This is a continuation of the gaps and and anomalies series. You can read the previous 15 gaps here: http://blog.oskarth.com/tag/gaps
16. On the robustness of leather. Why can cows be outside when it's raining while leather shoes and jackets carry disclaimers? This one is stolen straight from a Seinfeld episode, together with my own experience of leather shoes/jackets. There are workarounds, but by default leather is (un)reasonably fragile. It's one of the most natural materials we have, but it's not really natural in how it's used.
17. In search for a pain map (in reference to Feynman's map of a cat story). I recently got some lower back pain from lifting weights. Why is it so hard to pinpoint what the pain feels like, where it is, and how it compares to other descriptions of pain one find online? I am sure a professional athlete together with a coach or chiropractor could figure it out easily, but for most people it's a problem of transferring information. Compare this to if I am describing a place, where I can show it to someone, or take a photo. This is partly a general problem - think of feelings and art; a beautiful manifestation of inadequacy and striving for correspondence. In the case of back pain it's a very specific problem with a potentially very specific solution. It's available for those in the know; what does it take for it be available to the common man, like what photography did to painting?
18. Physical reading. Why can't I easily read time-insensitive material in book-format? I read a lot, and I prefer reading physical books (yes, even to Kindle). Five or so years ago I did this thing where I printed out my Instapaper articles on paper and then read them that way. This works, but it fails in two respects: a) It's time-consuming to prepare. b) The A4 format is too big and clumsy. Why is there not a company that you can feed articles and ebook, and then have them print and send you a Reclam Verlag like book every week or month? Other than paper being unfashionable at the moment, I don't see a good reason why it couldn't be done. Am I alone in being a (paying) netizen and preferring physical books? I'd love to have a thin book full of all the essays by Paul Graham, or a collection of tweets, blog posts and articles of any number of thoughtful people with a big internet presence. Preferably in a format that could fit in my back pocket, ready to be thrown around and given away.
19. Temporary long-term housing. Looking for a place to stay in Berlin longer than a tourist has been a nightmare. Why is the experience so horrible? Going from one part of the city to the other, bad places, bad people, fraud attempts, missed opportunities, long lead times, deceitful double-plays. This is ridiculous. For slightly shorter stays there's Airbnb (outside of impersonal and expensive/inconvenient hotels and hostels), and in particular a new feature called Instabook. Airbnb takes care of most of the vetting of bad places, bad people and fraud attempts. One thing that's missing until recently was lead times - you often have to contact several hosts to and go back and forth before you could finally book one, whereas Instabook allows you to treat the process like you would with a hotel - just book a place and be done with it. The biggest problem with this is that it's expensive - from my experience it's roughly a factor of 1.5-5 more expensive compared to the equivalent Craigslist (in Germany this is wg-gesucht). I suspect this general usability problem has many heads, of which vetting, lead-times (including time cost and mental overhead) and cost are the three most prominent ones. Vetting is partly solved with reviews, photos, social proof and identity checks. Cost is and always will be a spectrum. Lead-times, time cost and mental overhead is a big one that hasn't been solved yet (although things like Instabook are in the right direction).
20. Gaps and meta gaps. Many of these gaps are in a sense about personal pain and satisfaction. This is a myopic view; does it come purely from the attitude of the author? Is there a way to make the default what is hard and useful for humanity at large, rather than for a privileged, white, young, healthy male in the modern world (i.e. yours truly)? If you can always move up a step on the useful-ladder (for me, for my family, my tribe, my country, the world, sentient being, foo, bar, bax, quux) in what sense is a gap a useful-to-fill-gap and not merely a normative statement reflecting abstract subjective biases? Is it a question about empathy or closeness to the problem, or both, or something else? We are getting very abstract here, but one thing is for sure: it's simple to start with yourself. Is it a good kind of simple or simplistic simple?