- [from wstarosta] Status displays: I’ve got you labelled [The Economist] – [Evolutionary biology helps to explain why luxury branded objects, even counterfeit ones, are so appealing.] DESIGNERS of fancy apparel would like their customers to believe that wearing their creations lends an air of wealth, sophistication and high status. And it does—but not, perhaps, for the reason those designers might like to believe, namely their inherent creative genius. A new piece of research confirms what many, not least in the marketing departments of fashion houses, will long have suspected: that it is not the design itself that counts, but the label.
- [from steve_portigal] The Future of Books. [McSweeney's Internet Tendency] – [As usual, McSweeney's does razor-sharp mockery, but you could read this as straight-ahead prediction and it would sadly almost pass for believable] 2050: Analog Reading Will Be Digitally Simulated. As people spend more and more of time immersed in massively multi-player role-playing games, they will begin to crave some downtime. Virtual simulation worlds will start to include hideaway "libraries" you can lock yourself into. There you'll be able to climb into a virtual bath and lovingly turn the pages of a pixilated representation of one of those dog-eared tomes—reliant on old-school linear narrative— that by this time will have been made illegal in the real world. Perfectly reproduced will be the sensation of turning the pages, the crack of the spine, and even the occasional paper cut.
- [from steve_portigal] When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? [Smithsonian Magazine] – [Fascinating cultural history] The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before WW I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out. In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says..Nowadays people just have to know the sex of a baby or young child at first glance, says Jo B. Paoletti, a historian & author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America. Thus we see a pink headband encircling the bald head of an infant girl. [Via @boingboing]
- [from steve_portigal] In Sweden’s frigid north, auto testing is hot [SFGate] – [Obvious car companies do a ton of lab and simulation testing, but they are also big advocates of real world testing] Arjeplog, a region in northern Sweden is is important to car makers eager to optimize their vehicles for driving in extreme weather, This winter, temperatures have hovered around -4 F, making ice on the lakes consistently thick enough for driving. About 180 engineers convened at the test center at one point this season to work on making cars more fuel-efficient in cold weather and to optimize their anti-spin function. While Arjeplog is the world's largest winter testing area, rival locations include Ivalo, Finland; West Yellowstone, Mont.; Carson City, Nev.; and Millbrook, England. Francisco Carvalho, an analyst at IHS Automotive, says such tracks provide automakers with "the ultimate test for the little things they can't detect or predict in a lab." Almost 9,000 car industry officials visit Arjeplog each winter, with about 2,800 engineers working on any given day.
- [from steve_portigal] Thoughts on Maslow’s Hierarchy [lunchbreath] – [Wonderful cartoon that looks at the hierarchy as reflected in Tony Hawk, the dog, and robots]
- [from steve_portigal] The user experience of hot dog buns [FatDUX] – [Eric Reiss in a light-hearted consideration of hot dogs, buns,and global culture] Now here in Denmark, I’ve never seen anything except side-loaders (Gosh, who knew there was a technical term for this). That is until yesterday when I discovered the “Grab Dog” form-fitting hot-dog holder from the Danish bakery, Paaskebrød. An innovative solution? Absolutely. But a good solution?
- [from steve_portigal] First World Probs Launch – [The definitive reference] FirstWorldProbs.com was launched as a sounding board for those who are privileged and still suffering. With unemployment at 10% in much of the Western world, and the rest of the world in far worse financial conditions, it's sometimes necessary to tacitly acknowledge that the "problems" we tackle on a daily basis in the first-world aren't so severe in a greater context – even though they can cast a dark shadow on our everyday lives. "Patrick Moynihan wrote a great piece…in the early 1990s about 'defining deviancy down' – at the time, some communities were so overrun with crime that they had to adjust their standards to ignore many petty violations to allocate their manpower to tackle the serious issues. However, it's also possible sometimes to see that the inverse is true. When all your basic needs are satisfied, it can be downright depressing to break a heel or spill your latte on your favorite suit. You could call it 'defining deviancy up', if you will."
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Flow [Future Perfect] – [A lovely observation on how behavioral flows in the cafes of several countries reflect differing cultural values.]
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Getting unstuck: solving the perfect problem [Seth's Blog] – [Short piece on strategy for solving sticky problems.] The way to solve the perfect problem is to make it imperfect. Don't just bend one of the constraints, eliminate it. Shut down the factory. Walk away from the job. Change your product completely. Ignore the board.
