Commentary: Justin Wolfers — Perceptions Haven’t Caught Up to Decline in Crime

Justin Wolfers —

Here’s a narrative you rarely hear: Our lives are safer. This message is so rarely heard that half of all respondents to a recent YouGov poll suggested that the violent crime rate had risen over the past two decades. The reality, of course, is that it has fallen enormously.

The decline in violent crime is one of the most striking trends over recent decades; the rate has declined roughly by half since 1993.

Perception is reality.

Resource: Nik Fletcher — iOS 8 & iCloud Drive

Nik Fletcher (Realmac Software) —

If you upgrade to iCloud Drive, you will only be able to sync with devices running iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite. As OS X Yosemite is still pre-release (and not yet available) upgrading to iCloud Drive will prevent you from syncing with Clear for Mac until both OS X Yosemite is released and you upgrade to OS X Yosemite.

Developers cannot work around the choice made when upgrading to iOS 8, so please make sure you pay close attention to the iCloud Drive screen shown after you update to iOS 8.

This is going to be a problem.

Design: Ben Schott — Assembling the Billing Block

Ben Schott —

The blurb at the bottom of a movie poster is called the “billing block.” And while it might look like a bar code of haphazardly packed type, it is in fact the product of detailed legal agreements and intense contract negotiation. Below is the billing block for a fictional film – “All the Presidents” – and an explanation of how it was constructed.

The weird thing is that the whole piece is a single image: schott-film-biilling-block-custom1-v2.png

The first version: schott-film-biilling-block-custom1.png doesn’t have any margins.

And life goes on.

Follow Up: Etsy News — Redskins

Etsy News Blog —

Like the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, we at Etsy find the opinion of the minority group itself to carry most weight in determining whether the mascot is disparaging. In no uncertain terms, Native American groups have consistently advocated and litigated that the term “redskin(s)” is disparaging and damaging to Native Americans. Therefore, it will no longer be permitted in our marketplace.

We understand that fans wish to support their favorite football team, and we do not believe that fans who are attached to the mascot have any racist feeling or intent. We also understand that some fans view the name and mascot as an homage to Native Americans, and we do not doubt their noble intent, but the fact remains that Native Americans themselves find the term unacceptable.

Glad to see it’s not just a few people that are on the right side of history.

Commentary: Bret Victor — Magic Ink

Bret Victor, 2006 —

This is a software crisis, and it isn’t news. For decades, the usability pundits have devoted vim and vitriol to a crusade against frustrating interfaces. Reasoning that the cure for unfriendly software is to make software friendlier, they have rallied under the banner of “interaction design,” spreading the gospel of friendly, usable interactivity to all who would listen.

Yet, software has remained frustrating, and as the importance of software to society has grown, so too has the crisis. The crusade marches on, with believers rarely questioning the sacred premise—that software must be interactive in the first place. That software is meant to be “used.”

I suggest that the root of the software crisis is an identity crisis—an unclear understanding of what the medium actually is, and what it’s for. Perhaps the spark of life is misdirected magic.

The above quote is from Bret Victor’s dense 73-page paper on “information software and the graphical interface.” If you’re into how humans program, design, and then use software. If you’re just looking to skim it, just look at the examples of how he’d improve things, and see what aspects have come to fruition since 2006.

Bret Victor is a bit of a prolific guy, and seems to be working on a different level than most of us. Just explore his website and see what he’s done. I remembered reading this brief rant on the future of interaction design when I was still in college, and didn’t know it was the same person until today. After three years, that rant’s relevance has grown even stronger.

WATCH — First Thoughts

Instead of embarrassing myself with any kind of grand Apple Watch critique, here are my first impressions.

1. Over 2 million variations

This can’t be stressed enough. For an object that will be strapped to your wrist every waking moment of the day, it has to look good. While what “looks good” is subjective — customization is the objective behind all of the faces, colors, bands, and three editions. What I hate, you could be smitten with. Until I get to use one hands-on, I’ll be sitting here on the fence in regards to the industrial design. On that front, it would be better to read what Mr. Benjamin Clymer says about it. He knows watches.

2. Extremely frictionless communication

There are two buttons, with one dedicated to pulling up a list of people you interact with. Press the button, tap on a person, and choose your communication channel.

