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Ethical anti-design, or designing products that people can't get addicted to (njms.ca)
266 points by podiki 31 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 105 comments



I think the best example of this contrast is Reddit and its redesign.

The old Reddit hosted a large variety of communities with each subreddit having its own distinct layout and color scheme. These diversities and distinctions were a main feature. All hosted subreddits retained their identities and acted as community forums where people bolstered their interests and had productive interactions.

The Redesign made a huge departure from this, however, and introduced standardized layouts and made the site feel as close to conventional social networking sites as possible. It can be easily seen in the design decisions. Before the redesign, Reddit had paginated content and users at most used to browse one or two of the front pages to keep up and engage with trends. Now, it has a never-ending feed where users just keep scrolling indefinitely and waste time. They've just taken a page from Facebook and Twitter's books and made it an addictive train of mindless consumption instead of diverging from conventional social networks.


Indeed. In the old design, there was a prominent sidebar on each subreddit, where the community could post a FAQ, useful links, etc.

Not only did the redesign hide all that from most browsers, but Reddit seems hostile now to the idea of providing some small stable collection of information for users to consult first. It wants people to keep asking the same questions over and over again, because that means engagement. If you are a moderator who deletes repetitive questions or low-effort posts and refers the poster to a FAQ, you might get ousted as mod by higher-ups on Reddit for being against the spirit of the modern site.


>The old Reddit hosted a large variety of communities with each subreddit having its own distinct layout and color scheme. These diversities and distinctions were a main feature.

Yes! I think this is one of the elements that many people miss from the old web, it might be "uglier" but much more genuine, I'm thinking about MySpace, imagine how would it look if it was designed today, probably as the change in Reddit you are describing.

Edit: Another memory that comes is Winamp's skins, compared with today's Spotify, Apple music apps, I know is not an orange to oranges comparison... but it's on the same trend.


I'm still using the old reddit. The new one triggers my Macbook Pro cooling nonstop, it's slow as hell.


Still use old reddit, will never change. If / when they force me to use the new design I won't return


Reddit? You mean that super confusing site that people sometimes link to and that always wants to force me into installing some app?


I like the background & ideas, but I can't get past the name "anti-design." Everything about what the author is saying screams "designing the good life"[1] to me. This is not anti-design, it's design in the employ of deeply human needs.

[1] https://www.slideshare.net/dings/designing-the-good-life-eth...


Agreed. I would go with something like "pro-human design" or "pro-user design".


It's a bit surprising to me that my comment above is the top Google Search result for "pro-user design". I'm surprised both because Google has indexed the comment within 10 minutes and also because I would have expected the term to have been used quite a lot already.


Probably making history as we type here:

https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=pro%20user%20desi...


That really is pretty surprising. Might have to capitalize on this...


I just registered the domain for my first web development company, https://prouserdesign.com. History in the making! Perhaps this might turn out to be one of those threads that gets reposted to HN years later after a successful IPO... haha.

Anybody interested in being a co-founder? ;-)


You beat me to it!

I'm interested in keeping this meme going (in the direction of the original article).

Anyone else jumping on the bandwagon? Don't miss out -- this could be the next coinbase thread.


> You beat me to it!

I would feel bad, but I was the person who seems to have coined the term earlier in this thread, albeit accidentally :-)


Another meme covering an (at least slightly) overlapping set of guidelines/ideas is "humane technology". Not saying it's the same thing as what all of you mean, but we shouldn't forget that our tools impact non-users as well (i.e. people who never used Uber feel its impact still).

https://www.humanetech.com/who-we-are


Nice! Followed you. Reach out via personal email in profile if you’d like to get in touch :)


"Humane design" is what I was thinking.


I would say pro-social design. In this case, pro-social in the human development orientation rather than the dehumanized social media sense.


Just ethical-design could do fine IMO.

> can't get addicted to

That would also mean not having dopamine injectors like Upvote, Like, Share etc. But these also serve as an important function as a feedback tool.

