Sometimes it takes longer to automate something than it would to just repeat it yourself. Calvin designing a robot to clean his room, for instance. The method of estimating how long it takes to do the thing, how many times you have to do the thing, and then how long it would take to automate doing the thing, is a pretty good guideline.

But there are other factors: Like, can you include it in a checklist? If not, what are the chances that you’ll forget to do the thing? And what happens if you forget? What if you might hand things over to someone else and three people down the line, the fact that you need to do the thing doesn’t get passed along?

Or what if you have a situation like Desmond at the Dharma Initiative numbers station, and they know the step is “required,” but don’t know why? (Not that you’re likely to have quite so severe a failure mode!)

Anyway, today I automated some post-processing on a site that I hardly ever change. Not because it’s a pain to do the post-processing. Not because it takes a long time. But simply because if I don’t build it into the process, the next time I change something a year down the line I’ll probably have forgotten that I need to do the post-processing!

I was looking for sandals and found these. They’re flip flops with a built in bottle opener, I suppose to make them more…cool? Gadget-y? But it’s on the sole of the shoe.

Someone really didn’t think this design through.

Update: There are some replies at Wandering Shop from people who’ve worn or used these. Apparently there’s another variation with a built-in flask.

Putting a straight-party checkbox on a ballot violates a key design principle: The polling place and ballot should strive to avoid steering people toward specific choices. This is also why some places randomize candidates’ names or stick with alphabetical order.

The human brain would rather work on auto-pilot than think carefully. Give it an excuse to stick with auto-pilot, and it’ll happily do so.

Even if that means outsourcing your vote to the people who chose the slate and designed the ballot.

You can choose to vote a straight-party ticket, but the ballot design shouldn’t influence you to do it.

I figured out exactly what bugs me about Twitter and Facebook showing your friends’ “likes” in the timeline. It’s not just that they’re public — that’s true on Tumblr or Flickr or Instagram too, but you only see them when you choose to look for them.

It’s that broadcasting likes in the newsfeed blurs your intent.

  • A “like” is a message to the original post’s author (and a bookmark for yourself).
  • A retweet or share is a message to your friends or followers.

Putting them in your followers’ feeds turns a “like” into a message to them as well, even though it’s not what you intended. (If you wanted to share it, you would have shared it, right?) It’s a step above completely frictionless sharing, but it still messes with the signal/noise ratio of the timeline.

I don’t like Twitter threads.

In most cases, if something takes more space than one or two tweets to say, it’s easier to read as an article. It’s especially bad with very long threads, and those that aren’t crafted to make each tweet a unit. When sentences continue on from one tweet to the next as if they’re only line breaks, it makes it hard to pick out a statement to highlight, or where to start.

On the plus side: Tweets are more likely to be seen, more easily shared, and people can interact as they’re posted, like a live conversation. A thread that’s crafted to fit in 140-character chunks has a rhythm to it, like a daily comic strip collection vs. a comic book. And an unplanned tweetstorm gives both the writer a chance to get their ideas down quickly and the reader a chance to see them unfiltered.

Compared to an article, a tweetstorm provides immediacy, and any Twitter thread provides reach. But they’re still a pain to read.

Also written (of course) as this twitter thread.