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Everything is Not Awesome (Yet)!

Frank feedback, not sugar and spice

“Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome
When you're living out a dream...”

When you're part of a team, members take on complementary roles and hopefully the sum of their efforts will benefit the whole network.

Bitcoin SV is in the innovator phase of the adoption curve. People, including software developers with varying skillsets, are figuring things out as they go with some coordination and coopetition. In November of 2020, a Bitcoin SV Technical Standards Committee was “established to professionalise the development of Bitcoin technology in order to support major enterprise use and accelerate global adoption”.

Lately I've noticed a lot of premature “we are so smart” kind of talk in Bitcoin SV social media circles. That may be so, but most consumer apps on BSV for retail customers currently do not meet my basic expectations for usability. I've followed the internet since dial-up days and have not generally been an early adopter. I put off getting a smart phone for as long as possible and even once opted for an enameled cast iron cooking pot as being better value for money than new-fangled technology.

Within this context, this morning while sipping coffee, I came across a tweet that had garnered a high volume of engagement on the topic of “nice” vs. “kind”:

When I describe East Coast vs West Coast culture to my friends I often say "The East Coast is kind but not nice, the West Coast is nice but not kind," and East Coasters immediately get it. West Coasters get mad.

Being a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest who has toured the East Coast of the continent, I got it.

East Coast people tend to be more blunt but practically more helpful and kind (rather than verbally sympathetic West Coasters).

[Side story: There are exceptions. This one time when my family was visiting Seattle and accidentally got lost in a transit interchange, a friendly bus driver stopped his bus in front of our vehicle. He saw our British Columbia license plate, and got out of his bus. He admonished us for driving in a bus-only lane, warned us of the huge fine, then helpfully gave us comprehensive directions to the store we were trying to find (Uwajimaya, a Japanese grocery store).]

Since I care about Bitcoin app developers and their baby apps, I will share some of my thoughts. The strategy: being honest is more kind than being “nice”. I'm assuming faith in the autist tendency towards objectivity which hopefully translates into the ability to accept frank feedback without hurt feelings. I'm assuming that being an uncritical cheerleader is more harmful than being “nice”.

As a baseline, I'll describe a favourite mobile app which I use on a semi-regular basis. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom makes it easy to resize, crop, brighten, sparkle up photos, etc. You can navigate the functions by simply looking at the icons. The icons have one-or two-word labels so very little reading is necessary. Each time I've used this app, every single function has worked smoothly. And it's free! I haven't felt the need to upgrade/pay to use premium features. (Well, I don't know how my data is used but the tradeoff seems to be worth it, for now.)

Now, for some Bitcoin SV apps...

I hope this feedback is taken with the knowledge that I want y'all to succeed. Kind > nice. I hope that hearing feedback sooner rather than later is more helpful. My intent is not to shame anyone who's in the middle of building an app intended to be useful at scale. The following descriptions were not chosen for any particular reason beyond proximity to recent experiences.

Mystery App #1:

Today, I decided to revisit a wallet app which I don't regularly use. Because for some reason our home network has been blocking something (yes, that is a technical description). Historically I've had to turn off wifi and use data to open this wallet at home.

When I opened the wallet today (using wifi) I discovered it does work ... after waiting 17 seconds! The main screen with “Recommended Apps” only appeared after “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand ... 11 one thousand ... 14 one thousand ... 17 one thousand”. That's a long wait!

Then, the wallet prompted me with an option to “set password”. I typed a password in the two boxes (one box to choose password, one box to confirm) then pressed the “set password” button. The screen kind of froze for several seconds, with a white translucent overlay over the whole thing (no indication of processing), then an error message popped up: “Try again later”. I went back to the previous screen and chose the “skip” option which led to the same message: “Try again later”. Then from the “Recommended Apps” screen I opened Dimely and finally managed to successfully set a password for authenticating via that app (I think that's what was going on), a process which required me to dig out seed words.

I take it back. In trying to open this wallet again while writing this blurb, I'm unable to replicate the experience. After turning off wifi (again), I'm able to open the app, which now took only 8 seconds to get to the “Recommended Apps” page. It seems that the password I set is not for opening the wallet itself and I'm still thoroughly confused.

On a positive note, the transaction history gives slightly more information than before. :)

Mystery App #2:

While I was poking around Mystery App #1, I decided to check out a “Recommended App” which rhymes with Paymail. The first (sign-in?) attempt was met with the cryptic message “Phayle”, which is a cute but complicated way to tell you there's been an error. If you're not a native English speaker it would be doubly confusing.

The second attempt showed the current interface with various phrases that leave a lot to the imagination if you're not already deep into BSV (“calculating sacred numbers...” or “Twetching...”). Basically, these phrases would be perplexing to a curious passerby. “Teaching capitalism” would be an instant turn-off for some people.

[p.s. DID YOU KNOW there's been a global Pre-suasion campaign (read the book by Robert Cialdini) against the idea of “capitalism” during the last several years? Have we noticed the pervasive anti-capitalism sentiment in almost every recent mainstream magazine article and even random public radio interviews? Crony capitalism is a problem for sure, but the average person doesn't study these ideas.]