As an experiment I removed public display of vote points from my problem validation platform[1] which is themed on HN. Only the owner of the post, comment can see their points.

Apart from removing herd influence from the voting, I feel this has greatly reduced overall negativity i.e. especially discouraging someone from posting their problem however small or silly others might feel it to be.

What are the other possible dopamine-inhibitor changes for UI, which can let the users receive feedback without much friction?

[1] https://needgap.com


Feels like allowing me to gain points would make me check my post/comment habitually, just to see if someone else gave me points. Hah thinking about it in my own context, seeing points gained is addictive because it's like getting encouragement from others.


"anti-addictive design"?


anti-captological design

in reference to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captology


And yet here I am, on one of the most "anti-design" sites I know (which even has a "noprocrast" feature), frantically pressing F5 every other minute looking for articles like this. Sigh.


In online, 'multiplayer' environments, there is always something going on and if you're not there every single waking moment, you'll miss out. You can fiddle with all of the design elements all you want, but if the underlying interactions are built on FOMO, there's not much you can do about it.

I had this realization as a senior in college, and it's the reason I never went into game design. I knew too many dropouts for whom gaming was part of the equation.


Tangentially related, this article was very recently published by a newsletter I follow. It talks about strategies to make your real life more interesting, and that by playing video games for hours you have proven that you have certain skills that are useful (like focus, achieving goals, learning new things, etc).

I found it really interesting as someone that struggled with video games previously. I don't currently struggle with them (though if I had the right desk setup I probably would have a hard time staying away from them still), but certainly there are always other things that take their place. I was kind of floored to realize that I can actually focus really intently on a video game, and thus I do possess the ability to focus despite my difficulties to do so on boring work tasks.

Maybe you'll find something interesting, inspiring, or thought-provoking within it: https://www.deprocrastination.co/blog/play-the-ultimate-game...


> underlying interactions are built on FOMO

My experience is that addiction to sites like HN is built more on fearof facing up to some other part of your life.


I think it alternates between the two. At various points one can be the scapegoat for the other.


I know this probably doesn't mean anything, but thank you for following your conscience.


I tend to lean pretty hard on internal motivation but it's nice to hear.

I really hoped that Jane McGonigal was onto something big when she started trying to put these dark patterns to positive use, but it seems to have fizzled. Sometimes it takes a couple of hype cycles for a good idea to stick. Fingers crossed.


A bit unrelated and I'm sure you had your reasons, but it's worth noting that while this is rampant in multiplayer games, it's not really common in single player games which are still fairly popular. I see and play plenty of such games and I think it wouldn't be too difficult to find game design work making interesting single player experiences instead of the typical multiplayer treadmill.


This is an astute observation. I guess you could limit this effect somewhat by making your product operate on a digest model. Batch comments and release them on a schedule. In addition to making your product less addictive it could give the operators a chance to pre-moderate and curate the content stream.


For some part of the population, me included, taking the action of reloading feels better than being pushed from one piece of content to another - it helps me tell myself I'm in control, unlike with, say, video sites that automatically queue up the next video.

A killer anti-design feature for a place like Hacker News would be to limit how many links and comments get posted every hour or day. Which would have me reloading less often, which would - accomplish the goal of me spending less time here, I guess?

But seriously, the thing most likely to keep me from infinite scrolling or reloading is to have a roommate or live-in significant other.


The #1 thing I need is a feature that makes me feel confident that if I spend a few hours carefully and deliberately looking at Hacker News this weekend that I will not "miss" the stuff I would have seen throughout the week. The various sites which try to show you the highlights never seem to actually show me the stuff I would have found in the moment looking at the site :/. It sucks too because it isn't like anything af all about this site is "real time" in the sense that it goes away later... except figuring out how to show people the historical rankings is missing. (I am considering trying to build a mechanism to do this for me, as I often feel like my solution to things I am addicted to is to automate their recording and then realize I never bothered to look at the recordings.)


