Posts tagged “influence”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood says MP3s sound good enough – [In ReadingAheda we explored the "Gold Standard" of previous generations of technology]
    SASHA FRERE-JONES: Is the MP3 a satisfactory medium for your music?

    JONNY GREENWOOD: They sound fine to me. They can even put a helpful crunchiness onto some recordings. We listened to a lot of nineties hip-hop during our last album, all as MP3s, all via AirTunes. They sounded great, even with all that technology in the way. MP3s might not compare that well to a CD recording of, say, string quartets, but then, that’s not really their point.

    SFJ: Do you ever hear from your fans about audio fidelity?

    JG: We had a few complaints that the MP3s of our last record wasn’t encoded at a high enough rate. Some even suggested we should have used FLACs, but if you even know what one of those is, and have strong opinions on them, you’re already lost to the world of high fidelity and have probably spent far too much money on your speaker-stands.
    (via kottke)

  • Yoostar lets anyone act opposite Hepburn, Brando – It's a consumer-level greenscreen system, so you can record video of yourself composited into classic movie footage. While it's amazing that this is being productized at a consumer level, the reviews make it clear that it's riddled with difficulties and limitations.
  • Microsoft tries Tupperware-party-esque promotion for Windows 7 – If you can find 9 friends and provide a decent pitch, you could be chosen to host a Windows 7 House Party and win a free signature copy of Windows 7. There are four pre-defined categories for the party: PhotoPalooza, Media Mania, Setting up with Ease, and Family Friendly Fun.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • An Anthropology of Everyday Life by Edward T. Hall, A Review by Bobby Matherne – In his childhood in New Mexico he studied impressionist painting and soon learned that "every part of a painting affects every other part." The adding of a dab of color to a painting can change the color of the dab and all the other colors already on the painting. It was a metaphor for what happened when he was later assigned to build earthen dams with the Hopi and Navajo tribes. This dab of white skin on a field of red skins were both changed by his presence. On a trip to Europe to visit his mother he noted how the German trains ran tightly and smoothly on the track and were always right on time. The French trains, however, swayed from side to side and ran late. He was far more observant about the hidden cultures of the continent than the French who confiscated German trains after World War II only to find them useless on the French tracks.
  • Edward Hall, Expert on Nonverbal Communication, Is Dead at 95 – Mr. Hall first became interested in space and time as forms of cultural expression while working on Navajo and Hopi reservations in the 1930s. He later developed a cultural model that emphasized the importance of nonverbal signals and modes of awareness over explicit messages.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Nike Experiment: How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics – Using a flood of new tools and technologies, each of us now has the ability to collect granular information about our lives—what we eat, how much we sleep, when our mood changes.
    Not only can we collect that data, we can analyze it, looking for patterns, information that might help us change both the quality and the length of our lives. We can live longer and better by applying, on a personal scale, the same quantitative mindset that powers Google and medical research. Call it Living by Numbers—the ability to gather and analyze data about yourself, setting up a feedback loop that we can use to upgrade our lives, from better health to better habits to better performance.
    Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: 5. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit 5 runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At 5 runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them.
  • To Sleep, Perchance to Analyze Data: David Pogue on the Zeo sleep monitoring system – Just watching the Zeo track your sleep cycles doesn’t do anything to help you sleep better. Plotting your statistics on the Web doesn’t help, either.

    But the funny thing is, you do wind up getting better sleep — because of what I call the Personal Trainer Phenomenon. People who hire a personal trainer at the gym wind up attending more workouts than people who are just members. Why? Because after spending that much money and effort, you take the whole thing much more seriously.

    In the same way, the Zeo winds up focusing you so much on sleep that you wind up making some of the lifestyle changes that you could have made on your own, but didn’t. (“Otherwise,” a little voice in your head keeps arguing, “you’ve thrown away $400.”)

    That’s the punch line: that in the end, the Zeo does make you a better sleeper. Not through sleep science — but through psychology.

  • Baechtold's Best photo series – While they are framed as travel guides, they are really more visual anthropology. A range of topics and places captured and presented in a compelling and simple fashion, illustrating similarities and differences between people, artifacts, and the like.
  • It's girls-only at Fresno State engineering camp – This is the first year for the girls-only engineering camp. Its goal is to increase the number of female engineering majors at Fresno State, which lags behind the national average in graduating female engineers. Nationwide, about 20% of engineering graduates are women. 20 years ago the national average was 25%. At Fresno State, only 13% of engineering graduates are women.

