- [from julienorvaisas] New Artisanal Pencil-Sharpening Project [Details Magazine] – [It looks like the artisanal food and craft movement may be fading in cultural relevance if it's subject to this level of brutal skewering.] "What better to complement your collection of limited-edition notebooks, small-batch liquors, and locally sourced honey than a pencil sharpened by a true artisan? David Rees, author of the comic book series Get Your War On and My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable, discovered his passion for sharpening pencils while working for the U.S. Census Bureau. Now he's parlaying his old-school skills into a mail-order artisanal pencil-sharpening business."
- [from steve_portigal] An App for ‘Despicable Me,’ to Use at the Theater [NYTimes.com] – [Is there a difference between multimedia enhancement and advertising-supported distraction?] Best Buy Movie Mode is being released in connection with “Despicable Me,” an animated 3-D movie in which an aspiring supervillain named Gru inherits three little girls. The marquee feature of the app is called the Minionator, which translates the gibberish of Gru’s little yellow henchmen called Minions. In theaters, the Minionator will work only during the closing credits, but on Blu-ray disc throughout the movie. “It is disturbing to have people doing things that take people out of the movie,” said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theater Owners. Many theaters warn patrons to turn off their phones. Movie Mode tries to appease those who dislike distractions. The app automatically turns off a phone’s ringer and dims the screen to discourage texting. It does not disable the phone. It will still vibrate.
- [from steve_portigal] Black Taxis offer tours of Belfast [SF Chronicle] – The Black Taxis of Belfast grew out the height of the Troubles. City buses were subject to bomb and sniper attacks as they passed through the strife-torn neighborhoods. Safe passage had to be arranged via taxi, and the taxi drivers could only operate within, never across, each neighborhood's boundaries, The ads for Black Taxi tours promise a neutral historical narrative. That's a tall order, as many drivers have a genuine history on one side of the conflict or the other. Some lost family members. Everyone lost friends. Still, the mere fact that the murals are now a tourist attraction, rather than a touchstone for violence, may signify that peace has actually arrived in Belfast. "We debated whether to encourage this trend or to downplay it," said Bernard McMullan, a representative of Tourism Ireland, of the popularity of the Black Taxi tours. "But in the end, we decided that it was an important part of our history. There's no point in denying it. Besides, it's interesting."
- [from steve_portigal] Nissan adds noises to Leaf electric vehicle as safety precaution [WaPo] – [The design challenge of creating new, yet familiar feedback cues] After exploring 100 sounds that ranged from chimes to motorlike to futuristic, the company settled on a soft whine that fluctuates in intensity with the car's speed. When backing up, the car makes a clanging sound. Nissan says it worked with advocates for the blind, a Hollywood sound-design company and acoustic psychologists in creating its system of audible alerts. Nissan's sound system is the first created by a major manufacturer. The company says it is controlled by a computer and synthesizer in the dash panel. The sounds are delivered through a speaker in the engine compartment. A switch inside the vehicle can turn off the sounds temporarily, but the system automatically resets to "on" at the next ignition cycle. At speeds greater than 20 mph, any car, electric or not, makes significant noise because of the tires slapping on the pavement, engineers say. The noises for the Nissan operate only at the lower speeds.
- The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books [The New Yorker] – Traditionally, publishers have sold books to stores, with the wholesale price for hardcovers set at fifty per cent of the cover price. Authors are paid royalties at a rate of about fifteen per cent of the cover price….E-books called the whole system into question. If there was no physical book, what would determine the price? Most publishers agreed, with some uncertainty, to give authors a royalty of twenty-five per cent, and began a long series of negotiations with Amazon over pricing. For months before Sargent’s visit, the publishers had talked about imposing an “agency model” for e-books. Under such a model, the publisher would be considered the seller, and an online vender like Amazon would act as an “agent,” in exchange for a thirty-per-cent fee. Yet none of the publishers seemed to think that they could act alone, and if they presented a unified demand to Amazon they risked being charged with price-fixing and collusion.
