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!

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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.

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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?
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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.

Feature Suggestion for Todoist

In my last post, I recommended reading the book, To-do List Formula. I also shared my own key takeaways from the book.

The book highly recommended the Todoist app to create and track tasks. I started using it ever since, and compared to all the apps I have used so far, I have found it to be somehow designed to allow for more efficient days.

I did feel the computer and mobile apps could use a small feature improvement that could further improve the efficiency its users derive from it. And I wrote to them about it. A RattL ’em idea if you will.

Here’s what it is.

While any to-do app allows you to set deadlines for tasks, you can create them without specifying a deadline as well.

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Now say you wanted to try and rearrange entries 7-15 so that they would be according to your measure of importance and urgency, after which you could enter achievable deadlines for each. This can become a challenge when it is many more than just 9 entries that you need to put into sequence.

Now if you are diligent in the easy bit of at least adding tasks to an app, you would notice that the number of entries could easily go up to a few dozens if not more. Now Todoist (and other apps like Trello) allow you to drag and drop to change the order of entries. But even then, since your view is only limited to about 6-7 entries (on the laptop or mobile app), that can require a lot more mental processing or note taking to sequence the entries so that it becomes easier to then assign due dates for them.

A solution to this, would be a simple ‘pop-up view’ option (grey below) that could be offered. This would accommodate all the entries on the list, on the pop-up view screen, in a grid (as opposed to a scrolling list). 

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Here, the user could drag entries around into a better priority sequence, and then switch back to the scrolling list view and start assigning due dates for them (below).

Thoughts?

Struggling with To-Do Lists and Staying Productive?

A lot of us struggle with staying productive. Especially so in these times of lockdown and uncertainties. And also when you are focusing on larger goals that don’t really offer much daily satisfaction of accomplishment.
I have heard of some really brilliant people, especially from the behavioural science and behavioural economics communities, struggle with staying motivated and on top of their tasks. I guess that is enough to confirm that it is clearly a human challenge, and not one that those who understand behaviour better than the rest of us can easily solve.
It also does not mean it cannot be solved. Just probably not in the ideal, smooth-flowing way we expect it to.

Staying productive and to-do lists are something I do struggle with. And I have tried many apps to help me. Some have worked, to some extent. Some have worked well in combinations with other apps. In short, it has been a messy process at least for me.

I started creating Excel spreadsheets to keep track of my tasks during my venture capital days. And over time, I’d realize I am falling back, so I’d rework the layout, find some effectiveness, and the cycle would repeat.

I have since, used Google Keep, EverNote, more spreadsheets, Trello, and well over a dozen other apps that I didn’t seem to work for me.

Recently, I read the book, ‘To-Do List Formula‘ by Damon Zahariades. And, it is brilliant.
The book has been beautifully written. The author literally describes different approaches from the perspective of a newbie, and then tells you why that one doesn’t work or where it falls short. That way, by just reading the book, you quickly go through the process of discovery and progress that could otherwise sometimes take years. Ask me.

Anyway, I created a list of key points from the book to serve as a ready reference. Sharing the overview of key points I created from the book here, in case some of you find it useful.
Of course, this is simply to give you a flavour of the book itself, which I strongly recommend you read. For those of you who have a Kindle Unlimited plan or trial plan, it is available there as well!

Anyway, he highly recommended the Todoist app. I have been using it for almost a month now.
Of course, still too early to say, and obviously, it is not the tool itself that will compensate for shortfalls in our enthusiasms or anything, but so far, it has been a good tool.

I love Trello, that I have been using for over a year, and still do. But this one somehow edges it out when it comes to the layout and experience. Still haven’t figured exactly how though yet.

In the next post, I share a RattL ’em idea I suggested to Todoist recently.

Till then, here’s the overview of key points I created from the book.

What if the Comments Section on Social Media had a Search Feature?

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Say you create a post on social media, and friends or acquaintances comment on it over the next few days or weeks.
Now, sometimes it gets tricky if the comments function is basic.

If there are a few new comments before the next time you check that account, finding them could be a little tricky. Especially if someone comments in reply to your or someone else’s reply. Or if the platform takes you broadly to that section but not specifically to the new comment.

Facebook does a decent job of highlighting the region around a new comment, making it easier to spot.
And LinkedIn gives you the option of sorting comments by Most Relevant and Most Recent.

However, this still leaves a lot to desire.

What if social media platforms could include a search function as a feature on comments?

For instance, LinkedIn has a fairly good search function on messages. It allows a user to sort messages by Archived, from Connections, Unread, InMail, and Spam. However, commenting on posts can get messy really fast if you have a conversation in comments with multiple people, and each one replying to their respective sub-threads.

Facebook gets a bit tricky on birthdays, especially if you are someone who tries to respond to everyone who wished you, and then there are a few small interactions happening in those sub-threads.

Would be nice if the search feature in comments across social media platforms would let us sort by recency, maybe even filter by commenter, etc.

Social media platforms also collapse the comments section for appearance and probably speed, and show only a few comments at a time. With each ‘next’ click, Facebook (and probably LinkedIn) show the next 10 comments, Instagram shows the next 3 only!
Would be great for social media platforms to have a ‘See All Comments’ feature.

From a development perspective, I would imagine it would be similar to adding the Filter function to a spreadsheet.

Do you feel the need for a more effective comments section on social media?

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