It's definitely bad UX. Curtis tries to brush away criticism with his claim that the "kudos" number is "an otherwise meaningless number," but this argument is fatally flawed. Plenty of things that human beings use for social signaling are, when removed from context, technically "meaningless", but within context they can hold plenty of meaning. In the case of Curtis's website, the "Kudos" counter is implied to display a count of voluntary approval. By essentially tricking users into incrementing the count, Curtis violates this expectation, which is why everyone feels "cheated" by it. Subsequent visitors to the site who don't realize the counter has been gamed may take it as an indicator of how many people enjoyed the article, when in fact the numbers are inflated by other users against their will. This is not only terrible UX, but bordering on outright deceit.
In a world dominated by social media and ubiquitous "Like" counters, for someone to brush off a Kudos count as "an otherwise meaningless number" is either an incredible display of naivety or straight-up bullshit.
While I agree, my complaint with it is even simpler: hit refresh and you can ostensibly keep adding kudos without limit. If that's not the case, then it's a UI problem because it doesn't tell you as much. If it is the case, then it certainly removes whatever meaning it has the moment someone starts inflating the count.
The problem is really a combination of the two. People expect kudos to be tracked in a reasonable fashion for the reason that, if the counter exists, it must be taken seriously. The rest of the system is stripped down, leaving people with the impression that whatever is left must be important. This is a false impression, and that's what's disappointing about the feature. Dustin Curtis has taken a serious (read: pretentious) approach to the rest of the site, but he's left the kudos system hanging by a chad.
I repeated this about a thousand times and he seems to have fixed it ;). Also, he seems to have reverted the count on his unkudos page. Not the actions I would have expected from someone who thought nothing of it.
I disagree with your outright deceit allegation, because the number of people who enjoyed the article enough for a kudos is sure to be less than the number of people who bothered with the widget in the upper-right corner of the screen. I wish I had a study handy but it's well-established that far fewer people who read an article continue interacting with the page after they're done. For me to believe that it's a serious problem I'd have to be convinced that at least 50% of the kudos were from people who didn't think it was worthy of kudos.
On the other hand, first-time visitors or those that come to look at the design (as those who get there from this discussion) are IMO likely to think "What's that? Let's hover it; maybe some tooltip will pop up"
I have a ton of respect for Mr. Curtis, but he's utterly and completely wrong on the issue. It's not a "serious" thing, just like calling someone a mean name isn't necessarily a "serious" thing, but both kind of make you a dick.
It's a dark pattern. In my opinion, at least; an ambiguous interface element with unexpected and unintended consequences. Judging by his obvious design talent, I think Mr. Curtis should know better, especially in light of the incredibly negative response. It's a dick move.
You care enough to follow through with replying to me, it seems. I'm plenty relaxed, I just thought it was worth calling a spade a spade in this case.
It breaks discoverability by executing its action /during discovery/.
Imagine if you, using a new web browser, clicked on the "File" menu to see what was there and instead of dropping down a menu, it opened a file browser. In the end not a life-changing or permanent problem, but bad usability problem.
Maybe because in Venezuela we are bombarded with propaganda everyday about how terrible meritocracy is, it bothers me to see this sentiment here.
As geeks, don't we recognize that The Deck ads are better than Google AdWords? Isn't the MacBook Air currently better than probably any other laptop? Wasn't Gmail the best thing since sliced bread for a long time?
I get it that it's part of the script in a socialist revolution, but in a start-up news site?
Curtis, can be as arrogant as he wants and still have a great product (or be right). Just like John Gruber is a jackass, but one who is usually right and (for the context of this site) has a successful business many us would love to have.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind helping out anybody here (or being helped), but at the end of the day, I want kick all your asses and win. And if I can hire the best of you, even better.
> Curtis, can be as arrogant as he wants and still have a great product (or be right).
Ah, but there's the rub: Dustin doesn't have a great product and he isn't right. At best he's a good marketer: the only things he ever stands out for are his gimmicks. His best posts were gimmick posts ("watch me redesign airport passes!", "let me show you how stupid commercial graphic designers are!"); his only creations are good marketing creations ("you should follow me on Twitter here", "kudos!"). Occasionally I've seen him get halfway towards having a decent thought, but I've never seen him follow through.
Compare that to John Gruber, who's talked before about how he painstakingly selected the Daring Fireball color before he launched his blog (which has displayed his thoughts, gimmickless and unchanged, for a decade now). Greatness is a matter of finding big ideas and sticking to them; the only thing Dustin's stuck to in the few years he's been promoting himself is that people ought to remember him. But he's forgotten to create something worth remembering.
> One of my main goals for this new writing interface was to encourage myself to spend more time writing and less time presenting.
Which is admirable, and I've noticed that his writing in this new iteration is somewhat less surface-irritating. But he contradicts this in this very thread, when he says of his jackass slogan: "It perfectly accomplishes my goal: you'll remember it." He cares about being remembered; it never seems to occur to him that there's more to writing good things than making them memorable.
