Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stop the card madness...

Let's say that you have 5 five friends and you want to find what they are up to. How do you interact with them?

  1. You meet/call/mail them each individually and talk to them. 
  2. You have a conference call, facebook/watsapp group message, group email thread, where you just ask what is going on. People respond is random order, but you process the response serially. You lose some of that personal one on one conversation that you might have had, but you still easily touch base with them. All of them talk to each other, crack some common joke, and after a while the group messaging stops. You have effectively reduced the amount of work needed to communicate, and you have checked up on them so they know that you exist, but you still managed to alienate them... but you might not have spent the energy on an individual mail had it not been for the group chat, so this is still a win win situation.
  3. Now imagine that you ask your friends to continuously tell you what they are doing, but instead of communicating serially, they start shouting simultaneously. This is the craziest and the most inefficient way to communicate and that is being thrust down our throats by all the card interface craziness going on.

Let me explain; Pinterest, google currents, flipboard, and as of today, google plus, use card interface. What that means is they'll have each nugget of information on cards, and depending on the application, you can swipe, close, add, append etc these cards. Each of these cards takes a hell lot of screen space and has all the gooey gradient goodness with shadows and what not. Looks great and works great too.. if all you are reading is few occasional tidbits. If you are one of them, just imagine facebook stream arranged into huge squares and thrown about all over your screen.. or just imagine if each email in your inbox was delivered as these boxes. This interface does makes sense if you are discovering content, but not if you are going through a curated set of content, such as RSS feeds or social networking stream.

There have been tons of UI studies where the eyeball of the users were tracked and found to gravitate towards left hand edge of the screen/web page, by forcing these eyeballs all over the screen, these companies are causing a disservice to their customers. 

Now, admittedly, I'm still pretty hung up on Google Reader, but that is how I get to the gobs and gobs of information, I read about 20 articles daily, but for that, I go through 200+ feeds daily. The ability to go through everything and selectively read what I want is what makes stream readers such a good interface. Same thing holds for facebook. You scroll endlessly until something catches your eye, then you click that and explore. Imagine if every object in your news feed, the ones that you don't care about, took as much time; you wouldn't be able to process all that information in time.

With that said, card interface is not all bad. They work on mobile devices, but the powers that be should realize that it doesn't make sense on a desktop, and should show a device specific interface. It might even make sense for something like stumbleUpon.. but please.. not my email, not my feeds and not my social stream.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sh*t will always fly

Are you living in the perfect world of your own? Do you want something to change? Chances are that you do. If you don't then you probably have achieved nirvana and are reading this blog from a higher state of existence.

Dial your life back by a few years, dial it as far as you can go, access your oldest memory. What were your problems back then? You were probably not old enough to understand any financial problem that your parents might have, you were probably fed by someone, someone did your laundry, somebody chauffeured you around, you had friends who could play with you, and even a discarded carton was a spaceship to you... but what were you worried about? Grades!! thats right. Even though, your life was perfect, so much so that songs have been written about fantasies to get back to childhood, you worried about that 1/2 a grade that you didn't get in history. You thought that life would be perfect if you could just get that 1/2 a grade. Of course, now you know that, your life was perfect, and it was immature of you to want that 1/2 a grade.. or maybe you think that the want of that 1/2 a grade shaped who you turned out now.

Fast forward a few years now, just before you go to college. You think that you could ace all the classes you took few years back, if you could do it now.. and you'd be right. Now you are hot headed enough to ignore any problems that your parents might have, and think of yourself as a new generation of whatever. Still everything is paid by family so life is good. But you are still worried about grades and the college you get into. You obsess over it for a year or two. And you think that life would be good if you could just get into a good college. Of course, now you know that, your life was perfect, and it was immature of you to base your whole life around the want of the greatest university.. or maybe you think that the want shaped who you turned out now.

Few more years into your life, you are now in your prime, just before you graduate. You have the closest friends you'll ever make in your life close to you, you have a clear goal of what you want to do in life. Your bills are still paid by your family and you are too busy to be worried by any problems back home. And what do you obsess about? Your job.. that's right. You obsess and obsess over finding the right job. Maybe you find it, maybe you don't. You still think the life is not perfect.

A good university, a good job, a new gadget... everything gets old and transparent. We humans are evolved only to notice change, not something that is stagnant.

Few years into the job, your life is still not perfect, you have a good job, but now you obsess over your personal life. You think that your life would be perfect if you just got married. Even with all the accolades you won, all the friends you have, you don't have a perfect life... And of course, we want to make it perfect, don't we.

So fast forward a few years, you'll get married. This is where my experience ends.. of course there are still things in my already perfect life that I need to change to make my life "perfect"... But we as a species should realize that our lives are perfect the way they are. Life changes, and since a non-believer in destiny, you have the reigns of your life in your own hands. Life adds more code to your monolithic operating system, and you should know that more code mean more bugs, but remember that more code also means more functionality. If life didn't have imperfections then you'd not move the train of your life to a better destination.

Don't think about that half a grade, your college search, your job search, your spouse search, or any other imperfections that you handled. Think about your schooling, your college, your friends, your job, your spouse. You'll see that you have a rich life.. enjoy it and be thankful for the imperfections that makes it richer.. cause even if you are billionaire space cowboy with pet unicorns, sh*t will alway fly.