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ChittahChattah Quickies October 29th, 2009
  • In defense of inspired design: Deyan Sudjic and "The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects" – Tthe Clift Hotel in 2001 was reborn as an outpost of the globe-trotting cultural elite. The 1913 exterior still exudes staid pomp; inside it's a dark wonderland of affectation, with theatrically scaled furniture, thick silk drapes & techno rhythms in the background.

    The interiors are by Philippe Starck whom Sudjic describes as "constantly seeking to amuse the grown-ups with his daringly naughty tricks."

    The ambiance is profoundly different a few blocks away at Blue Bottle Cafe. Here, light streams through the bare windows of a 17-foot-high corner retail space. The stools are utilitarian, the walls dull white.

    Yet everything here is arranged as deliberately as at the Clift, including the coffee beans in grainy paper bags with the blend names stamped by hand. It's all very DIY – and you can grind the beans at home with the $700 grinder on sale a few feet away.

    "In objects we value the 'authentic,' the hand-pressed. It's often the same thing with cities," Sudjic said .

  • Dance Off with the Star Wars Stars 2009 – Many YouTube videos to explore here, but possibly one of the most inauthentic things ever. Taking beloved character archetypes out of their true context and into a tepid cheesy new context. Funny, or a betrayal, (or cool?) depending on where you come from. While the related video, Star Wars Weekends – Special Effects Edition (with real lightsabers!), evokes a real authenticity, even though it creates humor by mixing fantasy with reality, there's a underlying difference – love for the original versus exploitation of the original
  • The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock – Another complex and rambling Errol Morris investigation into politics, authentication, media, photography, truth, fakery, and more
  • Les Sans Culottes: a French band from Brooklyn that isn’t really French – "Brooklyn’s Les Sans Culottes have taken the whole faux-French-band thing pretty far—the group’s live shows are superenergetic, fake-multicultural events. You might not learn anything about French culcha, but you’ll probably hop around like a lunatic."
  • Authentic Organizations — aligning identity, action and purpose – A blog that explores
    * What does it mean for an organization to be “authentic”?
    * Why does it matter that an organization be authentic?
    * Which organizations are being authentic, and what are they doing to pursue authenticity?
    * Which organizations are not being authentic, why, and what could they be doing to become more authentic?
    * What should an organization do to become more authentic, or to address a specific authenticity dilemma?
    * What can you and I do, as organization members, as managers, leaders, scholars or practitioners, as persons, to help organizations pursue authenticity?
  • When Consumers Search For Authenticity: In The Eye Of The Beholder? – "Consumer identity goals (or their idealized images of themselves) underpin assessments of whether a brand is authentic (genuine, real, and true) or not." The researchers identified three primary identity goals: a desire for control, connection, or virtue. "These goals reflect three respective societal norms: the need to be practical, to participate in community, and to be moral," the authors explain. "When seeking to achieve these different goals, consumers choose different brands. When consumers desire to be in control, they may view McDonalds as an inauthentic brand partner because fast food leads to increases in weight. Alternately, McDonald's may be viewed as a genuine partner when the same consumer is seeking to connect with others."
  • Creating Authentic Product Experiences: a teaser for this presentation – Authenticity is an increasingly crucial attribute for successful products and services, but understanding how to apply it is slippery. In this presentation, Steve presents a number of facets of authenticity, from product form and aesthetics, to the evolution of meaning over time, to personal interactions, and brands. While there is no magic answer to "what is authenticity?" the journey to answer that question is an essential one.
  • All This ChittahChattah (Kindle Edition) – Understanding culture, design, and business – For only $1.99 a month. Not available to customers in the US, for reasons I don't understand.
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ChittahChattah Quickies October 28th, 2009
  • Electric Literature Magazine Offers Fiction in New Media – The founders of Electric Literature, a new quarterly literary magazine, seek nothing less than to revitalize the short story in the age of the short attention span. To do so, they allow readers to enjoy the magazine any way they like: on paper, Kindle, e-book, iPhone and, starting next month, as an audiobook. YouTube videos feature collaborations among their writers and visual artists and musicians. Starting next month, Rick Moody will tweet a story over three days.
  • French Government Offers Free Newspapers to Young Readers – Under “My Free Newspaper,” 18- to 24-year-olds will be offered a free, yearlong subscription to a newspaper of their choice.

    “Winning back young readers is essential for the financial survival of the press, and for its civic dimension,” the culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, said.

