Mortred in the City

Mortred thought the city was strange the moment she came into it. There were no trees around for miles, no animals, only a few grey birds. The buildings were boxy and tall, but did not appear to have a roof. But man, were there a lot of people. Every window of every building had one, if not more, and she had to find the right person, and kill him.

The person was male, it said. More than half of the people she saw were.
The person was tall, it said. Quite a few people less were tall, but still a lot.
The person was wearing a suit, it said. Everyone was wearing a suit here.

The list went on for a bit, but each detail seemed to fit on way too many people, and even if she knew who it was, it would be way more difficult to find him than usual; usually, the location alone would be reducing the number of targets to a few dozen.

A scream was there, somewhere from below. Someone must have found the corpse, or at least half, of the important looking man who asked her to show a permission for her two swords.

She almost gave up on her hunt when something in her mind started highlighting something. Of course, the Oracle knew best who she had to kill. And of course, the target was sitting in the highest building in the highest floor. Which she had to climb up on.

Or just continue waiting, until he’d come down.

The city was strange from the moment she entered it. But the many lights in the city made her wait worthwhile.

A Froggy Instrument

It was a regular and warm Friday evening. The insects were doing their noises, the frogs were ribitting, the ducks were quacking, and overall, it was nice. Until I noticed a little frog instrument sitting on the wayside. The idea with these things is simple, you just rub a piece of wood onto it and it makes a noise not too unlike a frog. And with all these things making noise, I thought I may just join in with my newfound voice.

The frog instrument was loud. Like a shockwave, it sent the entire lake into silence. Then, a single ribbit. I answered, with a more careful stroke of the instrument. Suddenly, the entire lake started boiling with frogs coming towards me. I ran away, but the frogs came from all sides. I ran and ran, and just as the frog-flood was about to catch up, I finally was in my apartment and closed the door. But the worst was yet to come.

Deafening croaking from all sides. Little eyes reflecting through the windows. The frogs stacked up higher and higher, with the lowest layers of frogs turning into sludge. Soon, I’d be trapped in here for good.

Frogs started to pour in through the toilet and sinks, a window shattered, the bedroom was lost. I climbed up on the balcony, worked up my courage and jumped right in, or rather, on, the frog pile. The slippery bastards gave way, but only to some extend. I slid down the pile like a water slide, and ended up on the street, only to be covered by frogs again.

There only was time for one last prayer.

Suddenly, the croaking ended, and the frogs were gone. What had I done?

“Ah, here it is”, said Jesus. “Dad thought he’d lost it in Egypt a long time ago”.

Talkathief

— Slowly, slowly! don’t rush me, the first thief said. He was currently working on decoding the lock to the safe.
— The shift of the next guard starts in 3 minutes. You’ll have to hurry if we want to do this!
— You telling me that there isn’t much time left isn’t gonna make it easier to crack this safe.
— Stop defending yourself! I just wanted to give you a time frame.
— I don’t care about the time frame, it’s not going to pick itself faster magically just because we have very little time left!
— Well, alright, then I’ll say nothing anymore.
— Good. Now let me continue.

The thief started focussing his attention towards the lock again. But he hadn’t really started again when his friend started bugging him again.

— Frank, there is…
— … not much time left, I know! Can’t you shut up about that for a god damned second?
— That’s not what I wanted to say, there is…
— … a guard coming, said the guard, who just came in.

Dabchick, Explorer of Earth’s Third Pole

— Come on, bring my boat to the ocean, said Dabchick, pointing at the former can of tuna, that had a hole cut out for him
— What, why? it’s in the middle of winter, you’ll catch a cold, I replied
— That is precisely why you should bring me there. We will explore the new found third pole of earth. Right here, right now, else we won’t be the first to explore it and get famous!
— What would you do with this fame?
— Name it the Dabchick pole, obviously!
— Alright, Dabchick, go ahead, but don’t expect me to get into the cold water with you.
— Doesn’t matter. You could’ve brought your own boat. Let’s go!

A while later, I was standing at the village lake, Dabchick in one hand, his boat in the other. The other side, which was perpetually shielded from the sun due to the many big trees around it, was somewhat frozen.

