The bane of existence
There is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of commuters worldwide- a word so terrible, so vile, so incomprehensibly irritating that merely typing it makes my brow furrow and lips curl back into a vicious snarl. That word, my friends, is… traffic.
A chill ran down my spine at the mere mention of it.
But fear not, brothers and sisters! According to a research study led by Daniel B. Work, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, that foul beast that has terrorized commuters for, well, essentially as long as people have had to commute, may soon be stripped of much of its power. How, you ask? Have poorly designed roads begun to make sense? Have other drivers, aside from yourself, learned how to drive?
Alas, no. Instead, it will be fought tooth and nail by the (occasional) champion of justice known as Technology!
Remember those autonomous vehicles that seemingly every technology and automotive company seems to be working on? Well, according to Work, their “experiments show that with as few as 5 percent of vehicles being automated and carefully controlled, we can eliminate stop-and-go waves caused by human driving behavior.” The experiments, performed in Tucson, AZ, featured a single autonomous vehicle continuously circling a track while sharing the road with at least 20 other human-driven vehicles.
Interesting takeaways from the experiment?
According to Work and his research team, “human drivers naturally create stop-and-go traffic, even in the absence of bottlenecks, lane changes, merges or other disruptions”. Which I guess gives credence to the outraged epithets you may yell with your windows rolled up. This phenomenon even has a name, being called the “phantom traffic jam”. Work’s experiment was the first to be able to demonstrate, however, that a small percentage of autonomous vehicles (which in this case was one), can help to bust the nefarious “phantom.”
Not only would they help to eliminate waves of traffic, but they also could help to reduce fuel consumption by 40 percent.
The results of this experiment also seem to suggest that current automotive technology, such as adaptive cruise control, can also positively affect traffic conditions. This in turn suggests that the cruise control function is useful outside of road trips and extremely long drives. You learn something new every day!
Hypothetical until put into play
Though these results are very exciting, and bring with them hope for the relatively near future, it is important to note that the experiment was performed in a very controlled environment with only a small number of drivers. We will have to wait and see whether autonomous vehicles will have the same amount of success in terms of the chaos that is real-world driving. In the meantime, Work and his team suggest the next step in their research would be to study how the effects of autonomous vehicles in denser traffic, as well as with more freedoms granted to human drivers.
After all, this study did not even allow the human drivers to change lanes!
(Making the concept of a “phantom traffic jam” even more jarring. What could possibly cause a traffic jam if you can’t even change lanes?)
Let’s get autonomous cars goin
Still, as one from the San Francisco Bay Area, whose roads have been in traffic’s deadly stranglehold for quite some time, it is hard not to get overly excited about these results.
Plus, you know, they beat the alternatives. Robot apocalypse and all that.
Want to save snippets of a Zoom meeting? Listener makes it possible!
(TECHNOLOGY) Listener lets you screenshot or bookmark important sections of live meetings, as well as curate a playlist of snippets, to share or playback.
We live in a very computer-mediated world where the bulk of communication is done virtually. Many of us spend a great deal of time – whether for work or pleasure – on video calls connecting with people that we’re unable to meet with in person.
Zoom became the unofficial mascot for the pandemic and has shown no signs of going anywhere. So naturally, people are looking for ways to put this to even more of an advantage – like by creating messaging extensions to utilize in lieu of live meetings.
Now the folks behind Listener are getting in on the action by creating Listener for Zoom.
The new tool allows users to bookmark important moments of Zoom calls in real-time and easily turn long recordings into bite-sized video clips.
As founder Nishith Shah puts it, “Zoom meetings just got more productive!”
Listener allows users to do a myriad of things, including live bookmarking to create short video clips; ability to transcribe your entire meeting; edit video clips by using transcripts instead of struggling with video editing tools; share video highlights with your team; create playlists from video highlights across different Zoom meetings to tell powerful stories; use projects to organize your meetings and playlists.
Founders say that Listener is designed for pretty much anyone who uses Zoom. In early testing, the founders found that it is especially helpful for product managers and UX researchers who do customer interviews.
They also reported that early-stage founders have been using Listener to add powerful customer videos to their investor pitch decks. It is also helpful for recruiters and hiring managers who search transcripts across hundreds of hiring interviews to remember who said what and to pass on important clips to other people in the interview process.
The tool is also beneficial for teams and hiring, as customer success and sales teams create a knowledge base with Listener to train and onboard new employees. They also use it to pass on customer feedback to the product teams.
This could also be great for clipping video elements that are appropriate for social media use.
On January 11, 2022, Listener was awarded #3 Product of the Day on Product Hunt.
Listener for Zoom is free while in Beta. The tool works only with licensed (paid) Zoom accounts.
Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?
(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?
The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.
A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.
Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”
Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.
Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.
Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.
UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?
I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.
Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.
How Apple is trying to combat the AirTag backlash (hint – its not working)
(TECHNOLOGY) Apple’s weak-kneed attempts at fixing their AirTags issues aren’t working. They can be placed on anything (or anyone), and it is detrimental.
A few weeks ago, I wrote up an article on how the Apple AirTag can be used to stalk and track people, and now it’s happening. Unfortunately, not all stalkers have the same glamour as Joe from the hit series You.
Engadget reported that model, Brooks Nader, says someone used an AirTag to track her. Per her account, she didn’t receive the notification until she was walking home, alone, at night. If that’s not scary enough, now imagine she was an android user. The only way for her to know someone was tracking her would be if she had installed the Tracker Detect app.
As stated by TechCrunch, “Apple has made its own post-launch efforts to tighten up how AirTags that don’t belong to a certain user can be detected, but these notifications have proven buggy and have often waited far too long to alert users. Add in the fact that Apple has seemed to treat Android integration as an afterthought, not a necessary partnership in order to ship a device like this, and Apple’s incompetence looks a bit more severe.”
The app itself, which was released on December 11, 2021, is getting a lot of negative feedback. One issue is that to see if you’re being tracked you have to manually scan to find the AirTag. How often and when you do that is up to the user. Whereas with the Apple Find My app, it alerts you automatically without the user having to scan anything. It’s not perfect, however. It’s buggy and can take hours to notify the user that an AirTag is tracking them. However, it’s still better than the android app.
Another dreadful scenario that hasn’t been factored in this equation is children. Not all kids have devices, much less Apple devices, nor should they necessarily, but if someone was going to track them, they would be easy targets.
Apple, for the love of all that’s decent, pull AirTags and reconsider how they function. Examine the ways an AirTag could be used without using the mesh network of all iPhone users so that it doesn’t continue to emit a location or, I don’t know, give up. If it doesn’t mean anything to you to risk other’s lives with this product then consider the possible dangerous consequences as a reflection on Apple.
Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity.
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