Login now

Not your profile? Login and get free access to your reports and analysis.

Tags

Sign in

The following tags have been added by users of CircleCount.com.
You can login on CircleCount to add more tags here.

  • Geeks

Are you missing a tag in the list of available tags? You can suggest new tags here.

Login now

Do you want to see a more detailed chart? Check your settings and define your favorite chart type.

Or click here to get the detailed chart only once.

Andrew Munn has been at 1 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Google+10,375,968The Google+ team will be sharing a few updates. RSVP to this event to watch the broadcast live.A Morning with Google+2013-10-29 17:30:0033858  

Shared Circles including Andrew Munn

Shared Circles are not available on Google+ anymore, but you can find them still here.

Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 27

posted image

2012-07-19 07:20:07 (27 comments, 1 reshares, 17 +1s)Open 

Did Google+ ask anybody else to update their birthday?

Most reshares: 22

posted image

2012-07-12 16:11:44 (4 comments, 22 reshares, 53 +1s)Open 

How Selection Bias is Hurting the Web

Pop  Quiz: Does the average American spend more time watching TV or browsing Facebook?  The answer is watching TV. By a mile.  Americans spend 159 hours a month watching TV (http://goo.gl/OBj9P), but only 8 hours on Facebook.  In fact, It turns out that the average American only spends 30 hours per month browsing the web (http://goo.gl/Q67m).  

I bet that doesn’t describe your habits.  If you’re anything like me (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), you spend both your working hours and a substantial chunk of your free time on the internet.

You probably watch some TV, but not necessarily on a TV.  You own a smartphone. A tablet. A laptop running OS X.  Maybe more than one of each.  You’d only ever consider using Chrome.  Or maybe you’ve switched back Firefox because Chrome has gotten “all bloatedand slow”. 

more »

Most plusones: 53

posted image

2012-07-12 16:11:44 (4 comments, 22 reshares, 53 +1s)Open 

How Selection Bias is Hurting the Web

Pop  Quiz: Does the average American spend more time watching TV or browsing Facebook?  The answer is watching TV. By a mile.  Americans spend 159 hours a month watching TV (http://goo.gl/OBj9P), but only 8 hours on Facebook.  In fact, It turns out that the average American only spends 30 hours per month browsing the web (http://goo.gl/Q67m).  

I bet that doesn’t describe your habits.  If you’re anything like me (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), you spend both your working hours and a substantial chunk of your free time on the internet.

You probably watch some TV, but not necessarily on a TV.  You own a smartphone. A tablet. A laptop running OS X.  Maybe more than one of each.  You’d only ever consider using Chrome.  Or maybe you’ve switched back Firefox because Chrome has gotten “all bloatedand slow”. 

more »

Latest 50 posts

posted image

2014-01-03 06:18:01 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

Dat lens flair

Dat lens flair___

posted image

2013-03-14 00:14:50 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 17 +1s)Open 

RIP Google Reader. Thank you for making every day interesting. Thank you for never showing ads in my feed. Thank you for supporting 3rd party apps. And thank you, Google, for supporting a niche product for so long. You will be missed and never forgotten.

A moment of silence, please, for the end of an era.

RIP Google Reader. Thank you for making every day interesting. Thank you for never showing ads in my feed. Thank you for supporting 3rd party apps. And thank you, Google, for supporting a niche product for so long. You will be missed and never forgotten.

A moment of silence, please, for the end of an era.___

2013-03-11 00:42:30 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Asian fusion all you can eat FTW.

Asian fusion all you can eat FTW.___

posted image

2012-12-13 19:13:13 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 20 +1s)Open 

Today Facebook is launching a turbo charged native version of Facebook for Android! So proud to a part of the team.
http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/13/facebook-android-faster/

Today Facebook is launching a turbo charged native version of Facebook for Android! So proud to a part of the team.
http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/13/facebook-android-faster/___

posted image

2012-12-08 00:37:07 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Trying out snap seed. Seems way more powerful than Instagram and only marginally more complicated! I love the use of gestures.

Trying out snap seed. Seems way more powerful than Instagram and only marginally more complicated! I love the use of gestures.___

2012-12-07 03:44:07 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

Alright everybody, share all the secret products you know! How's key Lime Pie baking?