I assume you’re not happy with stuff like HackerNewsletter [1], though my experience is that missing out on the latest stuff on Hacker News has never had a material negative effect on my life. I see it as entertainment, not a need per se.

[1] https://hackernewsletter.com/


Well, congratulations on not having the problem being discussed ;P. One may as well tell an alcoholic that not drinking during an outing has never been a big deal, and that you see it merely as an interesting flavor ;P.


Huh? I’m not saying it’s not addicting, I’m saying it’s an illusion of importance - you mentioned you worry about negative consequences of missing out, I was just pointing out that in my experience I can’t think of a time where missing out actually had a negative effect (regardless of how important I perceived information on HN, and I’ve compulsively viewed HN plenty). Sorry if that came out wrong.


Please do! My Issue is that I rarely want to actually read the articles, the discussions are usually much more interesting. Most hn aggregator sites have a ui that is focused on the articles not the comments. If i had a way to check a week in review hn one a weekend (or some other time) that would be amazing for my productivity;-)


I don't feel in control at all. In fact I realized I tend to engage in this mindless refreshing when I'm exceptionally stressed out, which I know is pretty much the opposite of helpful.

And I wish it was as easy as just having fewer links on HN. I'd just go to Reddit instead.


"have a roommate or live-in significant other" - life's killer app.


rss solves this nicely + train your willpower

The imoortant stories tend to resurface and lurk on reddit too.


HN is designed for addiction because it shows me a score. Stop displaying the score on individual comment, posts, and profile and much of the addiction would go away IMO


You can download an css injection extension for this in minutes.

I love this simplicity about hackernews. Try that on google, twitter, reddit, instagram and you'll see html elements with classes like "_9AhH0" that change daily, and I'm not exaggerating.


I use the HN frontpage link which only updates stories about once a day.

https://news.ycombinator.com/front


It's tough. HN is the last of my social accounts. I'm really trying to limit it to once a day - you really don't miss anything, and it intrudes far less into your day.


What is this noprocrast feature? I don't see it in the interface and can't find it on Google



click on your username on the top right corner. There is a dropdown labeled "noprocrast", and I think the text-fields under it saying "maxvisit" and "minaway" put, respectively, a maximum amount of time that it will let you use the site contiguously (in minutes) (or, possibly, maximum number of distinct times it lets you use the site per day? not sure) and a minimum amount of time between visits.

I haven't used the feature, so I'm not sure quite what it does.


That isn't what design means.


For these reasons, my phone is quickly becoming a device where I make calls and texts, check email, use the GPS, and consult the internet for information while I'm away from my laptop. I find it to be so much easier to not get stuck in infinite scrolling loops when I have to be sitting at a desk to do so. The smartphone's greatest strength and greatest danger is that it is always with you.

Our brains aren't built for constant stimulation like that. Every step back I've made from social apps has been a positive one for my mental health. I was amazed at how much my anxiety dropped when I deleted the reddit app, for instance.

I've recently read a fair number of interviews/comments from people who helped create the original social apps, and it's really interesting how many of them regret it. I don't necessarily mean the founders who cashed out, I mean as one example the software engineer (whose name I forget) who was one of those primarily responsible for the first implementation of the Like button on Facebook. The great irony of social networking is that as its use has increased, our self-reported levels of isolation and feelings of loneliness have skyrocketed. It's accomplished exactly the opposite of its stated mission, and I can't help but feel the whole enterprise is a net negative.


Justin Rosenstein, inventor of the "like" button: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/28/17172404/justin-rosenstei...

Aza Raskin, creator of "infinite scroll": https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/i-m-so-sorry-says-invento...


> my phone is quickly becoming a device where I make calls and texts, check email, use the GPS, and consult the internet for information while I'm away from my laptop

Ditto except for email.

> I was amazed at how much my anxiety dropped when I deleted the reddit app, for instance.

Well, instant-messaging still has its contribution to anxiety. If it's urgent then call me, otherwise email me. (Not that I abide by this principle myself...)

