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This is my old blog. My current writing is here: codahale.com

Google’s UX staff take a vacation, return to horror and destruction

So Google made an RSS reader.

Wait, let me back up: what is it about RSS readers which make people’s frontal lobes turn off?

An RSS reader is a way for people like me to manage our infOCD tendancies by–y’know–aggregating information to reduce the amount of time needed to monitor a wide variety of sources. Your RSS reader is the thumbnail view of your daily web readings.

So why the hell make one which forces you to cycle through each story, one by one? Well? Yeah, I can’t think of a good reason, either. It’s like trying to scan a hundred newspapers through a microscope. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Backwards, even.

I try to keep track of the various postings on Craig’s List SF in the bicycles section. The information for each post on RSS is the title–that’s it. There’s probably a thousand posts a day, and the vast majority of them are crap crappity crap crap. Now Google would have me blipping through each one, one at a time, looking at a single line of text and about 250,000 blank-ass pixels.

What an amazing user experience that would be.

Focus on functionality–from the user’s perspective–instead of buzzword compliance. Bloglines, despite their clunky Web 1.0 look, works. It lets me choose how each feed is displayed. Boing Boing shows the full story, and the BBC and Craig’s List just show the titles. It helps me work, it doesn’t try to wow me with its Web 2.0-y goodness. Not everything needs tags, not everything needs Ajax, and frames can be useful.

RSS readers need to make a visual gestalt of the user’s feeds. They should be able to look at their feeds and know, at a glance, which ones have been updated. They should be able to choose how much of each feed they see, because not all feeds have the same importance. Don’t try to out-think the user; help them think.

So, uh, yeah: a Jabber client and a myopic RSS reader. Google’s supposed to be the future, right? Yikes.

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Who Is The Devil’s Advocate, Anyway?

From Creating Passionate Users: Death by Devil’s Advocate:

We’ve all been in a meeting where a passionate idea is put forth but someone plays devil’s advocate and drains the life out of the room. Invoking “the awesome protective power” lets the devil’s advocate be incredibly negative and slash your idea to shreds, all while appearing not only innocent but reasoned, balanced, intelligent… all attributes loaded with business “goodness”. Whew! Thank GOD for the devil’s advocate, or we’d all be off blundering with our stupid ideas, oblivious to the insurmountable problems we were too clueless to see.

It’s easy to look at someone who sits in the corner of a blue-sky brainstorming session and does the real-world equivalent of threadcrapping and see them, as Kathy said, ripping the throat out of your infant idea. There probably are inveterate creativity-slayers, but I think a lot of it boils down to thinking styles and communication styles. So how do we make sense of devils’ advocates? Read on to find out.

(continue reading…)

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