“Formulaic responses breed zero confusion. Instagram is not a place for tone or irony. […] Awkward is a ubiquitous teen word to denote socially unsanctioned behavior. It usually implies first- or secondhand embarrassment when you or a friend step outside the rules. […] Showing too much interest in anyone is mortifying. It lacks chill. […] When you have tools with which to stalk everyone all the time, the most seemingly aloof person wins. […] Teens aren’t money machines, oracles, or bellwethers of an uncertain future. They’re mercurial because they’re evolving, figuring things out for themselves.” — Mary HK Choi
This website was archived on July 21, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.
Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.
I don’t usually post links that I tweeted verbatim, and I also usually try to link to longer pieces rather than shorter ones, but I love this passage (from a Johanna Drott essayette) so much:
“Rational thinking takes the situation as it is and uses it as a basis for further action, and the situation is that human beings think in terms of contexts and relations rather than singular statements presented in isolation.”
— Sonya Mann (@sonyaellenmann) September 9, 2016
“We are the children of conflict. Keep this in mind when you read the news. Things may seem dramatically bad sometimes. News of violence interrupts our lives daily. Terror and discord. Politicians who gamble entire nations, for the sake of their own careers. Mass killers who wreak havoc on innocents, dying with a gun in their hand. And yet this is our human story. Conflict makes us stronger, as a species. Our response to the psychopaths who drive such events may appear panicked. Yet it tends, inevitably, towards building a stronger, more peaceful society.” — Pieter Hintjens
Hi, my name is Sonya Mann. I’m a tech enthusiast, freelance word person, and user of many websites, apps, and software products. This talk is aimed at people who make websites, apps, and software products. It’s about how you can nudge your users toward better security habits.
Forewarning: I’m going to use passwords as an example quite a bit, because they’re the most common security credential that regular users handle and control, but this way of thinking about things is not limited to passwords. Now let’s dive right in!
You may already know this, but typical users have bad security habits. It’s not because they’re stupid or lazy, but because they have different priorities. Most people aren’t judged at work or in their personal life by their password hygiene. And if they haven’t personally experienced an account takeover or identity theft, they’re not on high alert.
If you’re a quote-unquote “normal person” — sometimes we call them “non-technical people” or “people who aren’t paranoid hackers” — if you’re that kind of person, strong security habits don’t necessarily feel like they’re worth the hassle. Just in case you don’t believe me, I want to show you some stats.
SplashData is a password manager company that conducts an annual analysis of commonly used passwords. For the past five years straight the most popular passwords have been the number string “123456” and the word “password”. I find it disturbing that any application allows users to choose either of those values as their password!
In the same vein, last year RoboForm, another password manager company, commissioned a survey of 1,000 people in the US and UK about their password practices. Only 8% of respondents said they used a password manager. Compare that to the 23% who said they always use the same password.
Furthermore, I contacted the makers of the two most popular password managers, 1Password and LastPass. The 1Password team said they have unspecified millions of users, and LastPass’ spokesperson told me that they have eight million users. So let’s guesstimate, generously, that twenty million people use password managers. That would only be 6% of America’s 2014 population — and the world is a lot bigger than America. So there is plenty of room for improvement here. Especially since passwords are only the most obvious credential!
One of the most visible types of problems that people’s poor security habits cause is the account takeover. If you’ve ever worked support, you’ve probably had to deal with these. Mistakes that lead to these issues are not limited to the “normal people” I mentioned in the beginning.
The design process consists of making conscious decisions about how to set up a creation. Design’s defining ethos is thinking deeply about a system before planning to implement it. Even a simple object can be considered a system, or perhaps an interface, because it will be touched and used. Therefore even the most basic product should be designed in the way I’m describing. Something complex like a computer operating system requires extensive mental energy.
One of my least favorite aspects of the world — of reality — is that you can’t simply intuit things. The human brain is frequently irrational and instincts are often wrong, so we need evidence and research to guide us. Humans were able to invent algebra but we certainly don’t follow the rules of logic in our day-to-day mental processing — hence Wikipedia’s long list of cognitive biases.
Design is how we combat our mental quirks when building a product. Instead of throwing things together willy-nilly, we try different combinations, test the results, and eventually settle on a functional configuration. Hopefully the best option is also beautiful! This method produces better results than following random impulses and calling it good.
Theoretically, anyway — sometimes I’m baffled by the choices of very high-status manufacturers.
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