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Ask HN: Why is today's Internet experience so user hostile?
323 points by julianpye 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 370 comments
Ever tried to help a relative over the holidays to set up their home-banking? Lost in the juggling of your multi-factor device garden? Tried to get useful search results from Google recently to find yourself in advert hell? Longing for the old Amazon experience when today's seems like running the gauntlet of grey-imports and scam-price offerings? Logged out of a site for 6 months and returning to a completely confusing new site where nothing is like it used to be? Today's Internet experience has become user-hostile and it almost calls out for returning to the 90s: walled gardens aka Compuserve experience, dedicated devices for home-banking and standalone cameras.

What has led to this experience? On the top of my head I can see the following reasons:

* Release Often as KPIs for developers

The release often KPI for promotion and bonuses has led to constant changes to 'systems that are working fine' to become ever-changing user experiences. While daily users can gradually phase-in changes, most sites that are casually used will confuse users with completely new error-prone experience.

* Payment Security and Financial Regulations

At least in the EU fraud has led to various tech-related regulation calling as an example for separate apps for IDs and for transaction verification. While it is well-meant, it leads people to check bank statements less often and anecdotally in my family confuses especially elderly users to the point of introducing more opportunity for scams and fraud.

* Patch-work nature of ID & Verification

Captchas, Two-factor SMS, password rules and Authentication Apps have been patched onto the original user/pass system. The experience has become truly annoying with some clear winners: anecdotally more and more people simply use Google/Facebook OAuth as logins to sites. This is fine from a UI perspective, but lacks consumer regulation - what happens if you lose your access and who can you contact if your accounts get compromised/scammed/blocked?

* KPI switch from customer first to business model first

Having gained their audience share, Amazon and Google have switched from a 'customer is king' perspective to one which suits their business model most.

What are other reasons?




I think the internet (and its tools) started off with the intention of making the lives of users easier as compared to the alternatives.

However, as the internet became mainstream and competitive, more successful players realized that they can employ dark patterns to increase their revenue by taking advantage of users (lock-in, difficulty unsubscribing, making cloud accounts mandatory, etc).

It's 2022 and I think all the companies everywhere feel like they have no choice but to learn from the best. The pricing tactics used by Apple, are now used by many other companies in different industries and even companies that were non-tech are now using tech with its dark patterns.

Who do I think is to blame? Investors of all kinds. They are making it harder for entrepreneurs who care about their customers to stay in business by throwing money and exploiting consumers weakness for deals/freebies. It's just the mindset of growth at all and any cost, that's what I'm seeing all around me on the internet and offline (by using the internet in some cases).


> growth at all and any cost

This is 100% the root cause.

Without exponential growth targets, almost all the ills mentioned wouldn't have been required.

And specifically, without exponential growth targets for companies with market cap already above $1T.

I'm convinced we'd be living in a better world if MAMAA would have said "Okay, our core business is mature. We're going to run it as a cash printing machine but with lower growth. If you want growth, here are companies we're spinning off."

Unfortunately, the reality of the software dev and infrastructure economies probably requires halo behemoths. For the former, so they can be compensated in equity, and the latter, because there's only enough demand for a few at minimal-cost-per-unit scale.


I hate it so much, it happened so many times that a nice medium to large company with an absolute epic product gets many millions of funding and everything turns to crap in pursuing return on that insane investment. It's sad really.


> Who do I think is to blame? Investors of all kinds. They are making it harder for entrepreneurs who care about their customers to stay in business by throwing money and exploiting consumers weakness for deals/freebies.

I'm not sure. It might also be the opposite: this might be the precise time for a new business that can cut out all the bullshit and give the users what they want. It's not just the HN crowd that is frustrated with Modern Tech.


Good luck getting the advertising bandwidth to grow...


TikTok didn't seem to have any problems.


Can there be a way for capitalism to work highly efficiently and not in a hostile, adversarial manner, in some post-scarcity environment? Or will it always require scarcity in order to function or develop things?


I believe if regulated, it can foster innovation, but the way it is now encourages blatant exploitation of unaware consumers, as we clearly see these days.

Case in point: Windows. requires an expensive license, but still pushes ads down your throat on every occasion, collects too much telemetry, and keeps nagging you after every update until you accept having your data collected.


Users tolerating such bullshit is the reason why it exists and keeps on existing.

Nobody is forced to continue using dark-pattern software, nobody was forced to use Apple and tie their credit-card to their "apple cloud account", yet normal users dont see a problem with it at all and just continue even paying for software which is hostile to them and their interests.

Your question is like, "Why does DRM exist it is actively hostile to buyers of content".

Previously the internet was better since the average internet user avoided scams, but now the users are seeking out scams to indulge in.


> Users tolerating such bullshit is the reason why it exists and keeps on existing.

This is an intensely user hostile view point, ironically enough. "The dark patterns being foisted upon the average user are their own fault, they deserve what they get"

In fact, I think this attitude is how the developers and product managers responsible for this stuff sleep at night, "these people deserve this for their moral failings, so what I'm doing doesn't make me a terrible person"

How would my mom switch from her crappy bank app? That app that the bank is kind of forcing her to use by making the in person experience so terrible and, well, because of COVID. There is only one bank in her town, I guess she could start driving "to the city" for banking but, surprise, all those banks have equally shitty apps.

She could switch from Facebook to ... what exactly? Her extended family are all on Facebook, her grandkids are posting pics of the great grandkids on Facebook. Yeah, she deserves the disaster that is Facebook.


Ironically the "my mom" and "but my grandparents" angle is what has always been used to dumb down and introduce user-hostile patterns.

Surprise, after 20 years the developers and managers assume they are building software for retarded un-learnable "grandparents and mothers", the end result is well stupid software.


> Ironically the "my mom" and "but my grandparents" angle is what has always been used to dumb down and introduce user-hostile patterns.

Dumbed down and user-hostile are independent things. Dark patterns are being introduced for nefarious purposes. No one is explaining away things like "click to subscribe, wait 3 hours in a phone queue to unsubscribe" as required for "grandmothers"

The software isn't stupid, it's intentionally and cleverly manipulative and user hostile.


> hard wait time to unsubscribe

It really is the grandmother excuse "you the user dont know what the unsubscribe button is doing, so we ask you to wait 3h and confirm 4 times because maybe you are clicking by mistake since you dont know where and what you are clicking".


No, it’s because it was A/B-tested with the result that the pattern retains more subscribers, which is good for KPI if not for the business.


This particular pattern is so dark that the FTC is cracking down on it[0]:

Under the enforcement policy statement issued today, businesses must follow three key requirements or be subject to law enforcement action, including potential civil penalties:

    Disclose clearly and conspicuously all material terms of the product or service, including how much it costs, deadlines by which the consumer must act to stop further charges, the amount and frequency of such charges, how to cancel, and information about the product or service itself that is needed to stop consumers from being deceived about the characteristics of the product or service. The statement provides detail on what clear and conspicuous means, particularly noting that the information must be provided upfront when the consumer first sees the offer and generally as prominent as the deal offer itself.

    Obtain the consumer’s express informed consent before charging them for a product or services. This includes obtaining the consumer’s acceptance of the negative option feature separately from other portions of the entire transaction, not including information that interferes with, detracts from, contradicts, or otherwise undermines the consumer’s ability to provide their express informed consent.

    Provide easy and simple cancellation to the consumer. Marketers should provide cancellation mechanisms that are at least as easy to use as the method the consumer used to buy the product or service in the first place.

[0] https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2021/10/ftc-r...


Most of the dark patterns are not due to dumbing down UI. They're either because nothing better is available (security), income would be reduced (ads, cookie warnings, software is deliberately crippled for non-professional versions), development is done by lowest bidder.


Yeah. It would actually be pretty cool if web sites and apps were dumbed down for a few things: denying cookies, deleting accounts, contacting support, unsubscribing from spam.

With dark patterns those things actually become more complicated.


If your user base is large enough, some significant faction of your users are in fact “retarded un-learnable,” though I might have put it more delicately.

And when there’s money involved, there’s always incentive to cater to your lowest common denominator user.

I’ve watched many in-person and remote use testing sessions, some people just have no clue how to use technology, yet you still have to design apps and websites for them to use. These people aren’t necessarily dumb or anything like that, they just don’t understand technology.


I don't think anyone is directly blaming the users here.

It is just a fact of life that a sizeable portion of users "accept" dark patterns, and PMs consider that as a sign of success.

However I strongly doubt users are doing it by choice. IMO it's actually because of lack of choices, lack of knowledge or learned helplessness.

That might be controversial, but to me the point is that A/B tests and KPIs are the wrong incentives, not that users are stupid.


> I don't think anyone is directly blaming the users here.

The comment I'm replying to is LITERALLY blaming "normal users" for these problems.


Normal users, as they represent by definition the largest numbers, are necessary to enable the network effects on which the Internet companies rely, and as a result they also put other, reluctant users in a position of minority, the position of the 'unreasonable', the position of the grumpy old fart, the position of the burden to support.

The mass, thus the normal user, is indeed the enabler.


I fall in the "grumpy old fart" category.

But this isn't the fault of users, "normal" or otherwise; enablers don't make people abuse alcohol or whatever. Alcoholics who blame their enablers are deceiving themselves, and if designers try to blame users for their design errors, they are making the same mistake.

A lot of the crapness, AFAICS, is down to mobile. Mobile browsers and desktop/laptop browsers are different, and are used differently. And mobile browsers aren't all alike. Since most website hits are now from mobiles, designers are optimising for mobile, and then their employers stop the project before the desktop/laptop work is done. This really annoys me, because I'm too blind and fat-fingered to use a mobile as much more than a phone.

I think the crapness of the modern web[1] is going to eventually result in a rebellion. Like, the crapness seems to be snowballing. I mean, popups? What? I thought we got rid of them 15 years ago, because they were crap. How come people think they're now OK?

[1] The OP spoke of "todays's internet experience", but all he spoke of was the web. The rest of the internet seems to be working as well, or better, than it was working yesterday.


"Enabler" is a good term, as in psychology enablers can often be victims too.


It’s pointing out that it’s a side effect of user market forces. The point is that users keep using these sites despite all of these annoying patterns.


It's blaming users for market forces though. It's kind of a lazy invocation of the just world fallacy: the users must be ok with it because otherwise they would have revolted if they werent.

I've accepted many a dark pattern because of sunk costs and a lack of energy, time or options. I dont always have the energy to fight and punish.

Ultimately market forces are about collective power, not a collective representation of "what people want". A lot of people would like us to blur the two but they are distinct.


The challenge is, when no notable end user group is coordinate enough to havd significant market force/power to push back, what else do you call it but ‘users accept it’.

Everyone I know hates Comcast and the defacto monopolies in many areas with internet service. (Among many examples). But except in a few small areas, no one seems to even be effectively pushing back.

‘We’ve reached a hopefully temporary equilibrium point where corporate interests and ability to extract value vs user interests (and their lack of ability or interest in fighting for them) result in users hating life consistently’ isn’t any more explanatory I think, but says pretty much the same thing.

Users are relatively helpless/uneducated/captured and uncoordinated here at the moment, and the business interests are getting less pleasant as they fight each other in the absence of any other guidance/regulation as they try to grow and extract the maximum value they can.

At some point something with change and we’ll start shifting to another equilibrium point. Based on past experience I doubt it will be much friendlier to end users, but I have been surprised once or twice before.

And this isn’t (near as I can tell), ‘corporations bad’. Everyone always tries to get the maximum value they can get out of a system barring energy expended/concern about social judgement/blowback concerns.

From kids downloading warez to someone looking for maximum stimulation/emotional load from browsing instagram for free to a company getting the extra couple dollars from improving a signup flow.


Or because they have no other choice. It's mind-boggling that the very people responsible for creating this landscape have the audacity to throw up their hands and try to absolve themselves of responsibility for the things they built by saying "idk the users just love being screwed". We must do better.


> We must do better.

Meaning what? Name-and-shame clearly won't do the job. The only solution I can see is for there to be laws against dark patterns. The profit incentive for user-hostile design isn't going to go away.


