Posts tagged “function”

You say hello, they say goodbye


More news about technology eating its predecessors:

Moviefone is shutting down its phone-in ticketing business to focus on its app, according to Jeff Berman, president of BermanBraun, which runs the declining movie ticket service. “The call-in service has been in pretty steady decline… Our customers are much more interested in our award-winning app, and we need to invest our resources in the future, part of which involves a major reimagining of Moviefone.” This weekend, callers were informed that the service would soon go silent. Once a dominant force in the world of movie ticketing and listings, the service is best known for the voice of “Mr. Moviefone,” provided by founder Russ Leatherman, that greeted callers.

It’s part of the human condition to see things go by the wayside. In many cases what is lost is replaced by something that is better. A dial-in voice-based movie-listing service is hardly the best solution available to us, and the usage numbers for Moviefone show that. So it’s disappearance makes sense in terms of utility (and business). But with many of these disappearances, what we might mourn is the cultural loss (yes, Moviefone was an element on Seinfeld), recalling the affection we have for the familiarity, even considering it as tradition. Sometimes this collective sense of loss is enough to produce an outpouring that convinces a company that there’s a good-will business case around preservation. While I don’t expect that here, these occurrences are common and are interesting to look it through the lenses of function, business and meaning.

Full story

ChittahChattah Quickies

The Mechanic Muse – From Scroll to Screen [] – It’s easy to get caught up in the user interface changes that digital technology brings to everyday activities like reading, but of course there are very cool precursors (if you will) in the history of book design.

But so far the great e-book debate has barely touched on the most important feature that the codex introduced: the nonlinear reading that so impressed St. Augustine. If the fable of the scroll and codex has a moral, this is it. We usually associate digital technology with nonlinearity, the forking paths that Web surfers beat through the Internet’s underbrush as they click from link to link. But e-books and nonlinearity don’t turn out to be very compatible. Trying to jump from place to place in a long document like a novel is painfully awkward on an e-reader, like trying to play the piano with numb fingers. You either creep through the book incrementally, page by page, or leap wildly from point to point and search term to search term. It’s no wonder that the rise of e-reading has revived two words for classical-era reading technologies: scroll and tablet. That’s the kind of reading you do in an e-book. The codex is built for nonlinear reading – not the way a Web surfer does it, aimlessly questing from document to document, but the way a deep reader does it, navigating the network of internal connections that exists within a single rich document like a novel. Indeed, the codex isn’t just another format, it’s the one for which the novel is optimized. The contemporary novel’s dense, layered language took root and grew in the codex, and it demands the kind of navigation that only the codex provides

Thanks, Ilya!

Ultrabook: Intel’s $300 million plan to beat Apple at its own game [Ars Technica] – Although a divergence from the main theme of the post, the author’s narrative of trying to make a laptop purchase online is hilarious and depressing all at the same time.

The options I get are just… meaningless. Yes, I want “Everyday Computing,” so I want an Inspiron. But hang on, I also want “Design & Performance,” so I want an XPS. Wait a second, I want “Thin & Powerful,” too. So maybe I want a Z Series? But the only line that apparently matches my broad search criteria-lightweight, 11-14″-I wouldn’t even consider because I don’t want a “gaming” laptop, and so I’m never going to click Alienware! Is this the best way to sell laptops? Create a bunch of categories with arbitrary, overlapping labels, and just hope that buyers manage to fight through the system to find something that isn’t wretched? Maybe HP will be better… no, not really. Their site has some outright weirdnesses (yes, I’m in the UK, and yes, we’re metric, but no, I don’t want my screen measured diagonally in centimeters; we don’t do that). The same odd labels cover everything-I know I don’t want “Mini/Netbook,” but I want both “Everyday Computing” (that term again) and “High performance” (because I don’t want it to be slow, do I?). And who knows what “Envy” means? When I tick my screen size and weight boxes, I get back a crop of lousy netbooks that are almost the complete opposite of what I want.

Mental Models

Last weekend we took in a cheesy exhibit about Da Vinci. I was struck by this image.
Da Vinci is suggesting a physical connection between the eyes and the brain; that the eyes are almost external-facing brain organs. I don’t know anatomy (beyond what’s on the outside) so I don’t know if this is accurate, presumably it was based on some dissection work. But the representation suggestions a mental model of how things work up there; the windows to the soul are linked right into the house of the soul.

Most of us have come across the hipster-geek phrenology heads at one point or another.

Interesting to consider this image, then.
which connotes a scientific accuracy, tied to machines, computers, technology and of course, objectivity. How will these images be interpreted in 300 years? Will they be just as quaint and amusing as the other ones seem to us?

This page takes a thorough and scholarly approach about the history of representations of mental mapping, plus they have some more cool pictures!

Vernacular design – where form ignores function

Here’s a package design where form deceptively implies function. The deliberateness of it all is just a little bit evil.
Here’s a jug of maple syrup. It’s made of plastic, but the color might make you think of a ceramic jug. It’s got a jaunty handle, and for your pouring convenience, a spout.

Whoops. That’s not a spout. That’s just a jutting piece of the form below the opening but that is definitely separated from the hole. It’s the shape of a spout.

And look what happens when you use it. A big freaking mess. Every time.

The evil irony is that the jug form makes it even harder to pour (given the small finger handle and the wide heavy base) without dripping.

A spout – an important function in a pouring package – is an aesthetic detail, the suggestion of spout-ness, without the inclusion of any actual spout. So they had the presence to consider the value of a spout, but made that decision while at the same time choosing a non-spout form factor.

This is a bad thing.

Upate: Dan Reich writes (that’s hard to say out loud): Here (pic1 pic2) is a product that managed to get it right. Despite its obvious similarities to your example, note that Trader Joe’s syrup does not feature a bogus spout bulge, but when the top is opened, a reasonably useful spout is thoughtfully provided.


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