Very interesting analysis of how people perceive what probability is meant by phrases such as “likely” or “real possibility”. It turns out there is a lot of scope for misinterpretation.
However I would quibble with the following:
You are trying to assess the probability that the [product launch] doesn’t happen. The way to frame your bet might be: “If the product fails to launch, I receive $1 million, but if it does launch, I get nothing.”
Now imagine a jar full of 25 green marbles and 75 blue marbles. You close your eyes and select a marble. If it’s green, you receive $1 million, and if it’s blue, you get nothing. You know you have a one in four chance (25%) to get a green marble and win the money.
Now, which would you prefer to bet on: the launch failure or the draw from the jar?
An interesting thought experiment, but not quite true. People prefer to receive an amount of money sooner rather than later. So you’d still rather place the bet on the jar, even if you thought the probability of product failure was 25% — because you wouldn’t receive the money until the unspecified future date.
Thanks to my colleague Lauren Tormey for the tip.
BBC News discovers how the 100th edition of Now That’s What I Call Music was compiled. Amazingly, the whole process seems to involve just three people, and takes only a day.
Like many people, Now That’s What I Call Music was a key gateway into music for me when I was young. I bought two of them.
The first was Now 30, which was released in April 1995. I don’t really remember why I bought it. I probably liked a handful of the songs, and I figured out that this was cheaper than buying all the singles.
Interestingly, it contains at least two tracks that I didn’t fully appreciate until I was much older — Protection by Massive Attack and Glory Box by Portishead. That they are hammocked between Eternal and Oasis speaks to the eclectic nature — and variable quality — of a Now album.
I had Now 30 on cassette, so I never digitised it. As such, the tracklist is less familiar to me than the other Now I bought.
That was Now 32, which came out in time for Christmas 1995, when I got a CD player. There are some seriously strong tracks on that album — but perhaps that’s my rose-tinted glasses.
The University of Edinburgh Website and Communications team has recently been heavily involved in a pilot project to improve the journey of prospective online learning students, from investigation to offer. Read about our user research approach and how we ensured project outputs met the needs of users.
How architecture is used to place poorer people in harsher environments.
Texture is a class thing. The more money you have, the more texture you get. The reverse is true of lighting and sound: the more money you have, the less of both of those you get.
These are not universal rules, but a return from a month spent in Europe to the United States, which is always much harsher in its economic realities than the countries over there, made it evident to me how prevalent the reality of texture discrimination is. Let’s call it walmartism: the transformation of the spaces used by those with the least means into boxes devoid of texture.
A more extreme example of a similar phenomenon is where a tower block such as Grenfell is re-clad to make it more pleasant for the rich people outside the building to look at, but more dangerous for the poor people living inside it.
This is an 11 year old article that has just recently come to my attention, but it resonates today. It describes how graphic designers have protested about being seen as the ones that make it pretty; how they have sought to be given more respect, as if being tickled in the tummy.
I found myself at a design conference listening to still another demand that clients give us designers that coveted place at that legendary table where all the big decisions are made. Sitting next to me was one of my favorite clients, someone I treasure for her levelheadedness and good humor. “I’ve spent hours at that table,” she whispered to me. “It’s not that great, you know.”
The Independent provides a peek behind the curtain of football match reporting with a tight deadline. Here are two unused match reports written for completely different outcomes of the England v Colombia match.
It’s interesting how both examples almost completely fizzle out after what is deemed to be the pivotal moment of the match is dealt with:
…a scoreline they saw out comfortably over the rest of the second half.
That was the moment that England lost this game and were knocked out of the World Cup…
For an issue that has (rather rarely in politics) been one of sustained public interest, with many twists along the way, it’s perhaps surprising that there hasn’t been greater movement, not even in the form of bouncing back and forth between pro and anti.
Mark Pack concludes:
…you need to move people at a deeper level than a recitation of facts about a technical policy detail.
Sadly, as much as we would like it to be, people’s minds aren’t changed by facts. Particularly on emotive topics like Scottish independence and Brexit.
For those of us who are rather keen on reality, it’s disturbing. So how can we influence people another way?
Adriaan Pels ran the popular Radiohead fan site At Ease for 20 years. The costs of running the website got out of control before his web host unexpectedly pulled the plug last year.
I used to be a very active participant on the At Ease forums, but that probably ended when I became a more active blogger / studies took over / I got a proper job / whatever. I stopped reading the website at some point as well. I still looked in occasionally, but I could tell that Adriaan didn’t seem to have as much time as he needed to look after it properly.
I didn’t even realise that At Ease had disappeared off the internet. It’s so long since I’ve tried to visit.
But it was good to see this update from Adriaan, although I’m sorry he’s lost the whole website.