I would absolutely support stronger regulation. Unfortunately, I don't believe the Overton window will be there in the United States for some time.


I said "directly" blaming, very important distinction.

The people making the garbage is still the ones to blame for the garbage itself. The reason people make such garbage is because a subset of people accept it. But nobody is saying the people accepting it are doing it out of an evilness (maybe they're saying it's out of "dumbness", but I would disagree with that too).


someone can say that people are allowing themselves to be victimized, without saying that the people doing the victimizing are in the right.

The comment however is wrong in that it is perhaps not possible for the users to keep themselves from being victimized, without some recourse to the law.


The whole point of dark patterns is the users don’t accept them , but are misled by them. That is what dark patterns are.


Don't know if you're agreeing or disagreeing, but: this is why I said "accept" in quotes.


> It is just a fact of life that a sizeable portion of users "accept" dark patterns, and PMs consider that as a sign of success.

How many people installed a browser addon that just agrees to the GDPR popup just so they don't have to click on deny?


The root of the issue is they never complain, even when cornered into a shitty bank or govt app. Everything else just grows from this fact. They are used to commercials, spam, telemarketers, scammers, pre-checked boxes when the law allows to uncheck it and demand the same service. There is no revolt.

If you don’t take responsibility for change, it doesn’t happen.


Complain how? In older times we could just mail the company now the support page has stupid chat bots that do nothing, and you have to fight with it or the damn page for 5 mins before you can send a mail. Most of the times I just give up. And if we complain for every site takes too much time. And it will boil down to "sure sir, but thata how it is"


> Her extended family are all on Facebook, her grandkids are posting pics of the great grandkids on Facebook. Yeah, she deserves the disaster that is Facebook.

We use WhatsApp groups for this now. It’s perfect, no ads, only the content from people I want content from. No slimy Facebook algorithm. Between tiktok Instagram and whatsapp how is Facebook.com even still a thing?


Yet, Whatsapp belongs to Facebook... And I won't hinge my bets on it staying better for the long run given the shittiness of the original product in so many ways.


> Nobody is forced to continue using dark-pattern software, nobody was forced to use Apple and tie their credit-card to their "apple cloud account", yet normal users dont see a problem with it at all and just continue even paying for software which is hostile to them and their interests.

While technically true in terms of theoretical modelling of a market economy, I don't think that's a fair diagnosis in practice. Were early-19th century English workers forced to take jobs with 6-day working weeks and >12 hours a day? Technically no. But did they have a choice? And was there an adequate incentive to even provide such a choice?

Of course nobody "is forced" to use dark-pattern software, but as it stands today, normal users have no choice on the matter. I would argue that potential user-friendly-non-dark-pattern competitors are unable to break into the market of the Microsoft-Apple-Google oligopoly not because user hostility and dark-patterns are in of themselves a competitive advantage nor of any economic value as a whole. Instead, I think that the imbalance of power between consumer and industry, network effects, and the disproportionate capital investment needed to disrupt the current market mean that no alternative can take any significant hold.


> Instead, I think that the imbalance of power between consumer and industry, network effects, and the disproportionate capital investment needed to disrupt the current market mean that no alternative can take any significant hold.

I don't believe the lack of capital investment is a problem. There's mind-boggling amounts of capital being wasted on the metaverse and blockchain bubble that could be directed towards building a disruptive competitor to any of these companies' flagship products.

Rather, I see the problem being that any time a viable competitor appears, it just gets acquired so there's no longer any need for the incumbent to compete. Case in point, Instagram actually became the next hot social network after Facebook, but Facebook the company retained relevance and market share by simply buying them rather than competing. Google has also acquired a bunch of more niche search engines over its lifetime (that's a little more subtle in that none of those alone were going to beat Google like Instagram did to Facebook, but by nipping niche search providers in the bud, Google consolidated the market share around its product).


> I don't believe the lack of capital investment is a problem. There's mind-boggling amounts of capital being wasted on the metaverse and blockchain bubble that could be directed towards building a disruptive competitor to any of these companies' flagship products.

I think the second sentence contradicts the first. There's little capital being spent on building a Facebook or Google competitor. VCs are chasing "the next big thing" instead. The other reality is that VCs are going to want Google-like revenue and continuous growth from a Google replacement they fund - this means that eventually dark patterns will come into play to squeeze more money from existing customers.


> normal users have no choice on the matter.

The choice to not use shit software is easier than going on a strike and demanding 8h work day instead of 14h. Which our ancestors also did, some died for the cause.

I for one, do not use and have not used and especially not payed for user-hostile software, beginning since 2000.

It is possible, you dont really have to accept shit or keep on using shit. Everytime that click feels wrong, that idea seems off, dont click it, close that software suite and uninstall.

You do not have to accept that License.


Let's consider a basic example: How can you justify not using Microsoft Office? Yes LibreOffice is there and works 95% of the time, but the remaining 5% are not completely useless parts of the software.

It's same for most of the user-hostile software. Alternatives are not as intuitive, easy to use, or easy to find. Also, free software is not guaranteed to be sustained or be in front of the pack.

I use Linux, and free software to the most extent I can use, but there are some closed source stuff which is expensive but is soundly ahead when compared to open source alternatives. I can break the sweat and write a similar code, but how can I make sure that it's sustained when it has a A/GPLv3 license?


> How can you justify not using Microsoft Office?

I never had to justify it, nobody forced me or expected me to be using Office, they expected me to deliver a thesis or other document. When there was the "5% expectation", kindly decline, uninstall.

The road I picked, was not always success or easy, I got failed in high school "informatics" class because I could not show that I could use Office. Twice. I refused to learn Office because I had already learned to produce documents and presentations (websites) with a computer using free open source software.

> Alternatives are not as intuitive, easy to use, or easy to find.

Whats ease is what you have learned. Had you began with Linux since 1999 you would not even know how to do anything on Windows or MacOSX. I literlaly cant even scroll or type on a collegues macbook or find my way around anything. Very hard to use, not intuitive.

The "easy to use intuitive" eventually becomes the dark UX hell it is today, a slow descent. If you accept the software will think for you, well it will. Now you dont have to think, youre not in control, just enjoy the UX dark patterns and ads.


> I never had to justify it, nobody forced me or expected me to be using Office...

You had it easy it seems. When someone sends you a document which contains convoluted structures and only renders in a very recent version of Microsoft Word, and you have to fill it for work purposes, you have no other choice (We're a Linux shop, but not everyone we interact uses Libre Office, so yeah).

> Whats ease is what you have learned. Had you began with Linux since 1999 you would not even know how to do anything on Windows or MacOSX.

I started with a C64 in 1989, jumped to a 486 some years later and installed Linux in 1998, when there was no documentation, and dial-up was kinda hard without any. So I double booted Linux and Windows for a lot of years, and despised Windows since Windows 95. However, I can use all three without problems, making all other ecosystems work with my Linux systems (I adapt them to talk with Linux, not vice versa).

> The "easy to use intuitive" eventually becomes the dark UX hell it is today, a slow descent.

No, it's not. Automatically adding another bullet point is not. Marking the center of a shape and snapping to it is not. Having sensible defaults and intuitive key bindings are not dark patterns. Also fixing bugs in two days, getting direct replies from developers, your feedback taken seriously are not dark patterns. The bitter part is they can be all done in FOSS, very easily (I've developed such software for some projects, and it's well loved), but developers are not motivated or bothered by it.


> you have no other choice

You always, always have a choice. Throw away the victim and obey mentality. Freedom is taken, not served to you.

When someone send you a trojan horse.virus.exe you do not have to open it. Neither do you have to open a convoluted proprietary binary format requiring you to buy a license to read said binary. Politely decline, reject. You have that power.


You are both right and wrong at the same time. You demonstrate it yourself.

You say how you've failed informatics classes for failing to pass MS Office test. If that's not "forced", I don't know what is.

There are many battles worth fighting when it comes to freedom, and choosing to fail a test to demonstrate freedom is quite admirable. And quite silly. I've done things like that too, and I am fully aware that they can be both. They make for good stories too.

Similarly, I could choose not to use Windows to file my taxes when the country has switched to obligatory online-filing and only provides Windows software: I am not "forced", but I could be liable for heavy tax fines if I don't do it. Or I could reverse engineer the code and develop tooling that works on free software. I could possibly even get that marked unconstitutional if I am willing to put a long fight in court (and spend a lot of money on legal representation too). Nowhere does it say in our constitution that I've got to use Windows to be a citizen.

Where we draw the line and what's the effort we are willing to expel to fight against the tide is each individual's prerogative.

We do need people to fight against the tide. But it's not wrong for anyone not to, because there are other things worth fighting for too! And some simply need to survive.


Tips hat, good sir.


>nobody forced me or expected me to be using Office

>I got failed in high school "informatics" class because I could not show that I could use Office. Twice

How curious.


The first part should be suffixed with "at any workplace".


Many workplaces, especially those that deal heavily in Word and other Office software, heavily restrict work machines so that no un-approved software can be installed. Your experience, though very real, may not reflect that of a majority of others.


If you dont consider most Linux software user hostile in it's own ways then their really isn't much to discuss here. You've just accepted its series of failures, rather than the failures associated with commercial software.


What? How is grep "user hostile"? How is ls user hostile?


Knowledge is user hostile, I guess?!


By being named after "global regular expression print" a hilarious in-joke that normies won't get. Everything a normal person deals with uses * for a wildcard search, especially shell globbing does. That means in

    grep .* .*
those are two different behaviours of .* that's pretty hostile, don't you think? Certainly doesn't go with the law of least surprise. Regex itself isn't particularly user friendly but if you know it exists and want to use it, you're not going to guess the tool to use it is "grep". On whatever this Linux is[1] (Debian stretch/sid) I "apropos regex" to work out what tool to use, oh "regex: nothing appropriate", how friendly. [edit: "apropos search" has nothing, "apropos count" has nothing. I'm beginning to suspect it's not working but hasn't noticed that it's not working. Typical user-unfriendly computer behaviour.]

By having a "--help" which tells you about the four different kinds of regular expression it can accept, and nothing about what regular expressions are. By saying "basic regular expression (BRE)." as if someone read somewhere in a textbook that they should explain an acronym before using it. Then never uses the acronym again except where to repeat "basic regular expression (BRE)", sounding like an alien trying to imitate good documentation.

By refusing (unless forced) to list files which exist and do important-to-the-user things like control settings I care about, because said filenames begin with a dot. Arguing that this is helpful to the user to hide information, but at the same time defaulting to showing file sizes in bytes and only showing human readable filenames when poked. By defaulting to showing files in columns which is better for a human to read and only showing file-per-line when asked. These are a mess of defaults - for a human, show files in columns, hide files, show sizes in human readable. For a machine, show file-per-line, size in bytes, all files. And if hiding files for user friendliness, don't hide my config files, hide OS files I never use.

By having so many options for controlling output formatting because the system refuses to do anything helpful (like have/enforce/encourage some platform standard structured format) such that every tool has to have this, and every tool does it differently. That's incredibly user-hostile. The idea that you have to learn something, isn't. The idea that no tool respects what you've learned and makes you learn a different way to do the same things over and over and over, is.

By refusing to match text case insensitively unless specifically told to; that default is the wrong way round for user friendliness, it's the one geeks want to be technically correct, not the one normal English-using people want to get tasks done conveniently.

Like the rejection of video and whining "Ugh is there a transcript anywhere, only normies watch video, I'm a superior text reader so I need a transcript" and willfully "not understanding" that looking at human faces and hearing voices has meaning to people, to demonstrate membership of the "I don't have a TV" superior group. And the related rejection of GUIs, the way GUIs seem to have come out of Xerox Parc, to macOS and Windows, then Linux gets GUIs which are cargo-cult copies of Windows and macOS designs. There's probably a reason why pinch-to-zoom started and got popular at Apple before being aped into Windows, when you'd naively assume that Linux with more ways to connect weird hardware to it, more access to source code, more culture of customisation, would have come up with all kinds of things like that earlier. I'm going to suggest that reason is the embarassment of using something a normie would use, with the forgivable exception of a tiling window manager for laying out terminal windows.

