Friday, April 14, 2017

Landmark study: The Blue Eyes Brown Eyes experiment

How can you can lower kids' test scores, self-esteem, get them angry, gas-lit stupid, humiliated, and awful in just one day?


Turns out throwing boucoup shade is a skill children can pick up after being told simply "Brown eyed kids are stupid, Blue eyed kids are smart!" They will do the rest.

What do the cute little tyrants say about how it feels to treat others as less than? "I felt like a king, like I ruled the brown eyes, like I was better than them. Happy!" If that makes you a little sick, you may not want read more about the famous Blue Eyes Brown Eyes experiment. Creator Jane Elliott, to this day, has grown adults come up to her and talk about what awful suffering they experienced at the hands of her and their peers. Those are the ones, IMHO, that don't get it. "It" is that many people, are discriminated against that way, or worse daily. Not just once in their life. Every day. Luckily though, hearing her original students talk most of her original students did get it, and got to the level of empathy required to be a good person/woke.

The same uncreative crappy area of our brains light up when we are sexist, racist, homophobic! Under pressure these spill out even easier. Watch this fucked up example on RuPaul's drag race where DragMen pick on each other to the delight of RuPaul. What do they immediately attack when instructed to be mean? You guessed it: race & physical appearance.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Designed for wolves: I don't like Wikipedia

I don't like Wikipedia. As if to remind myself why, I read Wikipedia's lower back tattoo page.

According to the online encyclopedia "Women's lower backs are often viewed by people as an erotic body part, leading to the association of lower-back tattoos with sexuality. Lower-back tattoos are also perceived as an indication of promiscuity by some..."

Often viewed as erotic? Indication of promiscuity? Passive voice aside, I give the editors kudos for including everyone when they assert that it's people who often view women's lower backs as erotic.
Editors of Wikipedia kindly obliged readers with an image illustrating a typical promiscuous Western woman with a lower back tattoo.
Sure, men have lower backs and they get tattoos there but that's not why the editors (or you) are here. So just pay no mind to the image below. It's not representative of Wikipedia and it has no business there.
This tattoo is not "generally not done" says Wikipedia, avert your male gaze!
PS: Yes, that's David Beckham.
Clicking deeper, to contextualize the many inaccurate and weird assertions, I found the talk page where exclamations like "Fuck yeah, we need some more photos of hot chicks with tramp stamps" sit proudly unchallenged in perpetuity. Did Encyclopedia Brittanica have this kind of commentary in the annotations?

I deleted the promiscuity line, which seemed a modest edit, only to have it be reverted instantly. I repeated the gesture a couple more times and got the same result. Reverted. On my final attempt, I wrote solid rationale and amazingly the instant-reverter backed down.

One down, one innumerable army of sexist strangers to go!

By the next day, it was back (no pun inten—OK, yeah, I meant that one). I wasn't surprised. Wikipedia pages are closely monitored by concerned scholars out to make sure we all know women with tattoos on their lower backs are perceived as sluts. It's noble when you focus on the effort and completely ignore the content.

Just what I like in my reference material: a big steaming hot cup of male gaze.

I have to ask, why is an encyclopedia judging my tattoo — no, my body and my sexual proclivities? What if my tattoo is silly or artistic, or weird, or ugly, or classy, or meaningless? Maybe a better question is: if I can't trust Wikipedia to be reasonable, balanced or intelligent about this topic (not even sure why this is a page, honestly), what other yarns are they spinning which do us a disservice?

Out of curiosity, I sauntered over to the Gamer page wondering if I'd see something similar, like "Gamers are often viewed by people as zit-infested, pale, awkward social losers who have no friends." No. There is, however, sections titled "girl gamers" and "gaymers" to underscore how they are different then default male gamers who, by the way, have no problems making and keeping friends.

Congrats, Wikipedia! You don't have an all male panel....but you are so damned close.
The Hoff sticker made using this bad-ass page

Wikipedia is failing women, minorities, those with disabilities, the aged, gays, lesbians, transgender folks, etc, etc. etc. Like other parts of the internet, Wikipedia, by design, rewards aggro mobThink (don't look that up, I made it up), persistence, and seemingly endless fighting so it shouldn't be surprising that in 2013,

over 80% of Wikipedia’s editors are young, white, child-free men...their perspective is what largely dominates how information is organized, framed and written - Forbes
In response to the huge gap, in 2011, the Wikimedia board created a task force and set a goal, to raise the percentage of female editors from about 10% to 25%.

