An App Twist: Online Interaction and Dark Patterns May Pose a Threat to Users

May 12, 2021

I don’t know if this write up is spot on, but it does raise some interesting questions. Navigate to “Snapchat Can Be Sued over Its Speed Filter, Which Is Blamed in Death of 3.” The main point is that a popular app provides “points”. One reward is linked to moving rapidly. Examples include bike riding and walking one’s dog. The story points out:

The parents of two of the victims say the filter, which tells users how fast they are moving in real-time, encouraged users to drive recklessly in order to receive achievement points. Now, it appears the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees that a lawsuit should be permitted. In a ruling on Tuesday, the court argued that Snapchat was not shielded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which protects social media companies from being held liable for the content posted by its users. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2019 and had been shot down just last year. But Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw agreed with the families this week who argued that the lawsuit was aimed at the app itself and not its content.

Was the issue judgment? No, according to the article:

Snapchat has been accused of “negligent design” for implementing the speed filter into its app.

The write up includes this statement from the court:

Their negligent design lawsuit treats Snap as a products manufacturer, accusing it of negligently designing a product (Snapchat) with a defect (the interplay between Snapchat’s reward system and the Speed Filter),” Wardlaw [the legal eagle hearing the case] wrote.

Here are the questions which crossed my mind:

  • Will “design” emerge as a factor in other litigation related to apps’ use?
  • Is the “reward” idea a Dark Pattern which is coded so that those using the apps are manipulated into certain behaviors?
  • How do innovators respond to “design” centric issues?
  • Are the parents responsible for their progenies’ judgment? Schools?

On the surface, it seems that app design can lead to tragic consequences.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of rewards echoes in the Beyond Search office.

Stephen E Arnold, May 12, 2021

Old People, Vaccine Registration, and Online: What Could Be Overlooked by Thumbtypers? The Obvious

March 2, 2021

I heard over talkers on the Pivot podcast explain that old people struggled to use the Internet to register to get a Rona jab. Fascinating. I think I heard one of the stars of the wildly thrilling program express that despite computer expertise, the darned sign up site was difficult to use. Insightful. Then I read “Seniors Seeking Vaccines Have a Problem: They Can’t Use the Internet” in the online superstar New York Times. (Yep, I was able to locate the story online. Get your credit card ready, gentle reader. There is no free lunch provided by the Gray Lady.)

The estimable New York Times stated what the over talkers said; namely:

The chaotic vaccine rollout has come with a maze of confusing registration pages and clunky health care websites. And the technological savvy required to navigate the text alerts, push notifications and email reminders that are second nature to the digital generation has put older adults like Ms. Carlin, who need the vaccine the most, at a disadvantage. As a result, seniors who lack tech skills are missing out on potentially lifesaving shots.

Ms. Carlin is 84, and she is probably not hanging out on Zoom with thumbtypers, but that’s just a guess.

I learned:

By the end of last week, just 12.3 million Americans ages 75 and older, or 28 percent, had received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota, who has reintroduced a bill from last year that would allocate money to help get older Americans online, said the government had failed to get out ahead of a preventable crisis by not funding senior agencies sooner.

How many have thumbtyping techno-masters killed in the 70 plus cohort? The estimable New York Times did not provide a number. Come to think of it, I don’t think the Pivot over talkers did either.

Who would have imagined there were individuals unable to use the outstanding Rona registration systems? It’s obvious to know that some functions are hidden behind dots and hamburgers, pages have to be scrolled down to see data, and enjoy the experience of disabled back buttons.

Oh, well, since I am 77, I suppose some in my cohort will be killed by the thumbtyping techno masters. Big deal. When’s the Zoom happy hour start? Where’s the secret party this weekend? Multi-tasking? No Internet connection? No 5G mobile device.

Bummer.