— Let me down! I can go explore the rest of this pole by myself.
— Have you prepared a speech before you venture into the unknown?
— No, but you can come up with something before I return. If I return, that is.
— You don’t expect to drown in this lake, do you?
— I fear not death, I fear not the cold! Long live the regime!, Dabchick cried out, waddling towards the shore, and then stopped.
— What is it, Dabchick?
What is it, he asks. Very funny. Ruining another grand moment. If they had sent you on the moon, the first thing earth would’ve heard was you farting while climbing down the ladder!
— Good thing they didn’t send me to the moon then. So?
— So? Give me my damn boat before I process you to fish food!

And there he went, thinking about his glorious return when earth would no doubt bow for him and name him the finest explorer.

Some kids came by and saw Dabchick struggling to sail his boat across the centimetre-high waves. He was almost 5 meters in to his long journey. The kids started skipping stones, not for fun, but to hit Dabchick.

— The enemy is engaging, Dabchick screamed, — open fire!
— I’m not going to punch children for you, Dabchick.
— Then take them hosta – – – at this moment, a stone hit and promptly sank the boat.
— SAAAVE ME!

I told the kids to stop throwing rocks and went into the water. It was hip-deep by the time I reached Dabchick. Dabchick gasped after air, clinging onto the can that was now barely swimming, and then finally jumped onto me.

— Let’s go home, I said.
— That’s probably for the best.

The Cry

Peter heard a cry. It almost sounded like a woman, but.. weird. “Shall we check it out”, he asked Luke, “we might save someone’s life”.
Luke answered that there was no way that there were others this far out in the woods, and that they probably weren’t able to help anyways. Besides, they shouldn’t lose the path they took so long to get to.

Peter couldn’t handle the thought of someone else dying and not even attempting to help, so he went on alone. He thought he was getting closer to the cries, but whenever he reached a point where he thought the origin to be, the cries already had moved on to another place. Maybe it was someone screaming and walking?

Peter went and went, until he finally saw a little shack. In the shack was nobody, but there was a warning to not wander out alone, no matter what – wild beasts might attack, and there was no help in sight.

Peter was torn between going on and waiting for Luke. It was getting dark, and the cries seemed to have stopped, so he decided to message Luke with the walkie-talkie that he found a good place to rest for the night. Luke agreed to come, Peter only needed to signal the light.

Peter waited. He radioed Luke some more times in between, until Luke told him that his battery was getting low and he should only use it in an emergency. After what felt like hours, he heard another cry, clearly from a man this time, shortly joined by the woman’s cry form earlier. Peter worried about Luke, and because Luke didn’t respond by radio, Peter ventured out again to get him. He went on a hill and quickly saw a light source moving. He ran down to it, only humans can operate flashlights after all, but when he arrived, he only saw the remains of Luke. Eaten, by a mountain lion.

A mountain lion, which now looked at him and cried, almost like a woman, but… weird.

Die Scheinheiligkeit der Verwerter

Eine Gruppe von Verwertern, Zeitungs- und Zeitschriftenverlagen hat eine PR-Kampagne namens “Gerechtes Netz” gegen Google, Amazon und Facebook (kurz GAF) gestartet. In dieser Kampagne werben sie für mehr Datenschutz, für weniger Steuerschlupflöcher, gegen Monopole und für Jugendschutz. Das Ziel dieser Kampagne ist laut einem internen Schreiben, Politiker, Beamte und Richter GAF-feindlicher zu stimmen, wohl damit sie Artikel 15 und 17 der Urheberrechtsreform (die bis Juni 2021 in nationales Recht umgesetzt werden muss) eher im Sinne der Verwerter als im Sinne von GAF umsetzen. Vielleicht auch nicht.

So weit, so uninteressant. Es ist wenig überraschend, dass die Lobbyarbeit der Verwerter da weitermacht, wo sie mit der Urheberrechtsreform aufgehört hat. Was mich aber dann doch stört ist die Scheinheiligkeit des ganzen, denn fast alles, was an GAF bemängelt wird, passiert ständig bei den Kampagneinitiatoren selbst.

