Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe.

A history of autocorrect

Gideon Lewis-Kraus discusses The Fasinatng … Frustrating … Fascinating History of Autocorrect. Turns out there’s more to it than meets the eye:

A handful of factors are taken into account to weight the variables: keyboard proximity, phonetic similarity, linguistic context. But it’s essentially a big popularity contest. A Microsoft engineer showed me a slide where somebody was trying to search for the long-named Austrian action star who became governor of California. Schwarzenegger, he explained, “is about 10,000 times more popular in the world than its variants”—Shwaranegar or Scuzzynectar or what have you. Autocorrect has become an index of the most popular way to spell and order certain words.

This article also taught me that swear words are complicated. And I really like the cartoons of various autocorrect errors, especially this one:

Damn you autocorrect

“Making It Right” – a book about product management

I don’t know if I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I do know that I’ve been writing the one I’m announcing today in my head for many, many years. It’s called Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World, and it’s my attempt at putting together a practical framework for building great products:

Making It Right

The book came about because I saw a lot of people in organizations perform some of the activities that make up the role of product management. The problem is that very few people take a holistic view of the product, and this is not a role that should be split up into tiny pieces. So, you see marketing people doing some design and research, business analysts doing some spec writing, developers managing the product backlog, and so on.

All this without a person who is responsible for the overall vision, prioritization, and execution of the product. With this book I wanted to provide a complete product strategy that is agnostic to whatever development process people use (agile, etc.).

So here are a couple of links to check out more detail, if you’re interested:

Smashing tells me that the Amazon thing, in particular, is important for the first couple of days after launch. So if you’re so inclined, please pick it up for 99c, and write a review. It will really, really help to give us a good launch.

Huge thanks to the Smashing Magazine team, and my technical editor Francisco Inchauste. They’re my heroes. And now I have to lie down.

The original OS: treating people well

Joel Spolsky:

Even though Fog Creek, Trello, and Stack Exchange are now three separate companies, they are all running basically the same operating system, based on the original microprocessor architecture known as “making a company where the best developers want to work,” or, in simpler terms, treating people well.

What a great post about a great product and a great outlook on corporate culture. I wish Joel would start blogging regularly again…

[Sponsor] Photo Book Flip: your iPad photos in a beautiful book

My thanks again to Photo Book Flip for sponsoring the site again this week. Try it out!

Photo Book Flip instantly turns the photos on your iPad into a beautiful photo book with a single tap. Unlike most photo apps that only let you browse photos one at a time, Photo Book Flip lets you flip through your photos in variety of layouts, so you can enjoy them in a delightful and different way.

How is Photo Book Flip different?

Photo Book Flip is not your ordinary photo book creator app. Every time you choose a set of photos, the app intelligently lays out photos into minimalist templates inspired by photo-centric magazines like Kinfolk. So every time you create a photo book, it’s going to be a different experience even with the same set of photos.

Photo Book Flip also works nicely with Apple’s Photo Stream. This means all the photos you take on your iPhone, you can use Photo Book Flip on your iPad to make them into a photo book with just a tap.

Lastly, we think the best part of Photo Book Flip is that it takes the hassle out of creating beautiful photo books for you to enjoy.

A sneak peak at what’s coming up.

We are hard at work polishing and making this app better. There are lots more features to come and here’s a preview:

  • Sharing features: Email, tweet, or post to Facebook individual photos as well as pages in your photo books.
  • Full screen photos: Tap on any photo to see it in full screen view.
  • More templates: We’re gradually adding more templates for more layout variations.
  • Flickr and Facebook Support: The feature we’re excited about the most! Create photo books from photos in your Facebook and Flickr account.

As you can see, lots of exciting features are coming to Photo Book Flip! Find it on the App Store and make sure to sign up for updates on our website.

Photo Book Flip

Sponsorship via Syndicate Ads

Destroy email! No, don’t!

In Doomed to Repeat It Paul Ford discusses our obsession with email and to-do list apps, and he makes an interesting point about this form of communication that we all love to hate:

Is there another form of communication besides email where the acknowledged goal is to hide all of the communication? Email has evolved into a weird medium of communication where the best thing you can do is destroy it quickly, as if every email were a rabid bat attacking your face. Yet even the tragically email-burdened still have a weird love for this particular rabid, face-attacking bat. People love to tweet about how overwhelming it all is. They write articles about email bankruptcy and proclaim their inbox zero status. Email is broken, everyone agrees, but it’s the devil we know. Besides, we’re just one app away from happiness. A tremendous amount of human energy goes into propping up the technological and cultural structure of email. It’s too big to fail.

There’s also these two little gems from the article:

Doing the work, responding to the emails—these all suck. But organizing it is sweet anticipatory pleasure.

Working is hard, but thinking about working is pretty fun. The result is the software industry.

And while we’re on the topic of email, here’s something else I’ve noticed recently:

The robots are coming, but that’s ok

The AP is increasingly starting to use software with no human intervention to write basic news stories, but Kevin Roose says that we shouldn’t be alarmed about it. From his article Why Robot Journalism Is Great for Journalists:

Robot assistance may even spur human reporters to do our jobs better. With software producing the equivalent of old-school “clip files” for us, we’ll essentially have full-time research assistants. The information in our stories will be more accurate, since it will come directly from data feeds and not from human copying and pasting, and we’ll have to issue fewer corrections for messing things up. Plus, with our nuts-and-bolts reporting out of the way, we’ll be able to focus on the kinds of stories that educate and entertain readers in a deep way, rather than just dragging simple information from Point A to Point B.

Don’t drink the water

As a frequent flyer I started reading Michaeleen Doucleff’s How To Stay Healthy In Flight with great interest, but I cannot get this sentence out of my head:

In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency found high levels of fecal bacteria in the drinking water of 15 of the 327 planes it tested.



Customer request list != product roadmap

Rich Mironov’s We Don’t Hire Product Owners Here is a treasure trove of advice and clear thinking on the dangers of not taking the Product Owner role seriously in companies that make the switch to Agile development. There are so many good sound bites, but I’ll stick with just one that hits close to home:

Don’t let your customer request list become your roadmap. Kano analysis teaches us that letting current customers prioritize your backlog for you leads to market failure.  Don’t let your product owners confuse “this is what the enhancement request says” with “understanding and solving real customer problems.”

Topography and how we see the world

I don’t quite know how to describe Peter Richardson’s The Lay of the Land. It’s about topography, maps, and cartoons, but actually about how we see the world:

Eventually I escaped my fjord, but a few lessons of my youth have been repeatedly confirmed: topography is important, and there’s no faster way to make an impression than with a cartoon. And by “cartoon” I mean a simplification which exaggerates some details and omits others. You could also say “model,” but I like the connotations of “cartoon”; it retains a transgressive frisson that the word “model” doesn’t have, unless you’re in fashion. But anyway.

Great essay — a bit rambling, but in a way that keeps you engaged.

An introduction to technical debt

Maiz Lulkin has a great overview of one of the most important and most misunderstood issues in software development in his post Technical debt 101:

In software development, the dreadful consequences of sacrificing quality are widely misunderstood by non technical managers. They underestimate how detrimental it is to continued productivity and morale, and ultimately, to the overall strategy of the company.

He goes on to explain why…