Wednesday, May 26, 2021

applications and appliances that think they know

We recently got a condo and it came with a microwave that is much more powerful than our old one. One thing I find irksome about it is the message that comes up when the heating cycle is done:


I hate the presumption, that the appliance knows what I'm doing! It just doesn't! Maybe it's food that has a multi-step form of preparation! Or maybe I'm heating up a beverage! Eh? Eh? Ever think of that you stupid microwave? That's why we say "food AND drink". Or maybe we're warming a heating pad or something! Yeah, you're convenient at heating up moisture-laden things but you're not the end-all be-all of food preparation, stay in your lane.

Similar deal for Google Maps. I felt it was a bit overbold to say "Welcome Home" when I arrived after plotting the landmark I labeled as "Home" - like, you're not my part of my household, dude. But worse is finishing a trip and the destination was a restaurant... like I think it says "Bon Appetit!" or whatever. What if I was just using the restaurant as a landmark? The cyber-chumminess is grating.

I know my gripes seem petty, but they're all a hallmark of more fundamental problems when a designer assume they understood the fullness of a usecase and then try to make convenience that only apply to that usecase, and mask the underlying details of the task. Like a smart appliance that "learns" from when you change the thermostat, but then of course has no idea to stop doing that when you're on vacation. Or AI-ish stuff that offers to make an appointment in your calendar based on the content of an email. The hit rate is pretty 50/50 in terms of it getting enough context to do it properly - and while I'm sort of lax about privacy I have mixed feelings about a corporate-backed AI smart enough to do it well reading all my mail.

I much prefer tools that focus on a single task, that don't assume they know what you want to do before you do, and that "show their work" so when they do misguess they are easily corrected, and if the user  wants to do something slightly off the well-beaten path they understand the underlying actual concepts, it's not just "computer always did it for me!" magic.  Systems that are all built on "Guess What I Mean" philosophy often make you pay for the extra convenience with later frustration.

Monday, May 24, 2021

unicode icon-like things

Here are 100+ unicode symbols that you can use instead of icons. Nice to be able to do some iconography but still keep everything as a "simple" string.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Timesheet Tim and the Ghosts of Timesheets Future

 My company has a moderately annoying timesheet policy. 

At a previous gig, I took on the form of Nagbot 3000 (those were status updates, actually).

I've been trying to help nudge my work gang - it's not like I really care (heck my manager things they're rather silly too, but you know- business) and when you google for Timesheet Reminders, most of the memes are kind of like "I want you to do timesheets":

But that belligerent vibe isn't what I'm going for! I mean, I don't care about timesheets, I just know that they're an easy thing to forget, and I want to help my teammates...

Anyway, last week I typo'd "timesheet tim!" for "timesheet time!" and it kinda sorta stuck so I think I'm just going to stick with this image from now on:

(I scribbled in my glasses and thin beard) I like the idea of a character who is just... enthusiastic about timesheets, and hope you will share in his joy.

Hm. Maybe I should make a meme-generator like thing for this, have him mix it up every week...

UPDATE: I made the generator. Didn't do any fancy P5 that would generate the image, screenshots should be enough I think.
UPDATE 2: eventually I started asking ChatGPT to rewrite my message in "cockney dialect". It's, like, barely Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins level, but it gets the job done.

rule of thirds redux

A while back I took a photography class, and of course was introduced to the "rule of thirds", using a "tic-tac-toe" board to help line up things in the shot. (Most cameras/apps have an option to show the thirds.) So I asked my instructor... "this rule of thirds thing... like sometimes we use it to put things in the squares:

Other times the point seems to be to place things on the separating lines or intersections:
So which is it?"

Her wishy-washy response taught me the lesson: mostly it's just a trick to stop newbie photographers from centering every damn shot.

Myth #4 of this video agrees with this observation:

pretty pretty macs

I really liked this graphic from  The New iMac Design is Perfect:

I really do like my 32" LG monitor which for me has the a similar energy, especially with the slight uptilt I have it at. The other day I documented my office/dressing room:

(very self-indulgent link going over all the art and artifacts) 

If you're fortunate enough to be able to make a "room of ones own" sanctuary/workspace, I'd recommend it!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

simplest deep array copy in javascript

Whenever I go a while without a blog update, I think of the character "Jim Anchower" on the Onion, with editorials that usually started "Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya".

But, you know. I moved last month, and work has been very good but more about building with tech we established in previous sprints than learning new stuff I wanted to share and record...

Anyway, I had to look up how to clone arrays in javascript... most of them are only shallow copies, bad for two dimensional stuff, but this trick works a treat:

const copiedArray = JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(originalArray));