"There is no greater urge than to correct another person's writing."
–Mark Twain, probably, I don't know
At least, I'm pretty sure I heard a quote like that once. I'm having a hard time confirming that on my phone, as I lose patience trying to awkwardly swipe-type the words into Google, repeatedly getting page after page advising me (now with scientific backing!) that correcting other people's errors is a real jerk move. This weighs heavily on my mind as I explore Cake, a beautifully minimalist website that nevertheless brings out the corrector in me. To be fair, there is a lot of corrector in me. User research, consulting, software testing, editing, game reviewing, teaching—my résumé is dominated by jobs focused on politely telling people what they're doing wrong, and how to do it better. Still, sometimes it's helpful to receive a reminder, as I did today, that I'm at least as skilled at accidentally breaking things as I am at suggesting how to fix them.
You see, I was so excited to explore Cake that I did something I never do: I hit the "save to home screen" icon in Safari so I would see an icon on my iPhone right alongside all my other social media apps. I figured that whenever I would go to reflexively check Twitter or Google+, I'd be reminded that there are other options to consider. And it worked! In bits and pieces here and there, I've been enjoying reading Cake conversations on my iPhone, except for one thing: going backwards.
Over and over, I would reach the end of a conversation, and hit a dead end. I saw a button to jump back and forth between replies, a button to write my own post, and not much else. Man, I thought, they're really hoping I'll start a conversation, I guess. Eventually I figured out that I could get back to the home screen pretty quickly by tapping the clock all the way at the top of the screen, and then hitting the logo in the upper left. That seemed like a lot to expect people to guess on their own! I figured I'd come here and start a whole conversation to go over what I thought would work better. Oh, how helpful I would be. Good thing I was too busy to do that for a while, as it took hours percolating in my brain before I realized the real problem.
This isn't an iOS app. It's a website.
Putting an icon on my home screen makes it sort of act like an app, though.
And acting like an app hides the browser's back button—which I should remember, since this came up in a study I conducted for work just a few months ago.
I need a bigger facepalm emoji.
When I come to a new website and see things to suggest fixing, I feel like I'm being helpful, even providing free labor. But I feel like it's important to temper the urge to "help" by reminding myself that—especially in software development—people are often keenly aware of what they could be doing differently, but have made the decisions they made for a reason. Sometimes it's by design. Sometimes it's just a matter of having to prioritize tasks without overworking a small team. And sometimes I'm the one with a nutty edge case that would be marked "will not fix" if I ever reported it as a bug back when I was working as a software tester.
So here's my friendly reminder to myself: Be constructive, sure, but not demanding. Be helpful, but resist the urge to quickly leap to correct people. And keep in mind that 'feedback' can also make folks think of that sound you hear when you hold a microphone up to its own speaker. Intended "constructively" or not, it can be pretty hard to listen to, and the listener isn't necessarily always to blame.
Gotta admit that I'm really looking forward to a Cake iOS app now, though.