Erik I

My public writing. You can reach me at @eitland@mstdn.io

Filed under #ux and #brokenUx

Say you live in a country where English is not the local language and you found an interesting article on a local website. Maybe you want to share it with an English-speaking friend of you, and you have reason to believe there should exist an English post or article somewhere on the web containing the same results.

So you open your search engine and type the words into it. As luck would have it these words can also be valid in your local language so the search engine in its wisdom provides you with local results as shown below:

Searching for something to find an English version of it.

No problem you think: There is a setting where I can choose what language you want your results in.

So you go to the menu where you can change it and you try to change it and you find two choices, all languages or your local language:

Try to change the search language.

OK, fine, I probably just have to set the region first, that almost makes sense (no, it doesn't, buy hey):

Try to change the region.

There are two options and the one that is already selected is the closest I can get.

This used to work, but sometime, somewhere, someone has got paid to create ux sketches to break this and didn't step up to ask what they were thinking, a developer has developed it without saying “are you crazy?” and QA has let it slip.

Or maybe, more likely I am afraid, the story is that they all did it enthusiastically to “simplify the interface”.

Well done: you have now “simplified” a part of the interface that nobody except people like me even think about, only you haven't simplified it or even made it slightly harder to use, you have broken it.

All in an effort to simplify things I guess.

Good UX is hard. Making things simpler is hard. Part of what makes it hard is that you are supposed to keep the useful properties while simpifying it.

Next up: I have created a much simpler and cheaper car. It looks really slick, it is made of cardboard, has no weels, and there is a hole where the driver seat used to be so you can walk around with your car.

Filed under #ux and #chekhovsGun

Shown above is a sketch of what I saw in a popular app for online meetings.

In the picture there are 4 participants visible, and in the bottom left there is a small portrait with the text “+7” overlaid, indicating there are 7 more participants in the meeting.

Now, quickly tell me, how can I get a list of all the participants?

The obvious answer to me was to try clicking the indicator that told me there are more people in the meeting. In fact it is so obvious that it must be that button (which turns out not to be a button, just an indicator) that I must have tried multiple times already.

That is simple, obvious and wrong.

The correct answer is to tap the screen once, then find the overlay menu, then click the ellipsis symbol in the overlay menu to see the overflow menu, and then you can see the participant list.

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that states that

that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed. Elements should not appear to make “false promises” by never coming into play.

This holds true for ui elements as well: If a button doesn't do anything but is only for decoration it probably shouldn't be a button. In this case however it would probably be better to fix the button so it works, I have missed it a number of times already.

I've previously written that Perfect UX is impossible, and I stand by those words, but that doesn't mean we cannot do a whole lot better than we do today.

BTW: Excalidraw is awesome as far as I can see, it is also free/open source software so you can self host it if you want.

Edit 2020-05-06: Add reference to Chekhov's gun

Filed under #ChromeIsTheNewIE and #web

So I posted a comment over at HN mentioning this quote. And this time I took the time to write down a short explanation since the quote tends to be misunderstood to mean that Chrome is like Internet Explorer (from now on referred to as IE) was in 2009: most people were using it even though it was technically inferior.

Since I have a few minutes more to spend and I want to write more, here is a more detailed explanation:

What we saw in 2009 was only the latest stage of something that had been going on for a while and I will distill it down to 4 stages:

  1. Dominance: Backed by profits from Microsofts cash cows back then – Windows and Office – and also what seems to me like some very ugly tactics from other teams at Microsoft, IE became the dominant browser of the early 2000s.

  2. Monoculture: Pragmatic web developers and project managers realized that they could reach 75% or more of the market without even caring about testing in any other browser except IE. This was possible since smartphones as we know them today didn't exist and Linux and Macs both didn't seem to cross the 2% market share on desktops until late 2009, see Usage share of desktop operating systems on Wikipedia for some more details.

  3. Lost interest: Pragmatic business people at Microsoft realized that they had the marked locked down and stopped development of IE. While Firefox and Opera offered better browsers, it didn't matter for Microsoft initially since everyone were still forced to have an instance of IE available because a number of sites including many banks and official websites didn't work reliably in anything except IE.

  4. Disruption: While Opera, Safari and Firefox were gaining users, the last of them possibly to a large degree driven by the rise in popularity of Macs and Ubuntu although some of us were using it on Windows as well, the table wasn't really flipped until the iPhone launched and both devs and management realized this would become huge.

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy my post Are you making a real web application? Or just a Chrome application? were I interview a strawman of the lazy dev who didn't care to test in other browsers except IEChrome ;–)

Filed under #health #sleep and #observations

I'm working from home and I'm noticing the effects more sleep and less stress does to my mind. Normally I fall asleep immediately. Yesterday I went to bed around midnight and didn't feel tired at all. So I had to dig out my favourite falling asleep trick, probably learned from HN: I count backwards from 1000.

I was asleep before nine-hundred-and-eighty.

I guess I should have learned the lesson now, just because I don't feel tired doesn't mean I shouldn't sleep. I won't do anything useful anyway, not even read a book but I can easily wastenan hour playing Polytopia or something.

The second observation is that just because I sleep more doesn't mean that it is easier to get up in the morning: I normally get up right before 0400 in the morning.

One would think that going to bed less tired would make it easier to get up in the morning. At least for me that isn't true at all. Oversleeping is actually a lot easier now and I'll probably have to repeat my getting-out-of-bed drill.