You're presumably going to argue that being hyperliteral is user friendly because that's what geeks want, but being a precision tool for someone in-the-know to use for advanced use cases and scripting is exactly what user friendliness isn't. You might then quip "it's just selective about who its friends are ;)" and guffaw to yourself about how superior you are to be a Friend Of Linux(tm); it's related to the way the "community" believes that easy to use software is for inferior people only, and that using harder to use software is a badge of honor. See also the other reply to your comment sneering "knowledge is user hostile, I guess?!" because the only reason you aren't using Linux is because you can't because you're a baby who doesn't know how, hurrr. It's cult heresy to suggest that the reason you aren't using it is because it's bad, you have to assume it's user friendly as a prior and then contort yourself around it[2].

Nobody feels superior for driving an automatic gearbox car. Gearboxes are a kludge necessary because engines don't have the same torque and efficiency at all speeds. Some people have uses where manual gearboxes are better for choice, cost, reliability, maintenance, other people drive a stop-start commute and making them use a manual gearbox is no overall benefit to them. Yet people do feel superior for driving a stick shift, then go around saying people who don't drive one can't drive, can't count to 6, are worse drivers. Offloading gearboxing to the machine is what you would do if you weren't attached to the identity of being a superior stick-shift driver. As soon as the machine was good-enough at it. The more you have to learn about it to use it, the more user-hostile it is. The more safety guard restrictions on behaviour that could exist but don't, the more user-hostile it is. Manual gearbox without clutch needs more skill, so is more user-hostile.

Also, love how it tells you

    Usage: grep [OPTION]... PATTERN [FILE]...
but if you type the suggested "grep [OPTION]... PATTERN [FILE]..." that just errors out. Presumably that's usage for people who already know how to use it. For everyone else, try 'grep --help' for more information. Information we could have shown you right here, but we don't really understand humans. Maybe you remember what grep is, and all the options, and regex language, and need information, but that single hint is enough. It could happen.

(Also, enjoy how "grep xyz" complains that there is no such file or directory as xyz, but "grep /etc" complains that "/etc: is a directory"). (Rust people spent a good deal of time on compiler error messages. Perhaps this is an underappreciated reason why Rust is dramatically more hyped than many other languages?)

[1] on windows I can run systeminfo or get-computerinfo to find out what OS I'm using, both reasonably named . Good thing I happen to know to poke at /etc/REDHAT_RELEASE or in this case /etc/debian_version. On Windows I can use type or get-content or notepad to read the file, two tools with names that hint at being relevant, one which isn't so far away. On Linux I can use cat for catenating files, less the in-joke named pager (because less is more! snerk snerk). "type" and "edit" both do something totally unrelated.

[2] You have to contort yourself around the computer on Windows and macOS and iOS as well; but at least they strived to have consistent platform UX guidelines which were pro-user at the cost of more work for the developers, for many years. I'm not arguing there are computers one never has to learn, although Brett Victor and Dynamicland might surpass everyone on that front, I'm more arguing that poorly named, inconsistent tools with text only, no GUI, no graphics, full of in-jokes, and beloved for their hyper-literal do-what-I-say scripting precision are absolutely not "user friendly".


How many people use that "remaining 5%"?

Most people I know still use spacebar to right aline the date in a word document.


For my case, if we're getting a Office document, it's almost guaranteed to break when opened with latest LibreOffice.

We don't handle these files everyday, but it's a necessity. If the data inside a file can be transported with something FOSS, it's already carried with that software.

So, in my case, at least; I'd rather do my research and create more GPL software rather than trying to convince established companies to switch to LibreOffice.


>For my case, if we're getting a Office document, it's almost guaranteed to break when opened with latest LibreOffice. That even could happen in MS Office. MS needed several major versions until they fully followed their own Office Open XML standard.


> Let's consider a basic example: How can you justify not using Microsoft Office?

Easy. I don’t want to give Microsoft money and libreoffice/notes are fine for all of the basic use cases.


> ...fine for all of the basic use cases.

What if some business partner sends you a completely loaded Office document to fill/work together/whatnot?


It has happened, I declined. Many worked with LibreOffice with me, those who did not, my career took a different route than working with them.


> Also, free software is not guaranteed to be sustained or be in front of the pack

Nor is commercial software. In fact it's more likely than free software to become abandonware.


I haven’t used Microsoft Office in a decade, at least. It’s totally possible.


I'm not using it either for personal purposes for more than a decade, but sometimes life gives you lemons at the office (the literal one), so you need to work with something you don't like for a bit.

The point I'm trying to make is, if you're exchanging files and doing collaborative work, you don't have all the freedom to do whatever you want to do.


Congratulations on making a decision long before it became a serious problem for users and developing the habit.

The vast majority of people are not like you. Most people succumbed to these practices over a gradual period of a decade and as such are locked-in habit-wise to this with an attention span that is hard-pressed not to focus on the matter.


Yeah, that's the thing.

You can't really fight against results. Putting an annoying modal asking for an email will give you lots of email leads. Sending newsletters will give more returns to the website. Sending desktop notifications whenever there's a new article works and gives more visits. A website that takes 20 seconds to load is not an issue. Advertisements give more than zero moneys.

The reason it gives positive results is because this is "fine" for enough people. Some people are totally okay with having 5000 unread emails. The web is slow because computer/OS/ISPs are greedy. Ads? Look at television. Just blame cookie banners on the government.

Why it's fine for a segment of people, I don't know. Maybe they have no choice, maybe they don't know better, maybe they are completely fine with it. All I know is that they are the target users and I'm not, and companies are ok with either losing me or forcing me to go trough this bullshit. Or maybe they don't even have to worry, since there's no competition.


We can look at earlier consumer-hostile experiences which were generally solved by consumer rights regulations.

You can fight against results - lying in advertising by saying that your Patented Snake Oil Tincture cures everything really does "work" and bring in money, but it was stopped by regulation; lying that this knock-off is really SuperBrandItem does work and bring results, but trademark laws significantly reduced it; selling things that look ok but break immediately are solved by various warranty and fit-for-purpose laws, etc, etc.

This is fundamentally a coordination problem that can't really be solved by individual users separately "voting with their wallets" (as past experience shows - none of the problems listed above were solved by consumer choices) but can be solved by coordinated requirements, with the users as a community voting in standards and regulations for commerce that are mandatory for every seller.


Yes, this is primarily a regulatory problem not a technical or design one. Most user hostile actions do work to bring in more users or make you more money. If they didn't then companies wouldn't be doing it would they? But just because something makes sense for a business does not mean it is ethical, moral or legal. Snake oil and counterfeit goods are solid examples. Things like auto charging, difficult to cancel subscriptions and the trade in user information should also be handled in a similar way.


A lot of this is also caused by following the leader. And the leaders are fueled by adtech or spyware...


100% - even annoying "promotional" email blasts. I've worked for companies where, when we did surveys, customers overwhelmingly said that we sent them too many emails or that the emails were not relevant. Yet time and time again we would do a bulk email send and watch in-store sales climb up proportionally. So naturally then we had to make email address a required field when making an account online. One more step for users, and specifically something that most users don't want to give...but the money says otherwise.


This reminds me of JC Penney's attempts to switch from bullshit discounts to "everyday low pricing"[1]. Sales dropped 20%.

I think the sad reality is that, despite how people like to think of themselves as rational actors who consider the pros and cons of each purchase, these tactics work. The only way to curtail stuff like this is by interfering in the free market - i.e. regulation.

[1] https://business.time.com/2014/01/31/j-c-penneys-pricing-is-...


> an email will give you lots of email

This is why I rarely use the same email address longer than 1 year now or try to manage different accounts for different spam. I just change the password to random crap and forget about that email account, while setting up a new one.


Users are the last ones to blame.

If anything it’s policy makers, investors and industrialists.

If you want to participate in society, you need a smartphone, and guess what? The whole world is okay with only 2 companies doing this….


I feel a constant tension where companies and governments are all but demanding everyone owns a smartphone with one of these two specific operating systems for all sorts of things (from banking, to authentication, to government services), but have to somehow facilitate the remainder of users as an afterthought. It makes a lot of things really suck, and that's ignoring all those walled gardens essentially requiring them (Whatsapp and Signal come to mind).


More insidious is the requirement to have an account with Google or Apple.


That's what bugs me too. Having to enter a legal agreement with a foreign entity to use local services irks me out of principle.


Your government demands you own a smart phone?


You can of course function without one, but the nudging towards getting their authentication app is getting worse. For healthcare records, vendors in the Netherlands are required to move authentication of their portals to the government provided DigiD¹. Healthcare will be the first field where the minimum level of assurance is being raised to 'substantial', and this means that only authentication via the Android or IOS DigiD app will suffice (right now for other government functions like taxes and planning your booster shot you can also use SMS as (weak) 2FA).

While the government is aware that there is a group of people who can't or won't use a smartphone or their app, there is no technological solution on the horizon, despite viable alternatives for 2FA existing (like WebAuthn). This is what I mean by “all but demanding”.

Because you do have a right to view your medical records, there is a fallback option which essentially means going to the healthcare provider and asking for paper records. This is behavioural nudging taken to the extreme.

1: Broader than just DigiD actually, supporting European eIDAS standards, but for 99% of citizens this means DigiD.


“ Because you do have a right to view your medical records, there is a fallback option which essentially means going to the healthcare provider and asking for paper records. This is behavioural nudging taken to the extreme.”

I think this just illustrates how much easier smart phones make things. If we didn’t have smart phones for example, all your interactions with the government would be as cumbersome and inconvenient as this fall back option.


For so many things. Need to scan a QR code to enter a building, or need to display Vaccine status. My bank now requires I run their mobile App to be able to log in, even if I'm on a PC. Most OTP authorisation requires you to receive an SMS code. Government departments are now only contactable via the Net, so a smart phone is the minimum unless you have a PC.


“For so many things. Need to scan a QR code to enter a building”

So there is a requirement to scan a QR code and there is no option to enter the building for people who don’t have a smart phone?

“or need to display Vaccine status.”

You can’t display your vaccine status without a smart phone?

“My bank now requires I run their mobile App to be able to log in, even if I'm on a PC.”

Is your bank run by the government?

“Most OTP authorisation requires you to receive an SMS code.”

SMS is available on any mobile phone, not just smart phones. Also many SMS OTP implementations include the option to receive a phone call.

“Government departments are now only contactable via the Net, so a smart phone is the minimum unless you have a PC.”

Okay so the government requires you have a computer and internet access, but not a smart phone.


> For so many things. Need to scan a QR code to enter a building, or need to display my Vaccine status.

In the EU this fortunately can be done trivially with a paper QR code as well.


For the same reasons the world is ok with only 2 commercially viable mass market desktop operating systems. Consolidation benefits users. It increases capital investment in the dominant platforms making them better faster; it increases the chances your software and skills will be compatible with your next computer; you benefit if your family, friends or colleagues use a compatible platform; it focuses developer efforts to have fewer platforms to develop for so there’s more better software. Users flock to dominant platforms because it’s in their interests to do so, and in their interests that others do too.

This is why desktop Linux never gets anywhere. Even if one distro was dominant in users, that’s completely decoupled from it getting the lions share of developer support and it wouldn’t give it any advantage in resources. There’s no feedback loop to elevate a dominant distro. Maybe that’s a good thing, perhaps the value in desktop Linux is it’s diversity and ability to address niche specialisation, at the price of market power.

There is a feedback loop in commercial server distros because that is a commercial market, hence RedHat’s dominance.


> Consolidation benefits users.

Only to a point then it crosses over into exploitation. If users could switch OS's more easily then there would probably be more of them in widespread use, like browsers. As it is most people have to buy a new device to change OS.

Websites themselves become sticky because of network effects and familiarity.


> only 2 commercially viable mass market desktop operating systems

There's a chap from RedHat here, telling me that Linux is commercially viable.


There are several commercially viable desktop OSes other than Windows and MacOS, but they are not mass market. I knowingly wrote my comment to exclude specialist players addressing niche markets because they have completely different adoption dynamics.

