Posts tagged “content”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 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.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 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)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Product Is You, No. 12 – Rob Walker does a series of advertisements that reveal a customer segmentation and the associated characteristics. Similar vein to my postings about personas leaking outside the enterprise
  • Please vote for our SXSW panel "Culture Kicks Our Ass: How To Kick Back" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from Steve Portigal and D. P. Haine, of Obvious Design.

    We’ll explore the different cultural challenges that breakthrough products must overcome: emergent usage behaviors that are impossible to predict, a global customer base and cultural barriers inside the corporation that suffocate innovation. We’ll also share best practices for addressing each challenge.

  • Please vote for our SXSW panel "FAIL: When User Research Goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from
    Steve Portigal, Portigal Consulting
    Nate Bolt, Bolt|Peters
    Dan Saffer, Kicker Studio
    Aviva Rosenstein,
    Mark Trammell, Digg

    Best practices for user research are not hard to come by, but experience is the ideal way to develop mastery. And with experience inevitably comes failure. Embarrassing, awkward, hilarious failure that gives the gift of self-improvement. We’ll share our own unvarnished examples and what they taught us.

  • Do programmers still buy printed books? | Zen and the Art of Programming – Likewise, when I’m holding a book or have it open on my desk, I’m in “book reading mode”, which makes it far easier to immerse myself in it. This means that I’m focused on the task and can proceed quickly. The only context switch that happens is between the book and the editor/shell, if it’s the kind of book that warrants typing along. If you are reading a book in a browser tab, it’s very easy to think, “I’ll just check my email for a second”, or introduce similar distractions. I’m sure I’m not alone in this respect.

    When I buy a physical copy of a book, I feel psychologically more obliged to at least try to get through it. Online I experience a paradox of choice of sort. With hundreds of interesting books available there in front of me, I’m more inclined to excessively multitask, and end up checking out different books while I should still be reading the current one.

    (Thanks @onwardparam and @chirag_mehta)

  • New study suggests people from different cultures read facial expressions differently – East Asian participants in the study focused mostly on the eyes, but those from the West scanned the whole face.
    They were more likely than Westerners to read the expression for "fear" as "surprise", and "disgust" as "anger".

    The researchers say the confusion arises because people from different cultural groups observe different parts of the face when interpreting expression.


ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Shoddy Pear Analytics study of Twitter content – This is really bad research, but it's topical so it'll get press.

    Bad research #1: When creating content categories for your analysis, don't be so dismissive. They established a category for this analysis called "pointless babble" so obviously they have a strong point of view of the value of that content and it's hardly unbiased research.

    Bad research #2: Understand that Twitter (or any social, conversational medium) is a system. It's not an independent set of messages, it's a multifaceted conversation. Where's the analysis to look at the interrelationships and dependencies between "I am eating a sandwich" and "here's a great news story to check out"? That's much more difficult, mathematically, and to even consider that would require deeper insight than Pear showed here.

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?

5 year of Portigal @ Core

Last week’s IDSA conference was personally significant as it marked five years since a random chat in the IDSA02 gallery turned into a productive relationship with the fine folks at Core77.

I wrote up my thoughts on that conference, and then a piece about Meary, a quintessentially Japanese product that is stickers to turn ordinary objects into faces. Kawaii, anyone?

Since then, I’ve blogged extensively over there, continued to write articles, done some fun podcasts, and even presented at Core77’s top-shelf Design 2.0 event.

This wide-ranging and rewarding collaboration reached a new plateau last week, after the Core77 ICSID/IDSA party, where I assumed the role of official designated driver.

Here’s to the next five years!

Brands, blogging, snack culture, and a dilemma

Snacklash is the only thing worth reading in the recent Wired feature on snack culture (summary: lots of shorty-short-short stuff proliferates).

Snack culture is an illusion. We have more of everything now, both shorter and longer: one-minute movies and 12-hour epics; instant-gratification Web games and Sid Meiers Civilization IV. Freed from the time restrictions of traditional media, we’re developing a more nuanced awareness of the right length for different kinds of cultural experiences…Yes, it sometimes seems as if we’re living off a cultural diet of blog posts and instant messages – until we find ourselves losing an entire weekend watching season three of The Wire. The truth is, we have more snacks now only because the menu itself has gotten longer.

This sums up the challenge I’ve been in semi-denial of for a while now. My own output of content. For as content creators, we face the same challenges as well.

The posts here on this blog vary in length and thought and time. I’ve started the Quickies as a channel for passing on a link of interest with one or two key thoughts. And there are the longer pieces every so often that summarize an experience or an issue. If you go back and look at the earlier days of this blog, you’ll see a lack of polish and focus, and a lot less content by me.

Now take a look at FreshMeat. The earliest entries are on par with some of stuff I blog now (longer, more focused), but the later entries are like small theses. They are really in-depth, long, and demanding-as-hell to write, especially when a simpler blog entry is easily produced and delivered.

FreshMeat got longer and more intense, as did the blog. A blog entry now is more substantial than a FreshMeat started out to be. It’s an escalation.

And then there’s an infrastructure issue. FreshMeat originally was an email list, with a web thing as secondary distribution. But running a mailing list is increasingly demanding as customers of an ISP. Most don’t want you doing anything like that; moving an existing set of names to a new host sometimes means that everyone has to opt-in again. I’ve got over 1000 names, granted the list is a bit stale, but I can’t imagine I’d get more than 50% re-registering after 2 years of silence.

I still get asked “when’s FreshMeat coming out?” because people enjoyed it. They may be not the same people who make the commitment to read a blog on a regular basis.

The dilemma, then, to readers here, who have a good perspective on my brand and on content and all that, what makes sense? Should FreshMeat be retired? Integrated into the blog? What should the brand be? If I could send one last email to the 1000 names, what should I tell them?

I’m stuck on this one, and I would love your thoughts! Please!

Snakes in a Tube, 2001

This is how they display snakes in the “natural history” museum at Big Basin campground. And this is my 3000th picture posted to flickr. About as exciting, I guess, as seeing the numbers on your odometer roll over, but worth sharing here so we can stop for a moment and consider how the extent of the publishing we are able to do with blogs, flickr, podcasting, and so on. That’s a lot of content to share, 3000 pictures. I’m sure some amateur photographers (especially in the days of film) could never create that many images. But this isn’t even about creation – it’s the amount of photos I’ve been able to post in a public medium.
And flickr tells you how many times they’ve been seen. Some pictures end up being very popular. Perhaps a few have never been looked at (although I’d guess it’s very very few; most seem to have been viewed a few times; the older ones, even the less popular ones, have a surprising number of views). Being a publisher, who can create and present content for others to view is a whole other experience. Flickr has given me some structure, even motivation, for being involved in photography. I have some need to act on my pictures, even if that is to simply upload ’em and title ’em, and that structure has (for me) increased my enjoyment.

[Ironic, perhaps, that this photo wasn’t actually taken by me, but is still “my” photo.]

Update: 3,000th picture, not so much


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