This American Life 293: A Little Bit of Knowledge

I’m became a This American Life convert in 2012 after a few months of really not getting it. I am now practically in love with Ira Glass and the way he tells stories. 

If you don’t know it, then this is for you. If you do, then this is a reminder to listen now. And if, like me at first, you don’t like it, then try again now, with this recent episode. 

Radio, podcasting, storytelling, idea sharing sharing, at its very best.

Re last post: Said the man that named With Associates…

Calling myself out here. It’s not just geographical or technology based brand names that are difficult to get right, it’s all branding. Branding and naming anything is hard with expectation to be prophetic about every eventuality. 

I thought our With Associates name was a nice little idea and gave an immediate clue to our philosophy. Working ‘with’ people. Not for, or against, or behind. With. But when we phone people, I get the feeling that this is what they hear:

"Hello, is Victoria there? Great. It’s Mathew Fromworth Associates… No, Withell Sociates… No, WIIIITH. W-I-T-H Associates. With Associates. Yes, that’s it. Great. Thanks."

Every. Single. Time. 

I still like the name though and stand by the philosophy. W+I+T+H.

Bonus Material: A great naming fail I only recently learned about is from the new world of create hashtags that are unique enough to own yet easy enough to type and read. 

Susan Boyle having an album party, easy… #susanalbumparty

Wait. What?

Avoid a geographical name for your new business or start up

On Dover Street in London’s Mayfair, they created the shop brand Dover Street Market. At the time I be this seemed like a really good idea. And it probably helped people find the shop. “Have you been to Dover Street Market? No? Oh you must. Where is it? Why, it’s on Dover Street! LOLOLO”

Then they opened one in Japan. “Have you been to Dover Street Market desu ka? No? Where is it? Well, Ginza Komatsu West, 6-9-5, Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo 104-0061.” Which isn’t too bad considering the existing complexity of Japanese addresses and the fact that there is no actual Dover Street in Tokyo.

Then they opened one in New York. “Taxi! Take me to Dover Street Market. What? No, not Dover Street. Dover Street Market on Lexington Av & East 30th St. Yeah! Not Dover Street on Dover Street. Dover Street on Lexington. Dummy”. 

Another example close to where I live is the E5 Bakery, in E8.

It’s all along the lines of Carphone Warehouse in way. Geographical and technology descriptive then. Avoid both incase you move, or the goalposts do. 

Prototyping advice from a fortune cookie

A lovely find by Andy Whitlock. This idea of play is a bit like what we’re suggesting, doing and encouraging with pair.withassociates.com. Playing and experimenting at something together, taking it in turns to have a go, with no leader or dictator calling the shots. 

20 Day Stranger

There’s something troublingly endemic about the idea of 20 Day Stranger. On the surface it looks like an interesting new sort of social service, that’s less about broadcasting and focused more on an intimate connection, but it’s still a naval gazing exercise that’s centred around you and people that distract from the friends that are actually around you.  

I struggle to spend 20 decent minutes with my children each day, and here’s something else encouraging me to spend time away from them and the physical space and people I am with. 

It’s a little unfair to unload this moan on 20 Day Stranger perhaps, as it’s just an MIT experiment at heart, and an interesting one, but it niggles my conscience and makes me think again about ideas we’re brewing at With for apps and services that encourage more real life interaction.

Footnote: The first big conscience tickle I had on this theme resulted in the unfollowing on Instagram of some noisy folk that I don’t really know, but who I realised I thought more about each day than I did my Mum. I’m not saying don’t broaden your horizons, but I do think we’re distracting ourselves at times from existing value and opportunity. 

This is resonating so much this Monday morning. This shot of it via londongraphics on Twitter. The talk and thought via It’s Nice That’s Here 2014. 
Let’s have it then people. Give it the full 87%. 

This is resonating so much this Monday morning. This shot of it via londongraphics on Twitter. The talk and thought via It’s Nice That’s Here 2014

Let’s have it then people. Give it the full 87%. 

