The confidence that the negative act won’t happen to us, combined with the fact that we’ve left our windows open before without being burgled. When our open window is ‘broken’ into, we’re surprised and pissed off, but more likely susceptible to the overconfidence effect and the idea that it won’t happen again now it’s happened once (there’s a bias on misunderstanding odds as well but I can’t remember which).

In writing this I remembered something a good friend once said, while feeling a bit down about themselves and struggling to write an online dating profile: “I’m just a collection of traits”. Which is totally right! We all are. Collections of traits and biases that make us all act in certain and predictable, if uncontrolable ways. Not a great definition, sure, but better than ugly giant bags of mostly water!  

Listed brands - Old chain of thought

A chain of thought triggered tonight when I saw Northern Army Preservation Society of Canada via Quipsologies. They’re cataloguing Canadian logos that they want to preserve. I reckon we should just properly list logos and be done with it.

Like we do with buildings. Some organisation of other, international and neutral, probably Swiss for all the obvious reasons, considers the historic and social value of logos and identities and then when the time is right, they list them and prevent them from ever being changes (I think that’s how they do it with buildings).

Recently it would have protected American Airlines for example (there are others, but the thought chain isn’t triggering them). If a country doesn’t abide, then the international community pressures them with refusing any import / export of the brand. Boom. Cool logos forever.

The other time this idea was tickled recently was when Erin mentioned the William Morris Gallery and the Society of Protection of Ancient Buildings, something I never knew Morris was into. Got us to thinking how great that sort of thing is, but then also how not, and how maybe sometimes, old things are just rubbish and not worth saving.

Like the way some buildings that had windows bricked up for the window tax, are now listed with them blocked up. Listing preventing windows for goodness sake. Madness.

I have no idea if that’s actually true anymore though as watching QI has made me doubt a lot of things I previously thought ‘true’. A Pavlovian-esque klaxon sound parps in my mind when I realise I’m accepting something that I’ve not fact checked.

Another example of this is the idea that Subway ‘pump their smell out into the streets’. This was mentioned over lunch at 54B recently and we all nodded for while until the klaxon sounded and I realised how implausible it was. The one near us in Daslton doesn’t have any special tubes or funnels onto Kingsland Road. There’s not smell pump mechanism bundled along with the sauces in the franchise packet.

Urban myths. I fear most of what we know falls into that category. Bet Stephen Fry thinks that as well and it’s why he started QI. Bet he’s trying to educate the masses, using comedy as subterfuge. Clever brilliant bastard.

OK, quick ‘fact check’ then (meaning I will quickly Google for…):

Listed buildings with window tax… nope, can’t find anything. 

'Subway pump out smell' search however finds:

no, according to [Mark] Christiano [Subway’s Global Baking Technologist], the smell is not intentionally pumped outside to entice passers-by, although he says: “We are proud of the smell. Any baked product smells good. And we want you to catch that bread aroma.”

via Food Republic, What’s Behind The Subway Bread Smell?

Well they would say that wouldn’t they…

Temporary expertise

@alexgraul once noted how we become temporary experts in compact and prosumer cameras while looking to buy a new one, then lose all knowledge immediately after buying: We research models, learn what specs mean, read reviews, buy, then allow all info to become dated. And repeat, next time we want a new camera.

This practice of temporary expertise extends beyond cameras and into everything we buy and do. We don’t just buy a ‘What Product’ magazine or ask a travel agent or trust a sales person. We do our ‘own’ research, which means reading the opinions of anonymous unqualified others, granted, but still. We put graft into finding multiple opinions written by other people and decide which we believe in most.

The other two, and I’d wager lesser aids to multiple choice are asking the opinion of trusted friends (that mate that takes good photos / that very recently bought the good TV / that went to New Zealand last year) or trusting stars or ‘most popular’ ratings on websites, which has sadly become as risky an activity as gambling.

This time for me it’s not cameras, but balance bikes.

I know next to nothing about them. This is the extent of my knowledge: It looks like they used to be wooden, though now more commonly metal. I think they’re for the 2-4 year old age group. Some look to have hard rubber tiers, others, pneumatic. Price range is from £30 up maybe, but I get the feeling there is a growing market for daftly expensive ones bought, I bet, by weekend worrier / ‘all the gear with no idea’ parents that buy themselves £2,000 road bikes with matching Rapha gear for occasional weekend jaunts.

Aside: Those ‘sorts’ by the way, are actually really good people. I realise that. Their eager high end consumption keeps a number of people I know in the bike industry in employment. My name calling cheap shot is perhaps just the envy of being unable to afford those things. See: My bike.

Back to balance bikes. I need two. And I choose the temporary expertise path to purchase. Ask me in a month.