I am aware that my youth leaves me predisposed to think and act in foolish ways. What I too often forget is that although this self-awareness may make me a little wiser, it does not preclude me from thinking my stupid shit is consequential and profound.
Here’s how I attempt to compensate: keeping myself in constant self-doubt over whether I am ever right. That means re-examining my thoughts, beliefs and internal processes whenever possible to see whether there’s something I could be doing better. It means taking the opposing side’s perspective whenever possible, making sure I understand their strongest argument.
One great way to sustain this sort of internal inquiry and reflection is to absorb as much conflicting information as possible on issues with no definitive answers. Creative process is one example - since different strategies work for different people, no single method is going to be a “magic bullet” for, say, getting over writer’s block. Remaining aware that my process isn’t perfect is a way to question the flaws in how I work and consistently improve.
I regret to say that I don’t perform this self-examination as often as I should. But I hope to do it more, and I hope it will keep me humble.
Given how much detail Google professes to put into its marketing, as I covered yesterday, it still remains amazing that the company found itself involved with this type of campaign. It also raises the serious question that if Google can’t keep track of its own rules, what hope is there that third parties are supposed to figure it all out?
Amazon is traditionally criticized as a giant big-box retailer putting physical stores out of business and disrupting local communities. The tech press tends to give Amazon a lot of slack for two reasons: first, they disrupt legacy business models by offering better service than what many of these local businesses can afford. Secondly, the company has been incredibly tech-forward over the years. With AWS, AmazonMP3 and its line of Kindle devices, Amazon has led the way in making technological innovation available to the mass market.
Both points are incredibly valid. My problem with Amazon, instead, centers around the level of respect it has for its customers and employees.
Amazon makes its business decisions with the next five to seven years in mind. So it’s willing to take a loss in the current quarter if it might reap huge rewards a couple of years down the line. That’s why it sells the Kindle Fire for $2.70 less than it costs to build. It’s why Bezos is currently spending a fortune on long term growth, to the extent that their profit margin might be zero for Q4 2011.
It’s also why Amazon strives to keep its expenses as low as possible, so that they can make these decisions without placing the company in serious jeopardy. So, Amazon manufactures terrible products because they know customers will get them anyway - and because they’re locked into the company’s content ecosystem, they’ll buy replacements when the devices inevitably break. They also choose to keep paramedics onsite and yell at employees suffering from heat exhaustion rather than installing air conditioning in its East Coast warehouses. And they produce horror stories from former corporate employees on how they view talent as easily disposable and replaceable.
Every article I linked to above was published in 2011. The negative press is starting to leak out from the edges of this company, and it will get worse in 2012. I predict that either this year or in 2013, there will be a watershed moment in public opinion that will turn the U.S. political left and segments of the tech press against the company, in much the same way that activist groups launched a series of protests against Walmart in 2005. A corporation disrupting legacy business models is one thing. A business treating people inhumanely is quite another.
2011 was probably the best year of my life so far. Finding love, independence and a job in my profession of choice over such a short timespan will make you think that.
I don’t know if I have “writer’s block” so much as a reluctance to be honest. In no way do I need or want this space to transform into a LiveJournal, but I can’t seem to write about my current intellectual interests without tying them to personal experiences. A strong drive to push a head full of ideas into larger conversation is counteracted by overwhelming insecurity. I realize that I will never realize the former until I overcome the latter. Here’s to 2012 being maybe, possibly, finally the year I get over myself.
Including but not limited to:
- Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! - Douglas Coupland
- Citrus County - John Brandon
- Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico - Javier Marias
- Paying For It - Chester Brown
- A Visit From the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
- Don’t Make Me Think - Steve Krug
- Zag - Marty Neumeier
- Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson
- Designing With Web Standards - Jeffrey Zeldman
- HTML5 for Web Designers - Jeremy Keith
- CSS3 for Web Designers - Dan Cederholm
- Responsive Web Design - Ethan Marcotte
- Handcrafted CSS - Dan Cederholm
It’s unsurprising, but disappointing, that a rootkit manufacturer is defending its actions under the guise of “user experience”. In Cennydd Bowles’ Closing Plenary at this year’s IA Summit, he predicted the coming disillusionment within the UX field:
Our most pressing problem is that of pollution. The user experience discipline has become so broad that anyone can now legitimately claim to practice it. Literally every designable object or service engenders an experience. However, its most common interpretation is narrower. “UX” is fast becoming the latest synonym for “web design”.
The explosion in our industry’s influence, pay and respect is devaluing our chosen term and causing looming quality problems. Since demand far outstrips supply, web agencies and freelancers alike have created a landrush to the UX term. The skills that underpin the work have often been left aside in the melee.
I understand that Carrier IQ’s statement is probably PR bullshit that is unreflective of the company’s actual culture. But if it isn’t, I don’t think I would be surprised. For companies like cellphone carriers, where business goals are sometimes outrageously out of step with consumer desires and expectations, it can be surprisingly easy to justify that Carrier IQ offers a net benefit to the user. They’ll reason that since consumers want always-fast, always-reliable cellular networks, any software which enables the carriers to realize that expectation is a good thing.
These companies overlook the fact that experience design is holistic. Improving one facet of the customer experience (network performance) is totally futile if it comes at the expense of another (personal privacy and data security).
Forget about all the insane legal ramifications of Carrier IQ for a second. Just think about a group of well-meaning people in a company out of touch with its customers, all agreeing that installing this software on their phones is a good idea.
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail
This, in response to Jay Smooth’s days-long Twitter convo with an apparently INSANE member of Occupy Oakland.
At the office we have adjustable height desks, the ones you can turn into a standing desk with the press of a spring-loaded lever. The guys have used sit/stand desks at previous jobs, and we’re all familiar with articles like this one in the Times touting the benefits of standing versus sitting.
An article like that can start a small-scale revolution, make you rise to your feet—literally—and cast off your Aeron chair to the purgatory for used office furniture known as craigslist. Viva la standing desk! And that’s when you find out standing all the time isn’t much better either, that the real benefit of sit/stand desks is being able to stand some of the time and sit some of the time. The remedy for a sedentary lifestyle is the delta; it’s the moving around.
This is a classic example of something I call the keyframe bias, after the animation term that refers to the frames marking the beginning and end of a smooth transition. Given one keyframe of a tiny plane in the distance and a second of the plane zooming past overhead, we can tell the program to fill in the rest and it would assume the plane’s motion is spread out across the intermediate frames. This kind of logic works great if you’re a movie-making piece of software. It works less great if you’re a decision-making human being.