Can we stop pulling these posts into Slack please?
Writing this predominantly for work, where this post will be pulled automatically into the group Slack channel, the act of which has stirred a growing discomfort that I have about the automation of everything.
So, firstly to With Associates: Can I ask that we turn off the Mathew Bot that automatically pulls my posts into the group chat channel please?
While the setting up of the bot was a lovely thought (thank you Jamie), I’ve come to find that the automated reality of having these posts pulled in isn’t as nice as the idea (for me at least).
It feels interrupting to the channel, a little like I’m taking behind your backs, rather than having the conversation with you. Also, it slightly distracts me when writing: Adding a guaranteed automated outlet for all of my posts, that I know you’ll all see (and possibly feel like you have to read).
But most of all perhaps, it’s that all 9 of you have it automatically delivered whether you want it or not, at a time that might not be right for you.
It just feels like it’s on the edge of automation being useful vs. it being noisy and unwanted.
Thanks again though, but let’s turn my noise off in Slack. The blog post portion at least. What do you reckon?
The discomfort that this train of thought touches on is that the general automation of everything seems to have sights set on sentiment and consideration, which I’m thinking is a step too far.
Helping me to do laborious tasks more quickly is great. Aggregating news feeds that I choose to be pulled into onc place is fantastic. Even suggesting things I might like based on the other things I’ve looked at it useful, if we’re honest.
And the cars that will be driving us soon, and the news that will be writing itself, and the drugs that will be prescribed by software without human intervention, while scary, are also pretty exciting automations.
But the automation of having something make you think about someone else rather than you having to actually pay attention to them consciously, feels a little too far.
If that’s too abstract in the context of my posts and a work chat channel, then think instead about the awful chatty automated responses that website forms or error pages give you. Or Twitter accounts of companies that practice lazy social networking in their fulfilment processes. Or Facebook birthday reminders, that noisily remind you about the birthdays of a subset of your friends on Facebook. Forget those that don’t want their date of birth shared with everyone, or friends that aren’t on Facebook, or your parents who are scared of using it.
Basically, I wager that while everything can probably be automated, that the act of consciously thinking about other people that are genuinely important to you, and having thoughts about them that are not generated for you, is something that we should never try to relieve ourselves from.
And that goes for robot seals and monkeys, designed to care for the elderly. Or at least planning for that to be all the care that someone receives.
It surprises and delights me every time a company does customer communications well, even if for the most mundane reasons. Got this message this morning from Campaign Monitor:
As a user of Monitor for iPhone you may have noticed a frustrating bug surface in the last couple of weeks that resulted in the app freezing. We wanted to reach out, apologize for letting this one slip into a release, and let you know it’s now been fixed once and for all.
This bug had been bugging me. I think they could have sent something earlier ideally, to say they were working on it, because it was seriously annoying and making me think they were being a bit lacklustre, but getting this email today eliminates all doubt and negative feeling about the brand.
Had a similar experience with London Pride recently. Tweeted the brand that I kind of liked, without expectation that they’d even get back and they were on it. Even just that first reply made me like them more.
Had a similar experience with Giraffe three years ago. In that case I had no brand feelings for them at all, but getting a quick and helpful response to an inquiry sparked some respect.
In contrast, a brand that I won’t name, took customer comms too far with what seemed like an automated tweet stream for an entire order fulfilment process, with terrible jokes and all. In that case I think they’ve actually lost me as a customer.
That’s not to say it’s a fine line for getting it right. Just that it’s best not to tweet jokes containing the word ‘dead’ when telling customers that you’re addressing an envelope to them.
Listening to another great edition of Peter Day’s World of Business, GlobalBiz: Inside Silicon Valley, and to people moaning about innovation not happening fast enough, slowly enough, or sustainability enough. Generally, not enough.
Got to thinking about how best to innovate or have innovative ideas, and like most answers in life, realised Star Trek held the answer: Sci-fi plot devices.
I was part of a consensus recently, about how some European nations sound to our sensitive British ear like they’re arguing when they talk, and more specifically, that some seem to actually like a debate when conversing. Like a gentle sparing bout.
