summing up 73

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

How the internet flips elections and alters our thoughts, by Robert Epstein

We have also learned something very disturbing – that search engines are influencing far more than what people buy and whom they vote for. We now have evidence suggesting that on virtually all issues where people are initially undecided, search rankings are impacting almost every decision that people make. They are having an impact on the opinions, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of internet users worldwide – entirely without people’s knowledge that this is occurring. This is happening with or without deliberate intervention by company officials; even so-called ‘organic’ search processes regularly generate search results that favour one point of view, and that in turn has the potential to tip the opinions of millions of people who are undecided on an issue.

we all run interesting experiments in and with our products in order to make them more usable, behave more efficiently and make them better. this is a chilling essay based on proven research and featuring some really interesting experiments and examples in which big players such as google and facebook are creating massive influence over people’s behaviors and opinions – without any of us really being able to detect that it’s happening. the issue of invisible algorithms is a very important one. it is important in order to know how we are being affected ourselves as well as how we can use these strategies responsibly for our products & services.

Responsive Web Design: Relying Too Much on Screen Size, by Luke Wroblewski

Don’t assume screen adaptation is a complete answer for multi-device Web design. Responsive Web design has given us a powerful toolset for managing a critical part of the multi-device world. But assuming too much based on screen size can ultimately paint you into a corner.

It’s not that adapting to screen size doesn’t matter, as I pointed out numerous times, it really does. But if you put too much stock in screen size or don’t consider other factors, you may end up with incomplete or frankly inappropriate solutions. How people interact with the Web across screens continues to evolve rapidly and our multi-device design methods need to be robust enough to evolve alongside.

this is what i preach my clients for years. everybody seems to be always hyping this new technology or this new feature or that new paradigm. but in the end this only goes so far. what is important is that your product or service runs well in the ecosystem it will be used in, not the one it was designed for, be it a website, an application or a mobile app.

The Web of Alexandria, by Bret Victor

Whenever the ephemerality of the web is mentioned, two opposing responses tend to surface. Some people see the web as a conversational medium, and consider ephemerality to be a virtue. And some people see the web as a publication medium, and want to build a "permanent web" where nothing can ever disappear. Neither position is mine. If anything, I see the web as a bad medium, at least partly because it invites exactly that conflict, with disastrous effects on both sides. For people who have grown up with HTTP and URLs, it can be hard to see anything wrong with them. The tendency is to blame individual behavior – "You should have mirrored that data!" "You shouldn't have put those photos online!" But the technical properties of a medium shape social practice, and if the resulting social practice is harmful, it's the medium that is at fault.

how can you call the web a publishing medium when your bookshelf can just vanish? on the other hand, how can it be that deleted content still emerges from the deep sea of the web? the web is a single, increasingly complex infrastructure which has been adopted for mutually incompatible purposes. more importantly however bret victor made me realize that there’s so many ways we limit ourselves with technology.