Costco CEO Craig Jelinek Leads the Cheapest, Happiest Company in the World

“I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits,” says Jelinek. “It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple.”

Amen, brother. Love these guys.

Tablet Usability: Findings from User Research

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox:

Gestural user interfaces have several inherent problems that tablet apps need to minimize:

  • Accidental activation: users often touch things by mistake and need a way to undo the result.
  • Swipe ambiguity: when the screen is divided into subregions (such as the frames we caution against), the same gesture can have different effects, depending on where it’s activated. This problem is exacerbated by the trend toward flat design, which doesn’t clearly demarcate the regions.
  • Invisibility: users can’t see the gesture they just made, and they sometimes can’t even see what they’re supposed to touch. Again, flat design makes this worse.
  • Low learnability: all of the previous problems combine to make gestures hard to learn. Advanced gestures might as well not exist, as very few users employ anything beyond the basic tap, press, swipe, drag, and pinch gestures.

So much this. NN/g is an incredible resource. Their reports are expensive for your average single-dude dev shop, but if you’re able to allocate a little of your budget to UX research, they’re well worth it.

J.K. Rowling and the Chamber of Literary Fame

Duncan J. Watts,

Several years ago, my colleagues Matthew Salganik and Peter Dodds at Columbia University and I challenged this conventional wisdom with an unusual experiment. We set out to prove that market success is driven less by intrinsic talent than by “cumulative advantage,” a rich-get-richer process in which early, possibly even random events are amplified by social feedback and produce large differences in future outcomes.

Improbable Research: Postal Experiments

Jeff Van Bueren for Improbable Research:

We knew that an item, say, a saucepan, normally would be in a package because of USPS concerns of entanglement in their automated machinery. But what if the item were not wrapped? How patient are postal employees? How honest? How sentimental? In short, how eccentric a behavior on the part of the sender would still result in successful mail delivery?

Continuing with our public service theme here at Frank Headquarters.

A Filthy History: When New Yorkers Lived Knee-Deep in Trash

Robin Nagle, author of Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City:

These men became heroes because, for the first time in anyone’s memory, they actually cleaned the city. It was a very bright day in the history of the department.

I grew up in Staten Island, home to the Fresh Kills landfill (now closed, as you’ll read). Yet even that mountain of refuse looming over our island – its sheer breadth and depth, its relentless stench on a hot summer’s day – inspired in me the kind of gratitude I feel to our sanitation workers having read this piece.

The 4 Basic Aspects Of Being A ‘Bro’

From NPR’s Code Switch:

With the elements of bro-dom thus explained, let us return to Ryan Lochte. He’s a jock. He has a stoner affect. He competes in a preppy sport. He tweets pics of him and his dudes doing bro-ass things. So you can see why Lochte is the platonic ideal of bro-dom.

It’s this kind of hard-hitting analysis that keeps me coming back to NPR.

Against Flip-Flops: Put a Shoe On, You Slob

Dana Stevens for Slate:

Extended flip-flop use seems to transport people across some sort of etiquette Rubicon where the distinction between public and private, inside and outside, shod and barefoot, breaks down entirely.

Yes. Excellent. I’m no style expert, but I couldn’t agree more passionately.

Creative Review on Apple’s New Long-Copy Ads

Nick Asbury:

You’re talking about one of the most interesting and impressive companies in the world. Whatever angle you choose to take, you should have trouble fitting it into a full-page ad. This one is padding from the first line.

Apropos of “Ad Contrarian” Bob Hoffman’s recent piece:

Apple has been taking a beating from Samsung who have come at them aggressively. Their response? Mealy-mouth “branding” baloney.

When I originally read Hoffman’s article, I scoffed (highly unusual for me – I find myself on his side nearly all the time), felt that he was overreacting, willfully ignoring Apple’s other, excellent, ads this year. In light of the excellent analysis in Creative Review, I can’t help but temper my position – I just hope Hoffman’s wrong in the end.

