commadot.com http://commadot.com by Glen Lipka Tue, 16 Jan 2018 18:12:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0-alpha-42453 https://i0.wp.com/commadot.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-siteIcon21.png?fit=32%2C32 commadot.com http://commadot.com 32 32 2075023 All Politics is Local http://commadot.com/all-politics-is-local/ http://commadot.com/all-politics-is-local/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 18:12:32 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7259 Continue reading "All Politics is Local"

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A phrase closely linked to Tip O’Neill, which has been on my mind lately. Specifically, I was thinking about how companies make decisions. When you gather a diverse set of people in a room to make a decision, people usually try to lobby for the decision that is best for their locality.

Let’s imagine the decision was about what to put in the next release of a product. The sales people would optimize for features that help sales. Support wants features that help support. Engineers want to pay down technical debt. UX wants to work on the interaction design.

Each constituency thinks about their own department and negotiation begins. Often an executive will play the tie-breaker. This patterns plays itself out in small groups all the way up to the executive staff.

The problem with this approach is that it is fundamentally based in selfishness without the perspective of the good of the whole. Each person just looks at their own point of view and doesn’t care about the “right” decision. Of course, not every person thinks this way. However, many, many, many people do.

This is why Climate Change has had difficulty getting the proper focus. This is why insuring the poor isn’t popular with the “not poor”. This is why products often get the wrong investments. This is also why people are often miserable in the decision-making process of the product.

Policy should be global. Each person should think about their locality and then think about the global situation. When coming together, they should represent the whole organization and not just their own myopic point of view. People should have empathy and think logically about what makes sense based on the evidence we have at the time.

We all make mistakes based on poor data, poor assumptions, and poor choices. I just wish we would diminish the mistakes we make based on selfishness. I know I am fighting the tide here, my wish is not likely to be granted.

If I can convince one person to go to their staff meeting and think about the decision from the company point of view, not just their department, I would feel like it was a victory.  Are you that person?

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Cutting the Cord Part 4 http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-4/ http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-4/#respond Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:27:54 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7255 Continue reading "Cutting the Cord Part 4"

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Ok, cutting the cord isn’t going to work for me.

So let’s recap:

  1. Had DirecTV with Comcast Internet
  2. Switched to no DirecTV and just Android TV streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime)
  3. Added Amazon FireTV
  4. Added Hulu at various levels (including the new beta)
  5. Added YouTubeTV
  6. Switched from Comcast to Wave
  7. Added Tivo Bolt with Wave cable (normal channels + HBO)
  8. Getting rid of Hulu and YouTubeTV and Amazon FireTV

Numbers 7 and 8 are new. Funny enough, we had Tivo almost 20 years ago. The sound file they use for the error indicator is exactly the same.  The interface has changed, alot, but some things are still the same.

Why Tivo?
Once I realized that streaming everything had a problem. Most channels require you to have a cable service offering the channel for you to see it. So I had to choose. a cable TV provider. Since I already switched from Comcast to Wave, I decided to go with Wave’s offering. They have their own box, but offered the option of a Tivo.  I did some research on Tivo and was intrigued by the new Bolt which was reviewed in C|Net. This is basically like choosing an oeprating system, except there are more options than Windows/Mac/Linux.  Choices are:

  1. Android TV
  2. Amazon Fire
  3. Tivo
  4. Sling
  5. Roku
  6. Apple TV
  7. Other?

Wow, there are alot of choices. So I went with the Tivo. I didn’t realize this but Tivo charges $15 a month on top of the cable provider. This was ALMOST a deal breaker for me. However, I was so frustrated by the different options that I was too worn down to protest.

I purchased the device from BestBuy because I wanted the option of returning it if I hated it. They only had a 500gig version. I ended up liking it, but I think I should get the 1tb version instead, so I am going to swap them out. I also added a Tivo Mini so our other TV can show the same shows.

