Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Evil Dogfood

I have been praising Google's Android Design guide to anyone who will listen.  It's a thing of beauty.  It describes why you should use a specific methodology and look and feel when designing apps for Android.  (Some of my readers will wonder what Android is - it's the software powering the phones of your friends who don't have an iPhone.  Unless they're a former hipster, who's now looking for work, mostly because they want a new cell phone.  Those friends are still using BlackBerry.)

Anyhow, the Android Design guide is insightful and inspiring.  In the "Design Principles" section, it has three main categories - "Enchant Me" - "Simplify My Life" - "Make Me Amazing" - and in each case, "me" is the person holding the phone and there are subcategories for each that give specific examples of the types of interactions that best exemplify those traits.

But one thing struck me... there's a bunch of time spent on where to place buttons, how they should look and act, and even a section admonishing the developer not to get lazy and just make an app for Android, Apple iOS and Windows Phone 7 (yeah, I've never heard of that either), but to take care to use the conventions of Android for Android apps so you don't confuse or alienate your users.

Apparently, that advice doesn't apply to them.  Google offers up a Gmail app on iOS.  It offers you access to some of the Googlely goodness of Gmail that the built in iOS Mail app can't offer.  But it's supremely ugly.  And clunky.  And different from any other professional apps on the iPhone.

And yet, to read this guide, it sounds like it's following most of the Android conventions and I suspect to use the app on Android, it would feel beautiful, fluid, consistent.  That this isn't a problem with the app, per se, it's a problem with the guys who built it not following the advice of their colleagues - that the Gmail app for iPhone isn't designed with the iPhone in mind.  That it's simply a copy of the Android version with Android's purposefully non-3D, non-rounded, dark, low-resolution icons and menu placements.  

In the same way that you must spend several seconds on each new website unconsciously learning the conventions of their menus (why most websites adopt the top and left navigation structure and why IMDB is so frustrating), there's a "switching cost" each time you move from app to app that doesn't follow convention.

And the Gmail app certainly does not follow iPhone convention and therefore there's a negative association immediately upon first use because even if it's supremely powerful (it is) and offers you access to all kinds of features the built-in version doesn't (it does), the fact that it forces you to change your way of thinking immediately gives it a negative switching cost.  

Perhaps that's why it only has 3-stars.f

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's the little things

Sometimes it's the small mistakes that give you away.

I knew Google had a time machine.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Work is not cooperating (A Work-Related Post)

My desire to simplify in 2012 has met with an nasty obstacle: my job.

Entering into evidence exhibits A and B:

Now, granted, I actually blocked a full half of my calendar for the week and did not attend any meetings (except for a two-hour phone call on Wednesday) but it's not like I otherwise was able to get caught up. I sat at the computer working, even worked (partially to make up for the time tomorrow when I have to take Ben to therapy) a few more hours last night after the children were in bed (Lori was at her mom's helping her with her post-surgery recovery) and I'm still just getting further and further behind.

These have actually been pretty cleaned up - at one point on Monday I was quadruple booked. I've still got a few overlaps I need to deal with, but I've started publishing my full calendar out to the entire org because this is beyond crazy, it's just plain stupid.

I have no time to work on the action items that result from all these meetings. (And no, I can't delegate - people are specifically asking for me.  If there's any delegation to be done, this is the post-delegation calendar. Two groups were fighting over a lunch-time meeting today because they wanted me at their meeting that had to be today.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Way to Go, Ben!

Ben came home with this today. Not sure what specifically was involved, but Lori said that Ben was awarded a sticker for each time he followed an instruction successfully. There was a dinosaur finger puppet in his backpack about a month ago so perhaps it's a month's worth of following instructions? No sticker sheet that time, but we suspect it was the same type of thing. Unfortunately, the finger puppet was quickly chewed to the point of not being safe and we had to toss it. Ol' Bob seems a bit more sturdy (complete with spring-loaded hammer action!). We're not always sure what they're working on with Ben (and they did reduce their objectives for the year) and it's been a bit of a discouraging day, both at work and at home, so it was really cool when Lori shared this news with me.  Really improved my spirits.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Simplifying Google Reader

Another area that I've been feeling is overwhelming is Google Reader.  So I began cutting it back.  Still, there are 184 links.  That's too many.  I was going to make a list, but I'm not still done paring, and if they are ones I'm not interested in following anymore, why would you want a list of them?

Though I will note that I dropped Inhabitat. While the architectural stuff is interesting, I know enough to know that their posts are sometimes wildly inaccurate, sometimes written by people who have no clue what they're writing about - like the tour of 15th. Ave Tea & Coffee that was actually posted months after it became a Starbucks and dang if those people at Inhabitat don't scream (not cry) wolf at least once a month. Talk about alarmist to the point of "Shut up shut up shut up SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!" Geez. I don't need that kind of stress in my life.

I have found now that I'm no longer running The Sift, I'm not feeling compelled to watch the links so closely for content that might be useful to that site. It's allowed me to be a lot more picky about what I bother to read, it's allowed me to skim much quicker, and it's meant if I don't bother to look at Google Reader for a day or two (or three) that I have to be all that worried about the avalanche that awaits me.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Blog Overload

Does anyone really need more than one blog? I don't think so. I maintained several, but really to what end? One had outlived its original intent and two others were half-baked attempts to make money. But I lacked the time and effort and money necessary to invest in their success, so they simply became drains on my time, distractions from the other things I wanted to do. So near the end of last month, I closed them down. I didn't delete them, the traffic will still earn me a few pennies a month. But I won't actively maintain them and probably not produce new content for them.

This blog, too, will not keep up last year's experiment of a post-a-day. Again, to what end? I'll post when I have something truly worth sharing. And I won't look for it to make money or bring me fame. I will own it, it will not own me. (Like I mentioned on 12/31, I had already begun pre-populating, so the pace of one-a-day will continue for a few more days, but it's no longer a goal I'm aiming for.)

Goodbyes to:

tvjames x blog and dad2be will remain, although dad2be's been pretty dormant for some time now.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


As with all new years, it provides the opportunity for new starts, new beginnings, new attempts to better ourselves (yes, you know where I'm going with this), new goals for oneself, the dreaded new year's resolutions.

After years of varying participation from the not-really-hipster not-really-ironic mostly-just-idiotic "I resolve to have no resolutions" to a full-out multi-point plan with a number of objectives.

But you know what? Even those are just things. I have too many things. Phsyical, mental, it's all clutter. So, for this year, I'm going to have a simple motto:
That's it.  That's the entire deal.   What does that mean in practice?   I'm letting most of my magazine subscriptions lapse.  I haven't been able to keep up anyway.   I'll go through my wardrobe - I don't need this many clothes.   I'm going to stop getting new books from the library - I own plenty I still need to read.  I'm going to unsubscribe like stuff like crazy.  I'm going to take a long, hard look at my social media usage.  And my Google Reader subscriptions.  And my blogging.  And my Remember the Milk tasks.  And on and on and on.   I'll volunteer less.


Because that last paragraph?  That's crazy.  That is absolutely the antithesis of Simplify.  And that's how it starts.  Take a great idea and ruin it with complexity.

Breathe in, breathe out.


Certainly, some things are non-negotiable.  God, family, work, friends.  Can't really (and wouldn't want to) reduce those experiences.  But simplification elsewhere may free up more time for those experiences that truly matter.  (Composed 11/26 at 10:20 pm.)