Common Causes of Very Bad Decisions (Alexandria Issue #030)

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“Criminologists have long tried to predict which criminals are more dangerous before deciding whether they should be released. Race, nationality and skin color were often used in making such predictions until about the 1970s, when it became politically unacceptable, according to a survey of risk assessment tools by Columbia University law professor Bernard Harcourt.

In the 1980s, as a crime wave engulfed the nation, lawmakers made it much harder for judges and parole boards to exercise discretion in making such decisions. States and the federal government began instituting mandatory sentences and, in some cases, abolished parole, making it less important to evaluate individual offenders.

But as states struggle to pay for swelling prison and jail populations, forecasting criminal risk has made a comeback.”

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To Breathe Free

“In a recent survey, only 51% of Russian men said women deserve equal rights, confirming my observation that the majority of Russians teach girls to focus on marriage and childrearing, rewarding them for being submissive, pretty, caring, and polite.

I soon found out the Russian design industry was a reflection of the society as a whole. If you were female, you could make a living as a designer. You could be talented. You could be diligent. You could work hard. But without a husband, a father, or a male boss by your side, you’d never be taken seriously enough to yield real power, take real risks, or shake hands on real deals.”

Common Causes of Very Bad Decisions

“Tribal instincts reduce the ability to challenge bad ideas because no one wants to get kicked out of the tribe. Tribes are everywhere — countries, states, parties, companies, industries, departments, investment styles, economic philosophies, religions, families, schools, majors, credentials.

Everyone loves their tribe because there’s comfort in knowing other people who understand your background and share your goals. But tribes have their own rules, beliefs, and ideas. Some of them are terrible. But they remain supported because no one wants to argue with a tribe that’s become part of their identity. So people either willingly nod along with bad ideas, or become blinded by tribal loyalty to how bad the ideas are to begin with.”

The Power of Flexible Consistency and Mindful Time Blocking

“One of the best tools for flexible consistency is time-blocking. Not the kind where you fill your whole calendar with blocks such as there is no wiggle room left. The kind where you try to keep as much of your calendar free as possible, and where blocks of time are for the activities you deem truly important. The crucial part of mindful time-blocking is to be flexible. Blocks can be moved or made shorter. Ideally, try to never delete a block. This only works because you need to be highly selective with time blocks in the first place.”

Why Is It So Challenging to Design an Ethical Cookie Consent Bar?

“As a UX lead at the digital rights advocacy group Access Now, Cheng studies how design decisions enable people to make informed choices about their personal data — or not. “Any design choice — an opt-in box or a toggle to turn on and off a feature — will potentially impact millions of people’s data,” she says, pointing out that when designers make those choices, they do so based on information passed through a grapevine of stakeholders.

Policymakers dictate needs to lawyers and companies, who then turn to developers, who work with designers to determine how these tools appear to users. If that sounds like any other design process, consider the business model driving it: “Companies are driven by a data-oriented business model, and they monetize personal data,” Cheng says. “They also tend to over-collect data with insufficient systems to protect it.””

The Hierarchy of User Friction

“As product designers we spend a lot of time trying to understand user friction and solve for it in the products we build. Doing so is absolutely critical to delivering delightful experiences for our users. I find though that sometimes teams are only perceiving and solving the most basic forms of user friction and aren’t taking on some of the harder to perceive yet incredibly important higher level forms of friction that users are experiencing. So I wanted to share how I think about the hierarchy of user friction and provide examples and best practices for solving for each.”

Doerr’s Law on Product Teams

“Teams of missionaries are engaged, motivated, have a deep understanding of the business context, and tangible empathy for the customer. Teams of mercenaries feel no real sense of empowerment or accountability, no passion for the problem to be solved, and little real connection with the actual users and customers. And that’s ultimately the deep truth of Doerr’s Law: Your product is a reflection of your team.

The Ultimate Guide to the Founding Designer Role

“When it comes to a startup’s earliest hires, it’s most often those who step into the first product or engineering roles who shine the brightest — and receive the most support and advice. Yet the first design hire has the power to transform the entire trajectory of a startup, shaping everything from how users interact with the product, to the branding and creative work that draws in new customers.”


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Pose — Easy Character

“A simple web app for character posing. Design a character exactly the way you want it and follow the easy guidelines to bring it to life using your favorite app.”


“Picular is a rocket fast primary color generator using Google’s image search. If you ever needed the perfect yellow hex code from a banana, this is the tool for you.”

Create Customizable, Hi-Def, and Scalable Backgrounds

“SVGs enable full-screen hi-res visuals with a file-size near 5KB and are well-supported by all modern browsers. What’s not to love?”