In some ways, I feel like I have come full circle. Instead of DirecTV and Comcast, I have Tivo and Wave. I feel generally good about that because I think DirecTV and Comcast have become too big and I want to vote with my wallet. I think competition is good for innovation.

The only problem now is that my Eero wifi (mesh network) has been acting screwy and I can’t tell if it’s the Eero having issues or the Wave internet.  I could have left it all alone, I suppose, but what is the fun in that??

#LongLiveBeta

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Design Influences http://commadot.com/design-influences/ http://commadot.com/design-influences/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 23:45:01 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7244 Continue reading "Design Influences"

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Every major product I have designed has had specific influences. Some examples:

Marketo
In 2007, when I was thinking about the Marketo UI I rewatched Minority Report (2002). The UI where Tom Cruise waved his arms in the air was the inspiration for how Smart Lists would drag items from the right to the left. Additionally, IBM Rational Rose, had this filtering system that I liberally paid homage to in the way filters worked.

Engagio
I was introduced to a tool called Lever, which is a recruiting tool. It inspired me to think deeper about Chrome extensions and how they can be a normal part of the user interface. They did a nice job with their extension.

Current Design
I am working on a project now that has strong influences from Slack, who clearly is killing it right now. Additionally, I utilized ideas from Atlassian Confluence. Graphically, I feel myself drawn to the interfaces presented in my current favorite show, Black Mirror. The style they have adopted is quite beautiful. It has a digital paper feel to it.

Sometimes it’s almost a wireframe
Usually monochromatic
Simple, unadorned
Heavy use of icons

When I am influenced by a design, it doesn’t mean it’s a direct copy. It’s inspiration. All good ideas are the combination of other unrelated ideas. The way two people merge to form a baby, two ideas merge to form a new idea.

How much does influence play a part in your work? Maybe it should a bit more?

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Cutting the Cord Part 3 http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-3/ http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-3/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 17:23:03 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7242 Continue reading "Cutting the Cord Part 3"

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My journey has taken a negative turn. My youngest son wanted to watch Adam Ruins Everything, which is a fun show on the TruTV network. The problem is that TruTV is not on Hulu or YouTubeTV.

Sidenote: Google Branding is Broken
For your understanding:

  • YouTube is everyone’s videos uploaded
  • YouTube Red just removes the ads from YouTube
  • YouTubeTV is a Hulu/Sling/Cable competitor and is unrelated to YouTube
  • Android TV is a competitor for Amazon FireTV/Stick or Apple TV and is unrelated to your Android phone

Google has a branding problem on their hands. They have too many products that have names that overlap with unrelated products. It’s confusing me and I know which is which. My suggestion is to come up with names that are NOT overlapping. There is still the possibility of Google TV, but maybe they are hedging their brand bets. A safer option is to choose an abstract name. Android was a great name for the phone. Do the same for TV.  Foobar TV or whatever.

OK, back to the cord cutting.

I tried DirecTVNow. It’s AT&T’s attempt at a Hulu competitor. It has many channels at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the service and the app are TERRIBLE. First, it doesn’t exist for Android TV (which is the OS of my main television). Secondly, it crashed several times in a thirty minute viewing AND it paused every 10 minutes for at least 30 seconds. I canceled my 7-day trial within 2 hours.

This led me to check the internet connection. I have switched from Comcast to Wave Communications.  I splurged and bought the gigbait speed. Unfortunately, gigbit doesn’t reflect reality. If I plug a laptop directly into the router, I can get 800 mbit download speeds. If I plug our Eero mesh network into the router, it reports 500 mbits. If I connect to the WiFi directly to the 5ghtz Wave router, I can get 200 mbits down. If I connect to the Eero Wifi, I am down to 150 mbits. I plugged the TV into the Wave router directly to maximize speed, but it seems there is no way for me to reap the rewards of gigabit speeds. I plan to downgrade to 500 mbits immediately.

Also, I have to go to their office because apparently, they reversed my last and first name when I ordered the service.