We found out that tunking (pronounced “toonking”) is a word this team uses for blunt critique, made with the intentions of the people on the receiving end uppermost in mind. It’s honest feedback.
The people doing the tunking don’t hold back. They say what they really think. They do this because they want the people being tunked to succeed.
I really like this. And it’s important to appreciate that giving honest feedback can be just as difficult as receiving it, if not more so.
Every item found at the bottom of a river that had been excavated in Amsterdam — archived online. One of the coolest websites I’ve seen for a while.
The excavations in the Amstel yielded a deluge of finds, some 700,000 in all: a vast array of objects, some broken, some whole, all jumbled together. Damrak and Rokin proved to be extremely rich sites on account of the waste that had been dumped in the river for centuries and the objects accidentally lost in the water. The enormous quantity, great variety and everyday nature of these material remains make them rare sources of urban history.
Like many things that are supposed to be good about Glasgow, I never understood the appeal of Sauchiehall Street.
Don’t look down.
At the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead.
The phenomenon of set — where we focus so much on something specific that we miss the bigger picture. This article says it is a survival characteristic, but in the wrong circumstances it can have dire consequences. In the example provided, it was the cause of an air crash.
It’s vital for us to understand how and why we make mistakes – not just in safety critical systems but in all walks of life. When I read that passage above, I see parallels with so many of the mistakes I make on a daily basis at work and at home. I can see myself in every role: the captain, the flight engineer, the first officer, the air traffic controller.
We really enjoy visiting Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It's a fabulous space, both outdoor and indoor. It's large enough that you can't comfortably see all of it in one visit, meaning every time you go you see something new.
Nick Barlow reflects on the meaning of “football’s coming home”, and the differences between the original version of the song Three Lions and the 1998 version. I enjoyed reading this because I had found myself getting annoyed about the way people were saying “football’s coming home”, completely forgetting that there was a second version with a different meaning.
When Three Lions came out the first time, I was already a fan of the Lightning Seeds, and I think I had been a viewer of Fantasy Football League. I thought Three Lions was a good song. Which it obviously is, because everyone is still singing it 22 years on. So despite being Scottish, I was determined to buy a copy of the single — to my dad’s great disappointment.
I barely remember the 1998 version. As Nick reflects, it seems to be inherently different, and more dislikeable.
Chris How’s tips on doing better interviews. This is essentially a text version of his session at UX Scotland, which I wrote about on the University of Edinburgh Website Programme blog.
Many people are aware of the Stanford prison experiment, which “had to be abandoned when some of the volunteers playing the role of guards began mistreating the volunteers acting as prisoners.”
The validity of the study has long been a source of debate. But a new analysis suggests that the researchers had so much influence on the participants that the study was “not so much an experiment but more a form of theatre”.
Rather than figuring out their problem and focusing on solving it, McLaren seem to be more interested in keeping one particular employee happy. At all costs.
If you use the Stylish browser extension, you ought to have a read of this. It might make you want to uninstall it immediately, as I did.
It appears that last year Stylish began collecting users’ data, including their full browser history, and even the contents of Google search results.
The above blog post explains exactly what is going on, and why it is a problem.
This is a great shame because Stylish provided a brilliant function enabling you to improve bad or unsuitable web designs very easily. I even created a style that improved the user interface for live timing on Formula1.com — which I still used up to last weekend, and has been installed by almost 500 others.
Not any more — I have uninstalled Stylish from my browser.
The theory that women are paid less because they are less likely to ask for a pay rise appears to be nonsense.
The bottom line of our study is that women do “ask” just as often as men. They just don’t “get.”
Even we were surprised by the results. We had expected to find less asking by the females. Instead, we found that, holding background factors constant, women ask for a raise just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time. While that may sound like a modest difference, over a lifetime it really adds up.
Putting with pals in North Berwick yesterday evening
Some more follow-up to the UX Scotland conference, which I have published over on the University of Edinburgh Website Programme blog.
I set myself the challenge of writing a summary of each session I attended at UX Scotland, as a way of forming my own thoughts on each topic, and to make sure to follow up on everything I wanted to.
This resulting blog post is long. But I am sharing this on the basis that others might find it useful and seek to learn more about these topics, as I did.
Fernando Alonso is one of the most eloquent speakers in Formula One and one of the best at interacting with the media. But he can also use these opportunities to cultivate certain narratives. Four of his statements during the French Grand Prix weekend — one of the most miserable weekends McLaren has endured in recent years — were perfect examples.
It’s a shame, but this article is bang-on, and it needed to be said.
I am a huge admirer of Fernando Alonso. He is one of the few drivers whose driving is so expressive that it actually comes across on TV.