Alright everybody, share all the secret products you know! How's key Lime Pie baking?___

2012-12-07 02:39:30 (13 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Do you own a Nexus 4? Join my exclusive community.

Do you own a Nexus 4? Join my exclusive community.___

posted image

2012-10-26 22:44:38 (4 comments, 4 reshares, 11 +1s)Open 

I once remarked to a friend that Google competed with every tech company, short of taking on Amazon's delivery service.

Well, shit just got real.

I once remarked to a friend that Google competed with every tech company, short of taking on Amazon's delivery service.

Well, shit just got real.___

posted image

2012-09-18 21:22:22 (5 comments, 8 reshares, 23 +1s)Open 

In depth look at a lot of the small, annoying, issues left in Jelly Bean.  Here's to hoping all this gets fixed in Key Lime Pie!

In depth look at a lot of the small, annoying, issues left in Jelly Bean.  Here's to hoping all this gets fixed in Key Lime Pie!___

posted image

2012-09-12 00:01:25 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

I can't believe the pace that Android is growing.  Back when I worked on the team 2 years ago, it was 50 million devices.  Where will Android be two years from now? 

500 MILLION

Today is a big day for Android... 500 million devices activated globally, and over 1.3 million added every single day.

Oh, and btw, the Jelly Bean statue is back in our front yard :)___I can't believe the pace that Android is growing.  Back when I worked on the team 2 years ago, it was 50 million devices.  Where will Android be two years from now? 

posted image

2012-08-08 20:27:19 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

My fav Google doodle yet!

My fav Google doodle yet!___

posted image

2012-08-06 07:58:47 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 12 +1s)Open 

Perfect.

Perfect.___

2012-07-30 16:54:16 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Maybe this is a first step in the unification of Gtalk, Google Messenger, Google hangout chat, and Gdocs chat?

Maybe this is a first step in the unification of Gtalk, Google Messenger, Google hangout chat, and Gdocs chat?___

2012-07-20 19:22:27 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

___

posted image

2012-07-19 07:20:07 (27 comments, 1 reshares, 17 +1s)Open 

Did Google+ ask anybody else to update their birthday?

Did Google+ ask anybody else to update their birthday?___

posted image

2012-07-12 16:11:44 (4 comments, 22 reshares, 53 +1s)Open 

How Selection Bias is Hurting the Web

Pop  Quiz: Does the average American spend more time watching TV or browsing Facebook?  The answer is watching TV. By a mile.  Americans spend 159 hours a month watching TV (http://goo.gl/OBj9P), but only 8 hours on Facebook.  In fact, It turns out that the average American only spends 30 hours per month browsing the web (http://goo.gl/Q67m).  

I bet that doesn’t describe your habits.  If you’re anything like me (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), you spend both your working hours and a substantial chunk of your free time on the internet.

You probably watch some TV, but not necessarily on a TV.  You own a smartphone. A tablet. A laptop running OS X.  Maybe more than one of each.  You’d only ever consider using Chrome.  Or maybe you’ve switched back Firefox because Chrome has gotten “all bloatedand slow”. 

more »

How Selection Bias is Hurting the Web

Pop  Quiz: Does the average American spend more time watching TV or browsing Facebook?  The answer is watching TV. By a mile.  Americans spend 159 hours a month watching TV (http://goo.gl/OBj9P), but only 8 hours on Facebook.  In fact, It turns out that the average American only spends 30 hours per month browsing the web (http://goo.gl/Q67m).  

I bet that doesn’t describe your habits.  If you’re anything like me (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), you spend both your working hours and a substantial chunk of your free time on the internet.

You probably watch some TV, but not necessarily on a TV.  You own a smartphone. A tablet. A laptop running OS X.  Maybe more than one of each.  You’d only ever consider using Chrome.  Or maybe you’ve switched back Firefox because Chrome has gotten “all bloated and slow”. 

The average American is just getting their first smartphone, doesn’t own a tablet, and runs Windows XP and uses Internet Explorer 8.  About the only person you know who fits that description is your parents. The average American is less educated, poorer, and less tech savvy than you. But it sure doesn’t feel like it because you work for Google, Facebook or a hip SF startup or maybe you’re finishing your bachelors in CS at Stanford, MIT or CMU surrounded by the nation’s best and brightest.