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ChittahChattah Quickies October 22nd, 2009
  • Amazon’s Kindle app for the PC – (Is it still an app if it runs on a computer?) While it seems to be tied to the launch of Windows 7 this week, it will also run on XP, etc. The Kindle experience starts to become platform independent. So what it is? A UI? An OS? An ecosystem? Or a store?
  • Advertising – The People Spoke. In Windows 7, Microsoft Says It Listened – Microsoft asks PC users for feedback. But after the debacle with Vista, they realized that the concept of consumers as an intrinsic part of the development process could be an effective selling point for Windows 7. And so was born a campaign carrying the theme “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea.”
    “Our customers co-create the product with us,” said David Webster, GM for brand and marketing strategy “We’re using the customers’ voice to tell our story.”
    In one ad, these words are superimposed over a photograph of a woman: “I asked for it to use less memory. Now it uses less memory. I’m a tech goddess.”
    In another ad, these words appear over a photo of an older man: “I suggested they make it less complicated. Guess what? Now it’s less complicated. I so rule.”
    In commercials, Microsoft engineers say, “Bring it on; what do you got?” PC users fire back with pithy phrases like “Less clutter, just less clutter.” And the engineers reply: “Loud and clear. We’re all over it.”
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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 10th, 2009
  • Jobs on the Kindle, January 2008 – Today he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.

    “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

  • Roger Ebert’s Books Do Furnish A Life (plus a ton of amazing comments) – I cannot throw out these books. Some are protected because I have personally turned all their pages and read every word; they're like little shrines to my past hours. Perhaps half were new when they came to my life, but most are used, and I remember where I found every one. The set of Kipling at the Book Nook on Green Street in Champaign. The scandalous The English Governess in a shady book store on the Left Bank in 1965. The Shaw plays from Cranford's on Long Street in Cape Town, where Irving Freeman claimed he had a million books; it may not have been a figure of speech. Like an alcoholic trying to walk past a bar, you should see me trying to walk past a used book store.

    Other books I can't throw away because–well, they're books, and you can't throw away a book, can you? The very sight of Quick and Easy Chinese Cooking by Kenneth H. C. Lo quickens my pulse. Its pages are stained by broth, sherry, soy sauce and chicken fat.

  • Seats Of Gold – A writer's experience in the newly-redefined "luxury" seats at the new Yankee Stadium. Fascinating as Wall Street hyper-greed spills into other industries and illustrates how to kill loyalty dead. Hard to summarize this piece, but it's a great case study and a well-written piece as the author documents their own experience supplemented with a lot of background interviews.
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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 29th, 2009
  • Richard Eoin Nash, Social Publisher – What “social” means is that there’s going to be more information about books, more scope to interact with the books (your own commenting & annotating and reading others’), more scope to interact with the author, more scope to interact with one another. (This latter item, to get semi-techy for a sec, is something that the broad horizontal book social networks—Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari—do well, though, so we’re likely to focus on using their APIs rather than asking people to build their own bookshelves anew.)

    “Social” is taking the book and making it much easier to have a conversation with the book and its writer, and have conversations around the book and its writer.

  • L-Prize – Lighting Competition – I've written before in frustration about money spent to push the CFL at us instead of spending money solving the product problem. The DOE is sponsoring the L-Prize to create a low-energy bulb. "The competition also includes a rigorous evaluation process for proposed products, designed to detect and address product weaknesses before market introduction, to avoid problems with long-term market acceptance."
  • Princeton tests of Kindles for textbooks doesn’t go well for Kindle – “Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages — not to mention margin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and interaction with the material occurs,” he explained. “All these things have been lost, and if not lost they’re too slow to keep up with my thinking, and the ‘features’ have been rendered useless.”

