The right balance

Late last week, Jenn Webb posted an edited version of her interview with Rachel Hinman, author of The Mobile Frontier. Digital versions of the book are available through O'Reilly Media and Safari Books. Paperback and digital versions can be obtained through the publisher, Rosenfeld Media.

The conversation covered a range of topics, including:

  • How mobile "maps to this inherent human characteristic to be mobile"
  • How most interface design depends on "relatively static and predictable environments", something mobile does not allow
  • Hinson's assertion that we are moving from an era of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to "natural user interfaces" (NUIs) that will eventually become the way we interact with devices.

All of the interview is worth reading. I particularly enjoyed a discussion of how the use of mobile has given rise to a set of ethical and privacy concerns. Hinman refers to a conversation with Foursquare's Alex Rainert, who notes that most of us can remember a time when "we had computers in our homes that were not connected to a network". He goes on to note:

"But that’s something my daughter will never experience. I think a similar change will happen with some of the information sharing questions that we have today."

Underscoring the idea that "some problems are human problems", Hinman again refers to Rainert:

"I think there’s a real danger to over rely on the algorithm to solve human problems. I think it’s finding the right balance of how could you leverage the technology to help improve someone’s experience, but not expect that you’re going to be able to wholeheartedly hand everything over to a computer to solve.”

Recently, I wrote about "Digital assistants", a post that got some fair-minded pushback in the comments. Hinman and Rainert, both steeped in a mobile context, have less faith in the ability of technology to save us from ourselves. That's a useful lesson for me to keep in mind, as well.

A bit of disclosure: In the past, Jenn Webb has interviewed me for Radar Online, where her discussion with Rachel Hinman appeared. I think Webb does a great job framing these discussions, and if it didn't feel like digital piggybacking, I would find a way to link to every one of them.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.