Unfortunately, to many people have started using social networks / instant-messaging apps as alternatives for mailing lists.


Thanks for this! It seems like a good rule of thumb:

Infinite Scroll on Desktop Only

Added benefit for me would be that when I'm on my desktop I usually have the goal of getting work done, and infinite scrolling conflicts with guilt of not working. So less infinite scrolling.


A free news reader app I built has a feature like this. News sources are sorted from liberal to conservative, and there's a dial that ticks from left to right as you spend time on different sources. If you tend to only read sources on one side of the political divide, you get a warning to read news from both sides. If you don't heed this warning, you are eventually locked out of reading news on your preferred side.

It's not a global anti-design feature, since it's still possible to use the app for many hours. But the app allows the user to pre-commit to reading a mix of news, since it isn't possible to just read news from one side in the app. [1]

1: http://www.readacrosstheaisle.com


I don't like this insistence that "as long as you read both sides you will be better informed"

If my news all comes from huffpost and breitbart, I won't be more informed than someone who just reads the New York Times, just angrier and disaffected.


Interesting app. How are sources categorized/ranked?


This was a Kickstarter, and the backers voted on which news sources to include and how they should be ranked. I’ve added more sources over time and slotted then in myself. I don’t get many complaints, interestingly.


Very cool app. Have you seen Ground News? They do something similar but the have some external sources for classifying the bias of the news sources.


I think I have heard of them. I would have done more complex things around bias classification if people had asked for it, but surprisingly there weren't many requests. Ultimately though, it becomes a question of who selects the external classifying sources, so the app dev is still in control at the end of the day.


> take a break

I write code now however I was a private yacht chef in a past career. I can make food that makes people high -- its a drug. When I started with yacht charters with 8 - 12 guests for a week or 10 days cruising the Exumas or BVIs and the guests were rude to me I responded by cooking the best food they ever tasted day in and day out knowing that they wouldn't be able to stop eating. If you are an asshole, you will eat the best tasting food on Earth. "Diplomacy is telling someone to go to hell and make them look forward to the trip."

On the flip side, I started working on private, not charter, yachts for a couple different families whom a decade later I still speak with. They, however, didn't eat as well. The dishes were a lot more wholesome and plain. The whole reason I started coding was because I was in the middle of the ocean bobbing around spending only 3 hours a day working, cooking for guests and crew and started hacking on my laptop on the galley table looking for something to do to stave off bordom which we all know causes mutiny on ships. Nobody can eat restaurant style food breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It causes people to be fat, heart disease, and diabetes. Of course, for special occasions, anniversaries, birthdays, or the owners want me to show off for a night to their guests I would use the skills I developed working years in in 2 and 3 star Michelin restaurants, however, the rest of the time, we would all * take a break * from eating fancy food. Sometimes I'd kick of the owners off the boat sending them to a restaurant for the night but they preferred my simple dishes where ever we went. It is appreciated.

When I started with charters at the beginning working on yachts I was instructed to provide multi course restaurant food. On my first charter a guest said they love the food however seeing the fish sandwich I prepared for the crew asked if they could just eat the same things they saw me serving the crew. It is a hard pill for a chef to swallow that people don't want fancy stuff all the time. What is my purpose? To pass the butter? That moment forth I cooked the same things for guests and crew accept for when people are assholes. A lot of chefs are insecure if they aren't doing restaurant style food. I'm lucky that I have already proven myself so I don't have to anymore. It became the dumbest easiest job ever with the hardest part having to catch dinner first.

But, yeah, I get how it is healthy to take a break.


> What is my purpose? To pass the butter?

Yeah, welcome to the club, pal.

(For those who didn't get the reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e0CD3fvLp0)


> a guest said they love the food however seeing the fish sandwich I prepared for the crew asked if they could just eat the same things they saw me serving the crew

I've eaten fish in multiple restaurants of varying quality over the years, with some really really good ones in there. However my favorite fish dish is still a "Backfischbrötchen" (German word for a fried fish sandwich with remoulade, leaf of lettuce, some cucumber/tomato/onion slices), just the smell of which makes my mouth water every time I pass the moored cutters/fishing boats in my home town's harbor.