Wave has a cable service, with the channels I need, but their streaming service is not well reviewed. My kids are confused about which method would yield which shows. To be honest, I can’t keep it straight myself.

What do I do?
Well, I could reactivate DirecTV and eliminate all of the premium channels. I would then get rid of YouTubeTV since I could get those shows via Hulu or other method. I would keep HBO on DirecTV or Hulu only.

Alternatively, I could keep trying and experimenting. It’s fun to try these new services, but I am losing patience. We will see.  I am taking it one day at a time.

 

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2018 Wishes and Predictions http://commadot.com/2018-wishes-and-predictions/ http://commadot.com/2018-wishes-and-predictions/#respond Wed, 03 Jan 2018 09:02:12 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7239 Continue reading "2018 Wishes and Predictions"

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Politics

Easy prediction: Trump will tweet stupid shit all year. The Russia investigation will lead to more drama and possibly impeachment along with sketchy pardons. My main prediction is that Democrats will gain one of the houses of congress. This will yield gridlock until 2020 (a good thing) when Joe Biden is elected president.

Wish: I wish there were fewer stories in the news. I can’t take it. It’s just too much. Also, I wish that the liberals on the Supreme Court stay alive. Hang in there for 2 more years people.

Sports

I don’t care about the NFL anymore, so I will just forget all my predictions for the Jets. Roger Federer will win another Grand Slam winning an even 20. This will be his last one. Which slam? I’ll go with Wimbledon. In the NBA, Katie wants the Warriors to win the championship, so sure, why not?

Wish: I want to personally stay healthy so I can play tennis all year.

Technology

Is this the rebirth year of the tablet?  Apple is releasing a Microsoft Surface competitor. Basically, it is a tablet running a full OS. Hard to pull off. Microsoft’s surface is not a smooth experience. My prediction: Good progress, but it won’t become a solid meme.

Wish: A big leap forward in battery tech. The whole world will improve with a big step forward on batteries.

Entertainment

More consolidation. Comcast, Disney, DirecTV. Netflix, Roku, SlingTV, Microsoft and Amazon. I expect mega mergers. I just heard this morning that Amazon is going to buy Target. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Wish: I wish for UI consolidation. I am sick of all of the different apps working differently. I want to fast forward past the commercials in the same way every time.

Work

Predictions are self-fulfilling here, aren’t they?

Wish: I want to work with people who get me. Don’t we all?

Random

My kid will get into Stanford!  OK, maybe that one is a wish.

Wish: Everyone who reads this sentence will have a productive, fulfilling, and wonderful 2018.

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Cutting the Cord Part 2 http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-2/ http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-2/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 19:24:40 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7232 Continue reading "Cutting the Cord Part 2"

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I did not realize it, but I actually have a choice on internet access. I just assumed that Comcast had a monopoly on my house. I have been waiting patiently for fiber, but it has not been available. Luckily, Grant commented about Wave Communications who provides internet access for a very reasonable price. Here is my current monthly breakdown:

Item Monthly Notes
Wave Internet $90 I splurged for gigabit speeds
Netflix $14
Amazon Video $10
Hulu $12 No Commercials
HBO for Hulu $15
YouTube TV $35 Comes with Tennis Channel and Warriors Games
Internet Total $90
Content Total $72

The main difference is the elimination of DirecTV ($150/mo) and adding YouTube. Major savings.

When I had Wave installed, I changed where the main point of entry in the house. Now, speed tests show much faster rates, especially for the primary television.

The Good
The faster internet access is helping across the board. Things load up faster and get into high def faster. I also feel good about paying less to vertical integration players like Comast and DirecTV/AT&T. I prefer to support smaller competitors.

The Bad
Hulu is very annoying that it works differently on FireTV vs Android TV.  Also, I haven’t really figured out which remote control to use. I bought one with a keyboard, but I can’t get it to work in every system consistently.