Filed under: #health #diets #physics

Invariably, if someone discusses dieting and weight reductions in public foras for long enough some of the regulars will show up:

  • people honestly enthusiastic about this or that wonder vegetable or fruit
  • people honestly trying to tell you that something quite ordinary is seriously bad for you
  • people trying to sell something (and they might be disguised as one of the aboves)
  • someone who knows enough physics to be dangerousannoying saying: it is really simple – calories in and calories out, that's what matters.

And the last one of them is right of course, because if it wasn't and anyone could prove it it would shatter our understanding of thermodynamics and probably physics in general.

But here's the catch: for many people, if they naively try to continue just as before just with 5% smaller meals, chances are not much will happen.

Realizing this might even puzzle a number of people who believe in calories in – calories out if they haven't thought about it closely yet. I'll try to briefly explain it below.

It just so happens that we are more efficient at making use of the food when there's less of it. I.e. when somebody overeats, a good deal of those extra calories leave the body undigested.

Which means for someone who is overeating they'll often have to reduce their calorie intake quite a bit more than they would expect as they are probably underestimating their current calorie consumption and/or overestimating their current activty levels.

This can be painful and feel seriously demotivating.

Once however one get below ones magic line, change will happen.

The draft for this post was written a couple of months ago but I wasn't happy with it (for good reason), and then things happened. I'll try to get around to saying something about that as well.

Filed under #howto and #telegram

I use Telegram messenger a lot both to communicate with my family, my friends and my future self.

I am not totally happy with it: between the

  • recurring accusations from certain leading cryptographers
  • and the fact that they insist on staying free and will do a blockchain thing instead

I do sense there is room for a lot of things to go sideways.

That said:

  • for now it works better that most other things
  • the program that leading cryptographers have been recommending has had its own share of problems
  • and I only do things that require post card security level

That said, here are some advanced tips:

  • You could always(?) chat with yourself, but now it is an official feature called “Saved messages”
  • You pin up to 5 (for now at least) chats, groups or channels at top of the screen.
    • Ideas: Saved messages, loved ones, frequently used groups
  • You can create multiple groups containing the same persons (useful in a family setting to separate everyday chatter and photo sharing from planning etc)
  • Related to the last one: A group doesn't have to contain more than two persons. For example I can have a group with just me and my wife were we post car maintenance, mileage, receipts from everyday purchases (in case something breaks) etc etc.
  • You can post silently:
    • on the mobile client, long press the send button to see your options
    • on the desktop client, right click the send button to see your options
  • You can also schedule a message:
    • this can be useful if you know you are afraid of forgetting to send a message
    • or you can schedule a message in Saved messages as a reminder to yourself.

BTW: If anyone wants a nice business idea, here's one:

  • Create something like old WhatsApp with all the features from todays Telegram and the encryption from Signal/Whatsapp
  • Make it impossible to sell out
  • Charge $2 a year (WhatsApp made healthy profits at $1 a year when they started)
  • Charge extra for API access
  • Tell me.

I think I signed up for write.as about a year ago.

I like it a lot, for these reasons and probably more:

Read more...

Filed under #observations, #messaging and #psychology

When attempting to enforce real name policies in online foras discussions tend to get dumber.

I guess because real name policies work better against smart and nice people than against trolls.

When accounts are short lived or ephemeral discussions seem to get less civilized

I also wonder if, just like how people in nice cars on average seem to behave badly more often, people who have little to fear (powerful, has correct opinion) has a tendency to behave badly online more often. But I don't have data (yet at least).

Filed under #messaging

I think I can remember hearing about wt.social mast fall sometime but I never gave it a try back then.

After seing it mentioned again today I created an account and logged in.

It looks

  • kind of promising,
  • some ghost town vibes
  • feels buggy
  • kind of like Wikipedia. This makes we wonder if this project will also get curated to the point where I cannot get myself to contribute anymore. Previously I've given up Wikipedia (sometime after the Russian ex-spy was murdered with polonium) and stackexchange (I haven't enjoyed posting or answering there for years and now I even dread logging in to vote.)

I should probably go back someday to test it again.

Background: I am always looking for an alternative to Google+ (the social network, not the identity feature).

Over the two last years or so I've tested: – writefreely/write.as (kind of works. Really slow sometimes. Lacks a bunch of features, particularly some kind of comments, preferably from the Fediverse I think, but I am still a happy customer.) – mastodon, more specifically mstdn.io (it is more like Twitter, a nicer Twitter but still built on the same paint-yourself-into-a-corner ideas as Twitter.) – pixelfed (Instagram clone with a focus on creating good software instead of focusing on making Mark Zuckerberg happy.) – MeWe (kind of similar, but far from as nice) – Minds (my impression last time: polished, some interesting features, but between neo-nazism, plain old racism, lunatics and lunatic racists it almost set a new standard for both dumbness and unpleasantness. Unfortunately it is hard to beat certain chan sites at their home turf though.) – Hubzilla (seems really promising but despite experimenting with my own hub, trying to join a number of others etc I haven't been able to connect to a single human being that was online and posted in English. FWIW Norwegian, Danish or Swedish would have been OK too. Still it is one of the most promising ones in my opinion.) – Matrix (Also on my list of promising messaging solutions I want to try on a day when I get some uninterrupted time. I really want to like it.)

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