It's a process; not a product

A pet cat typing on a computer keyboard.

Sometimes a client asks me a question and I'm a little stunned by their mental model of the world. A few weeks ago, we were discussing the need for better cybersecurity in their architecture. We spoke about several aspects of security, then they asked an outstanding question. "What should I buy to be secure?" It […]

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The Digital Covid Test That Nearly Was

Photo of a lateral flow test.

These are notes that I wrote during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. I've published them a few years later. By now, you're probably sick and tired of shoving a swab up your nose and / or down your throat. You've grown blasé about the little medical marvel as it reacts to whatever antibodies are […]

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How easy should we make it to do things we don't want people to do?

Clip from the movie "The Producers". Leopold Bloom says "Under the right circumstances, a producer could make more money with a flop than he could with a hit."

There was an interesting discussion at UKGovCamp a few months ago. UKGC is an unofficial yearly gathering of public sector people, who chat informally about thorny issues at work. Suppose a digital design team has to support a policy which charges people money every time they do a thing. Let's say driving a car across […]

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On the usability of number pads

Computer number pad with the number 7 in the top left.

I'm not thick. I know it doesn't sound like much of a boast, but I'm pretty competent at this whole adulting lark. But it appeared that I had forgotten a 4 digit number I'd set up less than a minute ago! The security guard smiled wearily at me, "It happens to everyone!" She said. Which, […]

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Just use QWERTY!

Photo of the Channel 4 search screen.

The QWERTY layout is, I grant you, an illogical mess. I'm happy to hear your arguments that Dvorak is the one true way. Or that Colemak is several percent faster. But QWERTY is a standard now. Everyone uses it on their laptops and phones. It is used everywhere. Except, it turns out, streaming services. They […]

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Fonts with threatening auras

Screenshot of text where all the characters lean to the left.

I was browsing the web recently when I can across this utter horror show of a font. Warning, not for the faint of heart. The thing is, I can't adequately describe why I - and many others - find it so disturbing. In all my years of reading English, I've never found a font which […]

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What's the optimal length for a 2FA code?

Screenshot of a text message. It says "Your one time passcode is 1031."

The other day, a company sent me a 2FA code which was only four digits long. I'll admit, this weirded me out. Surely 4 is just far too short. Right? I think almost every 2FA code I've seen has been 6 digits long. Even back in the days of carrying one of those physical RSA […]

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That's not how 2FA works

List of tweeters advocating for 2FA.

Another day, another high-profile website cloned to phish credentials. Is this a phishing attempt? Goes to "" and asks for username and pw (if so, it nearly got me!) /cc @github — Tess Rinearson (@_tessr) January 16, 2021 In the replies, you’ll see lots of techbros saying “this is why you should switch on […]

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"I could build that in five minutes!"

A digital watch.

It's rather dispiriting when you launch something, only to have people berate you for not launching sooner. A few months ago, I was involved in a medical questionnaire launch. Before it was released, I had several people send me polite (and not-so-polite) queries as to why it was taking so long. "I could build that […]

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Usability of Footnotes

A very long footnote.

I've been reading lots more non-fiction books than normal. And I'm getting increasingly annoyed about footnotes1. Footnotes are a weird skeuomorph hangover from the days of printed text. I don't think they are really suited to eBooks - but they seem to have come along for the ride into the future. There are a few […]

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