The irony in “User” interface

Algorithms are everywhere. Some of the most influential algorithms for me are Netflix or Pandora’s algorithms for recommendation and Facebook’s algorithms for its newsfeed. Facebook’s algorithm determine how much of each type of contents gets displayed on a user’s news feed, and most recently their push for video contents saw a decrease in reach for Youtube links as well as links to a publishers’ site. While Facebook’s mission statement reads as “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” it has determined that it knows what’s best for its users, by determining what’s best for them. Of course, there are certain measures a user can take by telling Facebook “show more/less of this” or by blocking someone, but ultimately one cannot tell how much personalization he or she has really applied to its algorithm.

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This relates to an issue that is mentioned in buttons. In the entry for button, the author talks about while button give users a sort of satisfaction, it creates a problem by blackboxing most of its mechanism behind a nice looking button, which a user is encouraged or tempted to just press, without fully knowing its consequences. I remember taking classes on computers in elementary school where I would learn most things by trying different buttons, without really understanding its core function. This behavior, I believe, is getting more prevalent now as we see more and more programs, whether it’s on PC/Mac or on our smartphones, and we are more likely to figure out the most conspicuous function of them without understanding their full impact and scope. Just as programmability doesn’t give a programmer absolute control over his program, there will always be a gap between users’ understanding of a program’s function or use and programmer’s intentions and scope of the said program.

Pied_Piper2            Last year many Koreans were told by their credit card companies that their valuable personal information has been leaked or hacked out of their system. If one goes through the list of types of data that were almost public property, one cannot begin to question “when did I ever release that much information?”. This is perhaps the beauty of I agree button, something we are so familiar that we never even really question it. Perhaps the fault is on the users for not perusing the terms of agreement provided in small fine prints by various companies, going through every little bits of rights we are giving up to enjoy whatever service they provide. Nevertheless, companies shoving user interfaces that force binary choices on users or engineer and manipulate their behavior cannot be fully acquitted.

– Jeff C

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~ by yjc298 on April 8, 2015.

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