You are up to date on all the latest happenings in the Valley.  Things like natural language processing, digital wallets, promoted ads, and Pinstagram are everyday conversations.  You don’t really talk about sports.  Sports are silly.  Professional Starcraft is pretty cool though.

This is a problem.  We software engineers and entrepreneurs are out of touch with normal people.  We hace a strong filter bubble.  We suffer from a logical fallacy known as selection bias.  Selection bias is the tendency to make false conclusions from non-representative samples.

Here are some examples of selection bias:

- Believing all CGI looks fake, because you only notice fake looking CGI.

- Believing all gay people have lisps because you only ask guys with lisps if they’re gay.

- Believing that the results of studies that sample western college students are representative of all humankind.

- Believing you’re universally attractive because all your girlfriends told you you were.

- Believing a real names policy on a social network is OK because everybody you know has no reason to hide their real name.

The first four examples are relatively harmless for a product manager at Google to believe.  But the fifth is what led to the Google+ real names fiasco. Similarly, a belief that the everybodywould be OK with their contact list being made public led to the Google Buzz fiasco.  

Why does this keep happening to Google?  Because at the end of the day, the people who make the product decisions look to their own life and experiences for guidance.

Don’t get me wrong.  Companies like Google have a lot of tools to help them make informed decisions.  They have petabytes of metrics.  They have user studies, focus groups, feedback polls, user forums, and feature request tools. And yet, at times these aids still lack the nuance to appreciate the perspective of real consumers.

How do I know this?  Because Google once hired me to make product decisions.

My experience is heavily biased. For example, I live with 4 roommates and every one of us has a smartphone running Ice Cream Sandwich. Two of us are running Jellybean. In the real world, only 10% of Android users are on ICS, and virtually nobody is on Jellybean.  I’m so far removed from typical Android user, it’s shocking when I meet strangers who complain to me about their slow Gingerbread phone.

In the summer of 2011 I was an associate product manager intern on Google Image search.  My team did an IamA on reddit (http://goo.gl/ZQh5m).  One of my projects was leading the refresh of the Google Image Search experience on tablets.  At times, there was disagreement in the team on key issues.  We looked at all the data.  We did user studies.  But, we still had disagreements and I had to make decisions, and those decisions came from my everyday experience as a computer user.  

So I did my best to think like a regular user, while feeling that I couldn’t possibly be qualified to make these decisions.  I’m proud of the product we released, but we were lucky - Image search isn’t exactly a controversial product. What if I had been in charge of Google Buzz? Would I have seen the privacy problems?

A few giants of our industry knew what users wanted better than they did, like Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos. Yet even visionaries who we thought understood their users, like Reed Hastings, failed to see the pitfalls of splitting the Netflix brand into Netflix and Qwikster.  Mozilla mistakenly assumed that users like software updates and now they’re pissing off their customers every 6 weeks (http://goo.gl/AHS3K).

Unfortunately every major consumer internet tech company suffers from selection bias. Startups are not immune. Many valley entrepreneurs are building products for themselves and their hipster San Francisco friends.  It’s doubtful that most consumers want to check-in on Foursquare, or upload intentionally damaged photographs on Instagram.  Sure, there may be a sizable market for these products, but it takes a certain kind of lifestyle to see Instagram as anything but silly.

So what can we do to completely avoid selection bias? There are a few things to keep in mind when making decisions and planning product strategy:

- We are not our users. This simple and obvious statement bears repeating.  *We are not our users.*  Unless you’re writing an API or IDE, you are not your user.  If you work for Facebook, just because you are comfortable sharing every aspect of your life, doesn’t mean your users are.

- Our friends are not our users.  Your friend group is not representative of the general public.  They may love measuring their social influence on Klout, but 99% of the population doesn’t give a shit.  So don't think about how your friends use products when trying to decide UI flow or major feature design.

- Our taxi driver is our users.  Take every opportunity to ask regular people what they think about tech products.  Their answers will surprise and shock you.

- Metrics are king.  At the end of the day, it’s always better to settle an argument with metrics. If you don’t have metrics, get them.  If your product hasn’t launched yet, bake in a metrics framework from the start.

There are other, more aggressive strategies - Zappos requires every new employee to serve as a customer service representative.  Google sends its new associate product managers on a two week trip around the world to gain appreciation for other cultures. But, at the end of the day, it’s hard to avoid selection bias in the valley because every moment of every day we’re surrounded by it.  

