Interesting elsewhere – 24 April 2013

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Building Capabilities: Wither the Department? | Institute for Government
While the money continues to flow along firmly departmental lines, with little political appetite to pool either budgets or accountability at scale, most civil servants will continue to see their professional incentives tied to recognition within their department. However, a consistent approach, normalised through small successes in some priority areas may help to shift the centre of gravity – and given that our ‘feudal’ system is so frequently lambasted as a block on effective government, surely it would be no bad thing for our all-mighty departments to wither, if only a little.

Can Oneko Help Beat RSI? | Terence Eden has a Blog
In web design circles, we often hear about designing for visually impaired users but we seem to spend a lot less time talking about those can can see, but find movement difficult or restrictive.

Having large target elements is useful for those whose mousing skills are under-par, but designing a website which can be used only from the keyboard? That’s a challenge.

Cognitive Overhead, Or Why Your Product Isn’t As Simple As You Think | TechCrunch
Minimizing cognitive overhead is imperative when designing for the mass market. Why? Because most people haven’t developed the pattern matching machinery in their brains to quickly convert what they see in your product (app design, messaging, what they heard from friends, etc.) into meaning and purpose. We, the product builders, take our ability to cut through cognitive overhead for granted; our mental circuits for our products’ patterns are well practiced.

Seth’s Blog: First, do no harm–three rules for public interfaces
Most of what we make or design is actually aimed at a public that is there for something else. The design is important, but the design is not the point. Call it “public design”…

Public design is for individuals who have to fill out our tax form, interact with our website or check into our hotel room despite the way it’s designed, not because of it.

In the quest to make it work better, look better or become more powerful, sometimes we do precisely the wrong thing, because we forget about the ‘public’ part of public design. If the user isn’t focused or interested in the innovation of our design, we have an obligation to get out of the way.

2000, the Year Formerly Known as the Future — Editors’ Picks — Medium
You wake up at 7am on a wonderful morning in early 2000. Dreamy as you are, you grab your phone to check the news and your email. Well, the news is that no one has texted you while you were sleeping and that your phone doesn’t connect to the internet. Because, well, you don’t have a smartphone. Just like everyone else doesn’t.

Schneier on Security: Security Awareness Training
HIV prevention training works because affecting what the average person does is valuable. Even if only half the population practices safe sex, those actions dramatically reduce the spread of HIV. But computer security is often only as strong as the weakest link. If four-fifths of company employees learn to choose better passwords, or not to click on dodgy links, one-fifth still get it wrong and the bad guys still get in. As long as we build systems that are vulnerable to the worst case, raising the average case won’t make them more secure.

Schneier on Security
Maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, and you’ve permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you’re using. Monsegur slipped up once, and the FBI got him. If the director of the CIA can’t maintain his privacy on the Internet, we’ve got no hope.

Why predictions about technology are always wrong | The Enlightened Economist
Technologies have to be used as well as invented. As he points out, the Chinese invented gunpowder and used it for fireworks, the Aztecs invented the wheel – for children’s toys, and the ancient Greeks invented a steam engine but regarded it as a curiosity

Coppola Comment: The legacy systems problem
So the problem for banks is the balance of risk: the risk of replacing a critical legacy system and it all going horribly wrong (and costing a fortune) versus the risk of increasing instability in an ever-more-complex systems architecture founded on diverse technologies. It’s rather like the risk of a major operation (which could result in death but might lead to full recovery) versus medical treatment to control symptoms – you get iller but you don’t die, at least not for a while. But eventually the operation becomes necessary. The question is whether IT systems in banks have reached the point where radical surgery is the only option.

Rescuing the Reader | Benjamin Ellis
Blogs remain a mainstay of the bigger Internet. They glue things together, inform the search engines about quality content, through their links, and connect people with people. Install an RSS reader today, and start reading some of your friends’ blogs. Maybe even start blogging yourself. By doing so, you’ll be doing your bit to build the Internet, and keep it in the hands of people, not just the businesses that employ them.