Actually ChromeOS is arguably mass market. That's all beside the point though really. It doesn't change the fact that the dynamics that drive consolidation are actually in a very large part motivated by user self interest.


Maybe it is as simple as the fact that chaos is by definition hostile.

Users are conditioned to lower their standards, not unlike workers in a dangerous environment or citizens of an inept or dishonest (or worse) government.

Such users/workers/citizens rarely take a stand.

Usability (UX) is a hard commitment to maintain for a supplier with little compassion, and software security is just an interesting hypothesis given the prevailing tools.


I don't have a smartphone, am I not participating in society?


What I mean is that you need it to use an increasing number of private and public services these days.

Speaking from my experiences in Europe and South Asia.

So effectively companies and the government are telling us that we need one of these to get avail conveniences and in some cases to be able to use their service at all…

With policies that mandate the use of digital vaccine certificates, apps and QR codes being ubiquitous, we’re effectively being forced to become a customer of Apple or Google one way or another

I cannot enter or place an order at most coffee shops today without a smartphone


> I cannot enter or place an order at most coffee shops today without a smartphone

Really? I wonder where you are.

I own a smartphone, but I don't carry it with me; I've never been to any kind of shop that doesn't accept my debit card, other than for small-value purchases like a bag of onions from a greengrocer, for which cash is sometimes required.


I was in Mumbai and Berlin. I did not need my smartphone to pay, but to display my vaccination certificate which is required at most places and to scan the menu which these days is replaced with a QR code placed on the table


Each time I got jabbed, they gave me a little cardboard "certificate" the size of a credit card. I carry them in my wallet, but I've never had to produce them anywhere. Perhaps I'm going to the wrong places.


The Indian vaccine certificate is digital and has a QR code.


It's getting harder and harder to manage without a smart phone. I was stuck overseas at the start of the Pandemic because I couldn't buy a plane ticket as I couldn't receive an SMS for OTP authorisation. Had a shouting match with my bank when I finally did return as they now want me to use an App, which I couldn't get while I was overseas.


So I’d say you are less able to participate in society.


but uses voted with their wallets - there have been many smartphone manufacturers, but they fell one by one to user's choices to flock to the iphone (and i guess android).


The “users voted with wallets” / “free market decided” line often ignores how consumers are not choosing in a vacuum or choosing simple things or sometimes not choosing at all.

Often choices are made for short term benefits that come with a long term negative trade off. ie choosing features like a phone camera even though the device also disregards the user’s privacy.

In other cases, choices aren’t even made by consumers directly. Like when a company acquires potential competition before they’re able to grow into a threat. Or even a company uses their growing economic power and position for regulatory capture.

Sometimes a company just breaks away from their competition and end up the only competitive choice in the market and are able To cement their position through the means above.

Especially following the previous cases, users sometimes don’t choose at all because there remain no meaningful choices in the ecosystem they purchase in.


Users voted with their wallets at the time (back in the late 2000s), which led to Apple and Google becoming the dominant forces in the market and the providers of a huge chunk of the worlds smartphone.

How would users vote now with their wallet when everything is tailored for users having either an iPhone or an Android phone?

(Yes, I know alternatives exists, even alternatives not built on top of Android, but it's extremely limited and targets very tech savvy users, possibly requiring coding skills to use to their fullest).


I agree.

I own a pine phone. It's all but un-useable in any meaningful sense of the word. I own a brick and motor and have just been mandated by the government to run their version of the vaccine passport app.

It's android OR ios.

What choices do I have here?


Not really your question I think, but, what country do you live? You are mandated an app? That's crazy?!

What about people that don't have a phone? Or a 'dumb'-phone?

Where I live any valid QR code works, be it paper or even just a picture of the paper. No need to use an app.


You need the app to verify the the information that is encoded in the QR code.

This small business is not allowed to let customers enter the shop if they can't validate their vaccination status. To do this one needs a QR code reader on a phone. Practically speaking there are no alternatives.


Well, business is different; you don't have to use your phone for that, you can use a separate smart device (which may be a non-phone like tablets or perhaps iPod might work) just for this purpose; and, unlike consumers, there's generally no taboo in requiring businesses to fulfill requirements which may need extra hardware that they don't yet have and need to purchase, or require them to change their buildings, etc, so saying "your business needs to run this app" does not imply "my phone needs to be iOS or Android" as there's zero expectation that your personal phone should be sufficient for that requirement imposed on the company.

Also, they're not saying that your business needs to run this app, they are saying that your business needs to verify Covid certificates and offering these apps as one way to do it. But it's not the only way - for example, it may be less convenient, but you can do that QR code scanning + Covid certificate validation on any computer with a connected camera using a web service (https://app.digitalcovidcertchecker.gov.ie/ is one random example, there is also open source code to roll your own checks for EU Covid certificates in some custom system if you need to), and there you can use Windows or Linux or whatever, there's no need for a smartphone as such. In fact, if the parent poster's Pinephone can run a browser and expose a camera to it, then perhaps it might work out of the box on the Pinephone without needing a special app.


I'm sorry, I don't know what to tell you (although your question sounds a bit rhetorical), and that's part of the problem in my opinion.

It's so ubiquitous now that even if you want to get out of this duopoly, you can't really.


It was not the users. Microsoft's Windows Mobile / Windows Phone and Nokia's Symbian completely failed to keep up with new innovations, which was the real problem.

Windows Mobile was a barely consumer-friendly version of Windows CE with a truckload of vendor-specific implementations (which made for a very inconsistent user experience) and the abomination called Windows Phone was completely incompatible on the app side with everything that existed on the Windows Mobile world and on the developer side with everything else.

Symbian was (effectively) a Nokia-only OS, which meant that developers were pretty scarce and again it was incompatible on the developer and user experiences.

Then came iOS as the first "disruptor" where the jailbreakers (!) of the first days showed just how sorely behind the competition was... the first iPhone was EDGE-only ffs and still it was radically different and better than everything on the market including the back-then flagship models with Windows Mobile from HTC. Android followed up and obliterated the competition, which was easy enough to do given Google's budget and Microsoft's complete inability to react - the iPhone was released in 2007 and the comical disaster of Windows Phone took until 2010!

The rest is history, everything not from Apple moved over to Android - the longest holdout was Blackberry with their moat of business users and the BlackBerry Messenger. And somewhere along the line, Samsung managed to destroy both HTC and Sony... what remains now on the market is Samsung, Xiaomi, BBK (Vivo/OPPO) and a bunch of low budget stuff fighting for the scraps. Very sad indeed.


Very concise; and that's pretty much the way I remember it too.

Maybe the most remarkable part of all, that had nothing to do with corporate behemoths (AFAIK), was the speed with which society pivoted to embrace the smart phone (specifically, the internet more generally).

We live in a completely different world than we did just one decade ago.

But I feel a bit like the OP. Soon I may just grab some hardtack, my muzzleloader and head out to the mountains and spend the next decade collecting beaver pelts. Cookie settings be damned.


> Maybe the most remarkable part of all, that had nothing to do with corporate behemoths (AFAIK), was the speed with which society pivoted to embrace the smart phone (specifically, the internet more generally).

Society has always been fast to embrace new technologies, particularly if profits were to be made or economies of scale made prior luxuries affordable for everyone. Industrialization, the advent of the rail age or air travel as mass transit, and now the Internet.

We're using CPUs with more processing power than multiple million dollar 70s-era mainframes in disposable pregnancy or covid tests, and a modern single (!) GPU can blast a 90s-era supercomputer to pieces with GFLOP/s performance.


Don't worry, the tax men will find you and force you to file the taxes on paper. Or maybe even electronically.

I presume your beavers also come with healthcare, and the stores where you'd buy anything will still take cash.


On the Android side mostly Samsung and Chinese phones.


What do you mean by “i [sic] guess android [sic]”? Over 70% of smartphones in use run Android.


> Users tolerating such bullshit is the reason why it exists and keeps on existing.

Come on. This is bullshit.

https://www.businessinsider.com/unredacted-google-lawsuit-do...

"When Google tested versions of its Android operating system that made privacy settings easier to find, users took advantage of them, which Google viewed as a "problem," according to the documents. To solve that problem, Google then sought to bury those settings deeper within the settings menu."


There is also ever-increasing ubiquitous digitalization of many aspects of our life. In a lot of countries, you either spend minutes to hours online to do government-required paperwork or days "the old way", and the old way is mostly dwindling, catering mostly to elderly internet-inept citizens. There are services you're only going to get online.

And all those online things are way easier once you're committed to the Clown® Computing, Clown® fatigue notwithstanding.

So you opt to not have those things, and for all intents and purposes you look like a digital hermit with a disturbing tendency for self-flagellation. "Why do you keep doing these things to yourself?"

So, yeah, so far, personal comfort beats the hostility. So far.


> So, yeah, so far, personal comfort beats the hostility. So far.

I think that's a great acceptable answer to OP's question.


OK, let's say I won't tolerate it. What do I do?

crickets

And no, average users have never avoided scams, email spam is older than web.


I try to respond to dark patterns with a 1 star review on trustpilot and google maps making clear that it signaled a lack of trustworthiness.

The last time I ran into one (call to cancel for insurance) I also filed an official complaint and made it clear it was the sole reason I was dumping them in favor of a competitor.

It's not much of a punch back but it probably had an effect.


Then may the people follow your lead. Or not. Either way the market will follow the money.


the market might also follow regulation.

that's how we got clean air and water. Just saying.


I am not a cricket. I told you what to do, dont use that software, dont accept the license or terms, uninstall, deactivate, deny. Read a book, go hiking. You arent forced to use shit software.


Oh boy, tell me how you do tax reports with the amazing experience of pen, paper and standing in a window. I bet you're outsourcing misery rather than avoiding it.


Filing taxes by mail is trivial. I’m not sure your point is coming across here.


The government services dont show me any ads or dark patterns. How is it where you live? Does the IRS really try to trick you?


Heck yes they do!

Of course not “intentionally” but if you manage to have an even slightly complex tax situation and not get tricked and report something wrong, props to you!


Sure, but then they just send you a letter correcting your mistake, you OK it if it looks right, and either they send you a check or you send them a check. You don't have to pay a fine and you don't get audited.

(I am not a tax lawyer nor an accountant, but I have done this 4 out of the last 6 years.)


Don't like something? Take your money elsewhere, and make sure to tell why on social media, even if you don't have large following. Besides making bad practices unnoticeably less profitable this normalises caring about this. In the future we will see more business will see practices that you like as advantageous.


Sometimes there’s no elsewhere. Sometimes elsewhere only has crickets. It feels like you can’t both have a successful product and one that is free of noise. Only some open source software succeeds at this and even then quality often suffers immensely.


There is obviously no magical quick denoising solution. But we still can demand less noise and patronise providers that at least pretend to listen.


Voting with your dollars does cede a lot of power to the wealthy, since they have most of the money and represent a small portion of the population.


I think you have it backwards. Wealthy already have all the power they need. Everyone else has zero power, unless they organise, pool their resources or at least choose to move in same direction independently.


It’s a matter of phrasing. We all have power available to us if only we organize. If we choose not to organize we are letting the wealthy have the power.

But anyway I agree with you that we need to organize. Voting with our dollars as atomic individuals works in limited ways but won’t change things on a large scale.


> Don't like something? Take your money elsewhere,

If you have a phone with open-source firmware for the modem, I will buy it immediately. Who is taking my money?


Is modem firmware really the piece of software in you're more concerned about or at all? But still, if you want to see something changed on this front - give money to Purism or Pine64. Make sure to tell them that you'll continue your support if they continue moving in same direction.


Withing 15 years, there will be microchips in your seat, table, and the packaging of your bread. And your iToaster will not toast unauthorised bread.

I am concerned about firmware because it is being used to take ownership of our devices away from us.