Datenschutz und das Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung

Es ist durchaus richtig, dass die Menge der Daten, die bei GAF anfallen, problematisch ist. Nur leisten die Verlage ihr eigenes, damit noch mehr Daten anfallen: Spiegel.de sammelt Daten mit über 60 verschiedenen Dienstleistern, inklusive Google. Manche davon sind unglaublich intransparent: Sourcepoint platziert ein Trackingpixel unter dem Namen “www.summerhamster.com”. Wie der Name schon sagt, handelt es sich hier um einen Adblock-blocker. Criteo, ein anderer Datensammler, verbindet Online-Tracking mit Offline-Tracking, wodurch einem Werbung anhand der Verweildauer in einem Geschäft personalisiert werden kann.

Sehr witzig ist auch die Strategie von derStandard.at: Wer nicht getrackt werden will, kann ein “PUR”-Abo für 6€/Monat abschließen. Dafür wird dann nur Email, Passwort, (optional) Telefonnummer, Zahlungsinformationen und eine “Eindeutige Kennung des Gerätes” (also ein Browser-Fingerprint?) für mindestens 10 Jahre gespeichert.

Wenn man den Datenschutz zur Privatsphäre erweitert, kommt noch ein weiterer Aspekt dazu: Wie oft sieht man im BILDblog den Hinweis “Unkenntlichmachung von uns”, weil irgendwelche Medienschaffenden entschieden haben, dass eine zufällige Person in einer meist eher ungünstigen Lage ab sofort in die Öffentlichkeit und von Millionen erkannt gehört? Wie oft müssen einstweilige Verfügungen ausgestellt werden, weil Medienschaffende in das Privatleben von Personen eingedrungen sind?

Geld machen mit den Inhalten anderer

Der Grund hinter dem Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger: GAF machen Geld mit Inhalten von Zeitungen. Ich werde hier jetzt nicht die Argumente gegen das LSR wiederholen, das hatten wir dieses Jahrzehnt schon oft genug, aber auch hier kommt die Scheinheiligkeit zum Ausdruck: Online-Zeitungen und Fernsehsender machen oft genug selbst Geld mit sog. “Freebooting”. Dabei wird ein “virales” oder “irres” Video von irgendwo genommen und manchmal mit Text oder Voiceover versehen, und dann in den eigenen Videoplayer hochgeladen, der natürlich vor dem Clip noch Werbung spielt.

Wenn Viralhog et al. das Video zur Lizenzierung anbieten, wird vielleicht lizenziert, wenn nicht, werden die Urheber meist einfach nicht von der Verwendung in Kenntnis gesetzt. Sollten die Urheber doch Wind davon bekommen, wird das Video auf Anfrage entfernt, aber zu diesem Zeitpunkt hat der “Freebooter” schon den Großteil des Umsatzes mit dem Video eingefahren.

Monopole und Meinungsvielfalt

Die Verlegerverbände meinen, dass die Monopolstellung von Google die Wirtschaftsgrundrechte der Verlage verletzt, was die Meinungsvielfalt gefährdet und vom LSR gerettet werden kann. Für mich ein bisschen abstrakt, aber meinetwegen.

Sehr problematisch für die Meinungsvielfalt ist hingegen die zunehmende Konzentration der Zeitungen.

Egal ob man Kieler Nachrichten, Hamburger Morgenpost oder Berliner Kurier liest: Der überregionale Teil kommt vom RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
In Nordwestmecklenburg konkurrieren die Lübecker Nachrichten und die Ostseezeitung – aber der Lokalteil für beide wird von einer gemeinsamen Redaktion geschrieben.
Ich bin mit dem Flensburger Tageblatt aufgewachsen, meine Großeltern hatten den Schleiboten. Beide kommen aus dem sh:z, sehen gleich aus und hatten – abgesehen vom Lokalteil – genau die gleichen Texte. Andere Zeitungen gibt es nicht für diese Regionen. Es hat lange gebraucht, bis ich realisiert habe, dass verschiedene Zeitungen normalerwiese verschiedene Texte abdrucken sollten, und dass Meinungsvielfalt in Regionalmedien eigentlich auch vorhanden sein sollte.
Siehe auch: Der bunte Kiosk der Presselandschaft – Die Anstalt vom 22. Mai 2018.

Nun kann man sagen, dass es Googles Schuld ist, dass Redaktionen so zusammengestrichen werden müssen. Man könnte aber auch fast glauben, dass man im Angesicht der Digitalisierung neue Geschäftsideen braucht.

