The UX of 280

This is where the design challenge comes in: How can we make a UI that communicates these different character constraints that is still easily understood globally? Simply replacing the number doesn’t work because we can’t be certain which language you’re going to be Tweeting in. We could guess which language you’ll use, based on your location or system language, but that falls apart quickly, as many people live in foreign countries or travel regularly. Additionally, many people Tweet in multiple languages, sometimes within a single Tweet. Because we count dense alphabets differently than non-dense, mixed language Tweets can result in some intricate math that we want to be able to abstract away. The challenge here was to create a design that adapts to different character limits without relying on a number, works with the many ways people compose Tweets, and is intuitive enough that people don’t have to spend time thinking about it.

A recap of some of the UX decisions made to show that Twitter users now have 280 characters with which to compose their post, not 140.

Source: Looking After Number One-forty – Twitter Design & Research – Medium

Migrants are too wealthy

1: Spotify is getting unbelievably good at picking music — here’s an inside look at how

There’s a playlist on Spotify I love called Discover Weekly. It’s updated every Monday with a mix of songs, some I know and some I’ve never heard, crossing into almost every genre with no discernible pattern. Like magic, it just knows what I want to hear.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m listening to Spotify more than ever. And I’m not alone.

I’m pleased with Spotify’s Discover playlist. Mine this week is 30 songs (2hr 1m) and is a nice mix of bands I’ve never heard of, back-catalogue songs by bands I know, and a handful of songs I own and/or I’ve listened to (on Spotify) multiple times. I think this last tactic is deliberate; relatively few people will want two hours of music that they’re completely new to, and will appreciate a bit of familiarity along the way. I’d like more new (to me) music, but I’m a bit odd: maybe ‘Discover’ could be an integral part of the Spotify app, along with ‘Browse’ and ‘Radio’ and the like, that we could tinker with using filters and settings depending on what we want to expose ourselves to.

I still like Apple Music, by the way, and I’ll likely carry on paying for it and using the free version of Spotify, which I downgraded to a couple of months ago. But the excitement of the ‘For You’ section in Apple Music has worn off. There’s only so many times I want to see ‘An Introduction To’ an act whose back catalogue I own in its entirety, nor ‘Deep Cuts’.

2: Social decay: How Tweets can predict the death of an app

We used Twitter data to analyze the health of social apps and find out which ones might be in trouble — or, as we call it, in social decay.

Interesting to see the slow decline of This Is My Jam, and how Ello has peaked, dropped and plateaued.

3: How to write a great error message

Your job as product manager, designer or developer of an app is to recognize that writing copy in your app is not something that you can just do on the side. It’s just as important as having the application work correctly and the user interface being easy and efficient to use.

4: Surprised that Syrian refugees have smartphones? Sorry to break this to you, but you’re an idiot

On the surface this may look like xenophobia searching for something to grab on to following a shift in the public mood towards refugees from the Middle East. But it is actually a fairly progressive stance: just weeks ago the anti-immigration brigade were complaining that migrants are unskilled and just want our benefits. And now they’re arguing that migrants are too wealthy instead, implicitly arguing we should prioritise helping the poor. But in any case, it does raise an interesting question: Exactly how surprised should we be that people from Syria carry smartphones?

5: How media ‘fluff’ helped Hitler rise to power

In the years preceding World War II, news outlets from home magazines to the New York Times ran profiles of the Nazi leader that portrayed him as a country gentleman — a man who ate vegetarian, played catch with his dogs and took post-meal strolls outside his mountain estate […] The 1930s marked the rise of celebrity culture, in the era of talking movies, radio and new lifestyle magazines […] Hitler’s propagandists took advantage of the new celebrity culture and even helped to shape it.

6: Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto explaining World 1-1 is the best game design lesson of the week

Miyamoto talks level design.

