Apple atrocities Dark musings Fuck you, Adobe TurdPress

Software on fire

I’m having a tough morning.

Last night I realized that a bunch of the contacts on my iPad that I thought had been added to iCloud were actually living in my Google contacts. I wanted all my contacts to live in one place.

So I dragged each of contact over into iCloud. After confirming each contact was, in fact, now living in iCloud, I deleting it from Google. Then I disabled the Google account. I had to do this because whenever you add a contact to Apple Contacts, the app gives no indication of where it is going. Nor does the contact view indicate where the contact is stored. Apple’s designers apparently believed this was irrelevant information, and decided to reduce cognitive load by not showing it. Back when “it just works” was a true marketing slogan, this kind of opacity was welcome simplicity. But now that things often do not work, it provokes anxiety. It is impossible to relax and trust that no news is good news. So even though I took pains to avoid mistakes, I was apprehensive.

And sure enough, this morning I discovered that the contacts I moved are all gone. They did not stay in iCloud, where they appeared to be last night.

I don’t know what happened.

I rarely know, anymore. I just know this is typical and that there is nothing I can do to make things better. It used to not be this way. These things used to work and now they don’t.

I have the same kind of problem with WordPress. I used to love using it. Now every single day, without fail, I’m trying to write something and something just idiotic happens, and trying to resolve the idiocy makes me forget what I was writing.

Today, for instance, I was trying to make one word in a block quote italic. I selected the word and tried to italicize it. When I hit the little italic I button, the entire text block selected itself and became italicized. Another problem is cursor placement. You place the cursor where you want to type. When you start typing, however, the letters appear on the line above. It is distracting and infuriating. And these are just a few of innumerable problems.

In all these cases, I just want to tell the company how frustrating it is that their entire design system is broken. The problem is not just isolated to that one usability issue, but rather, someone has treated the design system as a massive bundle of use cases instead of a design system.

The help desk is not trained for these kinds of complaints. They are trained to walk users through features they do not understand. They cannot take interaction design feedback. Least of are they equipped to take general UI design system feedback.

If 911 operators were trained like software help desk agents, here is how a “my house is on fire” call would go.

Agent: “This 911 emergency services. Thank you for your call. How can I help you today?”

Caller: “Help! My house is on fire!”

Agent: “Ok, I understand. Your house is on fire. Can you help me understand specifically what in your house is on fire?”

Caller: “The whole house is in flames! Help!”

Agent: “It sounds like many things in your house are on fire. Let’s walk through the specific items that are burning. When did you first notice flames in your home?”

Caller: “It isn’t just things inside my house that are on fire. I’m telling you, the entire house is burning to the ground. Can you send a fire engine, please?”

Agent: “I am happy to transfer you to someone who can talk to you about your house, which I understand is on fire. Please hold.”

Robotic Voice: “Thank you for waiting. Your call is very important to us. This is why we understaff our call center to save money. Estimated wait time: 37 minutes.”




Caller: “Hello…? …HELLO???”


So much established software that won market dominance through its superior user experience — has now become complacent in its dominance and allowed itself to decay into profound brokenness. No competitors have emerged to compete with them on user experience, because users — whole industries — are locked in.

I really miss being able to just use my software and being absorbed in my work. Now, invariably, I am interrupted and distracted by bugs, usability issues, unexpected UX “improvements” that require me to relearn stuff, and just trying to get the software to do what I am trying to get it to do.

And there seems to be nothing to do or say about it. These companies are just big, blank, subscription-sucking machines with nobody at home but ambitious young product managers. It would be better nobody were home.

Apple atrocities


Apple really ought to admit to itself that its so-called iCloud is not even approaching the cloud computing ideal and design to the reality of its technological limitations.

What do I mean by the cloud computing ideal? I mean that your files are simply available everywhere, simultaneously on any device.

iCloud very dramatically fails to achieve this effect. Its technological operations are front-and-center. It is painfully obvious that files are being synchronized across devices, and that the user must wait for the synchronization operation to complete before the files from one device are transferred to the new one.