We may not be able to avoid it completely, but by being aware of our personal selection bias can help us over come it.  Good luck and keep shipping.___

posted image

2012-07-05 23:20:50 (1 comments, 2 reshares, 11 +1s)Open 

Beautiful interactive infographic of the history of the web.

Beautiful interactive infographic of the history of the web.___

posted image

2012-07-04 20:58:43 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

+Mike Elgan is trying to prove that lots of women use G+, but so far it's backfiring spectacularly. 

Challenging the idea that Google+ is a 'man cave.'

There's been a lot of chatter recently about gender distribution on social networks, with Pinterest skewing most toward women and Reddit toward men and everything else falling somewhere in between.

Attention has been drawn to the idea that Facebook and Twitter activity is mostly by women now, and that Google+, as Brad Reed describes it, is an "uninviting digital man cave." 

Now I don't doubt that men outnumber women on Google+. But I also suspect that the male skew is less pronounced than stats would tell. 

The reason is that I have the sneaking suspicion that men are more likely than women to post publicly on Google+, and women are more likely than men to post privately. 

Since public posts are, for the most part, both the posts that are measured and also the ones that are by definition more visible, because they alone are sharable, the perception of gender distribution on Google+ may be different from the reality.

The reason for this may be that public posts by women often bring unwanted sexual harassment type comments, which is a disincentive to post publicly. 

So let's take a poll. The goal here is not to count the number of men vs women who vote, but to test my theory that men are more likely to post publicly rather than privately. 

Please vote by clicking +1 on only one of the options in the comments section below. 

http://mashable.com/2012/07/04/men-women-social-media/

http://www.bgr.com/2012/07/03/google-plus-gender-bias-explained/___+Mike Elgan is trying to prove that lots of women use G+, but so far it's backfiring spectacularly. 

posted image

2012-06-29 19:01:24 (3 comments, 4 reshares, 16 +1s)Open 

I'm sure most people on G+ feel gmail is by and away the most popular email client.  Yet, it just now overtook hotmail in popularity. It's a reminder that we should be mindful of how selection bias shapes our perceptions of the world.

http://venturebeat.com/2012/06/28/gmail-hotmail-yahoo-email-users/

I'm sure most people on G+ feel gmail is by and away the most popular email client.  Yet, it just now overtook hotmail in popularity. It's a reminder that we should be mindful of how selection bias shapes our perceptions of the world.

http://venturebeat.com/2012/06/28/gmail-hotmail-yahoo-email-users/___

2012-06-28 05:26:19 (25 comments, 0 reshares, 17 +1s)Open 

I just installed Jelly Bean on my Galaxy Nexus.  I'm LOVING it so far.  My favorite feature is the redesigned Google Search experience!

I just installed Jelly Bean on my Galaxy Nexus.  I'm LOVING it so far.  My favorite feature is the redesigned Google Search experience!___

posted image

2012-06-06 23:36:41 (5 comments, 10 reshares, 30 +1s)Open 

In honor of Linkedin's failure to salt their passwords, I've prepared a little graph.

In honor of Linkedin's failure to salt their passwords, I've prepared a little graph.___

2012-06-06 03:46:36 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 13 +1s)Open 

I'd love to pay for Game of Thrones, but sadly I cannot :(

I'd love to pay for Game of Thrones, but sadly I cannot :(___

posted image

2012-05-17 16:17:03 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

First look at Unreal Engine 4! It's a great time to be a gamer :)

First look at Unreal Engine 4! It's a great time to be a gamer :)___

posted image

2012-04-26 21:53:41 (2 comments, 9 reshares, 14 +1s)Open 

It has come to my attention that some people don't know how to control the noise from each of their circles :(

Google+ lets you set the noise of each circle with a handy slider. This is life saver if you want to make sure you see all of your friends updates, but only the best stuff from the random people you circle!

It has come to my attention that some people don't know how to control the noise from each of their circles :(

Google+ lets you set the noise of each circle with a handy slider. This is life saver if you want to make sure you see all of your friends updates, but only the best stuff from the random people you circle!___

posted image

2012-04-24 17:16:51 (16 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

So what's the advantage over Dropbox? There isn't even Google+ integration :P

So what's the advantage over Dropbox? There isn't even Google+ integration :P___

posted image

2012-04-19 18:59:43 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

Candle + Lighter + Bullet + Slowmo = AWESOME

Candle + Lighter + Bullet + Slowmo = AWESOME___

posted image

2012-04-18 19:44:59 (5 comments, 4 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

This sounds awesome and the right people are involved. Yay for the commercialization of space flight!

