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Month: April, 2015

Rearrange your no-doubt-extensive home art gallery according to these curation principles.


Art galleries are generally arranged by either genre (for example, “portraits” or “landscapes”) or a period in history (e.g. “Renaissance Italy, 1350–1500”).

The issue:

This traditional organizational scheme results in dozens of similar works in close proximity, which leads to the following problem: after a person has seen ten masterpiece portraits of Venetian nobles, an eleventh one is not going to make an impression.

All the pieces all start to look the same!


As an alternative to period- or genre-based organization, artwork may be grouped together by either:

  1. Color (Example: a gallery of only red paintings, from various artistic periods.)
  2. Very specific subject matter (Example: a gallery of only paintings of horses, from across thousands of years.)


Fig 1: In this example, the paintings are all mostly red, but the left painting is a work of abstract art, the middle one is a French Impressionist painting, and the right one is a piece of propaganda art. As you can no doubt clearly tell from these masterful illustrations.


Fig 2: An example of what this might look like with art from different eras that just happen to have a reddish hue. These would all go in a gallery together, despite the unrelated subjects and time periods.


Fig 3: An example of similar subject matter over thousands of years.


By varying the art style, viewers of these fine pieces of art will take longer to become acclimated to a specific technique and era, so they will continue to appreciate each new piece on its own rather than becoming instantly bored with it (having already seen 15 similar paintings).


Fig 4: As seen here, sometimes this organizational scheme would not actually change anything. For example, these landscape paintings all have approximately the same subject matter and coloration, so they wouldn’t be separated out by a color / subject classification scheme, and will be grouped together no matter what.

PROS: None! You should rearrange your art museum like this—right now!

CONS: It’s so good that it will probably put curators out of business, since they’ll have nothing left to do once the paintings are arranged in this fashion.

Phone Call Priority: 9 incredible mistakes you’re making on the phone without even realizing it. Number 4 will bring an icy chill to your heart as you contemplate its true horror.


Phone woes: when you use text or call someone, there’s no way to differentiate between the following scenarios:

  1. Low priority (not time-sensitive): “Let’s chat, if you have time.”
  2. Medium priority (time-sensitive): “I just showed up at the crowded convention center, but I can’t find you.”
  3. High priority (important and time-sensitive): “Your car is about to be towed, you have 2 minutes to move it!”

The issue:

Unfortunately, all three of the scenarios above result in the same effect on the recipient’s phone: it rings / vibrates in the same manner no matter what.

So an individual at a meeting will get the same low-priority phone alert from “Are you free for lunch?” as “A derailed train car is leaking flammables over by building #3! Run for your life!”

“Call priority” proposal:

We can fix this by allowing the caller to indicate how important their message is.

This could easily be accomplished by:

  1. Making the default “call” or “text” button generate a low-priority message.
  2. Allowing a long-press on the call button to bring up a new set of options for time-sensitive or extremely-urgent messages.


Fig 1: Example of a phone call (or text) button that would also allow a user to (optionally) generate a more emphatic ring on the other end if the call is especially critical. The bubble below the “CALL” text would appear on a long-press of the call button.

There could also be an “extremely low priority” option for text messages that would cause the phone on the other end to not ring / vibrate at all—while this initially seems useless, it is actually similar to sending an email, and would allow people to send frivolous text messages (“so I just saw the director’s cut of snakes on a plane”) without worrying about annoying the recipient.

The full set of options for calls / texts would be:

  1. Normal priority (regular ring / vibration)
  2. Time-sensitive (more emphatic / longer ring and vibration)
  3. Urgent (extremely insistent ring / vibration)
  4. Unimportant (doesn’t ring or vibrate at all, so it has a very low level of “demand”—like an email)


Fig 2: A phone responding to three different calls. From top to bottom: 1) normal, 2) time-sensitive, 3) urgent.


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The art of conversation:

Since a call is interpreted by many individuals as “hey, stop what you are doing, I need to talk to you right now,” there could be a “call” option that would simply send the recipient a short text message with an “accept / decline” call button.

This way, instead of feeling like calling someone is an imposition on the other individual’s time, it could be seamlessly integrated into the texting system as a polite request. Everyone wins!