How most people experience ink

1: The momentary compression of design

It’s not that designers coding is totally irrelevant right now; I would happily debate that with anyone interested. But if software is eating the world, software design ought to be as diverse as the world itself. I would encourage designers to think about their roles and skills in the broadest sense, in terms of their knowledge of humanity and the world, rather than the technical deliverables of today. Divergent processes will become mandatory for survival and in the future I expect the question “should designers code?” to make as much sense as “should urban planners carve wood?” Our practice on the other end of this moment has a good chance of entering the most diverse, vital era we’ve ever known, which should be celebrated and encouraged rather than squashed and judged.

2: Limetown

New fiction podcast: part Serial, part X-Files. A bit hammy at times, but promising.

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again.

In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, “What happened to the people of Limetown?”

3: Radical sandcastles

These aren’t your prototypical bucket-and-pail sand structures. Matt Kaliner’s creations deserve an architectural category all their own.

See also Renzo Piano: how to build the perfect sandcastle.

4: Woman with no recollection of last 10 years asked to run major media company

She has a knack for a good story, she’s great with people. Sure she couldn’t remember whether the Prime Minister of Great Britain attended her 40th birthday party. But then, who does remember these sorts of finer details?

5: The guy who owns .xyz will only get $8 from Google every year

Sure, but he’s making over $160k per day on new registrations.

6: The hamburger menu doesn’t work

It’s a beautiful, elegant solution that gets it all wrong, and it’s time to move on.

7: How the ballpoint pen killed cursive

The ballpoint’s universal success has changed how most people experience ink. Its thicker ink was less likely to leak than that of its predecessors. For most purposes, this was a win—no more ink-stained shirts, no need for those stereotypically geeky pocket protectors. However, thicker ink also changes the physical experience of writing, not necessarily all for the better.

See also Bic uses the same photo to advertise their pens and razors.

They pay in faeces

1: A/B tests are destroying your conversion rate

Have I heard clients tell me that they incur performance slowdowns due to their use of A/B tests? Absolutely. But when I hear that, I don’t hear “A/B tests are the problem.” I hear “maybe you need to put in a bit more work until you get it right.”

2: Ultimate steak sandwich: rib-eye, Boursin & watercress

This really does look excellent.

3: The 33 best 33 1/3 books

The 33 1/3 series has revealed a way that we can save the album: by dislocating it from history and letting a new generation develop their own canon. Recently announced titles suggest this trend will continue, but while we wait for new editions on Beat Happening, the Raincoats, and the Geto Boys, here are the 33 best 33 1/3 titles in alphabetical order by artist.

4: Incubus on Instagram

The mostly-forgotten band Incubus are doing something extremely interesting with their Instagram feed. (This looks much better in the app as there is less padding between posts.)

5: A brief note to readers new to Infinite Jest (and a very incomplete list of motifs in the novel)

Yes, I am still re-reading this goddamn novel.

6: When you give a tree an email address

This is wonderful:

The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.

7: leejohnphillips on Instagram

Spending the next 4 years of my life drawing every item in my late grandfather’s tool shed.

8: lightyear.fm

Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there—and the older the music you’ll hear.

9: My burger manifesto

10: One-minute time machine

A great short film.

11: God tier: Facebook moms run the meme game

The advice meme as we knew it (original characters captioned in Impact) is dead. But while the internet cultural vanguard moved on, a newer class of internet user, the well-connected mainstreamer, reinvented it. We live in the age of the post-meme.

12: This plant is a hotel for bats, and they pay in faeces.

13: Archeologists have found 2,000 ancient golden spirals and they have no idea what they are

I was also surprised to find out that I live about 1 mile away from one of the biggest concentrations of Bronze Age gold known from Great Britain, valued at £290,000.

14: Species in pieces

30 species. 30 pieces. 1 fragmented survival. A CSS-based interactive exhibition celebrating evolutionary distinction.

Shit readers give zero fucks about

The king of bullshit news

This is an excellent critical look into the veracity of CEN’s too-good-to-be-true stories, used by The Daily Mail, among (many) others:

How a small British news agency and its founder fill your Facebook feed with stories that are wonderful, wacky – and often wrong.

