Posts tagged “tv”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 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!)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Paul Graham on the "social norm" problem with the Segway – This is a point I made in my interactions column "Some Different Approaches To Making Stuff" – Kamen is the genius who got it wrong, because he focused only on technology and not on culture and behavior.

    "The Segway hasn't delivered on its initial promise, to put it mildly. There are several reasons why, but one is that people don't want to be seen riding them. Someone riding a Segway looks like a dork.

    My friend Trevor Blackwell built his own Segway, which we called the Segwell. He also built a one-wheeled version, the Eunicycle, which looks exactly like a regular unicycle till you realize the rider isn't pedaling. He has ridden them both to downtown Mountain View to get coffee. When he rides the Eunicycle, people smile at him. But when he rides the Segwell, they shout abuse from their cars: "Too lazy to walk, ya fuckin homo?"

    Why do Segways provoke this reaction? The reason you look like a dork riding a Segway is that you look smug. You don't seem to be working hard enough."

  • Like Nike+ for happiness, iPhone app is data collection for PhD thesis – "At repeated periods throughout the day you'll be pinged by your iPhone either by email or by SMS, and prompted to answer a short one-minute survey. This one asks how happy you are, what you're doing (yes, "making love" is an option, though hopefully it's an activity you'd prioritize over doing some science) whether you exercised recently, whether you're alone, who you're talking to and what you're thinking about." Essentially a "beeper study" but somehow a more viral story ("iPhone"!) than normal.
  • 'True Blood' Beverage – "Inspired by HBO's hugely successful vampire drama series, True Blood, Omni Consumer Products struck a deal with the network's licensing division to releasing 'Tru Blood' the actual beverage..a drinkable product inspired by a beverage meant to taste like blood so that fake vampires from a pay-cable TV show can survive without having to resort to feasting on humans."

The multifaceted YouTube brand experience

Today YouTube launched a beta of a TV-friendly version of their site. Here’s some thoughts on YouTube, brands, interfaces, transformation, and authenticity.

Casio’s Exilim cameras feature a YouTube mode that supposedly eases the process of capturing and uploading videos to YouTube.


Note the prominence of the YouTube badge on the front of the camera. It’s bigger and brighter than the manufacturer of the name of the product line!

Euronews is sponsoring a YouTube channel, Questions for Europe and is broadcasting YouTube-like content.


Although this photograph of a TV screen is of poor quality, when watching the program it’s fairly easy to see that the picture quality is far beyond what’s available on YouTube and that that Euronews is simply taking traditional broadcast video and placing it in a YouTube-like interface. Although the progress bar is still useful in a non-interactive mode, the whole thing is a bit of a cheat: you can’t actually use any of those controls.

Finally, in Shibuya, Tokyo, YouTube sponsored some sort of performance/talent competition.


They built a stage that resembled a YouTube window, with the interface simply as visual detail on the exterior. In this setup real life is framed as a stand-in for digital content (which itself is a proxy for real life content). The mind does boggle.

Pictures from Japan here and pictures from Amsterdam are here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Mass Customization of the Fiat 500 – A number of folks we recently met in Europe mentioned this new (although an updated classic) car as being perfect for their needs. The variation and customizing, while perhaps not unique in today's marketplace (I'm imaging the Mini's variability is similar if not beyond) was still striking: "The 500 is available with four different trim levels: Naked, Pop, Lounge, and Sport. Customers can choose also between 15 interior trims, 9 wheel options, 19 decals, and 12 body colours. There are over 500,000 different personalized combinations of the 500 that can be made by adding all kinds of accessories, decals, interior and exterior colours, and trims."
  • Searching for Value in Ludicrous Ideas – Allison Arieff writes about "inventor/author/cartoonist/former urban planner Steven M. Johnson" whose "work tends toward the nodes where social issues intersect with design and urban planning issues." I'm reminded of my formative experiences with Al Jaffee features from MAD magazine where he's describe future products or technologies, or explain (fancifully) the workings of some current product (i.e. bars of soap that are made with quick disappearing stuff on the outside and then a small interior core that takes a long long time to dissolve).
  • Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt – Suggested to me by René Vendrig at the Amsterdam UX Cocktail Hour, after my talk on looking at cultural differences based on everyday observations. He tells me "It is about traffic, but the real subject is human psychology and how we deal with that kind of situations."
  • It's Not TV, It's HBO – HBO's standard-creating slogan, giving words to the premium experience of their programming.
  • It's not just coffee, it's Starbucks. – New ad campaign for Starbucks attempts to differentiate on quality, but sounds just a bit familiar.
  • All This ChittahChattah | Flying the sneaky skies – (see link for screen grab)

