User Experience, Crimea, McDonald's, Democrats, Meritocracy, Saudi Arabia


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Let Emotion Be Your Guide

Hana Schank & Jana Sedivy | A List Apart | 1st November 2016

Heart-breaking notes from focus-grouping a hospital website. “We wanted to hear about the difficulties of caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s disease. We wanted to know what it felt like to receive a cancer diagnosis after a long journey to many doctors across a spectrum of specialties. We knew that the client was behind the two-way mirror, concerned about the website navigation, but we also knew we were going to get to some place more important by following where these stories took us” (2,550 words)

The Kingdom Of The Dead

Sophie Pinkham | n+1 | 1st November 2016

A journey through Crimea. “I met a six-year-old who could make borscht; her twelve-year-old brother could dive for mussels. Neither could read — but what good was reading when you were hungry for dinner? The children reminded me of deer, slim and agile, with caramel limbs and sun-bleached hair. They almost never cried, probably because no one would have listened. If they did, they would do it in private, going off into some rocky corner, returning to the group when they were finished” (5,060 words)

How McDonald’s Began

Lisa Napoli | Smithsonian | 1st November 2016

Sunshine and Hollywood lured Mac and Dick McDonald from New Hampshire to California in the 1920s. They hauled scenery, saved hard, and bought a cinema. Then came the Depression. They opened a food stand, which became a drive-in, and they did pretty well. In 1948 they decided they could do better: “How, they wondered, could they streamline operations for maximum profit? How could they distinguish themselves from the other drive-ins? How could they speed up service?” (2,800 words)

How America Is Run

Thomas Frank | Guardian | 31st October 2016

Leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, are “a window into the soul of the Democratic party”; and the soul belongs to an investment banker. “Of course Hillary Clinton staffed her State Department with investment bankers and did speaking engagements for investment banks. Of course no elite bankers were ever prosecuted. Read these emails and you understand that the people at the top tier of American life are all engaged in promoting one another’s careers” (1,400 words)

Extreme Meritocracy Is Exhausting

Victor Tan Chen | Atlantic | 26th October 2016

The word “meritocracy” was coined by British sociologist Michael Young to describe a society which purported to measure talent accurately, and to promote the talented. Governments now talk of meritocracy as an ideal towards which all should aspire; Young saw it as a disaster in waiting. He feared meritocracy would legitimate the formation of a new aristocracy that captured all economic and political power, on the grounds that winners were winners, and losers just had to try harder (2,500 words)

Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom Coming Undone

Sagatom Saha | Defense One | 31st October 2016

Saudi Arabia’s adult population will more than double in the next fifteen years, driving welfare subsidies up to “unsustainable levels” and creating the need for at least six million new productive jobs. The government seems to recognise the problem, but this is scarcely the same thing as having a solution. Roadmaps for economic reform are “more simply described as a series of choices forced on the Saudi government by a lack of planning when the Kingdom was flush with cash” (850 words)

Video of the day: Monsoon III

What to expect:

Storms across Arizona, in high-resolution. Pictures by Mike Olbinski. Music by Kerry Muzzey (7’39”)

Thought for the day

Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life
George Sand

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