Take the medicine

I saw an image floating around Facebook that said the human body is “programmed” to be a “self-healing machine” and “pills only mask the symptoms” of illnesses. This kind of thinking leads to kids dying and suffering needlessly.

Symptoms are what kill you. You don’t get a gold star for “roughing out” a fever or a painful injury, and the stress endured doesn’t make your body stronger. Stress is bad for you and damages relationships.

Bodies aren’t programmed. Evolution is a sloppy mechanism that produces systems just barely sufficient to survive threats from the immediate environment. Unfortunately, our “immediate environment” is now global, so with respect to the evolutionary time scale our potential sources of illness has exploded. Our systems are not prepared, and even young, talented musicians can succumb to viruses like H1N1.

Is there a web app exception to the target _blank UX rules?

Experts can give you list of reasons why including target=”_blank” on links is bad for UX/accessibility and they’re mostly all right, but they tend to ignore the 5B pound gorilla in the room: Social media sites + Gmail all open external links in new windows and users (including saavy users who understand middle-click etc.) expect them to, and a huge part of UX is doing what the user expects.

My hypothesis is that users see some sites as applications (especially those that have popular app versions) that they would not generally close just to read a story. This change is also surely influenced by the fact that there is no instant way to context click on touch devices as there is with a mouse.

My point is we need to study this phenomenon with real users, who are rapidly moving to touch devices, and not let our preferences and value judgments, formed over years of desktop PC browsing, take over.

We must be willing to admit that in some scenarios the game has changed and we no longer know what is “best”. And this could be a case where what is best for UX is not best for accessibility or for promoting the understanding of browser technology. It would not be the first time.

A Case Against Google+

Google+ will fit some people really well, and is certainly bringing some fresh ideas to the table to keep Facebook on its toes. That said, here’s why I kinda hope it doesn’t take off, and why I’m seriously considering leaving the party early.

  1. There were compelling reasons to abandon Friendster and MySpace at their peaks; frustrating performance, bugs, spam, bad UIs, visual nonsense, etc. Facebook seems to be scaling quite gracefully and they seem to constantly improve rather than frustrate.
  2. My main issue with Facebook would be privacy, but I find it highly unlikely that, in the long run,  Google+ or any other ad-supported social network will be a better steward of our personal information. That train goes in one direction.
  3. Establishing yet another silo of social network identities will cost us a huge amount of collective time.
  4. Since Google+ “circles” nearly remove all social cost from forming weak relationships (“just dump them in acquaintances”) we could be talking about a lot more time spent managing relationships. Circles may be the killer feature that we later really regret embracing.
  5. Prominent Google+ notifications appear at the top of all Google tools, and I couldn’t find a way to hide them without, say, keeping a separate account. With social networks being brilliant delivery mechanisms for dopamine; offering that hit while in Gmail, Docs, Calendar, and Search is going to be a disaster for a lot of people’s productivity.

“The Authoritariate”

Whenever a teacher or police officer is revealed to have engaged in abusive behavior, a certain group of people always crawl out of the woodwork to defend the person of authority. They’re prepared to ignore any amount of evidence presented and to blame any abuse victims for being overly sensitive or for failing to do what was expected of them by the abuser or by society. Continue reading  

Content Delivery and Format Fail

screenshot from Ney Year's DaeThe pic on the right is from The Berrics’ “New Year’s Dae” video. The skating is amazing—well worth a dollar—and the site’s registration and checkout was painless, but the rest has been a disappointment:

  • There’s no way to download this “downloadable part,” as it’s advertised. You must install an Adobe Air application, which downloads the video.
  • There was nothing in the checkout process to let me know I needed to install Air first. The only link to “download instructions” (who would think they need to read this?) was on the “add to cart” page. Once most people have checked out they’ll have to run to Google what an .air file is.
  • The app isn’t digitally signed, so the publisher reads “unknown” and it asks for “unrestricted” access to my system. Does not inspire trust.
  • You can only watch the video via the app! So no fancy controls you might want while, say, watching a skateboarding part.
  • Considering I downloaded 150MB for a 5 minute video, the quality is astoundingly bad. See the horizontal lines in the screenshot? They’re a constant distraction and it all looks even worse at full screen. Every video on the The Berrics site looks better than this. Like most Rodney and Daewon parts, the filming is just not exciting, but it’s forgivable.
  • Since I downloaded it on my wife’s PC last night, the download link in my account is already “expired”, so I can’t install it on mine.

The pic is actually from a copy I found immediately on Vimeo, highlighting the absurdity of this level of copy control. Lesson: Only paying customers have to deal with DRM nonsense.

Update: 5 days later, the video no longer plays.

Allen Hunt: Gay marriage is worse than incest

On December 13th (just rebroadcast on 97.3 The Sky), radio host Allen Hunt, in a conversation about a recent adult incest case, stated that “incest is easier to defend than gay marriage because…at least incest is opposite sex and has the capacity to create new life.” Earlier the implication was made that gay marriage is “re-engineering society” inviting a slippery slope to incest marriage.

I’m all for freedom of speech and have no desire to legislate disgusting views like this off the radio, but more rational people need to pay attention to what hosts like Hunt/Savage/Levin are broadcasting in their community, and be willing to let local stations and their advertisers know when these hosts step over the line.

Update: BTW, Hunt’s brilliant argument—sexual behaviors that might create life are better than ones that don’t—would imply that incest, sex with young girls, and rape would all be preferable to gay sex, hetero sex using contraceptives, and masturbation. If you’ve ever enjoyed sex without intent to conceive, here’s to the Constitution for stopping big thinkers like Hunt from using the government against you.