Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Independence Day Manifesto: Devil Inside, Devil Inside, Every Single One of Us the Devil Inside

My Independence Day Manifesto 2009: Voicing the Devil Inside

There is a huge contradiction between the "harsh critic" and the "gentle observer." I utilize both perspectives in my writing. In general using the "character" or "voice" that best suits the task at hand. If the task is making a critical point about a computer design or the user interface of some of our most commonly used applications (WORD, FACEBOOK, TWITTER) then I feel the striking tone is the mode for emphasizing my perspective, even if I am only preaching to the small choir and not being heard by the objects of my affection or affectation.

But when followers and readers come out and message me about being negative, well, I'm curious what is making them uncomfortable. When I railed against Twitter recently I got a Tweet back from @stop, one of Twitter's creative directors asking me "Why so harsh?" So I wanted to examine the HARSH CRITIC voice a bit further. And what a great time to do it. I just let a couple posts rip on Dell. And I had an post/counterpost on Twitter's recent changes. So let's take a look.

Something in Seth Godin's "Tribes" speaks to this point. And I paraphrase. No one ReTweets something boring. No one forwards a crappy email. And if your viewpoint is so tempered as to not spark an emotional response, well... it's just not that interesting.

So can you go to far in voicing the extreme viewpoint? Sure. But if my rants make you uncomfortable, then perhaps the discomfort is something inside you rather than my harshness. Perhaps not. I'm just sayin...

In my HARSH review of the Twitter changes I made an aside comment, Don't you guys have any design people on staff to come up with something a bit more original?" Now, I admit that's a bit abrasive. But I'm really not trying to hurt anyone. I'm trying to make a point and make it so loudly, so over-the-top as to be funny. But what I am actually saying is quite pointed but not bitter, more irritated.

What I am saying in my inflamed way in the taunt above is, "These misses are so egregious that I can't believe anyone with serious experience in UX or UI would make such blatant gaffes." And I would guess that someone of @stop's skill has enough experience that he either wasn't paying attention to this project or was forced to compromise by some higher-ups with statements like, "Well, let's just put it in both places so folks don't miss it."

I can certainly understand how these kind of misses happen. I am even sympathetic to @stop and his team's dilemma of working for a hot-topic company with large coffers and ego maniacs at the top. [See, there I go again. It's almost like I can't help but be sarcastic when I am addressing such foolishness as the executive management at Twitter. Hold on, say with me, I'm going to come back to that.]

But the BAD UI, the redundant functionality, the only-twenty-followers-per-screen issues, those irritate, because those are the misses that I chafe up against in my daily use of Twitter. I am passionate and heated about these problems with Twitter because I use Twitter. And because UX/UI people everywhere can see that some of these changes I expose or suggest are really quite simple. So I rant.

And my rants make certain people uncomfortable. And I will either apologize when I have offended or pour on more heat if I have given rise to a passionate dialogue, but I will not stand for average, mediocre or boring middle-of-the-road writing. And I won't hesitate to apologize if I make a mistake. I don't try to shout OVER my fellow orators.

But I want to inflame the devil in you too. So much of what we do in social media is suppose to be about the "dialogue." But you know what, I bet the average visitor that actually comes out of silent watching (de-lurking) is about 0.05%. What will it take for people to feel comfortable revealing their own devils?

The status updates on Facebook that get the most responses are things a recent "update" I made using a Lenny Kravitz line. "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" That was it. I was in a Kravitz mood. And boy howdy! About 10 people came out to high five me over my love of Mr. Kravitz. But post a hot potato about Dell and the audience gets a bit gun-shy. As if I am damning myself to social media ostracism.

I do have to admit the support of the Iran Crisis and the green avatars kind of snuck up on me. I was FOR and then AGAINST and now FOR the greening of Twitter Tweep pictures.

Well, I want to put up one more declaration. I am not hammering Dell because I HATE DELL. I do not RAVE on TWITTER because I HATE TWITTER. I want so much more from Dell and Twitter and NBC's coverage of Wimbledon. I have grown up working for Dell. I joined Dell in 2006 to try and make a difference in a company that was heading towards the guardrails. To me it wasn't a job, it was a passion.

So when there is backstabbing and paralyzing political silos I am going to speak my truth. When I send a private email to an individual within a company and rather than respond to me they contact my manager as if I have been a bad boy, I'm going to call foul. When a company that is slurping up millions of dollars in investments and hyper-valuations can't get some of the basic tenants of User Experience right I'm going to say, "Hey, Richie Rich, why don't you look over here for your next 'innovative' idea."

Okay, so I admit I do have a chip on my shoulder from time to time. And I try to expose that perspective as well. But it's not to be MEAN. If you misread the sarcasm, I understand that happens for me all the time as well. But don't say, "Why are you being so harsh," as a way of deflecting the criticism I have brought to your doorstep. Answer the question. If I am wrong, point it out. If I have missed the point, let me know. I am not baiting you, but I DO want you to speak up if I get something wrong. Or if MY TRUTH does not match up with what you believe to be TRUE.

If I have made you afraid, mad, happy, confused, well at least I have had an effect. The next response is up to you. But "Why so harsh," or "How 'bout a hug?" is not a response it's a facade. That's what I'm trying to tear down, the facades that keep us nodding our heads in corporate meetings when we want to say "NO!" The facades that keep us from calling the FAIL WHALE a FAILURE. And the irritation that we get when we have to click buttons and OK screens four times just to dispatch a pornographic twitter scammer who had leached onto our follower stream.

I won't sit quietly any more. I declare independence day, today on July 4, 2009. And I will speak my truth.

permalink to

The "best of" harsh light posts

Twitter/Facebook UX UI Failures


Say It To Me Directly So I Can Respond

this popped up just a second ago,

Picture 1

wOOt, break out the bubbly!

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