The most effective user interfaces aren't invisible. They're sneaky.

The 'best' user interfaces (UIs) are invisible.

Catchy statement, right? After all, UIs like those are the ones you don't notice, cause you're busy getting stuff done.

Except that it isn't true.

The most effective UIs are the ones that make it easy, and even pleasurable for you to do what THEY want you to do.

And what a UI wants you to do may not be what you want to do. (I'll leave the question of 'best for whom' aside for now.)

For example...

Casino UI
Ahh, hello human, I want you to stay with me, and spend money continuously, for as long as possible, so that my owners can profit from you. :D

Human
I want to win! Winning makes me feel great! I'm sure my next big win is just around the corner!
This is rather different from you, the human, saying, I want to stay in this place and spend money continuously, for as long as possible.


Online Shopping UI (E.g. Fashion)
Hi there human, I want you to desire everything I have on offer, and spend as much money as possible, so I'm gonna make buying as easy as possible. As far as I'm concerned, you can't buy too much! :D

Human
I wanna look good to other humans! And I don't wanna be ripped off while I... ooh shiny! I need this! And this! And this! Ooh and this!



Clinical UI (E.g. Doctor)
Hey doc, I want you to accurately record all the relevant information about your patients, so that your patients can get the best care you're able to provide. :D

Human
I want to make sure that I get everything down accurately, so that my colleagues and I are able to help our patients achieve the best outcomes possible.


Usability is ethically neutral - UI design isn't

There's an assumption that UIs that are user-friendly, and 'delightful' have our best interests at heart. From the examples above, this obviously isn't always true. It may not even often be true.

Casino UI is a great example of conflict between what we want, and what the UI wants us to do. We appear to be travelling on the same 'journey', but at the end of the day, the relationship is parasitical at best, and adversarial at worst.

Online Shopping UI has a less toxic relationship with us, as users. At least the UI isn't expressly designed to exploit our human weaknesses for profit. As a merchant's proxy, the UI very reasonably wants to make its goods attractive to us, and make it easy for us to buy stuff.

Clinical UI is what we tend to assume we're getting, even when that trust is unwarranted. It embodies the classic concept of 'best UI'. What Clinical UI wants us to do works hand in hand with what we want to achieve for our patients.

But even if the usability of all three UIs is the same, the ethical contrast between the three UI designs couldn't be more different.

When it comes to usability, it's important to remember that there's no moral value attached to how easy something is to use. Moral value comes into existence when ease-of-use and pleasure is harnessed to directing specific behaviours.

When we look at it that way, it's pretty easy to say: Casino UI is evil, Online Shopping is neutral, and Clinical UI is good.

UX and UI design are essentially the design of systems, products, and interfaces that encourage, reinforce, and reward specific user behaviours.

Whether the outcomes of these specific behaviours are beneficial or harmful to us - as users - is highly dependent on why the product was created in the first place.

So the next time someone tells you that all you do as a designer is 'make pretty buttons', tell them that the pretty buttons are just a small, unthreatening part of designing reward systems for sneaky mind control. ;)

Edible fairy garden! (aka rose, pistachio, peach, matcha, silver sugarballs dark chocolate truffle bar thing)

Pristine Fairy Habitat

This edible fairy garden (EAT ALL THE FAIRIES!) >.> uses exactly the same base as the Hazelnut pistachio strawberry osmanthus truffle bar things.

Except that this time round, for pretties and flavourings we haz:
- rose essence
- vanilla essence
- rose petals (from dried rosebuds for rose tea - some steamed to rehydrate them, some straight off the dry buds)
- freeze-dried peach slice, chopped
- silver sugar ball things (I think they're called 'dragees'. Or maybe 'fairies'. ~_o )
- cheap matcha (nothing you'd want to make koicha, or even usucha with - good enough to cook is good enough)

Am very pleased a nugget at how the blend of flavours turned out. If you like Turkish delight chocolates, this is just the thing, with the peaches adding interesting 'high' notes, and the pistachios adding nice texture. :X The matcha just adds fairy moss.

Blurry Chunks of Sundered Fairy Habitat

Alas, all my pics of the sliced squares turned out blurry. T_T That's what I get for taking pics after sundown!

