Teams

If you know, you know.

My theory: the design brief was: “Build something which looks like Slack and demos well enough, but that is quantifiably worse in every respect. Then add video chat, because we have that lying around and it’s the one thing Slack doesn’t have, so everyone will have to choose us anyway.”

My laundry list from today:

  • Make the top-level organisational concept (the ‘Team’) a second-level component of the user interface, so you can’t switch quickly between Teams. cf. Slack’s ⌘1, ⌘2 etc.
  • Remove notifications from the interface for tertiary-level elements. So to find out if you have new messages within a specific team’s group, you have to open that team.
  • Ensure all of this is slow.
  • No keyboard shortcuts for any of this.
  • No menu items for any of this.
  • No matter how many Teams you’re a part of, they’re all presented within precisely one window.
  • Except Chats, which can be split out into separate windows.
  • …from which key elements of the interface are removed.
  • …except on mobile, where the ‘reply to specific message’ feature is added.
  • …so on mobile, drop the partial Markdown-processing of text entry.
  • Ignore separate Chat windows and switch to the main viewer if you respond to a notification alert.
  • Make those notification alerts not use system-provided mechanisms.

Let’s not get started on why Immersive Reader is a top-level right-click action for individual messages.

The irony here is that email bloody sucks, and many of us have been arguing to get off it for years. What I hadn’t anticipated was the future where we actually do move away from email… to something worse.

Back in the Pro Game

This guide to upgrading classic ‘cheesegrater’ Mac Pros is a rare example of a document which earns its ‘definitive’ title. An astonishing and immensely valuable piece of work.

Related: I’m dusting off my old Mac Pro. Again. It was built in 2008 – twelve years ago – but it’s enough of a tank that I fear it will once again be pressed into service. In theory I can hack it to run the current Mac OS, though it’s not quite clear if it’s going to need yet another graphics card to manage that. If all else fails I can reboot it into (whisper it) Windows 10, where it seems to behave like a normal, supported system.

Not being able to upgrade the RAM and drive in my not-quite-as-old MacBook Pro means it’s not cutting the workloads I’m trying to hack on right now. Amusingly enough, what’s tipped it over the edge is … Microsoft Teams. Sigh.

Where the time goes

One sign of a large project can be the degree of arcane hoop-jumping foisted on project members. Right now, I’ve a few projects underway where I’m supposed to track my time. In at least one case, the overhead of tracking my time will amount to more of my time than the time on the project I’m tracking. If you see what I mean. But here we are.

For the most part I’m rather enjoying using Toggl, which syncs nicely between web, desktop and mobile apps. It also nags me quite successfully, without being too smug about it. However, entering data is a little clunkier than I’d like, and the visual design and typography feel to me just a little… off, somehow. Like the app should be doing just a little more to render my recent history clearly? I’m not sure.

I’ll very likely stick with Toggl, but Brett Terpstra’s command-line/plain text system doing has caught my attention. I’m working partly on an Ubuntu laptop these days (more about that another time, perhaps, but the short version is: meh, but it was cheap) and tearing core tools out of the Mac/iOS ecosystem has its attractions. Presumably I could stick a doing log file in Dropbox and access it from whatever system I happen to be in front of, but these sorts of shell tools aren’t very usable from my phone, so there’s little net benefit right now. This is also why I haven’t (yet?) moved from Things to something more like .taskpaper format files. Also because Things is delightful and fabulous and sync works in exactly the way Dropbox sync all too often doesn’t.

Still: doing: interesting.

Push Off

It’s not that we need finer-grained control over our push notifications. It’s that we need the algorithms to be a whole lot less artificially stupid. This, for example, is not something that needed to interrupt my weekend.

The whole point of newspapers like the Washington Post is editorial taste, their ability to filter the world and find the bits of it which are important. It’s not clear to me that outlets like the Post should be risking algorithmic control.

Which will be the first newspaper to publicly pledge they’ll always keep a human in the loop?

Quick post to show Edith how this works

Just to annoy her, I’m going to:

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Hello, World!

On 29th August, this:

For more, see Gwydion’s own website.

The sausage sandwich here is significant. Elin rather missed out on the traditional tea and toast, and when she woke up a few hours later she was ravenous. Happily, the hospital canteen served what, at the time, seemed like the Best Sausage Sandwiches Ever.

Implausible hovering

Even if you aren’t of the steampunk persuasion, airships are plain cool. Here’s a bunch of them care of The Atlantic.

Airship

We’re used to seeing photographs of aircraft, and we imagine their speed and air flowing over their wings and all that; familiarity with the concept has led us to forget how mysterious they are. The A380 is big enough to offer a glimpse of sufficiently advanced technology, but only barely.

Photographs of airships do not, I suspect, do them justice. They didn’t fly, they hung. They were weightless, but far from massless: Hindenburg was as big as an aircraft carrier and it operated at a gross weight of more than 200 tonnes, roughly half the maximum take-off weight of an A380.

And it hovered. Silently.

Look at The Atlantic’s photos and tell me that wouldn’t have been just a little eerie.

Gernsback Discontinuum

It’s a terrible shame and a real disservice for the years to come when the people we count on to dream are content with IKEA and iPads.

Star Trek and the shiny, boring future — Adventures in Consumer Technology — Medium.

Great – and in an age of ever-longer blog posts, commendably short – essay on the lack of futurism in ‘futuristic’ cinema. The IKEA conformity of popular TV was something in which I cheerfully participated, mostly because it made my budget go further. But we were horribly aware that as a result, essentially all shows had the exact same look.

The other day I saw, lurking in the back of shot on Defiance, a giant caster wheel bolted to one of those kick-steps you use so kids can reach the sink. The whole thing was sprayed silver, presumably so it looked like some weird abstract future artwork. No, it was a wheel bolted to a kickstep, and painted silver.

Sleep and youth

I recently pulled an all-nighter, partly to see if I still could.

It was surprisingly OK. I did have a short nap in the small hours, and another the following afternoon, but I was mostly functional. Sure, I wouldn’t have driven a car, and in conversation I was pretty random, but the stuff I was working on turns out to be pretty good. So how was the recovery?

I slept for eleven hours straight, then the following afternoon for another three.

Drat. Not as young as I used to be.