The Usability of Movies

Everything people create for other people has a usability/UX component, including movies.

What is the thing people interact with in movies? The “story”.

We may not interact with it in the same way we do software, equipment and real-world objects – we can’t touch or control it – but it has an “effect on us” as an audience.
A reverse interaction, from the audience’s point of view.

The same can be said for music, books, art, blog posts, documentation, teaching…

Creators of content need to be just as aware of UX as creators of things people use.

Father’s Day and Mother’s Day

On social media, I tried writing a “happy Father’s Day” message (for Australia) but I stopped myself when I thought of the fellow men who cannot, or will never, be a father.

Likewise, for the similar women and non-binary people who have no day that celebrates them.

I now hate days of celebration like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day (and Valentine’s Day) because they’re purely commercial days that never acknowledge the people who have no chance of experiencing them (yet expect a level of participation – i.e. giving gratitude).

Let’s instead have a single general day of “Gratitude for All People We Love” – friends, family and lovers alike – that sets no expectations on gender or circumstance.
(And no emphasis on gifts.)
After all – these days are all to celebrate those we love, aren’t they?

My “Days in Each Month” Mnemonic

The “well known” mnemonic to remember the number of days in each month is:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November,
All the rest have thirty-one,
But February’s twenty-eight,
The leap year, which comes once in four,
Gives February one day more.

But I have a shit memory, especially for nouns, so after 40 years in this world I still don’t remember it. Fuck it, I don’t even try.

But I have another mnemonic I made up many years ago that’s much shorter:

4, 6, 9, 11 have 30.

Yeah, it’s that simple.

So, here’s how it works for me.

  1. February is easy pickings to remember. I know it has 28 days, and 29 in a leap year. I’m not going to forget that. So I basically ignore it because it’s easy.
  2. “30” means 30 days. Therefore, all the rest have 31 days.
  3. “4, 6, 9, 11” are the numbers of the months with 30 days (April, June, September and November).

The thing about 4, 6, 9, 11 is:
4 + 6 = 10.
9 + 11 = 20.
Both are divisible by 10. Which I easily remember. (I’m probably a bit better with numbers and number patterns).
So that makes the first pair (4 and 6) and the second pair (9 and 11) easy to remember for me.

But this is a very personal thing.
The numbers and the divisions and the bits I can remember… they all work together in my brain.

It’s not for everyone. But if you have trouble remembering the days in each month then maybe this will help you trigger a way to remember something that is personal to you.

And that’s all it needs to be.
You don’t need to remember the common mnemonic at the top.
You just need to find something that works for you.
That’s what I did (and created).

“Reading” is a struggle for me

Oddly, this is something I’ve never publicly mentioned before, nor have I randomly come across it in my own web searches.


“Reading” is a struggle for me.

It is, quite literally, the hardest thing I do ever day.

And as someone who writes computer code for a living, and has to spend much of my life, every day, reading to learn and keep abreast of new development and news, it may seem surprising.

But when you think about it: reading is not a natural skill humans possess.

It is something people have to be taught, learn and practise.

And I believe (base on past reading, ironically) it is something that was once designed to separate classes of people.

I am not ashamed to say reading is a major difficulty for me.

Recall memory is another even bigger problem I deal with every day.

Ironically, I write a lot down to remember.

But have a great visual memory (and no, written words are not “visual”. I can’t tell you why, but it don’t correlate for me).
I have an “index” mind, meaning I know where to find what I have once seen quite easily.
And even though I forget nouns (especially people’s names), I never forge a face.

And I’m the the person strangers will approach on an intersection to ask for directions or help.

All this to say: it’s OK to struggle with so-called “simple every day tasks.

The people who truly master reading – especially fast reading – are rare.
They also master high skilled jobs, like: lawyers; politicians; scientists (?); certain types of information workers.
But they are the exception we hear about, not the rule.

The rest of us struggle.
Every. Single. Day.

I call it “brute forcing my way through life”.
We may look smart.
We may look like we know what we’re doing.
But it’s brute force and adaptation that makes it look that way.

Reading is hard.
Learning is harder.
Both are learnt skills.

Accepting and figuring out how to adapt will set you free and give you a hand in stay ahead.

Feedback to Microsoft Teams

Sharing some feedback I provided within the Microsoft Teams app.


Just wanted to give a few thoughts after a couple of months of using Teams.