The problem with being British however is that we’re more likely to roll over and expose our bellies in tricky conversations, than we are to forcefully express what we actually think. And damn us, I can’t stand it. And our worldly satirised bumbling Hugh Grant / Boris Johnson stammering and backtracking.
Wonder if things were different in the Empire and Industrial Revolution days and if British conversational cautiousness is a recent thing? Maybe even an apologetic repercussion from being such horrible imperialistsfor so long.
Sorry, were you using that? Oh! It’s yours? Oh, gosh, right, sorry, please, have it back. Sorry. Keep the Monarch if you like maybe. Good for parties and flags and such.
At the same time, I can see slight advantages to our nervousness. It’s good to be considerate and sensitive to the needs of others. To empathise rather than critisize and lambast. But then again, it’s more important at times to speak up and add value rather than just to follow a status quo.
See, I’m doing it now. Pick a side man. Speak up. And go and ask that woman again if you can use the plug, since that’s what got you on this train of thought in the first place. She’s had it for ages since saying ‘oh, just a moment more’. It’s your turn to charge your computer. Say so. Oh, hang on. She’s left. Now it’s my turn.
Journeyman eating, drinking and writing trial run concluded. Conclusion: Too indulgent. Like eating 20 eclairs, in front of people. Leaves you feeling a bit sick and embarrassed. Gave it a go though. What’s next?
Everyone at With Associates gets one month of Free Fridays each year. Months are randomly picked from a hat, and our respective consecutive four Fridays are put firmly in to the holiday calendar at no cost to anyone’s holiday allowance (hence ‘free’ Fridays).
The ‘free’ philosophy that goes with these days is the encouragement to keep them free, and not book them into long weekends or plan too much that requires reliance on other people. Booking holiday is for those things. Free Fridays are for guilt free indulgence, life admin, lazing or just trying and doing things you normally don’t have time for.
We’ve done this for 6 or 7 years now and it’s become oddly essential, to the extent that I can’t imagine how other people and companies manage without it. All year I save up tasks and look forward to my chance to do nothing without it costing me anything.
It’s a bit mindfulnessy really, but prescheduled for you with a little help from fate. Or a little like a long train journeys used to be, before mobile singal was good enough to keep you connected and distracted from just looking out of the window and watching the world go by (whilst productively making your way from A to B).
If you run a company then, I’d suggest giving this chance to your employees. If you’re employed by a company, then I’d suggest asking for it. If you already do it and you’re on one now like me, what you up to? Me? Today, life admin, writing and eating. And it’s ace.
Did it feel ironic linking to Wikipedia to reference 1984 in my last post? Is it the closest manifestation of a Ministry of Truth in the real world? Or is it our best hope against a 1984 style future? Wish Orwell were alive to see it. Who’s the modern day Orwell? What’s the value of posting questions in a blog post? Am I just hoping this will make conversation with my colleagues? Or am I just unwilling to stand by any points that I’m raising here?
In a lovely piece shared by Erin about the life of data bits (What Bits Want), there’s a particularly well put line on a topic that keeps troubling me as a designer:
"Increasingly, it is cheaper to store data than to figure out whether it should be erased."
It has become so easy to do a thing, that we no longer need to question if we should even do it. It has become easier not to think about something. It is advantageous not to think about an action. No matter how I put this, I find our increasing opportunity to not have to think about things disturbing.
Yes, the quote is about not thinking about data storage and not about thoughtlessly declaring war on another country, but, the same technology and innovation that’s making data storage a thoughtless act is developing and driving autonomous weapon systems, like the X-47B aka Salty Dog 502* which landed itself on an aircraft carrier for the first time in 2013:
I’m taking the fear over the top perhaps, from bits to bombs, but both examples point to the fact that we’re spending more time and energy on helping people to not think, than is perhaps healthy. Having a small group of clever people write software and build tech that allows the majority to think less.
For more on this paranoid fear, see Idiocracy or Wall-E where our pacifying-dystopian fate is taken to the extreme (and put far more elegantly and entertainingly than I can do in writing). Or read 1984. This isn’t a new idea, I realise that, but it’s the idea that design is playing the trojan horse role for our dystopia, rather than policy or politics that’s worrying.
