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The constraint on the Move goal is my rest days. I don’t do yoga on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Instead, I cook, usually in big enough portions that I can use the leftovers for lunch the next day. The relevant thing here is that cooking takes time; I can’t work out and cook at the same time. Without rest days, I hardly cook at all, which means I spend more money on takeout, which is generally worse for me than the foods I prepare myself.

The Apple Watch doesn’t care about any of this. Rest days are the limiting factor on my ability to hit my Move goal — while I easily hit 700 calories by the Watch’s measure on my workout days, I move a lot less when I take time off from working out. But rest days are crucial for exercise: they let your body recover. Without recovery, you don’t get the strength you’re trying to build, and you place yourself at risk for overuse injuries.

At times I remind myself of what Blahnik said: this is a minimum. You’re supposed to beat it. This reminder makes me feel worse, not better. I stop letting the Watch set my Move goal. It is too unkind to me.

The Move goal is adjustable — I can lower it at any time — but there’s no way to program the Watch to consistently honor my rest days. I just have to manually lower the goal for that day, and then raise it for the next one. Unfortunately, this requires too much of my attention. I have actual things to do that are more important than manually telling my fitness app to let me rest, so mostly I forget to do it until it’s too late. Even when I remember, I wind up with a different problem: I forget to reset the Watch to a higher Move goal the next day. I spent one week being psyched that I hit my goal only to discover that I had only hit the lowered goal.

In my case, it drives me nuts that if I’m sick for a few days that my fitness streaks go to hell. Or if I’m travelling, and I can’t move as much as normal because I’m stuck in a flying coffin for 6-16 hours I get penalized. It’s a serious failing of the current iterations of the software though, also, a failing that Apple or other companies could correct if they just invested the time and energy. Maybe they could talk to real or normal users of their technologies?

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On Creating a Prototype Transparency Notice

On Creating a Prototype Transparency Notice:

… the traditional website privacy policy is failing to protect the interests of online consumers. The argument was based on the idea that the privacy policy’s main goal was to protect the owners of the site, and that it had been mis-sold as a vehicle for better consumer information.

Instead, we put forward the idea of a transparency statement, as a device solely dedicated to informing visitors, principally about how their information is treated. When writing the article, we had no idea really what the transparency statement would look like, but of course the immediate challenge coming back was to produce one.

I think everyone who’s reasonable can agree that privacy policies are an insufficient way of informing individuals about how their personal information is collected, retained, used, and disclosed. But I don’t think that a ‘transparency notice’ is quite the response either. I also have no real clue as to what the appropriate solution really should be…

Facebook’s ‘Other’ Folder

David Pogue’s recent post on Facebook’s ‘Other’ folder notes how the company is effectively hiding a significant number of legitimate messages from its users in an attempt to prevent spam and ‘unimportant’ messages from disturbing subscribers. What follows are a few examples of legitimate messages that subscribers missed because they were placed in this folder:

  • “Notification of the death of a friend was hidden in my Other box. I had been very hurt at not being told, and actually missed her funeral.”
  • “I just checked my ‘Other’ folder and found out that I won a free high-end kitchen faucet for a contest I entered last year. Rats.”
  • “Just looked at my ‘Other’ messages and found one about a job opening — in 2011. Think it’s been filled?”
  • “Whoa! There’s tons of important messages in here. Former students of mine were trying to reach out to me. I can’t believe Facebook doesn’t notify you in any way about these.”
  • “Unbelievable! My husband’s wallet was lost and presumed stolen — someone had found it a year ago and sent us a Facebook message, which was hidden until now! Thanks so much.”
  • “Just checked and found a message from someone telling me that they found my lost wallet…a year ago. They really need to redo some thinking on that ‘other’ folder.”

The intent of Facebook’s filtering is noble, insofar as it’s meant to cut down on the cruft and spam that people inevitably get in their email inboxes on a daily basis. I’m sure that the logic is as follows: if we can get people to like using Facebook messages more than email, then we can convince people to rely on our corporate system and wean people off of their traditional email services. Unfortunately, it looks like Facebook’s filtering system suffers from flaws, just as their competitors’ systems do. Worse, and unlike most of their competitors, Facebook subscribers can’t access this folder from their tablets or smartphones without visiting Facebook via the web interface. So, for people that predominantly engage with Facebook using the company’s mobile applications, this folder is effectively invisible. Messages simply vanish into a black hole. This is a very bad thing.

While Facebook’s system makes sense, I suspect that a great many people are as ignorant of the ‘Other’ folder’s existence as the people who wrote to Pogue. This information asymmetry between the developers and users suggests a problem in the UX or UI, insofar as it shouldn’t be a shock that this folder exists. Good UI and UX will prevent subscribers from getting ‘shocked’ about the existence of hidden messages, and will help ensure that the service remains ‘sticky’ for its user base.

Network effects can stymie subscriber churn but they can’t stop it entirely. If Facebook undermines professional or personal networks because of how it handles suspected ‘unimportant’ messages, then the network effect that Facebook currently enjoys could be weakened and expose a part of Facebook’s flank to companies that are more attuned to people’s communicative interests and desires. It will be curious to see how/whether Facebook incorporates the information that arose from Pogue’s columns, and if they actually modify users’ interfaces such that the ‘Other’ folder is more prominently displayed. At the very least, something should change in the mobile applications so users can at least theoretically access all of those ‘unimportant’ messages.

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…tablets have gotten so cheap that it’s hard to make a case that spending $500+ on a new Windows 8 machine is better than just keeping what you have and spending $200 on a cheap tablet. That goes double when the cheap tablet in question has hundreds of thousands more apps. Throw in an unfamiliar user interface, and you’re basically telling people to please leave the Microsoft Store.

* Pete Pachal, “The Problem With Windows 8

Windows 8 has a new design paradigm; to find programs’  settings you must hover your cursor to the right of the screen. There is no indication that these settings panels exist.

The new paradigm can be contrasted against the ‘early’ Metro paradigm in Windows Phone. Under the ‘old’ paradigm ellipses are used to indicate additional options. The translation of Metro to the desktop – insofar as ellipses are being removed – strikes me as a poor decision for two reasons:

  1. It breaks Metro UI tenants that Windows Phone users have learned;
  2. The Mail settings aren’t linked with any OS-wide settings (so far as I can tell), which means that if you don’t figure out the ‘hover to the right’ paradigm you can spend considerable time getting frustrated trying to just add a new mail account.

There has to be some indication to users that additional information (i.e. the settings panel) exists or the settings should be accessible in multiple locations. Failure to accommodate these needs should be understood as design failures insofar as UI parsimony is damaging the overall UX.