* It would be great to separate “Chats” with individuals from groups.

* It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to start a new chat with someone in the desktop app – the little icon up the top beside the search bar is out of context of the existing chats, and “blends in” to the background.

* Not having threads in a conversation (ie. replies to a specific comment) is a big pain in the backside. I’m forever chatting across multiple ideas and tracking what is being replied to gets problematic.

* You really need to include the standard emoji set. The old Skype for Business emojis are good not nowhere near enough. And the “Emoji One” integration is half-baked. I only stumbled on it by typing “:th …”, but it has no search, and typing “:P” automatically inserts the Skype “tongue out” icon. It might not seem important, but our team is quite expressive with emojis.

Maybe it’s because I come from using Slack for 4 years, but Teams doesn’t feel as simple or slick. Sorry to say it, but you really need to up the game to compete with Slack, especially now in a highly remote workforce.

Are you a Microsoft Teams user? What are your thoughts and gripes on the usability of the application?

In a rare occurrence, I’m opening up comments on this post.

UPDATE – 4 OCT 20202: Comments are closed. Too much SPAM. Sheesh, 2020 Internet people suck.

Spellchecking “amateur” (from “ameture”)

My brain is somewhat fucked in a number of ways. One of those ways is dealing with words – yes, reading and writing.

A specific problem I have is remembering the spelling of a handful of words I use semi-regularly.

And one of those words is “amateur” (correct spelling).

After a time I ways revert to spelling it as “ameture” (incorrect spelling).

I know this is incorrect, and every time I wait for software spellcheckers to pick it up… and every time they fail.

Which begs the question: what is wrong with spellcheckers?

Surely the incorrect spelling is close enough to the correct spelling – in both sound and structure – to have a common rule? Feedback on why I’m not going ahead with it

Two weeks ago I managed to receive an invite to the new email service from Basecamp. I heard Kara Swisher interview Jason Fried about the service and was excited to give it a try.

I knew a full switch to Hey was not likely, even in the next 12 months, but I am a huge user of email subscriptions for news and updates and wanted to see if I could separate all those emails into a different service to start.

Alas, after 7 days I realised Hey is not yet for me. The UX (user experience) just isn’t there yet.

To be clear, I have purchased my first year subscription, primarily to secure the email address for the future. But I have undone all my email subscription changes.

I’m still 100% behind Hey and Basecamp in this venture. I think email needs a revamp and recognise Hey is still very early days. I have also provided feedback to Hey support as to my issues with the service at this time and wanted to that message here, in its entirety.


5 July 2020 8:40am


I wanted to provide some feedback.

I was excited to join Hey, however, now that my 2 week trial is almost over I have decided not to continue with the service, and I wanted to provide some feedback on what predominantly does not work for me.

That being said, I have just paid my first year in order to ensure I retain the email address (for security reasons).

Ultimately it comes down to UX.

Hey’s UX is too divergent from what I’m used to with email. And while it certainly has some interesting ideas I hope to see succeed, my 25+ years of using email is a large weight of experience to compete against.

To be clear, I recognise my UX issues are very “personal” to me and how I work, and not necessarily work how your majority customer base works.
I also understand that Hey is “wildly opinionated”, but for me it’s a little too opinionated for the most important service I use.

(NB: I am also a software developer with an interest in software design/UX)

Specifically, the things that work against me are.

* “Imbox”. I don’t know what it is but I find that word really annoying.
I know the meaning of the word but every time I see it, it feels “wrong”.
Perhaps it’s my dyslexia or just a peculiar mind, but my brain struggles against the word and tries to convert it to “Inbox”.
Also, it is so a prominent as a title on the page. All the major page titles feel so unnecessarily BIG on the page (high visual weight) and compete for my attention all the time.

* I live through in my emails. I read, sort, organise and categorise.
major element I use is labels/folders. And I switch through them regularly. Having access to labels through a hidden menu (click 1), then a separate page listing them (click 2) is frustrating. Basically labels in Hey are useless for me because it’s too much work to get to them.

* Having the Imbox auto-sort in “last accessed” order is disorienting. I expect to see emails in reverse chronological order by default. Sorting by last accessed is a great idea, but not by default.

* I’d like the option to switch between my sort orders, including dates, titles and sender.

* I use stars/flags a lot in visually tag and group emails and that’s sorely missed with Hey.

