Posts tagged “complexity”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software [] – [Spin in this article is that using computers to manage super-human levels of complex data will have employment consequences.] When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” ­ providing documents relevant to a lawsuit ­ the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for lawyers and paralegals who worked for months. But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time and cost. In January, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, CA., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000. Some programs can extract relevant concepts ­ like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East ­ even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.
  • [from steve_portigal] PG&E launches huge paper chase for pipeline data [SF Chronicle] – [You think you have a lot of data to process? Obviously their record-keeping incompetence is just now being surfaced and they have taken on a data task that is beyond human scale. We can create systems that we can't manage!] For the past couple of days, forklifts have been carting pallets loaded with 30 boxes each into 3 warehouses outside the 70-year-old Cow Palace arena in Daly City. Friday afternoon, there were still more than 100 pallets stacked outside the warehouses waiting to go in. "There are 100,000 boxes in there, and you can't believe the papers spread everywhere," one PG&E employee said …"There are records in there going back to the 1920s. "We're looking at all kinds of parameters, and our data validation efforts are going on throughout the service area,…We're doing a 24-7 records search involving at least 300 employees and contractors, and we're working to confirm the quality of our data through collecting and validating our gas transmission pipeline records."
  • [from steve_portigal] Hong Kong, 2011 [Flickr] – [My pictures from our recent trip to Hong Kong for the UXHK Conference]
  • [from steve_portigal] Understanding Culture, User Research and Design with Steve Portigal – [Reserve your tickets now for either Toronto event: a lecture on March 8 and a workshop on March 9. The lecture will focus on culture, insights, and design while the workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to practice synthesizing user research data into opportunities and concepts. Hope to see you there!]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 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)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Putting together your own free-from-cable living room viewing experience: not ready for prime time – I understand this kind of living room experience isn’t for everyone. It’s a lot less work to just click a button up or down on a standard remote control. And it can be difficult to explain how to use this unfamiliar toolbox of buttons, programs and devices.

    Over Thanksgiving a friend graciously house-sat at our apartment. It took my wife more than an hour to write a detailed description explaining how to use our new TV setup. After explaining how to use the mouse and keyboard, we had to describe how to switch among applications.

  • Even avid readers find it hard to read nowadays – "I used to read books all the time. If I was awake, I’d be reading or at the very least carrying a book around. But now? The last book I read was John Galsworthy’s “Forsyte Saga,” which I finished more than a month ago, and then only after many weeks of halfhearted fits and starts, a situation that was pretty alarming, given that Mr. Galsworthy’s story was full of the sorts of characters who come to life and accompany you in your mind, sitting in the passenger seat, as real as anybody, while you drive around town doing errands.

    I still read, of course. I read all sorts of things: Web sites and blog posts and e-mail messages and Tweets and even, occasionally, a newspaper or magazine article…

    Deep reading — the kind that you engage in when you get lost in the syntax and imagery and the long, convoluted sentences of a really meaty book — is a special sort of exercise that creates a new part of the brain that did not exist at birth."

The Cultures of Design

I’ve published a new column in DMI Connect – The Cultures of Design – In our engagements with different organizations we see a large range of cultures-of-design. I use that term to capture the aspect of an organization’s culture that drives how they determine what to make for their customers. I’ll outline a few prominent archetypes (of course there are more!), and while they may teeter dangerously close to caricature, in their extremity they can be illustrative of the complex nature of culture.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • A thoughtful consideration (that could have so easily gone curmudgeonly) on the changes in how (and how much) we consume art – Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.
  • Michael Pollan on the cultural shifts revealed by themes in food-related TV entertainment – The historical drift of cooking programs — from a genuine interest in producing food yourself to the spectacle of merely consuming it — surely owes a lot to the decline of cooking in our culture, but it also has something to do with the gravitational field that eventually overtakes anything in television’s orbit…Buying, not making, is what cooking shows are mostly now about — that and, increasingly, cooking shows themselves: the whole self-perpetuating spectacle of competition, success and celebrity that, with “The Next Food Network Star,” appears to have entered its baroque phase. The Food Network has figured out that we care much less about what’s cooking than who’s cooking.
  • Nine Reasons RadioShack Shouldn’t Change Its Name – Best one is " RadioShack has problems beyond any issues with its name." Also they did already change name from Radio Shack to RadioShack.
  • Radio Shack: Our friends call us The Shack – Do they really now? More proof that you can't simply declare yourself cool. Promo or overall rebranding, it reeks of inauthenticity.
  • Understand My Needs – a multicultural perspective – A Japanese usability professional compares the norms of service that retailers provide in Japan with those elsewhere (say, his experience living in Canada), and then contrasts that to the common usability problems found in Japanese websites. Culture is a powerful lens to see what causes these differences, and how usability people can help improve the experience.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • How commercial software products are developed (or "get some empathy for clients, right here") – I worked on the "Windows Mobile PC User Experience" team. This team was part of Longhorn from a feature standpoint but was organizationally part of the Tablet PC group. To find a common manager to other people I needed to work with required walking 6 or 7 steps up the org chart from me. My team's raison d'etre was: improve the experience for users on laptops, notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs. Noble enough. Of course the Windows Shell team, whose code I needed to muck about in to accomplish my tiny piece of this, had a charter of their own which may or may not have intersected ours.

