Dark Patterns

Sometimes things happen and they are just coincidence and sometimes things happen, especially on the internet, and someone explicitly went out of their way to make that happen. You may find this when you are casually browsing a retail site for a pair of shoes and then, through the magic of something called "retargeting," you keep seeing advertisements for that same pair of shoes. At this point, we all see this coming so it doesn't come as a surprise.

Everyone is tracking us everywhere — and sometimes we willingly let them track us by volunteering information about ourselves (i.e. what we all do on Facebook day in and day out). This is okay as long as everyone's complicit; when the product you are using is free, YOU are the product (the selling of information about you to target selling you stuff, in essence).

What I find far more disturbing is a trend toward dark patterns that I'm seeing in the design of products. I define a dark pattern as a product that takes you somewhere that you as a user don't want to go. It's intentionally leading you to something you may not want — usually the end game is to lead you to something that is profitable for the product but not so great for the consumer.

Dark Bouquet by Jen Gallardo
Dark Bouquet by Jen Gallardo

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In the Eye of a Hurricane

In case you've been living under a rock, there was a massive hurricane that impacted the Gulf Coast (Hurricane Harvey) and now another even bigger storm heading toward southern Florida (Hurricane Irma). I've now gotten to the point where I've typed the word hurricane too many times; so much so that I'm starting to doubt that I'm spelling it correctly.

I knew some people in Harvey's path but most of my family could potentially be in Irma's path so it's more top of mind for me. I haven't yet turned on the (cable) news because I have a feeling it's going to be devastation porn so, in order to get a sense of where this storm is going, I've been looking at my Weather Underground app (which I love) that has a hurricane tracker and also googling a bit for pieces of information here and there.

And this is where technology gets a little weird. Continue reading "In the Eye of a Hurricane"

Subways and Countdown Clocks

In a world where you might be stuck underground waiting for a subway train, a digital screen that can tell you when the next train is coming can be a godsend. If you live in a city with a modern train system, you are probably used to screens that announce train arrivals and don't think anything of it. In New York, this is novel like a great white buffalo.

Well, it depends what train line you are on. And, for me, it's not great. I take the A train and the train is often crowded or delayed; and when it is delayed, there's usually not a "countdown" clock in sight.

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Why I Can't Read the Googler's Manifesto

I think you may have heard about one Googler's manifesto, but I can't bring myself to read it.

Segmentation Fault
Was I not the only one who wanted to throw her computer out the window after hearing about the manifesto?

Let me preface this by saying that I strongly believe in free-flowing discourse and dialogue. I believe that we should question our assumptions and seek solace in facts and figures. I also believe in seeking out patterns in our past behavior to help predict future actions, or break out of them. But first and foremost, I believe that we owe it to our fellow humans to empathize with their experiences on this earth.

And, from what I understand of this manifesto, the writer doesn't seem to understand the shifts that women have seen in the last 30 years with regard to technology. The number of women graduating with Computer Science degrees is steadily decreasing; as Wired Magazine notes in their interview with Melinda Gates, 1 in 3 women in the 1980's has decreased to less than 1 in 5 earning a Comp Sci degree. Continue reading "Why I Can't Read the Googler's Manifesto"

Come Away (Luggage) With Me: An Unboxing

Yes, this is a story about luggage but it begins several years ago in Dublin, Ireland. Let me explain.

The River Liffy
The River Liffy, Dublin (photo by Jen Gallardo)

A while ago, I purchased a really unique piece of luggage. It was damask-printed and, if you know me, you know I've never met a print I don't like. It was a duffle bag on wheels and I was okay with that — until I flew Ryan Air.

Going through all the checkpoints from London to Dublin, nobody glanced at my luggage. It was big and yellow (and fancy printed!) but nobody really cared as the Ryan Air flight attendants were trying to simply get everyone settled in for the slingshot across the way to Ireland.

However, when flying from Dublin to Liverpool, I hit a snag — an overzealous employee who wanted to see if my bag could fit the sizer (i.e. the contraption they use to suss out if your bag exceeds their size limitation). She didn't care that I had flown with it on the previous leg of my journey on their airline, she wanted to see it fit in the sizer.

Of course it didn't fit and so I was slapped with a fee to check it of 50 friggin' euros! Ugh! Continue reading "Come Away (Luggage) With Me: An Unboxing"

The importance of feedback in user experiences

I wrote this piece on Medium first about my work as a Product Manager:

I work in a large room that’s offset from a larger and more public area. The room is locked, so that only people who work for my company can enter as long as they have an ID badge with the appropriate permissions assigned. There are two doors through which one can enter the room. These doors can be opened by anyone from the inside of the room, but you must first push a red button adjacent to the door.

Buzzers
Buzz Me by Jen Gallardo

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Let’s Just Start Over or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Product and Comfort a Cranky Stakeholder

I wrote this piece on Medium first about my work as a Product Manager:

Last week, colleague walked over to my desk to ask me about the product I just started working on. And by started to work on, I mean I inherited this product in part because there was some significant “clean-up” needed and rumor has it that I’m good with fixer-uppers. His question to me was, “How about we just start over?” In short, stating that he’d almost rather walk away from this dumpster-fire mess than somehow try to put out the embers and make something of the leftover half-burned pieces of fresh garbage. Well, this isn’t exactly what he meant but that’s probably how I felt when I heard the question and realized the hole I now needed to climb out of.

Bonfire at Night
Bonfire #8 by Jen Gallardo

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Reviewing the Leica Q

Lately, I've been into carrying smaller purses on the weekends. It forces me to think about the bare essentials and probably reduces strain on my shoulders that are accustomed to carrying a bag that can at worst accommodate a 13" work laptop or at best carry around my 9" iPad plus a number of other odds and ends (giant wallet, makeup bag, etc).

This is a big shift for me as, for a while, I was only buying bags that could fit my camera. Since my camera (Canon DSLR) takes up a lot of room, I've been seriously considering down-sizing and have rented other cameras over the last 6 months just to get an idea of what I might like to buy (or not). When Adorama Camera had their infamous Passover rental special (10 days more or less for the cost of a weekend), I decided to pick up a camera I had wanted to try the last time they had one of these sales — the Leica Q. Continue reading "Reviewing the Leica Q"

My 10-Year Test

I use the Pocket app which I love. It allows me to hold on to interesting articles to read (or re-read) later on the subway (where I still often have little signal).

One that I finally got around to reading is titled The 10-Year Test: The Best Way to See if You're on the Right Career Track.

The gist of the article is that, when you feel stuck and you don't think you are making progress, reflect on how far you've come in the last 10 years. I've been thinking a lot about my life trajectory, especially in the wake of this crazy election, but I never really thought of it this way.

The author makes a compelling argument against the constant anxiety around our forward-looking plans.

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#RealTalk Life Advice about Work

At least a few times a year, I'm prompted to think about work. We all go there most days a week but rarely give any thought to whether it still makes sense to be there or if change is needed.

I receive a lot of email newsletters that are focused on career ladies, like myself, and they typically follow the same tired career tropes:

  • Find what you love and you'll never "work" a day in your life!
  • Take a risk and do what you love!

The reason I call these tired is because we all know that doing what you want, in any given moment, is often more fulfilling than doing what you think you should be doing. For example, sleeping in on the weekend is way more fulfilling than spending those hours doing laundry or cleaning. This is common sense and not worth repeating.

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