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The Day You Became a Better Writer (2nd Look) | Scott Adams' Blog

Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it. Simple means getting rid of extra words. Don’t write, “He was very happy” when you can write “He was happy.” You think the word “very” adds something. It doesn’t. Prune your sentences. Humor writing is a lot like business writing. It needs to be simple. The main difference is in the choice of words. For humor, don’t say “drink” when you can say “swill.” Your first sentence needs to grab the reader. Go back and read my first sentence to this post. I rewrote it a dozen times. It makes you curious. That’s the key. Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers aren’t as smart as you’d think. Learn how brains organize ideas. Readers comprehend “the boy hit the ball” quicker than “the ball was hit by the boy.” Both sentences mean the same, but it’s easier to imagine the object (the boy) before the action (the hitting). All brains work that way. (Notice I didn’t say, “That is the way all brains work”?) That’s it. You just learned 80% of the rules of good writing. You’re welcome.

Addicted to Your iPhone? You’re Not Alone - The Atlantic

For example, rewarding someone with an instantaneous “like” after they post a photo can reinforce the action, and potentially shift it from an occasional to a daily activity.

Facebook's director of product design says you'll spend most of your life in 7 apps

You're going to spend a high percentage of time in seven applications — which seven is different for every person. Globally, Facebook is going to have a very high likelihood of being one of those seven, along with Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and others.

How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name

Apple: Please learn about the power of signifiers, visible indicators that help the poor, befuddled user. And make them unambiguous. Here is an example of what not to do: The icon for "rotation of the screen is locked" is either grayed or not. But is it locked when it is gray or when it is not gray? Turns out that Apple uses text to say which, but in tiny little letters somewhat removed from the icon itself. One of us, who spent five minutes searching for information on how to disable the lock, finally discovered the text—why does it take five minutes to learn what should be a frequent operation?

Who needs software?

The original document laying out the engineering requirements of the Apollo mission didn’t even mention the word software, MIT aeronautics professor David Mindell writes in his book Digital Apollo. “Software was not included in the schedule, and it was not included in the budget.” […] By mid-1968, more than 400 people were working on Apollo’s software, because software was how the US was going to win the race to the moon.

boring cars for boring people

according to Kelley Blue Book, silver remains the color of choice for luxury vehicles. A full third of all luxury vehicles are silver; another 30 percent of them are diamond, crystal, snow, powder, cream, or some other version of white.

How Apple Built 3D Touch: After years of research, milliseconds of vibration are forgotten in four minutes.

To make what is counterintuitive feel normal, each on-screen “peek” and “pop” is accompanied by a 10-millisecond or 15-millisecond haptic tap, little vibrations that say  “good job”  to your fingers when an action is complete. (The precise timing of those taps is a cosmology all its own.) For the years of effort, 3D Touch will be judged a success only when its existence fades completely into a user’s subconscious. It takes about four minutes.

How Apple Built 3D Touch

Federighi picked up an iPhone 6S and explained one of 3D Touch’s simpler challenges: “It starts with the idea that, on a device this thin, you want to detect force. I mean, you think you want to detect force, but really what you’re trying to do is sense intent. You’re trying to read minds. And yet you have a user who might be using his thumb, his finger, might be emotional at the moment, might be walking, might be laying on the couch. These things don’t affect intent, but they do affect what a sensor [inside the phone] sees. So there are a huge number of technical hurdles. We have to do sensor fusion with accelerometers to cancel out gravity—but when you turn [the device] a different way, we have to subtract out gravity. … Your thumb can read differently to the touch sensor than your finger would. That difference is important to understanding how to interpret the force. And so we’re fusing both what the force sensor is giving us with what the touch sensor is giving us about the nature of your interaction. So down at even just the lowest level of hardware and algorithms—I mean, this is just one basic thing. And if you don’t get it right, none of it works.”

