Thursday, July 21, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion and User Conditioning

Over on his blogFaruk AteĊŸ discusses user conditioning from the perspectives of Apple and Google. I encourage you to read his column as it has some very keen insights, but I feel the need to comment on his statement about the direction of scrolling content being muscle memory since time immemorial (i.e. the 80's):
People are used to their scrolling behaviors; after all, they’ve used them in one and only one way since the 80’s—or whenever they started using computers. It’s understandable that this complete reversal of (mental and physical) muscle memory doesn’t appeal to everyone. 
I don't particularly agree with that powerful statement, for a couple of reasons. First, to talk about switching scrolling behaviors, one needs to look at when scrolling became touch-based rather than click-on-scroll-arrow-based. The idea of using the trackpad to scroll I think originated in the PC laptops where the right side (and bottom for horizontal scrollbars) of the trackpad was used as a scroll area. And that was certainly not done in the 80s.
There's also the mouse wheel scrolling, but I contend that a wheel is a physical impersonation of a scrollbar, so I'd be surprised if Apple expected mouse wheels to behave in an inverted fashion.
Anyway, my point here is that Apple didn't necessarily make such a massive change: it only fixed a mistake it introduced when it allowed for two-finger scrolling on the whole trackpad: Apple thought it was emulating the scroll bar movement, when in fact it should have realized that it was emulating the hand moving the content around.

I have for a long while been of the opinion that Apple is systematically fixing its interface behavior to move towards a unified model of virtual touch where anything physical will be made obsolete in favor of touch screens. Over a year ago, I was hoping to see soonish a MacBookPro with dual screens and running iOS.
Lion is slowly but surely moving towards this unified model where touching the virtual content is the cornerstone of the UI. Apple made a direction mistake a few years ago when it introduced "two finger scrolling". Had it known it was making "two finger virtual touch" at the time, I am certain it would have gotten the direction right. That's the extent of Apple's change.

The real user conditioning change is from using physical intermediaries to act on pixels vs. using your hands. And in 5 years' time, no adolescent will ever understand why we were sliding our fingers down to go down.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

More on identity

Dave Winer wrote a blog post titled Using DNS as a thin ID system . I encourage you to go read it, but in essence his main gripe is that the current means of identifying a person online are too complicated.
And I agree, but with a caveat: there is clearly a need for a simple identification system, while the need for (and current existence of) more complex ID systems is also there.

Winer postulates that the DNS could be used for the simple ID system. Let's call it SID for short. Here again I have to agree he's on to something, since when we designed the .tel top level domain, that was a primary goal.
However, with .tel we started by the complicated stuff, implementing all the current stuff like OpenID et. al., and also implementing a unique, original encryption system for sharing private information inside the DNS zone itself.
So now in the spirit of bootstrapping and getting something up quickly, here's my implementation of Winer's SID:

Here's how it works:

  • Assume you don't know the above URL
  • I go to your site and want to authenticate myself
  • you ask me for my domain name ( and password (passw0rd)
  • you look up password.domain
  • if you look up using DNS and it returns NXDOMAIN, then authentication failed
  • if you look up using HTTP and it returns 404, then authentication failed
That's about it.
Oh, one more thing: inside there are a number of interesting records of type NAPTR that point to my different web properties. There are also TXT records that define my name and current work. If you're looking it up via HTTP, you'll get that info in the hCard of the resulting page.

All of this, today, is available to any .tel owner, without any need for knowledge of DNS or anything beyond knowing to uncheck the "create a link" box in the below screen:

That's all there is to it.

Now the purists will say that this identification system lacks much more than it provides. I agree. If you want OpenID, my domain is an OpenID provider as well.
But here, we're looking for a dead simple way of knowing that the person is the same person who came last week. We don't want more than that, and I think Winer's SID is something worth trying out, especially since it's pretty much universally applicable across all top level domains. (I would only use domains, because they give you good legal control in case someone tries to impersonate you, etc...)