Along with everyone else, we stopped observing Daylight Savings Time a couple weeks ago. Lorna and I adjusted all our clocks, at least the ones that didn't adjust automatically.
Of course that switch makes everyone tired for a few days. But it's been worse this year, and I didn't understand why until recently.
It has something to do with our toddler.
Because in that way that babies are, the baby didn't notice. She just doesn't read most words or notice what time it is.
Now, a couple weeks after the "switch," I realized that I'm living in a house with a person who basically ignores what time the clock says. Baby Girl is going to bed and waking up at the same time as before, but the same solar time. We are going to bed an hour later, and then waking up when she does.
And interestingly, what's happening is: we're missing about an hour of sleep every night, and it took me a long time to figure out why. But I've been tired for two weeks now, and that's why.
It's seems so obvious that a person who can't read the clock is behaving differently than one who does. We must be really attached to going to bed at a certain time, and not when we're tired, right?
Around the same time, my nest updated, and it seems to regard the numbers we set with a little more "flexibility" than before. So 72 doesn't seem to be 72 anymore. It's 71 or 73, or whatever. I can't really explain, just that I used to dial in particular magic numbers, and now they seem to overshoot sometimes.
And in nest's defense, I do think nest deserves to use numbers, because it can't adjust the temperature instantly. You need a way to say what you mean for the future.
And back in the old days when we were designing Picasa, we took the numbers off of a lot of the sliders, so you would look at what you were doing to the picture, rather than the number. This was really uncommon back then. In photo editing, you can actually make an argument that the numbers matter. What if you want to do the same thing to 5 photos, but you don't want to copy & paste the whole set of effects? Photoshop jocks do really use the numbers, and they like to see them, and then copy and paste and tell people about them.
But we took them off anyway, and we tried to make the sliders work right instead. So I guess what I'm about to say is a thing I've been thinking for a while.
That Analog Show
Mostly, I've been thinking about the next f.lux UI, and how much to show the color temperature number ("5000K!") and how important it is, or isn't. Maybe it isn't. I made it really big in one sketch and then I took it off completely in another.
And you wind up realizing that we use numbers when we need to coordinate. Like, "I'll meet you at 2PM." Or to make things reproducible ("Set the Photoshop levels to 0, 220 with a gamma of 1.2.") Or even when there's a delay, like "Make the temperature 72 sometime soon. I'm too cold." Or maybe, if you have to explain something to someone over email or on the phone.
But if you don't have a reason like this, you are...
In love with numbers
One big part of simplifying our interfaces is to make them more analog, more relative, and more human. It doesn't mean that we should give up the text that lets us coordinate and communicate.
But maybe we're ignoring our own best judgment, like when to go to bed, because we have this clock that says, "It's only 10:30!" And in these cases, it might be advisable to hide the numbers temporarily, unless you need them for some important reason. Like if you have an appointment you have to drive to, or if you want to talk about the details of your Photoshop filter.
In a way, wall clock time is just a technology. It's a pretty good one, suitable for coordinating activities and knowing if a store is opening without driving to it. But with modern devices, you could really pretty much replace the entire technology of time with realtime communications. It's a neat exercise to think through the implications of removing these numbers. Does it make it harder or easier? How much reinvention do you need to replace those numbers with something meaningful and intuitive?
So it's a challenge sometimes. But what if we did the experiment to dial numbers back a level in our interfaces, and then we figured out how to make things work without them? It's actually important not to lose the functionality that the numbers give, but to replace it intelligently and in an ambient way.
Maybe that's a challenge for you, too.