Sunday, July 10, 2011

Critique of the GMail Preview Theme

I'm really not too enthusiastic about GMail's "new look." Sure, from a visual design standpoint it's more consistent with Google's brand, and largely less visually jarring, but it does this at the cost of reducing the usability of the interface.

The color choices of the new interface are lower contrast and convey only slightly more information. The buttons for mailbox management are less prominent in the new design, moving to a dark-grey-on-light-grey scheme away from a strong black on manila coloration. The new buttons, honestly, look vaguely like they are inactive. I will admit an improvement, however, in that they now have on-hover effects to make it clear they are an interactive element.

The new design of GMail also eliminates some useful indicators of grouping and active/inactive elements. The new design uses coloration of the text (which has no obvious meaning aside from "look at me.") instead of a a clear association of the background of the label with the content area's border.

Additionally, dividers were almost entirely eradicated. There is no clear division between the labels, the content pane, and between the various modes and the labels. As a side effect of some of this, the mailbox management buttons are orphaned, floating in a white void with little to visually suggest them as a unified group. Though a mailbox with messages in it is somewhat differentiated by a different backdrop color, it still feels like too much is left implied.

I hope Google revisits some of the design decisions. Maybe lowering the border contrast and softening the buttons of the original would fix it, and removing some of the unnecessary padding.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Socialism and "The Worker"

One of my main reasons I am hesitant at times to describe myself as socialist is the continued use of the antiquated term 'worker' to describe the group that is primarily put at risk by capital. While it may be technically accurate to describe anyone who does not in large part own and control the means of production as a 'worker,' it nonetheless has some unflattering connotations that wind up alienating a substantial portion of the United States population.

When the word 'worker' falls upon my ears, it conjures to mind coal miners, steel-mill workers, and manufacturing line operators. I don't think to describe myself as a 'worker,' or any of my friends and colleagues who tirelessly perform the labors of love that are research, engineering, or infrastructure management. We don't sweat, (generally,) we don't come home after every day looking for respite from the day's work, and oftentimes we don't resent our employers who often share our love and enthusiasm for our work. "White-collar" workers are workers too, and I think the use of the terms "labor" and "worker" doesn't encapsulate this.

While I am unsure of what term should be used to replace it, the socialist movement would be best served by replacing it with some other, more neutral term. The goals of socialism don't just serve to benefit the unfortunate or the blue-collar workers, they serve to benefit the populace as a whole. We all fear for our security in the case of illness, disability, and unemployment. We all worry about whether the products we use are safe and fairly-priced. More importantly, we all care in some measure for our fellow human being, while not seeking to be demonized for our own fortune. Instead of trying to divide the argument into 'us' and 'them,' I think that socialist organizations should try to move more towards discussions about 'the people' and 'citizens' instead of about 'the working people,' 'the working class,' 'workers,' and 'laborers.'

Monday, February 7, 2011

Manufacturing is Dead; Long Live Manufacturing

Misleading Truth is Misleading.

Yes, America still leads in manufacturing. Does it matter to most people? No. As this article points out, accurately, China mainly has taken the lead in "labor-intensive" goods. If people are mostly buying Chinese goods and can't find work making these low-end goods, they have legitimate reason to believe that we've fallen behind.

Our lead in highend products is all well and good for owners of capital, but the sentiments expressed in song and popular culture are still valid.