Apple was the legend of design but the crown is slipping and Google following suit

I have serious concerns about the scale and size of Apple and their quest for peoples data and control over their information but I have always loved their design, it was always so intuitive and felt in tune (no pun intended) with my life and the way I work but with the release of iOS7  they have let their standards slip and frankly made life a little bit harder for the average person in the street and disappointing if you love design.  Here are some examples of what I mean

  • Adding a new contact – If you wish to add a new contact the default telephone number type is “Radio” come on Apple get a grip will you, “Mobile” maybe these days.  Even the list of options when you call it up to change from radio is actually not in Alphabetical order and it does not look like it is a heuristic algorithm that works out your most common choices and ranks them in that order, in short it is simply poor thinking and they have let themselves down.
  • Selecting which speakers you want to use on Airplay – Well it used to be next to the volume control and now its gone, no amount of playing with the environment would reveal its location, I tried settings, everywhere I could in music and then resorted to using Google search to find an answer and there it was sitting in some new feature that is really hard to find called a sort of control dashboard.

ios7control screen

 

Now I am sure someone somewhere spent several millions pounds on UX design research focus groups and had the classic 5 a day testing undertaken but how can we end up with some thing that fundamentally delivers the following issues to a user.  Where in the god of design manual does it say this makes sense, any of it.  Lets look at the one by one

  1. Adding unnecessary extra steps to an established approach – To do something that took one touch in context has now moved to taking three steps and only if you actually know where to look. You cannot search for the feature you need try searching for AirPlay on your phone, nothing
  2. Offering simply ludicrous options that reflect no currently reality for any demographic under the sun, give me a break “Radio” we are in the bizarre situation of young people actually discovering radio anew and it is not in the context of storing a contact record
  3. Making the contrast and overall UX harder to understand – We used to rely on Apple providing some leadership focused on human need but now we seem to be part of a flat white design culture where everything is harder to determine the edges of.  I personally loved the feeling of the real world on my phone and the clarity of edges and where to touch things to make them happen.  Now it is less clear, you have to guess, how is that a good user experience.

Just as guys like Aral Balkan are picking the open source community up by the bootstraps and saying get real about design, those that were synonymous with design and frankly have the sort of budgets people would die for are getting worse and worse. Apple are not alone, just look at the latest iteration of Google Apps and the weak thinking going on there

  • Three steps where one would do in the past, gone is the black top nav bar, you now have to click a grid on the right and then select what you want one click to two or three – Mad
  • Google Drive Folders – Now this was one of the great innovations in my view – Simple concept, you can tag any document with what ever you want and build structure from tags.  The glaring flaw in Microsoft world was duplication of documents across different folders because no one used shortcuts.  Google implemented this well, you could add a document to as many folders are as you wanted with a single click.  Now as they try to compete for local storage battle with Dropbox and SkyDrive they make this feature harder to use by insisting you hold down the Ctrl (Cmd) key while you tick which folders you want a document to appear in. If you forget and tick a folder all the others become unticked and you lose all the sharing you had set up.  how did this help people versus help google try and compete with local synchronised storage.  I do not use the local folder option as I do not see the point but if i did I would want Google to do better and sort out how to deal with reconciling their innovative approach in the cloud to work locally not remove a valued feature a perpetuate increased volume in storage

At the heart of it all I think is a basic contempt for their customers and a disregard for their needs in favour of achieving their corporate goals or simply losing control of the fundamental ethos of their business.  And please do not get me started on the fundamental issue of their Data Feudalism, they want our data, they want our behaviour and they want to analyse the hell out of us.  Google give you loads of stuff for free and your data and your behaviour is the price you pay.  Apple have managed to get us to pay and still get the data and behaviour, how amazing is that.  If you want some festive viewing then look not further than terms and conditions may apply

And if that is not enough fun check out spoof of Apples terms, you have been warned

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The hidden battle line exposed that we all face

I think most people carry on happily with their lives but only when something goes wrong do we sit up and take notices about the issues that surround our lives.  This is never more true than when we see convenience ease of use and free services online and via our smart phone devices.  The underlying truth of the situation is very concerning for anyone who cares about their privacy, liberty, independence and digital human rights.  I personally do not mind sharing information about myself but I expect to do it with my full consent and transparently be able to review who has what and why.   Two films shown below will explain exactly why that is not the case today and that if we do not address these issues we may lose something more valuable than our personal data.

