Educated Drivers Wanted

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Advertisements for the first automatic transmissions, 1939. Image: NTY/General Motors

Interesting article in the Times recently about the explosion of problems surrounding gear selectors in automobiles that have come to light since the tragic death of actor Anton Yelchin a month or so ago.

The most interesting takeaway for me was about the intersections of technology and psychonomics, the link between products and minds. A well-crafted bicycle handbrake is an example given in the article of something that one intuitively knows how to use.

For me, ever a car nut, I was reminded of driving my 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco, the cockpit of which was perfectly laid for me. I didn’t have to think; I just moved an arm or finger or foot. It was a brilliant automobile. And I think its brilliance ultimately lay in its simplicity of operation.

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Ergonomically and psychonmically perfect, at least from this driver’s viewpoint, was the last of the Volkswagen Sciroccos sold in America. I sold mine when it was 10 years old with a hair under 200,000 miles on the clock. Image: German Cars For Sale Blog.

Recently, I heard Jay Leno posit that operating an automobile has changed more in the last 20 years than it has since its invention. And I think he’s onto something.

We are cramming more and more technology into our cars while we’re hampering the driver experience. I am absolutely sure that cars manufactured today are safer than those built 20 or 25 or 50 years ago, but I’m not sure that we are operating them more safely.

In the last few years, automotive designers have been experimenting with new and different ways of electronically shifting gears — buttons, joysticks, paddles, dials — and placing these shifting mechanisms in areas of the car that may be counterintuitive; especially if you are seeking an old-fashioned (but tried and true) PRNDL shifter. However, are we actually doing the driving public a disservice when we produce vehicles that the average consumer can’t be sure they’ve put it in Park correctly?

I’m all for technology, but let’s be savvy about it.

The UX Drinking Game — Brilliant, Hilarious

This goes straight on the list of Best Things Ever:

The UX Drinking Game

H/T to Patrick Neeman (@usabilitycounts) who runs a website of the same name and the UX Drinking Game.

It’s hours of fun, this; but it also serves as a cautionary tale that you shouldn’t expect the people that you work for — or the people who demand what a site should look like — know anything about usability.

Or what users need.

Or how to deliver that information to them.

This is important stuff. I mean, it’s not brain surgery, but it may mean the difference of people liking your product/service/institution and being completely frustrated by you and turning to someone else. It’s all about the money, honey, so remove your ego [and your organizational ego] from the mix and let the UX folks do what needs to be done.

Why Employers Don’t Respond After a Job Interview

5 Reasons Why Employers Don’t Respond After a Job Interview.

Interesting piece this morning on Mashable. With the exception of Reason Number 5, I think they are all bogus. No. 5: They’re Just Rude is the overarching reason here.

Look, my contention is that we have taken the “human” out of human resources. We are using too many resume scanners, too many online applications, too many catch-all job search aggregator sites and we are treating job seekers as resumes instead of as human beings.

How many of our corporate overlords understand that human resources is actually a PR function? There is a disconnect between a hiring manager requiring an applicant to submit a resume and cover letter and the corporate catch-all online app system that requires you to list your education starting in elementary school. If I’m applying to be your vice president, don’t make me go through this tomfoolery because, guess what? Your system sucks.

Here’s what you miss by only talking to white men about the digital revolution and journalism

Here’s what you miss by only talking to white men about the digital revolution and journalism.| The Washington Post – The Switch blog

On Monday, Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on The Press, Politics and Public Policy and the Nieman Journalism Lab launched Riptide, a new project about the disruption of journalism by technology. The project bills itself as an “oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present.”

But looking at the final product and their list of sources, it appears that the project misses a key aspect of how the digital age disrupted traditional journalism: Digital advances, particularly the spread of the Internet and the rise of blogging, gave a powerful new way for voices marginalized in the elite journalism sphere to spread their stories.

