Google Glass: Revolutionary but Not Quite Right

Google Glass is not visually symmetric.

Google Glass is revolutionary because it takes a big step away from the traditional screen + keyboard/mouse/touchscreen paradigm and towards a hands-free, always-on personal computing experience.

But it will most likely fail to gain mainstream adoption because of at least one simple reason: lack of visual symmetry.

Humans equate symmerty in faces to beauty.  That is why people usually wear facial jewelry like earrings in identical pairs.  Google Glass’s current design breaks that visual symmetry.  Every time I have encountered someone wearing one on the street, I have been thrown off — I can’t look the other person’s face without being completely focused on the display/camera module.  It is as if the other person had a huge, impossible to ignore, pimple on their forehead.  This is in contradiction with the goal of getting technology out of the way of natural interactions.

However, the next version might not have this flaw.

Update: I am not the only person with this idea.  Here are actual designer’s attempts at re-designing Google Glass.  All the  variations are symmetric: Bloomberg — Four Stylish Google Glass Re-Designs


iPhone 4S over 5

A hefty Bang & Olufsen remote control

I thought I was one of the few people who preferred iPhone 4S over 5 until an article in LA Times caught my eye:

So many consumers are opting to buy older iPhone models that some analysts wonder whether Apple has lost its ability to create new versions that dazzle.

I am not the type to stand in lines to be the first to get my hands on a new device. The arrival of iPhone 5 was no different, I waited a few weeks until the hooha around it had died down before heading over to a local Apple Store.  I had been using my two year old iPhone 4 with a broken glass and thought it was finally a good time to upgrade.  But when I picked up an iPhone 5, it felt like it was made of cheap plastic — it was strangely light.  I am quite fond of the feel of the iPhone 4, so instead I replaced my broken (actually bent) old phone with a new 4S.

iPhone 5’s lack of heft reminded me of this passage from John Maeda’s Laws of Simplicity:

Sometimes mixing actual and perceived qualities works well, like in the design of the Bang & Olufsen remote control.  The unit is thin and slender in composition and made with the finest materials, but is significantly (and intentionally) heavier–as a means to subtly communicate higher quality–than you would expect from its appearance.

I have always appreciated Apple products not only for their software but also for the high quality of their hardware.  And I am sure Apple’s design team pays close attention to details like the perceived weight of the device.  The latest iPhone somehow managed to defy both expectations.

New vs better

Sharpening our focus – to bring you new Yahoo! products

With all due respect, that sentence should read:

Sharpening our focus – to bring you better Yahoo! products

Pareto’s Principle at Play in Polyvore

One of Fred Wilson’s great insights is the importance of mobile first design — mobile form factor constraints force design simplicity. This insight remains valid despite recent criticisms of a mobile first, web second strategy.


The above graph is a good illustration of this insight. The graph shows access distribution to Polyvore’s endpoints (I have removed the scales and endpoint names). We compiled this data using Splunk during a recent audit of our services to identify places where we could simplify.

The bulk of Polyvore’s activity is concentrated over a handful of endpoints. The 50th endpoint barely registers on the graph and I am embarrassed to confess that we have 630+ endpoints and only the first 100 are plotted :(

This graph tells me that our product could be far simpler and still deliver the bulk of its utility to most of our users. In fact, this is exactly what is happening in our recently launched iOS app.

The best part about simplifying products is that it allows concentration of effort on improving the parts that are used the most. Going deep is a better long term strategy than going wide.

Why there is no Flash on the iPhone

If the iPhone supported Flash, then most of the iPhone apps (or games at least) would have been written in Flash. This would have meant a lot of apps available for competitors to the iPhone (eg RIM, Android, etc…).

Vanishing middle class

The rich grow richer, the poor poorer and the middle class is vanishing.  If it is so, does it make sense to develop products targeted for the middle class?  Or will the world be divided between Walmart and Cartier, Bently and Hyundai, with no Safeway or Toyota in the middle?  

Active content

Over the years, web based applications have made it easier for people to create and share content on the web. Examples include:

  • usenet: text
  • blogs: html
  • Flickr: images
  • YouTube: videos

There is definitely a progression in the richness of the media being created but they all have one thing in common: they are all passive. You can look at an image but it will not interact with you nor will it change over time.

There is however a new category of active content emerging. The earliest examples I can think of are greasemonkey scripts. These are active in the sense that they operate on other content and their output therefore will change in different situations and over time. Pipes is another example of enabling users to create active content. A Pipe is an instruction set for how to operate on feeds. Its output will change over time based on its inputs.