    “For some people,” she explained, “electronic reading can never replace the functionality and ‘feel’ of reading off paper.”
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ChittahChattah Quickies September 23rd, 2009
  • One Hour Design Challenge: The Trapper Kindle – Core77 – A much better post on what makes the Trapper-Kindle such a great response to the Reading Ahead research. Nice concepting and nice storytelling, all!
  • An error from a previous edition has been corrected – A rather aspirational piece on the power of digital books to support corrections after publication. Although we've got this with news already and the argument presented about the amount of fact-checking doesn't seem to be relevant – even if you have the ability to post new corrections technically doesn't mean you have the human resource to find those corrections.
  • Core-Toons: The Trapper-Kindle – While intended as humor, this is also the sort of design concepts we love, as they take an observation, or an insight about people and visualize a solution. We asked Core77's community to make the book more sensual, and here's a great example! Looking forward to more great design ideas for Reading Ahead!
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ChittahChattah Quickies September 11th, 2009
  • Slot Music – it’s more than just a new format – Here's SanDisk's ecosystem approach (for digital music, not digital books, but still, it's illustrative). Leveraging their technology, they've begun putting digital music on solid state media (i.e., SD cards and what-have-you) that will go into multiple devices. They are piggybacking on the ecosystem of slots that already exists. I think it fully matures as an ecosystem when other other plays start making products, services, and accessories to support this standard.
  • New Yorker cartoon – “This one, when you open it, smells like the Times.” – Cartoon by Leo Cullum showing a sensory-enriched Kindle. Thanks to Tom Williams for the pointer!
  • Book Display Norms – Jan Chipchase – To what extent does the form, peruseability of books facilitate the behaviours around where they are sold?
  • San Franciscan Reads Finnegan’s Wake Aloud, In Public – In the aftermath of the Finnegan's Wake Book Club dissolution.
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ChittahChattah Quickies August 29th, 2009
  • David Byrne’s Kindle experience – One of Amazon’s selling points is instant gratification. You want a book and you can have it in about a minute.
    Here’s where the rub is. This machine only reads Kindle files and PDFs. And nothing else out there reads Kindle files. It can read other types of files — Word DOCs, MOBI, TXT etc. — but you have to go through Amazon via email, where they’re converted for a small charge, then sent directly to your Kindle. And, you can’t share a book with your friends, even if they too have a Kindle.
    The slightly strange electronic ink system in the Kindle (and in the Sony Reader) has no backlight — so, like a book, you can’t read it in bed at night without a nightlight.
    Do I miss the “physical experience”? I will certainly miss being able to read books from my personal library, but if the title I want to read is all text it doesn’t make much difference to me. The smell will be a bit of nostalgia, as will fading and water damage.
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Reading Ahead: Research Findings August 28th, 2009
Part 20 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

(Updated to include slideshow with synchronized audio track)

We’re very excited today to be posting our findings from the Reading Ahead research project.

Lots more in the deck below, but here’s the executive summary

  • Books are more than just pages with words and pictures; they are imbued with personal history, future aspirations, and signifiers of identity
  • The unabridged reading experience includes crucial events that take place before and after the elemental moments of eyes-looking-at-words
  • Digital reading privileges access to content while neglecting other essential aspects of this complete reading experience
  • There are opportunities to enhance digital reading by replicating, referencing, and replacing social (and other) aspects of traditional book reading

We sat down yesterday in the office and recorded ourselves delivering these findings, very much the way we would deliver them to one of our clients.

Usually, we deliver findings like these to a client team in a half day session, and there’s lots of dialogue, but we tried to keep it brief here to help you get through it. (The presentation lasts an hour and twenty minutes.)

It’s been a great project, and we’ve really appreciated hearing from people along the way. We welcome further comments and questions, and look forward to continuing the dialogue around this work.

Use the green play arrow at the bottom of the slides to play the show with audio.

(If the slideshow won’t load, check it out here)
To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

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ChittahChattah Quickies August 25th, 2009
  • Words Move Me – Sony adds social networking around reading (but doesn’t seem you can *buy*) – "Words move me" was created by Sony to celebrate the words that move us and to share our reading experiences with others. Connecting with readers around literary moments enables us to express our individuality, share our own stories, and find commonalities with others.
    (Thanks @gpetroff)
  • Sony’s Daily Reader – Kindle Competition: Touchscreen Plus AT&T, for $399 – Includes software to link with local libraries and check out a library-based electronic book. Also has portrait reading mode (showing two pages), touchscreen, and broadband wireless access to add books without a PC.
  • IKEA as destination retail, in Beijing – Although the store is designed similarly to Western IKEAs, the meaning and usage has changed. In Beijing, It's a place to rest and eat, more theme park than shopping emporium.
  • The lost art of reading: David Ulin on the challenge of focus in an era of distraction – Who do we want to be, she asks, and how do we go about that process of becoming in a world of endless options, distractions, possibilities? These are elementary questions, and for me, they cycle back to reading, to the focus it requires. When I was a kid, maybe 12 or 13, my grandmother used to get mad at me for attending family functions with a book. Back then, if I'd had the language for it, I might have argued that the world within the pages was more compelling than the world without; I was reading both to escape and to be engaged. All these years later, I find myself in a not-dissimilar position, in which reading has become an act of meditation, with all of meditation's attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It's harder than it used to be, but still, I read. (via Putting People First)
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ChittahChattah Quickies August 24th, 2009
  • The process of converting books to Kindle format introduces errors in the text – The cost of a printed book covers some degree of proofing and checking—not enough, but some. The cost of a Kindle book does not support editorial quality control, and the multi-step conversion process, handled in bulk by third parties, chops out content and creates other errors that no one fixes because no one is there to do QA.