- [from steve_portigal] Multimedia E-Books, Adorned With Video Extras [NYTimes.com] – [The language we use to describe an emerging technology or form of communication is in flux as its meaning, marketing, and perceived usefulness is in flux] In the spring Hachette Book Group called its version, by David Baldacci, an “enriched” book. Penguin Group released an “amplified” version of a novel by Ken Follett last week. And on Thursday Simon & Schuster will come out with one of its own, an “enhanced” e-book version of “Nixonland” by Rick Perlstein. All of them go beyond the simple black-and-white e-book that digitally mirrors its ink-and-paper predecessor. The new multimedia books use video that is integrated with text, and they are best read — and watched — on an iPad, the tablet device that has created vast possibilities for book publishers.
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Book review: In the Loop – Knitting Now [we make money not art] – [Another form of handheld diversion - knitting. No chargers or connections necessary. Check out Mark Newport's wonderful superhero pix halfway down the page.] In the Loop shows the different aspects of contemporary knitting practice and transforms our understanding of knitting away from retro hobby to mainstream craft and artform.
- [from steve_portigal] An Evolution In The Data Collected By Economists [ABC News] – [Recalling the adage "You manage what you measure"] The US is deluged with economic data, yet figures cannot conclusively answer even the most fundamental questions. A handful of data-loving economists are pushing for alternative measures to provide a clearer picture of how well the economy is working. No one is talking about jettisoning the GDP, the broadest measure of the nation's economic output. By combining that information with deeper understanding of how people live, work and feel, officials hope to identify economic trouble spots more quickly and make better policy decisions. Two new sets of statistics are due to be launched next year. The Labor Department is working on an enhanced time use study to track what Americans do all day and how they feel about those activities, a project that draws on Krueger's academic research. The Commerce Department is planning a new poverty metric it hopes will provide a more up-to-date measure of which groups are struggling to meet basic needs.
- [from steve_portigal] On the Road – Complaints of Poor Attitude in Airport Body Scans [NYTimes.com] – [Why does a change in process and design generate such a dramatic change in behavior?] By far, most readers wrote to complain about screeners who were rude. Helaine Fendelman said she felt as if she were in a cage as a screener “yelled at me about why I wasn’t paying attention to those who had proceeded me” through the machine. Elizabeth Wiley wrote of the “generally bullying air of the experience.” Melissa Hickey said a screener “barked orders at me as if I were a common criminal.” Bob Michelet agreed with my view that being ordered around was a “boot camp-like experience,” as he put it. Mary P. Koss said she didn’t like being “yelled at” after a screener decided her fingers were not forming a triangle as instructed while she held her hands over her head. “When I exited the machine, I was yelled at again to stand in place,” she said.
- [from steve_portigal] Starbucks "Olive Way" test store aggregates Starbucks concepts [The Associated Press] – [While I applaud Starbucks for focusing on the quality of their core product - the coffee - I'm not sure that their secondary product - the experience- will benefit from closeness to the baristas. They need to makeover the staff brand before customers will seek them out] What succeeds at Olive Way will most likely be spread to other Starbucks stores around the country. With muted, earthy colors, an indoor-outdoor fireplace, cushy chairs, and a menu with wine from the Pacific Northwest's vineyards and beer from local craft brewers, this 2,500-square-foot shop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood will reopen in the fall with espresso machines in the middle. The machines at Olive Way will be part of what executives call a coffee theater. Counters will be narrower — a slim as a foot in some places — to bring customers closer to baristas; the machines will brew one cup at a time to extract deeper flavor from beans. The store will be the chain's only location that sells beer and wine in the U.S
- [from steve_portigal] Introducing New Core77 Columnist Steve Portigal! [Core77] – [I'll be writing something monthly for our friends at Core77]
- [from julienorvaisas] BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid – Stanford [www.behaviorgrid.org] – [This framework is helpful in thinking about how new products, services or technologies influence or ask people to change behavior.] This grid describes 15 ways behavior can change. The purpose is to help people think more clearly about behavior change. Each of the 15 behaviors types uses different psychology strategies and persuasive techniques. For example, the methods for persuading people to buy a book online (BlueDot Behavior) are different than getting people to quit smoking forever (BlackPath Behavior). My new terms give precision. But this innovation goes beyond identifying the 15 types of behavior change and giving them clear names. I also propose that each behavior type has its own psychology. And this has practical value… the Behavior Grid can help designers and researchers work more effectively.
