Email of the day on the new service and a very interesting article
Comment of the Day

December 11 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

Email of the day on the new service and a very interesting article

“Firstly I'd like to congratulate you both on the launch of the new service, and also to praise David for his grace and wisdom in renaming the service in acknowledgment of Eoin's key role and contribution. I was intending to highlight some issues I see with the redesign, but will wait a little while for things to settle down (and thanks, Eoin, for the timely email today acknowledging some issues). This will be intended as constructive feedback, not moaning from someone resistant to change, so hopefully my comments may prove useful. In brief, the feedback will be on how the move to a more touch/mobile-device oriented "magazine" style interface may have inadvertently somewhat crippled the productivity an experienced subscriber could obtain from the old site design (especially in the Chart Library) when using a desktop interface or other large screen interface. As a mobile touch device, laptop and multi-monitor desktop user, I'm currently feeling that what one hand has giveth, the other has taken away! I shall be back in touch with details. An increasingly key theme of Comment of the Day is automation; as we know, the benefits are vast, but you've also wisely covered some the challenges and drawbacks. This is the subject of the following (lengthy!) article by Nicholas Carr, which I hope you'll find this article as thought-provoking as I did.  

 “Carr is the author of the very interesting "The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember". As a very long standing Internet user, and full time investor who spends a great deal of time reading and researching using Internet technologies, The Shallows resonated strongly with me. I was able to identify with many of the issues he raised, and as a result modified my Internet usage in order to retain its benefits while minimising the potential negative effects arising from its various "interruption technologies". Article Extract: "Most of us want to believe that automation frees us to spend our time on higher pursuits but doesn’t otherwise alter the way we behave or think. That view is a fallacy—an expression of what scholars of automation call the “substitution myth.” A labor-saving device doesn’t just provide a substitute for some isolated component of a job or other activity. It alters the character of the entire task, including the roles, attitudes, and skills of the people taking part. As Parasuraman and a colleague explained in a 2010 journal article, “Automation does not simply supplant human activity but rather changes it, often in ways unintended and unanticipated by the designers of automation.” Psychologists have found that when we work with computers, we often fall victim to two cognitive ailments—complacency and bias—that can undercut our performance and lead to mistakes. Automation complacency occurs when a computer lulls us into a false sense of security. Confident that the machine will work flawlessly and handle any problem that crops up, we allow our attention to drift. We become disengaged from our work, and our awareness of what’s going on around us fades. Automation bias occurs when we place too much faith in the accuracy of the information coming through our monitors. Our trust in the software becomes so strong that we ignore or discount other information sources, including our own eyes and ears. When a computer provides incorrect or insufficient data, we remain oblivious to the error. Examples of complacency and bias have been well documented in high-risk situations—on flight decks and battlefields, in factory control rooms—but recent studies suggest that the problems can bedevil anyone working with a computer. Many radiologists today use analytical software to highlight suspicious areas on mammograms. Usually, the highlights aid in the discovery of disease. But they can also have the opposite effect. Biased by the software’s suggestions, radiologists may give cursory attention to the areas of an image that haven’t been highlighted, sometimes overlooking an early-stage tumor. Most of us have experienced complacency when at a computer. In using e-mail or word-processing software, we become less proficient proofreaders when we know that a spell-checker is at work. The way computers can weaken awareness and attentiveness points to a deeper problem. Automation turns us from actors into observers. Instead of manipulating the yoke, we watch the screen. That shift may make our lives easier, but it can also inhibit the development of expertise. Since the late 1970s, psychologists have been documenting a phenomenon called the “generation effect.” It was first observed in studies of vocabulary, which revealed that people remember words much better when they actively call them to mind—when they generate them—than when they simply read them. The effect, it has since become clear, influences learning in many different circumstances. When you engage actively in a task, you set off intricate mental processes that allow you to retain more knowledge. You learn more and remember more. When you repeat the same task over a long period, your brain constructs specialized neural circuits dedicated to the activity. It assembles a rich store of information and organizes that knowledge in a way that allows you to tap into it instantaneously. Whether it’s Serena Williams on a tennis court or Magnus Carlsen at a chessboard, an expert can spot patterns, evaluate signals, and react to changing circumstances with speed and precision that can seem uncanny. What looks like instinct is hard-won skill, skill that requires exactly the kind of struggle that modern software seeks to alleviate." ” 

David Fuller's view

Many thanks for your thoughtful and also insightful email. 

The last thing any of us want, to paraphrase one of your important comments is to inadvertently cripple somewhat the productivity of any subscriber, let alone the cherished veterans and friends who have been sharing a long journey with me.  At the risk of being simplistic, if FT Money’s technology is any good, once we have received the correct Chart Library data which has not yet been fully and correctly handed over, and once we have debugged and simplified the site, then it should help all subscribers.  Also, it would be a mistake if we just assumed that programmers know what is best, rather than subscribers, which is why we value the Collective’s views on what we are trying to achieve. 

I read the excerpt from Nicholas Carr very carefully and look forward to the full article.  It is certainly interesting but I did not identify with many of the examples, at least not so far.  If I was playing boredom games or reading horoscopes all day, whatever remaining brain, and also body, would be mostly jelly.  I feel that computers inform and educate me, at least when they are not driving me around the bend because I cannot cope with the software.  Also, I was disappointed in seeing the title of Carr’s earlier article: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”  I suppose it could, if I looked at banal things, but I know that Google educates me in so many different ways.

I look forward to your further comments on how to improve our website.  Subscribers’ considered input and suggestions can only help us to make it more useful.      

Back to top

You need to be logged in to comment.

New members registration