google posts

Changing Lanes, Changing Minds October 27th, 2009

locavore
Locavore iPhone app

Locavore (also localvore) is someone who eats (or tries to eat) food from within a certain radius, typically 100 miles. In 2006, Google opened Cafe 150, a restaurant on its Mountain View campus that only uses ingredients that come from within 150 miles. The 100-mile diet is a book, a website, and a movement.

This is a powerful idea that, as it has taken hold, has entered our vocabulary and shifted our mindset. Even if we don’t do this, we consume the idea. It’s a meme.

Volt230mpg01.jpg
Now, here come the electric vehicles. A similarly urgent effort to create change that asks us to fundamentally revisit how we do a primary activity. The fully electric Chevy’s Volt has a much-discussed 40-mile-without-recharging-capacity, based on some data (which of course, is disputed) showing 80% Americans drive less than 40 miles per day.

These two ideas are not parallel. At 41 miles, imagine that your car stops dead by the roadside and you’re stuck with a AAA situation. At 151 miles, your radicchio isn’t quite as local – but you don’t go hungry. Even so, the food people have done a much better job at creating a new story that quickly captures the essence of a new behavior.

Do you know how many miles a day you drive? The EV people, and Chevy especially, would do well to help create awareness at a general level (that people drive this much, on average) and a personal level (here’s how to figure out how much you drive, or how to map a 40-mile capacity against your typical usage). There’s potentially a gap between how well the Volt would work for most people and how well those same people believe the Volt would work for them.

We’ve seen people wearing pedometers to track another unknown distance: how far they walk in a given day. Why not give away car pedometers (yes, cars already contain equipment that provides that information, but the point here is to celebrate and raise awareness)? Where equivalent term to locavore for the daily driving case? 40-milers? loca-motives? Where are the use cases or archetypes that help translate into something familiar? How far does a mom in the ‘burbs drive? How about someone in the exurbs? Or a traveling saleswoman/road warrior? There’s a lot that can be done just on expanding the idea itself, to help set the stage for the coming solutions.

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ChittahChattah Quickies October 15th, 2009
  • 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!
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ChittahChattah Quickies October 13th, 2009
  • Amazon adds over 18,000 free public domain titles to Kindle Store – "It would have been nice if Amazon had thought of this tactic before launching the Kindle. But the rapid growth of the public domain library in the Kindle store is more likely a response to the fact that Sony eBook readers can access Google's massive collection of scanned public domain works. So while Amazon's 18,000 public domain downloads are a good start, Google has over half a million titles, which means Amazon still has some catching up to do."
  • Phil Patton asks about Google’s book scanning process – Nowhere in Google’s FAQs or anywhere else is there a clear answer to the question of how books are physically scanned. Whether the books are disassembled in the process of scanning. What measures are taken to avert damage to scanned books, especially to older, more fragile ones with dry bindings and acidic paper. What sort of action readers or authors can take if they encounter errors in the scanning, dating or classification.
  • One Hour Design Challenge: The Future of Digital Reading — School of Visual Arts — MFA in Interaction Design – Interaction Design students teamed up to participate in the One Hour Design Challenge: The Future of Digital Reading for Jason Santa Maria’s Communicating Design Class.
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ChittahChattah Quickies October 9th, 2009
  • Inside User Research at YouTube – "One of the most important findings has to do with the difference between the large group of users who are on YouTube simply to watch videos and a smaller, but very important, group of more engaged users — often uploaders." [This is such a "real" user research finding; to those of us on the outside it just drips "duhhh" but of course the discovery of the depth of this truth was probably a significant a-ha moment for the team and more importantly, their internal clients, who may have had this as a notion but hadn't really taken on how to build that insight into the design. Now it's a marching order inside the organization!]
  • Kill the Kindle: Charles Brock’s 60 second video from AIGA Make/Think 2009 – Being a book designer, Charles has an (*ahem) unique perspective on the Kindle.
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ChittahChattah Quickies September 30th, 2009
  • Pictorial Highlights of IDSA Project Infusion – Without really getting into the content at all, a visual review of the trip to Miami Beach.
  • Project 10 to the 100 – Google crowd-sourced 150,000 "ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible." They've boiled then down to 16 'Big Ideas' and now are going to decide (they are taking votes but it doesn't seem that is the actual decision mechanism) which one to fund. But the process looks random, the results appear ill-defined, and the next steps are murky. I'm not harshing on Google here; this is the process we see in most engagements, moving from insights to opportunities to actual next steps. It's very challenging to do what. Google has done here and make this a public-facing activity, without the benefit of people sitting together in a room developing a shared understanding. We also don't have as much of a stake in what Google does as we would in our own business; we're the public, not members of the team.
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ChittahChattah Quickies August 19th, 2009
  • Summer Reading Programs Gain Momentum for Students About to Enter College – Nationwide, hundreds of colleges and universities, large and small, public and private, assign first-year students a book to read over the summer, hoping to create a sense of community and engage students intellectually.