The words the media industry prefers

The scraping process and resulting visualisations are interesting; what got me more was Ford’s typically humorous style:

Does Bing care how I use it? I bet “nope.” After some testing, it seemed that was true. You can hit Bing tons of times and Microsoft is like, our milkshake brings all the bots to the cloud […] I exported the data to Excel because Google Spreadsheet charts look like they were made by color-blind eleven-year-olds. Excel charts, on the other hand, look like they were made by drunks who sell timeshares in Tampa […] In the far future, you might attend my wake. He did important work, you will think. His comparison of sexualized terms on websites changed America.

UX from hell

A couple [of] weeks ago a UX designer Twitter friend tweeted “Web peeps: Is there a particularly industry, segment, or niche that—generally speaking—has REALLY bad mobile web experiences?” I didn’t even have to have to think about it before replying: News sites.

I’m interested (personally and professionally) in news site UX, and have documented many similar things. I like the idea of “Shit the UX designer was forced to include” vs “Shit readers give zero fucks about”. Almost always a complete overlap.

A brief history of the # and the @, by Keith Houston

The average tweet is not an especially remarkable thing. It can contain letters (and almost always does), marks of punctuation (perhaps more of an acquired taste in this context), and pictures (mostly of cats and/or the photographer themselves). But in amongst these most conventional components of modern written communication are two special symbols around which orbits the whole edifice of Twitter. Neither letters nor marks of punctuation, the @- and #-symbols scattered throughout Twitter’s half billion daily messages are integral to its workings. And yet, they have always been interlopers amongst our written words.

Keith’s Shady Characters blog and book are both highly recommended.

Explore the trees

A terrifically detailed visualisation of all street trees in San Francisco. See also Matt Dance’s Trees of Edmonton.

A crowdsourced list of the top 50 cult movies

I asked my Twitter followers about their favorite cult films, and got some great responses (I also triggered a kind of Twitter war over whether quoting people’s tweets using the new embed feature is rude and/or noisy, but I will leave that for another day). Here’s a list of the top 50 suggestions — I didn’t include every one, but they all appear in the tweets I’ve embedded below.

Apple: ‘We do not accept fart apps on the Apple Watch’

The water in my heart has fallen

Why Cambodians never get ‘depressed’. “People in Cambodia experience what we Americans call depression. But there’s no direct translation for the word ‘depression’ in the Cambodian Khmer language. Instead, people may say thelea tdeuk ceut, which literally means ‘the water in my heart has fallen.’ ”

Why Is the dollar sign a letter S? “There’s a good story behind it, but here’s a big hint: the dollar sign isn’t a dollar sign. It’s a peso sign.”

My week of dangerous self-indulgence . “I’m not a person of modest appetites: I love drinking, overeating, gambling, certain drugs, and having casual sex with horrible people. […] Here is what I did — for one week — that was bad for me. And also ‘exactly what I wanted.’ ”

Printing Medium stories. “Printing articles off of Medium might not be commonplace, but we want it to be a great experience […] The idea that printing could leave your words mangled or stories disfigured, felt like breaking our part of the deal we feel we have with everyone who writes and reads on Medium.”

Where art meets Gif: the hypnotic animated Gifs of David Szakaly. “Since 2008 Hungarian/German graphic designer David Szakaly has been churning out some of the most dizzying, hypnotic and wholly original gifs on the web under the name Davidope.”

“Every Breath You Take” in minor key. I think I might like this more than the original. Added creep factor!

Emojicons. “Welcome to Emojicons, your one-stop plot of internet land for every ლ(╹◡╹ლ), ¯\(ツ)/¯, ಠ_ಠ, and (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ you can possibly imagine.”

Recent links: October 2012

A few links, taken from my Pinboard account.

Social login buttons aren’t worth it

Call us control freaks, but we built this brand and we “feel strongly” about shaping its direction ourselves. One logo on our login page is enough. Who the hell wants their app to look like it was designed by NASCAR?

I dislike the proliferation of social sharing and login buttons on websites.

