Persistent Inappeasable Mind

thoughts about personal information management, human-computer interaction, interfaces, software ...

Sunday, August 17. 2014

Costly spelling mistakes in filenames

PIM & Research

I was searching for a file for about an hour before realising I made a spelling mistake in the file name. I searched the web for similar stories. Unfortunately there aren't many. And the ones I found were not about one's own mistakes.

  • A builder for bootsptrap (written by a person) saved a bootstrap javascript file with a wrong name. There were many posts about this bug that made a lot of people wonder why the file could not be found.

"At javascript.html I can build bootstrap.min.js via but return filename is boostrap.min.js. First time I didn't seen typo and saved it as is. Then I was unable to access bootstrap.min.js served by nginx and notified typo in filename."

  • I suppose this person had a similar problem than me (or maybe not) and posted a Superuser question about real-time spell checker for folder names. By the way, this is not possible in real-time at the moment but it is a really good idea to implement in current operating systems.

"Many programs are available to check for spelling mistakes or wrong grammar. Is it possible to use spell checking on folder names?"

I'd love to find more stories about it. I remember Keeping Found Things Found project that had a forum dedicated to PIM stories/mistakes - Tales of PIM. But it never got a spin and is under maintenance at the moment. Apparently people don't want to talk about their PIM problems or they just don't think about them. Once I read about how people feel guilty if not knowing something about technology and they rather pretend to know how to operate it than admit the lack of knowledge. I also read about how people feel ashamed at mistakes made even if interface is to blame. I just can't remember the sources. Maybe PIM is similar in this respect - people maybe feel that they are the only ones to blame for mistakes made.

Sunday, August 10. 2014

A vending machine with a remote interface - very confusing

Design Physical Interfaces

I wrote once about vending machines, their current interfaces and their (futuristic) designs. The worst interface is the ones in which items are distinguished by a random code. Well, this one is even worse.

The vending machine had no slot to put money in or a pad to select an item. I was puzzled for a bit. I looked on the left and right side, but nothing there.

Then I looked at the separate vending machine on the right and although it's a coffee dedicated machine it had two pads: (1) the top one for the machine on the left and (2) the bottom one for the machine on the right. The money for both has to be inserted on the top pad. Weird and confusing.

Sunday, August 3. 2014

Lifehacker: How Much Personal Data Do You Share with Your Partner?

PIM & Research

There has been an interesting discussion a month ago about sharing personal information in a relationship. The question posted was:

"Being in a relationship necessarily means that you're going to share some of your digital life with your partner. How much is too much? Do you prefer no boundaries at all, or do you keep your partner at arm's length? .... Do you prefer to keep your lives separate and share information on a case-by-cases basis? Or do you let your love interest into every nook and cranny of your digital life?"

Most of the replies tend to be on the share-all information spectrum. Although this approach needs a complete trust and respect for each other's privacy. For example while one might have a password of their partner's Facebook account it does not mean that they should read it without permission (except when the account is shared which some people do).

"Wife and I share everything, but maybe that's because we respect each other's privacy and space too. She'll keep her Facebook signed in, but that's because she knows I won't use it/browse it/whatever. And vice versa. When the need arises, we tell the password to the other person."

Some people go even beyond sharing passwords:

"My boyfriend and I share our GPS location via Find My Friends and I love it. It's less creepy than it sounds because we're not really going anywhere we don't want the other to know about and it's hella useful, especially since we both run on odd schedules. I don't have to ask if he's home yet, or how long it'll be. I just look and see he left work but is stuck in traffic."

Several others that shared GPS location claimed that it adds to the convenience. There's definitely a distinction between what a partner needs to know an what she/he could know. Sharing some data and information happens because of necessity to make their life easier in case of a demise while some information is shared simply for the convenience (e.g. letting a partner check my email while I don't have access to it or using a phone while I drive). And as the first comment above puts it it's the trust that lets one's privacy intact even if information is shared.

"Also, I distinguish between stuff a partner might want to see (email, Facebook) and stuff they would need if I, for example, died suddenly (bank account numbers, ATM PINs, etc.). For the latter, we have affirmatively made sure each has a copy of the other's. For the former, it's more upon request, or just a consequence of living together (i.e. my Facebook and gmail are usually signed in and open on my computer)."

Another issue is the privacy of other people involved. For example if I write to my colleague would I want his/her partner to read it as well? But this again involves trust that the partners would not read each other's information without a permission or request.

"The biggest "respect for privacy" thing we both try to stick to is not reading each other's personal correspondence with friends, and even that is mostly because those friends should have the right to know who knows whatever they are sharing with us individually, not because we really are particular about our own personal privacy."

In all of the above comments it's the trust that pops up as a central issue. But at the end, if we trust system administrators -- usually complete strangers -- not to browse  through our personal information (e.g. email we keep on an email provider's server) only because they are "professionals" why wouldn't we trust a long time partner. And here's another thing that pops up which is time. It is probably safe to say that people don't bring all the cards out when they start the relationship. Sharing happens gradually with a growing trust and respect.

One big question is how to act in the case of a breakup. Sharing is easy, un-sharing is not. We can change passwords of services we use. But whatever information ended up in our former partner's space of information is likely to remain there.

Tuesday, July 29. 2014

PIM disaster: a loss of over 8000 photos due to a Dropbox bug

PIM & Research

This is Jan's story of how he lost over 8000 photos and videos on Dropbox due to a bug in the client. This is an abstract from the story:

"I moved there [Dropbox] all of my photos in order to be able to view/share them on-line and also to have them backed up. In April of this year, a hard drive in my laptop was running low on space so I decided to use the Dropbox’s Selective Sync feature to unsync some large directories from the laptop. ... I opened the Selective Sync dialog, unchecked directories called 2003, 2004, …, 2014 from the Photos folder ... After that, the Dropbox client froze and didn't show any sign of life for a couple of minutes, so I decided to kill it and restart it again. ... I thought, and unsynced them one by one instead. Everything worked well, the directories disappeared from the local hard drive, but they were still available on Dropbox’s website. ... I was looking for an old presentation but couldn't find it. The directory was there but it was empty. ... I contacted Dropbox support which then broke the news to me: there was a delete event of 8343 files ... I realised most of the missing files were my photos! All the directories were still in place but many of them were empty, as if Dropbox randomly deleted some files and left some others intact. I was devastated. All those memories and the effort with collecting and organizing the photos…. gone."

The blog post has all the correspondence with Dropbox as well.

So there was a bug in the software. But also, this user kept all his photos in one place only. Since this is not what a backup means (backup is storing things in several places) it seams that the user gradually developed a trusting relationship with the online cloud storage and depended on the service's backup. Unfortunately ...

There are many other such stories online:

and the list could go on.

Depending on and trusting just one service is a spell for disaster. And Dropbox hasn't got the best PR in the last few years! E.g.  Dropbox Security Bug Made Passwords Optional For Four Hours, Trusting the cloud storage - (Drop)Box breaking the confidentiality, etc.

Don't get me wrong here. I use Dropbox daily and have plenty of files there which would mean a disaster to loose. The point here is that we should have other backup options in place. If one fails the other can be of a relief!

Sunday, July 27. 2014

Taps 27: multiple taps over a round sink

Physical Interfaces

A very interesting idea in the public bathroom to make the implementation simpler and save space.