Oh, you could fix your device by replacing the chip, but we own the firmware and it's a crime to copy it. Also we can uodate the device at any time and add or remove fubctionality without you even knowing.


try buying a ticket to a concert by avoiding ticketmaster and you’ll find yourself not going to concerts…

I can’t subscribe to any local newspaper without a digital opt-in and a phone opt-out…

…a bunch of these services are much harder to avoid than you think


I agree that most of the time with entrenched players it looks like there are no outs. But let's try to look at your example of ticketmaster. Your options depend on how much you are invested in concert-going as entertainment. If not much - stopping altogether might be preferable to further feeding the beast. If a lot - you can explore your local musical scene of amateur bands. The ones that play in bars and other venues that probably don't even sell tickets, or at least do it without relying on ticketmaster. Sure, you'll lose access to stadium-kind of experience, but there will be no change without at least some sacrifices.


I've never been to a stadium gig. I've been to concert-hall shows, with letter/number seating, and no grooving in the aisles; the ticketing experience was horrible. The shows were good, in a way; but I've always much preferred pub gigs and student-union gigs, where you just pay cash at the door.


I live in a major city and even the small and mid-sized venues use ticketmaster… I go to very small shows (basement shows, very small bars) which does sometimes avoid it, but if the band you like is even remotely successful you’re back in ticketmaster’s realm


> Users tolerating such bullshit is the reason why it exists and keeps on existing.

It's because it's the same kind of users that tolerated such bullshit on TV 20 years ago: 5 ads or more over a 30 minutes show.

The truth is: most people are brainlessly consuming any media (be it TV or the Internet or the latest crappy auto-tuned pop song) and are wandering hyperconsumerists souls.

20 years ago it was more complicated to go on the Internet, so your average "I'll sit in front of TV and tolerate 5 ads over my 30 minutes show" wasn't on the Internet. It's that simple.

It takes time and half a brain to not get abused by all these companies. People don't want to spend the time and certainly don't have half a brain.

The Internet adapted itself to the masses.

That'd be my rant.


I think that's a bit unfair.

It's not that the masses wanted that scenario. They would be completely cool with a non-user-hostile TV or web.

It's just that TV channels and internet companies are constantly trying to push as much garbage as they can, and the amount we currently got is the amount they can get away with.


Is Apple's case really a dark pattern? I can start a software subscription trial and immediately cancel. Do that with a random third party and suddenly the cancellation page is "down for maintenance" and you have to call in for support where they try to sell you a discounted package (cough Adobe.)

Also do you really want to go around typing in credit card details into every app you pay for? for every in-app purchase, for every movie rental, every song purchase? How is that user hostile?


> Nobody is forced to continue using dark-pattern software

Moreover, no one is forced to write dark pattern software. It's probably safe to say that most dark-pattern software is the result of a voluntary, monetary transaction between employer and employee. People are knowingly writing this software on purpose, for money.

Let's see a show of hands of people in this community who wrote dark pattern software for their boss instead of quitting. Where is this software coming from if not from a community of people like the ones here at Hacker News?


> even paying for software which is hostile to them and their interests

Consumers have been sold a dream, and after the tech advances and sweatshoping can't go farther, they would rather eat skimpflation day after day than pay more. This is most evident online, where a good chunk of the population expect everything to be free.


[Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business (2008)](https://www.wired.com/2008/02/ff-free/)

They expect it for free but it's not like the product can actually be bought.


People only expect things to be free because they're not being told / educated on the actual cost of their "free" service.

I wonder how many people over the past 15 or so years have been denied a job because a tech-savvy HR person combed through social media / forum profiles and read things they didn't like? And if you think that wasn't happening then, you're out of your mind. This was happening in World of Warcraft guilds, for God's sakes... players with "wrong" opinions were kept out of certain guilds by """""""well-meaning""""""" officers of those guilds, so I assure you, it was happening in the real world.

But today, as then, you never knew about it, so you had no knowledge that your employment was denied because most American states are at-will and it's not like HR would have said you have a "problematic" stance regarding <insert issue X>.

This is but one small example of the "progress" we've seen on the "modern web".


> Nobody is forced to continue using dark-pattern software, nobody was forced to use Apple and tie their credit-card to their "apple cloud account

Freee market delivers best results for the people, and if it doesn't, it's the people's fault!


> and just continue even paying for software which is hostile to them

I went Apple precisely because it was not hostile at all compared to Windows and Google’s forest of adware. The minute you give me a non-user hostile OS (phone or desktop), I’ll PAY $300/year for it.

But even Ubuntu returned Amazon results when I searched the local application (Don’t get me started on technicalities of “But maybe you want your start menu to display your friend’s most recent purchases? How can Ubuntu know? But they’ve recognized their mistake after going to production and rolled back parts of it!”)

It’s time to stop blaming the user and start blaming the EU for their badly-written cookie banner laws.


Yes, blame the one law that attempts to give people a modicum of privacy, and not the developers really wanting you to click through and press accept all for income.

The problem with beating dark patterns there specifically is the sheer number of them...


> badly-written cookie banner laws

The law doesn't call for cookie banners. It calls for consent. I'm willing to auto-consent, because I use a cookie blocker.

I think this plague of popups is temporary, and is going to abate; eventually the browser-makers will incorporate auto-consent, as they have incorporated cookie controls.

And I believe that a lot of those consent popups are an attempt to annoy europeans into lobbying for repeal of the law. Ain't gonna happen - we're quite pleased with it.


> It’s time to stop blaming the user and start blaming the EU for their badly-written cookie banner laws.

Are you saying that EU cookie law is to blame for software being hostile to its users? I can't see how that can be.


> Previously the internet was better since the average internet user avoided scams

How long ago are we talking about? Because scams and hostile threats were on the internet as long as I remember. Phishing and carding was present in the 90s, Morris worm was in the late 80s.

Perhaps things are worse now because the stakes are higher. Ecommerce wasn't popular back then and computer viruses sent some spam or displayed funny messages. Now that the targets are more attractive (and there's more of them), scams are getting more sophisticated and increased in volume.


> Morris worm was in the late 80s

To be fair, that wasn't any kind of scam; it was more like "I started a joke that started the whole world laughing".


I’m somewhat confused by your example here.

Are there downsides to Apple having control over the App Store? Absolutely. Is tying your credit card to your Apple account “user hostile”? I’m not so sure.

The piece of mind knowing that I’m not going to have to fight with some random company to get a subscription cancelled is worth it for me. (Looking at you, NYTimes, Comcast, etc.)


Not sure why you brought Apple into this, while yes, their walled garden is very pretty, the experience of them extracting money out of your accounts is as friction free as it gets.


This must be the attitude that scammers adopt so they can sleep at night. It's like saying that fraud is okay as long as the victim is stupid enough.


we kind of are, because dark patterns get into regulation and become part of law


Unluckily providers clone each other, designers trying to prove their reason of existence pushing for new or modern approaches just for the sake of it, and technical writers in the fallacy of quantity write about anything different comes their way quickly, judging by first look not by sustainable usability consequently generating the appearance of trend without having any trend (not like a trend is a good measure, not at all! nevertheless, it is used as guideline by too many).

I try to avoid as much as possible from the user hostile internet but there is wee choice in an era of rapid cloning of UX with random tweaks for the illusion of novelty.

I go away immediately (for many many years now) from pages blocking the view with dialogs of subscription after 10-20 seconds or even less from arriving. I go away from randomly found unknown sites expecting me of configuring 30 cookie settings the 500th of time that month. I do not watch youtube because it is intrusive with ads, suggestions, autoplay (on the top of the usual strident but uninterestingly wicked content). I simply avoid discovering new content because 98% of the time it is just a struggle not useful or entertaining at all.

It is the exception that I get what I need instead of being pushed into something others want from me. There is unmanageable amount of content pushed my way and almost zero interest of serving what I need. It is a struggle to use the web. I avoid it more and more in fact only going for reliable locations when I need something.

Unluckily there is little choice to choose from approaches when I am determined to do something. Movie streaming sites all have the same intrusive and pushy behaviour. I cannot browse their collection in peace not only because they do not provide real choice but pour their preselected lists on me but when I stop the mouse in some random location an active content pops into my face distracting me from relaxing on entertainment content. Netflix, Amazon Prime and some other I tried works the same. It is not relaxing but upsetting, not entertaining at all. I more and more need to rely on my old collection of movies.

Same with music.

I am avoiding using social media sites due to the overload of useless content poured into my face following an obscure logic (no logic). Those just block me instead of being helpful or entertaining. LinkedIn is exception, I use it for job search, but don't get me started how sh*ty that is, oh my god! Like if clueless amateurs were given half the necessary time to come up with something whatever. Since Google and all the other job searching sites are even worse I cannot go elsewhere really after finished with know names and organisation and the direct search (which is the only reliable). When I complain about usability they respond nothing. Absolutely nothing. Which is also typical in parallel of the irrelevant empty responses.

Unluckily this whole unusable internet is a huge and painful topic that would fill days and weeks of discussions and summarising the negative but completely avoidable experiences, all the user hostility out there.

HN is one of my remedies with its reliable and simple approaches and interesting, easy to navigate content, with the lack of obstructive visual noise and manipulation.


Victim blaming much?


Not a main factor but a factor is 'always the latest tech' issue. Most banks and airlines I use rewrote their perfectly fine and fast sites and apps to reactjs and now they seriously suck. This is not the fault of react but more of this idea of tech people that everything has to be new which means we don't have 10+ year experience in it and the results just take more work to get right (despite what everyone says here). My local bank did a rewrite from php with js/jquery to react and it's just unusable now. Slow, buggy etc; I have to have my developer console open to see if a transaction actually worked... The site before this was instant loading and perfect; it was over 10 years old and worked fine. The new one doesn't look much better but is garbage. HSBC HK did something similar and the result is awful. I click things and see the console light up red with errors 'undefined' etc. Revolut business has more bugs (which I keep reporting but they don't fix them). And I know how to use developer tools; what do other people do when they click something over and over and nothing happens? Etc etc. Use tools you have experience with ; you don't need to use all this new crap; use it in 10-15 years if it is still around.

Edit; in the same vain: microservices etc are not helping either. When done well they are supposed to help, but in reality I only see systems that can work when all microservices are up and responsive; if one is down, the entire thing is dead. Why didn't you make a monolith? Now you have brittle all over the place and devops with 247 stress.


>Most banks and airlines I use rewrote their perfectly fine and fast sites and apps to reactjs and now they seriously suck. This is not the fault of react but more of this idea of tech people that everything has to be new.

I doubt they rewrote it just for the sake of rewriting it in a new framework, it costs money for no benefit. What's more likely, which I have witnessed multiple times, is that the original codebase was an unmantainable mess, hard to support and extend, with abandoned/unmaintained third-party dependencies, and fewer and fewer developers on the market who know the stack. Sometimes it costs as much (or even less) to rewrite the whole thing than to refactor the original. And when the decision to rewrite the codebase is made, they choose the most popular tools/frameworks so that it was easier to find new developers, and today it happens to be react and the like.


Why does it seem (I'm not a backend engineer) that a company moves off of one technical-debt ridden backend to another, even bigger, more complex framework for their backend.

It's like we're in a downward tech-debt spiral.

Is it going to take an Ever-Given-like or Covid-like disruption of e-commerce that shuts down society to cause us to wake up and take this seriously? (Or have government step in and set standards and requirements for e-commerce.)


Presumably because they didn't fix the organisational issues that caused the first codebase to become a mess. If they had those sorted then they could most likely have stuck with the original codebase AND a rewrite would likely be succesful.


I really do not think so; the places I saw, just go from crap to crap because tech leads/new ctos need to put their mark on things. I consulted for clients in the past years who were told to dump react (in 1m$+ apps) for svelte because react is yesterday. That is insane.

One of the larger insurers is doing this now; I told them not to because it makes no sense. But they drank the koolaid and doing react to svelte rewrites for no reason besides a new cto.

The churn in companies is high and it is not good.


None of that matters to the customer if the new interface is completely different and much less functional. You should make sure there is an easy transition or you're going to lose a lot of business with your "improved interface".


I logged into British Gas yesterday to look at my account. It was painfully slow, wouldn't even load before I disabled ublock origin, and cpu shot up.

