interface posts

ChittahChattah Quickies April 26th, 2010
  • 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.
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ChittahChattah Quickies April 5th, 2010
  • Learnvest: Our mission is to provide unbiased financial information to all women – Women have come a long way financially over the last three decades. Women today make up half of the professional work force and are found to buy or influence 80% of all consumer purchases in the United States yet they continue to lag behind men when it comes to managing their personal finances. According to a 2006 Prudential financial poll, 80% of women say that they plan to depend on Social Security to support them in their golden years and 38% of women 30-55 years old are worried they will live at or near the poverty level because they cannot adequately save for retirement. So even today–despite coming so far in many ways–too many women are still ignoring their finances. LearnVest provides a solution that is relevant and timely – it is something women need.
  • Some Queries Prompt Google To Offer Suicide Hotline [NYTimes.com] – Last week Google started automatically giving a suggestion of where to call after receiving a search seemingly focused on suicide. Among the searches that result in an icon of a red phone and the toll-free number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are “ways to commit suicide” and “suicidal thoughts.” The information takes precedence over the linked results and is different and more prominent than an advertisement. Guidance on suicide prevention was suggested internally and was put in place on Wednesday.
  • Virginia Heffernan – The Medium – Online Marketing [NYTimes.com] – An online group becomes formally classified when it comprises an advertising category. That’s the magic point in e-commerce: when the members of an online group turn eager to purchase, say, tank tops or bottles of sauvignon blanc as badges of membership in communities like the ones that flourish at Burton.com or Wine.com. The voluminous content that these sites produce — blogs, videos, articles, reviews, forums — becomes the main event. To sell actual products, the company then “merchandises” that content, the way museums and concert halls and, increasingly, online newspapers hawk souvenirs, including art books and hoodies and framed front pages. At the moment when content can be seamlessly merchandised, a group has generally developed robust forums in which the members (hoarders, mothers of twins, bodybuilders) develop codes and hierarchies and a firm notion that this is a place where they can finally be themselves.
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ChittahChattah Quickies April 3rd, 2010
  • This isn’t the page of a magazine, this is my desktop [Reddit] – (With link to screenshot of PC desktop at http://imgur.com/QIhqe.jpg) The tv plays youtube, the middle speaker controls volume while the one on the left and right open up Rhythmbox and VLC, the cabinets are notepads, the trashbin is clearly a widget, the clock and alarm clock actually work, the books also serve as launchers, the top bar with the date lets me know of future events. I created the desktop for fun, but don't really recommend it as screenlets seem to use a lot of RAM.
  • Bob and Beyond: A Microsoft Insider Remembers [Technologizer] – [Tandy Trower relates several - ultimately unsuccessful - attempts at Microsoft to ship a UI that leverages key research from Nass and Reeves about the social interactions people have with any technology. In his view, there is tremendous value if it's done right and it wasn't ever done right.] The Office team picked up Microsoft Agent for their next release, but opted not to use the characters I had created as they preferred their own unique ones. To avoid the past user-reported annoyances, they gave users more control over when the character would appear, but did little to reform its behavior when it was present. So, you still had the same cognitive disconnect between the character’s reaction to your actions in the application’s primary interface. The character just became a sugar coating for the Help interface, which, if it failed to come up with useful results, left the user unimpressed and thinking that the character was not very useful.
  • Japanese Food Companies Seek Growth Abroad [NYTimes.com] – [What will this mean to collectors/fans of Foreign Groceries :) ] Ichiro Nakamura, spokesman for Lotte in Japan, said that the 400 versions of Koala’s March cookies — some smile and some cry, some hold musical instruments and some play sports — are much more challenging to manufacture than people might think. “We have a special technology that puffs up the koala-shaped cookies so there is hollow space inside where soft chocolate can be injected later,” Mr. Nakamura said. “And unless you have the right technology, the cookies are going to break easily when packed into boxes.”
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ChittahChattah Quickies March 26th, 2010
  • The multitouch backlash begins? – CNET's explains "Another unique feature of the Backflip is the trackpad, which Moto calls Backtrack, located on the back of the display (when the phone is open)." And from Motorola's full-page newspaper ad today "Its new BACKTRACK navigation tool on the rear of the phone lets you intuitively navigate, scroll and select, all without ever having to fumble with the screen." Fumble with the screen? Indeed.
