Interesting elsewhere – 20 December 2011

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

  • 24 ways: Extracting the Content The first question is, how are you going to design something to ensure users have the easiest access to the best Content, if you haven’t defined at the beginning what that Content is?
  • Corporate hubris – and a bit of festive cheer | Flip Chart Fairy Tales Corporations are made up of people. People sometimes do bonkers stuff. Furthermore, large organisations are almost impossible to control. Therefore people continue to do bonkers stuff. Business leaders just have to do their best to minimise the effects of the bonkers stuff and hope that some of it leads to good stuff. And, of course, the business leaders sometimes do bonkers stuff as well.
  • Can’t get no satisfaction: Why service companies can’t keep their promises « Dachis Group Collaboratory For example, consider the way that Amazon balances front stage and back stage operations. Amazon’s front stage is its customer-facing website. Amazon can expect that the level of change on the web is likely to remain volatile for some time. Constant innovation in online services will cause customer expectations to evolve accordingly. So it makes sense for Amazon’s web-development approach to be highly adaptive and flexible, with lots of room for creative experiments and innovation.But radical, disruptive innovations on the fulfillment side of Amazon’s business are less likely. It’s reasonable to predict that customers will continue to want fast, efficient delivery; and that warehousing, shipping and logistics, because they involve large investments and existing physical infrastructure (ships, trucks, planes, railroads and so on), won’t change anywhere near as rapidly as online services. So it makes sense for Amazon to focus on reducing variety through standards and controls in its back-stage operations, while maintaining maximum adaptability on its front stage with customers. And indeed, Amazon web developers have a very different work experience than workers in an Amazon distribution center, although the company’s cost-focused, thrifty culture is in evidence throughout.
  • Disaster book club: What you need to read to understand the crash of Air France 447 – Boing Boing When there is inherent risk in using a technology, we try to build systems that take into account obvious, single-point failures and prevent them. The more single-point failures we try to prevent through system design, however, the more complex the systems become. Eventually, you have a system where the interactions between different fail-safes can, ironically, cause bigger failures that are harder to predict, and harder to spot as they’re happening. Because of this, we have to make our decisions about technology from the position that we can never, truly, make technology risk-free.
  • Design strategy for the changing web :: Blog :: Headshift Accepting that we cannot always predict the next advancement in mobile or tablet technology, we can create solutions tailored to existing technology and devices that remains flexible enough to adapt to innovation ahead.
  • Programming should take pride of place in our schools | Technology | The Observer What governments don’t seem to understand is that software is the nearest thing to magic that we’ve yet invented. It’s pure “thought stuff” – which means that it enables ingenious or gifted people to create wonderful things out of thin air.
  • Schneier on Security: Walls as Security Theater What a wall satisfies is not so much a material need as a mental one. Walls protect people not from barbarians, but from anxieties and fears,which can often be more terrible than the worst vandals.
  • Agile and UX are “an abusive relationship” – James O’Brien at UX People James recommended that UX lie, cheat and steal to cope with being in an agile environment. His examples included lying about what something was called – i.e. a paper prototyping session could be described as a “UX spike”. Or cheating by making sure that test data is specifically designed to stress the UI and reveal flaws that have to be fixed. Or stealing concepts from agile, like using the phrase “UX debt” to describe sub-optimal solutions that have been deployed as “good enough”, but which need to be re-addressed in later iterations.
  • Mark Zuckerberg says the email’s end is nigh. LOL | John Naughton | Comment is free | The Observer Organisational addiction to email has long since passed the point of dysfunctionality and now borders on the pathological, with employees sending messages to colleagues in nearby cubicles, people covering their backs by cc-ing everyone else and managers carpet-bombing subordinates with attachments. The real problem, in other words, is not that email is dying but that it’s out of control.
  • Public sector innovation must move from Strategy to action « MindBlog The question is not whether innovation is needed, but rather how we will choose to approach the task of innovation. So what key considerations must a public sector innovation strategy include if it is to make a difference?
  • Why public services are built around the behaviour of our grandparents | Local government network | Guardian Professional The place to start is by increasing our understanding of how people in 2011 live their lives. It’s fair to say that, at the moment, we have a limited understanding of what our residents do at home – how they access their work, leisure, and recreational activities.In fact, we make a whole host of assumptions and broad generalisations based on historical patterns of understanding. The way we provide leisure services has changed very little from the way councils up and down the country would have provided such services to our grandparents, possibly even our great grandparents, despite the fact that the way we keep fit bears little resemblance to how people behaved in the early 20th century.
  • Clear Reporting & Critical Thinking: Why User Experience Needs to Remember its Roots in Psychology You shouldn’t rely on soundbite articles to tell you why other soundbite articles are wrong.
