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Jonas Voss

Flawed American Express card registration process

2 min read

Tried to activate an American Express credit card, via the American Express Android app today. Turned into a field study of assholedesign. I wonder if anyone from their customer service team, or their developers ever tried to follow the sign-up flow themselves.

Issue #1 - Secret rules

The fields the user needs to fill out, has no guidance on what qualifies as a valid input. I put in a username, and a password I deemed safe to use.

The app told me the following:

Error message from AMEX signup on Android App

"User ID must contain at least one number."

Ok. I add a number to my login and that worked. It wasn't clear I had to from the beginning.

Issue #2 - More secret rules

I then type in a password. It's 11 characters long, and includes one number, and one special character. That mix usually works.

The app tells me:

Password not valid, refer to Terms for details

"Password not valid, please refer to Terms for details."

What's wrong with writing the requirements in the error message or, and I know or it sounds a bit crazy, right next to the field you need to fill it into (like the Norman Nielsen Group has told us since 2015). At least they could have included a link to the "Terms" where these sacred details can be found. Anyway, I ended up getting a generated one from KeePass, but I still don't know what they rules are for their password.

Issue #3 - Dark design pattern

For the final example, this is how their marketing box looks like:

Image showing checkbox next to text which is counter to user understanding.

Notice how the promotions opt-in checkbox is next to the text saying:

"Your email address will not be shared with other companies to market their own products and services. You can update your preferences later if you wish."

This gives the impression that by checking the box, you agree to them not giving out your email address to other companies, while checking it opts you in, to receiving email promotions from American Express.

If you are designing a sign-up form for anything, please don't make me guess what I can put into the fields. It's a bad user experience that, with just a modicum of thought and testing, could be turned into a great experience. 


Jonas Voss

Goulash Disko 2019 - the crowdfunded festival

2 min read

I watched both of the Fyre Festival documentaries, and found them fascinating. The way social media was used, the way they were selling it as a unique experience, that by participating in it, would make you unique and special as well.

Well, the best festival to deliver on this concept is in my opinion, Goulash Disko.

It's a festival taking place on the island of Vis in Croatia, and although they can't market it as an island formerly belonging to a drug trafficker, it was allegedly used by Tito as a hideout in the early 1940s, when he was hiding in a cave on the island.

Goulash Disko has been happening every year since 2013, and the unique part of the festival is, that it's 100% crowd funded. The funding run just started this past week, and it's already over 100% funded.

I participated in the one in 2013, the first one, and it was a great experience. From what I know, it has only gotten better. I recommend it, if you don't have any plans for mid-September yet.

Lineups to be announced I believe, but you can check out the lineups from previous years on their website on the link above.

Jonas Voss

Netflix "My List" woes

2 min read

Here's a 1st world problem of mine.

The maximum number of items you can have on My List on Netflix is 500. This seems to be a legacy policy from when Netflix was DVD based, and was shipping items to people.

When you hit this limit, you have to remove titles from your list to be able to add new ones. This was not something Netflix told me, I had to figure it out when app/website wouldn't allow me to add new titles to my list. It didn't say what the issue was, it would just say it couldn't be added. I've later had confirmation from Netflix, that this was the case.

I didn't know about this limit until I hit it, and it's not something the UI makes you aware of in any way. There's no counter of how many titles you have on your My List. There's no indication when adding a title to My List how many are in there now. There are zero clues about this.

After reading online about this legacy policy about 500 items being the limit, I contacted Netflix support to ask if I could have the 500 items limit lifted. I was told that was not possible, and I would have to manually remove items from My List one by one.

If only My List had some kind of functionality to order the data on that list. Say, sorting by date added, watch length, whether you watched it or not. Over time I've not been the only person frustrated by this, judging from the results of searching online, and a number of people have written Greasemonkey scripts, user scripts, etc, to address this shortcoming. Unfortunately, none of the scripts I've tried are working anymore, because Netflix keeps changing their API making it impossible to get the data from them in an effective way.

I just have a single feature request for Netflix. They don't have to build any sort of functionality into My List itself, but if they could create a button for your account, which with a single press removed all watched titles from My List, that would really make my day. It would also not waste my time removing them one by one from their web interface which, at best, is as enjoyable and rewarding as watching paint dry.

Jonas Voss

location test

1 min read

Trying the location feature in indigenous to see how Known handles it.

Jonas Voss

Busy bees

1 min read

Spring bees.