(If you're in Melbourne, don't bother with T2 matcha. It's bad. You're better off going to any random asian grocery and buying a 50g tin of matcha for $5~. Just make sure it's from Japan, and not a mainland chinese imitation. You'll be getting the same amount of quality, or lack thereof, for a tenth of the T2 price.)

Hazelnut pistachio strawberry osmanthus truffle bar things

Being the soul of restraint, it's SO unusual for me to go completely mad, and throw in the kitchen sink. Of course it is. Ahem.

1) Hmm wanna make truffles but too lazy to roll balls. Okok let's make truffle bars.
2) Drat, no Nutella, was planning to use that. Ooh but look, hazelnut essence. Ok!
3) Pistachio looks so pretty in choccies, let's throw some in.
4) Hey I have those freeze dried strawberries, and pink is pretty with green. Chop some of those and put them on top!
5) Oo yellow is pretty with pink and I just happen to have dried osmanthus flowers...

And so we have these Hazelnut pistachio strawberry osmanthus truffle bar things.

They are amazing. I don't really like chocolate, I just love how it looks. But in the process of 'squaring' the bars, I've eaten more chocolate than I have in the past 6 months, lol!

Best of all, they're super easy to make (well the base is), and you can throw as many 'pretties' as you like in / on top.

Ingredients
200ml sweetened condensed milk (aka 2 parts)
200g good 70% cocoa dark chocolate (aka 2 parts) (broken into squares it comes in. I'm too lazy to do more than that.)
25g~ honey
25g~ butter (salted, unsalted, doesn't matter. I used salted cause lazy.)
some vanilla essence
some hazelnut essence
some freeze-dried strawberries (chopped)
some osmanthus flowers
some pistachios (whole)

Crafting
1) Dump chocolate, honey, butter in a bowl.
2) Shove bowl in microwave, melt until melted. Until the chocolate and stuff is melted. Not the bowl. If the bowl has melted, you've gone too far. Safest to stop when there are a few lumps of chocolate left, and finish it by stirring it all into a homogenous gloop.
3) Throw in essences, stir stir stir till incorporated.
4) Plop in condensed milk, stir stir stir till incorporated.
5) Mix in pistachios .
6) Pour into some kind of (parchment-paper-lined) pan, make pathetic attempt at forming some sort of 'slab'.
7) Decorate with freeze-dried strawberry pieces and osmanthus flowers in a suitably 'artisanal' fashion.
8) Tos...put gently in fridge (no need to cover unless your fridge has stinky things).
9) Ignore for at least 4 hours.
10) Remoof from fridge, cut into squares.
11) Eat all the leavings that are ~_o 'unfit for presentation'.

Notes
If you want to mess with the ratio of condensed milk to chocolate, more milk will give you softer trufflepieces, more chocolate will give you harder ones (duh right). This ratio gives you pretty much perfect 'fancy truffle' texture. Not too squishy, not too hard, just right.

Necromantic Breast Preservation Society

As I was waddling along in Elder Scrolls Online, slaying skeletons left and right, something occurred to me...

I would like to posit the existence of some kind of multiversal Necromantic Breast Preservation society.

It is the only ~_o reason I can think of that across so many alternate game universes, female skeletons continue to retain their breast tissue.

Especially since, as squishy fat deposits, the breasts should be among the first things to go.

I believe that these necromancers may simply regard whatever additional preservation rituals are needed as 'breast practices'.

= = = = = = (>'-')>

Flourless peanut butter choc chip cookies from Kirbie's Cravings

These flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from Kirbie's Cravings are really quite nice! And very lazy. That's important. :X

I don't care if stuff is flourless, eggless, butterless, whateverless one way or the other, but I do care if there is less stuff I have to do. ;)

These are one-bowl, no creaming, no softening butter, etc. Basically just dump and stir. Perfect!

I didn't change the recipe at all (unusual for me), though ofc I didn't really measure stuff, I just eyeballed it...

Only things I did change were the baking times (and I think) the portion sizes.

I tend to like my cookies to be 1 teaspoon or so, rather than the 1 tablespoon that a lot of recipes seem to like.

