Posts tagged “discussion”

Welcome to the product marketing battleground

Yes, it turns out that All This Chittah Chattah is the place to wrestle for the hearts and minds of today’s consumers. With our frequent discussions of the consumer’s perspective as well as innovative technologies that respond to cultural shifts, we’ve developed a reputation as the place to be seen and read by the alpha-influencers who make any product a success.

Three years ago I blogged about a dual-flush toilet (and it’s explanatory memo).

What followed were a number of “comments” from people championing this product or its competitor, sometimes with a less-than-transparent reveal of their identity as someone who works for the company itself.

And in a similar vein, just the other day, I blogged about a device that would let you open a bathroom door with your toe. Immediately a competitor jumped in to defend his product as the “original” (and while you can’t tell from here, he posted from the domain name he’s championing).

A few days later, a devastating riposte from someone who is clearly not a fan.

Now, we don’t know if Elise (who goes by fuzzygirl89) is authentic or not, but I’m definitely suspicious (extraneous specific detail rings false to me). The gloves are definitely off here in the Chittah Chattah Product Death Match. Seriously, is this what it means to be an entrepreneur (or worse, a sales guy)? Sitting at home with your alerts, fingers in the ready position, inches above the keyboard, ready to pounce on any mention of your product in any corner of the web?

Core77 Wiretap: Portigal Consulting talk about the Analog Human and The Digital Machine

Check out Core77 Wiretap: Portigal Consulting talk about the Analog Human and The Digital Machine. Here’s a teaser

Wonder what the conversation is like at someone else’s shop? Ever wanted to go backstage at a design firm? We asked Steve Portigal, Julie Norvaisas, and Dan Soltzberg of Portigal Consulting to sit down and share what they’re talking about. Here’s their open mike/chin-wag/theory slam.

Dan: I envisioned sitting down here to have this conversation and trying to figure out what we’re really talking about. So I pulled this statement out of some notes Steve wrote the other day: “The Analog Human; The Digital Machine.” I thought that was really provocative, so I wanted to start by asking you to say a little more about this idea?

Steve: I feel like there’s this tension that goes on in business and especially in marketing, this conceit that we can take humans-you know, messy, irrational, organic-and somehow cut them open and figure out the binary, rational, predictable, money-making algorithms that determine what they do. You see all this harnessing of science, you know, whether it’s neuro-this or lie detector-that or psychotherapy-this that gets used in the service of, not helping people, but helping marketers crack the nut of what people want, where is the desire center in the brain. You know, that we can learn things about people in a way that is “true”-that is predictable and true, and will determine consumption patterns. I find the idea that we should be able to do that just fascinating, because that’s not the world of people that we live in as people, so why as marketers or designers or producers do we think that we should turn people into things that they really aren’t?

Julie: There’s another aspect of that that I find really fascinating too: that you’re just talking about it in this dichotomy like there’s “us,” and then there’s “people.” Well, we’re people, right? We’re people trying to understand people and trying to create these scientific methods of doing it is just-I think you’re absolutely right-a conceit, and we often kind of remove ourselves from the situation. And I think empathy is a much more powerful tool than science in that case.

Meanwhile, here’s a few links we’ve come across in the past few days that pick up on some of the themes we explore in our dialog.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Summer Reading Programs Gain Momentum for Students About to Enter College – Nationwide, hundreds of colleges and universities, large and small, public and private, assign first-year students a book to read over the summer, hoping to create a sense of community and engage students intellectually.

    While there are no reliable statistics on summer reading programs, a recent survey of more than 100 programs by a student researcher at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., found that most had started in the last four years, although a few go back decades.

    The range of books colleges use is enormous, covering fiction and nonfiction. Classics are largely absent, with most of the works chosen falling closer to Oprah than academic.

    Still, a certain canon of summer reading is emerging: books that are readable, short, engaging, cheap. Often, it helps if the book is a best seller dealing with some aspect of diversity, some multicultural encounter — and if the author will come to speak on campus.

  • Canada Reads — CBC Radio – Canada Reads celebrates five Canadian books for three months online, on the air and at public events. It all leads up to a week-long show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. In this annual title fight, five celebrity panelists defend their favourite work of Canadian fiction. One by one, books are voted off the list, until one panelist triumphs with the book for Canada to read this year.
  • Beyond the Book – Beyond the Book: Mass Reading Events and Contemporary Cultures of Reading in the UK, USA and Canada is a 3-year interdisciplinary research project.

    Our main objectives are to determine why and how people come together to share reading through a comparative study of selected mass reading events.

    The mass reading event is a new, proliferating literary phenomenon. Events typically focus on a work of literary fiction and employ the mass media as a means of promoting participation in the themed activities and discussions that take place around the selected book. Beyond the Book uses research methodologies drawn from both the humanities and social sciences to investigate whether mass reading events attract new readers and marginalized communities. We also wish to determine whether this contemporary version of shared reading fosters new reading practices and even whether it is capable of initiating social change.

  • "ONE BOOK" READING PROMOTION PROJECTS (Center for the Book: Library of Congress) – "One Book" projects (community-wide reading programs), initiated by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998, are being introduced across the U.S.A. and around the world. Here's lengthy list of authors, communities, and dates.
  • The Big Read – The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

    The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 30 selections from American and world literature. This initiative supports innovative reading programs in selected communities, providing engaging educational resources for discussing outstanding literature and conducting expansive outreach and publicity campaigns, and a Web site offering comprehensive information about the authors and their works.