All to output something along the lines of

"select * from meter_readings where accountid = ?", $accountid "select * from bills where accountid = ?", $accountid

In the end I never actually got what I wanted.


My water bill page is the most over designed thing I've ever seen :( . It takes over 30 seconds to load with all these obviously widget based sections of the page to load. All I want is to log in and see my bill. I don't need to see the community water usage, or my usage for the last 6 months, or the weather for the next three days. I just want to see my bill and pay it. Have a button I can click for further details and load the rest of their stuff if something seems off. I don't need a "single page web app" to do that stuff.


This happened to me recently :( . My community bank upgraded their interface (probably been basically the same for 10 years+) that they've been using just fine and moved EVERYTHING around with their new app and web interface that is made to look like their app. I was so angry I switched banks (which is easier than you think these days). I sent them a letter letting them know the same. It looked "better" but is was also slower, less organized, broke their API for downloading stuff to import to gnucash, etc. It's all just such a waste.


> Not a main factor but a factor is 'always the latest tech' issue. Most banks and airlines I use rewrote their perfectly fine and fast sites and apps to reactjs and now they seriously suck.

overusage of SPA of SPA framework (Next.js etc) has caused a lot of problem for users who are used using browser, which is most of web users. It breaks open the link in another tab, back/forward flow. It is not SPA is bad, however if you chose to go that route then design the app with screen size mind and you got think it as an Application instead of a web page.


From my experience its CTO/CIO's wanting better more stable and fest tech, but not willing to pay for good engineers

Next.js is amazing, and it could make any airline/bank website blazing fast. Are said banks hiring the same devs from Google that are building the newer version of Next? Nope, they're hiring 3rd party companies in Romania.

React et al is far from plug and play. Quality of implementation means a lot more than it used to in terms of performance


> microservices etc are not helping either. When done well they are supposed to help, but in reality I only see systems that can work when all microservices are up and responsive; if one is down, the entire thing is dead. Why didn't you make a monolith? Now you have brittle all over the place and devops with 247 stress.

You could make a monolith where the UI keeps working even if some of the monolith's endpoints don't work, and you can make a microservices architecture where the UI still doesn't cope if a microservice is down.

I think the pros of microservices are: - deploy smaller - you only update the parts of the system you need to when you modify something. - different technologies - you can use Ruby here and Go there if you like; very un-locked-in and you can maximise the value of any libraries you have. E.g. if you have a number crunching bit of your app you could make a Python microservice with numpy etc installed. - independent data stores - pro and con, of course, but it's nice if you can decouple bits of your system and again use mongo here, postgres there if you need to - as an microservices-based application grows in scope, the number of engineers working on different bits of it can scale, as they can deliver independently. It's harder to scale engineers working on the same codebase


>When done well they are supposed to help, but in reality I only see systems that can work when all microservices are up and responsive; if one is down, the entire thing is dead. Why didn't you make a monolith?

There are different kinds of microservices, some are infrastructure critical (for example, we have an auth service, if it goes down the whole thing goes down because users simply can't login anymore - and it doesn't matter if it's a microservice or a monolith, the end result is same), others are not so critical, for example we implement additional product modules (purchased separately) as microservices which have their own SPAs so if they go down basically only one page becomes unavailable and the system as a whole is unaffected.

Microservices aren't necessarily about 100% SLA, they help scale teams and deployment (however I'd say it only makes sense in larger organizations).


> always the latest tech' issue ... rewrote their perfectly fine and fast sites and apps to reactjs ... we don't have 10+ year experience

React was open sourced in 2013. It's not that "new" - there are plenty of people who've been using it for 7+ years now.

> did a rewrite from php with js/jquery to react

The problem isn't the rewrite from php to react (or any x to any y), but the management saying "ok, we need to rewrite this thing in 'y'. You have two days to learn it. And you'd better show 40 productive hours of work on your timesheets in the meanwhile."


> using it for 7+ years

That's not really very long, IMO. There's a huge amount of churn in programming systems these days. Once upon a time, writing compilers and designing languages was something that nerds did for fun and instruction, in their spare time. People didn't get paid to write compilers.

Incidentally, I've never heard of "svelte".


Sure, but when we have tech 20 years old we can assume you don't need two days to learn it. 7 years is not that young but it changes way, way too fast. So the react 7 years ago is not the same as today: hell I have nodejs and react stuff that simply doesn't work anymore and is only a few years old. While php/html/css/jquery code written 15+ years ago is fast and robust on the very latest versions.

I updated one of my oldest saas app written 17 years ago to the latest php version from apache to nginx and the latest php and it works 100%. That makes me sleep well at night.

It has 60000 active users and costs $4/mo to host and has not had downtime in over 10 years. How is this new stuff holding up?


> Most banks and airlines I use rewrote their perfectly fine and fast sites and apps to reactjs and now they seriously suck.

Nostalgia might be staining your view here… I don’t remember any airline or banking apps that have ever been “perfectly fine and fast”.


I never had a problem with the website of my Finnish bank 20 years ago. And I could order my plane tickets too through the Web in the first half of the 2000s.

I cannot say the same of the website of my French bank and its multiple rewrite over the last 8 years, which still provides less features and make them harder to reach each time.

Or the website of the national lottery and its countless rewrites, each of them getting slower, more inconsistent, and displaying less information on each screen.

Or the website of the national weather forecast, which gets worse at each iteration: now there's a 'weekly' view that shows 5 days; and I cannot for the love of God find the curves of snow and other parameters from the automated altitude weather stations any more (at each iteration, they have become harder to find, but with last iteration there is no access any more; someone's got direct links to the pictures URL on a website, but for how long?). Each time they make an update, the site is completely broken for days or weeks, before they sort out their crap and return the new shit to a more functional state.

Or the website where I did put my bicycle recordings for years without a problem and without feeling the need for any extra feature, which all of a sudden cannot be displayed any more by my old browser.

In all those cases (except the last, which is probably more recent), the needed features have been implemented for at least 15 years. They were working 15 years ago. Yet they got rewritten multiple times, and not for the best. Oh yeah, sorry, for the weather forecast website (which is a public service belonging to the legal type which is the most integrated with the State), there is a new feature added at each iteration: more advertisement, and now more tracking too! The site has become unbrowsable without and ad blocker.

And BTW now, I am met more and more often with the infamous "your browser is not compatible with this site, please update to Chrome / Edge / ..." messages. I thought this kind of things were dead and buried. They were dead and buried, for 10 or 15 years, but now dreadful times are starting again and they rise from their grave.


FWIW, Dollar Bank had one of the earlier web banking sites and it was perfectly serviceable. I often wondered why larger banks couldn't do it as well. ING Direct (before it became CapitalOne 360) was pretty handy too, and while the CapitalOne site is slower and more SPA-like, it mostly does what I expect.

American Express, on the other hand, is the real WTF.


20-25 years ago there was at least lip service paid to the idea of "how do we improve software quality", but somewhere along the line that got lost under "move fast and break things", which paved the way for "as a service" madness. I don't want your half baked junk, I don't want constant updates, I don't want monthly fees for perpetually shifting, broken crap. I don't want any ongoing relationship with a team of "devs". I want to buy it once, and if it doesn't work I want my d### money back.


It's an interesting question, from a user perspective, would you prefer highly polishes feature rich yearly releases, or continuous feature release? Comes down to competition I guess, for web people can compete against you a lot quicker, if you think back to the 90s, Adobe could afford to take a year, no one was going to do better than Adobe anyways. Depends if the customer could understand/accept the value prop of "we're slow but good" - and if you just ship then get "good" in the wild.. well.. you may end up at the same level of baked when the other person released theirs.


Adobe could still afford to take a year or more. I pay for CC for a project I'm working on, and in spite of the monthly fees I disable automatic updates. I don't want shit to change or break arbitrarily, I want the tools I used yesterday to behave the same as today unless I make a decision to change something.


This position would make more sense if the browser and libraries and OS and hardware the users were running didn’t experience breaking changes every 6 months or have horrific vulnerabilities baked in.


Businesses deceive themselves when they think they measure user satisfaction.

There's a thing out there called "net promoter score." That's when somebody asks you "would you recommend our business to a friend?" It's based on a 2006 business book with the megalomaniacal title "The Ultimate Question." https://www.worldcat.org/title/ultimate-question-driving-goo...

In theory it's a great idea. In theory it effectively captures a user's attitude toward the businesss. Its inventor, Enterprise Rent A Car, used it to up their game in a competitive market requiring lots of personal service, and it worked brilliantly for them.

But, now the people deploying it in megacorps must have all gotten C- grades in business school. They use it to measure their SUPPORT REPS, not their BUSINESSES. They pretty much only ask it after a support call. So if you give a NO answer to the question because you're frustrated and needed support, the support rep gets dinged, not the product manager.

By the way, anything below a 9 on the 0 - 10 scale in the question means "NO, I would not recommend."

I once got one of those quizzes from my local ISP monopoly provider (Comcast) after somebody CALLED ME to try to sell me something. My answer: "Would I recommend you to a friend? You're a MONOPOLY! " Anyway, they punished the telesales guy for my NO answer. They should have punished the idiot who thought it was an appropriate way for a monopoly to measure customer satisfaction.

A plea to the people who run businesses: take those NO answers seriously. Use them to look for opportunities to improve, not opportunities to punish.


Celine's 2nd Law, a/k/a "shoot the messenger".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celine%27s_laws

See also Hyman G. Rickover on Quaker Problem Solving:

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/28uxu6/more_hy...


People who are successful in business are busy running businesses. People who aren't successful in business write gimmicky books about the "one trick" you need to know to run a successful business. Most business books are garbage.


I think it's mainly your last reason. After the founders have cashed out, there's nobody left to care about user experience, because by then, most things are run by MBAs as dictated by shareholders.

And shareholders don't care who suffers. They care purely about profits.

The solution is to introduce laws to reign in "profits at the expense of others". When chemical companies were polluting the ground (superfund sites), we introduced laws to stop them for the good of society. In my opinion, Facebook is the new superfund site, it's just that this time, it is digital and psychological poison, not chemical. So we should just deny them the most user-hostile (e.g. most profitable) behavior through laws.


I'd say it is more because UX has shifted to acquiring customers at all costs, even if it means constantly annoying your current users.

Every time I have to hunt for the "log in with an existing account" button (after mistakenly trying to login to what turns out to be the sign-up form) I want to punch a "UX "expert" in the face so hard it knocks the shitty dye job off their side-shave hairdo.


UX experts don't want to acquire customers at all costs; those mandates come from management, whose requirements the UX experts are required to fulfil. You should be concerned about managers' haircuts instead.


Profits at the expense of others is more or less the driving force of our entire economy. Not sure how you're going to legislate that away.


> The solution is to introduce laws to reign in "profits at the expense of others".

Now you have two problems.


When something isn’t working, you don’t point at ideologies and say “if we followed this to the letter, things may get better”. You change something.

None of the changes so far seem to be catching industry wide. Perhaps it’s time for a change that comes with teeth.


I agree, but can our flavour of democracy actually(!) accomplish such things in a reliable manner?


I think we software developers tend to overstate the impact that the inner world of software developement has on this kind of thing. It wouldn't even occur to me that "release often KPIs" has anything to do with it.

The reason the web looks like it does today is because it mostly works, for the value of works that the people building the web care about. Most things on the web are there because someone wants to make money from them. And apparently they do. Things being "hostile" are a side effect of them being effective at making money. That's mostly the whole story.


Yours is a solid neo-liberal explanation that ignores one important fact: so much of what's online is not market-driven. It cannot survive in the steady-state on it's own. Much of it is investor funded. It's someone's best guess about what the public will find acceptable. And then, remarkably, these guesses are used by others to triangulate their own guesses, and you get something like a "UX bubble" divorced from economic reality.

(A variant: content tech enthusiasts create without profit motive (and therefore without market correction). OSS components being the preeminent example - although github has done a good job commoditizing the design around distributing such things. But these also create bubbles, of a different kind.)


I'm not sure about the impact of VCs here.

For all their power, I think most people's biggest interactions on the web are with Facebook, Youtube, Amazon and Google. Do you have any good examples of VC-funded UX experiences that fairly prevalent?