I love this. And it’s so true. In journalism, certainly, but across the Western World in its entirety. Whenever you see a “captain of industry” that is anything other than a white man — more specifically, a white man 55+ — it’s a novelty. It’s true. It’s sad; but it’s true.

The project would have been stronger if it had done a better job of incorporating the perspective of female and minority voices. For example, one of the ways the digital age disrupted the journalism field was making it easier for marginalized voices to find audiences. 

Indeed. African-Americans, women, the LGBT community, Latinos — all groups that have been marginalized by the mainstream and all groups which have embraced the Internet with vigor. Who needs a white male out-of-step gatekeeper when you can produce your own content and get it to your constituents??

KitKat Parody Video Hilariously Mocks Apple

Not long after Google announced the latest version of its Android 4.4 mobile operating system is called KitKat, the Nestle-owned chocolate brand released a promo video that brilliantly lampoons Apple.

The video uses tech verbiage to describe the chocolate bar, saying it works in both portrait and landscape modes for “truly panoramic tasting and an experience that will leave you up in the cloud.”

KitKat Parody Video Hilariously Mocks Apple.|Mashable

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Post-Interview Thank You Notes: Yeah or Nay

Why Handwritten Notes Beat E-Mail

This was a post and a link to the above article I came across in a LinkedIn group today. It’s very interesting. You should read it.

I have always been a big believer in the handwritten note. In fact, for many years, I drilled H-A-R-S (Hand Addressed Real Stamp) into people who were working on donor and subscriber campaigns for me. You can’t NOT open a hand addressed envelope with a real stamp on it. A First-Class stamp; not one of those poxy non-profit rate knock-offs. That said, I thought this response was very prescient indeed. (I’ve redacted the commenter’s name, FYI.)

• Allow me to disagree. As a former hiring manager, most of my communications came through email. The postal mail brought trades, junk mail and rarely, an invoice (most invoices were emailed). I did not like to get mail – it was a nuisance. And frankly, since most postal mail went into a mail slot (only top execs got direct delivery), I only checked the box once a week. Emailed thank yous were appreciated, timely and readily responded to when appropriate. And they were guaranteed to be read. I too love handwritten notes – but I think they work better for personal use.

I think this commenter has a valid point. Worth thinking about at any rate.

The Case Against Content Management Systems

Decentralized web teams rarely reflect a professional approach to web management. They tend to be a cost reduction tactic.

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Content creators are continually juggling their own work along with technology that is often non-intuitive for them thanks to decentralized Web structures that have become the industry standard.
(Photo of Erik Klocker trying for the world record in axe juggling in 2012 by Whoisdavemstaine/ Wikimedia Commons.)

That’s how Web guru Gerry McGovern started his Feb. 17, 2013 “New Thinking” missive. It gave me pause. Why was this how he was framing the debate? I read on.

Once bought, employees throughout the organization were given a couple of training sessions on this [content management] software. According to this distributed / decentralized model, there was no need for a central team or any dedicated, professional resources. It was publishing on the cheap and it sounded great in theory.

I thought about that. What a genius observation. McGovern contends that most organizations without content management systems are better off than those with them because it forces people to do the things they are good at, not the things that management may want them to do.

Think about this. I know it runs counter to prevailing wisdom about managing an effective modern website, but it’s a very, very important insight.

Have you ever had to post a piece of your own content — or an asset — that did not behave the way you wanted it to? How much of your time did you unnecessarily spend doing that because you were trying to figure out the tech end because there were no tech people to do it for you?

Content creators are just that. No one should be asking them — us — to fiddle with the tech. The tech folks should do that. If we had them, we could get back to creating new, better, more innovative and, most importantly, more relevant copy for our audiences.

McGovern’s contention that a centralized Web team should be paired with the people who have the most customer interaction is simply bang on. And what’s stopping this from happening? McGovern and I are of one brain on this: it’s senior management throwing up the roadblock. It’s ALWAYS senior management.

Read McGovern’s full piece HERE.