  • Literary Reading in Dramatic Decline, According to National Endowment for the Arts Survey – (July 8, 2004) Literary reading is in dramatic decline with fewer than half of American adults now reading literature, according to a National Endowment for the Arts survey released today. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America reports drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline – 28 percent – occurring in the youngest age groups. The study also documents an overall decline of 10 percentage points in literary readers from 1982 to 2002, representing a loss of 20 million potential readers. The rate of decline is increasing and, according to the survey, has nearly tripled in the last decade.
  • 15 Books That Have Stuck With You (yet another of those Facebook etc. "memes" that are more like chain letters than memes) – Pick 15 books that will always stick with you. Don't take more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.
  • My pictures from Belgium 2009 (345 of 'em!) – Here's the whole set on Flickr. I'll continue to blog highlights from the trip.
  • Google book project far from settled – As the deadline draws near for authors and publishers to opt out of a proposed legal settlement allowing Google Inc. to forge ahead with plans to scan millions of books, more opponents of the landmark deal are stepping forward, and the local literary world is growing more perplexed.

    "Smart people, major players that are sophisticated in the ways of publishing, are still at loggerheads," said Ted Weinstein, a San Francisco literary agent. He said they're not just arguing whether the deal is good or bad, "but still expressing disagreement about what exactly it will do. That's a problem."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Reasonable Consumer Would Know "Crunchberries" Are Not Real, Judge Rules – Judge England also noted another federal court had "previously rejected substantially similar claims directed against the packaging of Fruit Loops [sic] cereal, and brought by these same Plaintiff attorneys." He found that their attack on "Crunchberries" should fare no better than their prior claims that "Froot Loops" did not contain real froot.

    (via BoingBoing)

  • A Manhattan Writing Of Six Therapists – “Everybody comes in with their own stories, and they can be so staggeringly original,” said Bonnie Zindel, the psychoanalyst who started the writing group seven years ago. “We all need stories to make sense of our lives, we’re all wired to tell stories, and nature gave us that. For us, we wonder, ‘What is the story that our patients are telling?’ There are mother stories, father stories, ghost stories and the eternal universal story of a child trying to separate from its mother.”
  • 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive – Read this post now, it won't last long! Most of our readers – including people like you – are already choosing to look at this post.

    (Lone Gunman, I'm giving you folks credit for this and look forward to you reciprocating, thanks!)

Son of survey

This comment in the bad survey design thread got me thinking further about where/when/what to do with surveys. It’s not my primary tool so some of these reflections take me a little longer than someone who makes their living as a quantitative researcher, for example.

A tiny new restaurant opened in our tiny town of Montara – the Montara Bistro. I dropped by yesterday to pick up a menu and saw that they are already looking for customer feedback.


So to some folks, this is a survey. But it’s next to useless.

Why? Their questions are not too bad, but they are conversational questions, and should be presented that way. They are the basis of a conversation. Handing someone a sheet of paper (with no room to fill in any response) and asking them for essays is ineffective. It’s not fair. These are the questions they want answers to, but sometimes you have to ask a series of questions to get that information. And you can’t decide ahead of time which questions to ask. You have to ask a question, listen to the response, and then choose your next one. You can’t do that on a piece of paper. You need to have real people talking to each other and exploring the issues that way.

Not to mention that the restaurant has been open for a day or two, and there’s a presumption of an in-depth relationship that hasn’t really been built yet. What do I think of the Bistro Vision? Ummm, I don’t care.

I love what this artifact tells you about the company; that they really want to get a dialog going. They don’t have the tools in place to do it yet. Maybe it’s backed up by the way they interact with customers who come in; I don’t know. But this won’t work at all.

And I think this sort of inquiry is what a lot of design students are doing; identifying some open-ended (i.e., requires the respondent to write sentences) questions and sending them out by email. Some people will respond. Some may even write a lot. But you can’t follow up unless you send out another email. And then it’s just a conversation.

As with everything you “send out” who it gets sent to is a factor. Sending something to 3 friends is a very different approach than something that is quantitative in nature.

Look at this artifact from a recent project (created by our partners, not us):

This contained 31 questions, only a few open-ended ones. There’s randomization where needed (so you can filter out order-effects, where the first or last item might be picked more frequently in a list), and a large enough sample so that results can be processed to lead to conclusions – comparisons between different factors (this is the stats part I’ve been talking about).

Attitude toward technology meets Age
Purchase habits meets Region (with Age)
Stores shopped meets Region (with Age)

Tons of work and tons of math goes into creating tables (that then get interpreted) like

As Paul Hogan (sorta) said “That’s not a survey, now that’s a survey!”

I hope this brings a bit more clarity to the discussion.

Overlap 2006 – Exploring new methods for business and innovation

I’ve been involved with some other folks in the planning of a neat little professional meeting – Overlap (subtitled Exploring new methods for business and innovation)

Overlap offers a unique opportunity to join other curious, deep thinking professionals in a spirited discourse on the relationship between business and design and the implications both that may have on our companies and careers.

It’ll be in Asilomar (near Monterey) in May. It should be an interesting event.

Design2.0 – Discussions on Design Strategy and Innovation

Just announced! I will be one of the panelists at Design2.0 – San Francisco.

The theme of the event is Products and their Ecosystems: Understanding the power of context in product innovation

Moderated by Jesse Scanlon of BusinessWeek
and in addition to myself, the speakers are:
Diego Rodriguez – IDEO, MetaCool
Peter Rojas – Engadget
Robyn Waters – RW Trend

I’m really looking forward to the event.


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