Ugly and neat mail

Ugly mail defames the sender. It may later occur that the sender was a good person, but life is unjust: a book is judged by its cover.

Examples of ugly mail

Random line breaks, an unwelcome line in bold with a blue highlight, multi-level colorful signature — the first thing you want to do is wash your hands:

Two long links, a fly in the middle, no signature:

Shapeless text, strangely split paragraphs, three links in random places:

Lines start with lower-case letters, the signature is enormous — only ten percent of the body are actual information:

This one is just hell:

How to make a mail neat

You don’t have to be a designer. Starting sentences with capital lettres and splitting it into paragraphs is something everyone is taught in school.

This one is pleasant to read:

So, little advice:

  1. Break text into sentences. A sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period, question mark or, rarely, an exclamation point. Sentences are separated with a single space. Excessive use of ellipses and parentheses blur the sentences boundaries.
  2. Separate paragraphs with an empty line. For a start, a simple rule will work: if you press Enter, press it once again. Do not break line if you are not going to start a new paragraph. Do not start a paragraph with a left indent (an email is not the same as a book). Paragraphs separated by empty lines and left-indented are the worst.
  3. Do not put long links inside a block of text. When broken into lines, such a link looks particularly bad. It is better to give it a dedicated paragraph. Or it can cling to the previous or the following paragraph, if it has to do with it.
  4. Do not include the whole history of correspondence. Quote only the part you reply to. Nobody likes to hunt for meaning. The shorter your mail is, the quicker you will get a response.
  5. Make your signature short. Does everyone need to know some obscure instant messenger ID you have long abandoned? Probably not.
  6. Lay out the signature in a clean way. A bad example would be separating the signature with a line of hyphens. Do not put the signature in a box, do not use a logo (sure, your logo is awesome). Do not colorize the text: any added color, including grey, adds clutter. Grey signature with blue links attracts attention, while the opposite is required.
  7. Leave two empty lines before signature. It is the simplest and the most effective way to separate the signature without adding noise.

It amazes me how some people pursue neatness in places where it does not matter (like in how the store their bills or how things are laid out in a car trunk), but don’t care how they look daily on the screens of others.

 127   2014   design   email   life

On Jordan Price’s experience working at Apple

Jordan Price in I wanted to work at Apple really bad, and now not so much:

Then at lunch time I wiped the iPad data clean, put the files I had been working on neatly on the server, left all their belongings on my desk, and I got in my car and drove home. I left a message for my boss and told him he’s the worst boss I had ever encountered in my entire professional career...

Ok, so what you are saying is that all the time you have been working at Apple you have not tried to solve the problems you had, prefering to ignore them instead. And when it got unbearable, you just left, betraying your employer and your recruiter.

And then you are saying that you are looking for a new job. Oops.

 30   2014   Apple   life   quotes

Wait, you mean they print this every day?

John Gruber telling a story about two young women and a newspaper on a counter in Starbucks:

I’m gonna just say there are twentyish. And they had a New York Times on the counter in front of them. And one young woman was explaining to the other — and I know it sounds comical, and I don’t think she was stupid, but I think she grew up on the Internet. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was in fact a college student, I don’t think she was living in a cave or something.

But the one really had no idea what a newspaper was, and she said to the other one: “Wait, you mean they print this every day?”

And the other one says: “Yes, exactly”.

And the other one goes: “Why would they do that?”

And she was clearly impressed.

I am also twentyish (okay, I’m 28) and I am also impressed. I find it amazing that people still print stuff. I have no reasonable explanation as to why would anyone buy a newspaper, unless they are a designer liking the layout. I was profoundly surprised by Apple’s announcement of Airprint a couple of years ago: it felt like I was taken back to the 1990s — by Apple, that is. Printing, Apple, are you serious? Come on.

Apparently, printing is still a thing.

Anyway, I was thinking lately: what will look really weird when one watches a today’s movie five or ten years from now? A criminal taking a SIM card out of a phone and throwing it away probably will. What is that thing, right? Or taking an SD card out of a camera to secure the pictures. Why, aren’t the pictures online already?

Fast forward some more years, and we’ll hear questions like, why does he need to hold this thing next to his ear to talk to someone? Why is she holding this thing in front of her saying “cheese” to her children? Why is he holding that round thing in his hands when riding a car? Why does she look so old if she is just 80 years old?

The future is awesome.

 33   2013   Apple   future   life

Accidental Tech Podcast

Marco Arment and John Siracusa both ended their podcasts this winter. I was a fan, these were actually the two best podcasts out there. Turns out, the guys could not live too long without podcasting. Even better, now they are doing a podcast together: the Accidental Tech Podcast.

You cannot not love Siracusa’s “explanations”. Here’s the previous episode, listen the explanation about skeuomorphism and leather stitching from 1:18:05 (just after the song):

It’s all good stuff.

 16   2013   life

Tomorrow does not begin at midnight

What I hate about all calendar and reminder apps is that they think tomorrow starts at midnight. I mean, come on. Not everyone goes to bed before midnight. Even if your office hours end at 6pm, it doesn’t mean you never touch a computer before going to bed. And for many creative professionals midnight is time when they (and by “they” I mean “we”) actually work sitting in front of their computer.

It’s very frustrating to see 15 reminders come up on the screen at 00:00 saying that today you have such and such appointments and things to do. No, stupid, it’s not today, it’s tomorrow. The day starts when I wake up.

