Author: Shrutin Shetty

Where Should Laptop Charging Lights be, and Why are Laptop Keyboards so Small?

Firstly, should laptop charging lights be put on the side the charger plugs in?
That is where the charger plugs in, but not where we sit. Which means many a times, it would be an effort to confirm charging.

How about on the front? Better, since most often, many of us (remember to) charge the laptop only when using. Still not the greatest place since it might require a slight head movement to check.

Or should it be placed someplace else?
Of course, there’s also the flip-side, that of prominently placed lights being a subtle distraction to the user.

Till date, Apple’s indicator on the charger end logically seems to be one of the best spots.
Though surely there are other spots or angles that might be more easily visible to the user.

Where do you think the charging lights should be?

And, on the topic of laptops..their keyboard sizes in particular… guess most of us assume what we buy is all we get…

I stumbled upon a clip of a 1995 IBM ThinkPad 701. Surely pricey at $1500-3200 a laptop, but look at that keyboard!
Incredible! Why isn’t this feature standard in laptops now?

Makes you wonder why the most useful of technology never seems to survive time.

 

 

Counterintuitiveness – Psyched vs Calm


Pic: source

Counterintuitive Series: Psyched vs Calm

Counterintuitiveness makes life more interesting. It also briefly reveals gaps or lags in our understanding or mindsets.

From time to time, life demands that we get charged for something. Could be the commencement of a big project, a project with a tight deadline, a school or college assignment due the next morning, a job interview, and so on. And we feel the need to get psyched about it. Get in the zone, get charged up, and whatever other phrases there are for it.

And there seem to ways to do it to. The most common of course, being chugging down an energy drink or copious amounts of coffee.

The only problem with many of these methods, is there is a guaranteed crash after the initial ‘charge’. And sometimes, that can be worse than not having consumed or performed whatever ‘charge-up’ action. Like staying up all night working on the assignment and falling asleep in the morning and ending missing class itself. Or worse.

Calming down seems to have more than the same benefits that ‘charging up’ options offer, but without the subsequent crash.

But that’s the tough bit at least I often grapple with. The calming down. Most people suggest meditation, though that is sometimes easier said than done.

A few things that work for me, include standing against a wall or cupboard for a minute. Or lying down in a reclined position with arms stretched out and closing eyes for a minute or two.

And of course, brain dumps really work. Writing down each and every thought and to-do that comes to mind.

Before complex or creative projects, even a short nap helps clear the head and even make sense of some of the complexity.

Compared to the psych-you-up options, calmer ways to get in the zone often provide similar (or better) results, are more efficient, make you expend less energy, and are effective longer.

Leaving you with my favourite counterintuitive trivia question for some years now:

Q: Fighter jets normally take-off off aircraft carriers at a speed of around 270 km/hr.
What might be the approximate speed at which they approach the aircraft carrier to land?+

A: Most of us would imagine they would approach to land on an aircraft carrier at a much lower speed, given the short runway on the carrier. However, they approach at take-off speeds (~270 km/hr) or higher, because if they miss all of usually four arresting cables on the carrier that help it stop, they would need to take-off before they reach the end.

For more posts on ‘counterintuitiveness‘.

And remember, as US Marines probably say..

‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.’

+ except aircraft like the Harrier, Osprey, some F-35s and such of course.

Counterintuitiveness – Babies Resisting Sleep

Counterintuitive Series: Babies resisting sleep

Counterintuitiveness makes life more interesting. It also briefly reveals gaps or lags in our understanding or mindsets.

This particular one is a hypothesis and not an example (yet at least), but let me have your views or experiences on it.

Pic: source

A lot of parents of young kids nowadays, both friends and family, grumble about the time it takes to put their kid to sleep at a reasonable hour. And this seems to be a common occurrence across the world. One could perhaps attribute it to two factors. First, for many of us, our lifestyle and work-life balance has us sleeping much later than our parents’ generation did. And secondly, each new generation seems smarter and generally more curious than the previous. And the average kid nowadays has so much more information around to soak up.

However, it did get me wondering about the practice of putting kids to sleep. Nowadays, parents are often very gentle when patting the backs or bottoms of their kids to sleep. And kids really fight sleep. Leading to a tug-of-war between the two, often leaving both a bit grumpy.

