Your privacy, right there on the internet

This two minute film shows what can be found about you on the internet. After disturbing revelations about intelligence agencies worldwide we all know that our private, even encrypted, information is not safe from governments and might not be safe from criminals. Let the movie show you what is possible, and ask yourself the question: am I considerate enough about my privacy?

Placing the buttons on your phone

When the rotary phone was replaced by a button phone, Bell Labs researched the best positioning for the numbers on your phone. Imagine the key phone not being invented, how can you find the best design for such a phone? This video tells about the research Bell Labs put into ordering the phone’s numbers and how this standard was developed in the 1950’s.

Sinek’s theory

Simon Sinek has a famous theory about “the golden circle,” why Apple has something different than other IT companies, why M.L. King Junior led the civil rights movement.

Sinek’s motivation and charisma almost got me convinced, but unfortunately, I disagree. First of all, his model is a too simplistic way to model a huge complicated company like Apple. Sinek states that Apple’s marketing strategy starts with “why” though Apple’s website is product centered.

Though it is possible to divide our brain into the three circles he draws, the words do not match the parts, the further you go to the middle of your brain, the closer you get to your most primal instincts to survival and the parts of the brain we have common to other primates. Though the outer layer of our brain, the cerebral cortex, is our most developed part of our brain that makes us human. “Why” is not a primal instinct but it is a important part that makes us human, we can consider politics, circumstances and other elements in our decisions, something that is far less seen with primates.

I think there is some truth in Sinek’s theory in other situations, though. I think it covers the simple core of LEAN problem solving (start with why, defining the problem, then finding the solution and make it more concrete). I think it also shows the essence of developing software or new features: find out why the customer wants this, then how to implement it and finally what code you need to write. However, in all situations the theory is too simplistic to be of any actual use.

So, to conclude, Sinek’s theory is a too simplistic way of modelling the world and organisations, it does not explain why Apple is so successful and it is not embedded in our brain. Even tough he makes a very convincing speech about it.

Being an expert clouds your vision

As you develop new functionality or a new product, you, the designer, are the expert about how is should be used. On the other hand, there’s the practical user, who is going to use your product in everyday situations and should become an expert in the use of your product. Usually, these two persons are not the same. Though as a designer you tend to put yourself in the position of the user, trying to figure out what you would want as a functionality.

In essence, this design process is very wrong. As a designer you are an expert in designing things, and you’re such an expert of your own product, that you immediately know how to use it from the start. You even might think you know which functions you need at which moment. This is usually not something the designer should think of on his own, and this is why the end-user should be considered and consulted all the way throughout the design process. Testing your product in order to get a good design is of utmost importance.

You’re unique!

Every person is a unique individual, even single-egged twins aren’t exactly the same. As you grow up, you learn new and different things which influence your interests and the choices you make in your life. These interests influence how you perceive the world around you, what gets your attention and what doesn’t.

The difference in this perception is a big issue for developers and designers. How can you make a program or object that suits everyone? This is something that’s impossible to decide by yourself, in order to find out whether your program is of any use, you’ll need to test it with other people in real-life situations. Sometimes this means that you’ll need to design different versions of your software for different (groups of) people.

The most common example of this is software being in different languages, but this difference could go further than just language. White cars reflect the most amount of light, thus meaning that they are cooler and easier to cool in hot countries, but harder to find in the snow in cold countries. Designing a practical and worldwide useful object suddenly becomes a lot harder!

Control your home in the palm of your hand

While I’m driving home in my car, I push the “call” button on hands free set and call “home”, instead of calling with my girlfriend, a computerized male answers the phone. I tell the thing on the other side that I will be home in five minutes and would like a cup of coffee ready and the temperature to be 20 degrees centigrade. I hang up the phone and after five minutes, as I enter the door, I can hear the coffee machine buzzing for the last second and look at the temperature gauge on the wall: 20 degrees exactly, just the way I like it.

Does this sound as a far-fetched idea to you? You might not believe it, but it is more recent future than you think. The field of domotics aims to make your house and life integrated, as it is one single machine, supporting you and enabling you to do almost everything automated. Program your computer to make a cup of coffee when the morning alarm sounds, be able to call home and have a cup of coffee, or an entire meal ready for you. Take a look in the fridge from work so you know which groceries to get. Today it is already possible to control the temperature at home from an iPad App while you’re on vacation, and watch the home security video from the bed in your hotel. The future of computing is in your walls, your furniture and your household machinery.

Don’t think about…

“Don’t think about pink elephants” – George Lakoff

This is something you probably have seen before, it’s called the Ironic Process theory. Tell someone to not think about something, and they will think about it. It is the basis of a lot of wrong behavior, like the “do not enter” sign on many doors, or the traffic sign telling you’re not allowed to drive down a certain road. Though it is often seen in small children (try to make them to not go somewhere) it is common in adults alike. And from it results a credo: if you don’t want someone to do something, make it impossible to do that, putting up a sign has contradictory effect, if the sign is read at all.

On the other hand, this theory could be of some use, from a marketing perspective for example. Apple is using this method widely in their marketing campaign, do not tell anything about your products and almost every tech magazine is talking about them, forbid users to jailbreak their iPhone and a lot of customers are trying.

New office chair!

Today I entered the office and found myself a very beautiful surprise: the office managers had replaced the office chairs with ones that closely resemble the previous ones, apart from the location and use of almost every dial and lever to adjust the chairs. They even came with a black and red A5 manual, which has page sized pictures showing what each thing does, and at least seven languages explanations of each adjustment.

I only wonder whether “trying to figure out this new office image of the new office chairchair” is actually a reason to declare the office hours and whether the buyers of these chairs actually considered the time to learn each option in their costs analysis. One thing is certain, they weren’t chosen for comfort, I still am equally uncomfortable in these chairs as I was in the previous ones.