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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.


In OneZero. More on Medium.

‘Dark patterns’ aren’t always malicious mind control. They’re often a symptom of disjointed company culture. Will the Times change?

A recent New York Times op-ed, titled “Stopping the Manipulation Machines,” derided the use of dark patterns: design tricks that push people to do things online by confusing or deliberately inconveniencing them.

Kudos to the writer, Greg Bensinger, a member of the Times’ editorial board, who does a laudable job calling out obnoxious dark patterns.

His first target is the Amazon Prime unsubscribe process, which he calls “a labyrinthine process that requires multiple screens and clicks.”

Bensinger claims Amazon deters customers…

Analyzing the hot new app through the Hooked Model reveals its strengths and weaknesses.

Nir’s Note: This article is part of a series on “The Hooked Model in Action.” Previous analyses have included Slack, Fortnite, Amazon’s Echo, Tinder, and The Bible App. I never take compensation from any company profiled.

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz around Clubhouse, the drop-in audio chat app. It’s a bit like Twitch for conference calls. If you have no idea what “Twitch” is, you’re probably over 40. In your case, the closest analog might be those 1–900 party lines you saw advertised on late-night TV in the 1990s — but a bit less sleazy and in app form.


An interview with Keller Easterling, architect, designer, and author of ‘Medium Design’

Keller Easterling is an architect, designer, and author whose works traverse a wide range of spaces. I came to her work as someone interested in complex systems — a topic that Easterling, a professor of architecture at Yale, has been writing about for decades. She has written about everything from the Appalachian Trail (in Organization Space) to North Korea’s demilitarized zone (Enduring Innocence) to special economic zones and broadband infrastructure (Extrastatecraft).

Medium Design, Easterling’s new book, can be read as a corollary to her prior work. Extrastatecraft, for instance, provides detailed descriptions of various sprawling, techno-solutionist systems that prop up…

Exploring design patents from tech companies

This is the spiritual successor to a story that appeared in OneZero in April 2019: “From Like Buttons to Message Bubbles: The UX Designs You Can’t Use

You love thinking big. You love looking at other tech companies to see how they designed their products, or their navigation system, or that one animation transition you love. You aspire to design something like that. You keep bookmarks in your head: If you needed an expanding carousel for your entertainment app, you could take inspiration from Netflix.

Or maybe not. There are in fact some patterns you can’t use.

“W-what do you…

How social media design choices help us shame each other

Launched in 2015, Twitter’s retweet with comment or “quote tweet” feature is now pro forma. Those of us on Twitter quote tweet for all kinds of reasons — to recommend a great podcast, amplify other voices, dunk on political opponents, or share cat videos with approving heart emojis. Quote tweets are useful in providing reference and sharing information.

But when we quote tweet, we’re also creating a kind of meme. And while memes can be fun, they also can make online conversation a lot more snarky and a lot less civil.

We tend to think of memes as self-contained visual…

Veteran product designer explains why this is a good thing

A sketch of a USB Type-A plug
A sketch of a USB Type-A plug

“You ruined my life! All I see everywhere is bad design!”

— A non-designer friend

The outburst surprised me. I guess years of listening to me point out bad design finally took its toll. Instead of just traveling blithely through life, my friend now found himself scrutinizing everything around him, often finding things lacking, ill-conceived, and frustrating.

“Congratulations,” I told him. “You’re now officially a designer.”

“I guess one of the curses of what you do (as a designer) is that you’re constantly looking at something and thinking, ‘Why is it like that and not this?’ …

New prototypes from the living room lab

A while ago I made a smart mirror for my bathroom. Maybe you’ve seen it. It started with a particular image in my mind. I wanted to build a piece of technology for the home that feels new and futuristic, yet simple and clean. The mirror blends in seamlessly with its environment and doesn’t aggressively compete for my attention. I wrote about how it works and the parts I used, source code included.

Patricia Crowther’s ex-husband coded her cave maps into one of the first hit adventure games in the 1970s, and she had no idea

Claire L. Evans is the author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet.

The longest cave in the world is in central Kentucky. Its limestone passages stretch 400 miles beneath the earth in twisting patterns as intricate as the roots of the ancient hickory forests above. Within, cavers skirt bottomless pits, pass fountains of orange stone, and discover deep, icy subterranean rivers. Between the sunlit world and the depths below, white mist swirls at ankle height, like the breath of ghosts.

Kentuckians have fought bitterly to control access to the secrets of Mammoth Cave…


‘The list of reasons to stay with Android has grown ever shorter’

When Apple unveiled iOS 14 at WWDC, its yearly developer conference, the company showed off some big features coming to the iPhone later this year — like widgets that allow users to bring content from inside their apps to the home screen, and picture-in-picture video. Android fans were quick to point out something obvious: Many of the features announced at WWDC have been available for years on their devices, and Apple is playing catch-up.

They aren’t wrong. Widgets have been a part of Android since its inception, allowing users to put weather, clocks, and whatever else they like on their…


Here’s how experts say to design ‘nudges’ that actually work — and their thoughts on Apple’s new feature

Apple Watch on a table.
Apple Watch on a table.

I always thought I was pretty good at washing my hands, but when the pandemic began and hand-washing became an issue of life and death, it became starkly obvious that a quick scrub with hand soap was not enough. I got onboard the intense, 20-second hand-washing train, and I probably haven’t had hands this clean since I left food service.

But lately, I’ve felt myself slipping up, washing my hands for 10 seconds instead of 20, then having to go back and do the whole thing over again. As New York has begun to ease up on its stay-at-home orders…


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