"design" entries

Towards continuous design

A deep integration across design, development, and operations is critical to digital business success.

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I just finished reading Thomas Wendt’s wonderful book, Design for Dasein. I recommend it to anyone who practices, or just is interested in, experience design. Wendt’s ideas have profound implications for rethinking and improving our approach to designing experiences. They also have profound implications for how we think about DevOps, and its relationship to design, and how that relationship impacts the nature and purpose of digital business.

Design for Dasein introduces what Wendt calls “phenomenological design thinking.” This is a new approach to design that expands the designer’s attention beyond creating things that people use, to encompass thinking about the ways in which things influence, interact with, and are influenced by how people experience the world. Phenomenological design thinking reflects two key insights about the role of designed objects in peoples’ lives. First, designers create possibilities for use rather than rigid solutions. Wendt cites the example of using an empty coke bottle to hold open a door in an old, crooked apartment. By itself, the bottle wasn’t heavy enough to keep the door from swinging shut, so he filled it with pennies. At that point, the bottle suddenly had three overlapping uses: containing and drinking soda, holding opening one’s bedroom door, and storing spare change. Wendt’s point is that the designer does not entirely control the object’s destiny. That destiny is co-created by the designer and the user.

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Four short links: 24 August 2015

Four short links: 24 August 2015

Real World Security, Car Hacking, News Designs, and Graphs in Shared Memory

  1. This World of Ours (PDF) — funny and accurate skewering of the modern security researcher. In the real world, threat models are much simpler (see Figure 1). Basically, you’re either dealing with Mossad or not-Mossad. If your adversary is not-Mossad, then you’ll probably be fine if you pick a good password and don’t respond to emails from ChEaPestPAiNPi11s@virus-basket.biz.ru. If your adversary is the Mossad, YOU’RE GONNA DIE AND THERE’S NOTHING THAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. The Mossad is not intimidated by the fact that you employ https://.
  2. Highway to Hack: Why We’re Just at the Beginning of the Auto Hacking Era (Ars Technica) — detailed article covering the state of in-car networks and the security risks therein. (via BoingBoing)
  3. 64 Ways to Think about a News Homepage — design and content ideas.
  4. Ligraa lightweight graph processing framework for shared memory. It is particularly suited for implementing parallel graph traversal algorithms where only a subset of the vertices are processed in an iteration.
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Proposing CSS input modality

:focus'ing on users.

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Editor’s note: The author would like to acknowledge her co-author, Brian Kardell, who contributed many insights to the ideas presented here, along with a substantial number of the words.

Web developers and web standards authors alike strive to live up to the promise of “universality” — the idea that the web should be available to all. This concept drives many innovations in web technology, as well as being fundamentally built in to the philosophy of the open standards on which the web is based.

In order to achieve this, we frequently find that having some carefully chosen information about how the user intends to view the content (a concept we’ll refer to in this article as “user context”) allows web developers to create more flexible and useful user experiences. In this post, we’ll lay out a case that it’s time to expand our view of user context to include the concept of modality (how the user is interacting with the page), but before we flesh that out, let’s take a look at “user context”.

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Four short links: 10 August 2015

Unionize BigCos, Design Docos, IoT Protocol, and Hackability

  1. Employees at Google, Yahoo, and Amazon Lose Nothing if They Unionize (Michael O. Church) — When a company’s management plays stack-ranking games against its employees, an adversarial climate between management and labor already exists. This is a deeply interesting article, with every paragraph quotable and relevant to The Next Economy. Read it.
  2. Design Documentaries — a really nice index of design documentaries, many with YouTube links.
  3. MQTT — IoT connectivity protocol designed as an extremely lightweight publish/subscribe messaging transport. It is useful for connections with remote locations where a small code footprint is required and/or network bandwidth is at a premium.
  4. Camp for Apple II Fanatics“I invested a lot of time and knowledge into the Apple II, to the point where I really understood all of what the system is doing. All 64K of memory and what’s happening in RAM and ROM, the firmware the programs are using when they run on the Apple II,” he said. “With today’s machines, you get farther away from the metal the thing’s running on. Things change so fast, your phone is a million times more powerful than the Apple II was, but you can’t do things on the metal.” The micros were invented by the people who built and ran the minis and mainframes of old, and gave people the same insight. Tablets and mobiles were invented by the people who built and ran micros, and took away that same insight.
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It’s usability all the way down

Designing, building, and operating services from the perspective of customer goals helps improve quality.

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We often tend to think about “usability” as applying to a separate layer of digital service from functionality or operability. We treat it as a characteristic of an interface which intermediates between the user and an application’s utility. Operational concerns such as performance, resilience, or security are even further removed. This approach gets reflected in siloed design-development-operations practices. From the perspective of service quality, though, I think it may be more constructive to view usability as a characteristic of service as a whole.

What is service, anyway? In the language of service-dominant logic, it’s something that helps a customer accomplish a job-to-be-done. From that perspective, usability refers to the customer’s ability to ‘use’ the service to accomplish their goals. Everything that contributes to, or compromises, that ability, impacts usability.