Just realised the slight irony here with Apple referencing 1984 in their famous 1984 Macintosh ad.
*Giving a scary weapon a funny name is a great way to lessen the social impact, isn’t it. Growing up I remember thinking how fun the bouncing bomb sounded when my dad watched Dam Busters.
I’m trialling an idea today that I’ve wanted to act on for ages. It’s an indulgent idea, based mostly on a hunger for food, mixed with an equally large appetite for having time to think.
Between my day of dentist appointments (check), supplier phone calls, one exciting meeting, and perhaps a swim if my back feels better, I am going to drift from cafe to cafe, to eat and drink and write.
Rather than splurge everything online at the time of writing, I’ll schedule the posts over the coming days, depending on how many I write. If all goes well, as in, enjoyably, I’ll do a proper full day session next Friday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 fineif it’s used correctly by everyone all the time. It’s just not going to happen.
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…
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.
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.
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).
Maybe no one that’s good enough to fix it wants to work at Apple?
Maybe there aren’t even that may people that are actually good enough to even solve it
Maybe the good people just don’t wants to touch the old horrible codebase
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.
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.
it’s a nice idea and sounds cool from a PR point of view for them and Zappos alike, but I can’t help but feel that is a little like closing the door, with a wedge of cash, after the horse has bolted.
What about incentives and plans designed to keep people from make it all the way to being unhappy? A set-up that invites people with aspirations that are different to their job title to have access to career advice and to be supported on finding the right job. Try to make it so that anyone who leaves, leaves on good terms. That feels like a smarter concept than effectively being paid off for being pissed off
Having a play with the nicely-put-together little service that is Jauntful which once again our man Jamie introduced to the studio [Update: No he didn’t! He introduced Telescope which is also lovely and similar. No idea for now where I saw Jauntful then]. 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:
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.
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.
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…]
… 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.
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!
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
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:
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.
"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:
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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:
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.
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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:
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.”
@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.
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.
I don’t really remember the Smurfs from growing up, but I do recall hearing that they used the word ‘smurf’ to mean almost anything, much to the confusion of any human listening to their conversation.
A quick check on the Smurf Wiki, where else, confirms:
The Smurf language is basically a variation of a human language where the word “smurf” is substituted for whatever noun, verb, adjective, or adverb is being used.
’Smurf’ then to my mind is synonymous with the word ‘design’. And like a human trying to converse with a Smurf, I feel frustrated as hell that the word design is so ambiguous and unhelpful.
As ‘a designer’ I feel this announcement is a bit of a coming out, but after ‘design’ was our With Link word the other week, it prompted me to think more aloud about my long held frustration with the word and its equivocations.
The diplomat in me says each to their own, and that it’s OK maybe that the definition is varied, argued and changing. But the designer in me thinks it needs to be clearer. The word needs to be more exact. A definition agreed on across all industries. It needs to be better designed basically. Not that it every will or could be. I do realise that.
This is obviously just an indulgent proclamation rant that nothing can ever really be done about, but for me it does genuinely feel good to let it out.
I hate design. I love design. And I need to better define what I believe it means.
I’m an ‘everything in its place’ kind of person. I don’t have a great memory as such, but I tend to know where things are because they tend to be where I always put them. In particular, my phone, wallet, keys and loose change (and rubber bands, but that’s for another post).
They live in my trouser pockets. Phone front left. Wallet back left. Keys and lose change back right. And the space left front right is now empty after giving up (again) on carrying a compact camera.
Because I know where they are, I do routine status checks which consist of quickly patting and tapping below my hips until I’m confident that each object is safe and accounted for.
When I stopped carrying the compact, I went through a short withdrawal period. A moment of panic when ‘tap tap’ on the front right pocket revealed a missing trouser resident. “Where is it!? Oh, yeah”.
Over it now, but I don’t like the space that’s left. I also don’t like sitting on my keys. So, I’m trying to change my key pocket from back right to front right and it’s hard. Really oddly and surprisingly hard.