- The End Is Near for BlackBerry’s Trackball [BusinessWeek] – The BlackBerry trackball, introduced in 2006, has always had issues. It accumulates grit and gunk. Tony Naftchi started Fixyourberry.com from a small office on New York's 7th Ave. A stream of bankers, fashion models, and other high-end BlackBerry addicts pay $30 for new trackballs. "They need them fixed—'Now!' It should come as no surprise that the little sphere, flawed and strangely beloved, faces obsolescence. Trackball shipments in 2010 will fall short of last year's peak of 25 million. The last trackballs installed in new BlackBerrys will go in its Tour. Later versions have trackpads. By 2013, iSuppli predicts trackball shipments will have ceased altogether. Diehards will cling to trackballs. Nothing worth having ever goes away entirely. You can still buy a new manual typewriter on Amazon.com (AMZN) for $99.95. Betamax has its determined fans. And Westfield Whip Manufacturing in Westfield, Mass., produces more than 50,000 buggy whips annually. It's hard to kill a consumer icon.
- Storylistening for consumer insight – There are many ways of collecting stories but here are three that may be new to you:
* Anecdote circles
* Naive interviewers
* Mass narrative capture
Collecting stories is not about finding the one perfect story that describes a brand or a consumer experience. Rather it is about gathering a broad spread of qualitative data. Individually a story may be seen to be banal but their power lies in the cumulative effect of many stories.
Story interpretation is best done by a range of groups (e.g. consumers themselves, a marketing department) that may have differing perspectives on the same situation. The most appropriate techniques often avoid direct analysis initially and allow different groups to immerse themselves in the stories to produce nuanced interpretations of the consumers' world.
- Sony, B&N promise to rekindle rights for book owners – Boing Boing recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader, named the "Daily Edition." "Our commitment is that you bought it, you own it," Haber said. "Our hope is to see this as ubiquitous. Buy on any device, read on any device. … We're obligated to have DRM but we don't pull content back."
- OnFiction is a magazine with the aim of developing the psychology of fiction. – Using theoretical and empirical perspectives, we endeavour to understand how fiction is created, and how readers and audience members engage in it.
- What design researchers can learn from hostage negotiators – Interesting to look at various collaboration and communication scenarios and unpack what's going on to define some principles that can be reused. Not sure how much new about design research is brought to light here, but the framing may make it more memorable or understandable. Always glad to see the emphasis on rapport, but I don't agree with their hostage-rapport approach as a one-size-fits-all method for design research rapport building. I also think they underplay the emotional levels that good design research can uncover. Beyond frustration with products, we hear stories about cancer, divorce, infertility, hopes, dreams, and beyond. All very charged stuff.
- If you outlaw meep, only outlaws will say meep – Tthe nonsense word started with the 1980s Muppet character Beaker. Bob Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University, said he first heard students meep about a year ago during a class screening of a television show.
"Something happened and one of them said 'Meep,'" he said. "And then they all started doing it."
The meeps, he said, came from all of the students in the class in rapid-fire succession. When he asked them what that meant, they said it didn't really mean anything.
But meeping doesn't seem to be funny to Danvers High School Principal Thomas Murray, who threatened to suspend students caught meeping in school.
In an interview with the Salem News, Murray said automated calls were made to parents, warning them of the possible punishment after administrators learned that students were conspiring online to mass-meep in one part of the school building.
- In praise of the single-use device – 1) The overall trend is clearly towards media devices with multiple (but discrete) functions.
2) There’s still room for a solid handful of dedicated-use devices who do their job really, really well; for reading plain text, a device like the Kindle could fit into that category.
3) A lot of what we read isn’t plain text. It never was.
1) Whenever possible, tear down the walls between the “separate” functions on multi-function devices. It should feel like a device that has one function — just that the function is complex, multilayered, integrated.
2) Within the content, too, stop treating text as if it could be fully isolated as a separate data channel from every other kind of media.
3) The end of the multiple-function device, and perhaps even the multi-media object; the birth of the integrated–function device, and the integrated–media object. These last two were made for each other.
- Kottke: People read more than books – E-readers — are all focused on the wrong single use: books. The correct single use is reading.