Making it up as we go along

I remember a friend saying that they had given up on LOST at season 5 because they believed “they were just making it up as they go along”… 

Now, I know they meant that the writers were maybe trying to stretch it out for ratings and didn’t quite know which ending to use yet, but the comment revealed an assumption that I think we all make a lot:

That ‘someone’ knows what’s happening all the time. That there is a single correct and right way for everything to happen. That all things are organised and panned with almost fate like assurance. 

After attending UX London recently this thought resonates again. More on that in some post talk posts soon. 

PS. Posts that I’m only imagining OK, they’re not fully thought out yet… nor even are the thoughts fully formed… I’m just making this up as I go along. 

Misunderstanding misunderstanding

A post titled misunderstanding innovation by John Gruber irked me recently. It quotes an article by Horace Dediu:

But there is another form of ignorance which seems to be universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term and the inability to discern the difference between novelty, creation, invention and innovation. The result is a failure to understand the causes of success and failure in business and hence the conditions that lead to economic growth.

And Gruber adds:

This is a step toward understanding why so many people get Apple so very wrong. If you don’t understand what innovation really is, you’re not going to understand an innovative company.

My addition is simply to calm down and accept that the argument here is more about semantics than actual human capacity to comprehend concepts.

Yes, Dediu starts with “the inability to understand the concept…” but he then moves quickly into a taxonomy of English language words and synonyms, and how they should ‘correctly’ and hierarchically nestle within each other. 

While the argument is valid in an academic sense then, for me it misses the point that they’re trying to make about people not understanding a concept.

I believe people understand things just fine and that the problem lies in the always-ignored fallibility of spoken and written communication. As I wrote yesterday about a latch lock working perfectly fine if it’s used correctly by everyone all the time. It’s just not going to happen. 

Misunderstanding is mostly the fault of language. 

Shoot the messenger. 

Two locks. One key. Neither a latch lock (the sort that you can just close behind you and walk away from without turning a key).
When you leave, you have to lock both of these locks manually, with the key. Some days this annoys me, the little faff of standing outside this door in the rain, holding a bike with one hand and trying to pull the door and lock it twice with the other, but I quickly remember why I set it up this way when I arrive at a communal door somewhere else and find that it’s been left open. 
Someone left, gave the door a little tug behind them, relying on the single latch lock, but it didn’t latch. Door left open.
I designed the user experience / interface of our door to deliberately annoy and require thought. To force everyone to turn and check two locks in order to leave rather than trying to add some quick and easy ‘clever’ lock that requires no thought.
A real world version of a double opt-in confirmation button, vs the latch lock that’s equal to a delete button with no confirmation at all. 
Oh, and the idea that a well fitted latch lock should always latch, or that people should check the latch and not just walk away… never ever ever going to happen to as high a success rate as forcing every user to manually double confirm. 

Two locks. One key. Neither a latch lock (the sort that you can just close behind you and walk away from without turning a key).

When you leave, you have to lock both of these locks manually, with the key. Some days this annoys me, the little faff of standing outside this door in the rain, holding a bike with one hand and trying to pull the door and lock it twice with the other, but I quickly remember why I set it up this way when I arrive at a communal door somewhere else and find that it’s been left open. 

Someone left, gave the door a little tug behind them, relying on the single latch lock, but it didn’t latch. Door left open.

I designed the user experience / interface of our door to deliberately annoy and require thought. To force everyone to turn and check two locks in order to leave rather than trying to add some quick and easy ‘clever’ lock that requires no thought.

A real world version of a double opt-in confirmation button, vs the latch lock that’s equal to a delete button with no confirmation at all. 

Oh, and the idea that a well fitted latch lock should always latch, or that people should check the latch and not just walk away… never ever ever going to happen to as high a success rate as forcing every user to manually double confirm. 