> Nobody can eat restaurant style food breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

lookingaway.gif


My gut tells me there's already enough anti-design out there in the form of bad products and services. With anti-design you'd end up with a product that fails like all the other bad products did.

Regarding games, there's such a thing as "too fun" and game publishers know it. There's a blurry line you cross beyond which lies exploitation, and publishers passed that line a long time ago. It's all about the monetization strategy. When I was younger I was a big fan of alternative monetization schemes like game demos, and often wondered what would happen if sites like PopCap would charge microtransactions like some sort of semi-free arcade. Well now I know the answer, and it's gaming hell.

I think a few things: - Publishers are unethical for behaving this way - We can't expect publishers to fix this for us

If we choose to fix it, it's up to us. App stores, by taking a cut, are disincentivized from taking action.

One approach might be a standards body focused on the treatment of the player, with a seal of approval that's front and center for parents and mindful players to see. If the rules are clear and concise and the effort is well-organized it should be trivial to get participation from indie titles and move up from there.

I glanced at ethicalgames.org and noticed a lot of concern with corporate doings. While this is important I think it would dilute the intent here: to discourage exploitation of the end user.


In my opinion, the main Facebook site is now hard to get addicted to as a new user. I recently made a new account (having deleted my personal one years ago) for a local group, and found the site un-navigable and frustrating beyond belief. I suppose its current denizens are contendedly trapped in the time-suck, but it's a different experience as a new user.


> It's no surprise my generation spends so much time on social media, and nobody can blame them.

While I get the point, this is a dangerous precedent to set. We are the final arbiter of what we do, this cannot be forgotten or thrown away. People do bear responsibility for their own actions, all of them.


As an individual, I agree with you. Bearing personal responsibility for one's actions is one of my highest values. However, at scale, people are easily manipulated. This has been known at least since the invention of religion. You can extol the virtues of personal responsibility and self control as much as you want, but the masses are still going to be vulnerable to manipulation.


We are the final arbiter of what we do, this cannot be forgotten or thrown away

While that is true, decision overload is also true: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2017-03-15/...

It takes mental effort (and hence energy) to resist temptation. We only have a limited amount of mental energy to spend each day. How much energy is highly dependent on each individual's situation, but it's not infinite. The more energy we are forced to spend on worthless distractions, the less energy we have left to make decisions that do matter and can meaningfully change our lives.

Acting like it's ok to be abusive and coercive to people "because they bear responsibility for their own actions" is a more dangerous precedent to set, in my opinion.


I never said it is OK to be abusive to anyone. The companies are responsible for their actions, and we are responsible for ours.


To gain control of our actions we must destroy the means of external control, i.e. these companies. This is the Jordan Peterson "just clean your room" argument, not that cleaning rooms is bad, but it sidesteps the actual problems at hand people are facing.


I'm preparing a dating app for launch which uses pro-user design. It pushes people to meet in person rather than spend time in the app. For example, each user sees a fixed number of profiles in the app, which rotate each day. So they will spend less than 20 mins a day on the app.


Don’t apps like coffee with bagel do that too? The biggest problem to solve for new dating apps is how to get users in the first place. How do you solve that?


Yes. Dating apps are regional social networks. They are only useful when there are enough users in an area on the app. My plan is to launch in a small town, see how it goes, talk to users, and iterate in the next town over. I have lots of ideas to try:

- radio ads

- FB groups

- sponsoring events for singles groups at churches and other religious orgs

- targeted postal ads

- invite codes with rewards

- hiring local influencers

- hiring ppl to hand out flyers at community colleges and at events

- sponsoring events for college clubs

- cinema pre-roll ads

I've had trouble finding reliable data on the cost effectiveness of these different methods. I expect to waste about $10,000 on trial-and-error before finding out what works.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas to add to the list?