    While checking in online for a United Airlines flight, you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus. It’s likely that most people decline upsells in many situations, though. The default would be to click “no thanks” and move on to completing the transaction. But United has done some tricky and manipulative interface design. The bright yellow arrow with bold text placed on the right is almost irresistible. E-commerce sites have trained us to envision a transaction moving from left to right (granted that they’ve landed on that model since it corresponds to how we read and other cultural factors); it’s very easy to click on the arrow and make a purchase you didn’t want. It takes cognitive work to search for the preferred option which is a lowly blue-underlined unbolded text link off to the left.

  • Evil-interface design in airline website design spanked by European Commission – "Another common problem is the use of prechecked boxes offering services like travel insurance; consumers must uncheck the boxes to remove the unwanted charge." I've written before about United's website being slightly more subtle in their evilness, by offering an upgrade during check-in where the highly visible (colored graphic arrow) button in the default location will cost you tons of money; it's more effort to realize, locate, and decline the offer. Why do we live in a world where major brands want to sell us things that we don't want by tricking us? It's unconscionable that any company can claim to respect consumers and then pull crap like this.
  • Cyd Harrell of Bolt | Peters reacts to the ludicrous Dell campaign trying to sell computers to women, in 2009 – "…a woman, with the last Dell I will ever own. It’s my current laptop, and I chose it because I needed a computer powerful enough to run screensharing tools and high-res video; I needed mobile broadband to stay in touch with my clients and employees, and not just my kid (heresy!); I needed my screen to look great when I go to meetings with clients. That is to say, I needed it for work. Dell, let’s make it official: you can bite me and the millions of other women who take themselves and their technology seriously."

    I love the articulate passion here, as well as the insight into what may have happened organizationally/culturally at Dell (ahem, really crappy research) that leads to such a horrendously offensive sales pitch to HALF of their buying population

Are Americans Falling Out of Love with Their Televisions?

The latest Pew study asks about what Americans see as luxuries vs. necessities, as part of a longitudinal study of attitudes towards major categories of goods.

Clear majorities in polls conducted since 1973 have said that their TV set is something they couldn’t do without. Yet the latest Pew Research Center survey suggests Americans’ long love affair with their TV sets may be cooling.

Whether prompted by the recession or by the lure of new computers and other devices that can display TV programs as well as other kinds of streaming video, barely half (52%) of the public now say a television is a necessary part of their lives. That’s a decline of 12 percentage points since 2006 and the lowest proportion since 1973 to view a television as essential — even lower than the 57% who said a TV set was a necessity when the question was first asked in 1973.

Young adults have led the march away from the TV screen: Only 38% of those 30 or younger say a TV is a necessity, a 15-point decline since 2006. In contrast, perceptions of a television set as a necessity declined by just 6 points to 68% among respondents or older

Now far be it for me to impugn Pew (who seem like they do really smart and interesting pulse-taking research), but as of 2007 99% of US households had at least one TV, and the average household had 2.24 sets. So what’s the relationship here between what people say and what people do? If you’ve already got a TV set, how hard is it to say it’s not a necessity? [Of course, more people are getting video content online so that’s part of the reason for the drop and Pew accounts for that, but I’m looking at the other issue]

I think we place a lot of extra importance on self-reported survey data, where people express opinions, out of context. There’s no behavioral data here about what people are actually doing (i.e., selling their TV sets to buy something more important, or holding off buying new TV sets, etc.) If people respond to the question about the importance of the TV in a new way, does that really mean the perception of the TV has changed or does it point to a different way to answer the question?