Jugendschutz

Der Jugendschutz ist wahrscheinlich eher ein “Innocence in Danger”-Punkt und für die Verwerter nur als Emotionsmanipulationswerkzeug zu gebrauchen, und natürlich ist auch hier die Scheinheiligkeit am Werk: einfach mal auf bild.de gehen, dann auf “news”, dann auf “BILD-Girl”, und sofort sieht man Titten ohne jegliche Altersabfrage. Oder auf “Unterhaltung”, dann “Erotik” und ein bisschen runterscrollen, dann ist man bei “Visit-X Girls”, eine Seite, dessen Beschreibung “Amateure in der Sex-Cam, unzensierte HD-Pornofilme & Live-TV für Erwachsene” ist. Oder auf “Video” und dann noch mal “BILD-Girl” oder wahlweise “sexy clips”.

Hier ist eindeutig die Unschuld in Gefahr.

Aber auch bei Nachrichten kommt es oft vor, dass verstörende Bilder und Videos in der Berichterstattung gezeigt werden. Manchmal steht was mit “enthält verstörende Bilder” dabei, manchmal nicht, und ich habe noch nie bei Online-Zeitungen irgendeine Art von Altersverifikation gesehen, sei es “gib dein Alter ein” oder “du brauchst einen Account [in dem dein Alter 18+ ist, aber das sagen wir dir hier nicht] um dieses Video ansehen zu können”.

Fazit

Diese PR-Kampagne macht (absichtlich) den Fehler, nur über GAF zu reden, obwohl das gesamte Internet inklusive den Initiatoren mit drinsteckt. Wenn GAF auf einmal Datenschutz ernst nehmen würde, würde sich wenig ändern, denn die gesamte Branche ist mittlerweile ein Wimmelbild, in dem es schwierig ist, die großen Player überhaupt zu finden. Und wenn Google die Mindgeek-Pornseiten komplett de-indexieren würde, würden Kinder bei der Suche nach “sexy clips” immernoch bild.de finden.

Aber vielleicht ist jetzt ein guter Zeitpunkt, selbst die Kampagne zu erweitern, und Politiker von den Vorzügen einer starken ePrivacy-Verordnung zu überzeugen. Vielleicht fühlt die VG Media dann ihren “Wunsch nach einer breiteren Diskussion für alle Bürger” besser erfüllt.

Warum einfach, wenn’s auch kompliziert geht? Das Schleswig-Holsteinische Semesterticket

Moin.

In Schleswig-Holstein gibt es jetzt ein landesweites Semesterticket, und das ist im Prinzip was gutes. Nur in der Ausführung macht es unnötig viel falsch.

Das fängt schon beim Bestellprozess an. Das Ticket basiert auf dem Solidaritätsprinzip, es zahlt also jeder, egal ob es genutzt wird oder nicht. Doch nur weil man es bezahlt hat, heißt es nicht, dass man das Ticket auch bekommt, nein. Man muss es erst über nah.sh bestellen. Jedes Semester neu.

Weiter geht es mit der Lieferung: Man bekommt das Ticket entweder als App, oder als Papierticket. Das Papierticket kommt per Post, und man kann es sich im Falle eines Verlusts einmal pro Semester für 35€ neu zusenden lassen. Sobald man sich für eine Ticketvariante entschieden hat, kann man im Semester nicht mehr wechseln.

Vielleicht klingt all das im Vakuum wie eine halbwegs vernünftige Lösung, über die man sich nicht weiter aufregen muss. Aber verglichen zu den Lösungen, die bisher verwendet wurden, ist sie arg stelzig und bürokratisiert.

Ich präsentiere: Den Studentenausweis.

Der Studentenausweis ist ein regelrechtes Schweizer Taschenmesser. Er hat natürlich Hochschule, Namen und Bild drauf, aber auch Matrikelnummer (für Prüfungen), einen RFID-Chip (für Chiptüren und Mensa), einen Strichcode (für die Bibliothek) und ein wiederbeschreibbares Thermodruckfeld für das Semesterticket.