It is a complete tragedy that he only has two world championships, despite probably being the best driver on the grid. And yet it is probably entirely of his own doing.
In that context, you can understand Alonso’s desire to talk himself up. But it is also transparent, and more than a little bit sad.
Economic studies are one way to measure the impact of immigration.
Personally, I like to measure it another way. I like to look at my son — the great-grandson of a Mexican immigrant — while he plays cricket with his friends, nearly all of whom are second-generation Indian immigrants.
When I watch my son play cricket with his friends, I come to the same conclusion the economists at Wharton do:
Our new immigrant friends are enriching our lives and making our economy better…
It’s time to say this sort of thing more loudly. There are clear and well-understood economic benefits of immigration. But people who dislike immigration don’t do so for economic reasons (even if they kid on that they do).
We should be clearer about the ways in which immigration and diversity enrich our lives as a whole. And just how sad and pathetic our lives would be if people didn’t move around and mix with others.
Phylactery — John Callaghan
This wonderful reinterpretation of Tilapia by Autechre appeared on Warp20, a box set celebrating the 20th anniversary of Warp Records. (Rather scarily, that occasion was itself almost 10 years ago.)
There were two CDs of Warp artists covering classic Warp tracks, and a lot of them are really good. But John Callaghan’s effort towers above everything else on it.
It probably takes a lot of guts to attempt to cover Autechre, never mind a track as strong as Tilapia. But Phylactery boldly reinvents it, and possibly ends up being even better than the original (although as John Callaghan says in the comments to this YouTube video, both have their place, for different reasons).
In case you’re not aware of the original, here you go:
The modern organisation is obsessive about collaboration and consultation – but encouraging everyone’s opinions on everything invites bullshit.
Social media should have taught us by now that more opinions aren’t necessarily better…
The same applies to work. More consultation = more bullshit.
This is so true. Increasingly, I find myself feeling exasperated if I’m asked the provide an opinion on something I have no evidence about. We are often pressurised into giving opinions — “you’re supposed to be the expert”.
Baseless opinions fly around left, right and centre in any workplace. The last thing the world needs is another middle class dude like me with yet another opinion.
Let’s find the evidence instead.
The possibility seems remote for the time being. But it did instantly tickle a part of my brain. If Räikkönen were to go to McLaren next year, then for whatever reason decide to end his career at Sauber, he would have a palindromic career. In other words, he will have worked his way back through each of the teams he has driven for, in reverse order.
The F1 teams he has driven for in order are:
Has any driver actually done this before?
When going for a run gets you arrested. Border bollocks.
A young French woman who went for an evening jog along a Canadian beach spent two weeks in US immigration detention after straying across the border.
Sometimes we have had to use metaphors from the physical world that help explain what's going on in digital. But take things too far and it becomes counter-productive.
Fascinating examples of how an ambulance service has experimented with their communications to save lives. A great example of how to use small experiments and tests to monitor improvements.
Asking “tell me what’s happened” instead of “tell me what happened” saves a staggering nine seconds, on average, per emergency call.
Studies have shown the first phrase prompts an immediate focus on the relevant detail, while the second prompts panicked callers on the line to tell meandering stories, full of unnecessary detail.
Saying “We’re going to do CPR,” instead of asking “Do you want to do CPR?” means a sharp rise in the number of bystanders agreeing to perform first aid while waiting for an ambulance.
Volkswagen took a car to the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with the intention of beating the record for fastest electric vehicle up the mountain, but it didn’t just beat that one. It also beat the all-time record—leaving both so far in the dust that all the dust had probably settled by the time they got there.
OK, so in a lot of ways Pikes Peak is ready-made for electric vehicles given that range isn’t necessarily an issue, and the lack of oxygen makes things trickier for internal combustion engines. But this is nevertheless a seriously impressive development.
The record has been smashed by over 15 seconds.
My colleagues and I have gathered together our thoughts on our highlights of the UX Scotland conference.
I am also in the process of writing up some further thoughts on most of the other sessions, which I will publish to the University Website Programme blog soon.
But in the meantime, find out about my top three sessions, and the things I intend to put into practice as a result of attending the conference.
A very balanced assessment of the benefits of artificial intelligence — and its dangers. It’s lengthy, but well worth your time, containing lots of great examples of how artificial intelligence can be a force for good, but tempering that with plenty of warnings against using it badly.
Nowadays, we expect any photo search to be able to understand “dog” and find photos of dogs… And this is where Deep Learning worked its magic.
The problem is that only a few interfaces of well-known, big companies give this convenience. And that makes people wonder who owns information and where they know all these things from.
