Tag Archives: apple

What is hidden in positive statements

I just finished reading The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind by Marvin Minsky It was a really interesting book which I really recommend. I would like to highlight this part from the first chapter “Falling in Love”

On the surface such statements seem positive; they’re all composed of superlatives. But note that there’s something strange about this: most of those phrases of positive praise use syllables like ‘un–’, ‘–less’, and ‘in-‘un-’, ‘-less’, and ‘in-’—which show that they really are negative statements describing the person who’s saying them!

Wonderful. Indescribable,
—— (I can’t figure out what attracts me to her.)
I scarcely can think of anything else.
—— (Most of my mind has stopped working.)
Unbelievably Perfect. Incredible.
—— (No sensible person believes such things.)
She has a Flawless Character.
——(I’ve abandoned my critical faculties.)
There is nothing I would not do for her.
—— (I’ve forsaken most of my usual goals.)

Positive statements might hide what we really are thinking about. Did you heard in a wedding someone saying “He’s a very lucky man for marring her”? What that person probably meant was something like: “He’s lucky because I can’t understand how a woman like her could marry a man like him” or “He’s lucky because she could find a better man”

Reading about iOS7 Design Resources in the iOS Human Interface Guidelines I found a similar approach comparing iOS 7 and iOS 6. Look at the screenshot:

ios7ios6

This looks wrong. One thing is to talk about the improvements of iOS 7 and the changes they made, and another thing is to trash your previous product. They are not doing it explicitly, but they are doing it indirectly.

  • Deference. The UI helps users understand and interact with the content, but never competes with it. (The previous design competed with the content and wasn’t clear)
  • Clarity. Text is legible at every size, icons are precise and lucid, adornments are subtle and appropriate, and a sharpened focus on functionality motivates the design. (Icons weren’t precise and adornments were not appropriate)
  • Depth. Visual layers and realistic motion impart vitality and heighten users’ delight and understanding. (Previous design lacked vitality and was hard to understand)

These three positive statements would be just fine if they were announcing iOS 7 as a new product for the first time. In that case the listener wouldn’t have a previous model to compare with and would use the hidden negative statements on the competition. But comparing in this way your current product with the previous one is just trashing your previous work. That damages the credibility of what Apple continually claims about their products, depicting them as the best in the market. How could they say they have the best Mobile OS if they are trashing it when the next version comes out.

I think that the right thing to do should be to avoid direct comparisons between your own products and only point out the evolution, the improvement, the new features instead of sending subliminal messages to costumers saying “today we sell you gold and tomorrow we will call it shit”.

First impressions about Mavericks

I installed Mavericks over Mountain Lion on a MacBook Air early 2011. Let’s first start with the good stuff I found so far:

  1. More disk space. Before the installation I had 22GB free and now I have 34GB free. I have no idea what stuff was occupying 10GB of space, anyway it’s gone!
  2. Faster! Yes surprisingly it’s faster than Mountain Lion and Lion. I was a little bit afraid about the speed, specially after seeing how bad iOS 7 is doing on the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
  3. All my important apps work. So far I tried: TrueCrypt, VirtualBox, Chicken, Google Earth, LightRoom, Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS4, AptanaStudio 3, Libre Office, TextWrangler, Audacity, VLC, JEDict, CyberDuck, Skype, go2Shell, Temperature Gauge.
  4. Leap Motion drivers work.
  5. Full screen works as indicated by Apple. I finally have my top bar enabled on the second monitor so I can now work full screen without sacrificing one monitor. I had one pretty bad issue that will be explained later in the post.
  6. The american voice Samantha is sexier than before.
  7. Disk utility didn’t crash until now…
  8. Battery had a better performance. I didn’t measure the charge time, but it discharges at a slower pace.

Bugs:

  1. I can’t rotate the second monitor. I used it at 90 degrees rotation but I can’t use it now. It was very handy specially to see the iPad/iPhone simulator working on it… Look at the image. This is ridiculous:
  2. Bug Rotation

  3. When I activated the second monitor in LightRoom it worked fine. But the second one’s top bar overlapped the maximized Lightroom’s second view. I can adjust that by making the second view a window but there should be no overlap of the content.
  4. bug full screen

  5. Sometimes you get something like this. I was in the launchpad and the app behind got an alert. The mouse pointer was operative with the launchpad icons but the content of the program overlapped the launchpad view. I had to click outside the window to get rid off the launchpad and respond to the message. If this is not a bug, it’s poor design
  6. bug launchpad

  7. In Lightroom I don’t get the right colors on the controls. Look at the image on the left is from Lightroom running on Mountain Lion and the right one on Mavericks. Don’t you see something is missing?
  8. mavericks lightroom bug

