Designing iPod vulnerability into it makes it cuddly

Everyone often raves about apple design. How sleek they look. How cool they look. However, there are sometimes practical design aspects that people complain about. Namely, I remember the first generation Nanos would have a faceplate that scratched easily.

However, I wonder if there is a side to the design that hadn’t been considered. For a device like the iPod, it had the requirement of storing large amounts of data, but flash devices weren’t that big in size yet. Therefore, hard drives were the only choice. However, we all know that electronics and especially hard drives are sensitive to shock. It would lose its performance and its ability to store data if it was knocked around all the time.

Whether it is intentional or a consequence of making it look sleek, the exterior of the iPod, and perhaps its vulnerability, leads people towards behavior that make them take care of it. They buy protective accessories for it, and I’m sure they throw it around less than their phones.

It would be brilliant if that was part of the requirements and spec: to get people to take care of their iPod by making it both sleek and vulnerable. It’s much the same way (in function, not in emotion) that a certain instinct gets triggered when we see cute fuzzy things, except Apple managed it without fur or a large forehead.


Wilhem has built Annologger, a tool that lets people worship your dentist appointments.

Waiting for camera manufacturers

Jeffrey Veen

You know I’m not writing code since I’ve been posting a lot, and also reading feeds. But one last post…

“But simplicity isn’t just interface improvements, but acknowledging the right tool for the job. One of the things that has always impressed me about the iPod, for example, is that the devices have no capacity for editing metadata, deleting or moving songs, or any of the other mundane tasks of maintaining your music library. Instead, designers at Apple moved all those tasks to iTunes, exploiting your computer’s keyboard, mouse, and screen real estate. Flickr takes the same approach. They could have waited for camera manufacturers to add GPS chips or asked cameraphone users to thumb in their location. They chose, however, to exploit the fact that metadata can be added asynchronously without much penalty.”

spoke to me. I have been thinking about this, and was wondering if geo metadata was in pictures. My initial thought was, camera vendors really need to move beyond just taking pictures. Cameras should send photos to a repository automatically over wifi, or cameras should record not only when but also where you took a photo.

Sometimes, you can’t, because you don’t have any control over those products. Therefore, you make due with whatever interface is available to tie things together first, and then slowly make it better.

Simple yet deep

Point and shoot software – Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)

I think 37signals has it right with making things simple, and emphasizing simplicity, at least on a first use basis. But I still maintain something that Guy Kawasaki said in his book, art of the start…

I’m paraphrasing, but basically simple for new users, but deep for veteran users. There’s something to be said about keep mastering a product over time.

New users, no matter how tech savvy, like simple to use. But there’s something to be said for the constant exploration of a device (or domain for that matter). I liken it to driving stick after learning to drive automatic.

It’s often hard to build the two conflicting things in a product…control vs simplicity. But I think it’s important to think of deepness as well.

Too little focus in the information we get

My Whole Life in Happy Little Folders, by Jeffrey Veen

Jeffrey Veen was complaining that it seemed like all he did was un-bold things in RSS feeds. There’s just so much info that you get overwhelmed. This was one of the primary reasons I unsubscribed to ridiculously prolific blogs like smartmobs, and now signal vs noise has hell of a lot more noise now. I still subscribe due to the few gems that get dropped occasionally. But once I find others that are more quality and less quantity, I’m ready to drop them off my feed reader.

But other than complaining about blogs, this was the primary reason that I moved from bloglines to reader google. I found that having the number of unread items just felt like I was being a slacker by not reading it. Google reader is much more unforgiving. News you don’t read just become that–news you don’t read, and it just scrolls on by as the days past by.

It’s not something foresight would have seen, unless you’ve actually used a feed reader before. But I’m glad that google got that right with their feed reader.

I think there’s always phases to technology, as others pointed out. But beyond the adoption curve, there is the phase where the users are over-saturated, and need some type of filter. This is often overlooked in my opinion.

The FIRST keynote of Steve Jobs 1984

cyberian.nomad.blog: The FIRST keynote of Steve Jobs 1984 – a Legend !

I often wonder what it’d be like to go back to the past knowing what you know. It’s been a good 22 years since 1984. The technology back them seems primative, although you recognize a lot of the same elements that you do now.

Could some people envision 2006 if we were to tell them about it in 1984? I think some would. And others, were probably more optimistic about certain things. Notice the AI thing with the Macintosh talking.

What would it be like in 20 years? I have to admit, I am optimistic about the advance of technology. I have dreams for the future. I dream that computing will really be ubiquitous, and that mobile computing and information gathering will be more common. I dream that augmented reality will come to be common place, whether on PDAs, cell phones, eye glasses, contacts, VRDs, or ocular implants. Devices, whether microwave to cell phones, will really begin to interoperate on open standards, and have a collective intelligence for the whole house. I dream that bio interfaces will allow the blind to see, to store information, or to access information. I dream that quantum computers will start to appear on the market. And I dream that code will be modular, reuseable, simple to read, and simple to maintain. haha.