    As the economics of publishing continues to change, perhaps one day soon, a Kindle edition will contain the same text as the printed book. Until it does, Kindle is great for light reading. But if it’s critical that every word, comma, and code sample come through intact, for now, you’re better off with print.

  • The Social History of the MP3 – For Reading Ahead, we're looking at other transitions to digital: "So omnipresent have these discussions become, in fact, that it's possible the past 10 years could become the first decade of pop music to be remembered by history for its musical technology rather than the actual music itself. This is a chastening thought, but at the same time we have to be careful not to overlook how the technologies we invent to deliver music also work to shape our perception of it. When radio came along, its broadcasts created communities of music-listening strangers, physically distant from each other but connected through the knowledge that they were listening to the same song at the same time. Where radio brought listeners together as a listening public, the LP started splitting them apart. The LP and 45 rpm formats took the phonograph, which had been in existence for over half a century, to the masses, right as the American middle-class was going suburban and privatizing their lives."
  • Medical Students Experience Life as Nursing Home Patients – Students are given a “diagnosis” of an ailment and expected to live as someone with the condition does. They keep a daily journal chronicling their experiences and, in most cases, debunking their preconceived notions.

    To Dr. Gugliucci’s surprise, she found nursing homes in the region that were willing to participate and students who were willing to volunteer. No money is exchanged between the school and nursing homes, and the homes agree to treat students like regular patients.

    “My motivation is really to have somebody from the inside tell us what it’s like to be a resident,” said Rita Morgan, administrator of the Sarah Neuman Center for Healthcare and Rehabilitation here, one of the four campuses of Jewish Home Lifecare.

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Reading Ahead: Building models August 24th, 2009
Part 19 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

We’ve been hard at work synthesizing the Reading Ahead data. There’s a great deal of writing involved in communicating the results, and sometimes it makes sense to develop a visual model that represents a key idea.

Here are several partial models evolving through paper and whiteboard sketches, and finally into digital form.

We’ll be finishing synthesis soon, and publishing our findings on Slideshare, with an audio commentary.

Stay tuned…

Portigal-Consulting_synth5

Portigal-Consulting_synth4

models

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Reading Ahead: Managing recruiting August 18th, 2009
Part 18 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

There’s always something new in every project. Often we encounter a bit of process that we may not know how to best manage it. So we’ll make our best plan and see what happens. We learn as we go and ultimately have a better way for dealing with it next time.

In a regular client project, we write a screener and work with a recruiting company who finds potential research participants, screens them, and schedules them. Every day they email us an updated spreadsheet (or as they call it “grid”) with responses to screener questions, scheduled times, locations, and contact info. It still ends up requiring a significant amount of project management effort on our end, because questions will arise, schedules will shift, people will cancel, client travel must be arranged, etc. etc.

For Reading Ahead, we did all of the recruiting ourselves. Although we’ve done this before, this may be the first time since the rise of social media: we put the word out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email to friends, and here on All This ChittahChattah.

While Dan lead the effort, we both used our own networks, and so we got responses in a number of channels, sent to either or both of us, including:

  • @ replies on Twitter
  • direct messages on Twitter
  • Comments on Facebook posts
  • Messages on Facebook
  • Emails (directly to either of us, or forwarded from friends, and friends-of-friends

facebook
A private dialog on Facebook

facebook2
Comments on a Facebook status update. Note that Dan is able to jump in and make contact directly

twitter
Direct Messages in Twitter

Some people were potential participants, some were referrers to other potential participants, and some were both. And given the range of platforms we were using, with their associated restrictions (and unclear social protocols), we had to scramble to figure out who could and should communicate with who to follow up and get to the point where we could see if the people in question were right for the study. We didn’t expect this to happen, and eventually Dan’s inbox and/or his Word document were no longer efficient, and as some participants were scheduled or in negotiation to be scheduled, he ended up with this schedule cum worksheet:

schedule

Being split across the two of us and these different media, eventually we were interacting with people for whom we had to check our notes to trace back how we had connected to them, which was great for our sample, since it meant we weren’t seeing a group of people we already knew.

It was further complicated when we had finished our fieldwork and wanted to go back to everyone who offered help close the loop with them, thanking them for help. Technically, and protocol-wise, it took some work (who are the people we need to follow up with? Who follows up with them? What media do they use), basically going through each instance one-by one.

twitter2

We haven’t figured out what we’ll do next time; we won’t forget the challenges we’ve had but there’s just not time or need right now to plan for the future. If I had to guess, I’d imagine a Google Spreadsheet that includes where we got people from, who owns the contact, whether they are participant-candidate or referrer, etc.). Despite being very pessimistic about the demands of recruiting, we still underestimated the time and complexity required for this project.

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