Your past actions are the best predictor of your future decisions. Your past—or the memory of your past—has always been immutable. What if it wasn’t? What if marketers could meddle with your memories directly, instead of trying to insert their products into your daily flow? Who would we be when our past has been hacked? When the trust you place in your friends is exploited? What implications would it have for us and society?
What if this wasn’t hypothetical?
From research in cognitive and behavioral psychology, we know how to perform inception. It’s easy. We need to understand the predictable failings of human memory and internalize its ramifications, otherwise our personal past, and hence our future, will be rewritten by the marketer. It’s your life experience, brought to you by Coca-Cola.
This was my keynote for the John Seely Brown Symposium at University of Michigan. The three previous keynote speakers were Danah Boyd, Brewster Kahle, and Lawrence Lessig. I was a bit nervous.
Getting started in user experience can be difficult. Our profession has an identity crisis. You need look no further than swarm of acronyms that we hide behind: CHI, HCI, UI, UE, UX, IA, ID, IxD, IxSD,… the list goes on.
Our identity crisis means learning our field is like trying to inhabit the mind of a multiple personality disorder sufferer. For an aspiring interaction designer, figuring it all out is daunting. For anyone, it’s daunting.
This is my top-five list of what I’ve found to be most important to do and master if you want to get into design.
1. The Hardest Part Of Software Is Culture. Get A Book On Negotiation.
The hardest part about creating software isn’t software. It’s people. Creating a killer interface is meaningless unless you can convince the rest of your team, client, or company that it is worth the investment. Your job as a user experience person is to cultivate a culture where good design has a leading voice at the table. If you cannot communicate, you will fail. If you can not convince, you will fail. If you cannot listen, you will fail.
You want what you can’t have. This fundamental aphorism of human psychology means that full-stop censorship is the wrong approach to hiding ideas and information. The taboo, by definition, makes the information desirable, regardless of whether the content is revelatory or mundane. The insight is that you can use this knowledge on yourself to reshape your own behavior.
China’s great firewall carefully circumvents the want-what-you-can’t-have desire. When I last visited Beijing I tried to access the BBC expecting it to be blocked. Instead, the site came through slowly and erratically. If I waited long enough, refreshed often enough, the page just might come through. Because of the sporadic experience, I found my frustration was directed at the BBC and not at the firewall. Even with a conscious knowledge of what was going on, I had a visceral reaction that it was the BBC’s fault and not a country-wide censor.
There are two modes people use for finding information: browsing and searching. Browsing is for when you don’t know exactly what you want to find, and search is for when you know exactly for what you are looking.
A supermarket makes a good example of the browse versus search distinction. Say you want to make a salad. When you go to a supermarket your browse for ingredients: you wander through the vegetable section picking up the the ingredients that strike you as delicious. You don’t know exactly what you want, but seeing the vegetables helps you make the selection. That’s browse.
I am happy to announce that Tab Candy is coming to Firefox 4. Starting today, Tab Candy will be called Firefox Panorama and be available as a feature in Firefox betas. Head to the Firefox 4 feature list, or watch the video below, to learn how to organize your tabs into groups and reclaim your browsing experience from clutter and information overload.
Update: Since putting this post up, it looks like Bing has fixed the issue and there are now some results that appear in Google only because of the popularity of this article.
Let me start by saying that, at least in the US, Google does not censor Tiananmen Square. Nor does Bing. Nor Yahoo. But we can make it look like they do. If you don’t believe me, click here, here, and here.
As you can see, I’m linking to the real Google domain and the looks and acts legitimately. The URL looks normal. You can even change the search, say remove “massacre” and Google still doesn’t find anything. Try it with quotes. Remove square. Still no results. The “censorship” certainly feels fairly real, and the hoax would be even harder to detect if if I had said that they were only censoring links from some third party sites.
The power of the browser has grown substantially in the last ten years. We now use the Web to multi-task the activities we juggle every day, like vacation plans, purchases, sharing pictures, listening to music, reading email, and writing a blog post.
It’s hard to keep everything straight with dozens of tabs all crammed into a little strip along the top of your browser. Your tab with a search to find a pizza parlor gets mixed up with your tabs on your favorite band. Often, it’s easier to open a new tab than to try to find the open tab you already have. Worse, how many of us keep tabs open as reminders of something we want to do or read later? We’re all suffering from infoguilt.
We need a way to organize browsing, to see all of our tabs at once, and focus on the task at hand. In short, we need a way to get back control of our online lives.
It’s not often that you learn something from spam, besides that there are an extraordinary number of generous Nigerians (replete with theme song) and amazing number of variations in the spelling of viagra. Yet, I recently got spam where the offer was written in pristine English: no numbers replacing letters, no images, and no misspellings. How had such a brazen piece of spam got through my filters? The answer, it turns out, was some clever CSS that caused the HTML markup to be garbled but its visual rendering to be readable. I’ll show you how to use this for both good and evil.
How Do CSS Transitions Work?
Normally, when you change the value of a CSS property, it changes instantly. With CSS Transitions, they automagically animate over time. Imagine you want to have a rollover indication for links where, on hover, the link changes its background color and jigs up a bit. With CSS Transitions instead of having the effect happen instantly, it can smoothly animated. Here’s how you’d do it.
You’ll have to use the -moz and -webkit prefixes for these properties until the CSS transitions specification is finalized.
I was recently looking at some of my father’s, Jef Raskin, old documents and came across his February 16, 1981 memo detailing the genesis of the Macintosh. It was written in reaction to Steve Jobs taking over managing hardware development. Reading through it, I was struck by a number of the core principals Apple holds now that were set in play three years before the Macintosh was released. Much of this is particularly apropos in understanding Apple’s culture and why we have the walled-garden experience of the iPhone/iPad and the App Store.
Even better, I found some sometimes-snarky annotated comments Jef made to the memo as part of the Stanford Computer History project. The annotated memo follows my commentary.
Called an interface guru by publications like Wired and Fast Company, Aza is the co-founder of Massive Health, and was until recently Creative Lead for Firefox. Previously, he was a founding member of Mozilla Labs. Aza gave his first talk on user interface at age 10 and got hooked. At 17, he was talking and consulting internationally. Aza has founded and sold two companies, including Songza.com, a minimalist music search engine that had over a million song plays in its first week. He also creates modular cardboard furniture called Bloxes. In another life, Aza has done Dark Matter research at both Tokyo University and the University of Chicago, from where he graduated with honors in math and physics