Posts tagged “constraints”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] – enhanced virtual self – [I'm trying this although I may come to regret it; meanwhile the notion is so fascinating, giving virtual extensions of our presence and personality to make us "more" human in our interactions rather than less human!] is a web service allowing users to install an artificial intelligence (bot) on their Facebook and/or Twitter account. From keywords, content analysis and activity analysis, the bot attempts to simulate the activity of the user, to improve it by feeding his account and to create new contacts with other users…The bot does not born with a fictitious identity, but will be added to the real identity of the user to modify it at his convenience. Thus, this bot can be seen as a virtual prosthesis added to an user's account. With the aim to help him to forge a digital identity of what he would really like to be and by trying to build a greater social reputation for the user.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Venture Inside China’s Tiny Public Housing Cubes [Flavorwire] – [A surprising variety is borne of extreme domestic constraints: approaches and techniques for featuring and concealing objects, decoration and overall effect or mood.] The dwellers of the Shek Kip Mei Estate public housing project in Hong Kong occupy just ten feet by ten feet of living space. The humble rooms that originally served as relocation units for fire victims in the 1950s are furnished with bunk beds. The crowded units balloon with dozens of plastic bags for all-purpose storage and are decorated with a varying amount of patriotic paraphernalia.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Oh, Etsy. How could you? [Authentical] – [Smart take on process failures in Etsy's recent misstep. User research can make a big difference] It's hard for me to believe that if Etsy had conducted user research and even informal but realistic usability testing on the idea that they would not have quickly seen the privacy violation. They could have avoided the damage control they now have to deal with because of the breach of trust they've had with buyers who already love the experience of shopping there.Etsy could have avoided the problem and discovered a possibly great idea for engaging buyers even more. Where was the business plan for allowing search of users? How does having social "circles" support the business model, exactly? How would the social media strategy be supported on the back end? More than all that, let's look at others who have gone before us: Beacon on Facebook and Boden USA come to mind. What happened there? What could the Etsy team learn from those mistakes? Oh, and, why duplicate Facebook in any way?
  • [from julienorvaisas] The Art of the Police Report [Utne Reader] – [Collett provides a fascinating exploration of one cop's ability to achieve expression while governed by the formidable constraints of police report writing.] Writing is the one constant in a cop’s daily life. As with everything in the department, strict rules govern report writing, and as with any dangerous undertaking, the department will train you to do it properly. The most despised class at the police academy is the one that teaches writing. The incident report he’ll learn to write is the factual narrative account of a crime. Every event a cop responds to generates a report. Crime reports are written in the dispassionate uni-voice that’s testament to the academy’s ability to standardize writing. They feel generated rather than authored, the work of a single law enforcement consciousness rather than a specific human being. So how can I identify Martinez from a single sentence? Why do his reports make me feel pity, terror, or despair?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Flow [Future Perfect] – [A lovely observation on how behavioral flows in the cafes of several countries reflect differing cultural values.]
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Getting unstuck: solving the perfect problem [Seth’s Blog] – [Short piece on strategy for solving sticky problems.] The way to solve the perfect problem is to make it imperfect. Don't just bend one of the constraints, eliminate it. Shut down the factory. Walk away from the job. Change your product completely. Ignore the board.
  • [from steve_portigal] Multimedia E-Books, Adorned With Video Extras [] – [The language we use to describe an emerging technology or form of communication is in flux as its meaning, marketing, and perceived usefulness is in flux] In the spring Hachette Book Group called its version, by David Baldacci, an “enriched” book. Penguin Group released an “amplified” version of a novel by Ken Follett last week. And on Thursday Simon & Schuster will come out with one of its own, an “enhanced” e-book version of “Nixonland” by Rick Perlstein. All of them go beyond the simple black-and-white e-book that digitally mirrors its ink-and-paper predecessor. The new multimedia books use video that is integrated with text, and they are best read — and watched — on an iPad, the tablet device that has created vast possibilities for book publishers.

Constriction to force ourselves to create

Jack White speaks about choosing constraints over efficiency in order to drive creativity and create a better result. Taken from the documentary The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights.