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Four short links: 20 July 2015

Four short links: 20 July 2015

Less Spam, Down on Dropdowns, Questioning Provable Security, and Crafting Packets

  1. Spam Under Half of Email (PDF) — Symantec report: There is good news this month on the email-based front of the threat landscape. According to our metrics, the overall spam rate has dropped to 49.7%. This is the first time this rate has fallen below 50% of email for over a decade. The last time Symantec recorded a similar spam rate was clear back in September of 2003.
  2. Dropdowns Should be the UI of Last Resort (Luke Wroblewski) — Well-designed forms make use of the most appropriate input control for each question they ask. Sometimes that’s a stepper, a radio group, or even a dropdown menu. But because they are hard to navigate, hide options by default, don’t support hierarchies, and only enable selection not editing, dropdowns shouldn’t be the first UI control you reach for. In today’s software designs, they often are. So instead, consider other input controls first and save the dropdown as a last resort.
  3. Another Look at Provable SecurityIn our time, one of the dominant paradigms in cryptographic research goes by the name “provable security.” This is the notion that the best (or, some would say, the only) way to have confidence in the security of a cryptographic protocol is to have a mathematically rigorous theorem that establishes some sort of guarantee of security (defined in a suitable way) under certain conditions and given certain assumptions. The purpose of this website is to encourage the emergence of a more skeptical and less credulous attitude toward this notion and to contribute to a process of critical analysis of the positive and negative features of the “provable security” paradigm.
  4. Pig (github) — a Linux packet crafting tool. You can use Pig to test your IDS/IPS among other stuffs.
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Four short links: 10 July 2015

Four short links: 10 July 2015

King Rat Brain, Emojactions, Dead Eye, and Cloud Value

  1. Computer of Wired-Together Rat Brains — this is ALL THE AMAZING. a Brainet that allows three monkeys connected at the brain to control a virtual arm on screen across three axes. […] Nicolelis said that, essentially, he created a “classic artificial neural network using brains.” In that sense, it’s not artificial at all. (via Slashdot)
  2. Reactions — Slack turns emoji into first-class interactions. Genius!
  3. Pixar’s Scientific MethodIf you turn your head without moving your eyes first, it looks like you’re dead. Now there’s your uncanny valley.
  4. AWS CodePipeline — latest in Amazon’s build-out of cloud tools. Interchangeable commodity platforms regaining lockin via higher-order less-interchangeable tooling for deployment, config, monitoring, etc.
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Four short links: 7 July 2015

Four short links: 7 July 2015

SCIP Berkeley Style, Regular Failures, Web Material Design, and Javascript Breakouts

  1. CS 61AS — Berkeley self-directed Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs course.
  2. Harbingers of Failure (PDF) — We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail – the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed. Firms can identify these customers either through past purchases of new products that failed, or through past purchases of existing products that few other customers purchase.
  3. Google Material Design LiteA library of Material Design components in CSS, JS, and HTML.
  4. Breakoutsvarious implementations of the classic game Breakout in numerous different [Javascript] engines.
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Four short links: 1 July 2015

Four short links: 1 July 2015

Recovering from Debacle, Open IRS Data, Time Series Requirements, and Error Messages

  1. Google Dev Apologies After Photos App Tags Black People as Gorillas (Ars Technica) — this is how you recover from a unequivocally horrendous mistake.
  2. IRS Finally Agrees to Release Non-Profit Records (BoingBoing) — Today, the IRS released a statement saying they’re going to do what we’ve been hoping for, saying they are going to release e-file data and this is a “priority for the IRS.” Only took $217,000 in billable lawyer hours (pro bono, thank goodness) to get there.
  3. Time Series Database Requirements — classic paper, laying out why time-series databases are so damn weird. Their access patterns are so unique because of the way data is over-gathered and pushed ASAP to the store. It’s mostly recent, mostly never useful, and mostly needed in order. (via Thoughts on Time-Series Databases)
  4. Compiler Errors for Humans — it’s so important, and generally underbaked in languages. A decade or more ago, I was appalled by Python’s errors after Perl’s very useful messages. Today, appreciating Go’s generally handy errors. How a system handles the operational failures that will inevitably occur is part and parcel of its UX.
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Four short links: 29 June 2015

Four short links: 29 June 2015

Surgery Lag, Clippy Lesson, Telegram Bots, and Censorship Complicity

  1. Surgery Lag Time (ComputerWorld) — doctors trialling very remote surgery (1200 miles) with a simulator, to see what naglag is acceptable. At 200 milliseconds, surgeons could not detect a lag time. From 300 to 500 milliseconds, some surgeons could detect lag time, but they were able to compensate for it by pausing their movement. But at 600 milliseconds, most surgeons became insecure about their ability to perform a procedure, Smith said.
  2. Clippy Lessons (The Atlantic) — focus groups showed women hated it, engineers threw out the data, and after it shipped … It turned out to be one of the most unpopular features ever introduced—especially among female users.
  3. Telegram’s Bot PlatformBots are simply Telegram accounts operated by software – not people – and they’ll often have AI features. They can do anything – teach, play, search, broadcast, remind, connect, integrate with other services, or even pass commands to the Internet of Things. (via Matt Webb)
  4. New Wave of US Companies in China (Quartz) — Evernote and LinkedIn let the Chinese government access data and censor results. Smith believes that LinkedIn and Evernote are setting a dangerous precedent for other internet firms eying the Middle Kingdom. “More US companies are going to decide that treating the Chinese like second class information citizens is fine,” he says.
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