« 99% Invisible

369- Wait Wait...Tell Me!

2019-09-03 | 🔗

Waiting is something that we all do every day, but our experience of waiting, varies radically depending on the context. And it turns out that design can completely change whether a five minute wait feels reasonable or completely unbearable. Transparency is key.

Wait Wait...Tell Me!

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars. Today there are thousands of vacant homes all to Detroit. The motor city has been shrinking since the nineteen fifties, but men These vacancies stem from a decade ago, when the financial crisis This devastated the city as I drove around seen abandoned home on almost every block, but reporter Angus Chen, who we recently sent to Detroit many. These houses are still getting up condition for someone to fix up and turn into a home, but a bottle our damage beyond repair without caretakers. We sat down and their foundations crumbled and there was and black fire, and so in twenty fourteen Detroit started a city. Why demolition programme to take down the houses that couldn't be fixed, the city estimated they had about forty thousand homes to demolish or no Bailey is a community organizer from the east side of Detroit, and he says the pro
runs roll out was chaotic. They were really building. I am as they fly holding a city officials who said something like that at its houses were coming down all over the city, but for a lot of residence they couldn't come down fast enough or those as people in his neighborhood were pulling their hair out, hoping that the house next door would get demolished sometime soon and what made it worse was they couldn't get? Any information from the city explained When he was going to happen, it was an acute level of frustration. Frustration with really just not being armed with the knowledge of how something that is affecting everybody in the city is working and when the cities, Google to provide information to residents come to Orlando with questions. I remember my father Regan off the hook. How the Turk did you say some of those questions theirs as all my blood has been vacant for years. Is coming down.
The house is torn down next to me. I buy the lot I don't know if you can buy the lot yeah? I don't know. I just I can well imagine how madam you must have felt being in limbo. Is its is a tough place to be it was it was it was? It was a crane time, Residents, overlanders neighbourhood were experiencing a lot of anxiety about the economic situation, city generally, and the FAO. That's so many other houses on their locks were empty and falling apart, but the thing Getting people to pick up the phone and cholera bandeau was the act of waiting itself. The sin that I hear over and over again is how long was I wait. Waiting, is something that we all do. Every day we wait for a food to come and our operating systems to update. We re for our friends to call and our crushes to Texas
our experience of waiting and how we feel about. It varies radically depending on the context, and it turns out that design can completely change whether a five minute wait, those reasonable or complete The unbearable for the Detroit residents waiting for abandoned houses to come down. The experience was pretty unbearable. And so the city set out to design a solution for them and to do that they turn to body of research that offers insights into the strange psychology of waiting the research, income from studying city government. It came from studying the particular frustration that people feel when they're waiting for a computer too low push the button and the words and images you see on the screen appear on paper or that you know that I think everybody The regulation see this in the early nineties, eighties, computers were just becoming popular in offices, for the first time in come He's like Xerox were making work faster, push another, but
and the information sent electronically dissimilar units around the corner or around the world. Ninety, maybe eighty one xerox came out this latest quickest top of the line nourishing and offers computer called this. The rock star, the Star was one of the first machines that allowed people to connect and share files and do things at a speed that they really hadn't done before. This is Jason. Farmin he's a purpose. There at the University of Maryland, and he wrote a book about waiting cod, the Vader response, and he says that, even though the star was when the fastest computers of its time, it didn't, you're fast overwhelmingly. People felt that it was a slow machine Overwhelmingly, the sentiment was that it took forever took forever to load it took forever to exchange files and that perception of slowness. May have had something to do with the design of loading icons. These early computers at the start were the first to use them
on the star, the mouse cursor were turned into a static, hourglass, icon macintoshes from the same time had a wristwatch icon, though, is stuck on nine o clock single time you saw the hour glass or the wrist watch. You knew you had to wait again. So do you get the busy watch? But you don't know if it's actually making progress, Roma, that's Brad Myers, he's a computer science professor at Carnegie, Melon University, and he says that the problem with the watch was it gave you no sense of how long you would be waiting for my plan soon not finished at all and remember you can't you can't use a computer for other things. So really the only option is to sit there and watch nothing happened nor the cursor blink balmy. That went. That's to me. That's terrible! Exactly Eventually, computer programmers started estimating loading icons to try to reassure the user that something was going on inside that mystery box. Apple introduced. A spoon black and white pen will eventually wristwatches with him.