    While there are no reliable statistics on summer reading programs, a recent survey of more than 100 programs by a student researcher at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., found that most had started in the last four years, although a few go back decades.

    The range of books colleges use is enormous, covering fiction and nonfiction. Classics are largely absent, with most of the works chosen falling closer to Oprah than academic.

    Still, a certain canon of summer reading is emerging: books that are readable, short, engaging, cheap. Often, it helps if the book is a best seller dealing with some aspect of diversity, some multicultural encounter — and if the author will come to speak on campus.

  • Canada Reads — CBC Radio – Canada Reads celebrates five Canadian books for three months online, on the air and at public events. It all leads up to a week-long show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. In this annual title fight, five celebrity panelists defend their favourite work of Canadian fiction. One by one, books are voted off the list, until one panelist triumphs with the book for Canada to read this year.
  • Beyond the Book – Beyond the Book: Mass Reading Events and Contemporary Cultures of Reading in the UK, USA and Canada is a 3-year interdisciplinary research project.

    Our main objectives are to determine why and how people come together to share reading through a comparative study of selected mass reading events.

    The mass reading event is a new, proliferating literary phenomenon. Events typically focus on a work of literary fiction and employ the mass media as a means of promoting participation in the themed activities and discussions that take place around the selected book. Beyond the Book uses research methodologies drawn from both the humanities and social sciences to investigate whether mass reading events attract new readers and marginalized communities. We also wish to determine whether this contemporary version of shared reading fosters new reading practices and even whether it is capable of initiating social change.

  • <"ONE BOOK" READING PROMOTION PROJECTS (Center for the Book: Library of Congress) – "One Book" projects (community-wide reading programs), initiated by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998, are being introduced across the U.S.A. and around the world. Here's lengthy list of authors, communities, and dates.
  • The Big Read – The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

    The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 30 selections from American and world literature. This initiative supports innovative reading programs in selected communities, providing engaging educational resources for discussing outstanding literature and conducting expansive outreach and publicity campaigns, and a Web site offering comprehensive information about the authors and their works.

  • Literary Reading in Dramatic Decline, According to National Endowment for the Arts Survey – (July 8, 2004) Literary reading is in dramatic decline with fewer than half of American adults now reading literature, according to a National Endowment for the Arts survey released today. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America reports drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline – 28 percent – occurring in the youngest age groups. The study also documents an overall decline of 10 percentage points in literary readers from 1982 to 2002, representing a loss of 20 million potential readers. The rate of decline is increasing and, according to the survey, has nearly tripled in the last decade.
  • 15 Books That Have Stuck With You (yet another of those Facebook etc. "memes" that are more like chain letters than memes) – Pick 15 books that will always stick with you. Don't take more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.
  • My pictures from Belgium 2009 (345 of 'em!) – Here's the whole set on Flickr. I'll continue to blog highlights from the trip.
  • Google book project far from settled – As the deadline draws near for authors and publishers to opt out of a proposed legal settlement allowing Google Inc. to forge ahead with plans to scan millions of books, more opponents of the landmark deal are stepping forward, and the local literary world is growing more perplexed.