  9. I also had an issue with the keyboards. I have a Japanese keyboard which I use most of the time. I also installed an Italian and Spanish keyboard when I have to write in those languages. The problem is that the Japanese keyboard, when is set to Romaji, it means to write in roman characters, thinks that the previous used keyboard is the default romaji. So I ended up with a Spanish keyboard when I want to use the Japanese distribution. This didn’t happen with Mountain Lion. I fixed it by installing the US keyboard which maps the Japanese one. This is conceptually wrong, because based with the previous schema, the US keyboard should match an US keyboard distribution instead the Japanese one. Finally I gave up all the keyboards and I followed the advice of my friend @rcivit Now I use shortcuts to create characters like éáñ and so forth. Anyway I still have to install the US keyboard on a Japanese keyboard to have the right mapping…

So far so good, I won’t rollback to Mountain Lion mainly because Mavericks seems faster and more battery friendly. Anyway I wouldn’t use it for your production machine after at least 5 or 6 months.

The challenge of user interfaces simplification

iOS 7 is here. I’ve been using it since the first beta. As far as user interfaces are effective, I don’t care too much about aesthetic, also because it’s totally subjective. What is ugly for you is beautiful for someone else. In a previous post I shared a couple of screenshots showing the difference between icons in Xcode 3.2, 4.6 and 5.0. You can see a progressive simplification of the interface. First flatting colors then flatting depth. The challenge with this design is to avoid reaching the point of maximum simplification. Let’s look at the icons in detail:

simplify

Symbols don’t have any meaning by themselves, we give meaning to symbols and icons which simply are symbols, ideograms, pictograms. If we keep the design around the first icon on the left, it’s possible to change its look without changing its meaning. It’s not a practical need, but an aesthetic one, and I understand that’s more a marketing choice than a practical one. Even if nothing really changed inside the application, a new look gives you the idea that you have a new and fresh product.

The problem with the icon on the right is that simplification reached the limit. It’s so simple, so minimalist, that a change of its design means also changing the symbol and therefore removing the meaning. Symbols are powerful and that’s why many people over the years in history tried to steal symbols and change their original meaning, like the the Nazis did with the swastika. We should avoid changing symbols too often, because that removes semantic consistency in the interface and creates confusion.

Another example:

simplify02

The icon in 5.0 is a simplification of the correspondent in 3.2. The icon in 4.6 is a change in the previous symbol, creating confusion and inconsistency. Then they changed it back again to the original one. The new one has very little room to evolve or change without changing the symbol. It’s the extreme simplification of the original one.

I think that iOS 7 and the OSX interface and design are great. They are simple, effective, intuitive and fun but over simplifying hides the potential risk of reaching a point where simplification cannot be accomplished anymore and the only possible choice is changing the symbol, therefore breaking consistency.

I’m curios to see if, at this point, they will be able to update the design in the future without breaking the symbolic consistency.

OSX flat design doesn’t mean cryptic.

Xcode 4.6.x had already some sort of flat design. They removed the colors and everything was flat and grey but at least it had some sort of depth. Look at these screenshots:

Xcode 4.6.x

xcodeorg01

xcodeorg02

Now look at the new Xcode 5.0 flat design. I don’t see an improvement. It looks like an old fashioned GUI of the 90’s. It’s even hard to understand what the icons mean. It’s so abstract that someday we’ll need an ideogram dictionary to understand what those icons mean.

Xcode 5.x

xcodenew01

xcodenew02

Now look at a very old version of Xcode 3.2.x and tell me which one do you prefer. Honestly I don’t see an evolution in the look and design from colorful and self explanatory icons to cryptic flat ones. Flat design is not bad and it doesn’t even matter if it’s flat or not. The point here is that an user interface should be self explanatory, an icon should be worth a thousand words.

Xcode 3.2.x

xcodeold01

xcodeold02

Photographers Rights App Stats

Since I released Photographers Rights I didn’t think too much about download numbers. I spent some time to compiling some charts and pies to show you how the app did since the beginning of time. In total the app was downloaded since november 2011, 25,820 times until today (July 12, 2013).
I released a new version in June 21st 2013 and 6,918 people downloaded the update. That’s just 26% of all users. This is not an app that you will use daily, but you will love to have it when you need it.

The app was downloaded from all over the world but I just added the main downloading countries. Thailand downloaded a lot, that was quite a surprise, thanks Thailand! :)

Actually there is an Indiegogo campaign to improve this app. You can help me a lot by sharing this campaign in your social networks. It’s a good app for photographers and it’s free but it really needs some of the improvements I listed in the campaign: http://igg.me/at/photorights/x/3186601

Version 2.0
v2pie

v2chart

Version 1.0
v1pie

v1chart

Getting things well done!

After I read the news about Steve Jobs stepping back as Apple’s CEO, I was going back in time, digging in my memories and experiences, since the first day I started working in an IT company. I came up with a really simple conclusion that needs some explanation. It’s so simple that just saying it, has no effect. But it’s really powerful.