What do you think this bit of data means? What are the consequences or impacts? Who should be taking notice of it, and what should they do?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • How's that for a long-lasting brand/product? After 72 years, TV's `Guiding Light' switching off – It began as a 15-minute serial on NBC Radio in January 1937 and debuted on CBS television in 1952, focusing on the Bauer family of Springfield.
  • April 2009 – Iraqis Snap Up Hummers as Icons of Power – “Iraqis love them because they’re really a symbol of power,” said Mr. Hilli, a chubby 37-year-old who could not stop chuckling. Nonetheless, he spoke with authority, since he was his own first customer. Hummers in Baghdad are symbols of much more besides: increasing security, returning normality and a yearning for the trappings of sovereignty. Mr. Hilli allowed that there was something else, too, a little more indefinable, which in Arabic is “hasad thukuri,” [penis envy]
  • April 2003 – Americans induce patriotism through Hummer purchase – "When I turn on the TV, I see wall-to-wall Humvees, and I'm proud," said Sam Bernstein, a 51-year-old antiquities dealer who lives in Marin County, Calif., and drives a Hummer H2, an S.U.V. sibling of the military Humvee. "They're not out there in Audi A4's," he said of the troops. "I'm proud of my country, and I'm proud to be driving a product that is making a significant contribution."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Listening to customer feedback? Twenty-Five Years of Post-it Notes (Thx, @susandra) – In '77, 3M decided to test-market. It failed to ignite interest. “When we did the follow-up research, there just weren’t a lot of people saying this was a product they wanted.”
    "We knew the test markets failed, but we just kept saying, ‘Maybe it was us. Maybe we did something wrong. Because it couldn’t be the product—the product was great.”
    To see for themselves how people responded to Post-it Notes, 2 execs cold-called offices, giving away samples and showing people how to use 'em. The responses were more enthusiastic. “Those things really were like cocaine. You got them into somebody’s hands, and they couldn’t help but play around with them.”
    1 more test was in order. They got newspapers to run stories about it. They festooned stationery stores with banner displays and point-of-purchase materials. 1000s of samples were sent to office managers, purchasing agents, lawyers, etc. People demonstrated it to potential customers. It was a huge success, and 3M decided to launch Post-Its.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Peter Arnell Explains Failed Tropicana Package Design – Big outcry over the Tropicana packaging design (which this suggests was NOT tested but that's hard to believe) led to a return to the previous packaging.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Malcolm Gladwell on the Aeron chair – The Aeron chair was originally despised and deemed ugly. It didn’t catch on for 2 years, and then it quickly became the most popular chair. Everyone came to love it. Gladwell concludes that people find responses about some topics extremely difficult to articulate. While they may think they dislike something (like the Aeron chair), in their hearts they may actually like it. There is a disconnect that causes people to express dislike in their heads while they actually like it in their hearts (and vice versa).
  • Listening to customer feedback? Hate Facebook's new look? You'll like it soon enough. – Slate advances the point that people react to change negatively but eventually get used to the change and make it work.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Problems With NBC’s ‘Parks & Recreation’ – When do you listen to negative feedback and when do you follow your vision? I think there's an important middle-ground that is often ignored: understanding what lies beneath that feedback and choosing carefully if and how to respond to it, or how to create supporting activities that help get over the barriers that the rejection points to

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 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

Crossover Hit

One of the commercial breaks during the debut episode of Christian Slater’s new TV show, My Own Worst Enemy, started with a little recruiting pitch for the consulting agency that Slater’s character works for on the show, something along the lines of “we’re looking for a few good people.”

The spot listed a website for AJ Sun Consulting, the fictional character’s fictional employer. So of course I checked it out-I’m fascinated by this stuff.
The site was more substantial than I expected, sporting among its pages a mission statement, a privacy statement, and a client-access-only login field. And not a sign of it being a marketing platform for anything other than AJ Sun Consulting, until I had gotten as far as the fifth question on the job application form on the Careers page. But there it was:

Are you interested in learning more about our company’s employee program with Chevy?
___ Yes
___ No

Which Chevy vehicle would you prefer as your company car?
___ Chevy Traverse
___ Chevy Camaro

Looking into the backstory, I found a May 2008 press release from NBC quoting Dino Bernacchi, General Motors’ Director of Marketing Alliances and Branded Entertainment:

“We call it Fusion Marketing – partnering with the creative community around ideas that build relationships with a passionate audience, but done through the lens of the entertainment property.”

And indeed, a quick check of shows the site registered to General Electric, NBC’s parent company. (GE, furthering its forays into “fusion marketing,” also appears as Liz Lemon’s employer on the NBC show 30 Rock.)