I also reduced the baking time, because at 11m, the first batch was waaaaay overdone. Still edible, but with edges beginning to burn.

I don't think it's a problem with the original recipe though, which is great.

I think it may be that:
- my new oven runs hot
- I'm baking on parchment paper on a black cookie sheet
- my cookies are smaller

With those things in mind 8m 15s at 175C turned out perfect cookies for me! :) Yey!

Also, if you tend to think more in ratios like me, the ingredient ratio is roughly:
- 4 parts peanut butter
- 4 parts dark brown sugar
- 1 part egg
- some choc chips
- some baking powder

Three Little Pigs - A NuggeTwine Retelling.

Soooo I discovered Twine. Or re-discovered, I should say, since the last time I looked at it a long time ago, it didn't look like it would survive.

It now seems to be thriving!

And so, of course, I made a story. About pigs. 3 little ones.

Oh, I had high hopes and whattits initially, but when I sat down to write, somehow what fell out the most fluently was Three Little Pigs.

._. Go figure.

Play my epic retelling of Three Little Pigs here!

Awesome flourless fudge cookies from ihearteating.

From here:
http://www.ihearteating.com/2012/06/03/flourless-fudge-cookies/

Really nice cookies, and super lazy! Crispy on the outside, fudgy on the inside, and almost no work. :X

I did change her recipe slightly, to make it less sweet. Plus I added orange essence. And less vanilla essence.

My tweaked version

  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Some vanilla extract
  • Some orange essence
  • Some gold powdered sugar for sprinklies
  • Bake 7m 30s at just under 180C

Technique-wise, it's exactly the same as what Kate posted! Yep, no need to beat those egg whites! WOOHOO! :X

I'm not a big chocolate fan but I like these a lot. ^_^






Ponderings: Intelligence as a bonus stat & talents as base stats.

Sooo, there's an awfully interesting post, 'The Parable of the Talents' by Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex. It's about the relationship between intelligence and talent, as well as hard work.

He comes to a reasonable conclusion I agree with, that is:

The Jews also talk about how God judges you for your gifts. Rabbi Zusya once said that when he died, he wasn’t worried that God would ask him “Why weren’t you Moses?” or “Why weren’t you Solomon?” But he did worry that God might ask “Why weren’t you Rabbi Zusya?”

And this is part of why it’s important for me to believe in innate ability, and especially differences in innate ability. If everything comes down to hard work and positive attitude, then God has every right to ask me “Why weren’t you Srinivasa Ramanujan?” or “Why weren’t you Elon Musk?”

If everyone is legitimately a different person with a different brain and different talents and abilities, then all God gets to ask me is whether or not I was Scott Alexander.

This seems like a gratifyingly low bar.

However, what he doesn't seem to address is a viewpoint he puts forward at the start:
I’m sorry to leave self a self absorbed comment, but reading this really upset me and I just need to get this off my chest…How is a person supposed to stay sane in a culture that prizes intelligence above everything else – especially if, as Scott suggests, Human Intelligence Really Is the Key to the Future – when they themselves are not particularly intelligent and, apparently, have no potential to ever become intelligent? Right now I basically feel like pond scum.

I hear these kinds of responses every so often, so I should probably learn to expect them. I never do. They seem to me precisely backwards.

It seems to a nugget that in modern, industrialised societies, we tend to view intelligence as the base stat, and talent as the bonus.

This, in turn, directly leads to The Sads in the quoted viewpoint, because then - logically - what you're capable of is defined first by intelligence, THEN by talent. Which, of course, means that if you are 'not particularly intelligent', it's DOOM... 'I'll NEVER be anything much. I'm pond scum!' :(

But the more a nugget thinks about this (and a nugget thunk a lot about it while swimming today...), the more convinced a nugget is that it's a flip.

(For any non-gamers who read this and find it incomprehensible, I'm sorry! I tend to think in game design terms...)

Talent is the base stat. Intelligence is the bonus.


Talent: Base Stat
There's no cap on how many talents you can take. You can roll on as many talents as you like... but the roll you get is the roll you're stuck with. Meaning if you chose to roll on a talent, and you got a negative roll for that talent, then you're stuck with it. If you didn't choose, then you get a nice base of 0. You might also get a really high roll though, if you're lucky!