Panicked moments occur frequently and within minutes of each other. Leaving home, where are they, oh yeah. Unlock bike locks. Leave house, lock door, where are they, oh yeah. Get to Reilly Rocket, lock bike, where are they, oh yeah, and so on.
The only panic-less moments are when I find them back in the back pocket, after forgetting within 30 seconds of pulling them out the front, that they need to go back in there. Habit takes over my plans and reverts to unconscious practices.
It’s reminding me and making me appreciate how hard it is to design a new service, or to attempt to win someone over from one thing to another.
Twitter, Facebook and now Instagram clones that crop up and try to beat the giants are faced with the hurdle of getting people off their old network, out of their habits and into creating new ones in a new domain. Hard. See Path, who seem to me to have been struggling with this for years now.
Must look more into psychology and therapy techniques of breaking habits. Reckon there are some good design insights in there. In fact I’ve long through that a background or history of study in those areas makes for the best sort of designers. See Nat Hunter. Also Dan Howells.
Post notes: People that put their phones / wallet and keys in different places every time (and so lose them) How do they not adopt habits? People that put their pocket stuff on pub tables despite having heard 101 stories of stuff being stolen from pubs. How does that not fill them with fear. Why isn’t everyone just crazy paranoid all the time like me! Why people! :)
Talk to Nat and Dan. What other secrets do they know?
So sad to see such a(nother) nice looking product and start-up close down. Great of them to be so honest in their Goodbye post:
We’re proud of the team and tool that we built together and incredibly thankful that so many of you were willing to give it a try. And we continue to believe that evolving the way we collaborate as writers and editors is important work. But Editorially has failed to attract enough users to be sustainable, and we cannot honestly say we have reason to expect that to change.
We wish that were not the case — we’ve spent much of the past two years working on the hypothesis that the reverse was true — but today we must be honest with ourselves, and with you: this isn’t going to work.
And to be honest, I’m actually in that audience that they failed to attract, as although I signed up to the beta last year, I never really got into it or even really felt the impetus for some reason (like I say, it really did look nice and impress me).
This was the reality of my relationship with the product though:
I received their welcomes and prompts but somehow never took the tasty looking bait. Things to learn here for sure. Not sure exactly what yet (other than wishing on a hypothesis isn’t enough) but as someone that’s part of team putting a few products together at the moment, I feel there’s more that I would like to learn from this.
Ew, yuck. I just looked forward to a post-mortem. Sorry Editorially. All the best on your next ventures.
I’ve described myself in the past as a reluctant capitalist due to observing activities that, although ‘allowed’, don’t really feel very honest. Take tax efficiency for example, or pharmaceutical licensing that prevents people in need from affordable treatments. Both totally allowed, but neither that nice, if we’re honest.
I came across two promising examples on the same day recently though which support my reluctance and belief that the evils aren’t the only way.
Secondly, via Daring Fireball, came the graph on Realplayer, showing that if you do all the evil and build your entire offer on it, then you’re just setting yourself up for a fall. This is not to ignore that there’s money to be made before the fall, sadly, but does at least show that it’s not the sustainable of very enjoyable route to take, perhaps.
While classically I don’t think there’s much room for honesty in business then, it’s examples like these that make me feel less daft in my desire to be a conscientious capitalist.
* Post notes. More on Slack soon. If you don’t know it though, sign up now and ignore the awful name.
Someone recently commented on the inclusion of a wooden chopping board and plastic tub in my dishwasher, stating that the manual to theirs says those items shouldn’t be put in, and I realised that I had never read or even seen the manual to my dishwasher. So began one of the most interesting blog posts ever…
Seriously though, I think the realisation is quite interesting. When did I, and I’d wager most people under 40, stop thinking we had to read the manual? (the someone was my father-in-common-law who’s in his 70’s and a man that treats a manual with respect).
My earliest memory of personally flouncing written instructions is with Transformer. You’d get them out of the box and just try to figure out the transformation. I remember there were manuals, but just because I liked the drawings.
(I remember cool red plastic overlays that you applied to the back of the boxes as well, that showed the strength and stats of each character and being shocked by one surprisingly poor quality of Soundwave. Can’t remember which now tough).