First Principles of Interaction Design

AskTog: First Principles of Interaction Design

To be honest, this is a boring list of things to read through. Some seem obvious and common sense. But you’ll find that in design, often times, obvious is shadowed by functionality and common sense is hard when you have constraints. This might have been better reading if it contained examples, like in The Design of Everyday Things.

But what I noticed was that these principles were very similar to those of game design. I can’t pinpoint the article this afternoon, since I read it close to six years ago. But there was an article on gamasutra that talked about how hard it was to design games to make the player happy.

The game designer has to balance the hardness of the game. Too challenging, the game will be unobvious and frustrating (like this game was purported to be). Too trivial, the game will lose the interest of its players quickly (like Eat the stick.

I remember another thing about consistency. One game designer was talking about how he met a gamer, and the gamer had the idea that once you go to another section of the game, all the properties of the spells you could cast would change. The game designer went into detail about how this was one of the worst mistakes that early game designers make. Consistency affords a sense of building up a knowledge of the world around you from a player point of view.

If every time you went to another section of the game, and you had to relearn the mechanics of the game all over again, it would probably piss you off.

In a lot of ways, there are parallels between game design and application design. I also remember all those comic strips in the 90’s satirizing how kids can’t get jobs playing video games growing up. I think that’s more and more untrue, with the way the gaming industry is unfolding. The idea the games are a diversion and are for children will be a thing of the past.

Friendships aren’t binary

I feel old. Partially because social networks separate me from friends that are merely two years younger. I am part of the ‘Friendster’ generation. I was able to sign up for that, before the meteoric rise of ‘MySpace’, and ‘Facebook’. I ignored MySpace invitations, writing it off as ‘nothing special’ (I also thought that Britney Spears was going to be a one-hit wonder), and by the time facebook rolled around, I had already left graduate school.

While I’m excited about social network applications, my opinion of social network apps was that they didn’t actually DO anything. Beyond the novelty of being able to see my network, trouncing about the network didn’t actually let me get anything DONE. No wonder why people called them the biggest waste of time. Perhaps, like bad TV, it was just a reaction to a guilty pleasure.

However, it was recently that I was able to sign on to Facebook, because I found that there is an alumni web mail service that I was able to utilize. I liked the Facebook interface immediately. Unlike friendster, it was clean, and it was fast. It didn’t feel cluttered at all.

On the friends page, it would tell you that a profile was updated, and yet, I didn’t know what. So I never really browsed, knowing that I won’t want to spend time trying to find it. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by the mini-news feeds: now I knew exactly what was updated, so I don’t have to look around for it.

Here, I was able to see what my network was doing. What groups they were joining, what messages they were posting. Perhaps here-in lies the utility of a social network; an individual would know what’s going on with his or her friends. The flipside of this feature was that most people felt like their privacy was invaded.

It’s odd, because I, as a newcomer, didn’t have much expectations of how things worked, so I more readily accepted the mini-news feeds. Therefore, I wonder if facebook had this feature in the beginning, would there be as much of a protest? Perhaps it would have had slower growth?

I think the assumption that facebook developers had was that

  1. users wouldn’t mind that their friends knew what they were up to because of #2
  2. everyone named as friends were trusted
  3. all friendships are created equal

In reality, often times, the people in your friendship list might not be friends, but contacts, or campers. And even if the only people that you accepted were friend friends, not all friends are created equal. I think it’s safe to say we all have aspects of ourselves that we show in front of some friends but not others. I remember I had friends in college that did weed or drank a ton, but they never invited me out with them to do it.

Given that, I can definitely see how they went ahead and did it. And often times, as a developer, if you don’t simplify things, you’ll never get anything done.

One, facebook’s reaction to the backlash was a pretty good one, in my opinion. They put out a major announcement, as well as give one-click options to remove it by choice within two days. I applaud them for it. However, they managed to keep things simple. Choice can easily come with its strange bedfellow, complexity.

Second, perhaps, the model for naming friends should be changed. Perhaps it shouldn’t be activated by individuals, but rather, inferred through activities. Then, you can be able to tell between active friends, and long lost friends. You would also be able to tell the context of the relationship, as well as which domain it falls under. Then perhaps, privacy would be less of an issue with a selected multicast of information, such as photos, who I’m dating, and where I’m going.


Wilhem has built Annologger, a tool that lets people worship your dentist appointments.

Cavets for doing what you love

The usual thing that you hear we tell kids is “you can be whatever you want to be” when it’s really not entirely true. A more accurate saying might be, “you can be whatever you work hard at, even if you might not be the best.” For adults, the line is, “do what you love.”

What if you suck at what you love? If American Idol is any indication, passion doesn’t always equal aptitude. Beyond American Idol, there are plenty of people that are always ‘striking it out on their own’ that are still doing so. There’s plenty of actors and actresses that are waiters and waitresses. I suppose the assumption is that when you do what you love, you will spend time doing it, instead of going out, instead of playing video games, instead of watching TV. You’ll keep going at it even after failure and rejected. And the biggest assumption is that you’ll get better as you keep going at it.

So keep at it. And get better.


Wilhem has built Annologger, a tool that lets people worship your dentist appointments.