This is the 3rd or 4th time that I’ve fallen fowl to trying to write in browser or in a constantly syncing cloud app with overwriting syncing errors (this time luckily at least I could still copy my work out of the browser before I lost it). 
Going to go back to writing in TextEdit where it’s safe.  

This is the 3rd or 4th time that I’ve fallen fowl to trying to write in browser or in a constantly syncing cloud app with overwriting syncing errors (this time luckily at least I could still copy my work out of the browser before I lost it). 

Going to go back to writing in TextEdit where it’s safe.  

Peter Day, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and Jeff Bezos

Listening to Peter Day’s brilliant World of Business, from 17 April titled 'In business: has the book a future'.

There’s a point in the programme where he portrays the old guard of big book stores (read Boarders, Books etc, etc) as poor little underdog businesses, now that the internet and Amazon in particular have all but destroyed them.

It made me think of 1998s You’ve Got Mail, staring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, where a little independent book store (owned by Meg) is being destroyed by the big high street chain (owned by Tom). 

Further more in the film, the internet (played by AOL) is the thing that brought them together. Now, it’s the thing that’s destroying them all. More home breaker than relationship maker.

PS. That link to the original 1998 You’ve Got Mail website again, just in case you missed it. That was the internet at the time this film was made. Imagine being able to imagine then, that this medium would become what it has… a bit like Jeff Bezos did in fact, four years before the film even…  

A beautifully crafted web page

Just found wrist.im via the steer.me newsletter and had one of those ‘aww yeah that’s ace, ooooh, nice details, wish we’d done that’ moments. Followed by a thought on how odd the web is as medium. Generally.

It’s not a new thought, nor an insightful one as such, but it struck me like when I find clapping to be odd from time to time, when in the middle of a crowd that’s doing it. Lots of people, showing appreciation by repeatedly smashing two limbs together to make a noise.

It’s just odd when you think that this agreed social format has evolved and how different it could have been, or even how normal it would have been if it had never evolved at all. A world with no clapping is equally as odd as one with.

The web is feeling a bit in that realm for me now and wrist.im is a good example to help reveal this overthinkingness. It’s great, yes, but it probably represents hundreds of hours or work of one person, fits into no classic genre other than ‘portfolio’ or ‘experiment’ perhaps, will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people no doubt, yet on the greater scheme of things, is just one in a few billion of other webpages being created and on the whole, as indistinguishable as one clap amoung the white noise of a billion.

But, there is is, being made, applauded and now moved on from. 

Case in point. Another one in a few billion. Tumbleweed. Moving on. 

Data privacy, scattergun style

I stopped using Facebook because I was creeped out by how intrusive they were and by how much data they were gathering across other sites I visited and by who I interacted with. 

Then they bought Instagram, so I left that for about a year as well but came back after deciding the social value was greater than the data cost / risk (which was not the case personally with Facebook). Then they bought WhatsApp, which I also used a bit. And now they’ve bought Moves.

This morning I downloaded by Moves data and deleted my account, the server back up of which the app informed will be deleted in 30 days.

I now have a 74.8 MB data file which I cannot do anything with, a free texting app which I semi-scared to use, a photo sharing app on which I regularly share personal images with geo data, and an inability to participate professionally on company or community Facebook pages due to the fact I’m scared of Facebook having personal or geo data on me…  

Use, value, benefit, risk, inevitability? It’s getting harder to draw lines isn’t it.

Twitter favouriting

I love how people use the twitter start / favourite functionality in completely different ways. Uses I’ve collected:

  1. An effective read later / look at later functionality 
  2. A way to show someone you ‘liked’ their tweet
  3. A way to show someone you read their tweet
  4. A way to show you agree with something they think
  5. A way to try and nudge someone into following you back 
  6. Randomly and occasionally, just because it’s there

I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone actually using it to collect their favourite tweets. 

It’s as if Twitter added the functionality with no clear idea of why people might use it. Then they left it in, even when no one agreed what it was for. A kind of UI desire path.

How do you use yours? 

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