Stephen E Arnold, March 2, 2021

Interfaces Going Mobile: Tiny Fingers Needed

December 31, 2018

Folks are expecting more and more information to be at their mobile fingertips, even communications with their employers. TechTarget posits, “What’s Driving the Next-Generation Mobile User Experience?” Reporter Maribel Lopez describes several advances she says have prompted organizations to offer efficient ways for their workers to communicate and collaborate through their mobile devices. She writes:

“Most organizations’ mobile efforts have evolved beyond the basics of a mobile-friendly website and an intranet accessed via a secure browser. Companies want to create contextual and predictive mobile experiences that delight customers and employees. Yet, many aspects of developing a compelling mobile user experience have changed with the introduction of new devices, computing processors and software. Mobile experiences today must move seamlessly across devices with multiple operating systems….

Preserving context has always been a goal; now it’s an imperative. But a next-generation experience is more than delivering the same information to each screen. It doesn’t make sense to cram all of the functions of an application on a smartwatch. A strong mobile user experience provides the right information, to the right screen, for the task at hand. Application developers must define which data and workflows are appropriate for each device. For example, you can enable a speech interface on a PC, but it’s more useful on a mobile device where hands-free operation may be required.”

The article goes on to detail four advancements that have made the most difference in this employer-employee relationship. First is the evolution of ways to input data. What started as fingertip-touch has grown to include pens, gestures, docking stations, and, naturally, voice input. In fact, voice assistants like Alexa and H.R. chatbots bring potential for “deeper engagement,” we’re told; engagement that is sure to grow more engaging (intrusive?) as machine learning and analytics technologies progress. Improved hardware itself is a factor, of course, with smartphones now able to quickly process an astounding amount of data. Finally, there is the development of 5G cellular tech, which allows networks to keep up with the demands of those evolving devices.

Naturally, companies would not invest so much in mobile interfaces if they did not help their bottom lines. Though they are billed as a boon for employees, is it really beneficial for workers to relate to algorithms instead of flesh and blood coworkers? Depends on the worker, and on the company, I suppose.

Cynthia Murrell, December 31, 2018

The Decline of Free Software As a Failure of Leadership and Relevance

August 18, 2016

The article on Datamation titled 7 Reasons Why Free Software Is Losing Influence investigates some of the causes for the major slowdown in FOSS (free and open software software). The article lays much of the blame at the feet of the leader of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Richard Stallman. In spite of his major contributions to the free software movement, he is prickly and occasionally drops Joe Biden-esque gaffes detrimental to his cause. He also has an issue when it comes to sticking to his message and making his cause relevant. The article explains,

“Over the last few years, Richard Stallman has denounced cloud computinge-bookscell phones in general, and Android in particular. In each case, Stallman has raised issues of privacy and consumer rights that others all too often fail to mention. The trouble is, going on to ignore these new technologies solves nothing, and makes the free software movement more irrelevant in people’s lives. Many people are attracted to new technologies, and others are forced to use them because others are.”

In addition to Stallman’s difficult personality, which only accounts for a small part of the decline in the FSF’s influence, the article also has other suggestions. Perhaps most importantly, the FSF is a tiny company without the resources to achieve its numerous goals like sponsoring the GNU Project, promoting social activism, and running campaigns against DRM and Windows.
 

Chelsea Kerwin, August 18, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

Play Search the Game

March 25, 2016

Within the past few years, gamers have had the privilege to easily play brand new games as well as the old classics.  Nearly all of the games ever programmed are available through various channels from Steam, simulator, to system emulator.  While it is easy to locate a game if you know the name, main character, or even the gaming system, but with the thousands of games available maybe you want to save time and not have use a search engine.  Good news, everyone!

Sofotex, a free software download Web site, has a unique piece of freeware that you will probably want to download if you are a gamer. Igrulka is a search engine app programmed to search only games.  Here is the official description:

Igrulka is a unique software that helps you to search, find and play millions of games in the network.

“Once you download the installer, all you have to do is go to the download location on your computer and install the app.

Igrulka allows you to search for the games that you love either according to the categories they are in or by name. For example, you get games in the shooter, arcade, action, puzzle or racing games categories among many others.

If you would like to see more details about the available games, their names as well as their descriptions, all you have to do is hover over them using your mouse as shown below. Choose the game you want to play and click on it.”