How did they go about it?

Did they rethink or redesign the experience? Was there any effort made to punish or discourage the crappy behavior Wikipedia had been ignoring or rewarding? Did Wikipedia's staff make thoughtful examination at how the community, site, space experience and system is designed to fail and how they could change it? Nah, they made the site easier to edit (get your content reverted/deleted) and like a lot of broken systems, the disenfranchised are encouraged to fix it themselves by:
  1. Start editing now! 
  2. Join a wikipedia edit-a-thon!
In other words, man up, get with the brogram, and jump into the pit of snakes, wolves and bears. Sure, the climb is uphill and you'll be bit, scratched and attacked for your edit. But with the right attitude (and friends to hack with!) grit and leisure time, your tiny edit might survive the thunder dome that is Wikipedia. But probably not.

Outside of Wikipedia's suggestion to be like Sisyphus, I founds sites that provided more disturbing and likely realistic tips :
  1. Hide your gender, race (etc.) so you can guard against the racism/sexism/etc. from your fellow editors
  2. Pick your battles wisely (for example: avoid the word feminist, it's sure to get a revert)
It's 2016; five years after the goal was set. The progress? Ninety percent of wikipedia editors are still men. 

If Wikipedia doesn't get that community management and experience design shapes the very behavior it purports to abhor, if nothing they've done has had a significant impact then I can only conclude they either don't really care enough or aren't competent enough to build an inclusive, trustworthy, knowledgable community encyclopedia.

Either way, I don't trust Wikipedia. 

Post scripts

  1. Wikipedia should get credit for being brave/bold/crazy enough to acknowledge the systemic issue and the story got huge traction getting picked up by the NYT, Slate, Forbes, etc (in 2011). It's good they were open. They even provide a very short page on Gender who's talk page is its own form of gender biased.
  2. The edit-a-thon groups are a pretty good idea, albeit are a drop in the bucket and even new articles which highlight prominent scientists face a community eager to delete the ladies. "I'm sorry who's she? I've never heard of her. Does she have a back tattoo?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On interruption...

As rude as interruption tends to be, like everything, it has a time and a place.

Rude isn't bad all the time. Judicious use, it can be very powerful.

Is being polite more important than stopping a toxic conversation?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In praise of product manuals

I recently bought two things: a knife sharpener & a soap dispenser both of which had manuals I read. 

I took notes on the knife sharpener manual to summarize key information, which really ended up being: "how many times do you put a knife through each slot?" 

Cliff notes aside, I thought it was interesting to contrast the number of words and the instructions. See for yourself.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The impact of hotel sheets

There are lots of lever we can pull as designers but some have more business impact than others.

When Darker or patterned sheets & bedspreads are easier to clean so why invest in white sheets if you're in charge of designing hotel rooms?

"The all-white bed created this halo effect -- people thought a room had been renovated, even if it was just the bed that had been changed, It had a huge impact." -Erin Hoover, VP design for Westin and Sheraton hotels

The key here to me is that testing revealed the right choice. Testing is design's best friend. Read the full article here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Beautiful quote

“As the advocates for user experience I think it’s important that we’re advocating for everyone’s experience and perhaps doing a little bit more than just whispering the word ‘accessibility’ in a meeting early on and allowing it to be just as easily dismissed. And not just because of the potential legal implications, but because it’s our job.”
– Leisa Reichelt (source) via

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From User Experience to Customer Experience - talk by Kerry Bodine

Kerry Bodine is kind of a big deal.  Watch as she:
  • Distinguishes Customer Experience from User Experience
  • Monazites the billion dollar customer experience industry
  • Makes clear the huge, growing opportunities for leaders to rise to the challenges

This is an exciting video to watch as a ux designer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Did you want to cry today?

Watch this video created to make employees at a hospital express more empathy. It's going to probably make you cry.

Also check out these MIT suit which dims your sight and stiffens your body so you can empathize with someone who's about 70.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Free sketching templates for downloading

Find yourself tired of constantly making screens? Does your arm smart after too many rectangles? Worry no more! Download sketching template PDF!

Collect them all: 1, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 16 up! If you act now, receive all in one convenient PDF.