I realize that the creator and beta testers of this app are at the higher end of the literacy spectrum of English speakers. To reach the rest of the world, it really has to be dumbed down to say things simply.

Have you seen that Jimmy Kimmel video in which ordinary Americans are unable to identify the silhouette of their own country on a world map? Or name any country on the entire map?

Having been a schoolteacher, I can tell you that words longer than four or five letters are challenging for some people to read and pronounce. Multisyllable words and long phrases do not make an app user-friendly.

This segues into...

Mystery App #3:

This is a place for people who love words. I love words and also enjoy reading. The only book I regret ever decluttering is Skeat's Etymological Dictionary. (To this day I don't know why it got turfed in a fit of cleaning. Confession: I just re-ordered a used copy online, after drafting this blog post.) Books are my only retail therapy weakness. However, the explanation of this app/website has TOO MANY WORDS, even for me!

Although I'm motivated to learn about this site, I found myself scanning paragraphs and paragraphs and never reaching the end of the explanation.

My other initial reaction is that it's a proof of concept that needs a lot of design and aesthetic help. The landing page is quite overwhelming and scary (it moves!). The site is not mobile-friendly. I can't read any of the prompts, menus, and labels because they're too small on my phone screen. It's a bit better on desktop.

I love the potential, concept-wise!

I haven't had a chance to explore the functionality of this app yet but am planning to set aside time to do so in the near future.

If I were to compile a Pinterest-type “mood board” for design inspiration, I'd try to envision what would appeal to a variety of people who might be interested in this concept.

Off the top of my head, word nerds (like me) might appreciate aesthetics that are reminiscent of:

-vintage typewriters

-old school cursive writing

-ink or HB pencil textures

-coffee and tea

-books

-notebooks

-vintage dictionaries

-a clean blank field/page for fresh definitions or sketches

These are a few of my thoughts on why Everything is Not Awesome (Yet).

I wonder whether BSV developers give each other mutual feedback from an app user perspective, or whether they receive more helpful feedback from so-called non-technical family members and friends.

I wonder whether more front end developers and UI/UX designers can help bring these awesome ideas to reality with a more polished user experience, eventually.

I wonder whether this blog post crossed a line for public critique. Please let me know in the comments.

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bonsai_guy tipped:
pete tipped:
joe tipped:
glauce tipped:
Appreciate your thoughts!
The tipping point is waiting in the dark, ready to emerge any day now...
satoshidoodles replied:
I'm patient, haha. Still a bit underwhelmed but we've got popcorn ready.
BSV developers don’t give each other feedback, they mostly tear each other down or seethe in jealousy. The community is such that supporting each other and open source is seen as “communism” so apps and projects are supposed to succeed or fail in terms of revenue generation right out of the gate. Of course developing communities need help to develop, that mindset is mostly absent from BSV app development, which is why the talented developers have mostly moved on. They are usually not interested in cash, they are interested in technology and exploration. The future does not bode well, i wouldn’t expect these apps to get better anytime soon, there is no incentive for talented developers to make them better.
pete tipped:
satoshidoodles replied:
Not being part of the development community, I'm unaware what goes on in those discussion forums. But seeing what happens on Twitter, it's a bit painful. Pots calling kettles black. ;-( These opportunities for improvement are low hanging fruit for the taking, for those who can design appropriate incentives built on a stable foundation and also execute the front end (UI/UX). Thoughtful experimentation is the name of the game?
sandysmoothie replied:
I'm not involved in all the developer discussions either, but the Twitter discussions are pretty indicative of what is going on. I agree this UX stuff is low hanging fruit, but right now it seems to be taking a back seat to backend functionality, no matter how rickety.
satoshidoodles replied:
@sandysmoothie The back end functionality is definitely more important. I can deal with lack of sparkle if the app works 100% of the time (or almost 100%).
This is important, on point and very timely. Thank you!
satoshidoodles replied:
thank you for reading, glauce
glauce replied:
Thank you again for writing it, we need this badly!
❤️
satoshidoodles replied:
*shrug* emoji and <3
thoth replied:
Just let em have it SD :) love the wit.
Does form follow function or function follow form? A chicken and egg kind of problem. The early internet had it's issues as well. As a kid I had to teach myself how to setup a modem because even my parents barely had any idea how it all worked. Now it's significantly easier to do thanks to improvements in infrastructure/UI/UX ect. Better tools will be built to allow a lot of BSV stuff to occur on the backend. Eventually with time people won't even realize they are using BSV. I have zero interest in learning how to code; so from my perspective all I can do is patiently wait.
glauce replied:
Very nice to read what you said! I also agree better tools are on the way and I can't wait for them to arrive... I guess this is pioneers' time!
satoshidoodles replied:
Yes, people are still building the tools for other people to more easily build with. I was feeling impatient yesterday, hence the oversharing blog post. Thanks for the reminder.
Really good feedback :)
satoshidoodles replied:
ty, joe