  • An Extensive Guide To Web Form Usability – Smashing UX Design A form is a conversation. And like a conversation, it represents two-way communication between two parties, in this case, the user and the organization. In fact, the user has filled out the form in order to initiate communication with the organization.
  • Establishing trust in digital services | Government Digital Service But most of all we need to develop identity services around the needs of users – if we don’t then people will not trust or use them. Many people have described this subject as ‘identity management’. That is an organisation centric phrase: a notion that organisations hold data about people and have the responsibility for maintaining it. We have to reset the subject around the user and recognise that in the digital age people assert identity in many different ways and contexts.
  • Seth’s Blog: There’s nothing wrong with having a plan Plans are great.But missions are better. Missions survive when plans fail, and plans almost always fail.
  • The Social Graph is Neither (Pinboard Blog) You might almost think that the whole scheme had been cooked up by a bunch of hyperintelligent but hopelessly socially naive people, and you would not be wrong. Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender. Our industry abounds in people for whom social interaction has always been more of a puzzle to be reverse-engineered than a good time to be had, and the result is these vaguely Martian protocols.
  • Knowing and Making: Does Nudge require regulators to be “more rational” than consumers? Somebody who spends their professional life thinking about decision-making and examining the extensive research in this field is likely to be able to help me make decisions that I’ll be happier with.
  • Social For Internal Comms – Social Media Workplace | redcatco blog A strong theme through out the day was: Problem first. Technology second. It’s all too easy to say “social technology is the answer. What was the problem?” – be pragmatic, and start with a well defined problem was the wise advice.
  • Bryan Clark » Blog Archive » Negotiate with your users A useful dialog would negotiate with your users. Give them actions and power to change their situation. Don’t ask users to acknowledge your troubles and stop the negotiation there. Reconnect! Try Again! Even simple actions can help people correct the situation.
  • Piloting new ways of measuring digital success | Government Digital Service Because of the nature of the Jobseeker’s Allowance service, pages are delivered up to the user in a dynamic fashion. This means that there is essentially no concept of ‘a page’ and instead questions are presented to users based on their previous inputs and answers. This is fine from a user perspective but it causes problems when it comes to gathering and interpreting behavioural data.In essence, there is no ‘hook’ within the data for orientation. You cannot assess where people are within the journey or at what stages they drop out because all of the URLs are dynamically generated. Looking for patterns in behaviour is therefore meaningless because each user journey is completely unique.
  • Haakon Halvorsen, Kjetil Hansen & Anna Dahlström at EuroIA 2011 Haakon and Kjetil went on to explain what a challenge it was to make banking “fun” visually. For most people, online banking is a necessary evil, not an exciting web destination. To impress the client, though, they showed lots of mock-ups of how the site could be, complete with plenty of polish and drop-shadow. Banking will be fun, the designs shouted.
  • Nick Bradbury: Tiny Apps are Hard Regardless of whether I stick with mobile development, the lessons I’ve learned from it are ones I’ll apply to everything I create in the future. Keep it simple, keep it uncluttered, and keep it focused. That’s how you create great apps for any platform.
  • If Steve Jobs did government… | Blog As we have argued in our policy making work, this is often the missing link in government – where we assume that policy concepts translate seamlessly into delivery – without putting in the effort to make sure that the policy is deliverable by the people who need to deliver it. That means prototyping, testing and insisting that things work before they are unleashed on a waiting public. It also meant an insistence on excellence with which people who run government feel naturally uncomfortable.
  • In The Eye Of The Storm: AlphaBeta.gov … But transactions are where it’s at. We built the government gateway to support both single transactions and joined up transactions (that is, ones that would link more than one department and send each of them the relevant data. The vast bulk of those transactions come from sites other than direct.gov; the vast bulk of direct.gov’s transactions are for Car Tax. That all needs to change. We didn’t ever crack it. It needs cracking – integrated transactions, simple pan-device (and even pan-channel) authentication, pre-population of data that government already knows about you and so on.
  • You shape your intranet. Thereafter, it shapes you. « Sharon O’Dea As on the Internet, so in the enterprise. In its infancy, it’s the organisation that shapes the intranet, designing it around the needs of internal users. Or at least, that’s the theory. In truth, organisations get the intranet they deserve, with flaws and compromises and sometimes just bad decisions.But thereafter, it’s the business that has to live with this, and it’s the people within it who have to suffer the consequences. The decisions you make at the design stage will affect the way employees work every single day, for years.
  • NESTA – Designing beta public service Though it may seem like semantics, just think about it for a moment: what impact might a ‘beta ethic’ bring to how we currently design and develop public policy solutions and services? How might it help to overcome some of the challenges governments face when trying to innovate, such as an aversion to risk and public criticism? How different the engagement of public citizens and professionals, when a beta version is launched first?