- [from steve_portigal] ALT/1977: WE ARE NOT TIME TRAVELERS [Behance] – [Alex Varanese's thought-provoking concepts go beyond blogosphere-hipster-silliness to really provoke reflection on design and functionality often taken for granted] What would you do if you could travel back in time? Here's what I'd do after that: grab all the modern technology I could find, take it to the late 70's, superficially redesign it all to blend in, start a consumer electronics company to unleash it upon the world, then sit back as I rake in billions, trillions, or even millions of dollars. I've explored that idea in this series by re-imagining four common products from 2010 as if they were designed in 1977: an mp3 player, a laptop, a mobile phone and a handheld video game system. I then created a series of fictitious but stylistically accurate print ads. I've learned that there is no greater design element than the anachronism. I've learned that the strongest contrast isn't spatial or tonal but historical. I've learned that there's retro, and then there's time travel.
- [from julienorvaisas] 10:10 Tags Symbolize Committment to Climate Change [10:10global.org/uk] – [The fact that this tag is tangible but also symbolic rather than overt, and versatile enough to be carried on the body as a daily reminder of a commitment to the cause of climate change can help change behavior and improve compliance, as well as subtly telegraph solidarity.] The 10:10 Tag is made from a recycled jumbo jet, and can be worn on the neck, wrist, lapel or leotard to symbolise your 10:10 commitment. Whether you pin it to the lapel of your business suit or thread it through the laces of your skateboard trainers, your 10:10 Tag shows others that not only do you know how to accessorise; you’re also part of the solution to climate change.
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Grateful Dead scholar in heaven at UC Santa Cruz [SFGate] – [More big things happening at my Alma Mater] The ultimate job in Dead-dom is in Room 1370 at McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz. The door is marked by the steal-your-face logo, and superimposed over it reads the name Nicholas G. Meriwether, Grateful Dead Archivist.
- [from julienorvaisas] Ariely’s Upside of Irrationality: using irrational cognitive blindspots to your advantage [Boing Boing] – [We've seen the principles of behavioral economics applied to help us understand and explain consumers irrational choices in a business context, now here's a self-help book helping us apply them to our own everyday lives.] Upside of Irrationality is a mostly successful attempt to transform the scientific critique of the 'rational consumer' principal into practical advice for living a better life. 'Mostly successful' only because some of our habitual irrationality is fundamentally insurmountable — there's almost nothing we can do to mitigate it.
- [from steve_portigal] Text 2.0 – What if your book really knew where you are gazing at? – [This is essentially one of the concepts we proposed from our Reading Ahead research - where an eyetracker in a digital book manipulates the text dynamically based on your gaze. In our use case, we addressed the interrupt-driven commute reading revealed by our research. If the book saw you looking away, it could mark your spot to enable more efficient resuming]
- [from steve_portigal] Twitter a hit in Japan as millions ‘mumble’ online [Yahoo! News] – Japanese-language Twitter taps into a greater sense of individuality in Japan, especially among younger people less accepting of the Japanese understatement and conformity. 16.3% of Japanese Internet tweet 16.3% (vs. 9.8% in US). "Japan is enjoying the richest and most varied form of Twitter usage as a communication tool…It's playing out as a rediscovery of the Internet.” It's possible to say so much more in Japanese within Twitter's 140 letters. "Information" requires just 2 letters in Japanese. Another is that people own up to their identities on Twitter. One well-known case is a woman who posted the photo of a park her father sent in e-mail before he died. Twitter was immediately abuzz with people comparing parks…"It's telling that Twitter was translated as 'mumbling' in Japanese," he said. "They love the idea of talking to themselves," he said…"In finding fulfillment in expressing what's on your mind for the moment, Twitter is like haiku," he said. "It is so Japanese."
- Parade magazine writer tries Microsoft’s "Project Natal" – I often talk about how technology creates new gestures that challenge social norms. This writer's gentle assertion that "you have to be okay with looking like a drunken maniac about to be arrested on Cops." is simply another great example. People use the language of aberrant behavior ("drunken maniac") to characterize behavior that doesn't currently fit into an acceptable standard. Natal will presumably be used backstage, in the living room, where such appearances are more tolerable than in public. But these assessments of when a product is breaking established norms are often warning signs that designers and marketers should pay attention to. Can Microsoft celebrate the spasmodic play? Can it reframe the abnormal as successful? Or will it simply recede with time and become acceptable (cf: bluetooth headsets, cell phones)?
- Texting in Meetings – It Means ‘I Don’t Care’ [NYTimes.com] – For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences. I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.