I'm curious though -- for a while now I've been seeing the svbtle style as synonymous with you & your brand, and I'm having trouble shaking that even though it's now open to other bloggers. Was this side-effect another one of your goals?
I laughed as well, but because I thought it was a fantastic move. The entire design is a brand, and by not opening it up to everybody, it will create the desire to be on the "in crowd." Arrogant? Hardly. Brilliant? Definitely.
Points to DCurtis for shipping. That's what this life is all about and it's easy to lose sight of that.
But my own personal opinion is that I don't love it.
The UI of the published blogs is nice. I actually like the animation on the left, though I personally would only show it once per session. I think the challenge will be making this a more usable, integrated experience for the user while retaining the sparse and appealing UI. Even for "vetted" bloggers, audience reach and accessibility matters.
I'm not a big fan of the UI for the backend. I like the concepts. But the UI seems too designed. The strict use of black and white, for example, seems almost a gimmick to me.
And I really dislike the Kudos "button" and his response to the criticism.
There is absolutely no functional benefit. People know buttons. They expect buttons to work like all other buttons work: You have to press it if you want to press it. I could go on and on about why this is bad
(unfriendly to touch UIs (even if it also supports clicking), people shouldn't have to be careful about where they rest their mouse, it takes 1s to "hover induce" this button and far less than 1 sec to click, etc.)
But the biggest UX blunder, IMO, is not being able to undo it.
I was less than impressed by DCurtis's response to the Kudos issue: that a kudos is meaningless. If it's so meaningless why not let people kudos the same thing more than once? Why have a kudos at all?
I hope this can be seen as constructive, because I think his project is much bigger than this critique. He worked on something, and shipped. Our industry is more of a meritocracy than most. Congrats on shipping, high-five and well done.
"I have exactly the same workflow, except my "ideas pane" is just a text file in Dropbox."
Interesting timing - I came up with an idea this weekend for a Dropbox-based blogging app that pushes both final and draft posts to a blog every time they're saved locally, with public access for the final posts and a private password-protected directory for the drafts.
I'm pretty sure I can make it with watch folders and Jekyll (I've seen that setup floating around HN comments), although making something more advanced with a web panel and themes might make it a lot more interesting to a larger audience.
Who's vetting the bloggers invited to join the Svbtle network? Is it Dustin himself? Something about an exclusive, invite-only network for "creative, intelligent, and witty people" really turns me off.
Not that I wouldn't be interested in reading what only the best and the brightest have to say. Maybe it's just the way it's been presented, but in its current form it seems sort of like the Mensa of blogging platforms.
Wait. This isn't some downloadable blogging engine? I'm disappointed. If that "creative, intelligent and witty" bit isn't sarcasm, how about the guy 'puts up' and offers the code for download?
Unless this is the guy's business plan and he just doesn't want to kill his server. But this really looks like an "I built this really cool thing for me and some friends and you can't play" kind of thing.
1. Kudos Button: Why the controversy? I've always viewed it as a meaningless counter that's fun to hover over. I never took the counts seriously. Sometimes I visit your site just to send arbitrary kudos. What's most concerning about the buttons is the number of readers that feel "victimized," "deceived" or "tricked" from, well...a css element.
2. Svbtle: There are few names I've come across in my career that are as painful as this one to read, spell or pronounce. It gives me anxiety, and what's worse is that it's inspired by Svpply. A good name is a word that you can tell someone over the phone without them asking you how to spell it. Period.
3. The ideas panel is cool. Is there a way you could generate the list in other ways than just manually adding tags? Could you add a bookmarking tool, for example, that adds keywords to your Ideas List once you bookmark a page you find thought-provoking?
4. The S* Network: Your strategy to build a platform exclusive for exceptionally high-rated bloggers to use wont work for several reasons, here's just a few:
4a. I loved your site's design until I saw others on your platform using it. Then it became boring and nauseating. The design of a blog tells a story sometimes just as much as the content does. It gives the blogger personality, and the reader something fresh to look at.
4c. Top bloggers (any bloggers) not only use design to express themselves, but also to stand out. To be remembered. Eventually when you notice a site's design enough times, you realize you might want to check out who the author is.
4d. Social elements and "Sharing" buttons can look messy at times, but the fact is, bloggers like their content shared, and readers like to share content they enjoy. Removing arguably the most widely used tool on the web much poorer design that displaying a 'tweet' button after each post.
4e. Aside from 'ideas' your platform doesn't have anything that takes away the pain that enough users have to make it worth building. I add 'blogging' to pg's list of frighteningly ambitious startup ideas..
I'm not sure I see how "subtle, with a V for a U like the Romans" or even just "subtle" is very apt for an exclusive blog network, can you mention why you think so? Certainly the positioning and marketing is everything but subtle so far.
- The word “subtle” is appropriate for a minimalist product with minimalistic design.
- The obscure spelling and, yes, small brand stumbling block it creates is fine for an exclusive and invite-only network; the nod to Latin inscriptions has overtones of class and education, which are both exclusive concepts as well.
I think this is exactly the problem that lead to how he designed the ideas pane. This make me realized this is exactly why I don't blog, too. If I save my ideas as draft, it mentally force me to think I will have to publish it at one point. It's more of a subconscious thing.
