You have arrived at the web home of Noah Brier. This is mostly an archive of over a decade of blogging and other writing. You can read more about me or get in touch. If you want more recent writing of mine, most of that is at my BrXnd marketing x AI newsletter and Why Is This Interesting?, a daily email for the intellectually omnivorous.

June, 2010

Engineering Difficulty

Exploring the concept of adding difficulty to interfaces in a world of ease

I broke my iPhone before I left for my honeymoon and a friend was kind enough to lend me an old unlocked Nokia. The phone worked out fine and not having access to all the iPhone holds was probably a bit of a blessing (though I'm pretty seriously missing it now that I'm back home and can't get my hands on a 4G).

Anyway, as part of having a phone with a keypad (not even keyboard) I went back to T9 (you remember it, predictive type for SMS messages).1 The struggle to send a simple message made me think about how we are likely going to need to start add elements to our interfaces that actually make tasks harder, not easier. Imagine how many fewer emails you'd write on your iPhone if you were forced to use T9 for instance.

While it's not the perfect parallel, something like WriteRoom lets you block out everything else when you're trying to write (Pages now has a full screen option as well, actually) and I remember hearing about an application from a few years ago that turned off your WiFi until you restarted the computer so you could get something done. It's funny to think that we've reached a point where things are so easy that we need to start making them hard again.

[PS: I'm married, honeymooned, done with Cannes and back in NYC.]

1 As a side note, the guy who invented T9 has a new text input method for touchscreens called Swype.

June 28, 2010
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