research

The Amish are way tougher than you

I like the Amish. Most people from Ohio, such as myself do as well. So I like to think I have more than a passing familiarity with them. You would see them around being driven in their white, chauffeured vans, or you go to Amish country for a day trip (as if a different country which it sort of is) or they do some work on your house, like they did for my parents. The thing I like about them is their attitude towards society and the effects that the world has on them through technology. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t Luddites necessarily. They just sat down, deliberated and decided in some collective manner, to be in charge of technology and not the other way around. They decided to put themselves in charge by saying that whichever technology, be it electricity or anything else, would put them on the national and/or state grids and make them dependent on the outside world. This they didn’t want so they decided that they wouldn’t use it. They did the exact opposite of what we do, which is charge headfirst and bleary eyed into the dream of more better stuff without ever thinking through the implications.

When our first kid was born my wife and I made a decision. We would not put her on the internet. We would not post photos of her and we wouldn’t allow other people to either. I even went so far as to have my sister take down a photo she had posted on Facebook so other people could see her. We decided for once in our slightly sad, technologically addled lives, to attempt to take control of how we were living inside of other people’s machines and networks. So should you.This is one of my favourite things to see in Ohio, buggy parking and "English" (this is what they call us by the way) big box stores in the sticks. The Amish have learned to live among us on their own damn terms. Rock and roll.

Someone Give Google A Medal

Interaction design of the century you ask? The iPhone? Nope. Square payment thingamajob? Not even close. Gmail? Closer. The Undo Send feature in Gmail? Spot on. In a carpet bombing of features and half hearted engineering experiments, Gmail, completely accidentally if you ask me, stumbled upon one of the most niche and most realistic human attributes to address in a bit of machine. Regret.

I saw a talk by some PhD guy once who was studying how people use two monitors with a mouse and did loads of measurement on it. Adjust it like so, you save a couple milliseconds. Imagine, five years of your life spent studying how long it takes someone to adjust to using two screens side by side. Yet, this is something that doesn't matter half as much in anyone's life as Undo Send. Not half as much as despair or exhaustion. Where's the Undo Condescension button? Or maybe the I Know We Work Together But I Don't Really Have Time for Your Bullshit button?

Well this I suppose is the problem really, concentrating on the technical forest and not the realistic trees. Thinking too much about the niggly, little, practical things that slightly suck that humans invariably get used to instead of the elephant sitting on your lap between you and the screen that really affects daily life. Ultimately though, its about forgetting that we're not machines, we're human dammit, and we have feelings, and a lot of times these feelings trump all the milliseconds in the world saved.