This sounds awesome and the right people are involved. Yay for the commercialization of space flight!___

posted image

2012-04-12 20:43:39 (0 comments, 12 reshares, 11 +1s)Open 

Hilarious summary of yesterday's hilarious #whitespace meme.

#whitespace___Hilarious summary of yesterday's hilarious #whitespace meme.

posted image

2012-04-11 22:29:32 (4 comments, 2 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

This is how I know Google+ is going mainstream! (for better or worse).

This is how I know Google+ is going mainstream! (for better or worse).___

posted image

2012-04-11 19:12:26 (4 comments, 16 reshares, 26 +1s)Open 

The best new feature in Google+ #newgoogleplus

Found a use
Ever wondered what to do with that white space, well it is perfect for your post it notes.

#whitespace #newgoogleplus ___The best new feature in Google+ #newgoogleplus

posted image

2012-03-28 21:58:35 (0 comments, 7 reshares, 9 +1s)Open 

Here's your feel good video of the day.

Here's your feel good video of the day.___

posted image

2012-03-21 19:53:54 (7 comments, 2 reshares, 14 +1s)Open 

The new spelling correction in Google Docs is the BEST THING EVER. It corrects the misspelling that has been plaguing me my entire adult life.

The new spelling correction in Google Docs is the BEST THING EVER. It corrects the misspelling that has been plaguing me my entire adult life.___

posted image

2012-03-05 23:50:42 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

My buddy +Tareq Ismail just released an awesome iPad app that makes playing Music on your iPad easy again.
http://www.tuaw.com/2012/03/05/daily-ipad-app-deck/

My buddy +Tareq Ismail just released an awesome iPad app that makes playing Music on your iPad easy again.
http://www.tuaw.com/2012/03/05/daily-ipad-app-deck/___

posted image

2012-03-01 09:14:30 (5 comments, 4 reshares, 23 +1s)Open 

Whoever designed the new task manager in Windows 8, I want to hug you.

It's pretty AND functional!

Whoever designed the new task manager in Windows 8, I want to hug you.

It's pretty AND functional!___

posted image

2012-03-01 09:14:20 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

___

posted image

2012-03-01 09:14:12 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

___

posted image

2012-03-01 09:12:14 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

___

posted image

2012-02-26 00:32:27 (2 comments, 2 reshares, 13 +1s)Open 

I don't always use Chrome on Windows, but when I do...

I don't always use Chrome on Windows, but when I do...___

2012-02-15 08:37:02 (18 comments, 0 reshares, 10 +1s)Open 

I use Google Reader more than any other website or app, but it's been stagnant for years. Are there any alternatives that are just as fast for systematically weeding through hundreds of articles per day?

I use Google Reader more than any other website or app, but it's been stagnant for years. Are there any alternatives that are just as fast for systematically weeding through hundreds of articles per day?___

2012-02-08 00:23:00 (9 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

I can't get Android Chrome Beta to load webpages or sync with my desktop Chrome. Anybody else have this problem? Tried reinstalling, but no dice.

I can't get Android Chrome Beta to load webpages or sync with my desktop Chrome. Anybody else have this problem? Tried reinstalling, but no dice.___

posted image

2012-02-07 18:27:13 (2 comments, 4 reshares, 14 +1s)Open 

Finally Chrome on Android with tab syncing between desktop and phone!

Finally Chrome on Android with tab syncing between desktop and phone!___

posted image

2012-02-02 20:12:47 (0 comments, 10 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

The first world is hard sometimes.

I don't normally make poop jokes, but this was too funny to not share. ___The first world is hard sometimes.

2012-02-01 21:08:00 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 11 +1s)Open 

Google has gone evil not because they consolidated their privacy policy, but because they keep telling me about it. I don't care!

Google has gone evil not because they consolidated their privacy policy, but because they keep telling me about it. I don't care!___

2012-02-01 03:08:08 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

How can I rent a sloth for a day? Anybody have any idea? Googling isn't helping.