Fans Take Videogame Damsels Out of Distress, Put Them in Charge

Ian Sherr for the Journal:

Kenna Warsinske, a 27-year-old recent Portland State University graduate who hacked the Zelda game, said she got tired of waiting for Nintendo to make the princess the game’s real star. “Every time they would release a new Zelda game, I would check if Zelda was playable and it never happened,” she says.

So she made it happen. Awesome.

When Italians Chat, Hands and Fingers Do the Talking

Rachel Donadio:

In Italy, children and adolescents gesture. The elderly gesture. Some Italians joke that gesturing may even begin before birth. “In the ultrasound, I think the baby is saying, ‘Doctor, what do you want from me?'” said Laura Offeddu, a Roman and an elaborate gesticulator, as she pinched her fingers together and moved her hand up and down.

One of those pieces I wish I’d written myself. Spot on.

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’

Daniel J. Solove, professor of law at George Washington University, from his new book, Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security:

Legal and policy solutions focus too much on the problems under the Orwellian metaphor—those of surveillance—and aren’t adequately addressing the Kafkaesque problems—those of information processing. The difficulty is that commentators are trying to conceive of the problems caused by databases in terms of surveillance when, in fact, those problems are different.

I’ve intentionally pulled a somewhat opaque quotation here. Read the whole piece. It’s excellent.

Bob Hoffman: “I’m a Believer in Specifics”

The Ad Contrarian, as insightful as always:

I have a favorite Italian restaurant. I don’t go there because of their “real old world goodness.” I go there because I like the garlic rolls.

I don’t go to my favorite gas station because their gas “keeps my car running smoothly.” I go there because it’s 3 blocks away.

I don’t fly out of Oakland Airport because they are “my gateway to the world.” I do it because the TSA lines are shorter than SFO.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if you run a business, most people don’t give a shit about your grand vision. They are your customers for simple, practical reasons.

Ira Glass: Advice for Beginners

“You just have to fight your way through.”

The Purpose of This Paper Is

When I worked as a consultant at my college’s Writing Center, I regularly met students who – despite having good ideas and strong voices in conversation –struggled to articulate themselves on paper. And it wasn’t that they weren’t smart or even that they weren’t good writers. Once they got going, once they staked a claim to their theses, they gained a clarity of vision and thought they weren’t even aware they possessed.

It seemed as though the writing process itself clouded not only their understanding of the assignment, but even their own objectives for a given paper.

Being the gifted *cough* consultant I was, I passed along some guaranteed-to-work advice given me by Dr. Aronson, an amazing high school teacher I’ll never forget. Essentially:

Any time you write, you should be able to fit your thesis in the blank space after “The purpose of this paper is _____________”.

It’s such a simple, brilliant way of making it impossible for you to not state your purpose, to not think clearly, and I’ve used it (though the exact phrase doesn’t always make it into the final edition) in nearly every significant bit of writing I’ve done since high school.

The Purpose of My Startup Is

Yesterday I listened to John Gruber and Erica Ogg discuss receiving rambling pitches from startups and app developers seeking publicity for their businesses in which the sender often doesn’t get to the point until a few paragraphs (yes, paragraphs) in.

Those folks could obviously benefit from Dr. Aronson’s advice with regard to their emails, but I think we all have something bigger to take away, something we talk a lot about, but something we haven’t defined a methodology for: focus.

It’s easy to quote Steve Jobs, to preach the importance of focus, of saying No, but it’s impossible to say No intelligently and non-arbitrarily without defining what it is you’re aiming to do, what your Yes is. If you haven’t staked a claim to your product’s thesis, if you haven’t clearly articulated your purpose, how can you know what deviates from it?

So what’s the purpose of your paper, your startup, your email? Let me know on twitter.

Mozilla is Unlocking the Power of the Web as a Platform for Gaming

Mozilla Blog:

Mozilla developed a highly-optimized version of JavaScript that supercharges a developer’s gaming code in the browser to enable visually compelling, fast, 3D gaming experiences on the Web. With this technology we are also opening up the path for 3D Web-based games on mobile as JavaScript performance continues to close the gap with native.

The future is nigh, and the portal to it is the browser.