Improvement insight

Oct 07, 2015

Yet another great post by Horace Dediu. Few interesting quotes before you read the whole thing.

On adding features:

A change that is ignored is not only valueless, it may actually destroy perception of value. It creates clutter and confusion. A change that is absorbable is valuable. It is meaningful.

On importance of improvement insight:

Paradoxically, the improvements are not usually things that users ask for. Surveys always show that consumers want “better battery life” or a “bigger screen” but delivering something else entirely which nevertheless leads to mass adoption shows an uncanny insight into what really matters. Indeed, those who deliver only what customers ask for end up marginalized and bereft of profit.

The Cost of Paying Attention

Oct 06, 2015

Matthew B. Crawford writing for The New York Times on value of attention:

What if we saw attention in the same way that we saw air or water, as a valuable resource that we hold in common? […]

We in the liberal societies of the West find ourselves headed toward a similar condition with regard to the resource of attention, because we do not yet understand it to be a resource.

Or do we? Silence is now offered as a luxury good. In the business-class lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I heard only the occasional tinkling of a spoon against china. I saw no advertisements on the walls. This silence, more than any other feature, is what makes it feel genuinely luxurious.

Team Tension is Good

Oct 05, 2015

Emmet Connolly over at the Inside Intercom:

In today’s works-well-with-others corporate culture many people think of conflict as something to be avoided. After all, who wants to work with a combative asshole? But teams are relationships, and without a little pressure and willingness to push one another to do better, excellence can be an early casualty of collaboration. A team that’s unwilling to hold one another to a high standard will quickly see that standard slip. […]

Exceptional teams are made up of individuals who reach out beyond the traditional boundaries of their own role, and into the roles of their colleagues. A great designer should be involved in roadmap planning. A great PM cares deeply about implementation details. A great engineer wants to create something beautiful. They hold each other accountable to each other’s responsibilities.

Sometimes this can involve pushing against one another. “I don’t think that’s good enough,” they’ll tell each other. “I know we can do something better here.”

This can often involve presenting your colleague and friend with some honest truths. Egos need to be checked, and trust becomes paramount. But a mature, well-functioning, collaborative team is plenty capable of doing this. As a group, they’re not happy to sign their name to something unless they think it’s great, in every regard. They push and pull each other towards greatness. They hold each other up.

Amen brother.

VW Scandal

Oct 04, 2015

Danny Hakim, Aaron M. Kessler, and Jack Ewing writing about the VW scandal for The New York Times:

Confronted again, Volkswagen continued to maintain that there was a problem with the testers, not the vehicles.

California regulators changed tack, examining the company’s software. Modern automobiles operate using millions of lines of computer code. One day last summer, the regulators made a startling discovery: A subroutine, or parallel set of instructions, was secretly being sent by the computer to what seemed to be the emissions controls.

Regulators were floored. Could Volkswagen be trying something similar to what the heavy-truck industry did to manipulate emissions tests in the 1990s?

Regulators set out to cheat the cheat, tweaking lab test parameters to trick the car into thinking it was on the road. The Volkswagens began spewing nitrogen oxide far above the legal limit.

Crazy. (Emphasis mine.)

The last 10%

Jun 01, 2014

When working on a product it’s sometimes hard to justify the last 10%. When everything’s in place and all the things work as expected, in theory you could launch. But you have this nagging feeling that your product lacks that last layer of polish.

What do you do? Joshua Porter explains:

The difference between a good and great product is the last 10%. Everyone has the same 90… the same core features and similar pricing and a similar story. But that last 10% is the real differentiator. It is the part that separates you from your competitors. It’s the blood, sweat, and tears of detail. And it might take 50% of your time. But time is not what you’re measuring… you’re measuring the difference between good and great.

The $300 Million Button

May 31, 2014

Quite an old story, but worth reminding. Jared Spool, back in 2009:

It’s hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year. What was even worse: the designers of the site had no clue there was even a problem.

The form was simple. The fields were Email Address and Password. The buttons were Login and Register. The link was Forgot Password. It was the login form for the site. It’s a form users encounter all the time. How could they have problems with it?

Fascinating read.

Dieter Rams on design trends

May 30, 2014

Quoting from Rams’ principles for good design:

Good design is long-lasting. It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

One way to render your designs obsolete is to follow current ‘design trends’. Keeping up with the fashion it’s not a badge of honour, it’s a red alert.

Form follows content

May 30, 2014

Jason Fried writing for Inc.:

But when I look at what’s hot in Web design these days, I’m turned off. It’s all a bit too slick, a little overdesigned. I’m sick of slick.

Most of these designs can be described like this: First, you see a huge photo with some text over it. Then, as you scroll down, the background slides away and another big photo with more text on it pops up. And so on…. Maybe you’ve seen this style–it’s starting to crop up everywhere. To a designer’s eye, it looks good, and it’s technically impressive, but I’m not sure it says anything meaningful about the companies using it. Worse (for those companies), it’s created a new kind of clutter: Too many companies look the same–all style and not enough substance.

Erase this term from your brain

May 01, 2014

MailChimp has put together a cool Style Guide for their blogging employees. I love this bit:


Erase this term from your brain. Just write clear and descriptive copy, and use keywords instead of “click here” in link labels.

TV isn't about technology

Jan 23, 2014

MG Siegler lays out good arguments:

Where’s the future of television we’ve been promised every year for the past decade? It always seems to be coming “next year”. And I have a hunch that 2014 may be no different.

Here’s the thing: there isn’t actually a technology problem in this space. That is, while the current solutions offered by the cable providers mainly suck, they suck because they can suck. Big Cable is holding all the cards. And they know it.