Counter-Intuitive Thinking

The thing about counter-intuitive thinking is that its often the correct logical thinking and almost everyone believes the opposite. Logic and common intuition are not friends.

For example, you can often ONLY get things done with the opposite person you expect. Some examples:

Only a Jew can make fun of the Holocaust
Just ask Mel Brooks. It’s OK to make fun because it’s our hardship to bear, but others can’t make fun of it. That’s anti-semitic. (I was raised Jewish btw and make fun of almost everything)

Only a Black person can use the N-word
We watch the show Insecure with Issa Rae and she says it constantly. However, it’s empowering to own words that previously hurt you. Just ask Tyrion Lannister about being called the Imp.

Only a General elected to President can cut defense spending
If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, she would have had to be “tough” on foreign policy or people would have thought she was a “weak woman”. She would never have pushed to cut military spending. However, if we elected a 4-star General, then that person would not be considered weak on defense and could actually cut programs that are incredibly expensive and wasteful. (Like nuclear submarines)

Only a right-wing wacko (Trump) can get single payer/universal health care
It would be a serious coup for Trump. If he pushed for Bernie Sanders health care system, all of the democrats would leap at the chance and he just needs a couple of republicans. He is dominant right now in republican politics. Eric Cantor is a prime lesson (look it up) in how the alt-right can turn on its own. If they pressured the right, Trump would successfully repeal and replace ObamaCare with something better, save tens of trillion of dollars over the coming decades and forever be remembered as a politician who changed healthcare in the US. As a progressive, I would even agree to building a stupid fucking 100 billion dollar wall on the southern border if it meant medicare-for-all.  It’s a matter of priorities. Trump would get everything he wanted/promised AND the actual right policy (not the wall) would be implemented.  A democrat can not get this passed. A normal republican can’t get this passed. Only a right-wing wacko can.

I wish the world wasn’t this way. I wish we would live in a meritocracy where we all lived by logic and fairness. I wish ideas stood on their merit. Unfortunately, that isn’t the life we have.

Many of the answers to our problems are counter-intuitive. Thinking out of the logic box is important and understanding the true dynamics of our psychologies will help us move forward as a civilization and solve important problems.

LinkedIn’s Windows 10 App

I use Windows 10.

But Glen, you are a designer, why don’t you use Macs?!? – Everyone

Here are my answers since everyone brings it up:

  1. I’ve been using Microsoft operating systems since 1986. I’ve beta tested every OS they have ever released including Windows ME (Yuck!)
  2. Most of the world (and about 35% of my users ) have Windows. All of the engineers here use Macs, so SOMEONE should be looking at the product the way that our customers do.
  3. I see no benefit to switching. The Mac
    1. doesn’t have better software for me,
    2. isn’t faster for me,
    3. doesn’t have better peripherals for me,
    4. isn’t a better UX for me.

I think too many people (sheeple!) follow the trends. It doesn’t matter if you use Linux, Windows, Chromebook or Mac. Use whatever you are comfortable with and gets the job done.

OK, but the point of this blog post are Windows 10 apps. Again, I have used Windows for 30+ years and I can confidently say:

Windows 10 Apps are stupid – Glen Lipka

I’m sorry, they are just terrible. They are like Microsoft Bob. A cute interesting experiment, but ultimately, a bad idea. Hardly anyone uses them on regular basis, especially in a work environment.

So why did LinkedIn make a Windows app?  Well, I guess the answer is obvious. Because they got acquired by Microsoft, duh. However, look at the details of the app. Here they are, side-by-side:

If I am using a mouse on a laptop with a monitor, then there really is no benefit. It’s just the regular site in a special window. I don’t want that. I can’t use my chrome extensions in the Windows app world.

The only benefit is if I am running Windows on a tablet. Then the touch targets are bigger and (slightly) more compatible. Still, this seems like a waste of time.

LinkedIn is the default resume website of the world. It’s a virtual monopoly. They can do whatever they want and still not get disrupted. That makes product development especially tricky. Innovation is difficult when you have a monopoly. There is only one direction to go, down. So it makes sense that they deliver this useless app. However, innovation is possible. It has to be.

My plea to LinkedIn is to try hard to innovate. Open up your APIs, be bold and experimental. Try and solve the “org chart problem”. Do something ambitious. Don’t just pop your website into a shell and call it an app. You can do better than that.

Well, I have hope that you can.

I miss Skeuomorphism

Skeuomorphism is the design concept of making items represented resemble their real-world counterparts. (Examples)

Im in Windows → Chrome → WordPress and almost all of the shadows, gradients and rounded corners have been eliminated.

These are buttons.
The tiniest possible shadow and rounded corner. 1px each.

I miss buttons that had heft and affordance that screamed Click Me.

Mmmm. Skeuo!

The Nielsen-Norman group recent published a study that found significant reduction in task completion because of flat design. I know design fashion is a real thing that makes a difference, but I think flat design has had its time and now we need to bring back rounded corners, shadows and gradients. Bring back affordance!

Affordance is when an object’s sensory characteristics intuitively imply its functionality and use. (More detail)

I am not proposing something ugly, but we need to move forward. The number one thing to start with is shadows. Shadows provide enormous hints to the information architecture and drag-ability of an object. It creates layers of information. Enough with the 1px thin line. Let’s see some real separation of layers.

Take it all the way

Sometimes I hear the words “clean, classic, modern, fresh” and then I see “flat, white, undifferentiated, boring”. I see low task completion rates.

Well, bottom line…I miss that 3-dimensionality. Blur the lines of digital and physical. Keep it beautiful, but experiment.

Teaching Excel in High School

My kids are in middle and high school. They are learning math at different levels. The thing that annoys me is how little they use Excel to do their work. Why do we teach kids how to calculate by hand? Think of the alternative:

  1. Start teaching excel early like kindergarden
  2. Accelerate through simple subjects like addition and subtraction
  3. Start to give harder problems to solve that require multiple cells with advanced math like geometry
  4. Make tests where you need to solve problems in Excel and “show your work” by breaking the problem down into discrete cells
  5. Super advanced levels – use macros to teach programming

Excel, for better or worse, drives a huge amount of work in this world. Startups model their entire business in excel. People project manage in Excel. Excel is one of the killer productivity apps of the last 50 years. Why is it possible to graduate high school and not be fluent in it?

I think teaching excel would increase mathematics retention and advancement. It would spur more programming careers. It would spur more innovation in business modeling.

I am not saying that it would solve the Korean nuclear threat…but maybe it would!

Who is in charge of this sort of thing? How can our entire mathematics curriculum system in public schools be changed?  is that even possible?

Can anything change? My kids learn math the same way I did 30 years ago.

Even if we know the answers, are we just doomed to repeat the past?