Water Based Analytics

in General.

When we consume food our body tries its best to extract everything in it to keep us going. Not everything gets used of course. There are limits to how much of a particular compound our body can process — or even needs on a day to day basis. The leftover leaves us as waste down the toilet and that’s it.

The same holds true for drugs used. A trace amount of the drugs pass through our body and end up in wastewater.

In most modern countries this sewage gets directed to a wastewater treatment plant where it is then processed for disposal/reuse. Combining these two elements allows researches to do something quite cool.

By collecting samples at the wastewater-plant of a city or region it is possible to derive how much drugs are consumed in that area. Taking samples over a longer interval then allows to get a picture on when drugs are used most.

In a city not far from me the Gerichtsmedizin Innsbruck, as part of the Sewage Analysis CORe group Europe, has recently published their data.

For Innsbruck consumption of cocaine has been on the rise between 2016 and January 2018. But they’ve also found varying use of drugs throughout the week. Due to its addictiveness cocaine use is consistent, so are some performance-enhancing drugs. While MDMA/Ecstasy sees a spike in use over the weekends.

You can check the Europe-wide study here. Make sure to take a look at the interactive map and toggle between the various drugs & weekdays.

While doing this on a city wide basis is interesting, it can also be done for smaller communities. Like workplaces, schools, concerts, etc. The analysis above mentions this in ‘4 - Methods and ethics’, and doing so would be entering dangerous waters.

Turns out we humans leak data in everything we do.

Respecting our users time and attention

in General.

Over the last decade there has been a rise in everyday tools fighting for our constant attention. Smartphones gaining widespread use have been big enablers of this.

After living with a constant barrage of interruptions for years I’m noticing a change. Friends and people I follow have started to restrict which apps get to show so much as an unread-count badge.

Many turn their smartphone back into a plain phone. Calls and messages get to make a noise, everything else if off. Further calls & messages are only allowed outside “Do Not Distrub” times.

Coming up with reasons to message your users is simple. Take my site Bold Shows, to keep track of your favorite TV shows, as example. Giving it a minute of thought I can come up with a handful of reasons to ask for notification permission. Alert a new episode is about to air, ask you to come back after not using it for a while, inform you about schedule changes, and many more.

This is not something I want for my users. It is not what I want for myself.

Likes, upvotes, and karma are the other side of the same coin. They try to keep us engaged with something longer than needed or even healthy.
Using the example above, I could add a count of how many hours you watched TV and compare that with other users. Watching a show should be a form of enjoyment or relaxation not something you feel you have to do or compete at. It should be on your own terms. How we design these things has a big influence on our customers.

I see it as our obligation as designers/makers to build products which respect our users time and attention. Make every form of interruption opt-in. Don’t try to add fictional internet points and social to everything.

When you find yourself in the position where your boss asks you to implement such manipulative tactics you have to make a choice. Try to push back. This can be difficult, especially when you depend on your job for food and a home. It is worth the effort though.

I am happy to announce Bold Shows a site to keep track of your favorite TV shows.

If you watch a lot of shows you know it can be cumbersome to keep up with new episodes. Especially if there are breaks. Watching shows is one of my favorite pastimes and I needed a way to maintain a list of episodes I’ve watched and see what is new.

This is where Bold Shows comes in. It is a no-nonsense and fast TV show tracker. Bold Shows also respects your privacy and is ad-free.

If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to track your TV shows then Bold Shows is the right app for you. No need to download anything. It works in any browser both on your PC, Mac and on your iPhone and Android. Sign-In to the same account and everything is kept in sync on all your devices.

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