Posts tagged “consumer”

Sometimes I feel…

Back in 2012, this video appeared on YouTube, with disc drives playing Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love (did you know it was a cover?).

This sort of thing does go back decades; some folks got an IBM 1403 printer to play pop songs in 1970 (check out the actual songs here).

In a delightful twist, Marc Almond of Soft Cell recently came across the video, and decided to add his vocals to the disc drive music!

I’m reminded of when Gotye created his own remix (on YouTube) of the ubiquitous covers (also on YouTube) of Somebody That I Used To Know.

Platforms like YouTube enable the collapse of the separation between consumer and producer and it leads to interesting and surprising outcomes. These small examples highlight the disruption that is occurring today.

Just a song that I used to know

Back in 2005, I wrote The More The Merrier for Core77, exploring how consumer and producer continued to blur. Of course, that trend has continued, and even accelerated.

Meanwhile, for my next interactions article (coming out in November) I’m thinking about the creativity that can emerge from the massive libraries of data we now can access.

So here’s something astonishing that builds on both of those themes. Gotye, the musician behind this summer’s omnipresent song Somebody That I Used to Know digs into all the covers (and parodies and so on) of this tune on YouTube, and remixes them into a new cover. Of his own song.

Reluctant as I am to add to the mountain of interpretations of Somebody That I Used To Know seemingly taking over their own area of the internet, I couldn’t resist the massive remixability that such a large, varied yet connected bundle of source material offered.

Check it out, it’s pretty great example of something very much of our moment.

Notes: Gotye acknowledges this video for inspiring his remix; he has blogged a complete catalog of his sources; and I was pleased to see he included this parody video which addresses the song’s ubiquity in a funny and relate-able way.

ChittahChattah Quickies

P&G gets innovative [Cincinnati.com] – The process behind Tide Pods includes lots and lots of research such as “talking” to 6,000 consumers. It appears this research was all done in simulated environments. I am bemused by the willing self-deception that if you put a couch in a lab, it makes the research contextual. I’d like to see P&G watching people do laundry in their real, non-idealized, messy, distracted, semi-functioning environment. Because then maybe you’d get takeaways richer than “Most laundry-doers are looking for a way to get it done faster.”

Inside the Beckett Ridge “home,” P&G researchers interviewed regular people as they sat in the comfortable couches of a mock family room or at the counter of a mock kitchen. They did the wash in a fully functioning laundry room. Through it all, they were videotaped and audiotaped, so P&G can capture how the wash gets done in a real-world setting…Back at Beckett Ridge, researchers worked on the packaging and the store display. Inside the “grocery store” with its six aisles, two checkout lanes and a self-scan lane, cameras are everywhere, recording how shoppers shop. The video feed can be streamed to any P&G Intranet site so questions and comments can be called in.

Never Too Early Movie Predictions – Sure, if we care at all, we’re still digesting the most recent Academy Awards. But forgot about 2012, this site has predictions through 2017. Sheesh, I haven’t seen any of these movies! Another moment where the corners of the Internet remind you that everyday life is filled with some genuine science fiction moments.

2015 Oscar Best Picture predictions
1. Noah
2. Citizen Hughes: The Power, The Money And The Madness
3. Churchill And Roosevelt
4. Avatar 2
5. The $700 Billion Man
6. The Color Of Lightening
7. Serena
8. Americana

Young Women Often Trendsetters in Vocal Patterns [NYT] – I had missed the original “vocal fry” hubbub a few months back, but I also enjoy how this article reframes young-female speech into a positive, leading-edge anthropological act.

Girls and women in their teens and 20s deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang, adding that young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people tend to realize. “A lot of these really flamboyant things you hear are cute, and girls are supposed to be cute,” said Penny Eckert, a professor of linguistics at Stanford. “But they’re not just using them because they’re girls. They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end.” The latest linguistic curiosity to emerge from the petri dish of girl culture gained recognition in December, when researchers from Long Island University published a paper in The Journal of Voice. Working with what they acknowledged was a very small sample – recorded speech from 34 women ages 18 to 25 – the professors said they had found evidence of a new trend among female college students: a guttural fluttering of the vocal cords they called “vocal fry.” A classic example of vocal fry, best described as a raspy or croaking sound injected (usually) at the end of a sentence, can be heard when Mae West says, “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me,” or when Maya Rudolph mimics Maya Angelou on SNL.

Plastic Surgeons See iPhones Increase Demand for Cosmetic Procedures [Austin-Weston Center for Cosmetic Surgery] – It’s hard not to be cynical about this “press release” in which plastic surgeons tie the need for their services to a particularly hot tech brand. If you do this (the wrong way, at least) in China, you can get into trouble!

“Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on [Apple’s video calling application] FaceTime,” says Dr. Sigal. “The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say ‘I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!’ I’ve started calling it the ‘FaceTime Facelift’ effect. And we’ve developed procedures to specifically address it.” (via Kottke)

draw me in – Jeff Johnson’s quest to become a comic book extra. The best summary of the project – yet another example of the collapsing gulf between producer and consumer comes from this Wired article (quoted below).

Popping up in nearly 30 comic books, he has become the industry’s Waldo-a lurking stowaway who has managed to hijack the unlikeliest panels. “It’s the ultimate bragging right to go into a comic store and pick up a book you’re in,” says Johnson, a 30-year-old Kmart electronics clerk from Leavenworth, Kansas. His infamous glasses-and-goatee mug has been zombiefied (The Walking Dead), digitized (Tron: Betrayal), and placed alongside Sinestro (Green Lantern Corps), thanks to his ceaseless lobbying and the cooperation of artists. The idea sprang from a 2006 FHM contest in which entrants sent pictures of themselves in homemade costumes of villains; the winner (if you want to call it that) was drawn into Ultimate X-Men. Johnson didn’t want to dress up, so instead he handed out DrawMeIn flyers at Comic-Con, after which penciler Ryan Ottley worked him into Invincible.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Make Your QR Codes More Beautiful [Mashable] – [This will be fun! It stands to reason that treating QR Codes as a design element rather than slapping the ugly things on will improve uptake. Better response can be encouraged through visual stimulation, then designers will have to encourage people to download an app, learn it, and get in the habit of using it as another set of related experiences to design well.] Creating branded QR codes is as much art as it is science. The mathematical qualities of a QR code and the impact of a clever design can truly elevate a QR code to the point where the code becomes the central artwork of a piece of marketing collateral. Applying designer best practices will enhance scanning conversion rates and effectively augment an offline item with online capabilities. Knowing how to innovate both in technology and design, and how to implement a QR code in the right way for your business, will keep your brand on the cutting edge of marketing and technology.
  • [from steve_portigal] Tech mogul? Nope. Any old hack will do. [WaPo] – [The lead stat is enticing but I suspect is grossly skewed/misleading] Recent studies show consumers spend more money tweaking and inventing stuff than consumer product firms spend on R&D. It’s more than $3.75 billion a year in Britain, and U.S. studies under way now show similar patterns. Makers are even morphing into entrepreneurs, with some of the best projects raising money for commercial development uvia self-funding Web sites such as Kickstarter. Major companies such as Ford are, after years of resisting inventor gadflies, inviting makers to submit product tweaks. “This is the democratization of technology,” said K. Venkatesh Prasad, a senior engineering executive at Ford. “Policymakers and economists always assumed that consumers just consumed and that they don’t innovate,” said Eric von Hippel, who studies technological innovation and makers at MIT. “What’s clearly happening now is that all of a sudden it’s easier for us to make exactly what we want.” [via PuttingPeopleFirst]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] No.4 Secret Soles – Rosso Solini [I Am Hiawatha] – [Louboutin shoes start at $300 and go up to several thousand dollars. Their red sole is a distinctive design mark that signifies the wearer's brand choice. A 15-year old student has designed and is marketing an aftermarket red sole that can add that signifier to any pair of shoes.] Rosso Solini ‘Secret Soles’ is a shoe customisation kit that gives you the tools and equipment to turn any high-heel into a red soled, Louboutonesque shoe.
  • [from steve_portigal] WET Design and the Improv Approach to Listening [NYTimes.com] – [Mark Fuller, chief excellence officer of WET Design explains what is unusual about his company’s culture] Improv is really about listening to the other person, because there’s no script. It’s about responding. If you have an argument with [your] wife or husband, you are just waiting for the other person to finish so they can say what they’re waiting to say. So usually they’re these serial machine-gun monologues, and very little listening. That doesn’t work in improv. If we’re on the stage, I don’t know what goofball thing you’re going to say, so I can’t be planning anything. I have to really be listening to you so I can make an intelligent response….You’re sort of in this gray space of uncertainty. Most of us don’t like to be uncertain ­ you know, most of us like to be thinking what we’re going to say next. You get your mind into a space where you say, “I’m really enjoying that I don’t know what he’s going to ask me next, and I’m going to be open and listening and come back.