  • Different theater configurations led to different post-production "mixes" for Avatar – [Hollywood Reporter] – More than 100 different delivery versions of "Avatar" were created for the Dec. 18 day-and-date release in 102 countries. DLP digital cinema and non-DLP digital cinema required separate versions. In total, there were 18 different versions of "Avatar" created for the domestic market, plus an additional 92 for international markets, which were released in 47 languages. The international versions included more than 52 subtitled and 18 dubbed versions on film, 58 subtitled and 36 dubbed versions in digital 3D, nine subtitled and eight dubbed versions in digital 2D, and 23 subtitled and 15 dubbed versions for Imax. To optimize the experience for different screens sizes, Cameron made the decision to complete the movie in three aspect ratios: Scope (2:39:1), flat (1:85:1) and Imax (1:43:1).<br />
    (via Kottke)
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ChittahChattah Quickies December 18th, 2009
  • Google Maps India describes user research and design process for culturally useful navigation – We knew from previous studies in several countries that most people rely on landmarks — visual cues along the way — for successful navigation. But we needed to understand how people use those visual cues, and what makes a good landmark, in order to make our instructions more human and improve route descriptions. To get answers to these questions, we ran a user research study that focused specifically on how people give and get directions. We called businesses and asked how to get to their store; we recruited people to keep track of directions they gave or received and later interviewed them about their experiences; we asked people to draw us diagrams of routes to places unfamiliar to us; we even followed people around as they tried to find their way.
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ChittahChattah Quickies December 18th, 2009
  • From a New Yorker profile of wine-in-China enterpreneurs, the St. Pierre family – [The "these are not our customers" reaction is something we see a lot when we take our clients, with their naturally aspirational views of who should be using their products, out into the 'real world']
    The Bordelais have never quite acclimated to the embrace of distant customers. “In the very beginning of the eighties, there was a huge demand from Texas, and in France we were saying, ‘These Texan people–they don’t know how to drink our wines. They are like barbarians,’ ” Engerer told me. “Then there were the Japanese at the end of the eighties, beginning of the nineties, and they were not even drinking it; they were giving it as gifts. That made us laugh also. Now there are the Chinese.” But today, Engerer said, France cannot afford to be arrogant. “We should be a little more calm about this and say, ‘Thank you for buying something that might not be in your culture,’ ” he said.
  • Google Maps India describes user research and design process for culturally useful navigation – We knew from previous studies in several countries that most people rely on landmarks — visual cues along the way — for successful navigation. But we needed to understand how people use those visual cues, and what makes a good landmark, in order to make our instructions more human and improve route descriptions. To get answers to these questions, we ran a user research study that focused specifically on how people give and get directions. We called businesses and asked how to get to their store; we recruited people to keep track of directions they gave or received and later interviewed them about their experiences; we asked people to draw us diagrams of routes to places unfamiliar to us; we even followed people around as they tried to find their way.
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ChittahChattah Quickies December 4th, 2009
  • Designing the future of publishing – Or the screen might be smaller, on the assumption that even the most serious readers don’t just sit on a couch for hours and read Tolstoy. They also read shorter works, in all sorts of places, and at least some of them would likely value a highly portable device over one with a big screen. And if our designer’s boss insists that most people don’t want to carry multiple portable devices, she’ll also build in a phone and camera, and make sure her processor can run not only an e-reading application, but plenty of other software too…What does this mean for the future of the e-reader space? Will we see a bifurcated market, with our first group buying gussied-up descendants of the Kindle, and the second preferring tablet-style computers? It’s hard to imagine that this won’t happen.
    (Thanks @nquizon for the pointer to @litnow)
  • Skiff E-Reading Service to Launch in 2010 – Skiff (incubated by Hearst) oday announced plans to launch a new consumer e-reading service platform in 2010 that will deliver enhanced content experiences to dedicated e-readers, as well as to multipurpose devices such as smartphones and netbooks. The Skiff™ service and digital store will feature a comprehensive selection of newspapers, magazines, books and other content from multiple publishers, uniquely optimized for wireless delivery to devices and delivery via the Web.
  • Empire of the Word – …a compelling look inside the act of reading and traces its impact on more than five thousand years of human history. The series traces reading's origins; examines how we learn to read; exposes censors' attempts to prevent our reading; and finally, proposes what the future might hold for this most human of creative acts.

