Posts tagged “Microsoft”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Separating You and Me? 4.74 Degrees – In 2008, Microsoft found the number to be 6.6; it depends on how one defines a connection. Can we infer anything from Facebook having a looser definition than Facebook?

Adding a new chapter to the research that cemented the phrase “six degrees of separation” into the language, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan reported that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six but 4.74. The original “six degrees” finding, published in 1967 by the psychologist Stanley Milgram, was drawn from 296 volunteers who were asked to send a message by postcard, through friends and then friends of friends, to a specific person in a Boston suburb. The new research used a slightly bigger cohort: 721 million Facebook users, more than one-tenth of the world’s population.

Who Uses SpiderOak? – More Personas Leaking Outside the Enterprise. Just because you have personas in your development process doesn’t mean you need to make that your marketing. It’s bad enough that you think and talk about your customers this way, at least have the good manners not to talk TO them this way.

Gavin the Geek – Gavin is a geek. He has been for as long as he can remember. Instead of playing with toy guns, he was ripping apart and rebuilding the Atari – a gift to his dad when he was a young boy. In his spare time, he builds servers for friends. In his professional time, he builds servers for friends. And then he gets to administer them all. Making sure they are all backed up, frequently, painlessly, and securely is crucial in maintaining his sanity. SpiderOak bounces into Gavin’s domain. Now, he can load SpiderOak on all of the servers, keep all the data secure, run everything from the command line, keep out of trouble, and never have to worry if, by chance, he didn’t build the server just right…

5 Ways to Think About Nuisance Fees [] – Some great deconstruction of the way we respond to different types of fees, pointing towards some design principles for the creation of fees. The examples in this article are consistent with what we’ve heard in a number of studies.

The discussion starts with a three-pronged test of whether the fee is reasonable: is it fair, is it disclosed and do you have a choice about paying it? Fairness is the least clear, but Robin Block, a retired actuary in Manhattan, argues that the fee must have some relationship to the actual cost of providing the item or service. By that definition, the 3 percent currency conversion fees that credit and debit card issuers levy are unfair. Ditto the $10 or so a day that rental car agencies charge for GPS devices that retail for $100. Bank of America’s effort to charge $5 a month for debit cards is an interesting case study in this context of cost, given that it said that it all but had to add the fee because of new rules that limited what it could charge merchants for accepting the cards.

Ambidextrous magazine shuts down – Although their website is not with this sad news, here’s the email I just got. You can see my contributions here, here, and here.

