Unintended consequence: humans love to ‘fix’ things


Big fish need little fish, which need plants.

In order to create usable experience you can’t try to make order out of chaos, you’ve got to find the order within it. That’s my elevator speech for what i do. Otherwise the act of ‘helping’ or ‘fixing’ will undoubtedly result in unintended consequence. I am reminded of this when folks call for a redesign of amazon.com to make it more usable. The site that has survived the first crash and is holding up under the weight of the second one. Let’s fix it. (it could use a few tweaks here and there, but bottom line is it is doing what better designed sites try and fail to do – make money)

I post this because several articles/posts have emerged in my rss feeds that mention this phenomenon:

“from the funny-how-that-works dept

Overhyped Fear Of Child Predators Leading To Real Concerns About Child Privacy

“from the unintended-consequences dept

Blu-ray Working Great, For Pirates

We need to understand the forces at work when we make changes and accept that there will be unintended consequence to our actions. We can never just fix one experience or one site. We are always altering a broader ecosystem of stuff and things. The only way to ‘control’ fate – accept this law, be aware of the consequences and continuously adapt.

Unclutter your Google Reader | My Mind Leaks…

Clipped from a blog i recently added to my feed…

“I’m a fan of various blogs and have a habit of subscribing to the feeds of the blogs and sites which I like to read it daily. But over a period of time, my Google Reader got piled up with the lots of RSS feeds. So, now I’ve a difficult time to read each and every RSS items. And most of the news items seems to be duplicated over various blogs and sites.”

Unclutter your Google Reader | My Mind Leaks….

Took a trip down the river

Feedly has indeed added a slick feature called the river. There are also some other updates in the latest version.

The best upgrade is the more readable “latest” area of the What’s New pages. The spacing is much improved and digestible.

First I want to say that I am fast becoming a fan of Feedly. It is not Google Reader and I think that is perfectly OK. It gives me a different view of the same world. The What’s New feature in magazine mode could be 20 hours old at times, but that does not bother me. It is not for the buzz junky. I just love the fact that myriad sources could have such a clean and elegant presentation. I am very visual and the addition of the pictures has helped me make reading choices.

I look at the River feature from a very specific use-case. I am in a snacking mode looking for the latest from my favorite feeds. It is a very bouncy behavior that does not sound like a common use-case for this product.

I always thought of myself as a pretty casual RSS consumer. It was interesting to think of the target user for Feedly being more casual than I. Perhaps beginning a blog about my use of rss feeds is a sign that i am not the average Joe.

Features like the river make me a little greedy for more control over the posts.

  • I am partial to the picture and summary mode with the River feature
  • I enjoy the Summize-esque notification of more content. It helps me keep my place.
  • The feed treats read and unread posts differently, but the difference is very subtle. I imagine the page could get very busy if the change were more abrupt, but perhaps a black for read and the blue for not read would be enough of a contrast.
  • The grey bar to the left of one post is a bit of a mystery.
  • The need to scroll the entire page is cumbersome. I have to bounce up and down to select individual feeds.
  • I am not sure about the preview modes. I wanted to click the headline to preview inline and have a separate link for bouncing off into a dedicated page. It has the “preview” action, but that is too much of a commitment. I have to load of of the not relevant stuff on that blog’s page. I finally discovered that if i click the text it will open the inline-preview state. This is a little clunky since i have to click “minimize” to close it back up.
  • Something about the titles only mode makes it very difficult to scan. It may be the boldness of the text combined with the blue. My eyes see a whole lot of blue.

I dove into the feature after I upgraded to the latest version of Feedly (that’s where the new stuff lives). It already helped me discover some cool stuff.

catching up mode on rss – prefer google reader

one of the key reasons i check into google reader is to catch up on some of the feeds that i know are top of mind. The left navigation list of feeds and the software-esque loading of the stories into the right pane allow me to simply click on a feed (ie. bankwatch) and see the last however-many are listed (infinite with the progressive load). Another key to this feature is the highlighting of what i have and have not read. Usually there are about five or six not-reads at the top. The titles are fully shown (as wide as i stretch the browser). and i never seem to have trouble making a decision on which to drill into.

I’ve been trying to replicate this behavior on Feedly and aideRSS and the closest match is to select a feed at a time and peruse that way. Feedly has great controls over the display, but i have yet to tweak to display the way google reader does naturally. Neither have the same emphasis on: all feeds, organized by time, latest first, highlight not-reads — oh and low-risk previews. I can click away and not have to refresh the page.

With a couple of clicks in google reader i am all caught up (well, i still have 1000+ staring me in the face). I am caught up on what matters to me.

Goal: catch up after period of time
Key context: Personal Trust in Feed, Then time
Behavior: select a feed folder to see at a high level, then select several individual feeds, preview stories of interest based on the title and snippet. Occasionally click through to the actual story (more so if pictures or more stuff is offered, or if i want to bookmark the page)