According to the description, it looks like Igrulka searches through free games and perhaps the classics from systems.  In order to find out what Irgulka can do, download and play search results roulette.

 

Whitney Grace, March 25, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Change Is Hard, Especially in the User Interface

March 22, 2016

One of the most annoying things in life is when you go to the grocery store and notice they have rearranged the entire place since your last visit.  I always ask myself the question, “Why grocery store people did you do this to me?”  Part of the reason is to improve the shopping experience and product exposure, while the other half is to screw with customers (I cannot confirm the latter).  According to the Fuzzy Notepad with its Pokémon Evee mascot the post titled “We Have Always Been At War With UI” explains that programmers and users have always been at war with each other when it comes to the user interface.

Face it, Web sites (and other areas of life) need to change to maintain their relevancy.  The biggest problem related to UI changes is the roll out of said changes.  The post points out that users get confused and spend hours trying to understand the change.  Sometimes the change is announced, other times it is only applied to a certain number of users.

The post lists several changes to UI and how they were handled, describing how they were handled and also the programming.  One constant thread runs through the post is that users simply hate change, but the inevitable question of, “Why?” pops up.

“Ah, but why? I think too many developers trot this line out as an excuse to ignore all criticism of a change, which is very unhealthy. Complaints will always taper off over time, but that doesn’t mean people are happy, just that they’ve gone hoarse. Or, worse, they’ve quietly left, and your graphs won’t tell you why. People aren’t like computers and may not react instantly to change; they may stew for a while and drift away, or they may join a mass exodus when a suitable replacement comes along.”

Big data can measure anything and everything, but the data can be interpreted for or against the changes.  Even worse is that the analysts may not know what exactly they need to measure.  What can be done to avoid total confusion about changes is to have a plan, let users know in advance, and even create tutorial about how to use the changes.  Worse comes to worse, it can be changed back and then we move on.

 

Whitney Grace, March 22, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

LinkedIn and Its Alleged Dark Pattern GUI

February 15, 2016

I am a no pay user of LinkedIn. I don’t pay much attention to the service. I noticed that I no longer receive automatic notifications when one of the few groups I “follow” post new items. My hunch is that LinkedIn does not find my sense of humor in line with the firm’s revenue goals and its efforts to boost its stock price.

I read “LinkedIn Dark Patters or Why Your Friends keep Spamming You to Sign Up for LinkedIn.” (Note if the link does not work, you will have to deal with the publisher.) I did not give LinkedIn permission to suck up my address book. I do receive wonky emails from people I don’t know thanking me for my “anniversary.” Hey, LinkedIn, I am retired, and I am not into the anniversary thing. Send me a Hallmark card. That’s really sincere.

In the write up there was a reference to a phrase which I found interesting. The phrase is “dark pattern.” The idea is that LinkedIn allegedly uses interface tricks and confusing links to get “permission” to send email to people.

I am not sure what LinkedIn hopes to accomplish with this trick. Maybe the outfit needs new customers of a service which is mostly a job hunting and data collection system? Maybe LinkedIn is helping people reunite with contacts who are stranded in an unused corner of an address book? Maybe LinkedIn is desperate to irritate people? I am not sure.

I quite like the phrase “dark pattern.” I noticed that Google is going to take action when “download” buttons do not perform as expected. Hey, what’s the hurry.

After reading the write up, I noticed that when people want to be my LinkedIn pal, I no longer can reply to that person. I have the choice of accept or reject. I don’t click any buttons, but it seems reasonable that if someone wants to be my pal, I should be able to ask, “Why?”

Who wants to buddy up to a 71 year old who spends his time thinking about the sad state of the online industry, the quasi monopolies that crush innovation, and the services which try hard to make their spreadsheet fevers disappear with actual revenues?

Interesting question. I love the “dark pattern” thing. But the idea offends me. I will continue to make the links on my pages do what the user expects. I am one of a almost extinct species. If you want to buy CyberOSINT, you have to navigate to an info page and then click a link that asks you to buy. That click displays the purchase page. No trickery. You can depart at any time without fear of spam.

Stephen E Arnold, February 15, 2016

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