Moved and our glasses, with little falling pixels of sand. These new loading icons may have been more interesting to look at, but Jason Farmin says they didn't the underlying problem Here I am trying to use my time well, but I can't control that, because I'm waiting, somebody is making me wait or a system is making me wait. I don't know when it's gonna end is this deep feeling of powerlessness. I think around this time. Brad. Myers had just finished his bashers agree at MIT and he was working at a tech companies while he was drunk with these new voting icons, he remembered tat. Other computers from the nineteen seventies had a very simple way to that uses know that the computer was working. Dots not unusual for programmes in the seventies to print out. I thought on the screen. Every now and then you would know that it's at least making progress and dots came in
regular intervals like one every seconds, so it would go Gub and so then you'd say oh well must be making progress. I keep seeing that's eventually you might, a sense for a well. This is a fairly long program, I'm expecting three roses: dot, org diesel The whole screen full of dots Myers Having that little bit of information about the progress the computer is making made the experience of waiting much more bearable, so here isn't that new computers needed away to let the user know how long something might take a progress bar we're all familiar with this. The bar
builds up as the computer works, showing how much of the task is completed and Myerst as the first progress bar as where a huge improvements just by seeing how quickly the bar filled up uses, could guess how long the computer would take to finish the job you can say: ok, wealth can take five minutes. I will get a coffee, Myers started programming progress bars into everything he did then, when he went back to graduate school to get his phd, he actually steady progress, bars and found that people really like them, they made people less anxious. Progress bars, help remove the worry, Maya's publishes findings in nineteen. Eighty five and people took notice. Progress bar is started popping up everywhere, people were so enthusiastic about this because they finally got some feedback in a way that this hourglass didn't give them. But there was one scenario where the progress bar failed when the computer stalled right at the very end, progress
where's gave users and accurate depiction of how much a task had been completed at any given time, and so, if the first ten percent loaded, in ten seconds, then what you'd think what? The whole thing should be overrun about a hundred seconds, except it din, always a hundred seconds. Sometimes a computer slow down over some computational speed up the process. Bar would be sailing along and stall at. Ninety nine percent and you'd end up feeling completely betrayed Leave experience. Much more frustrated. Then you would, if you just had this opaque, buffering, icon, spinning in your browser that revealed something really key about the psychology of waiting. Why things off you're slower than they really are. It's all about our expectations, and this is true on our computers and it's true at that lines. At Disneyland you look at it. It tells you how long it's going to take, and you set an expectation and when you get to the front of the line faster,
if you are going to or when that particular pieces, software loads faster than you thought it was going to you leaving. Counter feeling positive dad position about expectations that designers to a new idea in voting, bar that had nothing to do with how much work the computer had done and said it was designed just to make a weight feel better. It would always start off slow to set your expectations for a fairly long, wait and then speed up at the end, so that the user, appealing, pleasantly surprised. So that's one way that designers have given people a sense of being in expectation of may leave the encounter feeling good about the experience, while that was fast. This run loaded voting bar trick. You into feeling, like you, are waiting for less time than you actually were, and in the twenty first century that idea
trying to manipulate the users. Experience of time really took off, especially with big on my retail companies, whose profits dependent on keeping customers on their website, Amazon had done a study that showed that if customers on average are forced to wait a tenth of a second, they could lose up to one percent of their revenue, and you ve got that many people feeling frustrated enough to leave your site because of the. Ways that are their ear. You just talking a massive amount of money. Companies like Google, an Amazon Start pouring millions of dollars into speeding up their websites and engineering them, so they would run faster and, as things got faster, we expect them to always be that asked the meanest notice more and more minute delays and so people. Websites were basically locked into this constant race of trying to make those waits smaller and smaller, or at least feel smaller and smaller
