Listening and doing nothing

by

Donald Trump - Twitter

Right now, we are living in an ever increasingly strange era.

A bright orange barely human is in charge of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and seemingly quite anxious to have a go at using it.

His counterpart in the East – with equally baffling hair – is egging him on and approximately 7 billion people are at the mercy of their moods. This will go down as the dumbest period of human life on earth, or at very least, as the dumbest period of untethered “leadership” in the developed world. 

On a somewhat lighter (but connected) note, both Twitter and Instagram have made some small but significant changes to their platforms recently, in an attempt to improve users’ experiences making them easier and faster to use. 

As users of social media for the past ten or so years, we should be ok with ongoing updates where features that we know and love are “updated” (i.e. removed or positioned elsewhere on the platform, in an non-linear manner – yes, I’m looking at you Facebook for all the things that you’ve done to the time-line. #smt). 

As recently as June 2017, Grace Kim, Twitter’s head of research and design said “…with lots of feedback and ideas from you, we’re refreshing our product… We listened closely and kept what you love. And for the things you didn’t, we took a new approach to fix and make better,”. 

But its quite apparent that these companies are not listening to their users. 

In this turbulent time, where people carrying swastika flags, can declare themselves NOT nazis, (note – we are deliberately not giving these words the respect of Uppercase first letter) and use Twitter to publish messages of hate and violence, where threats of sexual violence can be made against people for “offences” such as not shaving their legs, or wanting to be referred to as she/her or he/his, where people can be called offensive terms by the president (he doesn’t a capital “P” either!) of the USA for taking a knee protest, neither changing profile pictures to circles nor increasing the character limit to #280 was not on anyone’s agenda. 

Mike Monteiro has been an outspoken member of the Twitter community asking for DT’s removal for repeatedly touting the terms of service of Twitter, writing on Medium he says “DT has been violating Twitter’s “rules” for years. Calling out individuals, entire ethnic groups, dog whistling his violent white supremacist base, taking on a Gold Star family, a US judge of Mexican heritage, retweeting a gif of Hillary Clinton being attacked, going after journalists. This is hardly acceptable behaviour for a regular human being, much less a US President. Twitter has, rightfully albeit slowly, banned other users for similar behaviour. 

Monteiro intelligently and correctly has spent considerable amount of time and effort engaging with @Jack and @Biz (Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO & Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter) highlighting the many instances of misuse of their platform by extremists (I’m including DT in that description…) and what should be done with them, according to their own Terms of Service.

By the levels of engagement between them, they clearly see what he’s saying, but they aren’t listening or are deliberately choosing not to do anything having listened. If they were, there would be less hoo-haa about #280 (which, lets face it, just makes Twitter a rubbish Facebook) and more about ensuring that users behaviour on Twitter was appropriate, respectful and not warmongering. 

In a similar manner, Instagram recently updated its app, allowing users greater functionality (to use multiple images in a single post, landscape and portrait modes, and, errr,  stickers, similar to Snapchat – you know those annoying floral headdresses and bunny rabbit noses? Yeah, those!!).

Some of the updates have been great – threaded comments, the previously mentioned multiple images per post, and Instagram Stories, but there is one simple thing that users have been crying out for, and that is a chronological order of posts. 

Clearly Instagram, much like Twitter, is a commercial endeavour, not some sort of altruistic venture, and its algorithm is built so that the advertising (which thankfully has become less invasive in recent months) is aimed at the correct target audiences, but forcing users into a system that they have clearly expressed as not being something that they want, is a sign that a company is clearly not listening to its user base. 

Perhaps the numbers won’t fall, perhaps we have all become immune to asking for something from a service, and never getting it, but surely that’s a strange set of behaviours to adhere to!

What does any of this to do with design?

Well, everything we do in Fuzion Communications is a reaction to a briefing from our clients.

They tell us what they need and what they want, and we take it from there. Design is a heavy mix of solution providing, communications and creativity, and as designers a huge part of our process is listening to our clients to provide them with creative work, that satisfies their brief. 

Ultimately, our design comes from listening.  

Phew…that’s off my chest!

Jonathan Leahy Maharaj - FuzionJonathan

Jonathan Leahy Maharaj leads the Graphic Design Department in Fuzion with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

 

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