How AI will open up walled gardens by making file formats, protocols, and even standards less relevant.

Xkcd comic on standards
Xkcd comic on standards
The eternal minimalistic wisdom of xkcd.

Ever stop to think about what makes a workflow a workflow? Or an ecosystem an ecosystem? Why we must tiptoe among artificially grown archipelagos of apps, services, and devices without ever stepping off in our own individual, creative directions?

There are three primary reasons:

  1. File formats. Modern file types are incredibly complex. Even when they are open standards, the technology to reliably read and write them — and access their full range of capabilities — is often proprietary. …


Image for post
Image for post

Why you might want to buy early-concept technology — even when you know it’s not ready

The tech media will often recommend that you avoid first- and sometimes even second-generation devices. That’s reasonable advice for most people, but not everyone. And maybe not for you.

To understand why you might want to take a chance on hardware and software that may not be fully baked yet, we have to start by thinking about money a little differently. From an article I wrote at the beginning of the year entitled We Get the Monopolies We Deserve:

We usually think of currency as a form of legal tender that can be exchanged for goods and services. But in a free-market system, money is much more than that. Every dollar we spend is also a vote in favor of the corporate entity providing that good or service and against that entity’s competition. Not only are you receiving a good or a service in exchange for payment, but you are also communicating approval of that company’s culture and rewarding its stakeholders. …


How user experience suffers when companies put their needs above yours.

A collage of mobile and desktop update and feedback notifications.
A collage of mobile and desktop update and feedback notifications.

Have you noticed that your devices have become needy, insecure, boastful children constantly vying for your attention and desperately seeking praise and approval?

Welcome to the age of growth hacking and data-driven product development.

It used to be that, once we paid for a piece of software, it toiled for us endlessly and unconditionally. Increasingly, applications are demanding more in return for the privilege of their service. And although this newly defined and rapidly evolving relationship costs all of us in time, focus, and productivity, we are being assured that it is for our own good.

When product and science collide

Here’s something you might not know about yourself: At some point in your life, as part of a cross-functional, multi-stakeholder growth initiative, and in an attempt to validate an actionable hypothesis around reducing churn by increasing stickiness using a minimal viable product, you began a customer journey when you were acquired by entering a marketing funnel after which you were segmented into a cohort as you were on-boarded, seamlessly engaged by multiple touch points, and ultimately retained through variable rewards leading to habit formation in order to maximize your customer lifetime value. …


How consumers can help stop anti-competitive corporate behavior (without government intervention)

Image for post
Image for post

Now that tech, from a regulatory perspective, is the new oil, railroads, and telecommunications, it’s time to talk antitrust. But before we jump right into breaking companies up and unwinding anticompetitive mergers, it’s important to examine the role consumers play in encouraging — and more importantly preventing — monopolistic behavior.

First line of defense

Most consumers believe that it is the government’s job to protect us from abusive monopolies and harmful anti-competitive corporate behavior. And they’re right — to an extent. …


Microsoft is good at physical keyboards. But with the introduction of the Surface Duo, they need to nail virtual keyboards, as well.

Image for post
Image for post

First and foremost, Microsoft’s new pocket-sized, foldable Surface Duo needs to be a productivity device. That means one of the most important things the Surface team needs to get right is the virtual keyboard.

Microsoft takes keyboards seriously. During the October Surface event in New York, Panos Panay — Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer and the creator of the Surface line of devices — said this of the Surface Laptop 3:

“There’s parts of the laptop you can never compromise… The keyboard.” —Panos Panay

And he clearly meant it. Microsoft is very good at physical keyboards and believes in them so strongly that the new Surface Neo — the Duo’s larger sibling — will have a magnetically attachable keyboard accessory. …


Image for post
Image for post

Comprehensive design doesn’t just happen through wireframing and workflow diagramming. Sometimes it also means writing code.

I run a team of prototypers inside the Adobe Design organization, and the most succinct way to express our mission is that we bring design to life. Sometimes screen design tools or paper prototypes are all you need to validate a hypothesis and hand off to engineering with confidence. …


Image for post
Image for post

Want to see Windows 10 through the eyes of a Mac user? Strap in.

Windows 10 has a built-in application called Feedback Hub which allows anyone to submit and up-vote feedback about the Windows 10 experience. Microsoft has come to rely heavily on Feedback Hub for bug and feature prioritization, which is obviously sensible, except for the fact that it has one fundamental flaw: only Windows users use it. That means Feedback Hub is susceptible to the same self-selection biases as our current political discourse. Mac users who poke around Windows 10 to see what all the hype is about, but who end up shrugging and walking away dismayed, don’t stop to leave feedback on their way out the door. …


Image for post
Image for post

VR has as much potential as any new technology I’ve ever seen. But that’s no guarantee it will succeed.

Virtual reality has a few things in common with tablets. Both promised to become revolutionary new computing platforms; both finally arrived after a series of false starts; and both are now struggling to find their respective places in a technologically capricious world.

Since their most recent incarnation in the form of the iPad in 2010, tablets have managed to carve out a few consumer and enterprise niches for themselves. But realistically, if every tablet on the planet suddenly disappeared Leftovers-style, the world would not fundamentally change. Similarly, if Facebook decided to shutter Oculus, and HTC and Valve divested themselves of their Vive-related businesses, and Sony never updated PlayStation VR, other than faint echoes of Amiga-like fanaticism, the result would likely be little more than a collective cultural shrug. …


Fiction

A short story dedicated to all those whose lives have been touched by senseless and preventable gun violence

Image for post
Image for post

Note that this is a work of fiction, and not intended to portray actual events.

If you don’t believe that you are one phone call, or one knock on the door, or even just one text message away from your entire world collapsing in on itself, then you — like a long-departed version of myself — suffer from an acute lack of imagination.

My call came the morning a persistently-bullied high school student entered his former elementary school with his father’s AR-15 and robbed the world not only of everything my seven-year-old daughter was, but everything she would ever be. I understood right away that my life, as I knew it, was over, but the real defeat took a little longer to set in. Despite all the national despair, the expressions of outrage, the thoughts and prayers, and the carefully crafted condemnation from all levels of government, it eventually became clear to us that nothing significant was going to change, and that Taylor’s death — no matter how desperately we tried to attach meaning to it — was entirely for nothing. …


Image for post
Image for post

Why Futurists and Pundits So Often Get It Wrong

What I find most interesting about typical visions of the future isn’t all the fanciful and borderline magical technology that hasn’t been invented yet, but rather how much of it actually already exists. Consider something relatively straightforward like a multi-touch interface on your closet door that allows you to easily browse and experiment with your wardrobe, offering suggestions based on prior behavior, your upcoming schedule, and the weather in the locations where you are expected throughout the day. Or a car that — despite the fact that it makes real-time navigational adjustments in order to compensate for traffic anomalies — lets your coworkers know that you will be a few minutes late, and even takes the liberty of postponing the delivery of your regular triple lactose-free synthetic-dairy vegan latte. There’s very little about these types of scenarios that isn’t entirely possible right now using technology that either already exists, or that could be developed relatively easily. …

About

Christian Cantrell

Writer and Director of Design Prototyping at Adobe.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store