There is, of course, no guarantee that the talent you're rolling on is in the current build of the game. It's therefore entirely - if tragically - possible that your character is talented at stuff that hasn't been invented yet. (Talented pilot, planes not invented yet... alas!)

Equally tragically, your character might be very talented at stuff that's become obsolete. :( Sadly, it seems we don't know much / anything about the game we're about to play when we're at the Character Creation stage...

Intelligence: Bonus Stat
You get just one roll for this, and again, the roll can be negative or positive. How good you are at something initially, and how fast you get better at it are modified by intelligence.

Hard Work & Practice: Buffs with Diminishing Returns
If you're starting with a negative roll for Talent, and a positive or high roll for Int, then the hole you're trying to dig yourself out of is moderated by high Int. You still gotta apply a lot more of the Hard Work & Practice buff though, and you'll hit diminishing returns sooner than someone who isn't starting in a hole in the first place! And all other non-Talent factors are equal, you'll still never be as good as someone who started with a positive or high Talent roll.

Environmental Factors: Buffs and Debuffs
An environment that provides opportunities to improve and practice a Talent is a buff. An environment that is low on, or actively removes such opportunities is a debuff.

POOF!

The character creation process now accounts for both the Cleopatra VIIs, and the idiot savants!

And also, it means you aren't doomed just because you have a low bonus roll. (>'-')> <('-'<)

Similar to what Scott Alexander posted... but different. ^_^

UX Rant: Oversimplification and overgeneralisation... plus supportive technology!

This post annoyed me so much that I actually left a comment!

<.< A nugget rarely comments on design blogs, for some reason...

It's a nice, ranty comment, so I've reproduced it here, for my Rant Museum! ^_^

This article kind of annoyed me, possibly because it’s too general, hyperbolic, and somewhat preachy.

It’s all well and good to say:
We will design processes, not screens.
We will design systems, not individual pieces.
We will design less “using,” and more getting results.

But…
How do you propose we ‘design processes’, WITHOUT designing the screens, assuming that the medium is digital, on a screen?

How do you propose we ‘design systems’, WITHOUT designing the individual pieces?

How do you design ‘more getting results’ without LOOKING at the ‘using’ process?

It’s all very well to say, users just want things to magically happen!

Sure they do.

But only in very narrow fields, or very very wide budgets and fields (self driving cars, container automation, subway train scheduling) can you implement something that allows that kind of responsibility-free magic, while absolving users of responsibility.

In many fields, we still REQUIRE the user to go through the process, interact with the product, perform myriad actions, because the onus of responsibility and decision must lie upon them. Because the interactions aren’t simple, and may cause harm. (I currently work in enterprise healthcare software.)

For me, as a designer, what I’d love to see more of (and to work on more of) is the ‘supportive’ system. A good example of this is computer-aided Chess Grandmasters. Where the sum of the two is superior to either one alone, even if the goal is still ‘winning’.

Computer-assisted healthcare professionals, with the goal being better patient care and outcomes. Now that’s something I want to see happen, but it’s still going to involve work on the part of the user, as well as the computer (the supportive system). And that’s the way it should be.


DISC personality test AKA look into this mirror, and I'll sell your image back to you for as high a price as I can extract

Nugget's summary of DISC personality test

  1. Tell me what you think you're like!
  2. Gosh, I think you're just like that! Just like... what you said you thought you were like.
  3. Let me pad that with vague, feel-good statements, worthy of any fortune teller.
  4. Look, I'll even throw in charts that, if you cross-compare with colleagues, are all obviously from a fixed set of variables, but designed to look as if they're customised for you, just you, special little snowflake, you.
  5. Now that you've told me what you think you're like, and I've mirrored that back at you...
  6. Rate the accuracy of the test! WOW! It's ACCURATE isn't it? HOW UNCANNY.

As you can tell, I'm somewhat unimpressed. I am, though, impressed by how attractively and plausibly dressed up it was.

The one I took today was truly a triumph of marketing.

Here's someone who says it much more nicely than me. ;)