— On Comms Design. From London

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I wrote this a couple of weeks ago in Medium.

You should check me there for the foreseeable future. Or until something else interesting comes along 🙂

 

“I started writing a blog almost 8 years ago, maybe more. The first one was on Blogger and that was, by far, the most rewarding blogging experience of my entire blogging “life”. Blogger was basic, easy to use, blogging was just starting, we had less of this “I blog professionally” shit and people had more options to discover other people they thought worthy of reading.

Somehow I got popular so people suggested I start blogging “professionally” which meant that I was to get my own name-domain (which I still own and it’s giving me a constant headache, find it here www.bogdanabutnar.ro), switch from blogging in English and move to WordPress where I could get better exposure in Google and have more control over the design and “accessories”. I’d say there were a couple of good years doing that but eventually managing a self-hosted WordPress blog became a huge pain in the butt. I was clearly not going to be a professional blogger. My profession is digital marketing and, as it happens, blogging is a small part of that, but I was not going to make money from writing on my blog. So the design, constant updates, SEO and Cache and whatnot plugins started to really bug me. I was lucky to have my blog hosted by a dear friend but even the minimal server updates sometimes left my WordPress blog crippled because of lack of constant care. Read More

I am trying something new. See it here.

I am not sure whether to rejoice that I might not be seeing all those inane responses to people’s Facebook posts and that these responses will be confined to neatly recorded smilies or hearts, or to be annoyed that we are coming closer and closer to an ultimate standardisation of people’s reactions (i.e. emotions) on social media.

This is of course about this, the news that the world is not getting a dislike button but rather a plethora of smilies, hearts and other icons that will enable us to not outright hate something but rather express a wider range of feelings.

The annoying thing about this is that we WERE able to record a wider range of emotions by leaving comments that could say “I partly agree with this” or “This is an immense and stinking pile of horse shit” (by which the commentator would not have simply described what he saw in the picture). The point of Likes was to aggregate the overall sentiment on the post, so it was mostly a scale thing, a way of measuring overall impact. People were asking for a dislike button mostly because sentiment analysis is so bad that 500k comments saying “I hate this” would be collapsed into something too small to compete with, say, 100 likes. Nobody campaigned for a “I kinda like this but I am not sure” button. There was a lot of conversation around Meh, but that was it.

The trouble with standardising responses is that people have a tendency to replace actual nuance with that standard. Remember when “In a relationship” had become the ultimate badge of commitment? Standardising means simplifying and we know the human brain loves a good simplification, but somehow it does not feel like we should be trying to simplify things when it comes to points of view or emotions. People should have to make an effort to express exactly what they are feeling because using smilies just impoverishes the conversation.

I want a dislike button. Because we need to be able to say no in a VERY loud voice to some things. I do not think, however, that we should be happy with being given a Facebook-approved list that bridges the gap between like and dislike. We mind find ourselves in a couple of years expressing a lot less.

So the Kardashian ladies have the most successful Instagram profiles ever. They have millions of followers and millions of likes. What do they do next? They turn their profiles into advertising billboards for their apps where they upload and share more content, more advertiser-driven content and more product plugs. The money flows in, they have no pesky Instagram rules to abide by and they control the stats and cookies of their downloaders.

Now if you ask me, instead of trying to do the same old thing of pushing ads on their users (which is getting a bit of a backlash I understand), Instagram could try and do something similar (you know, like YouTube has been trying to implement for a while, although it might be a bit later than anyone can stomach) –> simply put, paywall some major accounts, split the revenue with the creators and not risk bleeding users into apps. Or annoying everyone with ads, especially when your platform is hugely prohibitive to ads. What do I mean? Let’s say you follow 400 people on Instagram [which is already insane because there is NO way you can go through all of their updates at a time]. There is only this many ads Instagram will be able to serve in between your followed accounts’ content before they piss you off [Facebook has waaaay more display areas, Twitter faces a similar problem to Instagram so it’s trying to redesign itself]. The one solution would be for them to allow, say, chronological pics to be shown in a horizontal slider, versus the vertical one we use now ,which would give them twice as much display space. The ads would be shown both among horizontally sliding pics and the way they are now. And still how many can they show before they piss everyone off? Not many I would say.

So why not do the smart thing, start early and paywall some of that coveted content.

How it was made here.

What I LOVE about this is this small bit below, how they made the dots and how the dots do pretty much everything 🙂 Genius!

