A Bridge To Nowhere

November 13th, 2014

A Bridge To Nowhere:

A bridge builder was completing his inspection of Zjing's Bridge when he spied master Kaimu standing nearby.

The builder said to Kaimu: "I have heard your monks speak of themselves as 'software engineers.' As a true engineer I find such talk absurd…"

"In my profession we analyze all aspects of our task before the first plank is cut. When our blueprints are done I can tell you exactly how much lumber we will need, how many nails and how much rope, how much weight the bridge will bear, and the very day it will be completed…"

"Your monks do no such things. They churn out code before your customer has finished describing what is desired. They improvise, reconsider, redesign, and rewrite a half-dozen times before delivery, and what they produce invariably crashes or proves vulnerable to attack. If I were to work in such a fashion, no one would dare set foot upon this bridge!"


Read on…

[Via The Tao of Mac / links]

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Seductively different seating

June 1st, 2014

David Owen writes for The New Yorker about the designers behind business class – or, more specifically, the designers behind the design of the seating since airlines reintroduced seats-that-doubled-as-beds in the 1990s:

"A good seat doesn't show you everything it's got in the first ten minutes," he said. "It surprises you during the flight, and lets you discover things you weren't expecting."

My favourite part of this story isn't about the amazing attention to detail that goes into the curve of a seat or the placement of a switch, or even about how saving a few centimetres per row can mean the difference between a flight breaking even and making a loss. It's the bit about how pretty much everything anyone wants to install inside an airliner's cabin has to go through a process of "delethalization", making it both marginally safer in the event that the airliner undergoes rapid deceleration and vastly more expensive than consumer-grade kit.

[Via @cityofsound]

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Sørbråten memorial

March 8th, 2014

Artist Jonas Dahlberg on his designs for Norway's July 22 Memorial sites:

My concept for the Memorial Sørbråten proposes a wound or a cut within nature itself. It reproduces the physical experience of taking away, reflecting the abrupt and permanent loss of those who died. The cut will be a three-and-a-half-meters-wide excavation. It slices from the top of the headland at the Sørbråten site, to below the water line and extends to each side. This void in the landscape makes it impossible to reach the end of the headland.

Visitors begin their experience guided along a wooden pathway through the forest. This creates a five to ten minute contemplative journey leading to the cut. Then the pathway will flow briefly into a tunnel. This tunnel leads visitors inside of the landscape and to the dramatic edge of the cut itself. Visitors will be on one side of a channel of water created by the cut. Across this channel, on the flat vertical stone surface of the other side, the names of those who died will be visibly inscribed in the stone. The names will be close enough to see and read clearly – yet ultimately out of reach. The cut is an acknowledgement of what is forever irreplaceable." […]

[Via The Morning News]

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The Iconography of 'Alien'

November 2nd, 2013

iOS 7 and the Iconography of 'Alien'.

[Via Daring Fireball Linked List]

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August 21st, 2013

The other day I came across UX designer Fred Nerby's mock up of his idea for a new look for Facebook.

Fred Nerby's Facebook concept

There's a lot more to it than that one screenshot, so I urge you to click on the link or the image to see the full presentation. It's neat and unquestionably it showcases one way to look at what 1.15 billion people want from a social network.1

I can't help looking at it and thinking that I'm never, ever going to want a Facebook account, because these people just aren't the same species as me.2 The thing is, this vision of the world seems to demand that everyone is constantly performing, living their lives on camera and incessantly telling anyone who'll listen about how awesome a time they're having and how fabulous their round of drinks looked when the light caught the glasses just so, and everyone seems to have a gallery of pictures of themselves looking smiley and sexy and fabulous. Doesn't all that performing for the camera just get a bit exhausting after a while?

Also, I assume that this is a proposal for some future version of Facebook that offers a paid-subscription option, because there's not an ad in sight and young Zuckerberg isn't going to be able to pay for all those servers without some source of income.3

  1. Or at any rate, what some people want and some people simply have to use if they want to remain in touch with some of their less IT literate friends and relations, whereas others moved to Facebook once they found there was nobody they knew left on MySpace and they don't want the hassle of moving to the next big thing and re-establishing their social graph all over again. Then there are all the spammers and scammers and people who don't use the site any more but never got round to deleting their account. Whatever: any way you look at the numbers, rather a lot of people use Facebook.
  2. Ignore the fact that the designer has populated his site with a bunch of youngish, attractive friends whose lives are filled with visits to picturesque locations: that's just a matter of showing his design in the best possible light.
  3. Unless of course this is a future where the NSA has taken to funding Facebook directly, because why go to the time and trouble to spy on people's online communications when they'll give out so much information about their whereabouts, their plans and their social circle gratis.