but there were some companies that just couldn't keep up with the internet. Rapidly, accelerating pace. Travel websites, for example, needed their cost to wait several seconds. While they searched for tickets, that my sound long, but a few seconds can feel like an eternity online for comparison search engines like Google were voting results in less than a seconds But one travel website design solution to waiting that would have impacts, outside the digital world and would eventually find its way into the offices of the city government of Detroit. I came across this come, Micaiah right, which is an online travel search engine that I think many people who will be very familiar with. This is right in a professor at the Harvard Business School. He says that kayak couldn't avoid making its customers wait. They actually
have to do. A fresh query. Every time a customer wants to find a ticket which meant that it was inevitable that that kayak would have to make its customers weight as all travel search engines do I was trying to figure out what they could show their customers while they waited and bills the solution they came up with completely changed the way he understood waiting, they just said: hey. Look in Why don't you show them what we're doing instead of a progress bar kayak design and animation that showed the user, not only what percentage of the job had been completed, but exactly what the search for them was doing as it was doing it our searching United Airlines now researching American airlines, and you can watch the prices fall as as tickets come in that have better rates. This was this was the first time I had ever seen an organization really liberally design a window into the operation. This law,
Animation gave the user something that none of the other loading designs could radical transparency when we make the process transparent. So when we show people the work, that's going on behind the scenes, it completely changes, the way that we think about the weight and general instead of thinking of waiting as robbing you of your time, suddenly you're spending more time on something worth while this case users could see all the work that kayaks algorithm was doing, and they could imagine that if they tried to do all I work themselves and check every single one of those airlines on their own individual site. It would take forever. I knock Mrs Em, to appreciate and value the service more and so we will begin a series of experiments to test that idea in one he and his team created a big trouble search engine and had participants with different amounts of time for their search results. In one scenario, they saw just a progress bar while they waited in the other. They gotta progress bar
plus and animation that showed them what was happening behind the scenes. They got transparency no matter how long people waited for service. They always per the service to be more valuable when it was operationally transparent. In fact, people who waited fifty five seconds with transparency, were satisfied. As users who got instant results. Fifty five seconds, is an eternity on the internet where we can see the hidden work. That's going on to serve us. It make this less sensitive to the time, we're spending waiting conduct. Our conduct look like this anymore, but beauty Does he now seize examples of this kind of transparency everywhere I notice examples of this. Now, all the time in my life right so anytime, I take her lifter Neuber anywhere get to see where the driver is dominoes. Pizza, trackers one of my favorite examples of this. You can actually watch
you can see your pizza going through the process, be found that radical transparency doesn't just impact how people experience waiting on our computers or our cell phones. It can have interesting, surprising psychological effects on how people wait in the real physical world, for example, he doktor an experiment in a Harvard Dining Hall where he set up camera so that students waiting their food could see the shafts who were cooking it and vice versa, and it turned out that scene behind the scenes not only made the weight more tolerable, but the food tasted better now the customers tell us that the food is twice two percent better and the gaps are working. Nineteen percent faster that weird. It is kind of weird but Buell things that there's something really important going on There are so many instances where we wait and think what the hell is happening, but with this kind of transparency we see people's efforts and we appreciate
the more we see why we're waiting and waiting becomes less of a chore. And that's true, whether you're waiting for someone to cook you a meal or for a web to load or city government to come in. Down the abandoned house next door, Ryan, Buell hadn't publishing its research on transparency for a few years when it found its way into the hands of a man named Brian Farkas. Farkas is the director of special projects at the Detroit Building Authority, the agency responsible for managing the city's demolition program. You started. I've been to doesnt fourteen and he says that at the time residents were constantly calling the city with the same quest. How long you my going to have to wait for the city to demolish is abandoned home on my block. One is Spurned outhouse coming down when is this, has come out, has been there for five years and in nowadays we didn't have the information to be able to respond to them. Bark is his job is to communicate with the public and answer these questions.