As an iOS developer myself who's pondered many times developing a dating app, I don't think $10,000 is enough imo. It might be enough for one small local area but expanding will require a ton money money. I clicked your profile and went to your site. It mentions "The beta test is for SF Bay Area, straight, singles."

I think more targeted niche areas might be better - gay guys dating, fetish specific dating, religion specific dating etc.

$10,000 won't get you far in SF Bay Area imo. Cinema pre-roll ads are very expensive. Also, since this post is about ethical anti-design, you might end up going in the unethical territory to make your money back based on how much money is required to be spent.

Sorry for being negative Nancy.


Can you share some concrete data?

Also, why do you think it would be cheaper to market to a niche?

I expect that launching in the SF area will be easy for two reasons:

1. The area has a lot of people with extra money who already use dating apps.

2. A lot of people in the area like to try new apps.

I'm saving SF until the app is more polished. I don't want to tarnish the brand here.


TL;DR: add friction to things when they're harmful to users, and don't just duplicate harmful designs in OSS.

Friction is a very well-understood tool in the designers toolkit. The key question is whether its added in places that are beneficial to the user.

Think of a 2x2 of user benefit x company benefit.

1. Benefits both user & company ex: GitHub's 'Danger Zone'

2. Benefits company but not user ex: difficult unsubscribe flows

3. Benefits user but not company ex: 'ethical' designs like stopping addictive behavior

4. Benefits neither: this is just bad design

The key is to create a movement to get people to do more of 3 and less of 2, and that's well underway with stuff like what Center for Humane Technology is doing. I don't think we should call that field 'anti-design' though. Instead, much like many engineering fields that bake in professional ethics into their work, we should frame it exactly opposite: the pinnacle of good design.


Great analysis, I can understand where "anti-design" is coming from, but I agree with you we shouldn't use this term, something like ethical-design becoming the pinnacle would be much better. But I don't think it will catch up soon, unless there is more awareness, similarly to what happen in the food industry with sugar.


> Twitter's interface was very intentionally designed to maximize the amount of time per day a person spends online. The Fediverse really doesn't need that, but it has it anyway.

This seems like an unbacked assertion.

Cynically, the fediverse lives and dies with its userbase. If nobody's using it, it will die. If everyone is using it, it will grow and prosper.

Thus, the Fediverse too, as a matter of survival, has to incentivize people to use it. Cynically speaking: in the early phases, it's vital to enslave people's brains to produce content.


It's always interesting and a bit amusing to see HN folks inventing / discovering known ideas from design & HCI.

What njms is advocating here is effectively User-Centred Design (aka "Human Centred Design"). It has an ISO standard: https://www.iso.org/standard/52075.html

I was a Psychology undergrad in the 1990s and I was taught about this stuff way back then. It is sad that design has fallen so far from this standard.


With game design, platforms offer so many platforms for integration/tie-ins. I remember after one steam sale I had bought a bunch of games I didn't like, and I thought "well I have all these trading cards; might as well try selling them", and the process of checking out the markets/getting steam credit for my transactions was far more engaging in a raw sense than any game I had played that day, and that disappointed me a bit.

One rule of thumb that I have when I'm making games is to avoid tie-ins to external ecosystems where it's not necessary - that the reason to play a game should come from the game itself.

I know someone who had a game that was well-liked on kongregate (flash games portal), and at some point they did a tie in where you could unlock cards for the the kongregate collectable card game by getting certain achievements in said game. The developer got a giant spike of hate as people forced themselves to get these pretty difficult achievements in a game that brought them no joy so they could do something else.

And I also, I guess don't mind so much if people don't like my games/bounce off them. That's ok. And if I find myself pulling tricks to keep their attention longer than the core gameplay can, then I take a step back and reevaluate what I'm doing. Many of my favourite games I never finished (some of the zachtronics ones got a bit too tricky and I dropped out, but never without a smile on my face) - I was happy to play them until I bounced. It's ok for engagement to come to an end - one doesn't need to trap people in loops.