Ja, richtig gelesen. Auf dem Studentenausweis ist schon ein Semesterticket drauf, und das galt bisher (und gilt weiterhin in Flensburg und Kiel, aber nicht in Lübeck) für den ÖPNV innerhalb des städischen Verkehrsverbundes, jeweils für ein Semester. Am Anfang eines jeden Semesters kann man mit dem Ausweis zu einem Validierungsautomaten gehen, der die Karte nimmt, ein bisschen brummt, und dann das Datum vom “Gültig bis” ein halbes Jahr weiterschiebt.

Da stellt sich bei mir nur eine Frage: Warum?

Warum wird nicht einfach der Studentenausweis weiterverwendet?
Warum die strikte Trennung zwischen Papierticket und Handyticket?
Warum gibt es keine Möglichkeit für einen PDF-Download mit QR-Code, wie es bei nah.sh Online-Tickets möglich ist?
Warum kompliziert, wenn es auch einfach geht?

Maxima Phorgo: The Buran Heist

As the roller coaster that was the launch subsided, Max entered micro-gravity. She sighed in relief, despite not being relieved at all. Max had successfully stolen one of the two remaining Burans, together with an Energija rocket. And when stealing from Russia, you don’t get do relax, lest you want to wake up to a Plutonium coffee one day. But maybe, thought Max, Russia wouldn’t care. They hadn’t cared about this thing for the past 30 years. Which also wasn’t a reason to be relieved, who knows how many of the components she didn’t inspect had been rotten and would fail.

If Max had looked out the window to inspect the stars, she might have seen satellites whizzing by way too close.

Down on earth, some TVs would lose signal for a bit, causing fans to miss a last-minute goal by their favourite team.
Down on earth, things were getting heated as those fans were calling the support line to complain.
Down on earth, things were getting tense as the leaders of the world were preparing for nuclear war.

But Max didn’t look out of the window. Max stared at her instruments, waiting for the thrust that would de-orbit her and allow her to land on a small island somewhere in Denmark, the last place anyone would expect a rocket to hide in.

As Max was being pressed into her seat during the de-orbit maneuver and a dead squirrel was bouncing around in the cargo bay, the leaders of the world grew gravely concerned. No leader had issued a launch command. Unknown forces had taken over facilities with ICBM capabilities. They would have to respond with extreme force.

Max noticed the “Lock-on” warning, maybe even still in time. The Buran wasn’t ballistic itself, it did had wings – small ones, which in this thin atmosphere would barely be able to change the trajectory by anything at all. Max tried it anyways, together with the last bit of fuel with the downwards firing control thrusters. The missile itself also burned its thrusters to adjust. It was lighter, so it had an easier time putting itself to the new trajectory. But it also had less fuel, and barely overshot its mark.

Max didn’t even get to sigh this time as she was now well within a nosedive. The heat shield of the nose cone was burning up, sending sparks flying past the windows like comets going the wrong way. The wing flaps weren’t strong enough to pull the vehicle out of this nose dive.

Out of desperation, Max opened the cargo bay. These things technically were wings as well, after all. Slowly, the Buran went back to gliding, the cargo bay doors joining the heat shields burning up. The dead squirrel got stuck on the edge of the bay, flaring up before it was ripped off by the wind. The second anti-ballistic missile exploded the squirrel like fireworks in the sky.

The leaders of the world stopped arguing and closely followed the screens. They had exhausted all options to prevent this catastrophe. They had failed.

Max no longer followed her screens. She could see the ground and had to find where she could land safely. A large meadow would have to do.

When the police came the next day, the farmer girl pointed them to a part of the meadow with a crater and remnants of conventional explosives, giving the police a difficult riddle to solve. The farmer girl’s haystack was impressively large, but not suspicious.

In Defense of Redesigns

Moin.

Every time a site updates it’s design, it seems like the internet comes together to unanimously complain about it. And mostly, these complaints are justified, after all, redesigns completely disrupt normal usage. But are the users right and should we stick to the old designs?

And to get the conclusion out first: Complaining constructively during the redesign phase is the best way to get heard. However, some of the more common complaints will be ignored, and here I’ll go through the why.

“It looks like a mobile app!”