But, early digital watches I remember having manuals for. Our Betamax and following VHS players at home as well. I remember my parents having a stack of other house manuals and seeing them referenced from time to time, though mostly, the manual memory attached to my Dad is the Haynes sort, which again I liked the pictures in.
In my home now we have a similar stack but I think only because we feel we should. I can’t actually remember having ever looked at or referenced one, case in point, the new dishwasher.
My reckoning then is that the behaviours of a 30 something and 70 something deviated in the last 20-30 years and that the best case study for designing away the manual over that period has to be Apple, whose products come now with a business card size diagram at most.
Aside: Generally, I think that using Apple as a case study is lazy and not actually all that valuable. They’re an outlier. A freak. Un-replaceable in many many ways. In this case though I do feel they epitomise the movement of utter ease of use and the goal of designing intuitions.
They do still produce full instructions for everything they make, but they hide then online for emergencies and troubleshooting. Not for actually getting started.
The plug and play factor of Apple products exhibits best in the classic early iMac campaigns with Jeff Goldblum:
While you’re in Jeff mode, do check out drunken Jeff:
… In which the ease of ‘10 minutes out of the box and you’re on the internet’ gets another mention.
Easy does it. Now more than ever. The Steve Krug book Don’t Make Me Think springs to mind for obvious reasons, though less obvious is why so many companies still seem so far off grasping the importance of simplicity (well worth a read on this topic: I just remembered a great post from Russell Davies on the Sony DSC-QX10, for which the product name alone makes you scratch your head).
I’m not saying just stop including the manual, because there will always be certain essential pieces of info that your audience doesn’t know (and then the multiple languages that those audiences speak) but when this A2 piece of paper came with my bike saddle, it makes me question more than just the paper waste:
Post notes. Want to think more about the idea of ‘designing intuitions’.
We tend not to say ‘I told you so’ because generally it’s a bit of a douchey pedant thing to do. Not that it’s not a rightful position to find yourself in: Having made a prediction, that’s ignored, only to be proven correct. Total right to ‘I told you so-ing’, denied.
Worse still though is not saying I told you so, but knowing the recipient knows that you could: To be thought of as a douchey pedant when all you did was make a prediction, that was ignored, that then turned out to be correct. Tripple fail.
The saddest part is that the intention of most people saying, or in a position to say I told you so, is to try and help. People don’t seek not to be listened to when they are sure about something. They’re just a soul who’s intentions are good…
An example predicament (indulge me for a moment): Someone suggest that you go on holiday (they have a nice idea so +1 point to them). You love the idea (no points for that).
They suggest Greece, because it’s nice AND they’ve found a deal you can afford, in November (another +0.5 points for continuing such a nice idea with such good research and intentions).
You are pretty sure that November is the start of the rainy season in Greece. Really pretty sure.
Option 1: You say you’re sure it’s the rainy season in November (-0.5 points for being a downer on the nice idea). They say ‘it’s Greece! It’s always hot. And even when it rains it’s just heavy and short’. You try again and suggest either saving longer for something better next year or going away for a weekend in you’re own country (-1 point for continuing to be a downer and having not as exciting ideas).
You give in to their optimism because you want to believe it, and sort of fear losing any more points. Total so far: Them +1.5. You -1.5.
You go on the holiday. It rains. A lot. It’s not a good holiday. Not awful but not really memorable and a bit disappointing.
Whether or not you say I told you so, you get -2 points because you could. Or because you did. Or because you didn’t try harder to explain ‘rainy season’ more clearly. They, get another +0.5 for trying. At least they tried to make a good time happen.
Final score: Them +2. You -2.5! You damn douchey pedant. But, backtrack a bit, Sliding Doors style, and you’re still at risk.
Option 2: You think it’s the rainy season but say nothing. Holiday turns out the same. This time they get +1 for trying and because they had no idea it was the rainy season and feel awful for their mistake (hope+guilt scores high).
You get no points at all because you did nothing to help anything. All you get is the crappy holiday and worthless secret guilt, yuck, which is worth -3 points, at least. Final score: Them +2.5. You -3!