But there's an aesthetic pleasure to be got from being trapped in a loop, and maybe you might need to trap people long enough for them to get into the meat of the game, but I'm a lot more wary about that than most I've found.

Re the article itself: I'd say clicking the 'next' button is a traumatising experience when it results in a several second load and a pile of ads to scroll through. I just can't get behind it as general advice...I just can't. If the page loads snappily then maybe ^^

I guess GDPR/Cookies prompts may fall into this category as well. I've appreciated them as a barrier helping break me from engagement loops in the past.


Simple trick for making phones less fun: you can set them to display everything in greyscale (at least on iPhones). Basically everything with any kind of competent design will still work.


Mostly agree with the author, but The best anti design would be to turn off the damn recommender system and liking, rather than putting pagination back and hiding follower counts.


Google just released a feature called Heads Up to remind people to look where they are walking

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/googles-heads-up-t...


A bit dense, but great read nonetheless!

We talk a lot about privacy here on HN, but I'm starting to believe that the most important problem is maybe not privacy, but the addiction generated by those platforms.

Even if they are entangled (because algorithms need out private details to be trained), we could have perfectly private platforms, but still have a lot of people manipulated and addicted.


From the same author (I believe) is Resin [0], a Pixelfed [1] (Fediverse Insta) client designed to not be addictive

[0] https://github.com/natjms/resin

[1] https://pixelfed.org/


Reminds me of Aza Raskin, who eventually regretted developing "infinite scrolling". https://twitter.com/aza/status/1296238279969316864


Am I addicted to my can opener, because I use it nearly every day, and I like it because it works so well and seems to last forever?

Should designers make can openers that are a pain in the back so people hate it to use them?


If all you wanted is to open a tomato can to cook your meal, and you end up opening all the cans, and not cooking your meal, plus now the can opener company knows:

- the meal you wanted to cook.

- the type of can you have at home.

- how many cans you opened.

- time of the day .. and really any data they can.

And now they can target you specifically with Ads that are tailored to you, so you can use the can opener as much as possible, no matter if you cook your meal or not.

Then yes, the designers should add friction, IF their goal is to live in a world where people get to cook their meals.

Is like the typical thing that happens when someone enters Facebook with one goal in mind, to check on something, and suddenly 45 minutes passed and they don't remember why you came on the first place.


If you use your can opener for an hour a day for a year, you have just about spent as much time as one of my friends spends playing League of Legends in a few months.


But how do we make the edit-compile-test cycle less addictive?


It references TikTok as problematic, but TikTok actually tells you to take a break after you've been swiping for a bit.


Your dealer passing someting: have a detox from time to time, take care my friend


Call it “dopamine-blocking design”.


This is a good topic overall, I'm not convinced of the particular example of infinite scrolling, but I do definitely want to see a movement toward products that don't try to overtake your life, and also make a point of it.

Why am I not convinced of the seemingly obvious infinite scroll example? It's not addressing the root problem, and we need to first and foremost think critically of the substance, rather than UI ergonomics. No doubt UI ergonomics can play a role, but I'd rather see people think about how to avoid having an infinite pool of addictive content in the first place. How can we create systems that are inherently limited by their intent, rather than just making the UI worse (although pagination in terms of design is anyway a contentious subject).

That sounds vague, so I'll give a few examples: - An email service that only sends you your mail every day or x time interval, so you don't feel compelled to keep checking for new things.

- A social network that only lets you make small groups of friends with no global feed at all, so you don't need an algorithm to filter out all the noise and rank everyone's post behind the scenes.

As an aside, just take a moment to let that sink in, in case you haven't. There's a hidden AI deciding how important your friends' thoughts and photos are to you, to keep you addicted to content and keep scrolling, in an effort to show you more ads and make more money. It does so by recording everything you do on the service, and also things you do on other websites. This is not a sci-fi dystopia movie plot, this is what Facebook fundamentally is.

