Not chat apps

Chat apps were once for digital p2p1 communication—chatting.

Now chat apps have become the media for news, faux news, entertainment, memes, commerce, and more. They are a combination of, for old school web-ers, a portal, a usenet or yahoo group or bulletin board, and mass email (with everyone in cc).

With chat apps no longer primarily the medium for p2p digital communication, what is the new chat app?

In corporate environment, this p2p role is partly fulfilled by Slack DMs and email. Which app will fulfil this role in personal use case?

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Scarry’s law

Scarry’s Law, formulated over a decade ago by this newspaper and named after Richard Scarry, a children’s illustrator, states that politicians mess at their peril with groups that feature in children’s books—farmers, fishermen, train drivers and suchlike.

—The Economist in ‘Britain’s regulatory-divergence dilemma

Helps explain why some reforms are so hard.

Incomplete numbers

India’s premium smartphone segment grew 29% YoY in 2019; Apple was the fastest growing brand, up 41% YoY, and OnePlus maintained its No. 1 position

—The Economic Times (via Techmeme)

This headline is bothering me. It appears to present the idea that the Indian market is (finally) turning towards premium smartphones. But these numbers only present half the story.

It’s great the the premium smartphone segment grew 29%, and Apple’s sales (I presume) grew 41%. But from what base did they grow?

Also, how fast did the overall smartphone market grow? If the overall smartphone market grew by more than 29%, then the market share of premium segment actually shrank.

Half the numbers, half the story. Still makes it to the front page of Techmeme :/

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Two GTD tweaks for Todo.txt for Android

I follow a slight variant of GTD, and use my Todo.txt for Android app for task list management. Here are two tweaks I use in the app for parts of the GTD process—quick capture, and easy identification of next actions.

1: Use a special project for quick ‘capture

I use ‘+quicktask‘ as default project for all new tasks to quickly capture them. This allows me to just note the task in plain English and continue with the task at hand. I don’t need to think about their priority, due date and all other things at the time of capture.

Writing the task down closes the loop and frees the mind. Applying the +quicktask project allows me to easily find the task later during the clarification stage.

When I’m in the clarify or organise stage, I filter the task list for +quicktask and process them.

2: Use a special tag to mark the ‘next action

Pending next actions
Pending next actions

I use ‘#next‘ tag to indicate the next task to focus on in a project. During the organise stage, I mark one task in each active project as #next. This ensures that I don’t have to look through the task list for what to focus on next.

My task list widget is now filtered by #next and sorted by due date. What’s on top, is what I need to focus on now.

Penny’s insight—women in science

From an episode of The Big Bang Theory…

Bernadette is being featured as one of the sexiest scientists in California by a fashion magazine. Amy criticises it because it highlights Bernadette’s looks not her scientific achievements. Penny defends it with something on the lines of…

if fashion magazines highlighted female scientists, I might have become a theoretical physicist.

Amy and Bernadette’s smirks suggest that this may just be a joke in the series. But this statement is practical marketing1.

Marketers know to advertise where their audience hangs out, not where other marketers hang out. Featuring women in science magazines is an example of the latter—useful for career advancement of women already in science, but not useful for outreach to new audiences.

To encourage more women into science, we should be featuring more women scientists, more often in magazines that non-science women read. If women prefer reading fashion mags then that’s where more women in science (or business or tech or sports or politics) need to be featured.

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Pretty, and pretty confusing

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190731161426921_COVER.jpg
Escalator stop buttons at Waterloo station, London

They look pretty, in a industrial chic kind of way.

The idea is interesting—

  • Red action button in the middle,
  • Operation instruction around it—‘Push to stop’, and
  • Warning around that—‘Penalty for improper use’

And the execution is precise—the button’s radius, the width of gap around the button, and the width of ‘Push to stop’ ring appear beautifully aligned.

Every time I pass them, I get attracted to these buttons.

There’s just one problem. On every attempt, I read the message around the button as:

Penalty for push to stop improper use.

The clarity of message has been forsaken at the altar of design.

Humans don’t read in concentric circles. We definitely don’t read inside-out.

We read from left-to-right, or right-to-left, and top-to-bottom.

In an emergency, when this button would be usually used, we follow instinct—read as we usually do. Not as the designer wants us to—inside out, concentric circle at a time.

This button would be much simpler, and not much less prettier, if it just said ‘Push to stop’ up top, and ‘Penalty for improper use’ at the bottom. (My ugly sketch is below the fold)

Continue reading Pretty, and pretty confusing

The power of a single statistic (to distract)

“I know that major API changes are always a pain for developers and they would rather not have to deal with them, but please keep in mind stats like “42% of malicious extensions use the Web Request API” when you’re considering what we’re trying to improve here.”

—Justin Schuh, on Twitter. (Also stated in Google’s official post here)

Google is using a large number—42% of malicious extensions—in isolation to justify a decision. This number shows that a large proportion of ‘bad developers’ use this API. But this single data point gives no clue about how big is the total pool of developers using this API.

Are bad developers a large proportion of users of this API, or are they a tiny minority? In the latter case, Google’s action to deprecate/restrict the API may be fairly justified. In the former case, they could have chosen a better, alternative approach in dealing with the bad actors, rather than punishing the mostly good users.

An analogy for case 1:

Bank decides to close all doors leading to the street because 42% of all robbers walk-in through those doors.

Analogy for case 2:

Bank decides to close all waste disposal tunnels because 42% of all robbers sneak-in through those doors.

All we know is that 42% of robbers come in through a point. We don’t know if it’s the main customer entrance, or the waste disposal.

If this statistic was a big argument for this decision’s approval inside Google/Chrome-Dev, then they really need to revisit their decision-making fundamentals.

I seriously doubt this though. Googlers are very smart. They are dealing with mostly smart people on the outside. This number is not for them or us. This number is being published solely to turn the narrative, for the common reader, from ‘Google blocking APIs that stop ads and tracking‘ to ‘Google blocking APIs that stop malicious extensions‘.

Continue reading The power of a single statistic (to distract)

Post Microsoft

10 years ago Microsoft software was dominant in my usage – Windows, Office, Messenger, IE, and probably more.

Today, the only Microsoft product that I use is Visual Studio Code (I switched from Sublime Text last year).

I haven’t used Windows, IE or messenger in a decade. I do occasionally use Excel and Skype, when someone insists, but have neither installed on my devices.

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