Fig 3: A phone call could be automatically converted into a polite text message, as seen above.

Regarding individuals sending all messages at maximum priority:

Although it would be possible for a person to always send their messages as “urgent,” a phone would have a button to “downgrade” all messages from an individual to regular priority.

Additionally, telemarketers could be forbidden by law from using any of the higher-priority messaging modes.

PROS: Makes phones more convenient and encourages people to feel more comfortable making voice calls.

CONS: Might make it even harder for telemarketers to reach you.

Are your co-workers laughing at you behind your back? Abide by this single flawless maxim and concern yourself no more! This assumes that the root problem was your choice of name for a new product.


Many product names are ambiguous when used as a keyword in a web search.

For example, in the most egregious hypothetical case, if you had a program named “The” it would be almost impossible to do an English-language search for it. Imagine searching for “The problem,” or “The crashing when I load too many databases.”

The issue:

It is excusable for products to have ambiguous names if they were created before web searches became important.

  1. For example, “Go” (the programming language developed in 2007) is poorly named, so we should heap our scorn upon it.
  2. Whereas “Go” (the ancient board game) should get a pass, as it is unreasonable to expect scholars from an ancient Chinese dynasty to predict the Internet. (Also, it 1) pre-dated the English language and 2) was not actually called “go” either).

But post-2000, it is clear to everyone that products need to be findable online. There is no excuse for naming a product or piece of software something generic and ambiguous.

Fig 1: If a user wants to know how to batch-rename photos in the Apple "Photos" application, they will have to generate a very creative search query. None of the top results for the obvious query "batch rename Apple photos" were relevant.

Fig 1: If a user wants to know how to batch-rename photos in the Apple “Photos” application, they will have to generate a very creative search query. None of the top results for the obvious query “batch rename Apple photos” were relevant.

Here are three categories of software names. One is the “potentially quite difficult to find results for” category, one is “unique names, very easy to find results for,” and one is “ambiguous word, but usually still easy to find results for.”

See if you can determine which is which:

Category #1:

  • Mail
  • C
  • Maps
  • .NET
  • Numbers
  • R
  • Serial
  • Go

Category #2:

  • PowerPoint
  • Perl
  • iBooks
  • Firefox
  • LibreOffice
  • CrashPlan
  • Crimson Editor

Category #3:

  • Java
  • Python
  • Kindle
  • Pandora
  • Safari
  • Keynote
  • Komodo
Fig 2: Would you like to download a podcast as an MP3? Normally you can just type in the podcast name plus "mp3," but you can't do that if the podcast is named "Serial." Tear your hair and wail at the injustice of it!

Fig 2: Would you like to download a podcast as an MP3? Normally you can just type in the podcast name plus “mp3,” but you can’t do that if the podcast is named “Serial.” Tear your hair and wail at the injustice of it!

Fig 3: Want to know what algorithm is used by the Apple Chess program? Too bad! But maybe you'd like these unrelated links.

Fig 3: Want to know what algorithm is used by the Apple Chess program? Too bad! But maybe you’d like these unrelated links!

The solution:

Simply put, a 100% tax would be levied on the revenues generated by any product with a non-unique official name.

This would encourage companies to quickly think of new words for their products, or at least officially re-brand their generically-named products with their company name.


  • Apple Mail –> “iMail”
  • Microsoft Word –> “MSWord”
  • Serial Podcast –> “Investigate-o-pod”
  • Apple Maps –> “AppleMaps”
  • Google Maps –> “GoogMap”
  • Go programming language –> “GoLang”
  • C programming language –> “PlainC”
  • Ford Fiesta –> “Ford FiestaMeansFestival”

If you hate these names—and you probably should—too bad!

This is the inevitable consequence of progress.

Positive role model for unique names:

Bands are famous for having extremely bizarre and generally totally unique names. Consumer products and software could take inspiration from the creativity used in selecting a band name.

Economic impact:

Probably it would be minor, as companies would quickly re-brand.