- Putting Customers in Charge of Designing Shirts [NYTimes.com] – “The value proposition of customization at retail prices was a cornerstone of our company from the very start,” Mr. Bi tells me by phone from Shanghai, where Blank Label shirts are sewn to customers’ specifications and delivered anywhere in the world in about four weeks. But Blank Label, his Web start-up based in Boston, offers something else that off-the-rack doesn’t: “the emotional value proposition: how expressive something is.” “People really like a Blank Label shirt because they can say, ‘I had a part in creating this.’ ”
- Google Restricts Ads for ‘Cougar’ Sites [NYTimes.com] – Last week, CougarLife.com, which was paying Google $100,000 a month to manage its advertising, was notified by the company that its ads would no longer be accepted. When notified by Google of the decision, CougarLife proposed substituting a different ad for the ones that were running, picturing older women and younger men together. Cougarlife said it would use an image of the company’s president, Claudia Opdenkelder, 39, without a man in the picture (she lives with her 25-year-old boyfriend). But the advertising department was told in an e-mail message from its Google representative that “the policy is focused particularly around the concept of ‘cougar dating’ as a whole,” and asked if the company would be open to changing “the ‘cougar’ theme/language specifically (including the domain if necessary).” CougarLife forwarded the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Google would not comment on the messages but did confirm that they were consistent with the new policy on cougar sites.
- Satisficing [Wikipedia] – Satisficing (a portmanteau of satisfy and suffice) is a decision-making strategy that attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution. The word satisfice was coined by Herbert Simon. He pointed out that human beings lack the cognitive resources to maximize: we usually do not know the relevant probabilities of outcomes, we can rarely evaluate all outcomes with sufficient precision, and our memories are weak and unreliable.
- There, I Fixed It – Epic Kludge Photos – We often talk about the "satisficing" you see in contextual research – people coming up with their own "good enough" solutions that can drive designers and engineers crazy. We remind our clients that these aren't always things to be redesigned (and in fact there are often better solutions that we see in the field already available) – because it's about motivation, activation energy, and tolerance for less-than-perfect solutions. While this site is a bit snarky in tone, it's a good reminder of the prevalence of messy semi-solutions in the real world.
- Rest in Peas: The Unrecognized Death of Speech Recognition [robertfortner's posterous] – Progress in conversational speech recognition accuracy has clearly halted and we have abandoned further frontal assaults. The research arm of the Pentagon, DARPA, declared victory and withdrew. Many decades ago, DARPA funded the basic research behind both the Internet and today’s mouse-and-menus computer interface. More recently, the agency financed investigations into conversational speech recognition but shifted priorities and money after accuracy plateaued. Microsoft Research persisted longer in its pursuit of a seeing, talking computer. But that vision became increasingly spectral, and today none of the Speech Technology group’s projects aspire to push speech recognition to human levels.
[Speech recognition comes up all the time in user research. It represents some idealized version of "easy-to-use" though people typically recognize the demanding social norms that talking-to-tech evokes and reject the ideal they moments ago requested /SP]
- As Seen on TV – a tribute to doing it wrong [YouTube] – A collection of supposed Epic Fail moments from our daily lives recreated by TV commercials as a precursor to the solution being offered /SP
- Brains, Behavior & Design: A toolkit by graduate students at IIT Institute of Design – In the real world, people are often irrational. Over the past few decades, researchers have codified many of the patterns that describe why people behave irrationally. As researchers, how can we be on the lookout for these patterns of behavior when we go into the field? As designers, how can we use our understanding of patterned irrational behavior to help people make better choices? We are developing tools that apply findings from the fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to the design process. These tools provide a head start on framing research as well as developing new strategies for solving user problems.
- Reading on iPad before bed can affect sleep habits [Los Angeles Times] – Staring at the screen before bed could leave you lying awake. That's because direct exposure to such abnormal light sources inhibits the body's secretion of melatonin. Light-emitting devices, including cellphones and the iPad, tell the brain to stay alert. Because users hold those devices so close to their face, staring directly into the light, the effect is amplified compared with a TV across the room or a bedside lamp, said Frisca Yan-Go, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center in Santa Monica. Some say e-ink is easier on the eyes than the screen on a computer (tablet or otherwise). However, the Wall Street Journal published a report this month to the contrary. Yan-Go was eager to point out the advantages of books over e-readers. Paper books are often lighter; they can be dropped when you doze off holding them; and if they get wet, it's not the end of the world. And they won't mess with your sleep cycle…However, "Kindle is better for your sleep," Avidan wrote in another e-mail.
