Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Behaviorally Smart Notifications

This is a great example of applying behavioral design to smart notification - a fitness app that looks ahead in your schedule, finds a good time to exercise, and notifies you with enough advance warning that you can use your long term thinking (which is less susceptible to excuse-making).

The notification can even be customized with your own message to yourself - with details of how and why to do it: "put your running shoes and gym clothes in the car - you have nothing scheduled at work today from 12 to 2pm. You want to live long enough to see your grand kids get married, don't you?" Or whatever message will specifically resonate with you.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review Conflict

I recently offered to review a book for a popular web site that specializes in User Experience. I know that the book is one that few people who use the site will already have read and would probably not ever read based on the title or the subject. But in my polymath way, I know that the contents of the book could be very valuable to them and I hope I can translate it so that the value to their specific lives is clear. 

But that is not what a book review are supposed to do. The EID site or this blog is where I should do stuff like that. A book review is supposed to talk about whether the book has quality content, is well written, well organized, well sourced, and that kind of thing. Not promote the value of its content.

This brings up challenge number two. I am a dedicated fanboy of the book’s author. I read his blog, subscribe to his podcast, and now read his books (his second one comes out in the next few months and I plan to get that one as well). Can I keep an open mind when reading and reviewing the book?  Or will natural human biases hijack my opinion and insert my expectations and preferences into my review? 

I have written dozens of technical book reviews and read hundreds. But I have never had this much potential for bias and internal conflict. I guess I will have to read the book, write the review, and let you know.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Starbucks Epic Fail with #RaceTogether

I am sure most of you have heard about Starbucks’ social responsibility marketing campaign called “Race Together.”  If you haven’t, they are encouraging baristas to write (randomly) on some customers’ cups the hashtag #Racetogether.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s grand idea was that we need to have more conversations about race, demonstrated by Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, etc.  He thought this might get customers asking the barista what the bleep it meant and that could start a conversation about race.  40% of Starbuck’s baristas are minorities. 

With all due respect to a good intention, if I wanted to have a conversation about race, the last person I would choose is my barista.  Random people using a Twitter hashtag they found at Starbucks is not far from the bottom either.  Perhaps they could encourage you to talk about race with whoever you came to Starbucks with, except for the fact that Starbucks seems to be filled with people who came to camp out alone at a table and work.  Or takeout. 

So good for Howard Schultz in trying to get us talking about race.  But as for the marketing team that came up with the implementation . . . . .  You really suck.

This Week in EID - Episode 46

If you have been following the EID articles this week (or read my preview in last week’s pre-cap), you may have noticed that these were all follow-ups on previous articles (Workplace Design, Driving Assistance, and Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies).  That was a strategic decision, to have a week of deep dives into specific topics.  We will continue some of them next week, but also start some new ones.

The exception was our One Year Anniversary post (wow, can you believe it has only been a year !!!).  We stole a chapter from Ta-Nehisi Coates and created an Open Forum.  Post anything you want, even if it is just remotely, tangentially related to the EID scope of human factors, ergonomics, user experience, persuasive design, cognitive science, human behavior, and innovation. If you noticed that this is just recap Episode 46 (instead of 52), it is because we didn't think of the recap idea for the first six weeks. But I am very impressed by your attention to detail for noticing!

I also want to introduce Boyi Hu as the newest member of the EID Team.  We will be posting his bio on the site in the very near future, but for now, just keep that name in mind.  He will be helping us out with our social media strategy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More on Free Speech

I should have waited one more week before posting my thoughts about free speech versus ethical speech versus practical speech.  The news this week has been chock full of people using their free speech rights to say the stupidest things.  But rather than condemn what they said, I want to use them as strawmen to continue this discussion.

First, consider the comments by Dolce & Gabbana.  They are a pretty famous same sex couple.  You might assume that they have progressive views about same sex couples having children.  But they came out against it.  They are from traditional Italian families where the idea seemed somehow wrong.

The most controversial thing they said was that using IVF to enable a same sex couple to have a baby created a “synthetic” child.  Wow did they take flack for that comment!  Dozens of celebrities (the only people who can afford D&G clothing) said they were going to toss all of their D&G clothing.  Elton John was first and loudest.  He created a hashtag and started the boycott campaign.  But he was definitely not the last.  D&G responded in the somewhat usual fashion.  They said they were only speaking about their own views.  Just for them as traditional Sicilians.  They weren’t commenting on what other people should do or have done.  But that of course makes no sense.  If they would consider an IVF child they personally conceived as “synthetic” then of course they would think the same of others. 

They also defended themselves by saying they were only exercising their right to free speech.  A lot of “experts” came out in support of this view, so this is the point I want to discuss. They absolutely have the right to express their views on the subject.  But that doesn’t mean they should in fact express them.  Free speech means that there should be no government sanction of what they said. They should not be put in jail nor should there be any civil fines.  On the other hand, we are equally free to exercise our own freedom of speech to condemn what they said, their ideas, and to recommend to all of our networks to also condemn them.  We can exercise our freedoms by boycotting the purchase of any D&G goods and services.  We can let social Darwinism take its natural course.  By supporting D&G’s freedom of speech, their ideas become known.  We can thereby condemn them, stop purchasing from them, put them out of business, and hopefully help to bring forward the day when such ignorant ideas disappear.  Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from condemnation of what you say.  Just imprisonment for it.