The Ugly
Its extremely hard to remember which show is on which service. There is no good grouping system. I just want to search for a show and the system just takes me to the right place. I think this is an opportunity for Amazon FireTV or Google. They need to let me declare “show defaults”. Like if I search for “Rick and Morty”, use Hulu or if I say “Play Tennis Channel”, I mean on YouTubeTV. Plus don’t get me started on the UI of each system. They are all different. Fast forwarding is the most common case and each one is different. Ugh.

Anyway, the cord cutting is starting to settle in. Still a ways to go, but its improving.

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Cutting the Cord Part 1 http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-1/ http://commadot.com/cutting-the-cord-part-1/#comments Wed, 27 Dec 2017 23:54:14 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7230 Continue reading "Cutting the Cord Part 1"

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Warning: This has been an insane journey, so I might be ranting a bit.

Once DirecTV changed their interface, I decided to suspend the service and see if I could live in the streaming only world. It’s been an insane journey which will likely be impossible to journal. I’ll do my best and at some point I am just going to list pieces of the puzzle.

Sony TV
My pride and joy. It’s a super large 4k flat panel that sits over our fireplace. The main purpose of this device is to show pixels in the right colors and play sound. The sound however is garbage, so I bought a Vizio sound bar. This works well, but I find it difficult to control the volume with the Sony remote. The TV is also 3D compatible. I have used that feature exactly once. 3D is stupid.

Android TV
The Sony TV uses Android TV as its operating system. It’s main purpose is to be the platform for apps. Google has some apps built in, most notably YouTube.com. The store has other apps, which I will get to shortly.

Comcast xFinity Internet
Since Sony and Android don’t have content, I need to get my content from somewhere. In a streaming world this has to come over the internet. I have very few options for internet service. There is Comcast and this company I just found called Wave Broadband. Comcast customer service is legendary for their incompetence. I am seriously considering switching to Wave Broadband. They have options up to gigbit speeds from $50-$70 / month.

Eero Mesh Network
Once I have internet access, I need to spread the signal around the house. A single WiFi router is not good enough for our weirdly shaped home. I spent way too much money on Eero. In hindsight, I would have chosen the Google Home option. However, I have a bunch of Eeros which connect my Comcast internet signal to the TV, which allows the apps to be installed and work on Android TV.

Hulu
Hulu is mostly owned by Disney, Fox and Comcast. They have many options. For the purpose of this journey, I signed up for the most expensive system they have. Hulu (No Commercials) with Live TV BETA ($44) plus Enhanced Cloud DVR ($15) with Unlimited Devices ($15) and HBO ($15). This package gives me some live sports. Specifically, we want to watch the Golden State Warriors games. This was a hard one to figure out.  Hulu seems to be OK so far, but the signal is a little jumpy. Also, I can’t figure out how to tell it “Record all Warriors games, no matter what.” This is important.

HBO Go (or HBO NO Go)
HBO has two services HBO Go and HBO Now. If you have HBO through your cable company, then you get HBO Go. If not, you can buy HBO Now for $15 a month). Now, I have comcast xFinity, which includes a bundle for the TV, which I don’t even use. I literally have not plugged it in. However, it does have HBO included in the base package. But wait! Comcast and HBO are in a legal dispute and someone decided that if you are a Comcast customer, you don’t get access to HBO Go anymore. So that means I had to buy the HBO add on to Hulu since it’s not worth it to get yet another app to get HBO.  I find it interesting that the price is the same whether you buy direct or through Hulu.

Netflix
Everyone knows what Netflix is. I have it mainly because it has original content that I like. If it didn’t I could find all of the older movies in other ways. Netflix survives based on its original content. The minute I don’t like their shows, I will stop the service. I have no loyalty.

Amazon Prime
Same as Netflix on original content, but it’s tied into our shopping experience. We buy lots and lots of things using Prime to avoid the shipping costs. This is a unique value only Amazon can provide. If they didn’t have original content, I would still get prime.