- A New Character in Archie’s Town [NYTimes.com] – A new man is moving into Riverdale, the home of comics’ perennial teenager Archie Andrews and his gang. His name is Kevin Keller, and he’s blond-haired, blue-eyed and gay. Kevin will be introduced in Veronica No. 202, in a story titled, “Isn’t it Bromantic?” The inclusion of the character meets twin goals, one real world and one in-story. “Riverdale has to reflect the diversity of the world today,” said Jon Goldwater, co-chief executive of Archie Comic Publications. “We want to be all inclusive.” Mr. Goldwater also said he’s not afraid of any repercussions. “We think everyone is going to enjoy the story,” he said. “It’s completely in the tradition of your typical Archie comic.” Dan Parent will be writing and illustrating the story of Kevin’s introduction. “Veronica is always chasing guys and getting what she wants. Who could we introduce that she could not get?” Mr. Parent said Kevin would be more than a one-off character with future stories already mapped out.
- DEVO – Focus Group Testing the Future [YouTube] – Filled with brilliantly sarcastic soundbites, this is definitely pushing on post-modernism/post-irony. DEVO doing focus group testing (or so they say) on every aspect of their 2010 offering (brand, logotype, instrumentation, clothing). Interesting also to see how this appears in the press with varying amounts of the irony removed.
- Theater Preshow Announcements Take Aim at Cellphones [NYTimes.com] – In a production of “Our Town” the director, David Cromer, who played the Stage Manager, took a minimal approach because he wanted to stay true to Thornton Wilder’s desire to forgo conventional theatrics. “In that show we had this issue, which is that there was to be no theater technology. The whole act of my entrance was that you were supposed to think it was someone from the theater,” Mr. Cromer explained. “We didn’t want the Stage Manager to come out and say, ‘Please turn your cellphones off,’ because that would be rewriting Wilder.” Instead Mr. Cromer simply held up a cellphone upon entering at the beginning of each act and then turned it off and put it away, casually showing the audience what to do without talking about it. “The first time I was watching another actor take over in the show as the Stage Manager,” Mr. Cromer said, “he came out, held his cellphone in the air, and the woman next to me said, ‘Oh, someone lost their cellphone.’ ”
- Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Rankings [Customer Experience Matters] – # Retailers take 12 out of the top 20 spots. Most of the top rated companies on the list are retailers. Hotels also grabbed three of the top 20 spots. Interestingly, three financial services firms also cracked the top 20: credit unions, SunTrust Bank, and Vanguard.
# Healthcare, Internet and TV services dominate the bottom. The bottom 11 companies on the list came from only four industries: five health insurance plans (United Healthcare, Medicaid, Anthem, and CIGNA), three ISPs (Charter Communications, Comcast, and Qwest), two TV service providers (Charter Communications and Comcast), and one credit card provider (HSBC).
- Can Design Change Behavior? [Stanford School of Engineering] – Because behavior can be influenced—not just observed—it provides an important opportunity for tackling complex challenges such as sustainability. That opportunity is perhaps best addressed with design…With this outlook, Banerjee says he is excited to be one of the principal investigators in a new project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in which he is working with other Stanford professors who have expertise in behavioral sciences, communications, human-computer interaction, and behavioral economics. The team aims to create interventions that influence behavior to bring about significant reductions in energy use. But what designers understand well is that people are “predictably irrational” and influenced by emotional as well as rational criteria, Banerjee says.
- The Art of Asking the Question [UIE Brain Sparks] – Steve Portigal will show your team the art of asking the question. You might visit the user in their office or home, have them come to you for a usability test, or even have a chance encounter at a trade show or while waiting for an airplane. Do you know what to ask? Do you know what to listen for, to extract the critical detail of what they can tell you about your design?
Steve will help you prepare your team for any opportunity, be it formal user research or less structured, ad-hoc research. He’ll also give you tips on how to work with your stakeholders and executives, who may also be meeting potential customers and users, so they know what to ask and how to listen—integrating their efforts into the research team. (Wouldn’t it be great if they understood why you’re doing what you’re doing?)
Update: Use promotion code CHITTAHCHATTAH to get lifetime free access to the recording after the fact (normally a separate cost)
Last night, I was making plans with someone I’d never seen. We were on the phone and got to the familiar, “what do you look like so I can find you” part of the conversation. She jokingly said she should just snap a picture with her phone and email me, then described herself. After we hung up, I thought, yeah, sending a picture really makes a lot of sense in this situation, doesn’t it, so I decided to do it. While I was snapping a picture to send her (which took me a few minutes because I’m just vain enough to keep trying ’till I got one I liked), she friended me on Facebook, thus providing me with a picture of herself.
It was another of these striking moments where I find myself smack in the midst of a piece of “behavioral extinction,” as an older way of doing something – in this case, describing oneself to someone – cedes ground to new, technology-enabled practices.
As always, the questions: what is lost, what is gained, how does this change in the experience change us and the ways we think?