The OP is not a blog post, but an Ask HN participant. Most of the poeple on this site are building VC-funded UX, and are early-adopters of the same. My comment is addressed to them, not most people.

Additionally, it is beyond my ken to even begin to comment on the bigness of people's interactions with anything, in general.


> (A variant: content tech enthusiasts create without profit motive (and therefore without market correction)

I would not agree that the consequence of lacking a profit motive is an absence of corrective market forces. There are many kinds of markets out there, and many kinds of market forces that aren't related to monetary profit. For example, the marketplace of ideas is very powerful for people without a profit motive -- they toil in order to earn currency in their communities, which can be something as trivial as Github stars.


Very true, although it is an embarrassing thing to admit (for me, anyway).

Although, now that it comes to it I wonder: is it really something to be embarrassed about, to care about github stars more than zeroes in your bank account, and the wonderful things that gets you? Will not the stars really and truly affect more people more meaningfully than the zeroes?

I suppose in the end it's a struggle between pleasure and vanity, as always.


Tell me about it, I definitely look at my stars every day, and get overjoyed when even a single person stars one of my projects. I feel this is a little more justified than the dopamine rush caused by a like on a tweet, because I put so much effort into the underlying software project (as opposed to the thoughtless, throwaway effort spent on most tweets and fb posts).

That's why I think you shouldn't be embarrassed about putting weight on such a thing. I need food and electricity to power my body and computer. But I also need external validation to power my ego. The software doesn't get written if I don't think it's a good idea and worth doing, no matter how full my belly is.


>effective at making money

I think you hit the nail on the head. I also want to add that one of the arguments on moving everything to the web (applications I mean) was that the web interface was intuitive and didn't require documentation. That may have been true in many cases in 1999, but it certainly isn't now. That leaves users to click around to try to figure out how to use the web app through trial and error. Not a great user XP.

When apps were local, you could always hit F1 and get context sensitive documentation on the particular form you were on and it would (try) to explain what the app was looking for. Apps also had a conformity being all Windows apps using the Windows SDK. It certainly wasn't perfect, but at least it was something. That is mostly long gone and many developers just assume the users know how to use their interface, just because it's intuitive to the developer. Either that or companies don't want to spend the money or have the talent to make complex interactions simple.


> I also want to add that one of the arguments on moving everything to the web (applications I mean) was that the web interface was intuitive and didn't require documentation.

I strongly disagree with this. The reason most apps (or rather, most software) moved to the web is because of a few factors:

1. No installer necessary - this made getting people running much faster and more reliable.

2. You could monetize in a way you simply couldn't with offline software. Instead of selling it once, on the web you have myriad ways to finance software, e.g. SaaS, other forms of selling continued access, advertising, etc.

Note that point reason 2 is exactly my point - companies moved to the web in large part because it was far more profitable. (And I say this as someone who's been a developer during most of the time this shift was happening, and was part of companies making the business-model transition to subscription software.)

> When apps were local, you could always hit F1 and get context sensitive documentation on the particular form you were on and it would (try) to explain what the app was looking for. Apps also had a conformity being all Windows apps using the Windows SDK. It certainly wasn't perfect, but at least it was something.

And again I have to chime in here as a long-time computer veteran - if you think what most people do with computers today is harder than it was in the past, you are just plain wrong. Being able to hit F1 to get help was something that was done by maybe .1% of the population. Yes, desktop software supposedly enforcing UX conformity was an advantage, but not as crazy an advantage as you would think.

As someone who has been helping users out for years, I have no doubt at all that the average UX has gotten way better.

(Though side note, I don't think this is just the influence of the web... we've also just gotten better as an industry on making software, IMO)


I was mainly referring to intranet web apps created by businesses. Most of the big players in the 90s didn't port to web apps until fairly recently and I can only think of Microsoft Office, which I still prefer the app over the web experience.

>if you think what most people do with computers today is harder than it was in the past, you are just plain wrong.

Depends on what you mean by harder. Software certainly is more complex than in the 80s and 90s.

>Being able to hit F1 to get help was something that was done by maybe .1% of the population.

You just made that up. I wrote software in the 90s and still do. Context sensitive help was invaluable.

>we've also just gotten better as an industry on making software

Software certainly is more complex than it used to be. Sometimes it is necessarily so, most times it just seems like devs like to use the latest whiz-bang framework to pad their resume. I'm not sure I would call that better. In the 90s, we'd develop software expecting it to last at least 20 years. Today, it's "move fast and break things."


You hit the nail on the head -- repeatedly. Shit. I just bought my gf a Roku as a stocking stuffer. We were setting it up and it made her put in her email and phone number to verify. I was appalled; I was like don't put in your email! I'll return it! But she wanted be able to watch YouTube on her TV since Apple removed it without warning from her AppleTV device. My own Roku from a couple years ago works great with no idea who I am, let alone my phone number.

Someone said users tolerate it. I think this has a lot to do with corporations getting out ahead of the law, doing diligence on their own just in case one government or another comes knocking. Yeah, in the case of a streaming device they probably gain a bit of extra intel to sell if they have a phone number to tie to your viewing habits. But it's not just that. Google just asked me on one of my fake accounts to tell them "Charlie's" birthday, just in case so they don't serve me any illegal material. This is to pre-comply with whatever data the government of any country they serve might want.

Now, the problem with Amazon's hostility toward customers of its marketplace is of a whole other order. That's truly a situation where it's cheaper for them to sell rotten garbage to everyone and take returns than it is to make a transparent marketplace, and that's down to the laws of physics. They just make more money being a shipping company than they do a retailer, and the arbitrage between Chinese factory sellers and American consumers is ridiculous. You could design countless better systems, but none of them will ship lead-coated childrens toys as quickly or for as much profit.

This here's the last of the free internet that isn't dumbed down for consumers. This and the retro BBS subculture, and gopher and IRC and other things of that ilk. We're much reduced.

Personally in my own code / administration and training for the company I work for, I really try to make sure that the user experience comes first and there is no daylight between what the customer expected and what they get. This, however, is a minority view.


> We were setting it up and it made her put in her email and phone number to verify. I was appalled; I was like don't put in your email! I'll return it!

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one still trying to fight this fight.

It’s really starting to be a problem with games. Buying games during the holiday Steam sales used to be a big part of my holiday break, something that was my way of winding down after a long year.

But I’ve made it a personal policy to refund any game that requires an account to play (I only play single player games, there’s no reason for games to have my email.)

Nowadays this means basically all AAA games are off limits to me. Gaming in general is becoming less and less of my life as a result. I had originally hoped that some PM somewhere would see refunds coming with “requires signup” as the reason, and would maybe second guess requiring signin for future games, but it just keeps getting more and more ubiquitous.

At this point I’m just saying farewell to gaming. It was once something that gave me a lot of pleasure, but I can’t participate in this industry any more. There’s other things I can do with my time.


Heh. We have a similar philosophy. And I'm always a fan of quitting gaming (like I'm a fan of quitting drinking; I'm pretty sure I could do it if I wanted to). I was a lucky foo who registered a lot of mail.yahoo and gmail accounts before they checked identity, but it's still totally possible to be semi-anonymous these days. I have a couple burner phones; once you bootstrap a google ID it's not that hard to move it around. But also, buy a bunch of cheap ass domains, you can get all the inbound mail you want. Outbound is a little trickier, but who fucking cares. Highly recommend just for your sanity that you invest the time to set up a few fake identities while you're refusing to game... it's not going to get any easier in 2023.

[edit] I should clarify that I'm probably such an asshole, I didn't even suggest letting my gf use one of my fake accounts to set up the Roku. Not that she gave me a chance; she was already done with the verification email by the time I started decrypting my list of them.


It's even worse with games. If you buy a game on steam, steam has an account api that is completely usable for online play, but the game companies want more data so they force you to make an account with them.

I have a stadia account and I've taken to doing the same thing. If i go to play a game and the first thing it wants me to do is create an account, I'm not playing that game, and I'm telling support about it.


Why not just set up a throwaway email for all of it? =\


For me, it's the principal of the thing. It's not that it's such a terrible thing for a company to know my email address (especially when apple makes it trivial to create throwaway ones for your iCloud account, their "hide my email" feature has improved so that now you can just make bespoke randomly generated email addresses that look exactly like an unassuming iCloud account, but forward to yours.)

The reason I do this is because I am so fundamentally against the concept of a gaming company harvesting personal information about its users, that I feel like a shitty person for being complicit in it. I'd rather miss out on the occasional good game than be "part of the problem".


> But she wanted be able to watch YouTube on her TV since Apple removed it without warning from her AppleTV device.

Apple did not remove the Youtube app. Youtube made changes that caused their app to no longer work on older Apple TVs. The Apple TV that are no longer compatible with YouTube’s app (and CBS and MLB) were released before 2015.

It is reasonable that an Apple TV released in 2012 to not have the technical specifications to be compatible with other providers after Mar 2021 due to rapid changes in technology and software.

https://9to5mac.com/2021/03/03/older-apple-tv-will-require-a...

https://9to5mac.com/2021/03/02/apple-tv-3-losing-signal/


> It is reasonable that an Apple TV released in 2012

Respectfully, I disagree. To the point where I want to yell at the screen. If the appliance still works, don’t stop supporting it. 9 years is not that long of a time.

I don’t care that it means more work for the development team. They had software working for it, and at its core YouTube is just displaying streaming video. If it can work on a $15 Roku stick, it can run on an Apple TV of any flavor.

Please stop perpetuating all this BS that we should be replacing our perfectly functional hardware every 5 years and keep software working.


Apple does still support it. Apple’s own shows work on it.

> They had software working for it, and at its core YouTube is just displaying streaming video.

Who is they? It takes 2 to tango. What is Apple supposed to do if YouTube/CBS/MLB decide to stop sending MP4 video and the device they started designing 10+ years ago was only designed to play that (or not play what ended up being the winning format)?


This rant wasn't aimed at Apple - sorry if that was unclear. It's aimed at YouTube devs (and developers in general) - the ones who stopped their support.


> I was like don't put in your email! I'll return it!

I was in Las Vegas with family a couple of years ago and there's a zipline over Fremont street that my kids wanted to do. They wouldn't let us do the fucking zipline until I gave them my email address.


Heh. I grew up in Vegas. I mean, it's full of surprises. I always watched those people going down the zipline on Fremont and thought they were pretty silly, but I never realized they had to give their email address. Meanwhile around the corner behind the Heart Attack Grill, there's a man who will hand you an axe and let you throw it at targets for a few bucks, no questions axed. I miss the old America sometimes.


Roku is now publicly traded so its beholden to getting quarterly value for shareholder. Investors have deemed all of this data collecting valuable. Capitalism killing innovation by making it another homogeneous device that doesn't respect you doesn't surprise me.


Me neither in the long run, but it definitely surprised me on Christmas Day how much data they wanted to collect. One bit at a time I've been offended and shocked by it since I came back to this country in 2015 but I gotta say, watching how totally docile and copacetic my girlfriend was about this boot-up experience was more interesting than any of what they were trying to collect. It was totally weird to her that I was telling her not to put in any of this info and that I would return it for her. She was done entering her data before I could mount a full argument why she shouldn't. I know, I'm just a hideous boyfriend. That's not the point though. I was really offended and I tried several ways to get around the boot process without verifying by email. This only succeeded in delaying our HBO show by 20 minutes. She was just like, let me do this. Ok no problem, she said, I verified it.

Now how are gonna expect companies to act civilized when almost everyone's already conditioned to hand over their life every time they're asked?


> Roku is now publicly traded so its beholden to getting quarterly value for shareholder. Investors have deemed all of this data collecting valuable

This is not at all now decision making works in publicly traded companies. The feedback loop is much tighter and private companies are just as susceptible to making these decisions.


> Capitalism killing innovation by making it another homogeneous device that doesn't respect you doesn't surprise me.

What is this weird fascination with capitalism on HN? If a socialist government thought collecting data was a good idea and directed its resources that way, would that okay?