Jonas Voss

Session Victim @ Jazz Cafe, London

1 min read

Had the pleasure of seeing Session Victim play at Jazz Cafe in Camden, London on Saturday. The video doesn't do it justice, it was a very lively performance, with excellent music of course. You should definitely go check them out if they are playing near you in the future.

Session Victim

Jonas Voss

Consuming Instagram differently

4 min read

I've been looking for a different way of consuming Instagram. Facebook has introduced more and more features in their neverending quest to wrestle users from Snapchat and onto Instagram, and I don't care for those. I like Instagram, the photo sharing part, not so much the TV and Stories part. The other reason is that whole privacy thing, of course. Turns out big social media players weren't quite the stewards of our personal data we were hoping for, and spending less time on actual social media websites seems like a good thing.

Except for some musicians and photographers, I don't follow brands on Instagram. I mainly follow people I know. Family, friends, and tags. Being a camera and photo enthusiast, I enjoy looking at photos taken with a variety of cameras and film, and a lot of people use Instagram to show their analogue makings.

For a while I used an app called Hermit on Android. Hermit is a wrapper that turns mobile web versions of websites into apps. It has ad blocking, and a bunch of other nice features. Using Hermit helped me get rid of ads on Instagram, and their algorithm somehow works differently on there as well. I liked the ordering better, it seemed to be more chronological. Only downside: I had to consume it on my phone. It was good, but not great. and Atom to the rescue

Thankfully, people much smarter than me are creating tools for consuming silo'ed social media in different ways. One such tool is Granary.

To be able to get the feed of your friends, and not the feed of your own damn self, you need to find your sessionid cookie value from Instagram. Do the following:

Edit: There's actually a much easier way to do the below, by using - thanks to Ryan for pointing it out.

  • Open the Chrome Browser
  • go to and login with your account
  • after logging in, open the developer console of your browser, and reload the page
  • find the "Application" tab and click it
  • in the left hand panel there's a "Cookies" item, click the chevron to the left of it to expand it
  • click on the line that says
  • in the list of cookies like csrftoken, ig_cb, mid, and rur, there should also be a cookie called "sessionid"
  • copy the value of sessionid

Next, open, and click on the Instagram logo. Granary will load up this url, and then you have to fill out some fields. You need to fill in your Instagram username, select @friends from the dropdown, select "atom" as your format, and paste the cookied ID you gathered above, into the last field where it says sessionid cookie (for @friends) and hit the GET button.

When Granary has done its thing, you'll end up with a link below the form. With the cookie value removed, mine looks like this:

This link holds your liberated Instagram photo feed. I plugged mine into my Feed Reader and into Aaron Parecki's Aperture and now I can read my Instagram feed on my phone using Indigenous, and on my desktop, all with no ads and no stories. Glorious!

Is anything lost?

Besides losing the ads and stories, you also lose the ability to favourite a post on Instagram, and to add comments to a post. However, I don't necessarily see this as a loss. If I want to Like a post, I can just do it on my own personal feed, and it ends up looking like this. Sure, if it's a post from a friend of mine, they won't know from their post, that I liked it. But you know how you can fix that? Write them an email. If your feed reader lets you email a post, you can email your friend saying you liked their picture.

Not being able to comment might be the biggest loss, but if you can live with that, then I think you should do it, go forth and liberate your Instagram feed.

This will definitely be the way I will consume Instagram until we've all moved over to Pixelfed.

P.S. I'm not sure how long the sessionid cookie lives for, so you might have to reconstruct the link in Granary once in a while, but that should be about it. Also, don't share that sessionid with anyone. I'm pretty sure it can be used to log into Instagram as you.

Jonas Voss

Festive indieweb and selfhosting

3 min read

Holiday is on, and apart from relaxing with the family, I aim to look into a bunch of stuff before I'm back at the factory in January.

My Indieweb life is coming on well, thanks to Known, and the community in London. I attended my first couple of Homebrew Website Club meetups in town in 2018, and although my contributions to the community so far is non-existant, I'm very glad to have met a handful of people to talk indieweb stuff with in person, on a regular basis. I've also logged onto the Indieweb slack/IRC channel where I'm a regular lurker.

One thing I'd like to do is, to import all the posts from my homegrown CMS into Known, so they get equipped with all the indieweb goodness which is part and parcel of Known. I've had comments turned off on my own CMS for years, because I gave up dealing with the deluge of spam coming in through the comments form. I'd like to have comments back. Known has an import feature which will let me import Wordpress RSS-feeds (which my old blog produces), so it should be possible. I did try a few weeks ago and wasn't successful, but I gather with a bit of tinkering I can make it work.