The "but it's free" argument I understand, and accepted for a long while also, but more recently I've started to reject this as a sound argument. Is it really so that if something is free, it gets a pass? I don't think that's true outside the internet. If someone's giving away free home insurance, and "only" requires you to have cameras installed in every room so they can better asses the responsible party, etc., would we as a society really look at that and say "but it's free" and move on with our lives? Hard to prove, but I'm doubtful that this wouldn't receive a massive backlash. What if the "free" plan was the only one available, and there were no comparable insurance companies around to reasonably switch to? What if they were using the recordings to sell data about you to ad companies?

It's free, yes, and sure, I could have "nothing to hide", but the idea of a company recording me in my home and selling how I behave to other companies to make money and get me to buy more stuff is still a fundamentally perverse arrangement.

Well, went a little off topic there, I suppose. But my point being is that I'd like to see services that actively try to make the product usage time finite from the concept, rather than just making the UI more frustrating to use.


A parallel is snack food.

I like to try older candies that haven't been optimized to be easy to eat. Usually they satisfy a sweet craving with a smaller serving.

Or compare kettle cooked potato chips to Dorito's. It's still easy to eat an unnecessary amount of calories with kettle chips, but they are more satisfying chip-for-chip than mega commercial stuff.


I think the addicted problem is the user's problem, not the product problem, like killing is human's problem, not the knife's problem.


The personal responsibility argument really falls apart when you consider the forces working against the user. The conversation has long since moved on from this line of thinking because the power is so lopsided now.


A knife that's well-designed does what it's supposed to - slicing up humans or food.

If social media sites are well-designed, what does that say about their purpose?


I'm not quite sure I understand your analogy because I think most would agree that knives should not be regulated and we shouldn't investigate and punish knife sellers/makers for stabbings.

To play along with your analogy: if social media sites are well-designed, they do what they're supposed to do: communicate information or misinformation. And just like how we don't crack down on knives even though there are plenty of stabbings, we shouldn't be cracking down on social media & online speech even though there are plenty of liars and idiots who spread misinformation.


But the object of knives isn't to stab people to death; a vanishing number of knives bought are used to stab people to death, and "lunatics" are not a core base for any knife seller.

A well-designed system does what it's supposed to. Facebook's either supposed to be addictive, or it just is by accident. If it's by accident, it's poorly designed. If it's not, it has an objectionable purpose.


Facebook is not designed to be addictive, it's designed to be engaging. Lunatics aren't the core base for Facebook either, a small minority of Facebook's total user base cause problems. It looks like you've already made up your mind that Facebook is addictive and bad, you barely have to dress it up with this analogy.


If Facebook is not intended to be addictive, but is anyway, then it's poorly designed. Are you suggesting Facebook isn't addictive?


There's no solid evidence that it is addictive except in a colloquial sense. Addictive substances like opiates, nicotine etc consistently induce an addiction response in humans with very predictable outcomes. Facebook isn't anything like that, but its detractors love to use the word "addiction" to imply a medical phenomenon that doesn't happen. The "harm" of Facebook usage is not even close to the reliably brutal consequences of actual addictive substance abuse, nor is it induced with any consistency. Unlike actual addictive substances, Facebook does not alter one's ability to inhibit their own behavior.

There's no doubt that Facebook can negatively impact one's self-esteem and life, but that's like any entertainment. Even alcohol addiction is better understood and arguably more brutal, yet the only restriction on alcohol is an age limit.

Some info: https://www.livescience.com/49585-facebook-addiction-viewed-...


There is much more limited harm from a person wielding a knife for malicious purposes, as opposed to how quickly social media can fuel similar actions. If you genuinely believe scale doesn't matter and everything is the same as everything else, I don't know what to tell you.


I don't doubt that scale matters, it's just a bad analogy. Knives aren't comparable to social media, but if the commenter wants to play the knife analogy game then this is the conclusion.


The delegation of accountability has become an epidemic. No one recognizes their own faults; everything and everyone else is to blame.

There’s an old saying that I absolutely love: I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.




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