Damned if you do and dammed if you don’t. How to get around it then? This occasional Cassandra Cures. How can we more successfully express our predictions and recommendations?
In my reckoning there are three possibilities of never being in the position of having to say I told you so:
1. Building so much trust that everyone just listens to you and your predictions. Realistically though, this route is either a road to falling from a very high place or full blown megalomania.
2. Finding a super-NLP-like way to get everyone to do what you think is right, while believing it’s their own idea. You risk never getting credit for anything, but at least you’re in a world where everything is just as you think it should be. This is the ‘these aren’t the droids you’re looking for' method so sadly only really useful for Jedi and those with slight delusions of grandeur (come on, you actually think you’re right all the time? ALL the time?).
3. Finally, and genuinely, there is preemptive empathy and regret. Or in other words, being conscious enough in advance that your prediction would result in a less than ideal outcome and expressing therefore that you hope you’re going to be wrong. This technique can even produce an odd sort of win-win situation:
If you’re wrong, then your fear was luckily just overcautiousness. Phew. Thanks for caring and being concerned.
If you’re right, you’re no douchey pedant, you’re just another party that wishes you weren’t right and you’re able to share compassion in the misfortune of your comrade.
A genuine hate to say I told you so.
But, being genuine is the crux here. This ‘technique’ is about being a mensch. That douche potential will shine through if you don’t actually care and if schadenfreude is not just in your dictionary but also on the list of traits that you keep off your dating profile. ‘Long walks, meals with friends, red win, being right and laughing at the misfortune of others.’
Haters say I told you so. If you find yourself in a position of having to say it or wishing you could, then you didn’t try hard enough to help in the first place.
This is my motto for safe cycling in London. Imagine at all times, that no car or pedestrian can see you but that if you jump a light or hop a pavement, that you are instantly visible to the police. No one can see you, except the police.
I remembered this this morning when I saw two guys ride Dalston Lane and Tottenham Road like they were in BMX Bandits. It made me consider a caveat for idiot: Everyone sees you ride like an idiot. Pedestrians, police, and other cyclists.
It also jogged my memory to the other consistent sort of road idiots and danger in London for who I composed this for a few years back. Danger signs to pay attention for:
Having been hit by a cab in London (Addison Lee) I genuinely see these private hire (and Addison Lee) stickers as warning signs. They give me a fright, I feel my eyes open slightly wider (sure my pupils dilate as well) and I give the car a wide birth.
I’ve learned to interpret a sign / a piece of language that means one thing and hard wire myself into thinking another. An interesting semiotics reminder. How everything communicates something but that the signified can and can be changed.
The work of Johnny Kelly / The critical nuances of animation and communication
I deliberately avoid keeping tabs on what animator Johnny Kelly is up to with hope of stumbling across a new piece of two of his work. This week I struck gold.
Firstly is his work for Coke. An entertaining and delightful romp across a landscape of lives, with a jumping theme. What it has to do with Coke only Don Draper knows. I just know it’s lovely.
Secondly though are these three spots for the Salvation Army which have blown me away:
Just 15 seconds each. I must have watched them 4 times over. The concept alone is great: the idea of a tiny contribution being a tipping point to something actually happening is such a nice detail and way of expressing that every contribution counts.
But the execution in my opinion is flawless. It verges on being funny, but doesn’t disrespect. It’s clever but not obstructing the message. It’s on trend but feels timeless. I genuinely feel so exited when I see work of this caliber. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. It makes me want to create.
That said, it also makes me feel so jealous it kind of hurts! How does he do it so well? How can so little be so effective. Deconstructing it and watching it in slow motion can start to give clues the care and attention required, but that’s not a guide on how to replicate.
The craft of saying or showing just enough but not too little, with confidence but not arrogance, while being passionate but not too intense. It’s detail. Expert care of attention to detail.
Others that have the same magical animation skill and that I try to avoid with hope of discovering a backlog to indulge on are Mikey Please and Animade. Some of the finest animation in my opinion is coming out of the UK these days. Johnny, apologies if you’re not quite from the UK…