On the selfhosting front I'm very happy with my current inventory (bookmark service from Shaarli, Tiny Tiny RSS for reading feeds, dokuWiki for documenting/notes), but I also want to host more stuff. In particular, I'd like to try to run my own instance of Mattermost. With my current hosting provider, that option is a bit limited. As long as whatever service I want to selfhost has very standard requirements, such as PHP and MySQL, to run, then I'm fine. But I find that more and more of the things I would like to try to selfhost, requires a bit more, such as artisan, go, docker, and a bunch of other things that I either a) never heard of before or b), have heard of before, but have no clue about.

I will sign up for a month of VPS with one of the providers in the field, and try out a few things. It might be overkill, but then at least I'll know I'm in way over my head, and I can return to my shared hosting, and whatever that allows me to install.

Happy holidays (:

Jonas Voss


1 min read

"I wonder if my car will fit in that little parking spot? I better park in the middle to make sure I don't spill over onto the road."

Jonas Voss

Genome the size of an SSD

1 min read

HIV can easily fit on a floppy disk.

Jonas Voss

Sticky links - May 7th, 2018

2 min read

  • Take the power back is about how we can work our way back to the independent decentralised internet we were supposed to get. The method? "Changing from passive, to active. From scroll to search, from react to rethink, from like and retweet to write and link."  Also, turns out that teenagers today don't know what browsers or URLs are. To them, a browser is this weird app that sometimes pops up, and URLs are these cryptic things you have to write to go somewhere, it's just bad UX really. Proprietary apps is where the internet is, according to them [insert "old man yells at cloud" image here].
  • Want to leave Facebook, but don't want to lose the easy access to your friends, relatives and acquaintances? Do you also find it a bit FOMO inducing to leave it all behind? How about making it not worth going there in the first place? I followed a tip on Quora to effectively unfollow everybody in my newsfeed. Now, even when I load Facebook, my feed is empty, but I can keep Facebook as my interactive, self-correcting address book, which it is still very good at.
  • Last time I recommended installing EFF's Privacy Badger. I should have also recommended the Disconnect browser extension, which stops a lot of trackers from working on the sites you visit.
  • In Cuba, where internet penetration is at 5%, the Sneakernet is one of the most efficient ways of getting information to the rural areas. It's pretty much a weekly "Best of the Internet" on a USB stick that gets distributed around the country. It's called "El Paquete Setimanal", and shows what a curated, infrastructure-less internet can look like. You can see a directory of what was in the one from October 10th, 2016. Informational 7 mins YouTube video on the topic. Academic paper on Cuba's offline internet.
  • Do you think it's ok for your 9-year old to take public transport on their own? If you do it in the US, you might end up getting the Child Protection Services sprung on you by concerned citizens, while in Japan, your kid could be part of a TV show about sending kids on their first errand. The reason? A larger sense of social trust and self-reliance in the latter.

Jonas Voss

Sticky links - April 14, 2018

2 min read

  • Ad nauseam is a browser extension meant to click on all the ads that you come across when browsing the web. The philosophy behind it is, that if you click on all the ads that you come across, the advertising profile that will be built from this data, about you, is useless. You have no characteristics. You like everything. If that kind of stuff is interesting to you, you should read the article “Monkeywrenching the Machine”, it's about how you can make it harder for corporate AIs to mine your data. Both are relevant in this day and age. If you prefer something less reactive, you should install EFF's Privacy Badger in your browser. It minimises how much of your activity is trackable online, by blocking ads and trackers. You can also make some internet noise to confuse data collection algorithms.
  • I recently spent 3 weeks in Costa Rica on vacation. Fascinating country, warm people, and exotic animals. The Costa Rican address system is also exotic. They don’t really have a formal one, as you do in a city like London. One guesthouse we stayed at had the address “200 meters past the intersection with the church, on a particular road, in this town.” Their address system typically uses recognisable landmarks, and navigates you from there via directions. It turns out that 4 billion people in the world, live without an address, and one company trying to tackle this is What 3 Words. They do this by putting a 3mx3m grid over the entire world, and give each square a unique name, which is a combination of 3 words. It’s genius. We should all use it, it’s even good enough for Switzerland! Surprisingly Awesome did an episode on postal addresses worth a listen if you find this interesting.
  • More geography fun. The United States has 10 cities where the population is more than 1 million people. For China, that number is 102. I might know a handful of them. This helped me better understand exactly how populous China is, and how concentrated the population in the US is.

An IndieWeb Webring 🕸💍

Jonas Voss