Weekly Learning: New Power, New Design, Persuasion Tricks, and the Inclusion Illusion

News and the New Power

Facebook got everything it wanted out of Australia by being willing to do what the other guy wouldn’t gives you yet another instance of the challenges the establishment is facing in coping with the internet age’s unforeseeable consequences.

Just for the sake of the fascinating analogy used, you should read the article in full.

TL;DR, the topic of power comes up again:

The tech giants have money, and they have power. They don’t mind giving up money if it gives them something in return: a friendlier regulatory environment, or silence from cranky publishers. What they don’t want to give up is the power: the power to pick winners (whether via algorithm or cash transfer), the power to decide what it’s willing to pay, and — most importantly — the power to maintain their main advantage as platforms, which is to aggregate huge amounts of free information and profit from all the ways they can organize, distribute, and monetize it all.

Perhaps, we can call it New Power, in the same sense we say “New Money” in the old world.

And, of course, it’s about business model:

If there were suddenly a law that says Google has to pay for some kinds of information in its search index — or that Facebook has to pay to have some kinds of information in News Feed — that core element of their model would be at risk. Suddenly, instead of being a toll road that commuters pay to use, you have to pay drivers for the privilege of using you? That’s the unthinkable.

Australia is brave enough to actually try addressing the issues, albeit in a very reactive and elite-driven way. So reactive, in fact, that Tim Berners-Lee speaks out:

Specifically, I am concerned that that code risks breaching a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online…

What’s the way forward? Look to evolutions and innovations on the legal frontier.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Illusion

Quite surprised to find out that Vivianne Castillo leaves Salesforce citing ‘rampant microaggressions and gaslighting.’ On reflection, no surprises and no alarms, as always.

The background:

Salesforce has championed itself as a beacon of diversity and inclusion, grounded in social initiatives like Equity for All to promote underrepresented people in business and pledging 1% of its resources to philanthropic causes. But its actual progress to diversify its own headcount has been slow.

The news:

…reports have surfaced from two Black women in prominent positions who have left the company, each citing a toxic culture laden with microaggressions and empty promises toward improvement.

The meat, according to Vivianne Castillo (highlight mine):

“I’ve grown tired of watching the canaries of underrepresented minorities go into the coal mines of Salesforce’s culture; I’ve grown tired of watching the canaries of underrepresented minorities experience unchecked harm, only to then turn to the Warmline [Salesforce’s advocacy program for BIPOC employees] to support them through their trauma, rather than Salesforce implementing the accountability required to prevent harm; I’ve grown tired of watching the canaries of underrepresented minorities leave Salesforce, only to watch Salesforce ramp up their efforts to throw more canaries into the culture that caused the previous ones to leave or worse—suffer in silence.”

Why not just implement “the accountability required to prevent harm”?

Because people in power have the power to ignore accountability and no mechanism is in place to put them in check. Doesn’t sound particularly like a democratic type of place, does it?

In fact, for many (if not all) countries who self-regard as democratic, are largely consisted, indeed democratically, of organizations with authoritarian leaderships, authoritarian processes, and authoritarian ideologies.

Wherever you are: who or what puts power in check?

Let that sink in.

Life-Centred Design

A holistic design toolkit for life-centred design provides “[e]xperimental tools to include the environment and non-users in design-thinking and speculative design.”

Life-centred design may have as much ambition as UX once had, in the sense that it pushes the bigger context to the foreground, especially if you know what Don Norman said about the term UX, which he coined:

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose it’s meaning.”

Source

There should to be strong justifications for coining yet another new term, which we all know, in time, will become yet another buzzword.

Life-centred design may be coined with good intentions by good people. While if you know the history of UX and, in general, design in business, you know it’s not enough to just chant a new phrase.

The bigger the context, the more political, societal, and philosophical it becomes. When we appreciate and embrace life-centred design, also take the time to elaborate: are we ready to also deal with the challenges that come with it?

Anyway, the Holistic Design Toolkit is a free download.

Information Design

Information Design in Public Transportation is a fascinating three-part look at the discipline, with interesting examples you really want to learn about.

Firstly, there are three types of information:

Information: what you absolutely must clearly communicate

Uninformation: is stuff that is not necessarily important and that is probably not true

Misinformation: pretends to be information, but it is not and it is likely to distort, confuse and mislead.

Secondly, Harry Beck:

[The] diagrammatic approach was first introduced by Harry Beck in 1933, who is famous for creating the current London Underground tube map.

And his brilliance:

Beck’s assumption was that it is more important for Londoners to know how to get around the subway (ie. how to get from one station to another) than to know the geographical accuracy of each station.

Thirdly, could map design have an impact on traffic congestion? The author of the articles thinks so:

Believe it or not, I think the map is partly to blame for the horrific traffic conditions: if travellers rely on a distorted map as a single resource to make their route decisions, they tend to choose a path that would seem convenient on the map but is not necessarily be the optimal solution for their chosen route.

Persuation

Persuading the Unpersuadable provides an interesting strategy to do the deed.

But, firstly, I really like this bit of insight:

The legend of Steve Jobs is that he transformed our lives with the strength of his convictions. The key to his greatness, the story goes, was his ability to bend the world to his vision. The reality is that much of Apple’s success came from his team’s pushing him to rethink his positions. If Jobs hadn’t surrounded himself with people who knew how to change his mind, he might not have changed the world.

Not surprisingly:

Almost every leader has studied the genius of Jobs, but surprisingly few have studied the genius of those who managed to influence him.

And, the old news:

A growing body of evidence shows that personality traits aren’t necessarily consistent from one situation to the next.

Which leads to the simple observation:

…if you want to reason with people who seem unreasonable, pay attention to instances when they—or others like them—change their minds.

So the author provides a few tricks:

Ask a Know-It-All to Explain How Things Work
The first barrier to changing someone’s view is arrogance.
[…]
Let a Stubborn Person Seize the Reins
A second obstacle to changing people’s opinions is stubbornness.
[…]
Find the Right Way to Praise a Narcissist
A third hurdle in the way of changing minds is narcissism.
[…]
Disagree with the Disagreeable
A final impediment to persuasion is disagreeableness, a trait often expressed through argumentativeness.

With a final advice (and warning?) on leadership (highlights mine):

Organizations need strong, visionary executives like Jobs. But they also need […] people who know how to effectively counteract bosses and colleagues who tend toward overconfidence, stubbornness, narcissism, or disagreeableness. In a turbulent world, success depends not just on cognitive horsepower but also on cognitive flexibility. When leaders lack the wisdom to question their convictions, followers need the courage to persuade them to change their minds.

Personalities

Not convinced about 7 Personalities You Need on Your Design Team, but interesting.

Which makes you wonder: do organizations have “personalities”?

Yeah, may they do.

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