Neither Netflix, nor Amazon has all of the movies I am interested in. But let’s leave movies on the side for a bit.

YouTube TV
Not to be confused with YouTube, this is a Hulu competitor. Why the hell did they confuse the brand?  It’s not Youtube. It’s not Youtube Red. It’s confusing and they should fix their brand problems. They need to call this Google TV or make up a new name. It’s not YouTube.  Anyway, it’s $35 a month and has alot of shows. More importantly, it has the Tennis Channel, which I watch all the time. It has a cloud DVR service.

Tennis Channel
Speaking of Tennis, I watch Tennis Channel alot. Again, Comcast is in some legal fuckery with them. If they weren’t I could get it for free with a specific Tennis TV app. Alternatively, you could buy it for $10 a month (annual payment). However, this would require a separate app, outside of Hulu. For right now, I am using YouTubeTV to watch tennis. Oh, and the grand slams aren’t included. I need ESPN or some other shit instead. I am hoping that I am able to get it on YouTube TV the day after. I don’t care all that much about seeing it live, unlike the Warriors games.

Back to Huiu
I purchased a Amazon FireTV a while back. Interestingly, Hulu on my Android TV is NOT the same thing as Hulu on the Amazon FireTV. On the Android TV you can NOT watch the warriors games, or the Cloud DVR. On the FireTV you can. WTF Hulu? You seriously have different functionality on different apps. I know its a pain in the ass to maintain parity across platforms, but you just have to. You are confusing the shit out of me.

So if I want to watch the warriors game, I need to switch to the Amazon FireTV Hulu and not the basic Android TV Hulu. Looking back to YouTube TV, I notice that I can watch the warriors game there too.

So now, I am considering dialing down the Hulu service, but I need to check other shows.

Deep Breathing
At this point, my head is spinning. There are so many moving parts. YouTube TV seems like a good deal vs. Hulu for live sports. I will try to watch the game tonight and if it works, I will downgrade Hulu to the simpler plan without live TV.

Net Neutrality
It used to be that Comcast and other cable providers had a monopoly. Only one line into the homes, so they could control who gets a channel and who doesn’t and which package it’s a part of. Comcast was the choke point for all content. With the streaming world, the content providers have options and could even stream directly to the user for a fee.

Now remember, I get my internet access from Comcast, who own Hulu. They obviously would be unhappy if I spent my money on YouTube TV rather than Hulu. Thanks to net neutrality, they weren’t allowed to play mean.

Ooops, no more net neutrality
Without it, Comcast, who has a near monopoly on my internet access could say, “Sorry Glen, we don’t support YouTube TV through our internet access in the normal plan. You can pay extra to get that unlocked.” I would be compelled to use Hulu rather than YouTube TV. I would have less competition.

This is why Comcast is invested so heavily in Internet and Content. Same for Verizon/At&T/DirecTV. Monopolies are worth alot of money.

Where does it go from here?
More consolidation is bound to happen. Disney and Fox might merge with Comast, which should violate anti-trust laws, but might not. Google is laying Fiber around the country for a reason, but they need to get into more content than YouTube. Who will be their partners for content? Netflix seems like a good option.  Google should buy Netflix.

That leaves Amazon as the odd man out. They need to get into the internet access business. Maybe Amazon and Verizon or AT&T could make a deal.

It’s all quite confusing. I didn’t even touch on different devices like Tivo, SlingTV, and nVidia Shields. I didn’t go into the individual app markets or mention Movies at all. It’s a whirlwind out there. I am very savvy technology user and I am struggling to make it work. I also didn’t mention that the amount of great shows has skyrocketed. It’s becoming impossible to watch even the best shows. It used to be that everyone watched the best shows and you could talk about episodes. Now, its every man for himself.

Have you cut the cord? Is it going same as me or better? or worse?

