It doesn’t matter what something can do, it only matters what you can do with that something.
Many technology products are like the old “Sea Monkey” advertisements in comic books.
Remember Sea Monkeys? One day, you were gonna get those monkeys, and there’d be a king, and a queen, and a civilization that would build pyramids and worship you as a god. Or maybe that last part was just me. Anyway.
If you were unfortunate enough to actually buy sea monkeys, you ended up with a cloudy container full of brine shrimp, and a lingering bitterness in your heart that even now sabotages your ability to trust.
And now we are surrounded by sea monkeys.
The computer in my car promised that it would integrate with phones over bluetooth and display alerts and text messages, so the phone could stay in the driver’s pocket. And, technically, it does. Provided that you’re willing to laboriously click, scroll, click, scroll, and click into six nested menus for each text message: an interface requirement that I have scientifically estimated to be approximately six billion times worse than pulling my goddamn phone out and looking at its screen. Which I don’t do, Mom, so stop worrying.
But it sounds great on a checklist. It’s better than the other cars. Right?
Here’s another example: where I work, we use these robots, which are marvels of engineering, crippled by some of the worst software I have ever encountered. This software promises to read certain esoteric CAD formats and generate programs to probe and inspect the parts with sensitive little robotic fingers. And yeah, it does… kinda. The programmer then has to spend six to twelve hours pounding it into submission, which is longer than it would take to program the thing manually.
And that’s if the system doesn’t crash midway through and corrupt the saved file and the backup, which it used to do approximately four times a week.
So they don’t use it. I’m so glad we bought it.
The interaction design world uses the term “Dancing Bear” for a feature that exists, but works badly, but which you’re kind of happy it works at all.
The Kinect is a great example: it’s a dancing bear! Look at it dance! Oops, no, I was just waving at my nephew, didn’t mean to… well shit, which screen am I on now? Where’s the controller…
Still, it dances.
A “Sea Monkey” is worse. You’d be better off without Sea Monkeys: they perform their function in a way that works directly against the actual thing you wanted to do with the product. They’re the scanner/printer that you stopped using a year ago. Or that document software they bought at work to scan everything… how’s that working out?
Feature checklists are where Sea Monkeys live. Stop making them.
If we deprive the Sea Monkeys of their natural habitat, maybe they’ll die out. And then maybe we can learn to love again.
A hacker is, quite simply, someone who messes around with stuff…It doesn’t have to be a computer. It doesn’t even have to be technology. A hacker is someone who figures out how to get around barriers, won’t take no for an answer, asks an insane amount of questions and believes in sharing the information he or she discovers.
Emmanual Goldstein, editor and publisher of 2600 in
So I just thought I’d share a thought or two on this latest news regarding the Chicago Sun Times’ decision to lay off its entire photo staff.
In my years on newspapers, I’ve had the highest respect for photojournalists. While they make me crazy when they demand no photo be cropped, or write unintelligible cutlines, I’ve always known their talent isn’t one you form, it’s one you have. Nearly all of the photogs I’ve known at newspapers are brilliant at what they do because … it’s who they are. They capture the beauty in a moment. The pain. The unbridled passion or anguish that us writers can only attempt to express. Think back to some of the best photos you’ve seen – many were captured by photographers from media publications risking their well-being to get those images and share stories in the most touching way possible.
Needless to say, I’m devastated to see that any newspaper would adopt this layoff decision as one that would help their budget. I can’t imagine they’ll ever tell a story more completely now. I sincerely hope this trend doesn’t spread, and that more people learn to appreciate the bravery, talent and doggedness photojournalists have.
In an interview with Hopscotch’s CEO, Jocelyn Leavitt, she said that a lot of people have the preconception that you need good math and science skills to be a good coder. However, you very rarely need to be good at math to be able to code, you just need good logical skills. The Hopscotch Team claims that programming is more about communication with the computer and software developers, which usually goes underemphasised. A lot of people just don’t realize that they have the capacity to be good, because they are scared to be very technical. This is precisely why their Daisy the Dinosaur app is completely syntax free. Although Hopscotch products would appeal to all ages (well at least to all beginners), their interest is primarily targeting kids because a lot of times, the very best coders start when they were kids.
Max Bill giving a lesson in Zurich, 1945
thanks to my friend Abel for showing me this pic