Back in the day, parents or grandparents seemed to pat kids slightly less gently, something I thought was odd at the time. You’d wonder if they were trying to put the kid to sleep, or wake it up.

But it now makes me wonder if the overly gentle pat causes kids to resist sleep even more.
Stay with me on this thought for a moment.

Kids naturally tend to be a little rebellious when something is in conflict with their natural interest.
The gentle pat comes across as a request to sleep, something they don’t want to do, even if tired. So they resist, sometimes taking a really long time to fall asleep, to the displeasure of the parent.

Pic: source

The older generation’s firmer pats seemed counterintuitive. While intending to put the kid to sleep, they almost partially woke the drowsy kid. And therefore, seemed to conflict less with, or almost align with, the kid’s intention to stay awake.
Would this let the kid not resist sleep as much, and sleep faster?
Could it be that in our natural tendency to be gentler, we have added to the problem?
I don’t know. But hey, food for thought.

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Counterintuitiveness – Unhurried Conversations

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Counterintuitiveness – Unhurried conversations

Counterintuitiveness makes life more interesting. It also briefly reveals gaps or lags in our understanding or mindsets.

Some weeks ago, I chanced upon a virtual session titled “Unhurried Conversations about Rule-breaking”, hosted by Johnnie Moore and Tim Pilbrow.
Often, virtual sessions are mostly unidirectional. And interactions either lack many questions, or have a subtle tug-of-war, with participants trying to get their message across. This was far from both.

The session started with an overview by the hosts, followed by participants heading to breakout rooms, equipped with some simple rules:
When someone is speaking, avoid interrupting.
When speaking, you can take your sweet time. And once done, hold up an object to convey the same, so someone else can then speak.

The lack of pressure to squeeze one’s point across, or blurt it out so as not to take up much time, was refreshing.

It felt like there was more than sufficient time for everyone to share multiple views, stories and opinions, which in themselves were extremely insightful. And the best bit, there was the respect, both when everyone spoke, and when everyone listened.
And everyone’s understanding of the topic seemed to evolve nicely in this supportive environment.

In all, very different from both high-pressure group discussion type environments, and the no-questions kind we are used to.

With a fixed timeline, interactions and meetings with these rules could perhaps be far more effective. Thanks to Johnnie and Tim!

Click here for more posts on ‘counterintuitiveness‘.

Counterintuitiveness – Pre-rinsing Dishes

Counterintuitiveness makes life more interesting. It also briefly reveals gaps or lags in our understanding or mindsets.

A recent article, and probably many before that, states how pre-rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher actually reduces the cleansing quality.
How?
Modern dishwashers have sensors that gauge the degree of dirt and adjust the amount of cleaning accordingly.
So the old, habitual pre-rinsing could trick the machine into thinking a mild clean should suffice.

But for those of you who own dishwashers and are used to mildly rinsing your dishes in advance, you surely sense this huge internal conflict each time you are done eating and before you put those plates and cutlery in the machine.

pix: source

In Hope of a Better World

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In light of the current Russian war on Ukraine, and similar tensions and wars over the past decades that have left thousands dead, millions homeless and helpless.. here’s stating some obvious thoughts that many are thinking about, but few seem to be saying.
Paraphrasing a recent article on the retail landscape in India, that somehow also captured global turmoil and big bully politicians of some developed nations well:
‘Our country boasts of one of the biggest success stories in capital-guzzling modern retail in recent years, where the largest retail businesses raised billions of dollars in investment. And yet, smaller firms that feed and clothe majority of our citizens, and employ more people than Vietnam’s population, stay restricted by USD 400 billion in unmet credit needs.’
 
This seems to be a common pattern. The largest of startups, even with questionable business models, receive plenty of VC investments, but the banking system seems tough on the smaller businesses with more humble business models, even though they collectively cater to far greater customers.
Or how a tiny percentage of most countries’ population holds 80+% of the wealth.
 
