Watch: how to make security tools for normal humans

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Another amazing Shmoocon talk is "Users Are People Too: How to Make Your Tools Not Suck for Humans," presented by two key people from Simply Secure, a nonprofit devoted to improving security tool usability (I am a volunteer advisor to Simply Secure). Read the rest

Science fiction: what if game companies could get rich on bots, instead of players?

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MVP -- Patrick Miller's "game dev short story" -- is a cleverly told piece of science fiction about a game dev team that hits on a weirdly compelling, unlikely and eerily plausible commercial strategy: optimizing their game for gold-farmers' bots. Read the rest

Great, weird, and bad examples of Empty States in apps

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Emptystate.es celebrates "Empty States," those moments in a user's app experience where there's no data to display yet, or an error has occurred. Empty States are actually a great moment to delight or engage the user yet this piece of UX design is frequently left as an afterthought or blown off entirely. (Thanks, UPSO!)

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Free usability help for privacy toolmakers

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Simply Secure, a nonprofit I volunteer for, is launching a new series of usability programs for organizations, companies and individuals who are making cryptographic/privacy/security tools. Read the rest

Loadingicon: trippy looping gif animations to distract and delight

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Loadingicons should loop, use a constrained color palette, and be fun enough to look at that they could distract a user while a computer or network churns away in the background. Read the rest

NYC to-do: "Art, Design, and The Future of Privacy," Sept 17

A night of talks and conversations about privacy and tech, centered on humane design and user-experience -- I'm speaking there! Read the rest

Disembodied mechanical random clickerfinger

Behold, Monobo's "Random User" -- a modded mouse with a mechanical finger that races around the tabletop, exploring "the identity on the Internet theories and the 'Google Analytics' world." Read the rest

Trends in Chinese mobile UIs

Last December, Dan Grover summarized the unique mobile app UI conventions he'd spotted since moving to China the summer before to work for Wechat, a Chinese mobile messaging app that also incorporates a wallet, Evernote-style functionality, a games platform, a people-finder, a song-matching service, and, of course, an email client. Read the rest

Fellowships available in security usability

The Open Technology Fund and Simply Secure are offering fellowships to researchers who seek funding to work on usability in privacy and security technology. Read the rest

Help wanted: crypto-usability research director & ops manager

Simply Secure, a nonprofit developing usable, free, open interfaces for cryptographic communications tools like OTR, is hiring! Read the rest

Kickstarting a prismatic, hat-brim mounted heads-up display for your phone

The Hattrickwear is an improbable ball-cap designed to mount your phone horizontally along your eyeline with a mirror and prism that keeps your screen in your field of vision all the time. Read the rest

Screenshots of despair: the slide-deck

From the magesterial Screenshots of Despair tumblr (featuring dialog boxes to make you quail with terror and despair of your sanity), comes a slide-deck of the best of the worst to include in your own presentations. Read the rest

Privacy for Normal People

My latest Guardian column, Privacy technology everyone can use would make us all more secure, makes the case for privacy technology as something that anyone can -- and should use, discussing the work being done by the charitable Simply Secure foundation that launches today (site is not yet up as of this writing), with the mandate to create usable interfaces to cryptographic tools, and to teach crypto developers how to make their tools accessible to non-technical people. Read the rest

Lovecraftian rant about the horrors of Blackboard

Anyone who's ever had the misfortune to attend or work at an academic institution that uses the horrible classroom software Blackboard knows that it is a worse-than-useless exercise in technological sadism that is responsible for more pain and suffering than practically any other technology in educational history. But it takes the eloquence of Dave Noon's epic, Lovecraftian rant to truly express the loathing that Blackboard inspires in its users: "After generations of dry-throated croaking and lung-starched wheezing, their tongues swollen with thirst and punctured with abscesses that never heal, these distant people will bring forth a new language to survey the boundaries of their pain." Read the rest

Sensing your gestures with WiFi

WiSee is a reasearch project at the University of Washington; as described in this paper, it uses standard WiFi hardware to sense the location and movements of people within range of the signal. Using machine-learning, it maps specific interference patterns to specific gestures, so that it knows that -- for example -- you're waving your hand in the air. This gesture-sensing can be used to control various devices in your home:

WiSee is a novel interaction interface that leverages ongoing wireless transmissions in the environment (e.g., WiFi) to enable whole-home sensing and recognition of human gestures. Since wireless signals do not require line-of-sight and can traverse through walls, WiSee can enable whole-home gesture recognition using few wireless sources (e.g., a Wi-Fi router and a few mobile devices in the living room).

WiSee is the first wireless system that can identify gestures in line-of-sight, non-line-of-sight, and through-the-wall scenarios. Unlike other gesture recognition systems like Kinect, Leap Motion or MYO, WiSee requires neither an infrastructure of cameras nor user instrumentation of devices. We implement a proof-of-concept prototype of WiSee and evaluate it in both an office environment and a two-bedroom apartment. Our results show that WiSee can identify and classify a set of nine gestures with an average accuracy of 94%...

WiSee takes advantage of the technology trend of MIMO, the fact that wireless devices today carry multiple antennas (which are primarily used to improve capacity). A WiSee/WiSee-enabled receiver would use these multiple antennas in a different way to focus only on the user in control, thus eliminating interference from other people.

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Screenshots of Despair: computers making humans sad

Screenshots of Despair: a Tumblr that features shots of computers interacting with humans in ways that seem calculated to make them sad and angry. As Bruce Sterling notes, "Somebody could teach a pretty good interaction-design course with this handy resource. Maybe somebody already is."

Screenshots of Despair (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Internet-of-Things answering machine from 1992, with marbles

Durrell Bishop's 1992 grad project for his design program at the Royal College of Art was a brilliantly conceived riff on the answering machine.

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