It’s quite misleading when you see an email you got at 11pm get labeled “Yesterday” in Mail. No, stupid, it’s not yesterday, it’s just an hour ago. The day ends when I go to bed.

The Notification Centre behaviour drives me nuts the most. Here’s how it works. Some reminder appears on the screen at daytime. I have no time to deal with it right now (obviously), and so I want to postpone it. NC only lets you postpone for 10 minutes, which is useless, so I alt+click the NC icon to shut it up (it’s a shortcut for Do Not Disturb). At 00:00 all the notifications reappear, but I don’t want to think about them at midnight, so I alt+click NC again. NC says that “alerts and banners will resume tomorrow”:

By “tomorrow” the stupid machine means “the next time it’s 00:00”, so in reality I will see no reminders tomorrow. Well, until just before going to bed. And I will just alt+click it, again.

I think there should be a system-wide setting of when “tomorrow” begins like there is a setting for when a week begins (did you know that in Russia Monday is the first day of week?). And this setting should default to something like 4am. For those who go to bed at 10pm or 11pm this will work fine: they will still see all the reminders when they wake up. And for people who are like me, this will make computers much more useful.

I should submit this whole post to Radar, I guess.

 686   2013   life   user interface

Everyone is a designer

Life does not present you with a choice to be or not to be a designer.

Everyone always has to make design decisions. There’s no escape: whatever you do, other people will interact with your product or service. Your design decisions can be good or bad, but they cannot not exist. You have to make them, or you are stuck.

To make these decisions, you have to be competent. That’s why design is a basic discipline, as language is. Saying you don’t want to learn design is like saying you don’t want to learn to write. It’s bullshit. Kids should start learning design in primary school: it’s for everyone.

You can’t just make crap and say “hey, I’m not a designer”. There’s no such thing as “not a designer”. If you make crap, you’re just a crappy designer. Fix it.

 135   2012   design   life

The beauty of silence

Breaking news:

A law was passed that in order to drive a car [...] in Britain, there had to be a person walking in front of the car, waving a red flag and blowing a horn.

OK, this is not news, this is history. But, wasn’t it ridiculous? Waving a red flag and blowing a horn! Like an idiot!

Now, to the news. Electric cars are beautifully quiet, but can be dangerous: people don’t know the car is approaching and get killed. And so car manufacturers are making the cars produce artificial noise. Like idiots. The article even says that “recent legislative efforts in the US are making it mandatory that companies add artificial engine sounds to electric vehicles”. Here’s an Audi video about production of such sounds:

They are trying to make it “cool”, but it is so wrong. Noise does not make a car any more useful. Noise is there because of the imperfect aging technology, not because we wanted it to be there. Noise is pollution, we must get rid of it.

People will get used to the beauty of silence. And love it.

 23   2012   life   technology   video

Ebooks and Tufte


Many people romanticize the experience of reading a printed book, but I just don’t get it.

Neither do I. And I’m all for calling ebooks (including the ones purchased from iBookstore), books.

But there at least four notable books that don’t work as ebooks, at least given today’s state of technology. They are: “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”, “Envisioning Information”, “Visual Explanations” and “Beautiful Evidence”, all by Edward Tufte. You want all that awesomeness on paper.

 18   2012   design   life

Postponing a call

After I’ve seen a missed call on the list, iPhone removes the red badge off the Phone App icon. But I don’t always have time to return a call at that exact moment. And later I simply forget to. So I end up not returning some of my calls, and people probably think I’m a bad person. We all mark mail as unread, I’d like the same for calls. But it could be odd. Especially if you could mark a call as “missed” when in fact it wasn’t. Or if it was a call you initiated.

In any case, there must be a way to “postpone” a call. Whenever you see someone calling or you’ve missed a call, just press “Remind in an hour”, and in an hour the phone asks “So, do you want to call John back?” It must be integrated with Reminders for syncing and location support. “Remind me to call back in the evening when I’m home”. On iPhone 4S this is seemingly solved by Siri. But what should the ordinary people (i.e. users of iPhone 4) do?

 22   2012   iPhone   life   user interface

When people get a Mac

There are many explanations to the fact that some prefer Mac to Windows. They suffer religious fanaticism. They worship Steve Jobs. They want to impress others with an expensive gadget. After all, no one argues the power of Apple’s marketing.

But the idea that Macs are of higher quality and reliability seems unfounded. Obviously this can’t be true. Those who choose Macs are fooled. Marketers make naïve people buy expensive things with fictional advantages. The members of the Mac sect aren’t intelligent enough to understand that Mac is just a dummy in a sweet box.

In the last couple of years five or six of my anti-Apple friends who loved to make fun of Macs, switched. Quickly their homes became full with Apple gadgets. And now they help their relatives and friends switch too. It’s pain to see how people become dumb and unreasonable. It’s pain to see how they lose their ability to confront the Apple Church evangelism. It’s pain to see them outsmarted and robbed by selfish “entrepreneurs” from Cupertino.

Once we were discussing Macs and fanboys with Evgeny Stepanischev, and he said: “When I used Windows I thought you were a fan, but I no longer think so”. Not long ago John Gruber gave a definition of fanboy: “Someone who began using Apple products before you did”. These are striking examples of previously normal people losing control of their action and mind. How to make these people regain reason and common sense? How to escape the terrible crisis?

 8   2011   Gruber   life   Mac