Edward Tufte on focusing on seeing

as we know from all the studies of cell phones and driving automobiles, people don't do very well in seeing where they're going when they're talking. And so deep seeing requires a fairly certain serenity of one's self, but also a serene environment. […]I had this experience - almost a magical experience. I was walking out on our farm by a long, stone wall and I said to my friend, let's just not talk. […]what happened to seeing after maybe 10 minutes of just seeing - not talking, not doing anything else - was it like the light became perfect. Like when you have filtered light from the sun, the shadows don't blow out the dark and the brights don't go out the white. But everything, you know, is in focus and not blown out. But now, it was just because you were seeing so much better, because all your brain power was devoted to it, it was like you were creating a perfect light for seeing. That is, you could see the details in the shadow, and you could protect the eye against blowing out to brightness.

Check Out Google's Insane Plans for a New Headquarters

Literal icons deceive

Ive explained that, had he centered the Digital Crown, the watch would be a quite different product. “It’s just literal. And you could say, ‘Why is that an issue?’ Well, if it’s literally referencing what’s happened in the past, the information about what it does is then wrong.” The crown rotates, which is reassuring, but it doesn’t wind the watch or adjust hands. The goal, Ive said, was to create “the strangely familiar.”

New inputs define the device

Ive places the new watch in a history of milestone Apple products that were made possible by novel input devices: Mac and mouse; iPod and click wheel; iPhone and multitouch. A ridged knob on the watch’s right side—the Digital Crown—took its form, and its name, from traditional watchmaking. The watch was always expected to include a new technology that had long been in development at Apple: a touchscreen that sensed how hard a finger was pressing it. (A press and a tap could then have different meanings, like a click and a double-click.) But the Digital Crown, a device for zooming that compensated for the difficulty of pinching or spreading fingers on a tiny screen, was ordered up by the studio.

Letting newness wear off

“It’s awkward when you’re dealing with models,” Ive said. “Often you’re reacting, by definition, to newness, or difference.” The new has to be given time to annoy, or disappoint. A few years ago, Ive and his colleagues assessed each prototype size of the future iPhone 6 by carrying them around for days. “The first one we really felt good about was a 5.7,” he recalled. “And then, sleeping on it, and coming back to it, it was just ‘Ah, that’s way too big.’ And then 5.6 still seems too big.” (As Cook described that process, “Jony didn’t pull out of his butt the 4.7 and the 5.5.”)

evanescence of electronica

In 1973, a Sony ad announced, “This could be the tape deck you’ll leave your great-grandson.” That line, similar to the theme of Patek Philippe ads, may have been wishful, but it was not yet an absurd way to talk about consumer electronics. Today, Apple’s designers, like their competitors, make machines that are almost disposable: the screens crack; the processors become outmoded.

Apple designs with consensus

Each project has a lead designer, but almost everyone contributes to every project, and shares the credit. (Who had this or that idea? “The team.”) Ive describes his role as lying between two extremes of design leadership: he is not the source of all creativity, nor does he merely assess the proposals of colleagues. The big ideas are often his, and he has an opinion about every detail. Team meetings are held in the kitchen two or three times a week, and Ive encourages candor. “We put the product ahead of anything else,” he said. “Let’s say we’re talking about something that I’ve done that’s ugly and ill-proportioned—because, believe you me, I can pull some beauties out of the old hat. . . . It’s fine, and we all do, and sometimes we do it repeatedly, and we have these seasons of doing it—”

Apple's design workshop: simple is as simple does.

Samsung Electronics sells vacuum cleaners as well as phones, and employs a thousand designers. Apple’s intentions can be revealed in one room. Each table serves a single product, or product part, or product concept; some of these objects are scheduled for manufacture; others might come to market in three or five years, or never. “A table can get crowded with a lot of different ideas, maybe problem-solving for one particular feature,” Hönig, the former Lamborghini designer, later told me. Then, one day, all the clutter is gone. He laughed: “It’s just the winner, basically. What we collectively decided is the best.” The designers spend much of their time handling models and materials, sometimes alongside visiting Apple engineers. Jobs used to come by almost every day. Had I somehow intruded an hour earlier, I would have seen an exhibition of the likely future. Now all but a few tables were covered in sheets of gray silk, and I knew only that that future would be no taller than an electric kettle.

