It just requires that Twitter would care

Imagine if signing up to read Twitter was free, but posing required you to spend a week doing moderation first.

Everyone who came into the community would have to learn the rules before they violated them.

Then, when you’re tempted to break the rules, you’d remember that there were people who would read what you wrote, just like you did for others, and you’d lose your account and have to do another week of moderation before getting to post again.

This is not too hard to implement. It’s certainly easier than inventing a magic AI that will solve all your problems. It just requires that Twitter care enough about their community to do it.


Obscurity makes meaningful and intimate relationships possible, ones that offer solidarity, loyalty and love. It allows us to choose with whom we want to share different kinds of information. It protects us from having everyone know the different roles we play in the different parts of our lives. We need to be able to play one role with our co-workers while revealing other parts of ourselves with friends and family. Indeed, obscurity is one reason we feel safe bonding with others over our shared vulnerabilities, our mutual hopes, dreams and fears.
Why You Can No Longer Get Lost in the Crowd, by Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger, New York Times, 17 April 2019. This article by Dr. Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science, and Dr. Selinger, a professor of philosophy, is part of the New York Times’ Privacy Project

Hudson Yards

“Up in the sky, Hudson Yards’ observation deck may also become an attraction — a triangular platform, 1,100 feet high, theatrically cantilevered from the top of 30 [Hudson Yards], with bleachers that provide an even loftier view. It opens next year.

I got a preview the other day. It’s one of the most amazing vistas over the city. I gazed north toward Harlem, gaped at the Empire State Building, and took in Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

New York is awesome, I thought.

Then it occurred to me.

From that deck, you can’t see Hudson Yards.”
Hudson Yards Is Manhattan’s Biggest, Newest, Slickest Gated Community. Is This the Neighborhood New York Deserves? by Michael Kimmelman, Architecture critic, The New York Times, 14 March 2019

What sort of place?

Screen grab of

Screen grab of

“A new place is emerging.
The question is, what sort of place?
And this is the immediate problem with Hudson Yards.”

It is, at heart, a supersized suburban-style office park, with a shopping mall and a quasi-gated condo community targeted at the 0.1 percent.

A relic of dated 2000s thinking, nearly devoid of urban design, it declines to blend into the city grid. […]

[T]he whole site lacks any semblance of human scale…as if the peak ambitions of city life were consuming luxury goods and enjoying a smooth, seductive, mindless materialism.

It gives physical form to a crisis of city leadership, asleep at the wheel through two administrations, and to a pernicious theory of civic welfare that presumes private development is New York’s primary goal, the truest measure of urban vitality and health, with money the city’s only real currency.

Hudson Yards Is Manhattan’s Biggest, Newest, Slickest Gated Community. Is This the Neighborhood New York Deserves? by Michael Kimmelman, Architecture critic, The New York Times, 14 March 2019

And yet we feel sad

Where slowness comes from:

  • Input devices
  • Sample rates
  • Displays and GPUs
  • Cycle stacking
  • Runtime overhead
  • Latency by design
  • User-hostile work
  • Application code

…There is a deep stack of technology that makes a modern computer interface respond to a user's requests.

There is reason for this complexity, and yet we feel sad that computer users trying to be productive with these devices are so often left waiting, watching spinners, or even just with the slight but still perceptible sense that their devices simply can't keep up with them.

Why software feels slow, Mark McGranaghan, 2018

Sometimes the crazy stuff needs to happen

Can a robot have custody rights to a child? Are there consequences for mistreatment of a robot? Can a robot ask for a divorce? Who is liable for a robot’s behavior? Who is responsible for its care? Can a robot hold a copyright?

…Sometimes the crazy stuff needs to happen before you can start to see the design space.