Aral Balkan gave a powerful presentation (Digital Feudalism and how to avoid it –  a tale of indie data) at a recent conference covering not only this danger we all face but also why open source software design needs to step up to the plate if it is to contribute to the prevention of the take over of our lives by the small number of large corporates who are capturing our lives and mining by the sleight of hand of free services.  The first presentation is an hour long, start at about 5minutes 40 seconds to avoid the preamble

There was a film recently called terms and conditions may apply which frankly exposes the great deception that is underway that most of us are blindly falling into, in short the misuse and mining of our lives and personal data in what is being termed by Aral Balkan as digital feudalism.   The trailer for the film terms and conditions may apply is below, the movie can be rented on itunes or purchased which is ironic for reasons that will become obvious

If you care about your liberty, right to choose and privacy i urge you to care about these issues before you

Volunteering Moving things forward – some weeks are better than others

So far this has been a good week on several fronts, I have been able to move various aspects of my life forward and in particular the engagement and involvement in various community and social endeavours where one relies of volunteers and the goodwill of others to give of their time and energy to a cause.

Volunteering is not easy, it can be hard, those that give their time and expertise need respect and recognition without fail and also just as importantly understanding around what they can and cannot do and when they can and cannot help.  For those that organise and secure volunteers most volunteers themselves they need the same respect but they also need to understand how not to judge other volunteers.  It is all to easy to judge people harshly who do not deliver or a little unreliable and to apply those same professional standards you use at work to the world of volunteering.   I certainly apply those same standards myself but have to be as a leader more understanding of others who get drawn into volunteering for many different reasons, not all altruistic, such as

  • It’s a condition of their children’s involvement in something that their parents help
  • It is politically astute to volunteer as it looks good
  • It is about an area they are interested in and will get something back from it such as new skills, certification, career improvement  in some form
  • Their wife or husband set them up and volunteered them without asking and now they are stuck with it!!!
  • They feel they need to do it for their children’s, partners, parents sake as it allows an insight into what is going on at a school, care home or area someone cares about

Many of these are far from the Altruistic ideals many claim, but in my experience what ever the reasons people do it, you need to spend time understanding it and adapt your engagement to support that context.  I am also certain that how people feel about volunteering changes over time directly as a consequence of their experience and how people respond to them.  Classic mistakes I see time and time again are:-

  • Judging others poorly because they are not as good or as reliable as you
  • Not being sensitive to the simple fact whatever reasons someone does volunteer they are volunteering and we need to show respect and appreciation for that at all times even when someone acts like an idiot, is petty or unreliable, we need to help them through the stages of volunteering
  • Not saying thank you because as the organiser you feel you work harder than they do, being the leader is about leading and motivation not dumping crap on others and thinking you are working harder than they do

So in simple terms the volunteer needs to be helped through the key stages of volunteering

  • Stage 1  – Saying yes to doing something, anything however small
  • Stage 2 – Doing it and realising it was not so bad and being thanked for it
  • Stage 3 – Doing it again and finding it easier and being thanked again
  • Stage 4 – Fitting it into their daily life so it becomes part of what they do and who they are
  • Stage 5 – Taking on something else, a little bit more and being recognised for it
  • Stage 6 – Recruiting someone else to help as well / ongoing but the first time is key
  • Stage 7 – Taking on a little bit of coordination and leadership of other volunteers (optional but highly desirable)
  • Stage 8 – Telling people about how easy and how much fun it is and how rewarding it is
  • Stage 10 – Understanding the value you are bringing to the cause as a volunteer and being profoundly affected by the difference you can see yourself and others making in the cause you volunteer in
  • Stage 11 – Wanting to do more and offering to do more

The people that lead volunteer organisations or take on big roles within them have to see this as a pipeline of development and have to find ways to make it fun and engaging and help people move through the stages, it’s not a job, income and career are not affected in most cases but actually your family and friends are and so is the community you live in, which potentially is far more important

So lets help people feel the power and passion of volunteering but lets work one stage at a time.  I had a great week as a volunteer and as a leader of volunteers, some of the conversations were tough but I feel energised and enthused by the week just gone.