  • [from steve_portigal] Open Source Electronics Pioneer Limor Fried on the DIY Revolution [Wired Magazine] – [I've long wondered if our experiences consuming software have changed our expectations for the updatability and customizability of all products] People do want very specialized technology, and they just couldn’t get it. Now they’ll be able to get it. When I make stuff, I make it for only one person, myself. And, like, two of my friends. But it turns out that hundreds of thousands of people want the same thing. And I think that’s how good design starts. So instead of having to just put up with whatever Sony comes out with, consumers will have more choices made by people who are more like them. And they’re not just trying to manufacture as Sony; they’re manufacturing as a small company that is trying to fulfill the needs of a small community…We have no idea [where this movement will go]. It’s going to be weird and completely surprising, and we’re going to be just shocked, and it will be awesome.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Non-Jews Begin to Embrace Ketubah Wedding Tradition [NYTimes.com] – [Cultural appropriation of religious traditions as we continue to seek meaning through symbols] The decade of non-Jews discovering the ketubah coincides with three relevant social trends: the rise of Christian Zionism, the growth of interfaith marriage, and the mainstreaming of the New Age movement with its search for spirituality in multiple faith traditions. As a result, an increasing number of gentiles have taken up Judaic practices: holding a Passover Seder, eating kosher food and studying kabbalah, the Jewish mystical movement. “A lot of these things are grass-rootsy,” said Prof. Jenna Weissman Joselit, a historian at George Washington University, who has written extensively on Jewish popular culture. “They have to do with the growing popularity of intermarriage — openness, pluralism, cultural improvisation. And for those who are more religiously literate, they add another level of authenticity or legitimacy.”
  • [from steve_portigal] More Focus Groups for ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ [NYTimes.com] – [What is the meaning of using consumer research? Do we admire producers for being user-centered or do we decry them for being desperate?] The producers of the Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” are offering $60 goodie bags to people who serve in focus groups that will respond to several performances. Two focus groups attended Thursday night’s performance, and four more are scheduled to be at Friday night’s show and the Saturday matinee. It’s not unheard of for Broadway producers to use focus groups, and the musical has used them before since preview performances began on Nov. 28. But these are the first since largely negative reviews of the show by theater critics across the country were published on Tuesday. OnTrack Research, a marketing and consulting firm, is coordinating the focus groups, and here’s the rub: participants only get to see Act I or Act II, not both. They are then asked to fill out surveys and join in discussions in a “V.I.P. room.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] New record label hands decision-making over to fans [Springwise] – [This is exactly what Devo did in 2010 with their Devo 2.0 initiative which we blogged about extensively. Love how rapidly an experiment/social commentary becomes a "straight" idea in someone else's hands] Crowdbands is offering users the chance to become record label executives from their homes. Established by Tom Sarig and Peter Sorgenfrei, the Crowdbands label has already signed LA-based band The Donnas. By signing up as a Crowdband member for USD 25 a year, users are entitled to vote on major decisions in The Donnas’ career, from which songs are included on their albums, which artists they should collaborate with, where and where they tour, and even ideas for album cover art. In exchange, not only do members get to see their decisions implemented, they also receive the band’s releases before the general public.