For a while, there was a lot of buzz around companies and public figures trying to create a presence in Second Life and use that world to spur more action for themselves in this one. (The Second Life Video Gallery at New Business Horizons has some interesting artifacts around some of these efforts.)

So exactly what is it that’s happening, metaphysically, when I’m in “first life” interacting in a fake forum created by a real entity like GM to sell a real product through a fake premise?

I feel a little bit like the girl in the old A-Ha video–inhabiting a place that’s between real and virtual.

Related posts:
This Space Available
Collateral Damage
Field Research … In Second Life

Wild and Free

Me on bass, Firefly Club, Osaka, Japan, 2001

I had the TV on in the background the other night while I was doing some work around the house–I’ll admit it to you–I was watching E Hollywood True Stories, “Joe Francis Gone Wild.” (Francis is the guy who created Girls Gone Wild (NSFW))

Anyway…about halfway through the show, I heard a really familiar sound fading up in the background. I turned up the volume on the show, and, sure enough, it was a piece of a song from a CD I recorded a few years ago.

ghost7, New Directions in Static, 2004

As the wow feeling of hearing something I had made broadcast this widely subsided, I started thinking about other aspects of the situation: shouldn’t someone have contacted me, shouldn’t I be getting paid for this?

And here’s where the irony, or at least the thought-provoking conundrum, begins.

I know how hard it is to earn a living playing music (or even just to cover your expenses). Yet I have, ahem, “friends,” who download all kinds of “free” musical content. And when I lived in Japan, I had other, ahem, “friends,” who rented lots of CDs from Tsutaya (the Japanese Blockbuster Video) and copied them onto MiniDisc to build their music collections, thus depriving the artists of their cut of a CD sale. (For a great breakdown of the traditional music industry business model, and a startling look at the reality of making a living as a musician, check out Moses Avalon’s website and book, Confessions of a Record Producer).

My initial self-righteousness about getting paid for the use of my music highlighted a clear differentiation I’ve been making between creative “product” that comes out of the “entertainment industry” and what’s made by people like me, whose primary livelihood is something other than their music, art, etc.

Now that any content placed in the public arena is almost instantaneously redistributable, whither goes the business model/s for creative production? Are songs-as-products becoming obsolete, to be replaced by songs-as-loss-leaders, a la the Starbucks/iTunes “song-of-the-week” card?

How, in this freewheeling new world, will it continue to be possible to shift enough units to pay for the production of something like a U2 album or a feature-length film?

CD Cover, George Lynch (ex-Dokken), 2000

New analysis covered over at O’Reilly on Radiohead’s 2007 “pay-what-you-like” experiment for selling their album, In Rainbows, would seem to support the loss leader model, with the attention generated by the online trading of the album seemingly as valuable as any actual money earned through paid downloading.

I’d add as well that firing up the tour bus remains an essential part of the prospect. Aside from tribute bands, no one’s found a way yet to pirate the live performance. (Although perhaps the scenario in Kiss’ 1978 movie, where the band is attacked by a lookalike robot band, suggests one possible model.)

VHS box, Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park, 1978

But back to more grounded futuristic pondering. Is Karl Marx’ dream of making means of production accessible to ordinary people coming to fruition via peer-to-peer content sharing and the free flow of certain types of “raw materials?”

As the “redistributability” of content facilitated by the internet crossbreeds with technology and approaches like just-in-time production, 3D printing, and mass customization, will other types of product production also be wrested from commercial producers?

And will someone from E True Hollywood Stories please contact me about that royalty check?

Forced Engagement

Like Adam Richardson, I’m fed up with “Indentured Advertude.” Shortly after his post appeared, I returned to my Orlando hotel room and found that housekeeping had left my TV remote like this:

In order to get to the controls, I have to remove it from the sleeve. Like other forcing functions I’ve written about it creates some mindfulness that drives a desired behavior; in this case it’s not in my interest at all. You must engage with this ad before you can perform another task. The service being advertised has no connection to watching TV or using the remote; it’s just there to get in your way.

Parody as Time Capsule

Here are two cartoon shorts that reveal powerful and dated perspectives on consumer culture and the automotive industry. Dated isn’t bad; in these cases it tells us a lot about what the concerns of the time were.

