Gray Patterns

You may have heard of dark patterns, where technology is designed in intentionally malicious (or, dark) ways. But what about when it's unintentional? There are a ton of habits I have developed over the years purely to account for bugs I have encountered in software I use. These bugs may be fixed someday, but for now the defensive habits remain, sapping precious energy and time from me. Here are some examples.

I have multiple monitors, and in Windows 10 there's an option to have a taskbar on each monitor and to only show open windows on the taskbar of the same monitor as there the window is at. If you focus a program on one monitor, then focus a program on another monitor, both programs stay focused on both taskbars even though only one is truly in focus. Clicking in the blank area of any taskbar fixes the display issue. So, I now have a habit of clicking to focus a program, clicking in a blank area, then refocusing the program again, just to avoid this distracting visual bug.

Windows 10 also has a bug where sometimes one of the taskbars will get stuck thinking the mouse is continuing to hover over the last window it crossed over, even causing the tooltip and preview to show up sometimes, which is incredibly distracting. If this happens the only solution is to restart the system entirely, or I can pull a browser tab out into a new window, hover it in the taskbar, then close that tab/window, and then just never hover my mouse over any windows in that taskbar again until I restart my computer. It is almost getting me to start using Alt+Tab, except that I often have too many windows on other monitors for that to be practical.

VLC has a bug where pausing or seeking music sometimes messes it up and it gets slightly pitched up or down in a subtle not noticeable way. So, I am now afraid to pause or seek music in it because I know I'll have to close it and reopen it if I want to fix the sound quality.

YouTube lets you turn off autoplay for isolated videos, but not for playlists. I often want to scroll into the comments once a video is over, but I can't do that if I've been advanced to the next video in the playlist already. I can just click back, but that starts me at the beginning of the video, which changes my saved position in that video and affects the progress of the red progress bar on video thumbnails, which I rely on to know when I need to finish watching a partially-watched video. So I am now compelled to detect the end of the video approaching and pause it, read the comments, then let it play out fully once I am done so the progress bar shows as fully watched. This can probably be categorized as a dark pattern too, but mainly it's notable because I have developed numerous habits and mannerisms to account for it. I also write comments in a text file that I save frequently, since the auto advance feature cares not for what I have been writing carefully throughout the duration of the video.

Discord has a bug where if you hold the Home key to scroll up through messages, it eventually stops working until you click to refocus the element it is scrolling inside of. So now on every webpage everywhere that has infiniscrolling, I occasionally click in the empty space while I am scrolling.

Discord also has an issue where if you click away from a channel or DM right as a message appears, it marks that message as read even though you've never seen it. I found that if you use the browser version of Discord and refresh the tab and keep the tab focused, it breaks the auto-mark-as-read functionality and lets you mark messages as read only when you want to, thus negating this issue from happening. If you unfocus and refocus the tab though then Discord returns to working in its unfortunate normal mode. (Update: sometime in May or July 2022, this stopped working, and Discord always works in its unfortunate normal mode now.) However, as long as the tab is unfocused, it also doesn't mark messages as read, and so if you see new messages, you can scroll up in the chat without focusing the tab, and once you are scrolled up in the chat you can safely focus the tab again without it marking the messages as read, allowing you to refresh the page and get back the more desirable behavior.

Nintendo Switch Pro Controllers will turn on and try to connect if you press any button on them at all. I have it paired to my PC for testing, but usually I use an Xbox controller, so when the Pro Controller turns on and connects it interferes with my testing. It is also annoying in that it constantly shows the player number LEDs bouncing back and forth. The only way I know of to turn it off is to turn my system's bluetooth off and back on again, which is annoying since I have bluetooth headphones and some applications don't like random changes to the default audio device. So, now I am afraid of even moving the Pro Controller out of the way in case I accidentally turn it on.

I have a Lenovo Miix 630, a little Windows on ARM laptop/tablet hybrid I use for testing and development purposes. The battery life is amazing and can last for days or even weeks, when it's turned on. If I power it off fully, the battery drains rapidly and will be totally dead within a day, it won't even turn on until you've had it plugged in to the charger for several minutes. So unlike every single other non-phone device I own, I now leave this one turned on all the time just so that the battery isn't dead every time I go to use it. It goes into sleep mode when the cover is closed on it, and the battery lasts for weeks that way.

Update 2021-07-06: I just remembered that for years now I have been cautious about having multiple Chrome windows open since I use pinned tabs. I have had issues where Chrome has crashed or my PC has bluescreened and when Chrome "restored open tabs" it only restored the last window I had open/focused, losing my pinned tabs. This has also led to me noting down the URLs of pinned tabs in both my bookmarks and in text files that sync to my cloud backup solution. I don't understand why pinned tabs are per-window, they should really be global to all open windows to avoid this exact issue.

Update 2022-05-03: A few months ago a bug was introduced in Chrome where dragging the browser window between monitors with different DPIs no longer scaled the window size properly in most cases. However, if the window was maximized and I used the Win+Shift+Arrow keyboard shortcut to move it to the other monitor, I could then restore the window and it would have the correct scaled size. I think the bug is mostly fixed now but I still do things with this slower method out of fear of messing up my window sizes, because it's annoying to keep having to fix them.

There are more of these I know I am forgetting too, so I plan to continue editing this post and expand it over time with more stuff I encounter. So far, as of the post date, none of these issues have been resolved to my satisfaction, so I still have to employ all these defensive habits.