If this law were retroactive, Apple would be one of the hardest-hit companies:

  • Apple’s software for managing photos: Photos
  • Apple’s client for desktop mail: Mail
  • Apple’s calendar: Calendar (formerly “iCal”)
  • Apple’s program for organizing your contacts: Contacts (formerly “Address Book”)
  • Apple’s maps: Maps
  • Apple’s program for taking notes: Notes
  • Apple’s application for playing chess: Chess
  • Apple’s spreadsheet: Numbers
  • Apple’s word processor: Pages

(Despite those software products being supplied free, they would be assigned a percentage of Apple’s hardware sales, based on the logic that these programs contributed to the “software ecosystem” that motivated the hardware sales in the first place.)

One weird energy tip trick that is hated by the subterranean reptiloids who control our fates!!

One weird energy source that is hated by the subterranean reptiloids who control our fates! Vampires hate it! Save $$$ on your energy bills using this trick somehow?

Sponsored Link

PROS: You would no longer have to try a dozen terms when searching online for something with a generic name.

CONS: None! This should be done immediately, if not sooner.

Supplemental post: A car manufacturer is actually applying an “achievement unlocked” system to encourage car maintenance. You might or might not believe what happens next, depending on a combination of your personality traits!

As previously discussed on this very site, “gamification” is a hot topic in the world of behavioral influence.

The car manufacturer Qoros (观致汽车) (Wikipedia link) is attempting to use this technique in the automotive world.

The picture below (from the electronic dashboard of a 2015 Qoros sedan) displays the “Beat the Line” achievement.

Achievement unlocked—you took your car in for scheduled maintenance!!

Achievement unlocked—you made an appointment to buy a car! Or possibly took your car in for scheduled maintenance! Or at least did something at a dealership!

Unfortunately, a full list of available achievements / badges does not appear to be available. In fact, I can find no mention of this incentive system anywhere on the Internet!

Hopefully this concept catches on and results in many additional creatively-named car maintenance and/or purchase achievements.

One weird unfunded mandate that exposes the disregard for handicapped accessibility in 8-bit video games… tip number 3 will shock you!


Old 8-bit video games typically do not adhere to modern standards of occupational safety or handicapped-accessibility.

The issue:

The issue we will deal with here is making an old game, in this case, Zelda II for the Nintendo Entertainment System, properly compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Obviously this will be simplified, since we don’t have to worry about structural stability, proper materials, or material cross-section (or anything three-dimensional) in a game of this style.

ADA question

Fig 1: This is a screenshot from the late ’80s Nintendo game Zelda II. This is an entrance to specific palace in the game. There are two extremely large “steps” (approximately 3 feet high each) and a human-sized statue on top of a pedestal.

Note that the enormous steps leading up to the palace are not even remotely handicapped-accessible.

(Plus, such large steps are probably also forbidden by municipal building codes.)


As a publicly accessible building, the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act could potentially apply to this palace.

We will add a ramp (although alternative solutions exist, such as elevators).

For ADA compliance:

  • Ramps must have no greater than a 4.8° incline (1 foot of rise per 12 feet of distance)
  • An individual segment of ramp cannot be any longer than 30 feet. Longer segments must be broken up by landings.
  • Landings must be at least 5 feet wide.

In this case, for 6 feet of elevation gain, we will need two 30 foot ramps and one ~12 foot ramp. This will require two landings.

ADA ramp

Fig 2: With three ramps (and two landings) installed, the palace entrance is now handicapped accessible.

There is still one serious problem—although though the ramp has an acceptable incline and distance, we have created a new death trap for the palace due to the lack of handrails.

The handrail requirements that would apply to the 8-bit Zelda II world include:

  • Handrails must be 34–38 inches above ramp surfaces.
  • Handrails must end in a 12 inch “loop” beyond the ramp (see diagram).

ADA handrails

Fig 3: With proper ramps and handrails, this palace is now one step closer to being ADA accessible. The sprites themselves are all © Nintendo.


It is important to realize that locations in video games may also be visited by characters who cannot jump 8 feet in the air from a standing start.

PROS: Significantly increases quality of life for individuals with mobility problems.

CONS: A classic “unfunded mandate”—imposes significant architectural demands without providing the money to actually perform the construction.