    "Smart people, major players that are sophisticated in the ways of publishing, are still at loggerheads," said Ted Weinstein, a San Francisco literary agent. He said they're not just arguing whether the deal is good or bad, "but still expressing disagreement about what exactly it will do. That's a problem."

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ChittahChattah Quickies March 4th, 2009
  • Paul Graham writes on "Why TV Lost" – Lots of interesting points in Graham's essay, but I found these two, about the underlying media component of many startups, and the temporal aspect of TV-watching especially thought-provoking: "Now would be a good time to start any company that competes with TV networks. That's what a lot of Internet startups are, though they may not have had this as an explicit goal. People only have so many leisure hours a day, and TV is premised on such long sessions (unlike Google, which prides itself on sending users on their way quickly) that anything that takes up their time is competing with it."
  • Where does Twitter go from here? – My post on Core77 about how Twitter can think about evolving its overall user experience as it straddles lead users and mass awareness
  • Logic+Emotion: Skittles Smackdown, A Sociological Viewpoint – Nice words from David Armano, pulling out something I wrote yesterday about the Skittles/Twitter PR experiement
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ChittahChattah Quickies February 14th, 2009
  • LinkedIn has a mascot? – From 2007, here's the LinkedIn Wizard.
  • Rob Walker on the origins of Twitter's Fail Whale (the indicator that the service is down). – "As with many Web-popularity stories, there’s a lot of flukiness to Fail Whale’s rise." Groan! Can anyone explain LinkedIn's completely off-brand Wizard?
  • How Google Decides to Pull the Plug (with a perspective on product development and innovation) – For many ideas, Google’s first and most important audience is its employees, and it typically tries products internally before releasing them. Google and other technology companies refer to this as “eating your own dog food.” Through such “dog-fooding,” Google learned that the early version of its calendar program was fine for parents tracking children’s soccer games, but not robust enough to meet a corporate user’s need to book rooms, reserve equipment and delegate scheduling.

    Equally important is listening to users. Most products have an official blog to explain changes, and customers are encouraged to share their thoughts.

    Google’s willingness to take risks offers a lesson to other companies about the nature of innovation, said Jeff Jarvis, author of “What Would Google Do?” “Perfection closes off the process,” Mr. Jarvis said. “It makes you deaf. Google purposefully puts out imperfect and unfinished products and says: ‘Help us finish them. What do you think of them?’ ”

  • 15 Companies That Might Not Survive 2009 – Including Rite-Aid, Chrysler, Dollar-Thrifty, Sbarro, Six Flags, Krispy Kreme and Blockbuster
  • Blackwater Changes Its Name to Xe, chooses to spend more time with its family – Blackwater Worldwide is abandoning the brand name that has been tarnished by its work in Iraq, settling on Xe (pronounced zee) as the new name for its family of two dozen businesses. Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, the subsidiary that conducts much of the company’s overseas operations and domestic training, has been renamed U.S. Training Center Inc., Blackwater’s president, Gary Jackson, said in a memo to employees that the new name reflected the company’s shift away from providing private security. He has said the company is going to focus on training.
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Spammers as culture watchers November 26th, 2008

Just got this bit of sp@m with the subject line: Make Money with Google Bailout Plan
googletree.jpg

I love how they evoke the government bailouts as something now available to you, potential customer mark, and tie it to Google, a recent blue-chippy money brand. Of course, the image is something they can keep reusing and change the subject line as the cultural story around the economy keeps evolving.

One could track the zeitgeist by following the thrust of our sp@m.

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The Google cliche April 18th, 2008

It used to be that you could take notice at the outset of a poor essay or speech when it began with the dictionary definition for the central topic. The Simpsons referenced this at least once

Homer: “What is a wedding? Websters defines it as a process of removing weeds from ones garden.”

But now lazy bloggers and NPR journalists are pretending to channel the zeitgeist by using the number of Google hits for their term as a proxy for cultural relevance. When the numbers are over 1,000,000, how meaningful is this? It’s simply a cheap cliche.