Except there, is no system to actually get that information to people and no way to explain why things were taking so long. He says Detroit residents would get really upset on the phone and quickly became. Urgent for his departments in the hours of respect and just responding to basic cause like that was strangely tough and extremely labour intensive, but then one day stumbled upon wine because research about transparency- and he thought we need something like this for Detroit, and so he wrote Buell an email They all immediately row back the next day here. I did say he groped his thoughts, had a flint and was very interesting. Process than he's a descendants, then the mentor of of myself and this programme with bills. Mentorship Farkas began working on something he caused the neighborhood improvement tracker, it would be a window into all the work that was going into the city's demolition programme and away for people to track which house
we're going to come down and when one of the first people he reached I too was our bandeau Bailey, the community organizer from the beginning of a story you, hundred Orlando to help him test the tracker and make sure that he was working. So my reaction was one of joy and so because we Finally, we have something that contract things in real time where I came, something that was readily exe support for where my phone rang in it rang a lot back there. I can to in have answers. Farkas showed up community meetings every month to answer people's questions and show markups of neighbourhood improvement. Tracker people gave him feedback residence. There were all the demolition programme, transparent the tracker launched it. Into tail FARC is this is what needs to be on the tracker or they know says
it felt like the city was finally being honest with them and showing that they were committed to making the demolition programme transparent. The tracker launched into when he sixteen it's basically an interactive map of Detroit all over the map are different. Colored pens Show houses that are scheduled to be demolished. You can I've been your address and the man. Zooms into your house, and you can turn on what are the completed commissioner, what are the contracted demolitions? What is the plan? solutions for them, those that have already been contracted. The tracker shows an estimate for win. Then house will come down if a date, hasn't been set? Yet it will give other information you can see where the sidelines foresail for sale home is being sold or a building permits being pulled. Voters who don't have internet access can get all the same information by texting, a phone number or then Does the tracker didn't always give people the answer they were hoping for, but it was a relief to us. Have any information at all, or there
the answer and not they have they had. The answer so is like a well all right. Thanks, with one resident in barbed Mammy barbers a lifelong Detroit or who stayed through all the foreclosures. We remain outside her house, except for a set of wind, chimes. It's quiet in her neighbourhood there's a lot of pride and Detroit, I think on all. If your hurts here, you know it's always gonna be here. I mean this is always homes. Always going to be home. It must have been really did what to see the troika through some of the changes over the last few decades is it's almost like it happened overnight, you know it's like. We woke up one day and open up our wines in all this devastation empty house, This is what we saw bar had a big house next door that couldn't be fixed. She used them. The houses lawn. While she waited for the demolition and before the tracker went, live it felt like the house would never come down.
We have to see it sitting there in the same condition and falling in for two years. You seem to think sometimes that you're, just We're going to go away, it'll go away the day that it falls in on itself. But, like I said things, aren't things aren't really like that anymore. With the tracker barbs has his feelings changed because she could see the demolition programme progressing Saigon. Finally, yeah. It is it's a good feeling, you know, you're a big sigh of relief cause. You know it's gotta be soon and then either they show up your like throwing off. Yes die, you ve got. Balloons and party peppers, suddenly you're out you're going livelihoods highly happy. Ok, can we barbs has. He runs new problems that the tracker can't explain the cause for debates, don't always show up, for example, but she says she's been able to call the city and get the information and it's been easier to get answers from them. Ever since the tracker went live, I can look in your myself, for I can just call our district manage
and within a short period of time, as you said, gets back with me and let me know what's going on with it, and what's going on, can be really powerful. Knowing they abandoned house in her neighbor hope, was going to be demolished, allowed Barbara New neighbours to make plans for what to do with that land. When the house finally came down bar bought that lot and built a community garden. So now we currently have over forty raised beds, We have a solar greenhouse and then back here is an orchard. Yes is a great place to be its, I mean it's, it's a beautiful garden. It really is Detroit Demolition Programme hasn't been perfect lots of people. On a to happen faster and thereby So big concerns that the programme has moved too quickly and caused environmental contamination, and some people fell at the programme was
prioritizing the right houses, a lot of people. I talk, you just don't trust the city and while the trackers certainly isn't going to fix everything, Rhine Buell says it's a good first step towards building a better more time. Its parent dynamic between the city, government and its residents. I have to believe this It is better off for having made that decision and and said we're going to make this commitment to be transparent with residence and by feeling the progress in, revealing hidden work. That's going on. Perhaps that will give people the confidence now that they need to also invest in their in their homes in their properties. In trying to make the city help bring this back to life. Transparency can be messy, sometimes it can review mistakes in the process that make you feel frustrated. But Buell says that radical transparency also means giving space for constructive feedback and dial right, we're all in this thing together and the provision of TAT
apparently just ensures that we all have access to that information and an end we have access to that information. Then we have the opportunity to engage in the process and if we can do that, then we get to better This is, then, we can without ambiguity. Hopes that others can learn from Detroit Kayak into find little windows into the process of these that are so often opaque to the people who depend on them, because we all depend on company and governments and other institutions- just Live our lives every day, more all waiting for something yeah
