Recommended Reading: Open Whisper Systems >> Reflections

I just read and enjoyed this:

Indeed, cannibalizing a federated application-layer protocol into a centralized service is almost a sure recipe for a successful consumer product today. It’s what Slack did with IRC, what Facebook did with email, and what WhatsApp has done with XMPP. In each case, the federated service is stuck in time, while the centralized service is able to iterate into the modern world and beyond.

So while it’s nice that I’m able to host my own email, that’s also the reason why my email isn’t end to end encrypted, and probably never will be. By contrast, WhatsApp was able to introduce end to end encryption to over a billion users with a single software update.

Read “Open Whisper Systems >> Reflections”

Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind

Blake Ross, co-founder of Firefox and former director of product at Facebook, recently shared a personal revelation of his: That he can’t visualize things in his mind:

I just learned something about you and it is blowing my goddamned mind.

This is not a joke. It is not “blowing my mind” a la BuzzFeed’s “8 Things You Won’t Believe About Tarantulas.” It is, I think, as close to an honest-to-goodness revelation as I will ever live in the flesh.

Here it is: You can visualize things in your mind.

Read “Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind”

Upon reading the article, I immediately panicked and started wondering whether I could lack that ability myself without ever having noticed, but upon trial and reflection I’ve concluded that I am capable of visualizing things in my mind, I’m just not very good at it🙂

It’s remarkable to imagine how different the experience of the world and memories must be when you can’t visualize anything in your mind, and I find it even more remarkable to go through life for more than 30 years without noticing that your mind works differently than the minds of most people around you.

What Happened to Google Maps?

Justin O’Beirne explores some design changes to Google Maps over the past few years:

Browsing Google Maps over the past year or so, I’ve often thought that there are fewer labels than there used to be. Google’s cartography was revamped three years ago – but surely this didn’t include a reduction in labels? Rather, the sparser maps appear to be a recent development.

Coming across this article I was immediately reminded of an article from 2010 that provided in-depth analysis and discussion of Google Maps in comparison to Bing Maps and Yahoo Maps – turns out that article was by Justin O’Beirne as well!

The trouble with 3D Touch

Jason Snell isn’t entirely happy with 3D Touch:

Although Apple’s proud of the peek/pop interface that it unveiled with the iPhone 6s, I’m skeptical of its utility. Most of the time, when I accidentally initiate a “peek” of the content behind whatever I’m pressing on, it’s content I was already trying to see by tapping. Loading a “peek” doesn’t really take any more time than actually tapping on an item and loading the result, and returning back to the previous screen seems a lot less work than holding your finger on the glass while you peruse a “peek” to see if it’s worth opening the rest of the way.

In other words, most of the time I don’t see any benefit to using 3D Touch to reveal content in apps over just tapping to reveal that content the usual way. It’s a solution to a problem we didn’t have.

That’s exactly what I was thinking when Apple announced the feature last fall: “Why the hell would anyone use “peek” when I might as well just click through?” Back then I hadn’t had a chance to try the feature for real and was certain to have missed something, but it would seem that initial skepticism was right.

Jason goes on to propose a simple fix for 3D Touch – make it backwards-compatible with the majority of the iPhone install base:

That’s why the right thing for Apple to do is to change the behavior of 3D Touch in a future version of iOS so that it has a non–3D-Touch equivalent. In other words, 3D Touch should just be a faster, more efficient version of a gesture that every iOS user can perform. That way, users of devices with 3D Touch will get a benefit, but app developers don’t have to think about implementing a feature that won’t work with most devices.

Sounds about right to me.

More Chinese Mobile UI Trends

At the end of 2014 Dan Grover posted a fascinating article about Chinese Mobile UI Trends. The article was a revelation to me, because the Chinese app market is an environment that is largely impenetrable to most westerners, and in addition to that, it’s also remarkably secluded from western internet giants like Google and Facebook and could therefore develop in ways that are distinctly different from western app design trends.

Luckily Dan followed up his first article with another one describing even more Chinese mobile UI trends and it’s just as fascinating as the first one.

Recommended Reading: Chat bots, conversation and AI as an interface

I just read and enjoyed this:

Chat bots tap into two very current preoccupations. On one hand, the hope that they can actually work is a reflection of the ongoing explosion of AI, and on the other, they offer a way to reach users without having to get them to install an app.

Read “Chat bots, conversation and AI as an interface — Benedict Evans”