No one reads terms of service, studies confirm

Apparently losing rights to data and legal recourse is not enough of a reason to inspect online contracts. So how can websites get users to read the fine print? The words on the screen, in small type, were as innocent and familiar as a house key.

from Pocket

An interesting article about how we don’t read the T&Cs, featuring a research study by two Canadian professors who managed to get a load of students to agree to promise a(n imaginary) company their first born children.

This has, I think, many important implications for the way we use technology. From a UX perspective, knowing that the T&Cs aren’t being read would mean that websites and companies ought to rethink the way they give information to potential customers, so they’re fully informed when they sign up. Somehow I can’t imagine this happening. The author of the article, however, suggests a sort of unspoken digital ethics contract (similar to the Hippocratic Oath), but how that might work is another matter.

There’s also how far we’re unable to do anything at all about terms and conditions we disagree with. If our use of a particular site is entirely optional then we can choose not to use it; if it isn’t – if our employer insists on it, or if it’s something expected of us – then we can hardly demand that Google or Facebook comes up with an alternative set of T&Cs just for us.

This is on my mind, particularly, as a result of an action I took in responding to the mid-term feedback from Jeremy. One of the points made – and a completely valid one – was that I might look to broaden my horizons in terms of the feeds coming into the lifestream. I added a couple of feeds and then looked to link up YouTube to the WordPress blog. And I was then faced with this:

Manage? I clicked on the ‘i’ to see what it inferred, and was faced with this:

At this point, I was turned completely off the idea of linking the two – any videos will just have to be – as Cathy brilliantly put it – glued on to the lifestream. I’m sure their intention is not particularly insidious, and I’ve probably already inadvertently given up lots of my data, but this seemed just a step too far.

But, on the other hand, at least it was clear.

Four initial thoughts about lifestreaming

On a mission

(i) It is really hard (for me at least) to make the ‘lifestream’ parts of the blog (i.e. what is pulled in from IFTTT) look nice. I’ve experimented with a few different applications and judged them practically exclusively on their aesthetics. Tumblr looks nice when you have images with a bit of text. Evernote works well for text. So does Scannable when you’re using photos of things you’ve taken yourself. I wish I could find a Twitter recipe for auto-embedding tweets in WordPress, it’d look so much better.

(ii) I find myself needing to aggregate lots of different formats. Random things I find on the internet and want to store for later. Things that fly into and out of my head faster than I can find a pen that works, and which I sometimes manage to scribble down on whatever I can find: notebooks, post-its, the backs of envelopes. Useful videos I come across (normally accidentally) while watching interviews with the cast of the new Ghostbusters on YouTube. Lists of things I’ve read, want to read, intend to read but never will. Things other people send me, or share, and that I want to collect. It’s been fun to work out how best to aggregate all of these things.

(iii) There are a couple of things I use (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) which I want to keep strictly ‘personal’. It feels like I’m approaching this from an incoherent direction: I don’t want to have strict boundaries on the things I use ‘professionally’, but more that I don’t want academic, sensible things seeping into the streams of cat pictures on Instagram.

(iv) Automating things and thinking about workflow shows me how central Zotero is to everything that I do. I love Zotero; it is my favourite thing. But it’s been a nightmare to automate it – exporting the raw data is easy enough, but exporting it in a useful format hasn’t been straightforward at all.

Gears and cogs
Automate all the things!