Think Better: The Best Stuff I Read This Week – November 18, 2011

You Don’t Have to Tweet to Twitter – Bill Gurley –

The metaphorical understanding of Twitter is that it is like Facebook. Facebook is of course the leading “social network.” But there are drastic distinctions that must be clear, especially for Twitter to have continued success. Twitter is not just a “variant of Facebook.”

Primarily, Facebook is a “symmetrical” few-to-a-few social network. Facebook connects “friends” who mutually acknowledge each other’s friendship. You can easily share with the people in your life. On the other hand, Twitter is distinctively “asymmetrical” and functions more as a broadcasting tool.

Importantly, one does not have to “tweet” to be actively engaged on Twitter. Twitter is changing how they on-board new users so that the new user doesn’t feel like their own tweeting is not so central to the experience.

Twitter’s value is more closely aligned to a discovery engine and information utility than it is to that of a “social network.”

Personal Finance is More PERSONAL than it is FINANCE – Tim Maurer –

Tim reveals some of the drive, manipulation, and perhaps greed that is a part of the financial services sales industry and the way he was trained. However, Tim had the humility and foresight to get out of that game, and now offers a different breed of personal financial planning.

In fact, because money is so tied to every aspect of each of our lives, Tim (a financial planner) has his own financial advisor – someone who is not as close to Tim’s money as Tim is.

The article goes on to explain why personal finance is more personal than it is finance. This affects the financial advice you should receive. But he also makes the interesting point, “the most challenging and important aspects of the discipline of personal finance are not the financial, but the personal.”

How a Financial Pro Lost His House – Carl Richards – New York Times

This story takes a look at the insanity that preceded the financial collapse. The author tells his own devastating story of the things he did to get in a bad place, how he lost his house, and what he learned along the way. Importantly, he notes that we really can’t judge the spending habits or risks taken by others because we don’t know what they’re doing to keep their families together or otherwise stay alive. An example he gives is someone borrowing against their house to be able to afford therapy. Who knows… maybe that’s the best decision that you can make given all the circumstances. Good read.

Basic lesson: don’t be greedy. Not with our money nor our judgments. Also, have the humility to be able to envision a future that may not be what you think the script would have it be. Learn to see unintended consequences.

A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design – Bret Victor

When we envision the future, it’s a lot of touch-screen interfaces all over the place. Everything we interact with is “picture under glass.”

It’s ironic that all of our proposed future touch-screen tools are controlled by our hands when our hands are designed for much more utility that touching surfaces. Therefore, our visions of the future and future technology ought to incorporate more of our inherent capability. Creating a future “vision” involving lots of touch devices isn’t that “visionary” at all… it’s all derived from what we currently have.

Notably, our hands are able to give us tremendous feedback on things: we feel the weight of piano keys, we can feel how full a glass of water is, etc. Those experiences – the things that give us real-time feedback about our experience – are completely impossible on touch devices. The best example is that playing the piano ultimately feels like anything else if it’s experienced on a touch device.

We must be careful with our visions of the future, and often this means relying on more basic metaphors… like what our hands are able to do… not just modern metaphors of multi-functional touch screen interfaces.

Clip from ‘Objectified’

A feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them.

This clip of sets a standard for design theory. The best design is “inevitable;” it’s invisible. The best design gets out of the way. I write a column for Blue Ocean Ideas called “The Weekly Idea” and next week’s will be on this very topic. Click here to subscribe to “The Weekly Idea.”


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