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Making tech safe and compassionate through design, coaching and teaching. Independent consultant. Co-host of UX Podcast. Primary publication: axbom.com

I’ve been working for some months on this chart as a summary of the many ways digital holds potential for negative impact. Alongside the chart I’ve provided a brief summary of the meaning of the currently six sections and 32 elements.

I am not an opponent of digital. I am a proponent of responsible innovation. To make responsible choices you need to understand what could go wrong. The chart is not meant to dissuade but rather to make aware and encourage more careful and considered choices in a digital world. …


Once we recognise digital harm as a form of abuse it becomes clear how the same patterns of victim-blaming that we see in all abusive relationships tend to be repeated.

– This article was originally published on axbom.blog.

One of the most common rebuttals I hear when talking about harmful design is the idea that “people can just leave if they don’t like it”. This follows a similar pattern to all abusive relationships where one party is exerting power over a trapped victim. To outsiders without personal experience, just opening the door and walking out — or clicking “delete account” — may seem deceptively simple.

Thankfully, there is now extensive research telling us why people do not leave abusive relationships, research we can choose to learn from. Alarmingly, it appears…


A rarely talked about field of research, known as keystroke dynamics, involves identifying individuals based on how they type on a keyboard. It’s getting better, and also easier for anyone to implement.

Originally published on axbom.blog on November 30, 2020.

As early as 1860, experienced telegraph operators realized they could actually recognize each individual by everyone’s unique tapping rhythm. To the trained ear, the soft tip-tap of every operator could be as recognizable as the spoken voice of a family member.

In World War II military intelligence used a methodology known as “Fist of the Sender” to identify unique way of keying in a message’s “dots” and “dashes” in Morse code. It was used to distinguish friend from foe. …


A tool for thinking holistically about digital ethics when planning coursework and writing.

Originally published on axbom.blog on July 12, 2020.

This mindmap is a work in progress. It helps me create the syllabus for my course Ethics in Design, as well as outline corporate workshops. It helps to draw from when I’m preparing talks and lectures. It reminds me of the complexity of the system, but also of why it matters to work intentionally with Digital Ethics today.

Maybe it can be of help to you as well.


A look at how vulnerable children are abused to serve the requirements of a world dependent on technology.

“ First published in the Ethical.net magazine and on axbom.blog

When I look at my phone I think about slavery. I think about modern day slavery, perpetuated by the wealth and power that historic slavery facilitated. I think about how invisible it is despite modern day access to information and education. And despite all the many examples of injustice exposed thanks to tech. Here’s the thing: Slaves don’t have access to a school system that can teach or empower them to speak up. Slaves don’t own smartphones. Slaves are just one part of how smartphones come to exist.

Frédéric was…


To allow as many people as possible to participate and benefit from an event, there are many things to consider. It’s no surprise then that organizers often miss details that can help people feel welcome and seen, and that could make or break their ability to take part in the experience.

Too often it falls upon those who are already vulnerable, sidestepped, and with permanent or temporary needs for specific considerations, to fight for their own rights. …


The idea of addiction to new technology often leads to polarized debates. In this post I bring attention to both perspectives and ask the question: does it matter how many people are being hurt?

Ever more often I see people arguing about whether or not tech addiction is a real problem. On one side of the aisle, tech addiction is just alarmism or a disinformation campaign. At the other end, the media loves pushing big headlines on how our devices have us hooked to various online services. I believe it would be helpful to take a step back and ask ourselves what we are really talking about when this topic comes up: human beings experiencing distress.

Getting real about the word addiction — a word that itself carries many different connotations for different people…


A guide to the different steps of understanding and avoiding potential harm before, during and after you create new tools and services.

Originally published on axbom.blog on November 5, 2019.

The flowchart on managing impact is intended to give you an overview of the elements that help you avoid and mitigate negative impact in digital design. Of course, it likely makes sense for more design situations than digital ones.

I define impact like this:

Impact in design is the effect, both positive and negative, on humans and planet. It considers severity, contribution, likelihood and vulnerability in both short and long term.

With regards to the words in that definition, here is what they refer to:

  • Severity — How bad (or good) is…

As part of my work on practical methods for integrating ethics thinking into your design process I am producing a set of templates and worksheets. My intent is to encourage ethical, sustainable and inclusive design in all organizations by providing clear and simple guidance on how to get started and keep going.

During my workshop on Managing Misusability I use the Inclusive Panda map as an aid for understanding and mapping out all the people we are not consciously designing for but who may still be impacted by your solution.

As I release my templates into the wild I also…


I can not begin to imagine the terror experienced in Hawaii when residents’ smartphones alerted them with the most horrific of messages:

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

[view tweet with image of this notification]

The aftermath of this message: the 38 minutes of fear, seeking shelter and confusion around the lack of news on radio and TV, has been documented in worldwide media coverage. Many of these reports attribute the harmful, and false, message to “human error”.

Not surprisingly many voices in the design community have displayed concern for this simplified conclusion. Human error has the ring of something that occurs naturally in our everyday…

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