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Alexa: Amazon’s Operating System – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

In short, Amazon is building the operating system of the home — its name is Alexa — and it has all of the qualities of an operating system you might expect: All kinds of hardware manufacturers are lining up to build Alexa-enabled devices, and will inevitably compete with each other to improve quality and lower prices. Even more devices and appliances are plugging into Alexa’s easy-to-use and flexible framework, creating the conditions for a moat: appliances are a lot more expensive than software, and much longer lasting, which means everyone who buys something that works with Alexa is much less likely to switch

Reality is a UX

Suppose there’s a blue rectangular icon on the lower right corner of your computer’s desktop — does that mean that the file itself is blue and rectangular and lives in the lower right corner of your computer? Of course not. But those are the only things that can be asserted about anything on the desktop — it has color, position, and shape. Those are the only categories available to you, and yet none of them are true about the file itself or anything in the computer. They couldn’t possibly be true. That’s an interesting thing. You could not form a true description of the innards of the computer if your entire view of reality was confined to the desktop. And yet the desktop is useful. That blue rectangular icon guides my behavior, and it hides a complex reality that I don’t need to know. That’s the key idea. Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive.

Consumers don't know themselves

Consumers, as it turns out, are not so easy to figure out. If you ask customers if they think stores are too cluttered, the answer is a predictable yes. The problem is with the research methodology. Rather than just ask shoppers what they think they would like, I can follow someone through their shopping trip in a grocery or mass merchandise store like Walmart and Sam’s Club and then interview them as they load their bags into the car. Continue reading the main story Recent Comments Indrid Cold Just now I've written a little diddy to the tune of "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire"Hot dogs roasting on an open fire.They say daddy's plant is... Lola 1 minute ago The price of everything the value of nothing.The problem is not quantity it's quality. Shoppers want something that has true value and... Bob Dobbs 1 minute ago To my mind, it's not the clutter but the scattered organizationd. Go to a department store looking for men's shirts and you might have to... See All Comments Write a comment What is striking is the wide gap between what they say they did, and what I observed. I can ask them how long they spent in-store and the answer is again different from the one on the stopwatch in my pocket. I found that consumers generally reported that time spent in-store was roughly twice that on our stopwatch. One consumer reported the in-store time as approximately one hour; our stopwatch read 28 minutes. Ask them what they bought, and often the throw-ins I saw them buy are somehow forgotten.
In short, Google Stars supports favoriting (called starring) URLs, lets you add a title and a note, includes folders, and sharing functionality (both public and private). How much of all this will remain in the final release, is not clear. Naturally, Google could axe Google Stars before it ever sees the light of day, but the fact the company is experimenting with such a service is very interesting. Like all major browsers, Chrome let’s you favorite URLs. Yet Google Stars seems to be much more, and not just because the word “items” is used, which suggests users can favorite specific content on pages, like images and videos.
Unfortunately, since “good design” is defined by the user it’s intended for, it’s not just about creating more, and there is no algorithmic “law” for how to get it. It suffers from the phrase that all technologists and investors hate to hear, which is “… it depends.” Whether we want “more” or “less” doesn’t have a single right answer. An example I like to use is about doing the laundry versus eating a cookie. You always want less laundry, but more cookies. One person’s laundry is another’s cookie. And so on.
Design is no longer just ‘output’ with the only feedback market share as a measure of fitness. The artifacts it produces now talk back to us by a variety of means and that data feeds back into subsequent design–become concrescent knowledge in parametric systems and thus a kind of genome inherent to the built habitat. Right now our explorations of generative and associative parametric systems are like the X-ray crystallography that first exposed the structure of DNA. And this is transforming the nature of design itself, moving it away from a more ego-centric aesthetics-dominated pursuit it has been in modern times, relying on talent and intuition, to a more social and global design science that uses form and structure to seek knowledge about the world–which, in fact, is what it was before it became ‘professionalized’. Design evolution as scientific method. Through parametric design we are discovering a theory of ‘design science’.
Pocket was disturbed by the thought of quickly losing customers due to a bad first impression after they discovered, downloaded and tried the app. Pocket’s team chose to build its business with a focus on customer retention, rather than download numbers. They obsessed about the first 20 seconds of UX, an obsession that the Google Ventures design team shared. Using the design sprint methods created by Knapp, Google Ventures designers and the Pocket team held three separate week-long design sprint sessions to focus exactly on this 20-second UX. It paid off with a 60% increase in conversions from first download to first use.
Clip 30: In this segment Doug distinguishes between the Service System and the User System. The ARC team distinguishes overall man-computer system into a dichotomy between two systems, the service system and user system.The Service System is what appears at the terminal, the organization of software and hardware the system gives to me, the set of tools and capabilities available when I click on the screen. The user system is what is beyond that. Given these tools, how do we use the links, what are the conventions for leaving messages? How do we use the NLS capabilities to do work? The methods, procedures, skills, and specific concepts people use are all developed in coordination with the kind of tools they have available.