12-10-11 Hodgepodge

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Charlotte vs. OWS

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, which will be hosting next year's Democratic Convention, is enacting ordinances to keep OWS protestors at bay.

.... The North Carolina city, sometimes called the "Wall Street of the South," is not taking any chances, and is already working to pass an ordinance that would make occupying downtown spaces with tents a "public nuisance," in addition to banning "noxious substances," padlocks, and other camping equipment. The fact that it would knock out the city's current overnight demonstrators is an added bonus.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said dubiously last month that the rule, which could be enacted in January, is not aimed at a specific group. "Unlike many cities that have well-developed regulations governing protest activity, our local regulations contain gaps that need to be filled," he said. But a memo about the ordinance does note, "The recent issues related to camping on city property have further amplified the need to review whether the city wants to regulate this activity during the DNC." A city councilman added of the current Occupy Charlotte faction, "Once those ordinances go into effect, those overnight stays will end."
Note that, of these measures, (1) only (perhaps) the proposed nuisance ordinance would exist in a truly capitalist society; and (2) none of the others would be needed were all property private, and trespassing were consistently treated like the crime that it is. As with an annoying union protest, on the sidewalks and streets in front of a hotel, I've had to walk past daily for over two weeks, this story reminds me that the streets would be far cleaner in a capitalist society.

Score this one a victory for the anti-freedom, anti-property OWS movement, as unintuitive as that might sound to many, including the impudent squatters themselves.

Weekend Reading

"But what is capitalism, exactly? How do we know it when we see it or have it -- or when we haven't, or don't?" -- Richard Salsman, in "Capitalism Isn't Corporatism or Cronyism", at Forbes

"Although never actually pursued under President Bush, the principles of private property, free trade and individual choice implied in The Ownership Society would remedy the economy in a way no other stimulus can." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "Bring Back the Ownership Society", at SmartMoney

"Some of us have a hard time receiving criticism because we automatically take it personally." -- Michael Hurd, in "Don't Take It Personally!", at DrHurd.com

Two Perspectives on Apple

I have long been ambivalent about Apple products, having a high degree of respect for the quality and aesthetics of the hardware, but too much annoyance with the user interfaces of its software to ever seriously consider switching over. (I also strongly object to vendor lock-in.) Two articles I ran into recently have helped me better understand both the "love" and the "hate".

First, one writer argues that Apple's hardware design is good at essentializing:
Apple never designed the iPad. Instead, they undesigned it by creating the simplest shape possible. The iPad is the core essence of what a tablet *can* look like.

Apple is really good at this. Look at the Cinema Display, the Apple wireless keyboard, the Macbook Air, the iPod, and all their other devices. The reason why their "design" is so successful is because they are not actually designing their products. They are reducing them to the simplest form possible.

It is beauty through simplicity.
The writer's main thrust is an argument that Apple shouldn't be able to get legal protection for its iPad design. He raises interesting points, but I'm not sure I agree with him.

Regarding the "hate" (which extends to aspects of Windows and relates to my preference for Linux), another writer has finally identified the aspect of modern GUIs that puts me off:
Growing up I was always very small for my age. I didn't mind the size ("the bigger they are, the harder they fall!" was my rallying cry), but I hated being thought of as younger than I was, be it in physical or intellectual capabilities. When you're a knowledge sponge as a kid, the first time someone tells you something, it feels amazing, and you love that person. The second time someone tells you the same fact, it's pure torture. "I know this already, I'm not an idiot! Sheesh."

My problem with many modern UIs is that they never get past the telling phase. They're always dressing up their various functions with glows and bevels and curves, and in the process they somehow become overbearing to my senses. "Did you know you can click this? ...
Related to this tendency is skeuomorphism, the use of familiar metaphors in computing interfaces to permit non-computing people to use computers easily. I think the practice does help sell lots of computers, but I agree with Paul Miller and Andy Mangold that it doesn't always help that much, and can even get in the way of productive work.

Praising the Good

While I'm dumping computing links, I might as well end on a good note. As a very satisfied Dropbox user, I pass along what Scott Hanselman calls a "good [user experience] in the wild":
We need to continue to push ourselves and our work groups to implement ideas that we know are right. We need to advocate for the Customer and always try to see things from their experience. I don't know anyone at Dropbox but I think it's a fair guess that not only did they have the will to implement this friendly download feature, but they also knew it was the right kind of attention to detail that their customers needed. What a nice, almost subliminal way to kick off your relationship with your users than a subtly customized download page.
I didn't have to use this feature myself, but the degree of thoughtfulness Hanselman discusses extends throughout my user experience with Dropbox.

-- CAV

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