Full disclosure: I’ve probably done both of these and will probably do them both again. In the interest of always trying to tell better stories, I will attempt not to, however.

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Pop-Cultural Relativism March 12th, 2008

I live in a small and weird town. But weirdness here isn’t pejorative; in fact there’s a whole pro-weirdness movement.

keep-santa-cruz-weird.jpg
(Neal Coonerty, Owner, Bookshop Santa Cruz) © Metro Santa Cruz

In an environment like this, many of the usual cultural meanings get flipped.

Last weekend, I was in my neighborhood natural foods store, and decided to buy a copy of Adbusters. This month’s cover is styled after People Magazine, with a picture of Paris Hilton prominently splashed across it.

adbusters-magazine.jpg

While my wife Theresa and I were waiting in line, five different people-no exaggeration-came up to us and made comments about Paris Hilton. The 30-somethingish guy who was bagging our groceries jumped on it too:

Bagger: Yeah, I type her into Google sometimes just to see what’s going on. It’s pretty interesting. She’s from Louisiana.

Dan: I didn’t know she was from that part of the country.

Bagger: You should try it sometimes: just get on Google and type in “Paris Hilton.”

Dan: I’ll do that.

In this environment, a pop culture celebrity image that would be completely unremarkable in, say, a Safeway, is a complete anomaly, a traffic-stopper- something a bit naughty to talk about. It’s very Bizarro World.

I think it’s wonderful that someone would think to tell me, with complete earnestness and good will, how to google Paris Hilton. Because in this little subcultural mecca, googling a celebrity is just not something everyone’s going to know about doing.

I love this about where I live.

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Neologism du jour: Google pr0nrank November 1st, 2007

I may not be the first to air this idea, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Google pr0nrank refers to the number of Google Image Search pages it takes to reach a NSFW/dirty/titillating image for a given search term.

winston churchill is 48; an image of a bodily organ near a face appears on the 48th page of results.

aficionado is 1. The first row of results contain suggestive bikini ladies.

In neither case, of course, was I expecting to find such images.

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I would have (seriously) rated the grade of toilet paper February 16th, 2007

In My Microsoft Google Yahoo Stories we get some comparisons of internship experiences at 3 big tech companies. I don’t recommend the article necessarily, only to provide context for this awesome chart.
newchart.png
I love how the deconstruction of the experiences (related in detailed narratives in the article) into these specific categories give a blunt and amusing summary of, well, the person relating it. What categories we create to represent something qualitative tells a lot about us and how we make sense of those experiences.

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Quickies from UXWeek August 15th, 2006

google.jpg
Despite all the training, the swanky Palomar Hotel, site of UX Week, isn’t able to get basic things like room reservations (ObSeinfeld: “See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation”) sorted out. I wasn’t the only one it seems that arrived (hot and dusty from a long long voyage) to find some polite confusion at the front desk. And today (after friendly but pungent maintenance men visited my room during the well-communicated fire alarm test) a polite person knocked on my door to see if my room was indeed occupied.

Anyway, more content stuff to come (great keynote by Michael Bierut). Surreal moment of zen last night when the very “guy” bartenders at the billiards bar where Google hosted a (recruiting) party poured out pitchers of shots (of what they referred to as a concoction and had us all toast – like patrons of wet-t-shirt-nite – to GOOOOOOOOOOGLE!!!!!!!!!! It was a viral-video/co-creation opportunity waiting to happen.

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Living in Beta July 31st, 2006

I have no idea of Google Maps is in Beta or not, but man, is it broken. In Firefox and in IE, I can not print a map. It’ll generate a nice print preview with all the directions and so on, but the all-important IMAGE is absent. Argh.

Do you ever find yourself screwing around with some semi-working website (especially one you trust and expect to work, like Google) for a ridiculously long time, only to have to completely throw up your hands and go onto another method? It’s nice that it’s free and all, but what a waste of time! This used to work only recently. Very annoying!

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