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Lessons Learned in 10 Years on the Tech Beat [NYTimes.com] – [David Pogue with an insightful summary of consumer technology: adoption, production, integration. Read the whole piece!] Things Don’t Replace Things; They Just Splinter. I can’t tell you how exhausting it is to keep hearing pundits say that some product is the “iPhone killer” or the “Kindle killer.”TV was supposed to kill radio. The DVD was supposed to kill the Cineplex. Instant coffee was supposed to replace fresh-brewed. But here’s the thing: it never happens. There will be both iPhones and Android phones. There will be both satellite radio and AM/FM. There will be both printed books and e-books. Things don’t replace things; they just add on….Some Concepts’ Time May Never Come. The same “breakthrough” ideas keep surfacing — and bombing, year after year. Nobody wants videophones! Teenagers do not want “communicators” that do nothing but send text messages, either. And give it up on the stripped-down kitchen “Internet appliances” Nobody has ever bought one, and nobody ever will.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Subway To Start Tessellating Cheese July 1? [The Consumerist] – Three years after the protests began, it seems Subway has finally listened to its customers and will start tessellating cheese on its sandwiches, according to what appears to be an internal weekly newsletter. As anyone who has gotten a Subway sandwich knows, most Subways layer their isosceles-cut cheese in an overlapping fashion. This means one side of the sandwich gets more cheese than the other and leaves pockets of zero cheese, resulting in a uneven flavor and texture distribution. As the newsletter says, "This will improve the cheese coverage on the sandwiches."
  • Reading Lolita On Paper [graphpaper.com] – Throughout the final terrifying third act of the book, Nabokov knew that the reader would be constantly, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, seeking (or deliberately avoiding seeking) a single word, a word whose distinctive typographical form would light up like a flare in the reader’s peripheral vision, paragraphs in advance, impossible to miss. Every time you turn a page, even if you avoid it, your eyes will, in an instant, claw through the one-thousand characters in every new two-page spread to find it, the word, the single characteristic letter. He plays with this visual expectation so thoroughly — torments the reader, in fact — that it’s inconceivable that he wasn’t always thinking about printed words, words on pages being turned in a reader’s hands. Oh, how glad am I that I was unable to find Lolita in any sort of eBook format.
  • Kno is a digital textbook that is about to change the way knowledge is transmitted and the way students learn – First we did our homework about the way students do their homework. We studied the way they study. We probed them about the best way to re-imagine the analog studying and reading experience in the digital world. The Kno’s two generous panels open like written material has opened for hundreds of years. The experience is reassuringly book-like. Indeed, because we respect and honor the textbook, content of 99 percent of all textbooks – including the charts and graphs – fit flawlessly. No material spills beyond the screen, so there’s no awkward scrolling or manipulation required. If Kno only transferred existing textbooks into a digital form, we might as well sleep in and skip class. Kno pushes further than that. Our mission is to create a new kind of immersive, fluid, fully-engaging learning experience – made possible because the power of the physical is combined, for the first time, with the potential of the digital. It’s a whole new form factor that feels natural because it is natural.
  • Christina York’s sketched notes from UPA2010 – [Her summary of my presentation begins on slide 5] This was the perfect complement to Rachel Hinman’s opening keynote. Steve enthusiastically dives deeper into cultural clues, cues and gaps that impact our work and our own experiences in this world. In this session I sat at the front, which I usually don’t do (I like to observe the entire room). However, I am a fan of Steve’s and was like a groupie in the front row. How embarrassing. But Carol sat next to me, and I felt better about myself. Steve delivered an impassioned talk and engaged an audience that richly represented the cultures present at this conference. The group discussion was as rich as the presentation and I really appreciated that Steve’s focus was to give us something to think about and not try to ground everything in application.
  • Complete Beginner’s Guide to Design Research [UX Booth] – Valiant attempt to take a complex volume of expertise and boil it down to some essentials. Not sure what it means to be a "luminary" in this field but certainly the company we're listed with is pretty awesome. Curious to hear what others have to say about this piece.