Which brings me to a thought.
Currently, big bully politicians in some developed countries dictating which countries get to have nuclear technology and which don’t.
Instead, what if these big bully politicians’ countries completely dismantled their nuclear stockpiles? And we could see if the world gets any closer to peace, contrary to what their best ‘well-meaning’ efforts have managed over decades.
Thomas Jefferson famously said, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.”
Which brings me to another thought.
Instead of refreshing the tree of liberty, what if fresh seeds were sown? And the old tree uprooted from time to time?
What if politicians and political parties in all countries had a fixed term. Politicians served for a prescribed number of years. And political parties too were shut down after a few decades. The young generation would create a new political party and politicians.
In the current world, many political parties have become bigger and more profitable than most businesses. Ideology-clashes between politicians and political parties and even political ideologies has led to wars and tensions that have left thousands dead, millions displaced, their homes, culture, dreams and families destroyed.
With fixed term politicians and political parties, all the bad blood and grudges, along with the more sinister propaganda and defense profiteering will have a definite end date.
Even the well-meaning, but biased and toothless global peace organizations could pave the way for new ones. Ones where all countries have an equal voice and an equal vote. It cannot be a democracy if a peace organization is reduced to a group of elites who feel as pig Napoleon did when it revised the final rule to read, ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’.
Current big bully politicians of a few countries only force countries to constantly increase their defense budgets. And that, from mankind’s perspective, is the most absurd investment ever. Do you and your neighbour annually build bigger and stronger walls and protection between your homes out of tension from each other? Yet as nations, this has been normalized.
If countries of the world could try this, we might know if the world sees some of that peace that everyone seems to talk of?
Pic: source

The Gap between Good Intentions and Impact

The gap between good intentions and impact of the resulting action (or choice) has been an area of interest to me.

A decade ago, a Brad Pitt linked non-profit messed up an affordable homes project [2008-2015] in New Orleans.
Meant to be green and sustainable, the homes had severe structural and mold problems. 6 of 150 are in good condition. They were not even adequately designed for heavy rains the region received.

Even the best intentioned plans must cross the Usability bridge and be adopted by users to achieve their purpose.
However often, noble intent overshadows recipient needs.

Few years ago, the Delhi government messed up a similarly noble homeless shelter project.

Growing up here in India, another amusing example I’d hear of, is slum redevelopment.
Governments built apartments for city slum dwellers in city suburbs. But oftentimes, many of these dwellers would rent out their new accommodation (thus gaining a new source of income), and move back to their old slum, which was familiar as a place, people, and place of employment.

In all of these cases, the beneficiaries are not to blame. They are not too demanding or picky or greedy.
Despite the best of intentions, it is simply a failure to design a more caring solution for them.

What’s the Worst that could Happen with Poorly Worded Menu Options?

Choices on mobile apps (also on any app) need to be worded appropriately so as not to cause any confusion in the user.
This menu option on a sleep tracking app seemed to be a clean way to do it. A simple line that explains each option when selected.

What’s the worst that could happen with poorly framed menu options?
Back in 2007, I got my first credit card. And the one I would default to even when I had more cards. Over the past 13 odd years, I suppose the card company and I benefited from the service.

Then sometime during the pandemic, RBI laid down new rules for debit and credit cards, making users manually opt-in for availability of different types of transactions (online, POS, international), and set limits for the same. I downloaded the mobile app this bank offered. However, I faced 4 challenges with it:

  • The way the choices were worded created some ambiguity (on whether we had opted in or out of a choice)
  • Touch selection was slightly glitchy, you sometimes had to click more than once to select/deselect
  • If you changed any card limits, you would receive an OTP to confirm the changes
  • There was a delay in receiving the OTP. Every time.

These four challenges together, created quite a frustrating experience. As you firstly wouldn’t be aware if the option read a choice you wanted to opt for, or the opposite. And to check it, you would have to go through the motions of generating an OTP, confirming changes, and then seeing if the change reflected what you wanted, or the exact opposite.

The result. I stopped using the card. For starters, simply because the choice options created a confusion in me, and verifying each one of those choices took a longer route of glitchy clicks, waiting for the OTP, and then waiting to see what change had occurred.

If you can’t phrase choices in an easily understandable manner, something simple like the explanatory sentence or two for each choice would go a long way in retaining former loyal customers.

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