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ChittahChattah Quickies January 10th, 2013

What It’s Like to Experience New Technology After 25 Years in Jail [Gizmodo] – From a Quora thread to a Gizmodo post (and there may be a book deal happening?) here’s a real edge-case user type, someone with almost no exposure to current technology.

Prior to my release from prison, I gave considerable thought to a technology strategy. My wife was used to using Microsoft products, but everything I’d read indicated that Apple products offered a much quicker learning curve. On the day she picked me up she handed me an iPhone 4S. During my first week of liberty, we purchased a MacBook Pro and iMac desktop system. I hoped they would all work seamlessly together. But since my wife wasn’t as comfortable with the Apple products, she insisted that I load them all up with Microsoft products so she could rescue me when I had problems. I’ve had a lot of problems coming up to speed with simple tasks like email, or synching all of my computers together. I’ve also had a problem remembering all of the passwords she assigned to me. I keep arguing that we should use only one password, but that only brings forth her arguments on the dangers of identity theft. Since I met many men in prison who served time for identity theft, I trust that my wife has a point.

The Improbable is the New Normal [The Technium] – What are the consequences of spectacle fatigue (and I don’t mean your eyes and nose feeling sore)? And what does that mean for those who intend to entertain us (say, film and television) with more traditional content? (via Kottke)

The internets are also brimming with improbable feats of performance — someone who can run up a side of a building, or slide down suburban roof tops, or stack up cups faster than you can blink. Not just humans, but pets open doors, ride scooters, and paint pictures. The improbable also includes extraordinary levels of super human achievements: people doing astonishing memory tasks, or imitating all the accents of the world. In these extreme feats we see the super in humans.

Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we’ll see or hear about today. The internet is like a lens which focuses the extraordinary into a beam, and that beam has become our illumination. It compresses the unlikely into a small viewable band of everyday-ness. As long as we are online – which is almost all day many days — we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal.

To the uninformed, the increased prevalence of improbable events will make it easier to believe in impossible things. A steady diet of coincidences makes it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences, right? But to the informed, a slew of improbably events make it clear that the unlikely sequence, the outlier, the black swan event, must be part of the story.

Overthinking It subjects the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn’t deserve – There’s a lot of things being overthought on the site. This example is one of at least two posts (first, and second) where Law and Order episodes were put into a database and then analyzed and analyzed.

Over the entire run of the show, more than a third of all the episodes ended in Guilty verdicts, while another third ended in plea bargains. 80% of episodes ended in solid wins: either Guilty verdicts, plea bargains, or implied victories. That’s not too shabby, considering that the actual NYPD has a homicide clearance rate of about 50%. (Although you have to figure Law & Order isn’t meant to represent every case these detectives investigated; in 20 seasons, I don’t think there was a single murder that didn’t result in an arrest.)

(UPDATE 12/10/12: One of the commenters on Reddit has pointed out that the “clearance rate” has nothing to do with convictions, only arrests. In that case, Law & Order’s clearance rate would be nearly 100%, since even in the rare episodes without a trial somebody usually gets arrested. I guess I’d know this stuff if I had watched The Wire.)

The Fake Shows from Arrested Development are Now Listed on Netflix [Paste] – I love seeing fake products and brands treated like real ones. Reminds me of the in-production Newsreaders, a fake news magazine TV show that originally aired as a special episode of the parody Childrens Hospital (which also had fake promos for NTSF:SD:SUV::, leading to that becoming a real show as well.

Next spring, Netflix will premiere the highly anticipated and currently in-production fourth season of Arrested Development. Along with the rights to the show come the rights to all of the shows within the show, and to tide fans over until next spring Netflix has featured fake listings of Scandalmakers, Wrench, Boyfights and more. There is no actual footage to watch-the links just take you the Arrested Development season one page- but it’s pretty funny seeing the summaries and poster photos listed on Netflix like they belong to actual shows. Also listed are Les Cousins Dangereux, Girls with Low Self-Esteem: Newport Beach, Families with Low Self-Esteem and Mock Trial with J. Reinhold.

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The Human Factor September 30th, 2010

Yesterday, I was on a panel (When not to use User Centered Design techniques) at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. My badge (showing my country as United States ates) was too wide for my badge holder. Sure, it’s a cliche to bash design conferences for their poor usability, but really?!

Also: see the slides from my presentation here.

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ChittahChattah Quickies February 23rd, 2009
  • IxDA SF presents Interaction09 Redux – Saturday, March 14th – I'll be leading a condensed version of my IXDA workshop from Vancouver (Well we did all this research…now what), looking at a framework for transforming questions into answers, answers into insights, and insights into actions.
  • Steve's photos from Vancouver, Feb 2009 – I was in Vancouver to run a workshop at the IXDA conference and to visit family. Some of the photos will make their way into dedicated blog posts but meanwhile here's the whole set.
  • Juice is in the details – Tropicana's redesign is being heralded for the caps that look like oranges. We've got a carton in the fridge and it's as plain as plain can be, so I'm not sure where these great caps are lurking. Meanwhile, back in 2006 we were seeing orange-looking caps on Florida's Natural packaging.
  • Tropicana reverts to "classic" packaging after their crappy redesign is met with broad scorn – Mea pulpa: "Asked if he was chagrined that consumers rejected the changes he believed they wanted, Mr. Campbell replied: “I feel it’s the right thing to do, to innovate as a company. I wouldn’t want to stop innovating as a result of this. At the same time, if consumers are speaking, you have to listen.”"
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Radisson doesn’t quite get basic tech April 28th, 2007

Like the phone.

Last weekend I needed to set a wake-up call, and either introversion or bitter experience leads me to trust an automated service more than a human being, but even so, I always look on the phone for instructions on how to arrange for one.

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Right. Press the button and you’ll either end up in the automated system or you’ll be speaking to someone who can handle it. I press the button, but nothing. Press again, nothing. I try the other buttons and they all simply click. The phone has special function buttons but they are unprogrammed.

Okay, all is not lost. The room has another phone in it.
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But this phone has a different interface. Here we’re told to touch 77 (why is touch the verb, anyway?). Doing so brings me to the voice mail interface, which does not have any wake-up options.

Two phones, two different interfaces, both screwed up. I called 0 (or touched 0, if you prefer) and spoke to someone (shudder!) and it was handled.

It’s just a weird failure of attention-to-detail.

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Attention to detail? September 21st, 2006

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A videotape from Fuji. The front and spine labels that come in the package should fit the indented area perfectly; at least that’s my expectation based on decades of buying magnetic media. But these ones don’t. I figure that they switched suppliers of either labels at some point and decided to stick with the remaining supply of the other.

99% of the time it wouldn’t matter, but I was actually delivering these tapes to a client, and that little extra edge of unprofessionalism was kind of a bummer.

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Juice is in the details June 11th, 2006

Nice packaging detail. One might not notice the orange-section texture in the screw-top right away; makes for a nice surprise. I was strangely excited to discover this: a detail where none existed previously, a playfully gratuitous bit of decoration, a subtle feature that I felt the rush of discovery when encountering.

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What is the loon smoking? April 11th, 2006


We opened a bottle of wine the other night, and the interesting wording on the cork prompted some conversation. The cork (above; click to enlarge) was covered with WHOOH WHOOH WHOOH and with one odd COUGH.

What is that about?

Check out the brand of the wine:

Smoking Loon. WHOOH WHOOH COUGH.

It was a nice little detail to carry the brand of the wine (which we were obviously not paying much attention to – I think the decision was basically white) into a fun surprise. Great packaging design.

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