The removal of all friction should’t be a goal. Making things easy and making things hard should be a design tool, employed to aid the end user towards their loftiest goals.
Over the last fifty years, we have come to recognize that the fuel of our civilizational expansion has become the main driver of our extinction, and that of many of the species we share the planet with. We are now coming to realize that is as true of our cognitive infrastructure. Something is out of sync, felt everywhere: something amiss in the temporal order, and it is as related to political and technological shifts, shifts in our own cognition and attention, as it is to climatic ones. To think clearly in such times requires an intersectional understanding of time itself, a way of thinking that escapes the cognitive traps, ancient and modern, into which we too easily fall. Because our technologies, the infrastructures we have built to escape our past, have turned instead to cancelling our future.
James writes beautifully about rates of change.
The greatest trick our utility-directed technologies have performed is to constantly pull us out of time: to distract us from the here and now, to treat time as a kind of fossil fuel which can be endlessly extracted in the service of a utopian future which never quite arrives. If information is the new oil, we are already, in the hyper-accelerated way of present things, well into the fracking age, with tremors shuddering through the landscape and the tap water on fire. But this is not enough; it will never be enough. We must be displaced utterly in time, caught up in endless imaginings of the future while endlessly neglecting the lessons and potential actions of the present moment.
When in doubt, label your icons.
When not in doubt, you probably should be.
Spot-on take by Ted Chiang:
I used to find it odd that these hypothetical AIs were supposed to be smart enough to solve problems that no human could, yet they were incapable of doing something most every adult has done: taking a step back and asking whether their current course of action is really a good idea. Then I realized that we are already surrounded by machines that demonstrate a complete lack of insight, we just call them corporations.
Related: if you want to see the paperclip maximiser in action, just look at the humans destroying the planet by mining bitcoin.
From Scott McCloud to responsive design, Dave is pondering our assumptions about screen real estate:
As the amount of information increases, removing details reduces information density and thereby increasing comprehension.
It reminds me of Edward Tufte’s data-ink ratio.
After Clearleft’s recent rebranding, I’m really interested in Happy Cog’s redesign process:
In the near future we’ll be rolling out a new website, followed by a rebrand of Cognition, our blog. As the identity is tested against applications, much of what’s here may change. Nothing is set in stone.
Some interesting insights from usability and accessibility testing at the Co-op.
We used ‘nesting’ to reduce the amount of information on the page when the user first reaches it. When the user chooses an option, we ask for any other details at that point rather than having all the questions on the page at once.
Shamefully, I haven’t been doing one-to-ones with my front-end dev colleagues at Clearleft, but I’m planning to change that. This short list of starter questions from Lara will prove very useful indeed.
Ryan describes the research and process behind putting together a device lab for Happy Cog in Austin. Good stuff, with handy links gathered together at the end.
Hexadecimal colours and their corresponding dictionary definitions. Cute.
An excellent rebuttal by Steven Pinker to Nicholas Carr's usual trolling.
Matt gets an opportunity to use the Chernoff effect for visualising school data.
"Nikon, the racist camera" (sing it to the tune of Flight of the Concords' "Albi, the racist dragon").
Follow along as Happy Cog document the process of redesigning the Mozilla website.
This year's SXSW is shaping up to be a lot of fun. Here's "a karaoke competition and party for people who lover the web... and karaoke."
Like Shazam, but for fonts. Snap a picture of some text on your iPhone and this app will phone home to the WhatTheFont mothership in order to identify it for you.
An interesting look at the way our brains responds to changes in our environment ...with video.
A detailed look at the troubled history of George Lakoff, the father of conceptual metaphor.
I saw Steven Pinker give a talk recently and he spent a fair amount of time talking about swearing. He has written up that part of the talk into an article for the New Republic.
Your brain is hardwired to respond to the shape of a face.