We have another, really fascinating story about waiting, but you have to wait. Just a little bit longer stay with us. We often dont think of winter is a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to greet your own website gives recouped job you thinkin about being productive, and now square space can help you do it whiskers basic into your cool ideas. You ve creative content, your services, goods, and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks. Does it because there is to use templates,
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yeah I hated to and the reason why everybody hates it is because this is the most opaque loading icon tat. You could probably possibly this high and it doesn't it didn't. Tell you any the the illusion information it seems to convey to me is that nothing you want to have happened, is going to happen ever again on this computer until you do into you shut it all down. Basically, yeah I mean for me, it's like theirs, Nothing that you can do you're stuck here that's actually exactly where Rhine Bureau said, who we heard from the show the spinning wheel of death. Reminds you, in kind of painful stab kind of way that you're just waiting and and your kind of stock and and its It's it's interesting because I think that there are lots of experiences that we have in life that are more like the spinning wheel of death
Then there are some instances in life that are maybe more thoughtfully designed so there's one particular example of a really thought for transparent design. That bill told me about it: some Japan, where they have one of the best trained systems in the world, that she consent bullet train system, its really, amazing. They had basically no injuries and like forty years of operation, and it goes like this. Enter miles an hour. There's super clean and they almost always arrive within six seconds of schedule. Were they able to pull that are so part of it. Is this whole routine? They have worked out where the trains sit at the platform for twelve minutes before they leave the station again. It takes about five minutes for past just to get on and off, which leaves only about seven minutes for a cleaning company called Tesei to prep the train for the next trip. Seven minutes for a team of twenty two people to clean a thousand seats
incredibly fast, but I can imagine if you're standing on the train platform and the doors were closed and you can't get into your train because their cleaning it that that seven minutes could really feel like a long time. Yeah I mean spare If you dont know why exact here waiting their executive- and I Didn'T- I was turning a really bad dynamic cause. You have these disgruntled unhappy workers who feel like doing a really difficult job and then you have impatient travellers who are. Standing. There are not really understanding why they can't get into a train. That's right in front of them so tat. They need to find a way to fix this somehow and in two thousand. I've, they brought in a new leader, a guy to rule out yapping and he changed the bunch of things. But there was one thing in particular: it that had a really big impact. He instituted transparency between the passengers. People cleaning the train in the way that he did. It was
It seems really subtle, but it was really effective. He changed the color of their uniforms from a pale blue which blended into the body of many of these trains to a vibrant read which stood out just much much more on the platform, So it was transparency by just making the workers more visible. Yeah. Exactly I mean if you think, about how the uniform spoke before the workers were supposed to just be invisible right right. You ass a passenger standing there, you're waiting around you, don't see, what's happening, exactly You dont know why you're waiting, but when the uniforms make their workers, you can certainly see that, like. Oh I'm waiting here, because this people cleaning the train than about the riot tests, Edward please don't always wear red anymore allotted time, cleaning, crews on fishing concentrate system. Where although hush shared, so they wear something like
right flower, the hat but their ideas, banks of the same they want to stand out. They want to be as visible as possible because we make it is. This was possible, people appreciate it and therefore they don't mind waiting right yeah. That's the idea is they can certainly see why there waiting re. They know that their just there not just like waiting run for no reason there bidding for something that will improve the travel experience and other team I E Bay, Did- was he let the cleaners speak with passengers which which was forbidden under the previous leader, so we provided transparency from the passengers to the employees and from the employees back to the passengers in a completely change the experience of working attest aid, but it also completely change the experience of waiting for service on the chin concern in it fundamentally change the dynamics of those
actions so in what ways to actually change so well for one? The trains are actually getting cleaned on time, so the system is working better overall by its test aid workers, We are struggling a lot less to do their job and that's probably because passengers were cleaning up after themselves. A lot more, they could sort of sea one. You know there are people who are doing this work and economy more conscientious about their environment and what they were doing, but it also would have flipped this experience awaiting totally on its head. People started to ride this concern, so they could watch tests a cruise performing their work in Japan built. They call this the seven minute miracle, sometimes the collection, consent theatre. So at the end of every cleaning the accrue does a bow and passengers applaud. So isn't just we
make the waiting process transparent and therefore easier to handle it. Also, just like the transparency makes, you will realise that everyone's working really hard and everyone to take pride in this train that their on and it makes the world a better place in general, when we recognise that people are doing hard work around us and that's beautiful story. Thank you, Angus. Thanks remedy, Ninety nine percent invisible was produces week by Angus Channel edited by Emmett Fitzgerald mix Intake production by reviews of music. By showing Rio Katy Mingle, is our senior producer. Coasted is the digital director president is a real problem and Joe Rosen work. Delaney hall, crisper, Ruby, Vivian Lee Sophia Clatter. And me roman moors. We are about directive. Ninety one point: seven k, L dubbing in San Francisco, produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown Oakland California,
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.