This is intentional. The goal with most redesigns these days is to make it so that you can seamlessly switch between devices and still know how everything works from one device to another. This is hugely beneficial to new users learning the ins and outs of the site. After all, learning it once and applying it everywhere is easier than having to learn how the desktop site, tablet, mobile and TV apps work if they all have a very different UI.

That said, it absolutely is possible to fuck this up. I sometimes see sites with a hamburger menu that overlay the entire site once you click on it. This never is necessary on desktop. Using a dropdown, or, if the menu needs to be more persistent, a topbar/sidebar is better in these cases.

“There’s too much whitespace!”
and
“The buttons are too large!”

Whitespace, colors and images are a deliberate measure to make an information flood more manageable. As an example for this, compare these two scans of newspapers, from 1973 and 2011

1973: 10 headlines, tiny news index in the bottom center, columns separated with lines (except bottom right), relatively small images
2011: 6 headlines, news index takes up the lower 15% or so, columns separated with whitespace, sometimes lines and whitespace, top image primary eye catcher

Whether you use a line or whitespace between columns doesn’t matter if you really want to read an article. But it does really matter if you don’t want to feel completely overwhelmed by everything presented at once on a page. And this holds true not only for newspapers, but also for websites: A newspaper only allows you one function: You can read it. But god knows how many things you can do with a website.

So again: The point of the added whitespace and larger buttons is to make it easier to use the site for new people.

“They removed customization!”

Customization options always have two issues: For one, every option doubles the number of ways a thing can break, and at some point, it’s a bug bonanza. For another, deep customization makes it difficult for new users to find their way around the site.

For example, imagine a “follow” button that can be customized in appearance and position. If it sometimes is a green button in a corner, a red button sticking at the top of the screen, and sometimes an image saying “subscribe”, the simple task of clicking the follow button devolves into an extensive hide-and-seek game with a digital chameleon.

aside: about HTML customization

Regrettably, customization via HTML and CSS these days isn’t as easy as it used to be. Back in the day, you’d put <tags> around things to do something for you. Back in the day, everyone was on 1024×768. Back in the day, there were no smartphones. This meant that you could easily learn a “streetHTML” that did the things you wanted, tested them on your computer, and had a thing that would be roughly consistent with how everyone else saw it.

That isn’t the case anymore. streetHTML gets more and more broken by the actual standards, which have you put <tags> around things that do nothing, only to then specify somewhere else in CSS what those tags do. As for screens, not only is there a wider range of monitors around these days, but some of these monitors are an entirely different orientation usually – phones. And hobby coders tend to do things with a “works for me” attitude: Willing to make things look good for them, but not even considering the option to test on a phone, because, who uses a phone to browse that website anyways?

Usually, the answer to that question is: Half of the viewers. So, as a website owner that offers HTML/CSS customization, you now facing the choice between having a thing that may turn simple things into hide’n’seek games, potentially look awful for half the viewers, and has gotten a lot more difficult to use since you first implemented it in 2004 — or simply axing it.

There is only one sane option here, even though it unfortunately means that you are losing what makes the internet interesting, as well as a tool that teaches kids how to code (Neopets was more effective in getting girls to code than any government-sponsored thing, I dare say).

“Make the new design optional!”

This means that the developers have to work twice as much to keep everything not-broken, while also having either version used half as much as the userbase splits into people who use the new vs old design.

Maintaining this is possible. For example, Wikipedia still lets you choose it’s old “Monobook” design, or some more exotic ones. But even Wikipedia removed all designs except one from its core, kept a few bundled as long they were maintained by external volunteers, and completely killed off some designs.

Overall, the more different designs the site has to maintain, the harder it becomes to quickly develop new things that actually would be beneficial to everyone, so typically, after a transition phase, the old design gets axed.


You may have noticed that a lot of these explanations boil down to “it’s good for new users”. But what about old users? Users that have been on the site for long, have created the content that brought the site to where it is today? Shouldn’t the site cater to these people first and foremost?

The answer is no. If you have a site consisting of a bunch of long-term users, but which doesn’t attract new users because of its design, the site will stagnate. Which in itself wouldn’t be much of a problem; being level means you can continue operations as-is. But these long-term users will move on eventually. Either because their interests shift, because their new job no longer grants them the time to contribute to the site, or because they die. At which point, the site will slowly shrink and die as well, especially if it has large enough server cost due to hosting a decade worth of image and video content.

