Archive for the ‘Society’ Category
Posted by matteverard on August 7, 2006
Posted by matteverard on August 3, 2006
I recently traveled through Toronto International Airport for the first time and the experience reminded me of how it is nearly impossible to communicate an unintuitive process to a listener. Take, for instance, trying to teach somone how to drive a manual transmission auto (“Let out gently on the clutch, slowly engage the gas…Slowly…Slooowly…GOOD LORD I SAID SLOWLY!!”).
Or teaching a 6 year old how to punt a soccer ball (“hold it like this, and drop the ball when it gets just below your knee…No, don’t toss it up…up is bad, let it fall…whatever…just have fun, you’ll get the hang of it).
So, OK, I’m waiting in terminal 1 for my baggage…waiting…getting nervous…watching the same two forelorn bags circling and circling without any new friends to join them. Then I did what I normally do when I can’t find my luggage (and don’t ask me why b/c it has never yielded results, but it just seems like “common sense”), I walk around the other baggage carousels thinking there’s a mix up. I think I blew 30 minutes before I went for help.
Baggage guy: “Oh, you’re going international, so you pick up your bags in terminal 2. Which is way over there.” He looks at me, twists his head a bit and points to a vague, far off land that requires a bus ride. To him, looking for international luggage in term 1 was just insane. Just then I remember hearing something in the PA system talking about international passengers which I had tuned out. Sure enough, it gave me perfect directions.
Yep, the manual was there but I didn’t read it. Why? Well, I never read manuals b/c they are usually very, very dumb. Here was an exception, but I’ve already figured out how to navigate these types of systems and the PA system has never before contained critical information. (BTW–my friends in Vancouver had warned me of the weirdness of the Toronto luggage system before I left, but I had no category to receive the data. I just didn’t get it.)
So to me, looking for luggage in a remote terminal is insane. Sure, I live in Ohio and don’t get out much. Go ahead, make your jokes. Never mind. This is the way software works. People don’t read the instructions b/c they’ve, say it with me, used this stuff before and know how it should work.
I think end-users grow to hate sofware through similar experiences. If you don’t design a highly usable UI/flow, don’t count on warning signs or manuals to help with adoption.
Posted by matteverard on July 13, 2006
I’m continually amazed by Jon Stewart’s intellect, grasp of complex social issues, and, of course, comic delivery. (His book, America: Democracy Inaction is a gem, especially as audio.) For those you who were aghast by US Senator (and Chairman of the Commerce Committee) Ted Stevens “the internet is a series of tubes” speech, you will enjoy this 5 minute snippet.
Best quote: “People, if you let those tubes of the internet get clogged, how long do you think the gerbils that power the internet are gonna run? No long!”
Posted by matteverard on July 11, 2006
I’m among the throngs of people praising the new “Get a Mac” commercials. Apple is rubbing salt in an open wound in the consumer computing market: too much complexity. Just about any normal person has to promise free beer to a serious techie in order to get their new Dell up and running. I was called to my mom’s recently and spent an afternoon fumbling around with patches, updates, uninstalls, and virus protection. Add a wireless network to the mix and you’ve gone from two beers to four in a hurry. I was only able to succeed with a well-timed phone call to a full-time sys admin buddy.
Check out Charter St.’s (Paul McNamara) good piece intitled “The Software Complexity Racket.” It’s a smart take on the financial disinsentives for innovative simplicity that exist in the current enterprise software market.
Also, don’t miss the smart parody “Get a Mac” commercials from VH1! Hilarious!
Posted by matteverard on July 10, 2006
While the term “Rock Snob” has a pejorative ring, the label also implies real social advantages. The Rock Snob presides as a musical wise man to whom friends and relatives turn for opinions and recommendations; he can judiciously distribute access to various rare and exotic prizes in his collection. “Oh my God, where did you find this?” are a Rock Snob’s favorite words to hear. His highest calling is the creation of lovingly compiled mix CDs designed to dazzle their recipients with a blend of erudition, obscurity, and pure melodic dolomite. Recently, I unearthed a little-known cover of the gentle Gram Parsons country classic “Hickory Wind,” bellowed out by Bob Mould and Vic Chestnutt, which moved two different friends to tears. It was Rock Snob bliss.
Funny and poignant–I’m definitely one of the milkers and have felt, on occasion, that I’ve dishonored the high rock gods by mixing rare collections with the profane.
Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006
The Johns Hopkins Polical Scientist, Francis Fukuyama, has penned a couple of brilliant, controversial books (The End of History and the Last Man, Our Post-Human Future) which I found to be thought-provoking reads. Often he has been linked to the neoconservative movement, but in the NYTimes Magazine pieced (link below), he does a great job separating himself their mess and charts a course for the future that eschews war.
…believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
He also announced the end of the “neoconservative moment” and argued for the demilitarization of the war on terrorism:
“[W]ar” is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a “long, twilight struggle” whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world.
Posted by matteverard on June 28, 2006
If one characteristic of great art is that it bridges the chasm of our isolation and connects us to other souls, even suffering souls, this radio piece qualifies. While in the grocery store, I had to turn it off to keep from weeping in front of perfect strangers. It was Act 2 that really got me. (site uses frames–arghh!–lookup episode 119 at http://www.thislife.org)
Act Two. Mother’s Day. As the number of female prisoners climbs, visiting rooms are packed on Mother’s Day. 80% of female inmates have children at home. Amanda Coyne has been to a number of these Mother’s Days, bringing her nephew to visit his mother – Amanda’s sister. Among the difficult moments that come with these visits: What do you say to a five-year-old who wants to know if mommy is a bad guy? (10 minutes)