    Jenkins said he hopes the camp will convince girls "who might not have thought about it" that engineering is fun, and entice them to major in engineering.
    (via @KathySierra)

  • Selling Tampax With Male Menstruation – This campaign, by Tampax, is in the form of a story featuring blog entries and short videos. The story is about a 16-year-old boy named Zack who suddenly wakes up with “girl parts.” He goes on to narrate what it’s like including, of course, his experience of menstruation and what a big help Tampax tampons were.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lou Rosenfeld revisits an old engagement where the client sought to dissuade usage – What they told me was that they didn't really want to make it easy for veterans—those people risking their lives for their country—to learn about the health benefits that they were entitled to. And that taxpayers had committed to funding. All to save money—and for what??

    IT issue? Not. It was an issue of business model design, and this particular business model was shrouded in a sick morality emanating from the top levels of the VA's management structure. Absolutely immorally, shamefully, and horribly sick.

    [With the theme of persuasion, manipulation, and user-centeredness floating around lately, good to consider an example where the organization goals are 180 degrees from the user's supposed goals]

  • Citations for California drivers not using hands-free are on the rise – Seems like there was good compliance when the law was first passed but the numbers are climbing back up. One might think the best way to drive adoption of a product/service/behavior is to make it legally mandated but people are citing the poor user experience with Bluetooth headsets as a reason/rationalization for ignoring the law. "Sometimes, it can be more dangerous to figure out your Bluetooth than just to pick up the phone."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Robert Fabricant of frogdesign considers whether understanding users means that design is or isn't persuasive/manipulative – How do we decide what the user really 'wants to achieve'? The fact is that there are a host of different influences that come to bear in any experience. And a host of different needs that drive user behavior. Designers are constantly making judgment calls about which 'needs' we choose to privilege in our designs. In fact, you could argue that this is the central function of design: to sort through the mess of user needs and prioritize the 'right' ones, the most valuable, meaningful…and profitable.

    But according to what criteria? These decisions, necessarily, value judgments, no matter how much design research you do. And few designers want to be accountable for these decisions. From that perspective, UCD, starts to seem a bit naive, possibly even a way to avoid accountability for these value judgments.

    [Obviously no easy answers here; even defining the terms for the discussion is challenging, but the dialog between Robert and others is provocative]

  • Dave Blum, treasure hunt designer, offers 100 treasure hunts around the world – I was always a puzzle and a game kid. I had a friend when I was growing up in Millbrae, Mike Savasta, and he and I were just board game and card game fanatics. Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Stratego.

    In college, I played thousands of games of cribbage. I like the intellectual challenge, the analytical challenge. I'm very much a "play-it-by-ear" kind of guy, so I like a game where you have to think on your feet.

    After college, I lived in Japan for 3 1/2 years and taught English. Then I spent 11 months traveling through Asia and Europe, and when I came back to San Francisco, I worked in tourism for a while. I said, "I need to find a career that I really love." I thought if I could combine group work, travel, games and puzzles – that would be the ultimate job. I started Dr. Clue in 1995.

Environmental and Emotional Impact Assessment

This NYT article on the influence of language about the environment is a good example of the issues I explored in my recent interactions column Poets, Priests, and Politicians.

The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.” The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.

Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”

Increase Your Effectiveness In Meetings by 10%

(This post originally appeared on Core77)

There’s a strong fascination cum infatuation with semi-secret rules that explain why we do what we do. Even In Treatment uses Gladwell (the form’s biggest popularizer) to forward a common misconception about therapy while creating dramatic tension.

In a recent counter-intuitive example, a study indicates that people ordering from a menu that includes healthy and less-healthy options will feel more free to choose the less-healthy option. The theory isn’t totally clear (perhaps a vicarious “I’ve been good” hit comes from the presence of those other items) and its extensibility to other choice behaviors isn’t at all clear.

And in the “no duh” category, another study that looked at radiologists found that “when a digital photograph was attached to a patient’s file, radiologists provided longer, more meticulous reports. And they said they felt more connected to the patients, whom they seldom meet face to face.” Although I wonder if the folks at the passport office, with their surplus of mortifying headshots, would support this study, it really just makes sense and could be applied to all sorts of intermediated interactions, both asynchronous (i.e., mortgage applications) and synchronous (ie., tech support chat). For further study, does an avatar or a stock photo work as well as photograph? Do other biographical details work as well? And how long does this effect last?

If you’re into anecdotes and theories that can help you explain, predict, and otherwise impress those around you, check out Lone Gunman, Overcoming Bias and Freakonomics .

Meanwhile, we’re ready to casually cite the classic marketing/business/social science examples, such as the Add An Egg phenomenon, the Kitty Genovese effect, how a waiter’s tip can decline precipitously based solely on the waiting-time for the bill (citation anyone?) and the Hawthorne Effect.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Message Placement, kinda like Product Placement – Gates Foundation and Viacom Team Up to Weave Messages Into TV Shows – The efforts of philanthropies to influence entertainment programming is not new, although viewers are probably less aware of it then obvious marketing tie-ins in which, for example, a can of Coca-Cola shows up in a character’s hands. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health issues, has been doing such work for a dozen years. It has worked story lines about H.I.V. and AIDS into programs on CBS and UPN including the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”

    “There’s a lot of research that shows that when a character in a series says, ‘I’m going to be an organ donor,’ it’s effective, more effective than giving out a pamphlet.”