Different ground

The dinners demonstrated a commitment from Zuckerberg to solve the hard problems that Facebook has created for itself through its relentless quest for growth. But several people who attended the dinners said they believe that they were starting the conversation on fundamentally different ground: Zuckerberg believes that Facebook’s problems can be solved. Many experts do not.
The Impossible Job: Inside Facebook’s Struggle to Moderate Two Billion People by Jason Koebler and Joseph Cox, Motherboard, 23 August 2019

It never works alone

To many people today, the brain seems like a contemporary surrogate for the soul. But lost in the public’s romance with the brain is the most fundamental lesson neuroscience has to teach us: that the organ of our minds is a purely physical entity, conceptually and causally embedded in the natural world. Although the brain is required for almost everything we do, it never works alone. Instead, its function is inextricably linked to the body and to the environment around it.
From The Cerebral Mystique, by Alan Jansoff, May 2018,

"They are the only experts"

Expertise is unfashionable right now, partly because our society is not very good at understanding who is expert at what, so we give too much power to some people and not enough power to others. […]

Sadly, we don’t see residents as experts. This is a critical and corrosive mistake. Of course, they certainly are not experts in how to reduce greenhouse gases, or pave roads, or pick bike routes. They should not be picking beams for a bridge.

But citizens of a city do know how the built environment makes them feel, and how they would like to feel.

They are experts in how increasing taxes will stress them out. They are experts in hidden secrets of their streets and alleys. They are experts in the amenities they want for themselves and their family. They are the only experts. Their expertise should be respected.”

From Most Public Engagement Is Worse Than Worthless by sustainability consultant Ruben Anderson, August 6, 2018

What do you do when you realize you are addressing the wrong problem?

…Too often, the stance of the designer is oriented almost solely towards problem-solving. Too often, that’s what they’re trained for. The issue here is something rarely considered at school: what do you do when you realize you are addressing the wrong problem, your bounded remit having been the outcome of the wrong question in the first place? This happens frequently in design work in practice, and yet stuck at the wrong end of the value-chain, simply problem solving, it is difficult to interrogate or alter the original question. you simply have to solve within the brief you’ve been set; you can’t challenge its premise.
Dan Hill, Dark Matter and Trojan Horses, a Strategic Design Vocabulary

Still waiting

In 1999 Google brought in 16 students to test out their search engine. Upon reaching the site, they sat still for 45 seconds…just staring. Worried, Google finally asked what was wrong. All 16 responded the same: they were waiting for the rest of the page to load.
From the 2009 documentary Inside The Mind of Google

"You couldn't have even thought of it"


Design will continue to be driven by technology…It’s been like that since the existence of design.

Ultimately we want to do work that is by human beings, for other human beings. Because of the event of modernism 100 years ago people at the time decided that the machine-made should be brought to the forefront of design and architecture. Having that became the status quo of world wide anything - - architecture, design, and graphics: We actively work against that.

There is some distraction in technology. For one thing I think it brought in an incredible increase in boredom. All tools are available within the same machine, and you can do them while sitting in the same position in front of the same screen. When I went to art school it was silk-screening over here and lithography there and painting there and and you needed to change rooms and sometimes buildings to do them all. 

But we benefit from technology in so many other ways…We have a piece in our exhibition, The Happy Show, that can detect if the viewer is smiling and react to that smile by becoming a colorful piece from a black-and-white piece. Not only couldn’t you have done it 10 years ago, you couldn’t even have thought of it. You would have never come up with the idea.

Designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister, from The Creative Class #5

"…There was no common language"


The whole potential of the [design] industry is completely turned upside-down now. The things that were really difficult for me when I started off… are now so much closer to a young designer or startup designer. So what’s going on at the moment is that quite high-tech industrialized techniques are within reach of people with a laptop…

This was quite inconceivable when I started.

I’m more interested in the connection between design tools and engineering tools now.

Previously, there was no common language between the tools of engineers and factories and the tools of designers, and so those worlds were completely apart. What’s happening now is that the same files can be translated from something which is just a concept to something which is real, automatically.

For a young designer starting out, the difficulty is in having enough time to be anonymous. I think that for a lot of people starting out that have one great idea, that one idea belongs to everybody very quickly… I benefited from a non-digital era where I could be, broadly speaking, anonymous for maybe 5 or 10 years with only very few people knowing what I was doing - - allowing me to create my own uniqueness, my own personality.

Designer Tom Dixon, The Creative Class #2

"There is the blueprint"

Someone puts his eye to a crack in a fence, he sees cranes pulling up other cranes, scaffoldings that embrace other scaffoldings, beams that prop up other beams. ‘What meaning does your construction have?’ he asks. ‘What is the aim of a city under construction unless it is a city? Where is the plan you are following, the blueprint?’

‘We will show it to you as soon as the working day is over; we cannot interrupt our work now,’ they answer.

Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. ‘There is the blueprint,’ they say.
— The city of Thekla, From Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.