Five Links: Pattern Recognition Edition

Happy Friday, everyone.

When I was a reporter in Livingston, Montana, I wrote a story about a massive infrastructure campaign that was just kicking off — new sewer and water lines across town, changing traffic flows and redesigning streets, new green spaces and public art. I interviewed the primary architect, and he told me that the designs were influenced by A Pattern Language, published in 1977. That book has fascinated me; from the placement of a single window to the layout of an entire central business district, it breaks down the patterns of human behavior and then analyzes design techniques that best reinforce the desired patterns for a given space. It doesn’t say what should be done; it simply uses patterns to say if you want to accomplish Goal A, use Design Technique B.

In a roundabout way, this week’s series of links look at patterns and how they influence behavior.



Whole Foods’ dream transformed into its worst nightmare (Business Insider)
This is not a technology story, but it is a fascinating story about how a disruptive entity created and entirely new market … and then is struggling to maintain its place in it. The success of Whole Foods’ approach to organic, natural, and small-batch quality foods was innovative and so successful that more traditional retailers started to imitate it, and have been undercutting Whole Foods standing in a previously-niche market. This is like the Empire Strikes Back for innovative business practices.
HBR: Make enterprise software people actually love ( download / a Red Hat blog)
This is a trend that has been a long time coming (in my opinion). Mid 2000s Apple products revolutionized consumer electronics and consumer design, putting a huge emphasis on user experience. That has very quickly evolved into an expectation for intuitive design and smooth user flows for a lot of other devices and applications. It’s been a bit slower hitting the business market. This article makes the case for simplicity, intuitiveness, and attractive design in enterprise software. Because of the complexity surrounding enterprise software, that is an interesting design challenge.
How to Evaluate a President (Scott Adam’s Blog)
Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) is literally dissecting the performance of Trump over the past month, so if you’re not into politics (or Dilbert), then this may not be your cup of tea. But Adams has a description in the middle that is entirely apolitical that I absolutely love. “Success generally comes after you start. If you think success comes before you start, the world probably looks confusing to you. [G]oals are for losers. Systems are better. As I describe in my book, a good system is something you do every day that leads you to better outcomes, not specific objectives.” There are a couple of paragraphs there that are worth reading on systems v goals, and that’s an approach that resonates with me. Goals can be very tactical and not necessarily productive — achieving a goal may not open up other possibilities or provide a good foundation for trying the next goal. The systems approach makes sense, developing good skills or knowledge and then being able to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge. It’s an approach to ponder.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Web App? (RomexSoft blog, via LinkedIn)
This isn’t a hard calculator; rather it explores three different approachs to planning out how to develop an application (project specs, user stories, or estimated ROI) and then looking at the types of calculations that you can run through for each approach. It’s very detailed but also quick to read and easy to follow, so it is a nice project planning strategy doc. (Also, there’s a shout-out to Java at the end, because of its open source pedigree and lack of licensing fees.)
Why time management is ruining our lives (The Guardian UK)
I could make a t-shirt from this observation: “Techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay.” This is a very long article, but it’s one of those you can skim the first section and get the gist or kick your feet up and read the whole thing. It looks at how the push to be more productive is (of course) counter productive — trying to cram too many things into finite time and actually losing efficiency and degrading priority and perspective. The idea is to allow and encourage slack, to give people the ability to adjust to changing conditions and the space to relax enough to be creative.

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