Sure, the login buttons help users sign up for your service quickly and easily. But the user has to remember which service they signed in with, and they look ugly. By their nature, they tend to be brightly coloured and eye-catching—the eye is drawn to them rather than what the website or service is or does. I’d rather people used this space to give me more reasons why I should sign up in the first place. If I’m eager, I’ll find a way to sign up.

The sharing buttons are more irritating to me. Their intention is obvious: get more people to the site who wouldn’t otherwise have noticed it. My hugely anecdotal experience is that their primary use is for a small and relatively unimportant minority of users: those who don’t know how to copy and paste. These people aren’t likely to be socially ‘influential’, for want of a better phrase—is it going to be a huge boon for your site if Joe Bloggs, who tweets once every three months and has only a handful of equally unengaged followers, shares a link to an article?

This is vital screen space. Wouldn’t it be better to remove these buttons (or consolidate them under a single ‘share’ button, which pops up the myriad social services) and give more room to services that help users find reasons to stick around? Like links to other content in the same category (hand-picked, not just autogenerated WordPress bullshit), or perhaps more by the same author? Even if you don’t replace them with anything, you just made your content stand out that tiny bit more.

The site I work on has a curious policy of putting the sharing buttons before the article, as a way of suggesting that what you’re about to read is worthy of sharing. Look—all these other people have already done it. I certainly don’t like this any better. We’re giving people decisions to make and opportunities to do something other than reading the article, and I hope we change it.

Read the update after the article too: there are some good counter-points made by commenters.

The No Homophobes guide to language on Twitter

What kind of language do you use on twitter? Are you unconsciously using homophobic words? Did you even know that #NoHomo was a real hashtag on Twitter?

Look at all those morons that throw the word ‘faggot’ around on Twitter.

Stop Pagination Now

Does anyone really think breaking up articles into several pages is a good idea? No, they don’t.

Grizzly Bear Members Are Indie-Rock Royalty, But What Does That Buy Them in 2012?

For much of the late-twentieth century, you might have assumed that musicians with a top-twenty sales week and a Radio City show—say, the U2 tour in 1984, after The Unforgettable Fire—made at least as much as their dentists. Those days are long and irretrievably gone, but some of the mental habits linger. “People probably have an inflated idea of what we make,” says Droste. “Bands appear so much bigger than they really are now, because no one’s buying records. But they’ll go to giant shows.” Grizzly Bear tours for the bulk of its income, like most bands; licensing a song might provide each member with “a nice little ‘Yay, I don’t have to pay rent for two months.’ ” They don’t all have health insurance.

The Grizzly Bear album is terrific, so you should buy it and see them live.

Related: Corin Tucker, formerly of the amazing Sleater-Kinney and now the Corin Tucker Band, has a day job.

The Brief

My pal Richard has an easier way to cope with the onslaught of tech-related news. He reads it for you, and selects the most important stuff.

Cheers: an Oral History

This article is interesting on its own terms—if you didn’t know, Kelsey Grammar is nothing like his character Frasier, and Shelley Long was kinda hard work—but more interesting to me is the suggestion that Cheers, for so long the pinnacle of TV comedy, doesn’t get enough respect. The last episode aired twenty years ago: enough for a generation to grow up and not know what it is.

Breaking the seal

There is no seal to break, either in a literal or metaphorical sense. Urine production isn’t regulated by how long you wait or how often you go.

Learn about ADH and impress your friends!

The Old-Fashioned

The old-fashioned is at once “the manliest cocktail order” and “something your grandmother drank,” and between those poles we discover countless simple delights, evolutionary wonders, and captivating abominations. Because of its core simplicity and its elasticity—because it is primordial booze—ideas about the old-fashioned exist in a realm where gastronomical notions shade into ideological tenets. It is a platform for a bar to make a statement, a surface on which every bartender leaves a thumbprint, and a solution that many a picky drinker dips his litmus paper in. You are a free man. Drink your drink as you please. But know that your interpretation of the recipe says something serious about your philosophy of fun.

What more needs to be said and read about this drink? Plenty more, it seems.