From 1974, a pilot for a MAD television special. It’s the credits and the first segment, a cynical interview with an automotive executive. The theme of poor quality screams out loud and clear.

From 1951, Tex Avery’s Car of Tomorrow. Silly concepts that speak to social attitudes and concerns from that period. Which ones have changed? Unlike the MAD piece which frames its critique by being very current, this cartoon looks to the future and reveals these values somewhat more indirectly.

Yeah, I think she worked here or somethin’

In a nice attempt at transparency, NBC’s official site for ER includes a section about former cast members, entitled (of course) Where Are They Now (sans question mark)

So where’s Julianna Margulies now?

(emphasis mine)

Julianna Margulies spent a total of six years playing Nurse Carol Hathaway on the medical drama ER. After leaving the show, Margulies went on to star in a number of plays and movies. Her career took her to the stage of the Lincoln Center to the starring role in such movies as “Ghost Ship” and “Snakes on a Plane”.

Note the horrendous grammar, the highlighting of some poor films and of course, no mention of her new starring role in Canterbury’s Law (on FOX). Maybe NBC isn’t quite as genuine/generous with its transparency as we’re supposed to believe. Don’t publicists check up on stuff like this? Or are they totally powerless once the contract with NBC is over?

We need a new term like greenwashing that describes the false transparency such as what we see here from NBC (and whether it’s ineptitude or malice, the lack of care and finish tell us something about what NBC cares about).

Designing TV Brands and Experiences

Boiled down from a bullet-pointy Fast Company piece that is heavy on highlight but makes me hunger for details.

Get more people to tune in to Court TV

The key has been to think like a consumer-products marketer…create a clear identity for each network.

Research revealed that the viewers of Court TV’s prime-time shows include two main groups: mystery solvers, typically women ages 25 to 54 who enjoy piecing together a story to solve a problem, and “real engagers,” young men who like true stories that take them places they wouldn’t otherwise go.

[So,] change the name. Court TV evokes images of criminals. The channel will relaunch as truTV.

Before truTV debuts, Koonin will send researchers into the homes of target viewers to gather information, much as Intuit famously does with its software.

Learned Behavio(u)r

One of the fun yet challenging aspects of spending two weeks in another country was stumbling over all the little things that I know how to do back home but didn’t work. I paid for a snack using pocket change, and eventually had to hold the pile of coins out to the counter dude so he could take the right amount. The coins say their value, in English, but in order to complete a transaction in the normal amount of time, you have to be familiar. It was an interesting feeling, to be such a foreigner.

At another point, I was riding the DLR (train) with my Oyster (smart card). A conductor comes along to swipe the card and there’s a small interaction where the passenger holds out the card and the conductor holds out the wand (yes, it was a wand, not the usual credit-card-swipey-slot thing). I wanted to put my card on top of his wand, but he wanted to put his wand on top of my card. I was just supposed to know the gesture. Sounds like a bit of a dominance issues, actually.

In using the self-check at Tesco (a grocery store), I realized the software was the same as what I’ve seen here at Home Depot, etc. but when it came time to pay, the voice prompt told me to insert my card into the chippenpin device. Turns out this was Chip-and-PIN, where credit cards and/or ATM cards have extra security via an embedded chip, and an associated PIN. These readers use a different swipe gesture, with the card going in the bottom of the keypad. Anyway, I stood there with my non-chipped credit card, putting it in and out of this bottom slot, to no avail. After I surrendered and paid cash, I realized there was the familiar vertical swipe slot along the bezel of the monitor, a different piece of hardware than the chippenpin.

And this one was subtle but confounding:
This is the TV remote from my Paris hotel room but the London hotel had a similar issue. In my experience, the red power button turns the TV on and turns the TV off. But in both these hotel rooms (and maybe this was a hotel issue more than a Euro issue) the way to turn it was to press the channel buttons. Enter a channel and the TV would go on and display that channel. The power button was actually on “off” button. You can imagine me sitting in front of the TV with a remote and trying to turn it on, in vain, until frustrated random button press gave me the result I wanted.

I often look around at local transit and marvel at how much the cues and other information in those systems are designed for people who already know how to use them; but I was able to plan for and learn about transit enough to be come a fairly comfortable user. It was these small interactions without cues, and under time pressure, where I found myself bemusedly incompetent.


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