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Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase 'self-assembly furniture'

July 12th, 2013

If you're quick, $13,999 could buy you a limited edition Quartz Armchair:

Quartz armchair

It is not often that we come across furniture items inspired by mathematical series. However, the Quartz Armchair (the collaborative effort of CTRL ZAK and Davide Barzaghi) changes our perception of furniture with its juxtaposition of a two-dimensional beech wood structure and the three-dimensional, 'volumetric' padding. These padding elements are comprised of uniform shapes of pentagons and hexagons, while being upholstered in natural fibers. As a result, the overall system of the armchair presents itself as a micro-habitat, with the remarkable fusion of natural wood, aluminum and geometric bearing.

[Via jwz]

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Essential Design Principles for Felines

April 1st, 2013

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox: April 1, 2013 Mobile Usability for Cats: Essential Design Principles for Felines

Other findings:

  • Rapid double and triple taps are common among felines, especially kittens; any response from a multi-tap should be even faster/louder/blinkier than from a single tap.


  • Swiping is expected to work from any and every direction, so ensure that your targets are extra responsive and include corresponding sounds.
  • Animation is especially important, including blinking. In fact, if your site or app doesn't animate, it's pretty much useless.
    • This is a revolutionary finding, considering that blinking has been contraindicated in web design ever since it was #3 on the list of top-10 design mistakes of 1996.
  • A sensory-activated "pause mode" is highly suggested, as nearly half the cats randomly stopped what they were doing to lie down on their devices and stretch, nap, or self-groom for extended periods before resuming their tasks.

[Via MetaFilter]

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There it is!

February 19th, 2013

The 'I' in 'Team', revealed.

The 'I' in 'Team', revealed

[Via soxiam, via swissmiss]

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All this for $0.99 (or £0.69 in the UK)

February 9th, 2013

I read not one but two pretty good pieces today on the practicalities of developing software. I'm not a software developer by any stretch of the imagination1 but I have just enough of a programmer's mindset to appreciate the amount of effort it takes to think through all the little bits and pieces that make a bit of software usable as well as functional:

  • Hilton Lipschitz has made multiple posts exploring the decisions he made in designing his app TimeToCall. He covers the whole process, from his having the idea to write an app to help users arrange telephone conferences across time zones, right up to the point of polishing minor but important user interface details about translating the phrases used in the Japanese language localisation of the app without breaking his user interface.
  • Mark Bernstein posted a piece describing the amount of thought that had to be put into adding a tab bar to Tinderbox. This is more focussed on a single user interface element than the Lipschitz piece: multiply the number of design considerations Bernstein describes for his one feature by the number of steps in the project Lipschitz recounts and you start to realise just how many decisions go into the making of even a comparatively simple application.

Neither article is aimed solely at programmers by any means – Lipschitz and Bernstein both explain in plain English the problems they're trying to resolve and the pros and cons of the different approaches they considered, so I think even people who've never written a line of code in their life will have no problem following either post.

One more, unrelated thing (courtesy of Hilton Lipschitz's Twitter feed). If you have access to a command line, go to it right now and type either tracert (if you're running Windows) or traceroute (for the rest of us.) Then watch and wait…

[Hilton Lipschitz posts via Brett Terpstra. I'm afraid I can't remember where I saw a link to Mark Bernstein's post.]

  1. I'm barely a programmer at all. At home, I hack together unholy combinations of shell scripts, Applescripts and Automator actions in an attempt to knock some rough edges off my workflows. At work I make life a little simpler by doing mildly complicated things with data in Excel and VBA and occasionally Access, but this isn't part of the job description.

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Heat upgrades

January 8th, 2013

Australia is experiencing such a heatwave that meteorologists are having to come up with new colours for their weather maps:

SYDNEY – Extreme heat in Australia forced the government's weather bureau to upgrade its temperature scale, with new colours on the climate map to reflect new highs forecast next week.

Central Australia was shown with a purple area on the latest Bureau of Meteorology forecast map issued for next Monday, a new colour code suggesting temperatures will soar above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).

The bureau's head of climate monitoring and prediction David Jones said the new scale, which also features a pink code for temperatures from 52 to 54 degrees, reflected the potential for old heat records to be smashed.

(Meanwhile in the UK, the Met Office is most likely devising symbols to represent how deep the flooding gets, in the event that your local river decides to burst through your flood defences and saunter up to – and under – your front door. With bonus points if they can design a symbol that simultaneously indicates both how deep the flooding is and how many years in a row flooding has affected that particular town or village.)

[Via kottke.org]

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