I have a long experience working with workaholics and micromanagers. I’m wrong if I put these two profiles together. A micromanager can be a workaholic but not all workaholics are micromanagers. In fact many of them are not managers at all.
I know how these profiles behave, how they think. I know how to predict many of their actions, in fact they are very predictable. I know how bad they can be for a company, how much they can damage a working environment. Sometimes they can also be useful, but it’s much better if they never have total power and are managed by somebody else that knows exactly what kind of people they’re dealing with. They are not bad or good people, in fact their behavior roots are very complex.

After reading many articles about Steve Jobs, his personality, about glimpses of his life and stories from people that know him; there was something that wasn’t clear to me. He is usually described as a workaholic and a micromanager. Many people now is saying that this, hypothetical “qualities”, are good for a CEO and maybe many people will try to get inspired by those descriptions. Well, I don’t know him, but thinking about what he did and what Apple was doing under his control, makes me think completely different.

I read a story (worth reading) today in Google+, from Vic Gundotra that inspired me to write this post. He talks about Steve Jobs calling him by phone, on a Sunday morning, talking about the yellow gradient of the second O in the Google icon on the iPhone. How do you interpret that? Obviously that Steve is a workaholic and a micromanager. But wait a minute. I’m pretty sure he was right about the yellow gradient of that icon. Nobody else would have changed it, or even care about it. So, who had to do it then? Someone that really cares about doing things well: Steve Jobs.

So let’s think about this from a different approach. Think about all the things you think are really well done, from a refrigerator, a car, a phone, whatever, and put them in one set. Then do the opposite, you will find that it’s much easier to find things that have been just done but not well done. You can have a Windows PC and it can help you to perform common operations on a computer, but if you compare it with a Mac, you will notice the difference. Operations are the same, the purpose is the same but almost every corner in the the Apple machine is well designed or at least, they really tried to do it well, and that’s important.

So, do you think that Steve Jobs behavior can just be classified as a workaholic and a micromanager? If you ever worked with that kind of people, do you think that they can achieve, what Steve did? To be disruptive in technology you need to be able to see the big picture, to make an abstraction of the tiny world that surrounds everyone of us and think differently. Somebody that gets trapped in a compulsive behavior denotes his/her incapacity to perform such abstraction from their environment. So, do you still think that the key is being, apparently, a workaholic and a micromanager? I don’t think so. There is much more behind that. If we look at the root problem, it’s easy to realize that sooner or later somebody has to do things well to achieve success. What if somebody else noticed that the yellow gradient was wrong and was willing to change it? Do you think that Steve would have been there, spending his time taking care even of that tiny detail if everybody took care of details willing to get things well done? I don’t know, maybe, but probably not.

I remember a painful time with a micromanager I worked with years ago. I like to take care about details and get things well done without having a bad impact on production. I didn’t even know that I wanted to do things well, it was just the way I felt comfortable. He was the opposite, he micromanaged me in every possible way, telling me even how to code stuff that he had no idea about. He forced me to take wrong paths because usually a micromanager is a paranoid that thinks that only him is the right guy to do the job. At the end, his interventions were useless and made me waste a lot of time that I could spend improving my work. Later he realized I was right. We still had time to fix it but, as the project worked, his mentality followed with the “who cares, as far as it works!!” mentality.
This mentality is the root of every thing that gets done, but that never will get well done!
This is the big difference. You can improve that icon, setting the right yellow to the second O. It’s not a waste of time. Tiny details make a big difference when they merge in the final product.

If you lead, if you are responsible for a project and you care to get things well done, if you care about details, about the big picture and realize that it’s made by all those tiny insignificant parts, if you just care! If you love to see the job done perfectly and beautifully, but you are alone… what will you become if nobody else cares and think that you are just an obsessive person? You become like Steve Jobs, and, in that case, you have to carry all the weight and do it by yourself.

To conclude: it’s hard for me to believe that he is a real, by nature micromanager. Maybe he is a workaholic and a forced micromanager. Just taking a look to Apple products and how they are always ahead of time from everybody else, gives a clue of what is the behavioral pattern that he wanted to be embedded in the company.

This is the inspiration I want to take from all this. I will always try to keep “getting things well done”. I didn’t really realize about this subtle-different-simple concept before, until now. I loved to see things getting closer to perfection and never reaching it, but I didn’t realize that the main stream just don’t care as far as they are not the consumers.

I’ll keep this in mind for all my applications. Even if it’s a free app, even if it’s just a prototype, even if the app produces no profit at all, adding a little constant effort and just having the will to take care of the whole thing, keeping in mind that a perfect whole is made by it’s tiny perfect parts, is the most important quality to get things well done.