Unless we democratise this convenience and build interfaces everywhere that are that clever, we have a problem. Users will keep giving only a few players their information and in comparison less greedy systems will fall behind.
The other big worry I have is that this convenience is sold as “magic” and “under the hood” and not explained. There is a serious lack of transparency about what was needed to get there.
I have only just discovered this article by Danah Boyd from 2010 (and I can’t remember how). But reading it today, it feels very prescient.
I hate all of the utilities in my life. Venomous hatred. And because they’re monopolies, they feel no need to make me appreciate them. Cuz they know that I’m not going to give up water, power, sewage, or the Internet out of spite. Nor will most people give up Facebook, regardless of how much they grow to hate them.
How many people — like me — hate Facebook, but find themselves unable to give it up?
Interesting on the similarities and differences between user experience and service design.
Service Designers generally approach digital as one of a number of interconnected touch points. They will usually figure out how all these touch-points work together as a cohesive ecosystem, before handing the design of the specific touch points over to experts.
UX Designers usually approach the problem from the other direction. They start with the core digital experience before exploring the connective tissue that joins their touch-points together. Service Designers tend to have a broader but shallower focus, while UX designers go narrower but deeper.
A great piece of the little experiments TfL is carrying out in an attempt to improve the efficiency of the London Underground.
But it’s striking that the consensus of most of the experts in this piece seems to be that real improvements wouldn’t be possible without fundamental transformations in the infrastructure.
Short of building new stations and drilling tunnels for larger trains, we’re stuck, says Simeon Koole, lecturer at the University of Bristol. “I would be reluctant to argue there is anything specific about behaviour that makes it difficult to change, and focus more on particular material restrictions of the tube: the confined space limits the possibilities for redesigning tube cars and platforms and therefore for managing passenger flow and conduct.”
But as cities grow, perhaps any little thing we can do will be worth investigating.
According to this article, these buildings have just failed tests that have been in place since the aftermath of the Ronan Point collapse in 1968.
…but the problems at Broadwater Farm were only uncovered in the last 12 months.
If I’m reading this article correctly, that means that these buildings have been unsafe for 40 years — but that has only just been discovered.
“It’s disgusting and it is very stressful,” said one woman who has lived in the same flat in Tangmere for 38 years. “Ain’t it funny this has just come out after Grenfell?”
The University of Edinburgh is currently recruiting for four UX-related roles. I'm passing on the message because it's an exciting time to be pushing forward with UX work at the university.
Excellent piece by Wojtek Kutyla on why UX needs to get out of its comfort zone, and an excessive focus on technology — and the temptation to make binary declarations.
We are all reasonable creatures and we know how to seek rationale when we’re dealing with daily tasks. If we’re hungry, we’ll ask ourselves: “What do I want to eat? Eggs? Avocado? Or a burger?”. If we’re planning to buy a new car, we’ll consider it carefully, basing our ultimate choice on how functional the vehicle is and whether we can afford it.
Yet, when faced with a design problem in a professional setting we’d often go for a solution that does nothing else but fulfils a set of requirements based on assumed values communicated by stakeholders. All too seldom we’re doubting their choices and ask “what’s the rationale — where did this come from?”. Perhaps we should start doing that?
Whilst cycling the other day, I crossed the Leicestershire-Rutland border. And I was shocked to see…nothing. No border controls, no passport checks, no customs officials. Here in Rutland we have an open borders policy.
Chris Dillow makes the point that most of the debate around immigration and borders does not relate to economics.
This is part of the reason why it’s futile to try to argue with Brexiteers or Scottish independence fanatics around the economics of creating new borders. When it comes down to it, they just don’t care.
Economicky arguments for migration controls are just distractions and, I suspect, often dishonest ones.
Feelings around immigration boil down to feelings about the other.
His remarks on the state of RSS particularly resonate with me. Ever since Google killed off Google Reader, I have relied on Feedly. I have always had an uneasy relationship with Feedly. It seems somehow both bloated, and lacking in useful features.
It seems to be increasingly pitched at teams and businesses — the sort of audience Slack attracts. But RSS needs to be pitched at everyday individual users of the web who want to keep abreast of blogs and the like. That is the spirit of the web we have lost, and we need to return to.
Simplicity is a discipline, and not an easy one. However, by losing tons of bloat, we’d end up with a web that is much faster and more responsive than what we have now. And maybe we’d learn to prize that speed and that responsiveness.
I didn’t know that this was the most-watched Formula 1 race in history. As this article points out, it seems unlikely at this stage that this record will ever be beaten.
I was struck that this happened the very year before CVC Capital Partners bought their stake in F1. 🤔
They made it their business not to invest in the sport (quite the opposite, in fact). F1’s slow decline began then.