Mental Model Traps

Mental Model Traps result from an erroneous representation of how something works.

Searching for the story…

Stain Glass Window

I’m in the middle of two books now — one finished and ready for the fifth round of editing; and one that requires me to finally write an ending. Endings are hard… even when you know how things are going to end. But here’s a few insights from the book I’m finishing right now: God of Small Affairs. (No it’s not the first title I came up with… not even the tenth. Names are hard.) The Beginning I’ve started this particular story thinking it was just a short story, 5000 words max. By the time I got to about 17,000, I knew it was a book. But that was a surprise. This is not a first time a book surprised me into making me write it. The FATOFF Conspiracy was originally a short story too… and Twin Time. Short stories are very different from novel-length works. From the structure point of view, there are fewer characters, no subplots, and a lot less description of the setting and the characters populating the story. A short story simply doesn’t have room for world building… obviously. You grab the story with the first few words and don’t let go or digress for a…

Meditations on Blockchain

Blockchain_Logo

The internet is flooded with contemplations, broodings, and cogitations on Blockchain. One of the possible uses of this technology, Bitcoins and its ilk, has been the reverie, prayer, and speculation engine for endless get rich schemes and the constant fodder for media rumination. But what is it really? The direct answer is that Blockchain is just a digital form of trust. Allow me to walk you through it. Trust has always been the foundation of any society. Early on, when social groups were numbered in low dozens and basically consisted of associations of family members, trust was the currency among the members. You can trust your father-in-law because the survival of his grandkids was in his interest as much as your own, presumably. If a member of the family strayed, everyone knew about and punished the transgression accordingly, including by removing personal trust. But once the social groups grew in size, trust was more difficult to establish — who could remember who did what and to whom? To supplement trust born of personal knowledge, institutional trust was invented: laws, banks, governments, … and of course religious institutions. It no longer mattered if you were not familiar with a stranger, you…

Alternative Facts in Medicine

Doctors' hygiene

While we are collectively freaking out over the Trump’s White House use of Alternative Facts, these kinds of “facts” have been floating around in medicine (and politics) for a long time. And it is instructive to take a look at how we as a society have been dealing with Alternative Facts in Medicine and what damage these “facts” have wrought on us individually and collectively. I propose the following formula for how Alternative Facts come to be: Desperate Need + Greed = Alternative Fact Medical Myths: Beliefs Based on Outdated Science To start, allow me to refresh your memory, for our history is full of myths when it comes to our heath and our diseases. Let’s begin with a bit of bloodletting. Bloodletting is almost as old as our civilization. Thousands of years ago (that’s thousands, with three zeros!), a healer’s first choice of treatment was to let out the “excess” blood from a patient. Be it a migraine, an infection, or a virus, a person who was probably too sick to object was cut with a lancet or some other easily available tool and weakened even further via blood loss. The Greek physician Erasistratus believed all illnesses were due…

Cultural, Psychological, and Evolutionary Basis for Your Political Choice in 2016 Presidential Election

2016 Election

Who’s your choice for president this election? How did you make your decision? Given where you live and who you are, you might never really had a choice! Your vote might have been decided for you even before you were born… Might. Cultural Argument: Empathy versus Sympathy There is a lot of talk about the presidential candidates that start with: Who would you rather have beer with? Why does such a question have resonance? Why do we put so much importance on our ability to relate to the candidate? Why do we feel that our ability to visualize ourselves hanging out with a potential president somehow qualifies them for office? Many pundits and TV personalities try to convince us that it matters one way or another. But why does it work? Why do people believe them? Well, there is actual is a reason, and it just happens to be culturally-based. It is worth looking at another example that has nothing to do with people running for the Office of the President of the United States of America. Consider mental illness. How do you feel about a person with schizophrenia? How do you feel about a person with Post Traumatic Stress…

LinkedIn Groups

Abstract Groups Image

I’ve started a discussion (or I hoped I did) the other day — it was about LinkedIn algorithms for auto moderating. These algorithms don’t work well. As an example, I invoked a group discussion I’ve started in a group where I am a moderator that was moved to “jobs” because LinkedIn didn’t understand the content. The article I shared was on the psychology of criminal sentencing research. It had nothing to do with jobs. Then when I looked around, I found other articles that people shared that ended up under “promotions” and “jobs” tabs. Different groups have different purposes. Some groups are about sharing information — I welcome people sharing articles about relevant topics. Such groups become magazines, news papers for narrow subject areas and self-selected audiences. That is very useful. Sometimes, there are discussion around these articles, sometimes not. That’s okay — that’s the kind of group it might be. When groups start, they are a potentiality — something wonderful might happen…or might not. It takes at least 500 group members to start the group moving and propagating. (I did a bit of research on this a few years ago.) Before that number, it is a lot of work…

Review eBook: Affordances and Design

Manches a Gigots

Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…

When Design and Interface are Dictated by the Technology

You’ve probably heard: If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is a commentary on how our problem solving perspective is influenced by the tools we happen to have in our hands at that moment. The tools, of course, don’t have to be physical. They can be systems, or lists, or a set of approaches that we’ve learned at school or that are enforced at work. And they can also be digital tools that we feel particularly comfortable using. These “tools” constrict our metal models, limiting the possible solutions to the design problems we face at work (or at home). It’s not a surprise that if we Google “WordPress Templates,” all the results look more or less the same. This is partly because of the tool — WordPress is a great tool, but as any tool, it limits the final creative output to what is easy. (Especially, if the designer is not a programmer.) Here’s a look at Google Image results for “WordPress Screenshots”: What’s interesting is the flip side of this phenomenon. Once we see a lot of nails, we expect nails as the solution. So it is not a surprise that not only do most…