    My team had a very talented UI designer and my particular feature had a good, headstrong program manager with strong ideas about user experience. We had a Mac [owned personally by a team member] that we looked to as a paragon of clean UI. Of course the Shell team also had some great UI designers and numerous good, headstrong PMs who valued (I can only assume) simplicity and so on.

  • Not quite-credible story about Best Buy differentiating on making technology usable/understandable – Mr. Dunn said he wanted to create an atmosphere where consumers were attracted not just to products but also to services that help them master fast-changing technology and configure and connect devices.

    One of Best Buy’s main competitive strategies has been services, something it has done better in the past than any national electronics retailer. That translates into selling product warranties, or help with installing a home theater or configuring a computer.
    Mr. Dunn said a chief example of the kind of thing Best Buy wants to be known for is a service it calls Walk Out Working that it began introducing in May 2007. The service, which is free, helps consumers configure new mobile phones so that when they leave the store they are able to use features like music playback and Web surfing.

    …He argues that [other retailers] cannot compete with Best Buy when it comes to offering individual service, explaining technology to customers and charging to help them adapt to it.

  • Jobless Benefits Web Site Adds Insult to Injury – Jobless people seeking information about their benefits on the Brazilian Labor Ministry's Web were forced to type in passwords such as "bum" and "shameless." A private company that created the site's security system is blamed; its contract with the ministry wasn't being renewed, which may have prompted the pranks.

Perspectives on Navigation

Quote from Learning from Las Vegas

A driver 30 years ago [written in 1977] could maintain a sense of orientation in space. At the simple crossroad a little sign with an arrow confirmed what was obvious. One knew where one was. When the crossroads becomes a cloverleaf, one must turn right to left…But the driver has no time to ponder paradoxical subtleties within a dangerous, sinuous maze. He or she relies on signs for guidance – enormous signs in vast spaces at high speeds.


GPS format wars

World’s second GPS system set to start working in 2008

Officials of the European Space Agency said the Galileo system — scheduled to begin operation in 2008 — will double the world’s satellite coverage, now provided by the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System.

The launch comes at a time when Russia is moving forward with a positioning system known as GLONASS. On Sunday it put into orbit three new satellites for the network, which is scheduled to be operational in 2010.

With more satellites circling the globe, civilians almost anywhere on the planet could switch navigation systems as easily as mobile phones shift between service providers, according to European space agency officials.

Galileo is designed to provide real-time positioning accuracy to within 1 meter, or about 39 inches, ‘which is unprecedented for a publicly available system,’ according to the European Space Agency’s description. Civilian services available on the U.S. network are accurate to within about 16 feet.

Groovy. Format-wars come to GPS. Why not? Add international politics to the mix, and you’ve got a fun way to increase complexity and create confusion and limit adoption. I keep reading about blu-ray DVD and HD-DVD, but Sony can’t even begin to create the bureacracy of the EU. Much better this way, yikes. I guess one thing this format war has in common with others is a ridiculous focus on specs and less on design or usability. What the hell will we do with accuracy to 16 inches for consumer navigation systems, if we can’t get an accurate map database (scroll down to the thread entitled In-car GPS navigation )?

Update: A blurb in Popular Science suggests the different GPS technologies will be interoperable, which (if true, and depending on how true) renders my outrage obsolete.


About Steve