3. Non-text based messaging

Words are powerful, but their value is only realized when they are read. They can be read silently, or spoken out loud; the former relying on sight, and the latter being restricted by the person’s current environment, social norms, and hearing ability. In addition to the normal channels of phone, email, and texting (emoji included), Apple touts four unique channels for the watch: sketch, walkie-talkie, tap, and heartbeat.



Sketch

Having a shared custom visual language between two people reminds me of cave drawings. Rudimentary, but they did the job.



Walkie-talkie

Integrates well with the sound-bite feature in Messages coming up with iOS 8. Now we can all be Dick Tracy.



Tap

On the iPhone, custom vibrations can already be set per person and per notification channel — a handy feature that let’s me know who is contacting me through a vibration pattern. Expanding on this and coming up with an exchanged physical vocabulary will be something to keep an eye on. Tapping on someone’s shoulder is nice to get their attention, but never their wrist.



Heartbeat

This last channel can easily be thrown into the gimmick bin at first. Exchanging heartbeat tempos as a form of communication isn’t normal. This only happens in interpersonal communication when we hug, check someone’s pulse, and… I can’t think of any more. Putting two fingers on the screen to start the heartbeat transmission (this feels like some weird E.T. fan fiction), is how we already take a person’s pulse — so it’s a somewhat natural interaction. It’s just flipping the script, so instead of feeling someone’s pulse, it’s being sent. Coming up with strong use cases would be fun, but that’ll be for another time.


4. Fitness tracking and recommendations

If something isn’t measured, it’s a crapshoot figuring out how to improve it. After something is measured, there has to be feedback; actionable steps to improve certain metrics vital to success through coaching. The first generation of quantified self gadgets got good at measuring aspects of human health, but they never leveraged that data to map out how to better oneself through coaching. Gamification helped, but only to a certain extent.



The Apple Watch seems to nail the measuring aspect (aside from sleeping data), but the coaching side might be a bit lean. Imagine a real-life personal trainer at the end of the equation, adding a human element in the interpretation of the data, rather than just algorithms. Having a holistic picture of a person’s health is much better than just a snapshot. the iOS app Health is a giant leap in the right direction, especially with the ability for these records to sync with a patient’s healthcare physician. Gamification is thrown in there too, but what’s more interesting is why they decided on that design of the shield-like badges.

5. The “digital” crown is a familiar interface given a new task

Humans. like. circles.

The “digital” crown is no exception. I’m curious what the ratio will be to how much it gets used compared to the touch screen for navigating on the device.

6. Pay is the quiet revolution



The boring story is that the Apple Watch can be used in meatspace to pay for items. The interesting story is how Apple is finagling their way in between the banks, credit card companies, consumers, and merchants. This isn’t Google Wallet, this isn’t Coin, this is a system that easily straddles both the past and the future. How fast it will expand outside of America will be interesting to watch.

WATCH — First Thoughts

Instead of embarrassing myself with any kind of grand Apple Watch critique, here are my first impressions.

1. Over 2 million variations

This can’t be stressed enough. For an object that will be strapped to your wrist every waking moment of the day, it has to look good. While what “looks good” is subjective — customization is the objective behind all of the faces, colors, bands, and three editions. What I hate, you could be smitten with. Until I get to use one hands-on, I’ll be sitting here on the fence in regards to the industrial design. On that front, it would be better to read what Mr. Benjamin Clymer says about it. He knows watches.

2. Extremely frictionless communication

There are two buttons, with one dedicated to pulling up a list of people you interact with. Press the button, tap on a person, and choose your communication channel.

3. Non-text based messaging

Words are powerful, but their value is only realized when they are read. They can be read silently, or spoken out loud; the former relying on sight, and the latter being restricted by the person’s current environment, social norms, and hearing ability. In addition to the normal channels of phone, email, and texting (emoji included), Apple touts four unique channels for the watch: sketch, walkie-talkie, tap, and heartbeat.



Sketch

Having a shared custom visual language between two people reminds me of cave drawings. Rudimentary, but they did the job.



Walkie-talkie

Integrates well with the sound-bite feature in Messages coming up with iOS 8. Now we can all be Dick Tracy.