    (Thanks, Mom!)

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ChittahChattah Quickies November 23rd, 2009
  • Amazon PayPhrase – using keywords to combine login, payment, and shipping info – Seems like an interesting idea, to use phrases to bundle up selections. It suggests the possibility of natural language interfaces, where one just "tells" Amazon what one wants to do. It doesn't appear the implementation actually provides that very easily; perhaps you'd have to play with what situations can be described with what phrases, and then try and remember what your exact language is. "Work books" and "books for work" are the same to us, but not for a literal parser as I gather this is. Still, a provocative idea and glad to see Amazon playing with what's possible.
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ChittahChattah Quickies November 23rd, 2009
  • Amazon PayPhrase – using keywords to combine login, payment, and shipping info – Seems like an interesting idea, to use phrases to bundle up selections. It suggests the possibility of natural language interfaces, where one just "tells" Amazon what one wants to do. It doesn't appear the implementation actually provides that very easily; perhaps you'd have to play with what situations can be described with what phrases, and then try and remember what your exact language is. "Work books" and "books for work" are the same to us, but not for a literal parser as I gather this is. Still, a provocative idea and glad to see Amazon playing with what's possible.
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ChittahChattah Quickies October 27th, 2009
  • Police in Dallas give out citations to drivers for not speaking English – While they are still investigating what went on, there's a possibility that at least part of this was bad UI design: "Kunkle said his department's computer system for citations has a pull-down menu that includes a law requiring drivers of commercial vehicles to speak English." That's true for commercial but not true for regular drivers, and depending on how the software is used, that option may appear as a possible action that the police can take when citing a driver.
  • London Pub Night, November 2 – We'll be at the Riverfront bar & kitchen @ BFI. Hope to see you there!
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ChittahChattah Quickies October 17th, 2009
  • Hidden UI bonus feature: Commuter Railroads Build a Secret Minute Into Train Departures – Every commuter train that departs from New York City [as well as trains in other major cities] — about 900 a day — leaves a minute later than scheduled. If the timetable says 8:14, the train will actually leave at 8:15. The 12:48 is really the 12:49. The phantom minute, in place for decades and published only in private timetables for employees, is meant as a grace period for stragglers who need the extra time to scramble off the platform and onto the train.
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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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Microsoft gets bookish September 25th, 2009

In our recent Reading Ahead research, we heard a lot from people about the physicality of books: how significant their tactile qualities and the kinesthetic experiences they afford are to the reading experience. So it’s interesting to see Microsoft going in a book-like direction with their Courier tablet device, here at Gizmodo.

While not explicitly geared towards reading, the Courier experience shown in the video below leverages some of the kinesthetics of book use, such as page turning (at least a digital approximation) and annotation.

What seems particularly promising here is development towards a synthesis of digital and analog gestural languages.


Related:
One Hour Design Challenge – Enter our Reading Ahead-based design competition in partnership with Core77 (the submission period ends Oct. 14)

The Trapper-Kindle – a response to the One Hour Design Challenge

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All This Machinery Making Modern Music August 3rd, 2009

At the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels, I took a picture of an old picture, presumably of the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer

musical-technology

The museum is filled with every crazy variation on musical instruments you can imagine (and then beyond) so this struck me because it doesn’t connote musical instrument the way everything else did. It looks like an old computer. Well, sure, old electronic music tech was computer tech. In the lab, at least. This didn’t come from two people banging sticks together and liking the noise, it came out of a computer lab, and so the destiny of that sort of musical instrument is cast from that point of origin.

Physical objects evoke a reaction and interpretation (of meaning, of function, of value) based on the symbols we’ve learned. Products, especially those based on advanced technology, will naturally reflect the assumptions of their creators (without some sort of intervention or um design) about form, interface, and thus meaning, function, and value.

See more of my Belgium pictures here.

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Mapping for change July 27th, 2009

ferrymapdetail

The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is an amazing experience for San Francisco locals and visitors alike. In front of the Ferry Building they have an information booth that features a large photograph of the building on a metallic surface, with magnets representing the different booths. Obviously, as businesses come and go, or don’t show up on weekend, or are moved, it’s easy to update the map. And the use of the building itself as a backdrop reduces the abstraction typically found in a floor plan.

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