* Seeing sent messages mixed with received messages in the Imbox/Previously Seen list  is strange and too much clutter. I need to see my sent messages <1% of the time and I’m happy to access them via a “thread” view or separate “Sent” list. They don’t need to be in my face

* The visual weight of the colour profile circle in the message list is just too much. Same for the “Hey” menu and my own profile menu.
When I scan the page my eye goes to the most prominent feature on the page, which at the moment is the profile icon.
I want my eye to be focused on the message titles, which it probably about the 3rd highest weight on the page.
In fact, when I analyse the page there is a lot going on in the page in terms of different colours, lines and shading.
To be honest, this really feels software designed by a software developer, not a UX or UI designer (i.e. something I would design myself).

* The “previously seen” list on the “Imbox” page drives me nuts! I strive for zero inbox, so seeing that list every time I enter the page makes me immediately think I have messages to action. When I finish reading a message I want to label it and archive it from view.

* And I really don’t want my read/unread message to slip between 2 lists on the one page. It breaks my expectation of where a message should be, partly because I’ll often read a message, drop back to my inbox, then later go back and re-read or mark it as unread. But now I have to find it in a different location (and probably a different sort order).

* The Feed… is too much like a social media news feed for me.
Separating subscriptions is the primary reason for me to trial Hey (at it’s an awesome idea) but at the moment it’s a fail, unfortunately.
I just need another area similar to Imbox but dedicated to my subscriptions.
I have at any one time 30+ daily subscriptions (this is how I receive most of my news and updates).
I don’t read them in sequential order, and some subscriptions I’ll skip reading until the end of the week.
I also hate social media feeds – there’s something about their nature and scrolling that my brain and eyes can’t handle.
So, it’s a real bother to have a list of partially open messages in my Feed (that I still always have to fully open anyway – which makes a partial view useless…?) It’s too much information. I just need to see the subject and who it’s from.
Or an option to switch between the “normal” Imbox style list and seeing the open message view.
A huge issue is I can’t tell when a message is “read” vs “unread”. And I can’t archive a message (hide it from view).

* When I move a message back to Imbox, future messages from the sender still go to The Feed, but I would expect them to come to the Imbox.

* It would be nice to have an indicator on the Imbox screen of how many unread messages there are in the feed. When I check Imbox I then need to manually check The Feed as well to even know if there are new messages (which I can’t really tell anyway because everything looks new).

* I was confused about where to find my “Drafts”. I intuitively looked under my “Hey” menu but couldn’t find it. Instead, it was under my profile menu, which doesn’t really make sense.

* I tried the “Set Aside” feature with some subscription messages, which gives me yet another page with yet another layout. What’s up with the tile view?
Then when I select “Done” it puts the message back in the Imbox “Previously seen” list, which is strange.
But I’m not even sure what the purpose of Set Aside is (didn’t read the help. Maybe it’s just me not understanding).

* I tried the “Reply Later” (which, for some reason, I expected the option to be able to set a reminder) and it put a sticky version of the message at the bottom of the Imbox. Which seems strange that I want to basically push something out of view for later but then you keep it displayed in my face?
I also can’t move a message from Reply Later back to Imbox.

* There’s no contextual feature help. All I can do is send a help message.
Why can’t I quickly look up info about a feature?
For example, I’m too afraid to try the “Merge” feature because I don’t know what it is. This is the one time I’ll use a help page, but I don’t know how to get to it.

* The “Hey” menu.
It’s too slow. That slight lag when opening the menu (browser, Windows app) get’s really annoying when you do it regularly and is very noticeable when I’m having to continually open it to jump between screens. And that “thunk” (“pop” or whatever you want to call it) when it finishes opening is disconcerting.
A smooth and instant transition would be nice.
Also, options to move between Imbox, The Feed, Labels (including the label list) that are always visible would be a welcome feature. That would cut down a lot of clicks through the menu every day.

* I’m a bit concerned about this: “at the end of your trial your account will be automatically closed, and all your data will be deleted from our servers 30 days later. Then your email address will be released back into the pool so someone else can sign up and use it.”
My concern is security related. If someone tries the service with and uses it for “sensitive” subscriptions or communications, then cancels but their address continues to receive sensitive info, then if it’s claimed by another person in the future will the originally person’s subscriptions come to the new person after they claim it?
As it is I’m now going to purchase a year’s subscription to secure my address and ensure no one else can access my trialled subscriptions.

