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Recent thoughts on applications

I’ve been thinking on what kind of GUI apps I enjoy using. Several years ago I put great value on the aesthethics of an application. At that time I would choose the aspect of how the application looks and feels as perhaps the most important one. Heck, I even took part in developing a very attractive todo app, which many others considered if not as the one with the best set of features, but at least with the best look and feel (yes, partially padding myself on a shoulder here).

Funnily enough, I have a come-and-go relationship with any todo systems (with an exception of bug trackers) as I use them exclusively for short and busy times of my life (moving apartments, finishing a project etc.), so I never stuck with a todo app for a long period of time.

After my mind became familiar with the novelty of good-looking software, I eventually got bored with the aesthethics and started to pay more attention to the habitual and utilitarian aspect of it. Never have I been in a state where any of these aspects were maximas (i.e. I wouldn’t think that useless but pretty app is of a great value), and it’s just that priorities have changed.

A piece of software I’ve been enjoying a lot is Kleinanzeigen (a copycat of craigslist for Germany). The looks and feels of it are not worth mentioning — they are there, and they allow a user to extract value. The utility of this service is enormous. For example, it simplifies moving inside a city, inside a country or even internationally, by allowing users to hopefully quickly dispose or acquire furniture and other posessions. Here you go — this website “empowers geo-arbitrage” (perhaps something for a not-so-good billboard ad). Or another idea: the website allows one to “rent out” certain things if they are undecided about owning them yet, or maybe if they need them for a brief period of time (like a camera for vacation). Then there are the environmental and monetary aspects to it, the delayed gratification one (when opposed to 1-click buys), a bit of excitement of risk and so on. Yes, I overthought it much more than I should.

How did I end up comparing GUI apps to something that’s a marketplace? I don’t know. They are pieces of software with which users interact, they have some graphical interface, they are intended to solve users’ problems. I think most of the software is somehow connected in my mind. But these are apples and oranges. The reason why I think about software in such a way is because I’m thinking what to work on and how to make my results more useful. No one should directly compare building warehouse furniture to designing kitchenettes, however someone has to decide to work on either of these (at least at the same time).

Recently I’ve started to pay more attention to the ethical aspects of software. Obviously, that’s not without a reason. I’m influenced by the media and their stories how this or that company tracks its users, pushes limits on privacy (or pivots ehm, redefines the term), develops techniques for their apps to become addictive and so on. In the light of such news features like decentralization, encryption, openness become practically important.

How do I incentivize myself and others to create ethical software? How do we keep it up with the competition? A friend of mine used to repeat a mantra: best product wins. So how do we define “best” here?

I don’t think we should necessarily oppose ethics and convenience. I hope there’s a sweet spot.