There is the temporary red overlay in the sidebar that is, as far as I can tell, new, and definitely a touch obtrusive (intentionally, no doubt); then, the relatively subtle circular pulse around the blog logo.
My guess would be that it's an attempt at making it very clear whose blog you're on, to disambiguate.
http://svbtle.com/ now has colours for each member blogger, and it looks like they all have their own left sidebar slideout thing. Additionally, their pulsing icons in the top left have an additional colour hint to them.
Edit: I think it's a little too intrusive and clashes with the overall feel of the rest of it, but that's just me!
I really like it when people thoughtfully scratch an itch that everyone else thinks has been scratched to death. There is a room for major improvements in every established technology area - be it a blogging platform, instant messaging, analytics or email clients.
PS. This also explains why Dustin needed a Markdown symbol back in February - http://drbl.in/daOE
(1) Svbtle is actually a decent name (I sort of thing the 'v' is tired, but that's just a product of things I'm following doing that) Unfortunately, it's probably not appropriate for a tech audience
(2) I'm very surprised at the significant negative reaction to his 'curation' of his blogging network. I understand the feelings of condescension, but is it really that big of a deal? Many things are invite only, vetted by one person. I'm personally bothered by /other/ elitist attitudes prevalent in the industry. This is pretty consistent and he never said this was never going to be public...
I think the most interesting thing about whatever Dustin does is the hype he's able to build around it—I'm consistently impressed, and wonder if he might not be as effective as a promoter as he is a designer.
To indulge your tangent: They were indeed “arguing” in some definition of the word, but I think they kind of agreed a lot, and together painted a coherent picture I could agree with, and was glad to have read.
Ah, I wasn't under the impression that this would become public - I wouldn't reproduce something open to others.
Thank you for making something like this a reality - I had a blank-page type editor a while back but didn't have the chops to make it actually usable at the time (hence my interest in recreating this).
From the article it looks like he wants to maintain the "branding" of his blog so people recognise it as having a consistent quality - which I think is totally ridiculous as it's way too minimal to stand out. A good designer could clone the style in minutes. So what sets it apart? The way the editor promotes capturing ideas? This part isn't open to the public. Seems a bit odd.
It's working I suppose. And the "invite only" system sure helps drive desire.
> I wonder what language/platform it's written in?
I've recently wondered if we (devs) shouldn't adopt a standard like robots.txt/humans.txt, maybe dev.txt or something where we could put such information and opensource links (instead of polluting the UI sometimes with all the 'powered by' braggadacio).
He has "the eye" for design, though... everything looks effortless and kinda great... unlike when I try to make a page look good (yes I read about Mark Boulton and grids and a visual hierarchy and spacing and baseline and rhythm and UX but it doesn't do miracles...)
I'm sorry, but isn't this just a reversion to late 90's style frame design? It seems all you've done is build it in the latest trendy standards and add a few little CSS tricks.
Minimalist design is supposed to be about presenting the content first and foremost. But the content is overshadowed by your frame. Your name and flashy CSS tricks are the only constants on the page and take up nearly 25% of the view, but you claim you're trying to draw attention to the content? Perhaps if the content you're presenting is you, then you have a successful design.
When I have an idea, no matter how developed, I throw it into the ideas pane.
This creates a physical scrapboard for organizing my thoughts. I work on ideas
over time, and, when one of them becomes developed or good enough, I'll
publish it and it'll move over into the published column.
This is so important. I’ve been using SimpleNote to the same effect. I just handle the publishing part separately; I publish so rarely that it doesn’t make sense for me to couple the two together.
In my system each note corresponds to an idea, which usually starts as just a sentence or two (e.g. “You don’t understand something until it’s obvious.”). In this note I collect links, quotes, and my own thoughts relating to that idea. At some point I may turn all this material into a draft.
I think this system is well thought out. It has a beautiful, minimal design that actually let's you focus on the reading, once you're done playing with the kudos button.
The only criticism I have is that it relies on sites like Hacker News and Reddit or email/twitter for discussion. Blog posts may be full of errors, but readers (and maybe authors) may never find out, due to the relatively inaccessible discussion/feedback system.
Actually, I've really come to enjoy seeing a "Discuss this post on Hacker News" link at the bottom of a blog post. I've become annoyed by loading a blog post, only to discover that 3/4 of the page is just comments.
But really, the same thing could be accomplished by having the comments page be separate from the article page, yet still be hosted on the same blogging platform.
Hmm. I wouldn't call the essential Like button "social", since it doesn't get "shared" with one's "friends" or anything like that. Still, I don't think that's an important difference - it retains the lab rat overtones.
I think this is a really good example of "being famous does not mean that you are good at everything". Do not forget why you are famous. If you are really famous actor and body builder, you might be governor If you try really hard, but do not run for presidency.
Am I correct in assuming the post text editor was all custom built? If not, can anyone link to a solution that is as clean as that? I love the idea of just typing on the page versus typing into a special box with a hundred buttons along the top