Monday, June 10, 2019

Mothers, Error Prevention v. Recovery & Ikea

Weekly Update 2019-23: Heartbreaking vocals from this week's badass woman Mothers, the risks in designing error prevention in interfaces and my eternal love affair with Ikea.

Music: Mothers
The second in my spotlight on Badass Women for the month of June: Mothers was originally formed in 2013 as the solo project of musician Kristine Leschper. The band has since grown some to four members, still with Leschper at the heart of it all. Her voice is heartbreakingly sweet against a backdrop of melancholy guitar riffs, and on a rainy day like today, it's everything I need.

Leschper started making music while she attended art school for printmaking in Athens, Georgia. “It’s a lot of working with chemicals that are really bad for you, that you have to be really careful around,” she says. “It was special because it was dangerous. I remember feeling that it was so badass.”

So badass, she even looks good in the rain.

Check out her first album, 2016's When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired.

We made paper flowers! Yes, I now finally understand the magic that is the Cricut machine. Larissa is already hard at work making her bridesmaid bouquets out of old book pages, and they look amazing. I especially love how quickly the machine can cut through paper (easily the most time-consuming part of paper flower making), it's super fun to watch. As an aside, this is exactly how I pictured humans and machines working together - machines assisting humans in making creative expression quicker and easier. This, my friends, is the true future.

I also spent a lovely afternoon hanging out with my dad, during a part of which, we filled in the holes we made in my bathroom wall when we removed the old towel rack brackets. He taught me how to use Polyfill to patch the holes in the drywall, and it's looking a lot better. All I have to do now is sand and paint!

I am super excited because this week finally brings Strive, a UX research conference held in Toronto. This will be the second year of the event, and it sure looks like they're gaining some traction because the tracks and speakers look AMAZING.

I'm also seeing Vampire Weekend at Echo Beach (yay, outdoor concerts!) and doing some extra band practice on the weekend to prepare for a special drumming show on Tuesday. We welcome Dandha Da Hora, all the way from Brazil (via California) to come and teach us a thing or two about Samba Reggae and the culture around Carnival.

Random Thought: Error Prevention v. Recovery
A well-designed user experience should allow users to recover from their mistakes. The simplest user interface element that exemplifies this is the back button - "I picked the wrong thing in the navigation system and now I want to go back and try another way". To err is human and it makes good sense for systems to provide feedback to allow users another chance.

While error recovery allows users to make mistakes and then fix them, error prevention in design attempts to predict user behaviour in an attempt to prevent the error from ever happening. Take this example from Gmail:

Error prevention in its current form in 2019 is pretty helpful, and will continue to be as we utilize artificial intelligence to better predict user behaviour. Take self-driving cars for example - you'd definitely want error prevention over recovery, especially if you're about to crash into a brick wall.

While error prevention is currently helpful and mostly simple, I do worry about its future in technology. As machines prevent humans from making errors, we lose our own innate ability to avoid errors and rely too heavily on technology. It's like an overbearing parent who does all your homework for you - it's fine now, but what about when you need the skills to solve a problem yourself?

If everything I've learned from science fiction comes true, I predict that error prevention will eventually cease to allow the user to opt-out. Think about the Gmail example above (scanning your email for the word attachment and then prompting you), except there is literally no way to send the email without either adding an attachment or removing the word. It sounds silly, but this is literally how singularity happens. As soon as we relinquish the ability to think for ourselves and allow machines to take over, that's it for humanity in my opinion.

Unsurprisingly, Black Mirror hits the nail on the head in a tiny detail of the first episode of their fifth season, Striking Vipers. Each of the main characters loads the dishwasher, but it refuses to turn on until they "properly" rinse their plate or turn the knives to face point-down in the cutlery rack.

If nothing else, it's an interesting non-gendered exploration of the heteronormative kitchen-nag, classically used by wives to convince their husbands to load the dishwasher properly. What an exercise in empathy as well as a glimpse into our darkening futures.

Inspiration: Ikea
This past weekend I was lucky enough to convince my sister to take me to Ikea. She got some cool matching bookshelves from the as-is section, I managed walk out without a single plant (tooooo many already), and we split a deal on a pair of Almondy chocolate pies. If you haven't tried them yet, they're reason enough on their own to visit the store. We even met up with my mom in the restaurant.

It's common knowledge that Ikea has constantly revolutionized the furniture buying experience. Low prices and good design come together to actively bring the customer into the process. Do you like this chair? Go pick up the boxes in the warehouse and build it yourself at home - it's easy and cheap and makes the customer feel like an active part of the process beyond just forking over some money.

