I’ve been thinking of Easter Eggs I miss lately. Versions of software I’ve worked on where my name pops up on the second or third screen of contributors. A set of doors that would pop open when you closed them in a certain sequence at one place I worked (yes, like the West Wing episode).
But my favorite was in one of the original versions of the Apple Remote for the iPhone. If you hit the key sequence on the remote just right, (okay, fine, if you hit replay) you could put on a movie to play over and over and over again.
I loved it because I could put on a movie to fall asleep to. If I woke up, it’d still be on and I could drift back off. Handy to have before I got a white noise setup.
I kept hoping it’d be expanded, and you could use it to set up a playlist of shows or movies to just run.
Sadly, it’s now gone. I think the fourth or fifth update, someone nuked it. I can sort of understand why, and with the newer AppleTVs running iOS now, it might not have been long for this world, but it’s still something that might be useful. Set up a couple of episodes of this or that, let it run and repeat, especially for home movies. Truly an edge case scenario, but one that was pretty useful on nights when sleep was helped by a soothing replay of an old favorite movie.
Maybe it’s my love of logic puzzles, the fun of breaking things, the fun of learning things, or all three that keep me interested in technology. Whether it’s answering all security questions with the answer “zerbert” (What is your father’s middle name? ZERBERTWhat is the name of your first childhood pet? ZERBERT) or seeing how my “unusual” name breaks a naming schema, I’ve found that trying to break things is a great way to test and learn things.
A smidge of mischeviousness also has me adding false data into “the system” when it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a dozen birthdays, a zillion ways to spell my name, and ad networks are always trying to sell me diapers, lizard food, and reverse mortgages (lately).
My brother recently shared the news that his neighborhood was serving as a testing ground for self-driving cars. First thought that sprang to mind? Cosplaying as stop signs. Didn’t hurt that I had one handy …
But given the recent needed changes to Tesla’s auto-pilot (ought-to-pilot?) … mayyyyyyyyybe this is one realm where I shouldn’t plant false data? Or maybe it’s even more important to teach these toddlers what fools us mortals be.
As I learn more about how I learn and my kids learn and the world and learning turns into “everyone is a YouTube star” these days, I find little shares like this great. We’re coming up with new ways to learn things, to teach things, and to reach people.
And I’m not so much talking about YouTube and Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and Minecraft and Project Spark and, and, and … but the underlying Internet. People can reach across the world with new ideas and share things in a way I never had as a kid. Inspired teachers came from “somewhere” (probably other inspired teachers) and if you were lucky you got one or two in your school career.
And even those without Internet are feeling the effects. Memes become tee-shirts and bags and books and television shows.
Once upon a time, I was a technical writer. My friends were technical writers. My bosses were (usually) technical writers, or, had been, once upon a time.
I was pretty busy honing my trade, so I didn’t give much thought to what we wrote versus, say, what the Education folks wrote. Or the Marketing department put together. Those sell sheets came from somewhere, sure. We’d check for technical accuracy and contribute as SMEs for certification classes and exams, but other than that, our paths rarely crossed.
My boss at the time was quite adamant that Education and Technical Writing should be distinctly separate. I was new, I was learning the industry, and I took her word for it and filed the information away for later. I get it, now, but I didn’t then.
Later on, my colleagues at Citrix started calling us Tech Writers something else — Information Developers. There were many things going on then, so I didn’t give it much notice. After all, our employee records still said Technical Writer. I’ve recently noticed Citrix finally officially fixed that, and they’re all Information Developers now (yay!).
But over a decade on from those first discussions of the term Information Developer, I’m seeing movement towards calling Technical Writers by a new name … Content Developers.
The big BUT is … content isn’t always information and information isn’t always content. And this further on into my career, with exposure to much more than Read Mes and technical dictionaries, I can really see that.
I wonder if my colleagues heading down the Content Developer path aren’t headed in the wrong direction? Focusing less on the information aspect of writing?
From working with them, I know they aren’t actually working less with information. Many of them still wrangle direct, specific, technical information that users and administrators and software developers need. They aren’t focusing any less than Information Developers on architecting information properly, or organizing it in a way that makes sense for users. And we’re all doubling down on “touch once” and content management systems, and producing presentation-independent documentation.
But in branding with “Content Developer” rather than “Information Developer”, I think they’re treading on a fuzzier path. Maybe it’s my perception alone that “information” is something you use, and “content” is closer to entertainment and lighter on information. A more casual way of communicating.
And, from my recent reading, the term Content Developer is being used more and more heavily in marketing by copywriters to expand their explanations of what they do in an expanding environment of available work. So I’m not saying the term Content Developer is a bad thing, just that someone else got there first.
Maybe I’m just worried that Content Developer vs Information Developer devalues what Technical Writers do. Especially with the whole Epic lawsuit going on.
Maybe it’s just ducks vs rabbits … and there shouldn’t even be a ‘war’.
I’ve been yapping about the new Apple TV lately; mostly because I’ve been the one using the remote. Usually I just watch everyone else struggle with it and complain. And we aren’t all that old! Though we’re getting there.
It’s not that we fear change
Yeah, I hate it when things change. I was a diehard Windows 98 user. For a while you were not getting me away from WindowsXP. I still have Office 2003 installed on this very Windows 7 laptop. It really took a lot of being annoyed to recently request I have Office 2013 installed on my work computer if we ran out of other ways to fix the problem. And I got annoyed enough at “live photos” that I deactivated it as soon as I realized why my pictures were all “screwed up”.
But we aren’t all exactly like whomever is beta testing the hardware over at Apple’s main nerve center.
I realized this because I actually had to dig up and use the Apple TV remote to test my last couple of posts on this subject. “Dig up” because I don’t actually use it. We programmed the Apple TV to accept commands from my “dumb” IR TV remote.