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New DirecTV UI Fail/Learn http://commadot.com/new-directv-ui-fail-learn/ http://commadot.com/new-directv-ui-fail-learn/#respond Tue, 19 Dec 2017 18:13:53 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7222 Continue reading "New DirecTV UI Fail/Learn"

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As a designer, I always look at the design of things, especially user interfaces. Recently DirecTV updated their user interface in dramatic fashion. It’s very different than before. I could call it an epic fail, except that I hate that term.

It’s an Epic LEARN.

There is a forum thread on AT&T (who now owns DirecTV) about the “upgrade”. Here are some before and after pictures and analysis.

OLD

RECENT

NEW

Readability
Ok, the first thing, what do you notice? It should be the contrast ratio. The blue UI is bright and easy to read. The font size is large and the coloring is designed to stand out. In the dark UI, the font is thin and gray and small. Also, the ON states are much harder to see.

The person who designed the dark UI is 25-39 years old. Any older and they would have learned (first hand) that people over 40 can’t see as well as they used to.  I see this mistake in designers all of the time. People’s eyes degrade over time and there is a real benefit to clarity and contrast. Way too many designers are trying to make it look pretty rather than make it usable. If you are a designer or product manager, please make “readability” a primary requirement.

The Fade Sucks
Second “learning opportunity” is the giant black fade on the bottom of the screen. It’s hard to see in the screenshots, but it is extremely annoying. It flickers and hurts my eyes and more importantly, it degrades my experience of the thing its covering up. In the example above, why in the world would fading out the last item be helpful?  When I am fast forwarding a show I recorded, the fade obscures part of the screen making it harder to understand when to stop forwarding. The fade is poor design. It doesn’t even look pleasing aesthetically.

Information degradation
Related to forwarding a recording, it used to be easy to understand the different states of a recording. There is the current position, but also where the real-time mark is. This is very useful when watching a sporting event a little later than everyone else and you want to understand how much more before you catch up to real-time. In the new UI, its really hard to see that mark.

Performance
The UI (to me) feels slower. It seems slower to boot up and slower to navigate. It used to be snappy and now it feels like each click takes forever. This is such a crucial factor in any interface. Speed is a feature. And right now, DirecTV regressed this feature for me.

What to do?
I am so disappointed in DirecTV, I am actually considering cutting the cord in favor of other streaming options or …(shudder) Comcast. I already get (and am happy with) my internet access from them. I will have to research options for cutting the cord.

Designers beware. If you fuck with the experience in a negative way, you will lose customers. You moved my cheese in a major way and made it worse. You will have to live with the consequences. I hope you learn from this experience.

 

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UX Tool: SubForm http://commadot.com/ux-tool-subform/ http://commadot.com/ux-tool-subform/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 18:02:10 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7218 Continue reading "UX Tool: SubForm"

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These two guys apparently set up a kickstarter to build a new design tool, named SubForm. I just watched a few videos. It’s not available for download yet, but rather than go “stealth” the two founders decided to build tool in broad daylight. I have alot of respect for that. It jives with my personal value of transparency. Of course, it means your competition can see your work, but I have always found that the benefits of being open outweigh the benefits of being secretive.

The videos are interesting. The SubForm folks have really taken responsive CSS strongly into the design tool itself. It is really easy to make components adapt to the screen. I was imagining making a complex grid and could see how you could resize the columns and it would adapt accordingly.

My Figma grid is much more finicky.

Additionally, SubForm does a nice job with component states. These two features are missing from Figma and would be greatly appreciated. The UI seems pretty well thought out considering how many options they are giving people.

However, in looking through the videos, I definitely saw some missing features including Concurrent editing and Prototyping. It looks therefore (imho) that SubForm is really a competitor for Sketch more than a competitor for Invision or Figma or Adobe XD. Having a windows version helps in that battle. This is yet another reason for Sketch to be freaking out.

I definitely like the innovations SubForm is bringing to the table, but the bar for design tools keeps going up and up. Obviously, They are going to need more than 2 guys.  If they don’t add prototyping, it would bar me for my use case.