How can I rent a sloth for a day? Anybody have any idea? Googling isn't helping.___

posted image

2012-01-20 00:10:41 (4 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

Facebook finally to have proper search?

I have a feeling that FB Origin is a search engine.___Facebook finally to have proper search?

posted image

2012-01-18 23:52:38 (6 comments, 1 reshares, 12 +1s)Open 

How I feel today

How I feel today___

2012-01-18 20:07:58 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Google supporting webmasters involved in the #sopablackout by crawling slower. Brilliant!

Hello webmasters! We realize many webmasters are concerned about the medium-term effects of today's blackout. As a precaution, the crawl team at Google has configured Googlebot to crawl at a much lower rate for today only so that the Google results of websites participating in the blackout are less likely to be affected.___Google supporting webmasters involved in the #sopablackout by crawling slower. Brilliant!

posted image

2012-01-18 20:02:13 (6 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

What is this white stuff in my West Coast? #snowpocalypse

What is this white stuff in my West Coast? #snowpocalypse___

posted image

2012-01-12 03:04:56 (3 comments, 1 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

An oddly reasonable assessment of Google's new social search efforts from Techcrunch.

An oddly reasonable assessment of Google's new social search efforts from Techcrunch.___

posted image

2012-01-04 17:36:48 (20 comments, 14 reshares, 29 +1s)Open 

The Android back stack is broken

I want to discuss something that’s been bugging me for a while. The Android back stack. Most Android users love the back button, and I do too. But, the design is broken. I’ll explain with an example:

You receive a text. You tap the notification, which opens a conversation with your friend. She invites you to a party and asks you to invite some friends. You respond, “sounds good!”, and then tap the back button on your Android phone to return to your list of messaging contacts. Except instead of going to the list of contacts, you are taking back to the Android launcher.

“Huh”, you think to yourself, “I swear hitting back from a text conversation took me to my contacts list?” Moving on with life, you tap on the messaging app and proceed to fire off texts to your buddies to invite them to the party. You close the messagingapp by hitting ... more »

The Android back stack is broken

I want to discuss something that’s been bugging me for a while. The Android back stack. Most Android users love the back button, and I do too. But, the design is broken. I’ll explain with an example:

You receive a text. You tap the notification, which opens a conversation with your friend. She invites you to a party and asks you to invite some friends. You respond, “sounds good!”, and then tap the back button on your Android phone to return to your list of messaging contacts. Except instead of going to the list of contacts, you are taking back to the Android launcher.

“Huh”, you think to yourself, “I swear hitting back from a text conversation took me to my contacts list?” Moving on with life, you tap on the messaging app and proceed to fire off texts to your buddies to invite them to the party. You close the messaging app by hitting home.

Five minutes later, you receive a text from your buddy who says he can’t come because he’s playing Skyrim. You reply, “get off your ass and socialize you introverted dragon-born”, you tap the back button to return to the launcher. Except this time you end up at your buddy list.

Now you’re super confused. You swear that last time you hit back, the launcher opened, but this time it was the buddy list. How is this possible?

Unfortunately, the result of pressing the back button is non-deterministic. There is no way to know for sure where the back button will take you.

The Android Back Stack

Every Android application is a series of activities held in a stack, which is together is called a task. When the user presses the back button, the top activity in the task is popped off. If there are no more activities, the user returns to the parent task that started the task, which is often the Android launcher. Multiple tasks can be running at once, and the user can switch between them using the multi-tasking button or hitting home and choosing a new app.

Checkout this diagram from the Android developer documentation of a sample task:
http://developer.android.com/images/fundamentals/diagram_backstack.png

On paper this system is consistent and deterministic. In practice, Android phones don’t have unlimited memory, so when too many tasks are in RAM, the system will destroy old activities and tasks to make room for new ones. Other times, the system will destroy activities after a period of inactivity.


(Edit: +Dianne Hackborn of the Framework team corrects me:

"I'm sorry, but you are completely wrong to tie this with memory management. How back operates has nothing to do with memory management, activity state saving, etc. It is deterministic without knowing how activities are being killed in the background and their state being saved.

What is missing is just consistency in the behavior apps implement for the back button. And actually this is a more specific inconsistency: how apps handle their back stack when the user launches into them to a potentially different state than they were last in. That is, from a notification or a widget."