Apple designers are scarcer than snow-leopards

Apple employs three recruiters whose sole task is to identify designers to join the group; they find perhaps one a year.

Jony Ive is sad

He is now one of the two most powerful people in the world’s most valuable company. […]he’s uncomfortable knowing that a hundred thousand Apple employees rely on his decision-making—his taste—and that a sudden announcement of his retirement would ambush Apple shareholders. (To take a number: a ten-percent drop in Apple’s valuation represents seventy-one billion dollars.) According to Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’s widow, who is close to Ive and his family, “Jony’s an artist with an artist’s temperament, and he’d be the first to tell you artists aren’t supposed to be responsible for this kind of thing.

Jobs: simplify!

During the design of the iPod interface, Jobs tried at every meeting to find ways to cut clutter. He insisted on being able to get to whatever he wanted in three clicks. One navigation screen, for example, asked users whether they wanted to search by song, album, or artist. “Why do we need that screen?” Jobs demanded. The designers realized they didn’t. “There would be times when we’d rack our brains on a user interface problem, and he would go, ‘Did you think of this?’” says Tony Fadell, who led the iPod team. “And then we’d all go, ‘Holy shit.’ He’d redefine the problem or approach, and our little problem would go away.” At one point Jobs made the simplest of all suggestions: Let’s get rid of the on/off button. At first the team members were taken aback, but then they realized the button was unnecessary. The device would gradually power down if it wasn’t being used and would spring to life when reengaged.

Bloomberg's new site

But the only unifying quality to Bloomberg Business worth mentioning is the name Bloomberg, and that isn’t enough to lure me back. The site reminds me of a modern version of the mid-1990s Pathfinder portal, built by Time Warner to aggregate all of its magazine journalism. The site failed miserably because, like this iteration of Bloomberg Business, it was too wide and too deep of a river to swim.
Mary Dyson, a psychologist at the University of Reading who studies how we perceive and interact with typography and design online and in print, has found that the layout of a text can have a significant effect on the reading experience. We read more quickly when lines are longer, but only to a point. When lines are too long, it becomes taxing to move your eyes from the end of one to the start of the next. We read more efficiently when text is arranged in a single column rather than multiple columns or sections. The font, color, and size of text can all act in tandem to make our reading experience easier or more difficult. And while these variables surely exist on paper just as they do on-screen, the range of formats and layouts online is far greater than it is in print. Online, you can find yourself transitioning to entirely new layouts from moment to moment, and, each time you do so, your eyes and your reading approach need to adjust. Each adjustment, in turn, takes mental and physical energy.
The researchers discovered that, even though participants' relationships changed and they made new friends during the intense transition period between school and university or work, individual social signatures remained stable. Participants continued to make the same number of calls to people according to how they ranked for emotional closeness, although the actual people in their social networks and/or their rankings changed over time. 'As new network members are added, some old network members are either replaced or receive fewer calls,' confirmed Professor Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford.
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.
Now an instructor of Industrial Design at the Beijing DeTao Masters Academy in Shanghai, Esslinger says he implores his students to consider their work today in the context of tomorrow. “Today is what’s thought about long ago,” he explained to me over the phone from Shanghai. “Now today we have to we have to project, think, experiment, prototype the future.”
My first design teacher, Philip Burton, used to say, over and over, don't be anecdotal. He would say, when we were presented with a design task in class, most of which were abstract in nature, that we weren't making rebuses. (Paul Rand's famous IBM ad is a design joke and intended to be amusing, not the company's new logo.) What Philip meant about anecdote is that we should not be looking for a literal rendition of what we wanted to represent, but rather a figurative one.
We are currently witnessing a re-architecture of the web, away from pages and destinations, towards completely personalised experiences built on an aggregation of many individual pieces of content. Content being broken down into individual components and re-aggregated is the result of the rise of mobile technologies, billions of screens of all shapes and sizes, and unprecedented access to data from all kinds of sources through APIs and SDKs. This is driving the web away from many pages of content linked together, towards individual pieces of content aggregated together into one experience.