Mystery Thumbs and Feature Debt

On video calls recently, I’ve been confused by a mystery thumb reaction which appears above my head at the mere glance of a thumb, like in the picture here.

Was it a Zoom thing? Or an Opal Camera thing? Whenever it happened, I’d spend five minutes poking at various bits of software trying to work it out, before doing actual work.

It’s an Apple thing, it turns out, a new arrival in Mac OS Sonoma. The green video camera icon which appears in the menu bar at the top is where it lives – just click on that green button beside reactions, and it’ll turn off.

Firstly, that might have helped you. You’re welcome.

Secondly though, it got me thinking. I’d suggest that if you have to watch every minute of an World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) to discover why your video calls suddenly have random reactions in them, then perhaps it’s not a feature Apple should ship automatically enabled.

I don’t know it was enabled. And I don’t know what else is magically enabled to. What other traps have been set for me to stumble into?

In truth, I suspect I now know about 30% of the features that sit underneath Sonoma, and I’ve not really go the time nor the inclination to find out about the rest. Yet every generation of OS, more features are added, without really taking any away as far as I can tell.

Perhaps there’s a user-side version of Technical Debt?

Rather than continually incurring expense in the form of technological choices that will affect them in the future, a company can also accrue Feature Debt. This is where they continually layer in new features, without doing the hard work to make it make sense as a system for people.

Feature Debt might be how companies previously famous for making easy-to-use things lose customers in a maze of possibilities.

Coming up with a new thing is easy. Working out which two things to remove as a result is the real art.