→ The Soothing Promise Of Our Own Artisanal Internet

This vision of decentralization is more back-to-the-land than blockchain. If portals to the digital world are so exploitative, it asks, why not curate our own?

For consumers, this means forgoing convenience to control your ingredients: Read newsletters instead of News Feeds. Fall back to private group chats. Put the person back in personalization. Revert to reverse chron. Avoid virality. Buy your own serverStart a blogEmbrace anonymity. Own your own domain. Spend time on federated social networksrather than centralized ones. And when a big story breaks, consider saving your appetite for the slow-cooked, room-temp take.

Silicon Valley claims to be obsessed with data. (I blame Moneyball.) Take a look through any of the Silicon Valley rags or the tech section of the three newspapers still standing and you’ll see about three stories a day on data. How to get it. What to do with it. Who’s selling it to whom. Who needs it. How to protect yours. We’ve collected more data in the last ten years than we can process in the next hundred. No one can exactly remember why we’re collecting it, but everyone’s afraid to stop. Yet, with all this data at our disposal, we’ve created a garbage fire run by platforms of vitriol. Here’s some more data: we’re idiots.

Mike Monteiro: Herd Immunity

What we learned designing a virtual assistant

I spent a good chunk of last year designing and user testing a ‘virtual assistant’ for a major entertainment brand. So I was interested to read a pair of articles from Neilsen Normanabout chatbots and intelligent assistants. Our virtual assistant worked liked the former, with text input and a chat interface. But it had the increased intelligence of the latter.

On chatbots, NN/g say:

These bots simply replicate functionality that is already available on the web or in mobile apps. Is it worth spending time and money for this new channel? Unlikely — at least in the US and other countries where the traditional channels are already well-established.

This was definitely a question we heard. We faced scepticism over whether we’d created a worse-than-useless chatbot who’d insist on doing site searches for you. If you’re old enough to remember Clippy, you’ll know this feeling.

Things get more promising when it comes to ‘intelligent assistants’ like Alexa (emphasis mine):

Users have great difficulty accomplishing advanced tasks with traditional computer systems: only 31% of the adult population in rich countries are capable of performing tasks similar to the multitask and research needs in our table, when using traditional user interfaces. Since more than two thirds of the population don’t have the required computer skills for doing anything advanced with current computers, there’s great potential for helping these many peopleif the intelligent assistants were in fact good enough to take over the tasks.

Continue reading “What we learned designing a virtual assistant”

5 books to read if you’re starting out in UX

We have a few new Experience Consultants starting this month, so I asked the team which books had helped them most in their UX careers. Here are five of my favourites:

Don’t Make Me Think — Steve Krug

This is one of the classic introductions to UX and is worth reading in its entirety (it’s an easy read).

Design Is A Job — Mike Monteiro

Mike Monteiro explains that doing design isn’t some mystical art, it’s helping a client solve a problem (and getting paid to do it).

Continue reading “5 books to read if you’re starting out in UX”

Aristocracy, slavery, patriarchy—these institutions were inhuman at their core. Each was an iron cage—and not always metaphorically. My point: deeply embedded social systems can be changed.

Yet when you look back, you realize these social cankers didn’t yield to utilitarian arguments. In each case, the strong, hard wedge that cracked the foundations of the prevailing social consensus wasn’t a pragmatic argument, but a moral one; not “this doesn’t work,” but “this is wrong.”

Institutions change when we change; when we trade resignation for indignation. It’s time to admit what we have long known to be true: our organizations are at odds with our values—not just in how they foul the environment, misuse our personal data, or corrupt the political process, but in how they treat the human beings whose lives they consume.

Gary Hamel’s Powerful Speech: Highlight of the Drucker Forum?