I am at Stage 10, I am struggling to do more, but on top of a full-time career, volunteering in three distinct settings within my community and my principle mission in life being the best parent I can be and supporting my wider family, I would say balance is getting there.

Helping people develop their thinking is so empowering

I am big fan of mind mapping as a means of exposing thought processes and allowing you to develop your thinking clearly. Tony Buzan is as it turns out the inventor of mind mapping as an approach.  I found this video this week from the CEO of ThinkBuzan who are selling mind mapping software based on his principles.  There are many other open source and commercial offerings.  So in order to help your children and express themselves and help anyone work through ideas, challenges or issues please look into mind mapping.

To see the transformation in understanding it can bring is inspiring, the see the release it provides for someone trying to express themselves when they cannot find the words or translate the words in their brain to something others can understand is emotional.

If you want to try out software that is free or open source or online then also try some of these

http://www.imapbuilder.com/download.php

http://www.xmind.net/

http://www.mindmeister.com/

http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

http://www.imapbuilder.com/download.php

http://thinkbuzan.com/

The challenge of modern society

Every noticed how people are busy making lists of things they are going to do, or talking about what they are going to do or interested in that needs investigation.

All sounds terribly intellectual and clever but hidden behind this is a simple fact that people have to a large extent lost the love of execution, by which I mean actually doing things, writing a document, reading an article, researching something, forming an opinion, making a difference, contributing or delivering on commitments.

I think this is a corporate and social malaise that is causing waste, delays and fails on so many fronts as people have lost the make it happen spirit. I this a by product of employing people from University where they have acquired a sense of self importance devoid of outcomes beyond studying to get the right degree to get into the right graduate programme or is it corporate culture that wants yes people who simply work to earn to live versus see work as a fundamental part of who they are. Work is part of and individuals contribution to society, growth in the economy and general improvement in all things, self esteem, self awareness and fulfilment.

We are increasingly seeing employers seeking people with real experience who can turn up and work, by which I mean produce something, do something, be happy to follow when asked, happy to lead but above to produce things not just talk about it in self congratulatory terms demonstrating their prowess with the English Language and access to arcane knowledge and terms that are largely inaccessible to most people.

We need a simple charter for the future

  • Understand what is need
  • Think about who to achieve it
  • Act on those steps and deliver
  • Measure the result for satisfaction and outcomes
  • Value delivery and execution above pontification, expect people to be responsible and accountable

If what a person doing cannot be defined in SMART terms we should be saying stop until you can.

I don’t want to kill thinking, what i want to do is inspire people to execute and learn the joy of making things happen

There are moments and then there are moments

There are moments and there are moments.  Love it or hate X Factor turns up real talent, people with a voice so clear that it cuts glass, touches your soul or reminds you that the world with music is a much better place all round.  This young lady took a famous song and made it new again, different and better and possibly touched the real essence of its intent.

I for one am grateful to have seen it and with the aid of Sky+ I do not have to torture myself with that does not inspire me.

And if it was not enough in the same evening a young ma turns up, classic take of shy individual, living in the background who can reach in and touch the very soul of a person.  How and why do people with such a rare gift go unnoticed, is this very ommission that inspires the talent or are they totally disconnected. Either way than heavens it gets a chance to come out even if for a fleeting moment

I personally had a mixed day with several moments of frustration and concern commonly found when you are driving change and trying to bring people and capability forward.  Music is my saviour in so many ways it provides sustenance for me.  Tonight the balance to the universe was restored by spinning up some back issues of X Factor, so thank you for this programme even if aspects of it are a car crash there are moments of pure joy for viewer and participant alike

Time for reflection and rest

I am living in a bubble for a brief period of time semi disconnected from everyday life and responsibilities.  With the age of the internet this becomes harder to achieve as it becomes purely choice by oneself to cut yourself off from all things. Personally a little bit of engagement on the things that motivate and inspire me helps with the work of writing, thinking and problem solving.

The ability to process matters long held in the buffer and turn them around and around to look at them in different ways without daily operational and tactical pressures and decisions sapping time is a good thing.

Is it possible to forget everything for a few weeks, NO in my view, but is it possible to shift focus and change priorities yes.  I sleep more, I read more, I think more flexibly, I get more time on my own.  all good things, but I also get to play more, talk more if I want to and spend time with people I love