Then I lost my “dumb” remote. Maybe with practice and no other options, I can learn to use the slick new Apple TV remote, but I really dislike the design and current use enough that I really don’t want to.
Annoying! The Apple TV remote is annoying.
Honestly, if I hadn’t been able to program the Apple TV to accept data from my “dumb” remote, I probably would never use the Apple TV at all. I’d watch things on my phone or read a book.
But if Apple follows my suggestions (or takes them and turns them into something even amazingly more funderful), we also have to remember the dumb remotes.
Just like one can set the click speed on a mouse or the touch sensitivity/help on an iPhone, do it on the Apple TV, too. For all kinds of remotes.
Siri, help me set up my remote
So you’ve done a few things to let us customize our experience, Apple, because you read my first two posts and shifted your agile teams into high gear to get right on it. Like one in fifty nerdly geeks have programmed in our favorite shortcuts and you have lots of data. Take that data, and use it to build onramp protocols for Siri to use.
Guide a user through a friendly questionnaire at first, to set up the most basic functions. If they want to “expand it”, walk through setting up long clicks or assistive clicks. Then, no matter what remote they use, (annoying Apple TV one, “dumb” IR remote, or their iPhone/iPod) they have a non annoying experience.
Don’t let Siri guess too hard
But don’t push it too far. Don’t let the “AI” style programming make all the decisions. Feel out what your users want, and ease them into it. It’s been about twenty years since someone taught me how to dial a cell phone (type in the number, press the green “send” button). I don’t like being told “this is the only way to do this”, but I also know we can’t fall into the trap of infinite customization. In that way lies madness … and I spent enough years trying to wrangle the madness of infinite customization into mere user guides for mere mortals.
The night after I wrote up the post about looping us nerdy geeks into customizing our Apple TV software and doing all kinds of beta testing for your UX team, I fell asleep to a movie. Not too unusual; my days have been long as we get more sun and a great movie can help me wind down after a particularly productive day.
The next time I opened Apple TV ….
It wanted to show me my movie again. Which can be cool. I’m the kinda nerdling that can watch the same movie a couple times in a row. But getting out of the movie screen was …
Many many clicks, many many things. I could enumerate the steps but it’d require me falling asleep to Interstellar tonight. And remembering to amend this post in the morning. No thanks.
How about this?
Click to wake up the Apple TV.
Long-click the menu (reverse last order) button to pop all the way out back to the home screen.
Or double-click. Or triple click! Or whatever else I customize and record.
Just like last time, it would make this user happy. And it would make the process designer in me ecstatic. All those Apple TVs out there, and one in what, fifty super user geeks like me making their own design decisions? I can imagine getting my hands on that kind of data as a UX person: How the super user geek uses the Apple TV to improve the design for all users.
Come on, Apple. Give us some code! Beta nerds, beta testers, rah, rah, rah!
*I know that a lot of the architecture is very response based — so a lot of my ideas may not even be implementable. I’d have to crack open an SDK (if there is one) to even see if there’s an appropriate call and response or way to queue up commands so they aren’t “lost” as the Apple TV box takes its time loading up the right screen via the internet ….
I bought the original JawboneUP. And held onto it while they retooled it, and made it last until the second generation of sturdier stuff became available (trading back my old one).
Then came UP24. Neat! Bluetooth! Kind of annoying at times, but otherwise neat. Until it died.
I wasn’t going to buy another one; I went back to the second UP, waiting for UP2 and UP3.
I bought the UP3 and returned it immediately when I heard it wasn’t quite all baked. Not that I needed to know my heart rate, but still … why not wait until it was better?
And last month, I bought an UP2. I gave it a week, but ultimately returned it.
I do like that each generation is more sensitive to my sleep patterns (and I like to track my numbers and see if things I do improve it). But the UP2 doesn’t work for my heavy sleeping.
It’s too easy to turn off and fall right back asleep. What am I going to do when all the “old” UP hardware is too far gone and I don’t have the lovely “shake awake” feature that wakes me and not my bed partners anymore?
The privacy-aware side of me was a bit freaked out the first time my phone decided to let me know that if I left for work right now I’d probably be on time.
It knew, though it didn’t know why, that I tended to do a weird morning routine. Loop through the school parking lot at 7:10, drive to the grocery store at 7:15 and park, do a loop-de-loop around the school parking lot again at 8:10, before finally heading into work by 9:00. Fuh-reak-y.
But carrying around a cell phone is a walking, talking, data-collecting elephant to begin with. What’s a little more data? That useful part of it makes the data and usability nerd in me happy.
Hyper-Realtime Traffic Info
I got to thinking about the head to head race I had this Easter Sunday. I was thinking about it as I was running errands at lunch, my usual use of that hour. Did I have time, I asked Waze, to skedaddle west eight miles and south ten miles to pick up paperwork from a medical office?
Waze assured me in it’s non-judgemental way that I’d be held up by rail crossing closures and heavy lunch time traffic. And, oh yeah, a huge festival (one of what, 50 this year?) that had a major arterial road blocked off for at least half a mile. I might make it ….
What it didn’t tell me, but I remembered in time, is that the office closes every day for lunch. I put that errand off for another day.
But what if Waze was hooked into NAP data, too?
I gave Waze the address of the place I wanted to go by sending it information I dug by hand from my contacts list. But what if I were able to send that info automatically? And put hours into my contact information for someone? Say, that the office opens at 9am and closes from 12:30 to 1:45 for lunch? We could Waze could read that, too, and thenlaugh at me tell me I was attempting a fool’s errand.
Or even better; if Waze was hooked into Google’s NAP data, with open and shut times? I wonder if it even supports “siesta” times? It’d be darn helpful if it did.