Tap

On the iPhone, custom vibrations can already be set per person and per notification channel — a handy feature that let’s me know who is contacting me through a vibration pattern. Expanding on this and coming up with an exchanged physical vocabulary will be something to keep an eye on. Tapping on someone’s shoulder is nice to get their attention, but never their wrist.



Heartbeat

This last channel can easily be thrown into the gimmick bin at first. Exchanging heartbeat tempos as a form of communication isn’t normal. This only happens in interpersonal communication when we hug, check someone’s pulse, and… I can’t think of any more. Putting two fingers on the screen to start the heartbeat transmission (this feels like some weird E.T. fan fiction), is how we already take a person’s pulse — so it’s a somewhat natural interaction. It’s just flipping the script, so instead of feeling someone’s pulse, it’s being sent. Coming up with strong use cases would be fun, but that’ll be for another time.


4. Fitness tracking and recommendations

If something isn’t measured, it’s a crapshoot figuring out how to improve it. After something is measured, there has to be feedback; actionable steps to improve certain metrics vital to success through coaching. The first generation of quantified self gadgets got good at measuring aspects of human health, but they never leveraged that data to map out how to better oneself through coaching. Gamification helped, but only to a certain extent.



The Apple Watch seems to nail the measuring aspect (aside from sleeping data), but the coaching side might be a bit lean. Imagine a real-life personal trainer at the end of the equation, adding a human element in the interpretation of the data, rather than just algorithms. Having a holistic picture of a person’s health is much better than just a snapshot. the iOS app Health is a giant leap in the right direction, especially with the ability for these records to sync with a patient’s healthcare physician. Gamification is thrown in there too, but what’s more interesting is why they decided on that design of the shield-like badges.

5. The “digital” crown is a familiar interface given a new task

Humans. like. circles.

The “digital” crown is no exception. I’m curious what the ratio will be to how much it gets used compared to the touch screen for navigating on the device.

6. Pay is the quiet revolution



The boring story is that the Apple Watch can be used in meatspace to pay for items. The interesting story is how Apple is finagling their way in between the banks, credit card companies, consumers, and merchants. This isn’t Google Wallet, this isn’t Coin, this is a system that easily straddles both the past and the future. How fast it will expand outside of America will be interesting to watch.

Commentary: Hayley Munguia — The 2,128 Native American Mascots People Aren’t Talking About

Hayley Munguia —

Turning the Washington Redskins into the Red Skins is unlikely to appease the team’s critics, though. Given that the name is racist by definition and no tribe has come out in support of Snyder, it probably wouldn’t pass the NCAA’s grounds for appeal, and it certainly doesn’t pass in the court of Native American opinion.

But even if the Redskins became the Red Skins or the Red Flyers or the Red Snyders, there would still be thousands of other teams that reference Native American imagery. Whatever happens with the Redskins, there will still be the Estelline Redmen, Chief Illiniwek, and the West Texas Comanches, each upholding the questionable legacy of Native American sports names.

67% of people from Group A are offended by the names of sports teams that reference Group A in a derogatory way. They also take offense to how some of these teams use demeaning caricatures for mascots to depict members of Group A. History and tradition are brought in to defend the names and mascots. On both sides: some care, some don’t, and some don’t even realize that it’s offensive. Replace Group A with the race, ethnicity, or social group you most strongly identify with and see how it feels reading through the article.

Commentary: Christina Farr — Apple courts fashionistas as smartwatch expectations mount

A smartwatch would represent Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s first real new product since taking the baton from Steve Jobs. Several fashion media editors told Reuters they received invitations for the first time to an annual September product-launch, which they took as confirmation of a wristwatch in the wings.

In the wings of an enormous white pop-up structure. What better way to showcase fashion accessories than to have a runway for models.

Or it’s a three-story house.​

Or it’s a mock Starbucks.

Or it’s a garage.

Or a gym.

Or… it’s something completely different. Guessing is part of the fun.

Commentary: Vlad Savov — Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and Gear S Swarovski editions scream of opulence

The new Gear S Tizen smartwatch and the Galaxy Note 4 Android phablet will both come with exclusive silver and gold variations that are adorned with densely packed Swarovski crystals. The effect upon the eyes is searing, particularly when set against the Swarovski-encrusted demo area in which Samsung was showing the two devices off.

Anyone with Liberace’s taste would love these eyesores — discomfort be damned.