But it's not just the process of buying furniture; there is some kind of allure to simply being in the store. Why is Ikea so pleasant an experience that many people joke about going on dates there? Personally, I think it's because the store designers have actually done the research to get as close to a perfect experience as they can.

The wayfinding in the upper level to navigate customers through the maze of staged rooms makes great use of dividing up a huge expansive space into manageable, organized boxes. It's reminiscent of the way they use small boxes to organize drawers on the micro level - everything is considered and puzzled out on a macro and micro level.

You may already know that the Ikea restaurant is designed to give customers a reason and ability to stay longer and shop more, by fulfilling one of the needs they would otherwise need to leave the store to fulfill. It was a true innovation when it was introduced to the first Ikea store in Sweden in 1958.

The brand continues to innovate today, with a particularly inspiring modular double-couch living room layout that works for the way we actually use our living rooms today.

Now, if only I actually owned a big tv to point all my furniture at.

Ikea is also introducing hyper-modular furniture for small-space living that is simply marvelous.

Instead of cramming a bunch of different furniture into a small space that you'll only use some of the time, why not combine and re-imagine how furniture can change to fit your needs throughout the day. From bed to desk to storage, it literally rolls around your room to fit whatever you need. If only I lived in a smaller apartment!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Laura Sauvage, Picking Fruit & Anime North

Weekly Update 2019-22: A kickass Anime North weekend along with Laura Sauvage, a badass singer and the best ways to pick the best fruit.

Music: Laura Sauvage (Badass Women Series)
Spotify has delivered another wonderful playlist to soothe my political unrest in these troubling times: a whole set of songs with leading vocals and guitar by badass women. It features a lot of the bands I've profiled on my blog before like Snail Mail, Jay Som and Chastity Belt along with new favourites to add to my collection. In times when laws are being repealed to take more and more control from women over their own bodies, I need this music to connect to my fellow women in our creative struggles against corrupt governments and political parties.

One particular winner from the playlist is Laura Sauvage - the sweet little solo project from Vivianne Roy of Les Hay Babies. I like how her song Everything Is In Everything straddles the line between a cute little pop song and a psychedelic banger beat...kind of off the wall, but cool. Not to mention, Sauvage is based on Montreal and from New Brunswick!

Erika returned the favour I paid in March and visited me this week! She came in for Anime North but was gracious enough to spend most of her time with me (because I'm the luckiest person ever). Among other things, we walked all the way to Chinatown on a chance to find a copy of Pokemon Heart Gold and then went for dim sum at Rol San. I hear the Raptors have been doing well in basketball lately, even celebrating at the restaurants I visit (I always knew I was a trendsetter). Check out Serge Ibaka visiting only a couple days after us!

Pooped after our first couple of days, taking a Ringolo nap.

On Monday, I took the afternoon off to explore Ontario Place together. I can't believe how much cool stuff there is behind the island on the far coast.

Five short days and then she was gone. I guess I'll be visiting her next, and maybe it won't even be Vancouver!?

This weekend will be super-crafty. Larissa got a Cricut machine and we're going to test out some paper flower templates to make her bouquets. I'm also super excited to visit Ikea because I never get to go there and I need new bedsheets and a big frame for a poster.

Random Thought: Picking Fruit
One of the things I remember about my grandfather from before he passed away was his uncanny ability to pick fruit. He was a grandmaster in picking cantaloupes. Though admittedly they're still not my favourite fruit, as mango season rolls around I find myself wondering if he would have been good at picking a ripe mango or avocado.

With age comes experience (and hopefully wisdom), so it would follow that many elderly people would possess the skill to pick fruit. This seems like a low-cost, low-effort, high impact way to give elderly people something to pass the time as they retire. Let them hang out in the fruit sections of supermarkets where it's air-conditioned and there's lots of people around, and they can pick fruit for customers if they so choose.

It's a win-win for everyone really. Who wouldn't want a grocery grandmother to pick their grapes and gooseberries for them?

Inspiration: Anime North v2.0
Yep, this was my second year braving the intense weekend that is Anime North. Squishing too many people into one small hotel room, climbing a big muddy hill to get from one place to another, making sure my cosplay was on straight, and just general silliness that happens when a bunch of adult-aged animation admirers get together to play dress-up. This year I wanted to actually create a costume, so I decided to be a female version of Waluigi, as per the gender-bending crown from the Bowsette meme. Waluigi's character was actually invented for the game Mario Tennis so that Wario could have a partner to play with (oh, lonely Wario), so I had a tennis variant as well of course.

On Sunday, we all dressed up as platelets from Cells at Work.

I even expanded my Animal Crossing Amiibo set. Can't wait to nab KK Slider next year.

After taking several days to catch up on sleep, I can now look back on the weekend with some clarity and say it was a lot of fun! Until next year...