Using lessons from the present to create a near-future thriller

My fourth novel, Scorpion, is now available, and as much as it is a near-future thriller that uses technology as a tool for exploring moral ambiguity, it is also a subtle exploration of the impact of that technology on humanity.

First, an excerpt from the review by Publishers Weekly:


Sharing Adobe’s internal Design Prototyping wiki with the world

Two years ago, I wrote an article called Building to learn: the role of prototyping in Design as a way of sharing what I’ve learned from running a 20+ Design Prototyping team at Adobe. It’s a solid introduction to using code as a way to better understand new products and features at the design phase, and it explains how design prototyping is different from product engineering.

I’ve been thinking of ways to follow it up, and I’ve decided the most valuable information I can provide outside Adobe is exactly the same information I provide inside. What follows is a recreation…


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. …


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:


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…


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

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.

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:

And he clearly meant it. Microsoft is very good at physical keyboards and believes in them so…


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. …


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…


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…

Christian Cantrell

Author of SCORPION and Director of Design Prototyping at Adobe.

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