Month: July 2010

Ubuntu’s Semantic Indicator Color Palette

It wasn’t until Mark Shuttleworth’s announcement of “windicators” that I learned of the rationale behind the palette of notification colors in the indicator applet. To quote:

[Windicators] would follow the same styling as Ayatana indicators: Semantically colored: with red for critical problems, orange for alerts, green for positive status changes and blue for informative states that are not the default or usual state.

This came as a real surprise given that I had (and still have) never seen a blue or orange indicator icon.

The obvious and primary objection is that four colors in a palette to convey meaning is far too many. Shuttleworth even said as late as April 1 — just four weeks before Lucid’s release — “Personally, my expectation is that green vs orange/red is as far as we want to go.” Two colors is an absolute maximum here — one for negative messages about something being broken, the other merely to notify you of something — although even one should suffice: “Something has changed; requesting your attention.”

If “orange is for alerts” and “green is for positive status changes,” then why do new IM messages turn the messaging icon green? Isn’t that an alert? What is “positive” about getting a new message? What if it’s your boss firing you? Your boyfriend breaking up with you? A spambot?

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Gowalla’s Misleading “Follow Friends” Page

Recently I got a Nexus One, which had me curious to discover the value (if any) of location-sharing applications like Foursquare and Gowalla. I had dormant accounts for both, and decided to see who among my contacts were actually using these things. I imagined not many.

Foursquare’s friend finder was straightforward and I was able to add three or four people. Gowalla’s, on the other hand, misled me into sending an invite to all 947 people in my Google contacts. This includes people I bought stuff from on Craigslist; old bosses; old girlfriends; co-workers; probably even prospective employers.

The trick was in mimicking a fairly standard “Step 2” format for these types of functions. It appears that I’m being presented two choices here: the first, to begin following only those contacts who are already on Gowalla; the second, to send invite emails to all checked names in the list.

Instead, both buttons do exactly the same thing. So when I clicked the button at the top, an email was sent to every person on that list. There was no pop-up window telling me, “You are about to send an email to 947 people. Continue?”

Fortunately I hadn’t used my full name on my profile; the email people received came from no-reply@gowalla.com or something similar; and I deleted my profile as soon as I realized what had happened. So hopefully I wasn’t as incriminated as I may have otherwise been. I know I roll my eyes whenever a friend has fallen for an obvious trap like that. And I like to think I’m pretty good at spotting these tricks. But this layout is outright deceptive.

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