More explanation from her in the comments. I really wish G+ let you link to comments. Sigh. )


For some apps this behavior is inconsequential. However in other cases there are unintended consequences, such as with notifications. When a user clicks on a notification, a new task is started or if the task is already in memory, a new activity is added to the top of the task stack.

There is no way to know which behavior occurred. So when you open a text message notification, the behavior of the back button depends on whether the messaging app task already existed in memory or not. The ambiguity is confusing, even to seasoned Android users.

Android developers have tools at their disposable to combat this problem. App best practices suggest to lazily save activity state to disk in the event of activity destruction, and restore state when the activity is needed again. Unfortunately, many apps don’t do this. And the ones that do often build perplexing activity stacks. Even first party apps are not immune.

Take the Google+ app. It has the most confusing back-stack I’ve encountered. I often click on posts from my launcher’s G+ widget. If I hit the back button repeatedly from a post, I get led through a seemingly random series of activities. Sometimes this stack ends at the launcher, and sometimes it ends at the Google+ home activity, but I’m never sure which I’ll get or how many steps it will take to get to the end.

The Facebook messenger app doesn’t manage activity state correctly. When you receive a notification, the app opens a new instance of the conversation activity, even if that conversation was already at the top of the activity stack. So when you hit the back button, the conversation you were just reading fades out, then fades back in because the same activity appeared twice on the stack.

Even as a developer and Android power user, I’m still regularly confused by the back stack. I can only imagine the confusion for novice and casual users.

Note: I glossed over some details of the back-stack and simplified the description for the purposes of narrative. If you’re interested in understanding the precise behavior of the Android back-stack, read the documentation: http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/fundamentals/tasks-and-back-stack.html

Ice Cream Sandwich to the rescue! (not)

So what can be done? In Ice Cream Sandwich, first party apps introduced a new design language straight out of iOS: a software back button in the top left of the screen. The beauty of this “bread crumb” back button is that it takes you back to the “logical” place in the application, instead of popping the current activity. Often these are the same place, but not always.

For example, in the text messaging app, hitting the bread crumb back button takes you to your conversion list every single time. Ah, finally some consistency! Unfortunately, this is a small victory. Each Google app implements the bread crumb back button differently. Some, such as Google+, seem to use it as a redundant back button. Others such as the Android Market, use it in a way that occasionally are counter-intuitive.

If anything, the new breadcrumb back buttons have made things more confusing because I often wonder if I should hit the hardware back button or the breadcrumb back button. Despite this, breadcrumb back buttons are put to good use in a few apps, notably Messaging, Gtalk, Gmail, and Gallery.

A (better) Solution

The back button is powerful. When it works (and it works most of the time), apps have more flexibility than on iOS to integrate activities from other apps. The intent system in Android is brilliant, but would be useless without the back button. We’re stuck with the back button for the long haul.

Thankfully, with the introduction of the soft back button with the Galaxy Nexus, the Android team has increased flexibility in how they represent the back stack. For example, the back button could be annotated with the icon of the task it leads to. This way the user knows if they are about to accidentally leave an app. The breadcrumb back button could indicate where it leads. Checkout example mock I’ve created with user experience designer +Fravic Fernando attached to this post.

With this design, it’s clear to users where they are going, so they know whether to hit the back button or the breadcrumb back button. The confusion is gone. This is a simple and relatively easy to implement solution. There are more visually exciting solutions, such as representing the task stack as an actual visual stack and using swiping gestures for navigation.

Even with my suggested improvements, apps will still have poorly designed activity stacks. Ultimately it's up to app developers to build consistent and easy to navigate app. Perhaps the best solution is to raise awareness amongst developers of the perils of the Android back stack.

What it comes down to it, Is the back stack problem a show stopper for Android? No. Android wouldn’t be the most popular smart phone OS if it was. But, it’s a real issue that effects Android users every single day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Does the Android back button bother you? If so, how should it be fixed?

PS: This is the last smart phone related update I’ll be posting for the time being. I begin work at Microsoft next Monday and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the industry while I know any confidential information.___

Buttons

A special service of CircleCount.com is the following button.

The button shows the number of followers you have directly in a small button. You can add this button to your website, like the +1-Button of Google or the Like-Button of Facebook.






You can add this button directly in your website. For more information about the CircleCount Buttons and the description how to add them to another page click here.

Andrew MunnTwitterFacebookLinkedInCircloscope