A somewhat harder case is the University of Oklahoma fraternity that was caught singing an incredibly racist song.  This is much more repugnant for a variety of ideas.  More people were involved.  It was at a place of higher learning where small “l” liberalism should flourish.  Acceptance and open-mindedness is very important. 

These students also have a right to free speech.  They should not be jailed nor subject to civil fines for singing a racist song.  And as with D&G, we can immediately use our own rights to free speech to condemn them.  In fact, the publicity around the song makes us aware of the values that this fraternity espouses and we can act accordingly.  That is a good thing.

But the University of Oklahoma is a state school, which means it is a quasi-governmental organization.  So I have mixed thoughts about what steps the school should take.  Part of me thinks that as a state school they should not take action against the individuals or their speech (by expelling them).  Governmental organizations should not be involved in preventing or punishing speech.  On the other hand, taking steps against the organization (the fraternity) would be OK because it is a campus organization, with the implicit support of the school.  But another part of me thinks that because schools can only be effective if they support an open platform for ideas, they have a responsibility to prevent/punish speech that would detract from the open exchange by making other students feel unwelcome.

Only the most constrained limitation on speech that is possible that would achieve the goal.  If it is too broad, the punishment rules would constrain more speech than they enable. So what I think I would recommend is to take the two students who were the leaders of the event, who clearly (from my viewing of the video) believe in what was being said in a very visceral sense, and expel them.  I hate to ever close the book on someone, but I don’t think they can be reeducated. 

On the other hand, for the rest of the students, who may not have believed the racist views and were succumbing to peer pressure or perhaps grew up in isolated (it is Oklahoma after all) communities where they didn’t realize the extent of what they were doing.  I am NOT saying to give them a pass, so please hold your flames. But I suspect that expelling them would cause a bitterness that is more likely to lock in their racist perspective.  That makes the situation worse.  It leads them to hide their views and makes it harder to fight them.

What I think might be better is to sentence them to 100 hours of community service tutoring children in a disadvantaged African American community.  Have them learn personally how great those kids are and how the racist views expressed in that song are totally wrong.  Why don’t we try a constructive response that at least makes a little progress towards fighting the problem at its root?

The last example is from Facebook, which recently published a reminder of its policy on free speech.  They reminded users that its terms of service gives them the right and the responsibility to delete posts that contain hate speech or other language that they deem inappropriate.  FB is a private organization, responsible to its shareholders and Board and whatever stakeholders they choose to support (customers, employees, etc).  They have the right to establish whatever terms of service they want for using its service.  If you agree with their terms, you can use their service.  If not, no one is forcing you.  They are subject to some laws, such as being subject to a subpoena or warrant from law enforcement and to prevent copyright infringement. 

But not to allow the same freedom of speech as the government is. (Their international operations are subject to some additional requirements from foreign governments, but that is a topic for another time).  On the other hand, there are ethical requirements and practical calculations that encourage them to have terms of service that restrict socially unacceptable speech as part of the terms of service.  How they balance the social pressure to allow free speech with the social pressure to prevent bigoted speech, bullying speech, or other socially unacceptable speech is a really tough path to navigate. And then balance that with the business objectives of maximizing membership and usage numbers.  I would actually love to have that job, but I am pretty sure they hire lawyers and ethicists for that.  Well, at least lawyers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

This Week in EID - Episode 45

We are doing something new on EID starting this week.  The Monday post on the Fast Company 50 Most Innovative Companies is going to be the first in a series.  I don’t want to give away too much, but this coming Monday will also be related to that issue.  So will a few more future Mondays, the exact number to be determined. 

In sort of the same vein, Wednesday’s post on dynamic workplace design will be followed up next week with another post on workplace design.  This may be a short series because I haven’t seen a lot of new research in this area.  If you have seen anything interesting, please let me know.  Or if you have expertise of your own to share, let me know and we can invite you to submit a guest post.

We don’t want to do this with every day of the week, because we want to leave space for some fun and irreverent ideas too.  This is also a great space to invite guest posts.  Personally, I love the irreverent and off the wall topics best.  And they are even better when they come from someone else because then they are a surprise to me too.  So think of something that might be engaging to the EID readership and let me know.  The dog story on Thursday was my own, spotted walking down the street on the way to work.  You might remember my mushroom story that occurred in much the same way.  Those are the kinds of stories we are looking for.

Finally, there was Tuesday’s “eat your own cooking” post.  This is a common refrain for me.  I see this kind of behavior everywhere.  Content marketing vendors who don’t do a good job with their own content marketing.  Customer service reps who seem to know nothing about their customer.  And on it goes.

Your Turn

So here is your chance to become an official guest author (is that an oxymoron?).  Please share.