Default to the right thing.

One of the things that makes me nuts is when a product gets the default settings wrong and makes me do work to make it do the right thing.

This happens more often than you’d think. Example 1: the stereo in my new car. I love the GTI for a lot of things, including the ride and the compactness of it. But I am really growing to dislike the way they did the stereo. Why? The default behavior when I turn on the car. It should remember that when I turned it off I was listening to music through the phone (either Bluetooth or the dock connector) and go back to that channel. But it doesn’t. Instead, its logic seems to be:

  1. There’s nothing on the dock connector!
  2. There’s nothing on Bluetooth!
  3. So let’s go back to the other thing we were listening to–the satellite radio.

Except, the reason there’s nothing on Bluetooth is that it takes about 30–45 seconds to pair a phone with the car, and the designers surely knew that. So why wouldn’t they just have step 2 wait for a while? That way I wouldn’t have to fiddle with the settings every time I get in the car.

(Why don’t I just plug the phone into the dock connector before I start the car? That works for about 30–45 seconds; then when the Bluetooth connection is established, the phone gets confused and stops playing back through the dock connector!)

The problem with this scenario is that it’s not obvious when you look at any of these pieces that they’re wrong. When you consider the component level, any of a number of choices look like they could be the right one. It’s only when you stitch them all together, and think about how the user would use them, that the right behavior becomes apparent.

I’m pretty sure there’s a product management law that describes this principle, something like don’t make me do more work than I have to. But it’s astonishing to me how often people, and products, get it wrong.

Breaking silence

My posting on this blog has deteriorated even from my low standards of the past few years. The blog made it to 10; it might not make it to 15.

I still love writing, and I’m not closing a door here any time soon. But I should probably acknowledge what is increasingly obvious: my energy, passion, and time are being spent elsewhere.

There’s a few reasons for that. My work at Veracode has grown increasingly to consume my better energies and thoughts. That’s good; where there were parts of it that used to be unrewarding, things are now at a point where I can take my whole energy and apply it and see a difference being made. I’m heading a group now and relearning the challenges, and rewards, of managing people as well as products. 

The other big reason is my family. I have two kids now, and staying ahead of them means using my whole energy and intellect at home too. And that’s turning out to be rewarding in ways I couldn’t have dreamed seven years ago. 

But… I still miss writing. So maybe I’ll start to make a little room at the edges for drafting my thoughts into words, maybe trying to make sense of some of the things I’m working on. It’s good practice for speaking sensibly and well, and it’s good to exercise those muscles more often. We’ll see.