This is why redesigns are necessary. This is why some complaints never are heard (or at least never acted upon). And this is why long-term users don’t get the attention they’d deserve. Website owners must attract new users, else the site dies.


All that said, there’s one thing which I’d like to say to any site owner redesigning their stuff:

COMMUNICATE!

If you don’t want to piss off your existing userbase, you have to communicate your vision with the redesign. And I’m not talking PR-bullshit here, you won’t win people over with a sugary landing page on how this new design gives endless possibilities when you are taking customization features away. No, a redesign requires a level conversation with your userbase that makes it clear what you’ve been working on (changelogs), what you will be working on next (roadmap), what the overall goal is and most importantly, being human about it.

And Users:

CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM!

The following:

“please bring back x”
“make it look y”
“I hate this”

aren’t helping anyone. They don’t help you because there’s no chance that the redesign won’t be happening, and they don’t help the site developers because they’re missing crutial information:

  • What are you trying to do on the site?
  • Why? and
  • How are you currently doing this?

(from Never Ask What They Want — 3 Better Questions to Ask in User Interviews)

If you can answer these questions in your feedback, it becomes so much more actionable than “please bring back this feature”.

For example, imagine a site that used to have a pop-up which you closed by clicking on a triangle to the left and dragging the pop-up-slider down.

from Tantacrul’s Music Software & Interface Design: MuseScore – A good video. You should watch it.

Imagine now that the redesign no longer has the little triangle. If you say “please bring back the triangle”, you may or may not get it back, but the devs won’t be any wiser as to why you need the triangle.

But if you instead say:

“I’m trying to close that popup as quickly as possible, because I want to look at the content and the popup isn’t relevant to me. Before, this was done using the triangle and pop-up slider”

the devs now know what you want to do and why you want to do it, so they can build a new feature for it (maybe that x shouldn’t be just decorative?), but also know how you did it before, so they can check whether or not the old solution is sufficient.

Of course, this popup example is trivial. But most things are more complicated than this and really benefit from constructive criticism. So:

Users: if you want a redesign to improve, do keep your criticism constructive.

Website owners: if you prefer constructive criticism over endless shitstorms, listen to the criticism and be transparent about your actions.

Writing a fanfic – an experience report

Moin.

I recently stumbled about a weekly flash fiction contest thingy on Deviantart, this time, the contest was based around writing something that has to do with your favourite video game. Fanfic it is.

Initially, I thought this would be easy because every time I consume media, it spooks around in my mind, essentially being free inspiration, but so far, I didn’t think the stories that came out of it were worth it.

Because, what my brain does with the prompts coming out of other media isn’t necessarily a premise for a good story. Instead, it’s trying to insert me into the action and have me act in a way that “saves” the protagonists. In other words, it destroys an interesting narrative in favor of a Mary Sue. Fantastic, exactly the sort of thing I want to post as a 20-something year old studying media. I tried it anyways. And failed.

I took a game without a real story – Dota – and tried squeezing out a fanfic about one of my favourite characters in it, Phantom Assassin.

Now, what I should’ve done here is: Take the concept of the character, not the character itself, put it into a nice premise and write a story based on it.
But what I did instead was: Dive head-first into your favourite aspect of the character, which is explained in this Loregasm video.

<in-lore> Basically: She’s an assassin, getting her orders from some veiled oracle and executes these orders without question. But secretly she wonders why she has to kill all those people, then meets The Oracle, who promises her insight to all her questions if she only kills anyone who wants to kill him. According to the video, the two oracles are identical to each other, she’s being sent across an endless goose chase across the multiverse and due to the inter-dimensional travels loses the one thing she actually values, her name, and becomes the Spectre, another Dota character. </in-lore>

And this is where I went full fanfic and combined a sort-of Mary Sue with an all-knowing explainorama charcacter, resulting in this mess: https://www.deviantart.com/leowattenberg/art/A-False-Promise-805787925

I did my best to pull out of it and have somewhat interesting character interactions and developments (at least as interesting as you can make those in flash fiction), but overall, I just couldn’t get away from the template that is the original Loregasm video.

Anyways, the takeaway for me is that fanfic isn’t my domain. Good thing I tried that myself though.