This synchronizing files model requires a different kind of user experience design than a true cloud computing model, which permits a featureless simplicity. The process happens so invisibly and reliably that there’s no question of availability of data or files, or whether the available data or files is the most current.

Syncing, however, requires visibility and control so users know what going and and can do something about it. Because with syncing there is an obvious temporary discrepancy between what a user sees on one device and another. This is most certainly the user experience of “iCloud”. A user moving across devices must patiently wait for files, photos, contacts, etc. to appear, and there is absolutely no way to see what’s going on. You just have to wait and wait and wait and hope there isn’t another damn glitch requiring you to sign out and sign back into your iCloud account on one or both of the possibly malfunctioning devices.

But Apple seems to think its Jobsian Reality Distortion Field is still operational. It thinks that if it keeps pretending its botched syncing is a magically simple cloud experience — if it sings out “ta da!” insistently enough — its cult of uncritical boneheads will just believe what Apple wants them to believe. And you know what? Apple is 100% correct.

But I do not believe. I do not believe because I notice things and think about them. That is what smart people do. Stupid people copy the thoughts of people they think are smart, and then stupidly imagine that copying smart person thoughts makes them smart.

If, God forbid, I were the product manager of iCloud, I’d drop all pretense of cloud computing.

First, I’d rename the product iSync, to avoid accusations of false advertising. Just kidding: there are no such accusations. I’d rename it out of shame.

And then I would give users visibility into synchronization progress and manual control over the synchronization, similar to what Google Drive provides (except, of course, I would use UX best practices and do the design work right, instead of letting my tech team mangle the j0b, and consequently subjecting users to frustration and confusion, and then trying to unmangle the mangledness in real-time, creating yet more frustration and confusion, in the manner prescribed by Eric Ries — an approach that seems absolutely logical if you happen to be a typical omniscient techie sociopath who thinks “experience” is a glitzy synonym for “user interface”). That’s right: I’d have a damn progress bar with some info on what files are syncing, along with some kind of time estimate. And there’d be a nice fat “Sync” button on every screen, if only to function like a cross walk button placebo. The machine is listening and at least pretending to respond to my incessant button poking.

Then I would re-hire Scott Forstall, revert iOS to version 6 and try to pretend the last decade of iOS never happened. And anyone heard saying the word “skeuomorphism” in the halls of the Apple’s headquarters would be tased and ejected from the glass bagel into the artificial wilderness of Cupertino.

Happy New Year.

Apple atrocities

iPad widget fail

Here’s me trying to arrange widgets on my iPad.

What I want to do is put the battery widget on the left, then the calendar widget in the middle, and the reminders widget on the right.

What the iPad wants is anything but that.

Apple atrocities

Pasting with formatting

Why is the default paste on nearly every application “paste with formatting”? Is that really what most users want most of the time?

Has anyone even looked into it? From all appearances nobody has. Every app has “paste with formatting” as the default, and has created its own unique, complicated and counterintuitive multi-key combo to get “paste without formatting”. Since it is different in every app we never learn it. We use the menu, or develop awkward workarounds to shed the formatting.

But somehow worse than this is Apple’s implementation in Mail on iOS. Get a load of this: there is no paste without formatting option at all. There is no “remove formatting” or “set to default” option, either. The normal formatting of the email must be manually applied, parameter by parameter.

So imagine a scenario where a very bitter user named Stephen sees a headline on a website set in 72 point Jackass Sans Bold Italic from one of those eye-destroying light-on-dark night formats ever design lemming in the world has decided on masse to make the norm. If this angry little Stephen person tries to copy this headline and paste it into an email to the last person on earth willing to listen to his bilious spew, he will have to first find and select the white text he just pasted, which is completely invisible against the white background of the email, then manually reformat it to match the typeface and size the rest of the email is set in, whatever that is.

Let’s just hope this Stephen guy has a blog dedicated to shit design where he can vent his fury. When bad design is your muse, your inspiration will heave forth endlessly.

Moral: Always, always, always offer “paste without formatting”, and maybe even consider making that the default. Just because every other designer is doing something, that doesn’t mean it is the smart thing to do. I swear, designers are some of the most conformist innovators you’ll ever meet.