I will probably not buy a smartwatch. Most likely because I already hold very struct opinions about productivity and what’s worth optimizing and what is not. I seriously don’t think that having your social updates or even email pop up on your wrist is an improvement of anything. It’s just mindless “if technology can do it, why not” type of progress. Here’s some things I would buy a wearable for:

– tracking my pulse and body temperature and when I exercise analysing sweat   + any medical info they can fit in (and yes I am willing to insert a chip under my skin if needed)

– allowing me to scan foods (not labels) and/or measure weight of food on plate and tell me calories and whether they fit within my diet plan

– reminding me to stand up and do my 15 minute off time (I am currently trying to see if I can work with Pomodoro technique)  and yes, they do need better accelerometers because one I tested recording my motion of turning my car’s wheel as exercise 🙂

– carrying my card and ID information so I can just scan then at terminals (I think the watches might be doing this right now, phones definitely do it)

– recording memos on the go and having them automatically geo located and time stamped so the watch/band can remind me when the time and place occurs

and that’s pretty much it. I can do a bunch of those with my phone already so, and if smartphones do it, they sure do not advertise for it. But what I mean is that we seem to be in this race to improve on things that are not essential. I saw a VR speech and I could not get the people giving it to say what the tech was good for other than letting gamers get “a bit higher” on their drug of choice, “experience”. They seemed to envisage no actual applications for it other than allowing you to be able to shoot someone and make it look real :(. The same with smartphones. I am sure we can use all of this tech for better experiences of life not just of virtual life.

Every time I share something to Facebook I feel like I am throwing important things into a black hole. So I will also leave this amazing article here with the quote below

“Because they’ve spent money on making their marketing digital, not their processes. They’ve got good at social media rather than service design.They’ve invested in conversations, not services, so now they spend their whole time having conversations about how shit their services are.They’ve done the easy stuff, not the hard work to make things simple.”

[Russell Davies, of course :)]

 

I should probably not have made this so general, the title, I mean. What I mean is that good design for me is the trigger to make a decision. And I have been seeing this happen a lot lately when I look for things I know nothing about. In all cases, a good design of the app, the web page etc seems to be the thing that puts it over the top. I say Yes more often to things that ultimately also Look good in a short list of things I would like.

My very very smart boss at work, Mr. Roope, speaks about the implicit messages that good design and interface give out, meaning that he thinks one’s very good experience with a way something looks and works also sends out a more important message about whether you should choose that over something else. It appears to be quite true in my case and I have tried to understand why.

Primarily, I think it’s because I work in an industry which teaches the importance of design/usability etc (maybe I should strike industry and use company [smirk]). But to me, having someone think about how something looks after you’ve done all the important functional bits is interesting. It almost signals that you think of what you do beyond just the thing, that you care about how people will interact with it and how they will feel.

Of course, I could be wrong. There’s probably a bunch of nicely looking things out there that are crap but what I mean is not just a nice exterior but a way of designing something which makes your expectations (creative, quality, etc) met and your experience good. And there’s not a lot of things out there which are made like this. Consider shoe racks (a thing which I have been battling lately with my increasing collection of trainers). Most shoe racks are simply stupid and ugly looking because pretty much everyone is concerned with making a flat or slightly inclined space for shoes to sit on. Nobody thinks of other things like the space a show rack can actually take in a house, the types of shoes you need to fit etc. And finally, almost nobody thinks about HOW the shoe rack should look once you’ve installed it and you’re using it. I am still looking for one that will do all of these 🙂

Implicit messages that design sends 🙂 worth considering.

“It’s not just that it’s annoying to have 20 different conversations across 20 different apps. (Which it is.) It’s not that I mind remembering where I was already talking to someone or guessing which app they’re most likely to check quickly. (Which I do.) It’s that, by not picking a place to congregate, we’re missing out on one of the most powerfully useful new things in tech: the all-encompassing messaging app.”

Read it all here

 

Sometimes I think of the apps I could be making and I think I might be a successful serial entrepreneur. I spend about 0.01% of my time developing those ideas but love them dearly. I don’t do research but I am persuaded my insights are good.

So here’s today idea to share and I would love it if people could either point me to something that does that or, if there’s nothing out there, point me to someone who’d like to do it.

Insight: we live between a world of growing content and a world of growing pressure to be productive. As such, we try to squeeze any moment of “in between” time to add more to our brains and our bodies. We jog to work, we work standing up and doing glutes exercises, we do Kegels in the car (I heard that in a sitcom), we read on the tube, we listen to podcasts as we walk.

Problem: id you’re like me and you have a hard time getting meaningful results from minimal interaction (meaning I cannot read a novel 1 page at a time, it just does not make sense to me and if you think about you’ll also remember how you struggle with longer form). I find piecemeal interaction to be meaningless.

Solution: is there an app out there that calculates your “in between” time and selects the form of content you can consume based on two factors “increasing productivity” and “meaningful interaction”? This app will prepare a “menu” of things you can do as you walk to work and make sure they are completed by the time you get there or at least completed to a meaningful degree.

Is that out there already?

 

 

About a week ago I found that you could email Uber to see your own rating by drivers who’d taken you places. So I did, email them that is and I did. I found out that I was a 4.7 which turned out to be a life changing event because it set in motion a string of unexplainable emotions (PMS aside). I have been a fervent supporter of Uber although their brand of PR and lobby and even what I assume is the drive that sits at the heart of their business make me a bit queasy. I love Uber not because it’s cheap and convenient (that helps too) but because it allows people to be in control of their lives and their livelihood. I look at Uber drivers as small entrepreneurs who Read More