Get our latest article, Interacting With Advertising


My latest interactions column, Interacting With Advertising has just been published.

There’s a famous saying (attributed to John Wanamaker, the retailing pioneer): “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” And while that’s still true, we propose this corollary: Half our encounters with advertising are dripping with evil; the trouble is, we don’t know which half.

Get a PDF of the article here. To receive a copy of the article, send an email to steve AT portigal DOT com and (if you haven’t given us this info before) tell us your name, organization, and title. We’ll send you a PDF.

Related: Forced Engagement

Other articles

Influencing customer behavior

We Need Your Help, Vancouver, February 2009

The Killarney Market in Vancouver, B.C. accepts the inevitable: customers will take shopping carts in order to transport their groceries home. Rather than scolding customers or making the behavior illicit, they give permission and provide an extra service: cart retrieval. Sure, this could be better presented and better implemented, but it’s an interesting response to the common behavior, giving permission and supporting the obvious instead of demanding or forcing it to stop.

And a refreshing contrast from the increasingly common post-design solution (using our friend, technology) that locks cart wheels if they leave the property boundary, deterring removal in a rather unsubtle fashion.

Carts and Borders 1, Oakland, August 2006

Carts and Borders 2, Oakland, August 2006

Oh no, Oakland, August 2006

See also:
Curb Appeal
There is Nothing New Under the (Rising) Sun

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Henry: High earner, not rich yet – [Blogging this purely for the acronym]
    "HENRYs, an acronym we'll use to describe people whose financial situation can be summed up by the phrase "high earners, not rich yet." (I coined the term for a Fortune story in 2003 on the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, the bane of the HENRYs.) Put simply, the HENRYs are the bulwark of the professional and entrepreneurial class that drives the economy. Look in the mirror, Fortune reader, and you'll probably see a HENRY."
  • INFLUENCE AT WORK – Proven Science for Business Success – Robert Cialdini's business site for his work on persuasion
  • Robert Cialdini designs program where utility customers get smileys or frownies on their bill in comparison with neighbors – Last April, it began sending out statements to 35,000 randomly selected customers, rating them on their energy use compared with that of neighbors in 100 homes of similar size that used the same heating fuel. The customers were also compared with the 20 neighbors who were especially efficient in saving energy.
  • Coca-Cola Deleting ‘Classic’ From Coke Label – The Coca-Cola Company is dropping the “Classic” from its red labels in some Southeast regions, and the word will be gone from all of its packaging by the summer, the company said Friday. The font size of the “Classic” has been shrinking in the last decade, and the company removed it from labels in Canada in 2007.

    The language on the side of the label where it now says “Coke original formula” will change to say “Coke Classic original formula.” “Every place else in the world it is called Coca-Cola, except for in North America."

Reality is Consumed by Perception

Interesting methodology (and findings) for understanding the factors that influence our eating behaviors at the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell

In an eight-seat lab designed to look like a cozy kitchen, Dr. Wansink offers free lunches in exchange for hard data. He opened the lab at Cornell in April, after he moved it from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he spent eight years conducting experiments in cafeterias, grocery stores and movie theaters.

Although people think they make 15 food decisions a day on average, his research shows the number is well over 200. Some are obvious, some are subtle. The bigger the plate, the larger the spoon, the deeper the bag, the more we eat. But sometimes we decide how much to eat based on how much the person next to us is eating, sometimes moderating our intake by more than 20 percent up or down to match our dining companion.

Moviegoers in a Chicago suburb were given free stale popcorn, some in medium-size buckets, some in large buckets. What was left in the buckets was weighed at the end of the movie. The people with larger buckets ate 53 percent more than people with smaller buckets. And people didn’t eat the popcorn because they liked it, he said. They were driven by hidden persuaders: the distraction of the movie, the sound of other people eating popcorn and the Pavlovian popcorn trigger that is activated when we step into a movie theater.

Dr. Wansink is particularly proud of his bottomless soup bowl, which he and some undergraduates devised with insulated tubing, plastic dinnerware and a pot of hot tomato soup rigged to keep the bowl about half full. The idea was to test which would make people stop eating: visual cues, or a feeling of fullness.

People using normal soup bowls ate about nine ounces. The typical bottomless soup bowl diner ate 15 ounces. Some of those ate more than a quart, and didn’t stop until the 20-minute experiment was over. When asked to estimate how many calories they had consumed, both groups thought they had eaten about the same amount, and 113 fewer calories on average than they actually had.

A sidebar listing other experiments and results is here (link may expire).


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