My read is (rightly or wrongly) they want to have cloud services, and cloud services require identification.


No they don't. You could and should provide a baseline experience with no account. The account could be used for extra, like say sharing favorites across devices.

Even storing payment details or favorites on the device is trivial. It's not done because it's not trackable and the user data sellable.


It's the global economic system, and it's incentives and structures drive decisions that individuals and companies make. Seems pretty relevant to this discussion, and most discussions since many if not most of our choices are economic ones.


> My read is (rightly or wrongly) they want to have cloud services, and cloud services require identification.

On this, no one ever bought a Roku because they expected it to upload something.


> > Capitalism killing innovation by making it another homogeneous device that doesn't respect you doesn't surprise me.

> What is this weird fascination with capitalism on HN?

"Comments on the internet" make a lot more sense to me now that I've started reading "capitalism" as "unbridled pursuit of profit". It's a shame that the general internet population seems to think those concepts are one and the same but I'm not sure I have the energy to try to do anything about it.


Makes sense, but even then, not much. An unbridled pursuit of profit would mean quite a few business owners would be having their competitors killed and forcing people to work at gunpoint, with no repercussions.


> What is this weird fascination with capitalism on HN?

It's the one doing the data collecting in our lives.


Parent's point is that you'd be a lot less likely complain about even worse data collection if you lived in China, and it was done in the name of the "people" - but you wouldn't be quieter because you really believed it was for the people. You'd be quieter because you were scared to say things about the System.

You're lucky to live in a System that pays you to have a public opinion about it.


The alternatives being worse doesn't make a critique of a system less valid. Yes, it's good that we have free political speech and yes, it's true that capitalism's incentives drive decisions like invasive data collection.


Breath of fresh air to read that in one perfect paragraph.

I only set up straw men when I'm bored. So ok. It's interesting how capitalist and authoritarian motives converge when it comes to violating individuals' privacy. You're leaving me hanging. Under the current system in America I can use VPNs and all kinds of ways to hide my identity, even if it does get harder to buy a Roku. There's no such ability in China, let alone a right to pursue your ability to protect your identity. Identity and individuality are simply not a thing.

Capitalism does, because is sells individualism (Chevy trucks, Coors Beer, the Green Bay Packers) - it does have to grudgingly allow individual people to, you know, act as individuals. From time to time.

This is a difference that a lot of people gloss over, but it's the reason all those assholes voted for Trump, which just proves that it can be harnessed. But moreover, rank obstinacy isn't necessarily a bad thing when the alternative is totalitarianism.


All incentives are the same in that regard - wanting to have and know more things. That's nothing to do with capitalism. Capitalism lives within that desire, as does socialism.

Capitalism and socialism (excluding others for time) only differ on who gets to allocate resources. Do independent parties allocate their resources based on mutual agreements, within a legal framework run by a central authority? Or does a central authority allocate resources, within a legal framework run by that central authority?


Its mostly the KPIs. They just follow the A/B test that says people spend more time on the site without asking why the people spend more time on the site, when the answer is that the people are extremely frustrated.


That answer is unfortunately irrelevant to a lot of business models, and sometimes part of it. E.g., Pinterest (and many others) making use of their site frustrating if you don't submit and make an account, while being hard to avoid if you search for certain types of images.

(Another example I ran into was Instructables (this one specifically: https://www.instructables.com/DIY-REFLOW-OVEN/), where you can see and enlarge four photos submitted by people who followed the instructions, but have to create an account for the remaining two.)


Rotten business goals without care for ethics or people.


I've recently been travelling to some fam in Europe and the entire COVID experience is so convoluted and obscene I feel a moral obligation to defraud the private services profiting off of it.


Paying 100 euro for a test at the airport in Dublin when you depart so you can prove you didn't get COVID in the UK when you come back into Ireland 2 days later.

No logic or reasoning.


In Hong Kong it's simpler: 3-week hotel quarantine when you enter and no guarantee that if you leave your airline will be allowed back in.

I havent moved for the last 2 years and my daughter has grown her first years by seeing her grandparents on Skype. Im not risking what a friend lived through, stuck 6 months in Europe unable to come back.

New people entering these days do so without their family and with the clear understanding they re stuck here for a while. 0-case policy is not even working so well, since the last week we had an "explosive" cluster of 5 cases (so far) because a now fired freight airline employee went out sick everywhere ...

The only potential exit will be China, maybe, if they dont get scared by our recent uptick, if you like to install their gps-based tracking system. And you better not be foreign-looking and sick while in China, you're never coming back :D

The best story was when they still allowed exceptions for diplomatic staff and families and the kids of a Saudi official decided they were too good for self isolation and created a mini cluster isolating entire buildings for re-test. Or the Dubai IT guy who's now in jail after he forced the city to retest 800k philipinos helpers because he lied and contaminated some going to a party (and slowed down tracking since he lied to protect his friends from quarantine) before leaving his 1-week long (+short quarantine at the time, he's the reason we have 3 weeks now) vacation...

So your 100 euros wasted, Im not crying for them :p


Heavily off-topic but I think he means that you pay and get the test _before_ actually making the trip on which you might actually get the virus. Which indeed makes no sense other than making Dublin airport richer. OTOH if you spend some time in Dublin I'm afraid you get used to burning money for no good reason as the city has become absurdly expensive in recent years.


The logic is "let's milk these sheep for every penny we can while the scare tactics still work"


€35 private antigen test in the UK[0], taken within 48 hours of your planned return, would have done it. You paid €100 because you didn't read the guidance and prepare.

[0] https://fly.randox.com/


The fact that you're expected to pay some private company 35 quid for a test the NHS will send you for free is laughable and demands subversion.


Disagree. The nhs doesn’t provide it for free, but it’s paid by everyone. international tourism is not really a necessity, if you can afford that, you should be able to afford a test too. There are many test providers, but they are all in high demand right now, so it’s expected that the prices and waiting times are higher than they used to be. The cost of travel during the pandemic has certainly increased, specially when going through the peak of a huge wave as we are right now. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

I do get the complaint regarding going back and forth from Ireland. The transit between NI and Ireland should be smoother and not require you to pay extra. However, if you’re coming from Portugal, the US, etc I think it’s entirely reasonable,


You want the taxpayer to pay for the test so you can go on holiday?


I am the taxpayer.


Sure, but in a healthy society taxes are used for basic necessities (such as health, education and infrastructure). International holidays are not usually seen as such.


some countries had an exception to testing for short trips (when only essential travel was allowed)


Last time I entered the EU (fully vaxxed) I had to pay $375 for a 24h PCR test in San Francisco because Portugal, unlike most EU countries, was not yet accepting US proof of vaccination.

I was pretty happy to pay “only” 100 EUR for the next one, which was to go between two Schengen countries in August, yay borderless Europe!


FWIW I've been re-using the same test number on all my trips and no one ever stops me. I've saved hundreds of pounds doing this and I just have the NHS send me the same test for free.


I agree with most everything you have said but wonder if it is just the internet or everywhere these days.

I recently went through a McDonalds drive thru for the first time in a very long time and felt a longing for the old menu boards that had items and prices clearly listed instead of these TV screens with all the items and prices scattered about like a teenage girls dream collage.

I walked into a new BestBuy store picked up an item and could not find where to pay, apparently checkouts and queues for customers no longer make sense to their business model. I had three people walk past me before one finally asked if I needed help, I said "yes I would like to buy this" they told me they were going on break but directed me over to what looked like a 1980s nightclub coat check counter, where I waited another 10 minutes before leaving the item on the counter and walking out.

The busses no longer accept cash in my city, you need to buy a prepaid card from a transit hub or from one of their partner retailers. So I need to get a ride to the store to get a bus pass?!?

Everyone knows about self checkouts at grocery stores but now with online shopping services, it is like running through a gauntlet with gig workers blasting their way up and down the isles with no patients for us analog shoppers that don't know exactly where our items are located on the shelves.

At the risk of sounding even more like a crotchety old man, people in public these days spend most of their time with their heads down looking at their phones. I took a couple friends out for lunch and was unable to have a meaningful conversation as they felt whatever was on their phones was more interesting than conversing with the sucker buying them lunch.

There was a movie where a guy got out of prison after a lengthy sentence and his words seem to ring more true to me each and every day: "The world got itself in a damn hurry and it seems there is no place now for a feeble old man like me"

*Regarding Your comment about 2FA I recently purchased a hard to find item from a website that only accepted ShopPay, they required 2FA through my phone which was fine but now every time I load a checkout page that does accept other methods, ShopPay hammers out another text message and has managed to become my default method of payment, it now takes me extra effort to change my payment method back to what I want.


> was unable to have a meaningful conversation as they felt whatever was on their phones was more interesting

I hate that. If you're expecting something important - fine, take a quick glance to check, if it vibrates. But don't start scrolling while I'm trying to have a conversation with you. Put it down for 20 minutes, you'll be ok - it will still be on there.

> The world got itself in a damn hurry and it seems there is no place now for a feeble old man like me

The Shawshank Redemption


For many this has become a habit. Sometimes it is worth raising it as an issue Ind the particular situation.


Meh. Whenever I see such things, it's usually because their interlocutor is boring.

People aren't interesting just because they are people. In fact, most people are boring as hell.

There is such a thing as manners, of course. But that's a two-way street. The other party also has to make an effort to not be boring, and that effort is rarely made either.


>>> The other party also has to make an effort not to be boring, and that effort is rarely made either.

Would you please elaborate what you mean by this?

I am familiar with how conversations work or at least how they used to...

This looking at your phone and tuning out of a conversation seems to be somethin new and lacking as you said, manners.


It's just that demanding someone's attention without expending the effort to be interesting to them is quite rude as well. If someone's constantly on their phone while you're speaking to them, your conversation is clearly not very interesting to them so you should do better.

I find demanding someone's attention more rude than not giving attention that's requested. Someone's attention is theirs to give, not something for others to demand.

As for how conversations used to work... When people were boring or uninteresting people would zone out and just uh-hu away. Just smile and nod. It may give the other the illusion that they're not being ignored, but they are.


Well I did not demand their attention so I suppose that is a different thing, in fact I did attempt to engage them with questions but after a few "Huh What?" when they look up from their phones, then a one word answer and back to their phones...I just ate my meal in silence.

I agree no one wants to listen to someone drone on and on, or brag about themselves but that is not what was going on in this specific case.

The truth is it was only a lunch and now that I know how going to lunch with these guys works, I just wont bother inviting them again. I just needed to vent a bit I suppose, and you are correct it would be rude to make my opinion of their conduct known to them and would have come across as a demand for their attention.


Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply anything about your specific situation or any other specific situation. There's absolutely room in the world for both situations to happen. (And I certainly didn't mean to imply you were boring. You've held my attention long enough :-) )

It's just that I see the sentiment repeated online rather a lot, while whenever I see the situation crop up offline, it's usually someone zoning out of an uninteresting conversation. I felt that observation and viewpoint needed some representation online.


>The busses no longer accept cash in my city, you need to buy a prepaid card from a transit hub or from one of their partner retailers. So I need to get a ride to the store to get a bus pass?!?

Damn, I hate this too


For some time this was the case in Sydney. Now you can tap on and off with any credit/debit card. Very convenient. Maybe worthwhile checking with you transport provider


Why is there a Google captcha in increasingly more checkout pages? This is the _only_ place a shop makes money.


Mostly because of credit card fraud.

Credit card numbers are constantly being leaked like crazy, and criminals have a hard time testing them by hand. So they rely on automating fake purchases on small shops so they can verify the number is correct.

Another common thing is criminals selling products via non-legitimate shops for very little to "launder" those card numbers. After a customer pays, they buy the proper product on a proper shop with another stolen credit card number. Any investigation takes long enough for those people to just disappear and get away with it.

We gotta fix credit cards as much as we need to fix the web.


> There was a movie where a guy got out of prison after a lengthy sentence and his words seem to ring more true to me each and every day: "The world got itself in a damn hurry and it seems there is no place now for a feeble old man like me"

Shawshank?


Yeah I think that might be the one, it has been a while since I watched it.



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