Also, side note. Why do all design tool videos focus on mobile design? Is it really the majority of design projects?  Am I the only one who makes desktop apps? My prototype has 62 artboards at this point.

I am still waiting for Microsoft to get in this game. What the heck are they waiting for? They built their business on Tools. They could easily buy one of these design tools and add a bunch of resources. Oh well, I think I am fighting the tides on that one.

Anyway, good job SubForm on innovating. Keep it up.

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Concurrent / Collaborative Editing http://commadot.com/concurrent-collaborative-editing/ http://commadot.com/concurrent-collaborative-editing/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 17:55:10 +0000 http://commadot.com/?p=7215 Continue reading "Concurrent / Collaborative Editing"

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Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. In other words, the more people using something, the more valuable that thing is.

My first few computers in the 1980s were islands, completely isolated from the rest of the world. It wasn’t until Prodigy and CompuServe that I realized there were other people in the world like me. My first modem was a 1200 baud. I think my dad paid $400 for it. Later, I was one of the first 1000 members of America Online which brought usability and graphics into the mix. Mainly, I used AOL to download software and modifications for my Windows 3.1 PC with a 286 chip.

The value of the computer rose exponentially with the access to other people.

Enter the internet. Obviously this blew away anything AOL could muster. I started working from my apartment with my then girlfriend. We had no Ethernet network so we would just throw floppy disks at each other around a large potted plant. We called our system FloppyNet.

During this time, I played online text games called MUDs. The cool thing was that there were other people in the game and you could see their moves as quickly and you saw your own. (“see” = see their words, it had no graphics) However, It was a multiplayer experience and I loved it.

After I started Koko Interactive in 1995 (a web dev company in NYC), we could finally afford a real network, but almost all of our software was still single player. Think Photoshop. One person opens it up and uses it and then outputs the results to a shared drive. My first product, Hotkoko, was an attempt to make a system through the browser where multiple people could work on something together.

Still, the system was limited. You had to refresh the screen to see updates. I wanted the real-time interactivity of the MUD with the GUI of the browser. Some games started popping up that you could play games in this manner like Second Life. However, for work related stuff, it just wasn’t there. Apps like Salesforce would (and still do) require refreshing the browser. Games moved forward, but work apps stayed behind.

It wasn’t until 2006 that I saw Writely and then Google Docs. Right in front of my eyes you could see the other people working. You saw their cursor, you saw their edits. It was a revelation. There is no doubt in my mind that Google Docs made huge inroads based exclusively on this feature. Microsoft had nothing similar and lost some market share and certainly some hearts/minds.

The technical capability in broadband access, computers and browsers has improved enough to allow for truly multiplayer experiences for work related applications. Last year, Figma became the first tool (to my knowledge) that allowed multiple designers to work on a project at the same time. Several people I know, who were die hard Sketch fans have embraced Figma in large part due to this feature. Designers previously thought, “Why would I need to design with another person?” are now embracing this new methodology. Adobe is working on a similar technology, albeit slowly.

I believe Pair Designing will start to gain traction to the levels that Pair Programming has in the last 15 years. Also, I can see more and more work applications adopting concurrent editing. Microsoft has made moves in that direction to make Office collaborative, even in the desktop. However, many other systems are slow to adopt the technology.

The reason for the slow adoption has to do with two factors. First, the technology is still not plug and play. There are some really good JavaScript libraries to get started, but the backend is not bullet proof yet. I have tried 3 different times to make concurrency work and have been stymied by the cost of the technology and the lack of commitment by product leaders.

The more tools which appear with an unfair advantage based on concurrent editing, the more it will become common knowledge that this technology is a key value driver. The more that happens, the more investment into the technology. It might sound like a chicken and egg situation, but I think it will get better at an exponential rate. We have Metcalfe’s law on our side.

We are still in the early days, but this design choice is compelling. It will get more popular over time. It takes some more effort to design, but the results are worth it.

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