* Not an issue but something to consider: I use multiple domains for my emails. And I use a different “username@” for each subscription and service I sign up for to identify when my email is shared, and as a layer of protection in data breaches. I know domains is something that’s coming but it’s a bit of a show stopper for me at the moment.

If any of these issues are actually features available, then you should know I didn’t look up any help and will not look up help. If I can’t discovered it via the UI or context help then, again, it’s a UX fail.

As clean and “focused” as the UI is, I think you need to realise that email is still a central tool for some people – particularly “older” (almost 40) people like me. I don’t been business/corporate either.
Email isn’t just about an inbox and “read once” message. It’s also about organisation and quick access. Re-imaging email is a good idea, but breaking the UX and features people have become used to is perhaps not going to win people over.

On a positive note, the things I do love are:

* Protecting against trackers. This is the key element that drew me to Hey when I heard about it.

* Having a separate Feed for newsletters, even though I have UX issues with it. I subscribe to quite a few a newsletters and wanted to separate them from my normal Inbox. I’m happy to pay just to have a separate inbox for these.

* No push notifications. That’s possibly going to be a problem for some people, but I’m really appreciative of it.

I’m still keen to see Hey succeed and wish you all the best, but unfortunately the service is not yet there for my own needs.


Cheap and Easy “Pipe Cleaner” USB, Headphone Cord & Electronics Cable Ties

I’m a big fan of Fly With Stella on YouTube and one of the tips she’s shared in travel organising is the Nite Ize Original Gear Tie.

Which look awesome and I want them!

The only problem – I’m located in the ass end of the world (Australia) and no-one here seems to stock anything like it. I can order on Amazon, but with normal delivery it’s going to take some time to arrive.

But today I had an inspired idea – I could use Pipe Cleaners! (otherwise known as Chenille Stems).

I actually had a pack in an old craft box, so I cracked it open, got out the wire side cutters, and cut a few pipes into 4 parts (each pipe is about 1 foot/30cm in length).

This is what I ended up with.

There you have it. One pipe cleaner cable tie.

And for about AUD$2.50 for a pack of 40, I can get up to 160 cable ties and colour code until my heart is content.

Don’t tell my wife but before this inspired idea I went to Howards Storage World and bought a 6-pack of BlueLound CableLip cable thingies for $14.95. They’re good, but I already think my pipe cleaners are better.

Morning routines

My morning routine when at home:

About half a liter of water before I do anything. That’s a start to my daily intake of 2-3 liters.

Then 2 cups of coffee in the first 45 mins. Usually fresh ground beans through a single cup dripper or French press. If I don’t have beans then Robert Timms coffee bags. Caffeine doesn’t affect me but I love the taste of those 2 cups of coffee first thing in the morning. And that’s all the coffee I have for the day.

I sit on the couch or balcony and read my email subscriptions and NYT news headlines while drinking my coffee, and while my wife gets ready for her day.This is “me” time when my mind is fresh from sleep.

The final thing I do is make the bed. This is important, not so much for the mental affect or for having achieved at least one thing in the day, as Admiral William H. McRaven says (, but because I learnt as a kid that coming back to a ruffled doona/duvet or sheets makes for a crappy sleep the next night. It doesn’t matter much nowadays as my wife loves to scrunch the covers up, but it’s nice to have flat, even covers start.

And, yes, I have achieved one thing for the day, and some days that may be all I do achieve.


See also, Tim Ferriss:

Tips for non-English speaks in an English speaking professional workforce

One of the most important skills I’ve had to learn over the last 2 years as a remote manager, and now university educator, is reading poorly written communication from non-native English speakers.

I’ve adjusted because it has been necessary, but it frustrates me to no end with the amount of wasted mental energy and time it consumes in my day.

I’ve worked with plenty of people from many different countries over the last 2 decades and I’ve only experienced this problem in the last few years.

So here are 4 simple tips for non-native English speakers wanting to stand out in an English speaking workforce:

  1. Learn the fundamentals of English the language: use the correct words and phrases.
  2. Learn basic English grammar: when to use full-stops, commas, capitalisation and paragraphs.
  3. Proof read before you send.
  4. Ask yourself “have I provided all the information the recipient needs to understand what I’m saying”?

Poor written communication, especially if you have been doing it for a while without improvement, says one thing about a person: they’re lazy.

I’m not interested in working with lazy.