The acceleration of immediacy


Marshall Herff Applewhite, Jr., aka Do

On March 26, 1997, my friends and I sat watching as the evening news was dominated with the lurid story of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. The image of Do, through an evening’s viewing, quickly became iconic. With semi-serious earnestness, we figured that if we had some way to get that image off of the television and print it on a t-shirt, we could go down to San Francisco’s Haight Street the next morning and sell ’em on the street. We loved the idea of immediate translation from news story to meme to hipster product. We didn’t have the technology (or really, the motivation) to make it happen, but for me that was an early signal of the potential to really collapse the time in that cycle.

On May 6, 2010, we had a strange stock market crash. In the Twitter era, a commemorative t-shirt (‘I survived the crash of 2:45 pm”) was available within a few hours.

crash

The tools to deliver this immediacy are now available to more of us. You could probably have a Do shirt up for sale on the web within a few minutes of reading this post. But the very idea of this immediacy is more part of the zeitgeist. It’s becoming a norm. We expect more immediacy. We expect that we can create an immediate experience for others. Meanwhile, consumers become producers. At the same time, we see an emergence of slow movements (from food to media), because every trend has a counter-trend.

Ironically, it took me a week to write this post. Immediacy makes no concessions to busy, I guess.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Peter Booth (of Tin Horse Design) – Observing the Consumer [Eastman Innovation Lab] – Maybe this is a personal bias, but I'm often very compelled by how designers (at least, those who really "get" user research) talk about research. Because they always frame in terms of what it's good for, how it helps us make better things, they speak to many of the things I love about research, as a researcher. But people that do research don't always think about it – and thus describe it – that way.
    (via Core77)
  • A lament for the bookshelf [The Globe and Mail] – So we lose forever the pleasure known to humanity for 500 years of taking a stroll up and down the aisles of someone else’s brain by perusing their bookshelves. Gone will be the guilty joy of spending a rainy afternoon at a cottage with the remnants of someone else’s childhood: their Nancy Drews, their 1970s National Geographics. Without bookshelves, you will never know the warning signs contained in the e-reader of your handsome date – you will not know for months that he is reading The Secret and Feng Shui for Dummies, even if you stay over. You will never be able to ask, as casually as you can, “Did you like this?” as you pull down, as if fascinated, Patrick Swayze’s autobiography.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • What’s this? A kinder, gentler IRS? [Consumer Reports] – On Monday the IRS introduced a redesign of nine of its form letters, or "notices," to be more consumer friendly, or, as they put it, "as part of their ongoing effort to improve the way it corresponds with taxpayers." In the true spirit of our bloated bureaucracy, this initiative was the result of the "Taxpayer Communication Taskgroup" which started its work way back in July of 2008, and, other than the nine (9!!) newly designed letters, the Taskgroup's efforts also resulted in the establishment of a new office, the "Office of Taxpayer Correspondence." You can find a link to a pdf comparing the original and redesigned letters on the Consumer Reports link… what do you think?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Social science meets computer science at Yahoo [SF Chronicle] – Yahoo Labs has bolstered its ranks of social scientists, adding highly credentialed cognitive psychologists, economists and ethnographers from top universities around the world. At approximately 25 people, it's still the smallest group within the research division, but one of the fastest growing.

    The recruitment effort reflects a growing realization at Yahoo that computer science alone can't answer all the questions of the modern Web business. As the novelty of the Internet gives way, Yahoo and other 21st century media businesses are discovering they must understand what motivates humans to click and stick on certain features, ads and applications – and dismiss others out of hand.

    Yahoo Labs is taking a scientific approach to these questions, leveraging its massive window onto user behavior to set up a series of controlled experiments (identifying information is always masked) and employing classic ethnography techniques like participant observation and interviews.

  • Domino’s "The Pizza Turnaround" [YouTube] – Domino's Pizza uses customer research to spawn product redevelopment, and then uses that process to promote their improved product. Note the negative quotes posted on the walls of their office.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Zach Gage’s Antagonistic Books – A set of two books and instructions for how to build them. ANTAGONISTIC BOOKS turns the emotions and actions surrounding the banning of books into physical objects that undermine the user.

    Danger reenacts what has historically been done to dangerous literature, self-immolating when opened.

    Curiosity represents the notion that many book-banners feel, that the true danger of literature is that once you've opened a book you have been forever changed and can never go back. Emulating this notion, Curiosity can never be closed. Once opened, it is locked in an open position forever.

    (via Waxy)

  • Netflix agrees to delay in renting out Warner movies [latimes.com] – "This deal uniquely works for Netflix because our subscribers are desensitized to street dates and more interested in being matched to the perfect movie," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, who handles studio relationships. "Some subscribers will so passionately want to see it in the first 28 days they may go out and buy it, just as some people want to see 'Avatar' so badly they pay to watch it in 3-D." [Snort! Guffaw!]
  • Book Industry Study Group – BISG is the leading U.S. book trade association for supply chain standards, research, and best practices. For over 30 years, BISG has been working on behalf of its diverse membership of publishers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, librarians and others involved in both print and digital publishing to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry supply chain for both physical and digital products.

    In seeking support from and representing every sector of the book industry, BISG affirms its belief in the interdependence of all industry segments. BISG understands that success in business is often easier to achieve through joint effort and that common problems are best solved together.

  • How to create new reading experiences profitably [booksahead.com] – Books have served well as containers for moving textual and visual information between places and across generations. [digita] books need to be conceived with an eye on the interactions that text/content will inspire. Those interactions happen between the author and work, the reader and the work, the author and reader, among readers and between the work and various services, none of which exist today in e-books, that connect works to one another and readers in the community of one book with those in other book-worlds….Publishing is only one of many industries battling the complex strategic challenge of just-in-time composition of information or products for delivery to an empowered individual customer. This isn’t to say that it is any harder, nor any easier, to be a publisher today compared to say, a consumer electronics manufacturer or auto maker, only that the discipline to recognize what creates wonderful engaging experience is growing more important by the day.
  • New York, 2009 [Flickr] – My photos from my recent trip to New York City. Art, street art, strange signs, people watching, and other observations. Check it out!

Up in the air

Aka, a removable feast. Strong signs of cultural change as airline meals morph, evolve, and devolve. Compare my recent repast on United ($7 for the boxed snack set)

with the hot meal below, from a 1960s Braniff domestic flight.

It’s striking how much cultural norms and consumer expectations around hospitality in this context have changed – imagine handing that 1960s passenger the meal I got on my flight.

See more airline meals throughout the decades here.

Series

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