- The Book Industry Turns A Page on Talk of the Nation (NPR) – The Kindle, the iPhone and other electronic book readers have changed the way many people read — and left some in the publishing industry desperate for new ways to make money. A new venture from the TheDailyBeast.com, will soon upend the traditional publishing model. With Peter Osnos, Founder of Public Affairs Books and Former Vice President at Random House, Tina Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, and ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
- Google to launch online electronic book store – Google plans to launch an online store to deliver electronic books to any device with a web browser, threatening to upset a burgeoning market for dedicated e-readers dominated by Amazon's Kindle. They will be initially offering about half a million e-books in partnership with publishers with whom it already cooperates where they have digital rights. Readers will be able to buy e-books either from Google directly or from other online stores such as Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. Google will host the e-books and make them searchable.
"We're not focused on a dedicated e-reader or device of any kind," Tom Turvey, Google's director of strategic partnerships, told journalists at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
- Barnes & Noble Taps Kindle Designer For Its
AthenaNook e-Book Reader – Ammunition supposedly did the original Kindle and is now supposedly doing the Barnes & Noble device. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the Core77 1HDC Reading Ahead results!
Our fieldwork sessions often include a piece in which we ask participants to brainstorm and fantasize about the future.
In an earlier post, we talked about the simple models we were building for the Reading Ahead interviews.
We wanted to put something in people’s hands to help them show us what the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future” could be and do. (This fieldwork approach borrows from participatory design.)
We’ve had clients come out in the field with us and say after an interview, “That person didn’t give us any ideas,” so it’s important to clarify that we don’t expect this kind of activity to directly produce marketable ideas. Rather, it gives people another mode for expressing themselves, and it’s great for helping them communicate things which may not always be easy to verbalize, like:
- Their desires
- What they think should exist
- What problems they are trying to solve
- What seems acceptable and what seems outlandish to them
- Preferences and in what ways they would like something to be different
Often for us, the very act of making the props for an activity suggests new ways of using them. In this case, while making a blank cover for the “future book” model, we realized that we could also make a blank inner page spread.
As it turned out, this meant that when we were done with the sessions, people had created very nice book models for us, with a cover and inner spread.
Part of the preparation for each interview session was to get the models ready with new blank paper. Here I am on the trunk of my car, prepping the models before an interview in San Francisco.
Now that the fieldwork is done, we have a great collection of models made by the people we interviewed.
The last section (copied below) of our Topline Summary synthesizes some of what we gleaned from this part of the fieldwork. These are just quick hits; we’ll develop any themes and recommendations that come out of these activities much further in the analysis and synthesis phase of the project.
Excerpt from Topline Summary: Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”
NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book—it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are
But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:
Put yourself in the story Leave the story for more information Choose from alternate endings, versions
Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed—it can be many different books Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands
- LeapFrog Text & Learn taps into that natural desire toddlers have to emulate Mommy and Daddy – Preschoolers can enjoy texting (virtual character) while browsing the "web." Intended to teach spelling, basic computer skills, and the layout of a QWERTY keypad. Funny how this seems more horrifying than a kiddie vacuum cleaner or rolling pin, though. (Thanks, Wannie)
I’ve been looking at smartphone options, and was reminded of an exchange between Jon Stewart and John Hodgman I heard last summer on the Daily Show:
Jon Stewart and John Hodgeman Discussing Ultimate Fighting
Jon: Why combine all these sports?
John: Why combine a cell phone and a camera?
Jon: That’s my point exactly. All you get is a crappy camera and a crappy phone.
John: Yes, but it fits in your pocket. And isn’t that the promise of America’s melting pot?
This got me thinking about what I really need from my phone. Here’s a list, in the order each item came to mind:
– Address book
– Alarm clock
– Text messaging
– Cool looking
But does this list describe a smart phone, or a smart camera? Right now, the paradigm of “phone” dominates. Will that change? Will there be a future in which “device equity” prevails?
Backup-Pal seems like a reasonably good idea, but points to a larger problem. Here’s a device that connects to your cell phone and lets you backup your phone book, etc. If the phone dies you’ve still got your data. That’s a problem, and this device solves it. But why aren’t these things interoperable? If I’m already pulling SD cards out of my camera to put in my laptop, why can’t I do that with my cellphone?
Is the future converged formats where we can back everything up easily, or is it a series of special function devices to keep track of that backup everything else? A special third-party TiVo backup, a backup for my microwave, my car, my GPS unit, my XM radio?
I’ve got nothing against this solution, but it speaks to a larger problem that could continue to get worse.
Another prop to occupy their minds.