Ten years later, just working in the same box you think “God!” One part of my brain says I’m tired of trying to come up with things in this box but I force myself to do it because I know something good can come of it if I really work inside of it. Inspiration, work ethic, they ride right next to each other. When I was an upholsterer, sometimes you’re not inspired to reupholster an old chair, sometimes it’s just work and you just do it because you’re supposed to. Maybe by the end when you’re finished you look at it and say “That looks good, that’s pretty good” and that’s it and you move on and that’s it. Not every day of your life are you going to wake up and the clouds are going to part and the rays from heaven are going to come down and you’re going to write a song from it. Sometimes you just get in there and force yourself to work and maybe something good will come out of it.

One of the things was, whether we like it or not we’ll write some songs and record them. Force yourself into it. Force yourself – book only 4 or 5 days in the studio and force yourself to record an album in that time. Deadlines and things make you creative but opportunity and telling yourself “Oh, you’ve got all the time in the world, all the money in the world. You’ve got all the colors in the palette you want, anything you want” – that just kills creativity. On stage, I’m using the same guitars on stage that I used ten years ago. I like to do things to make it really hard on myself. For example, if I drop a pick, to get a another pick I have to go all the way to the back of the stage to get another one. I don’t have picks taped to my microphone stand. I put the organ just far away enough that I have to leap to get to it play different parts of the song. It’s not handy to jump from one thing to the next. I always try to push it just a little farther away so I have to work harder and get somewhere. That way, everything, all that stuff, all those little things – there’s hundreds of those things like that – Those guitars I use don’t stay in tune very well, they are not conducive, they are not what regular bands go out and play. I’m constantly fighting all these tiny little things, ’cause all those things build tension. There’s no setlist when we play, that’s the biggest one too, Each show has its own life to it. It’s important to do that kind of stuff.

When you go out and everything is all pre-planned and everyone sets everything out for you and the table is all set and nice and perfect nothing is gonna happen. You’re going to go out and do this boring arena set or something. So that’s why all those things have always been a big component of The White Stripes. Constriction to force ourselves to create. Only having red, white and black colors on any of the artwork or presentation of aesthetics of the band, guitar drums and vocals, storytelling melody and rhythm, revolving all these things around the number three, all these components force us to create.

The Box That Is Not A Box (But Is Still A Box)

Chip and Dan Heath write in Fast Company about the power of constraints

Keith Sawyer, author of the insightful book Group Genius, spent years studying the work of jazz groups and improvisational theater ensembles. He found that structure doesn’t hamper creativity; it enables it. When improv comedians take the stage, they need a concrete stimulus: “What if Romeo had been gay?” The stimulus can’t be: “Go on, make me laugh, funnyman.”

“Improv actors are taught to be specific,” Sawyer says. “Rather than say, ‘Look out, it’s a gun!’ you should say, ‘Look out, it’s the new ZX-23 laser kill device!’ Instead of asking, ‘What’s your problem?’ say, ‘Don’t tell me you’re still pissed off about that time I dropped your necklace in the toilet.'” The paradox is that while specificity narrows the number of paths that the improv could take, it makes it easier for the other actors to come up with the next riff.

This is something I’ve emphasized in my talks on improv and ethnography (which always end up being a workshop on improv/ ethnography/ design/ creativity)…the energy that comes from working on problems that are extremely constrained along some axes (i.e., each successive utterance must begin with a successive letter of the alphabet, from A through Z) and utterly open along other axes (i.e., what the actors say can or be anything they want).

Social adaptation overrides technology affordances

I received an email last week that stated, in part

My boss is away for the next week or two but I will forward her your e-mail when she returns.

This gave me pause.

Of course, you could forward the email any time you want, and it’ll just be held the boss’s inbox until she returns. The technology (store-and-forward) affords that quite nicely. From a technological point of view, my correspondent “should” forward the message immediately and get on with her day.

But my correspondent suspects that’s not the best way to do things, because there’s people in this system. And people behave to optimize against different constraints than technology does. We all have our little usage rules, and we all adjust our usage of technology in order to be most successful.

Perhaps the boss is checking email while she’s away, and will discard anything not mission-critical. Or perhaps the boss isn’t checking email, but will be burdened with a huge number of messages in her inbox when she returns. My correspondent is respecting her boss by not contributing to that, and respecting me by “handling” my email properly.

We’ve helped a few clients understand how their customers’ work cultures have evolved to the point where there are complete-but-unwritten rule sets for sharing documents, information, collaboration, communicating via telephone, email, and IM, and most other “work” activities. As the tools change, the behaviors change.


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