We know it’s been a while and you’ve maybe wondered what has been going on with us. The global financial crisis, revolutions, The New York Times now charging online… a lot has happened. And with the downturn and the state of publishing, it has been tough. We fought as long as we could and unfortunately must now close Ambidextrous. The magazine has been a labor of love, but it has unfortunately not been organizationally and financially sustainable. Since 2005, we’ve done our best to help designers share their stories and to build a movement around that. As a movement, Ambidextrous will live on, and we should have conversations about what great next steps are for fostering intellectual discussion and sharing in the design community. It’s the community that makes us hopeful and pushes us to find the next outlet, the next forum, the next thing for us to collaborate on. So keep in touch. Share your ideas. Let’s meet again soon.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Does Language Influence Culture? [] – [Stanford psychology prof Lera Boroditsky examines how it does, and why it does] Just because people talk differently doesn't necessarily mean they think differently. In the past decade, cognitive scientists have begun to measure not just how people talk, but also how they think, asking whether our understanding of even such fundamental domains of experience as space, time and causality could be constructed by language…All this new research shows us that the languages we speak not only reflect or express our thoughts, but also shape the very thoughts we wish to express. The structures that exist in our languages profoundly shape how we construct reality, and help make us as smart and sophisticated as we are…As we uncover how languages and their speakers differ from one another, we discover that human natures too can differ dramatically, depending on the languages we speak. [Thanks @ebuie]
  • [from steve_portigal] Facebook Is to the Power Company as … [] – [The gap between being a customer and being a happy customer. Will Facebook be like Microsoft in a few decades, *still* whining about not being beloved – let alone actively disliked?] It was a typically vexing week for Facebook. On the one hand, the social-networking service signed up its 500 millionth active user. On the other hand, it was found to be one of the least popular private-sector companies in the United States by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Apparently, Americans were more satisfied filing their taxes online than they were posting updates on their Facebook page. It is a continuing contradiction: Facebook is widely criticized for shifting its terms of service and for disclosing private information — and yet millions of people start accounts each month.
  • [from steve_portigal] Digital Domain – Even With All Its Profits, Microsoft Has a Popularity Problem [] – [We want your money and your love!] Microsoft’s enterprise software business alone is approaching the size of Oracle. But despite that astounding growth, Microsoft must accept that, fair or not, victories on the enterprise side draw about as much attention as being the No. 1 wholesale seller of plumbing supplies. Microsoft won’t receive the adoring attention that its chief rival draws with products like the iPad. In a conversation earlier this month, Mr. Shaw explained what prompted him to write his post. “I noticed some pretty critical conversations going on in the technosphere among the technorati,” he said. “There’s a gap between that conversation ­ ‘the company is not doing well, period’ ­ and what the company is actually doing.” In the blog, he writes, “With Windows 7, Office 2010, Bing, Xbox 360, Kinect, Windows Phone 7, in our cloud platform, and many other products, services and happy customers, 2010 is shaping up as a huge year for us.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Taking Web Humor Seriously, Sort Of [] – [Another great Rob Walker piece deftly unpacks Internet culture] The more traditional pundits and gurus who talk about the Internet often seem to want to draw strict boundaries between old mass-media culture and the more egalitarian forms taking shape online ­ and between Internet life and life in the physical world. Sometimes the pointless-seeming jokes that spring from the Web seem to be calling a bluff and showing a truth: This is what egalitarian cultural production really looks like, this is what having unbounded spaces really entails, this is what anybody-can-be-famous means, this is what’s burbling in the hive mind’s id. But the real point is that to pretend otherwise isn’t denying the Internet ­ it’s denying reality. Trickster expression, intentional or otherwise, doesn’t propose a solution but jolts you to confront some question that you might prefer to have avoided. Like what, exactly, am I laughing at?
  • [from steve_portigal] Microsoft’s proprietary BlueTrack™ Technology works on more surfaces than both optical and laser mice – [Technology solves problems we didn't know we had, like, mousing on carpet! Thanks, Microsoft!] Now track more accurately on: Granite, Carpet, Wood.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • This isn’t the page of a magazine, this is my desktop [Reddit] – (With link to screenshot of PC desktop at The tv plays youtube, the middle speaker controls volume while the one on the left and right open up Rhythmbox and VLC, the cabinets are notepads, the trashbin is clearly a widget, the clock and alarm clock actually work, the books also serve as launchers, the top bar with the date lets me know of future events. I created the desktop for fun, but don't really recommend it as screenlets seem to use a lot of RAM.
  • Bob and Beyond: A Microsoft Insider Remembers [Technologizer] – [Tandy Trower relates several – ultimately unsuccessful – attempts at Microsoft to ship a UI that leverages key research from Nass and Reeves about the social interactions people have with any technology. In his view, there is tremendous value if it's done right and it wasn't ever done right.] The Office team picked up Microsoft Agent for their next release, but opted not to use the characters I had created as they preferred their own unique ones. To avoid the past user-reported annoyances, they gave users more control over when the character would appear, but did little to reform its behavior when it was present. So, you still had the same cognitive disconnect between the character’s reaction to your actions in the application’s primary interface. The character just became a sugar coating for the Help interface, which, if it failed to come up with useful results, left the user unimpressed and thinking that the character was not very useful.
  • Japanese Food Companies Seek Growth Abroad [] – [What will this mean to collectors/fans of Foreign Groceries 🙂 ] Ichiro Nakamura, spokesman for Lotte in Japan, said that the 400 versions of Koala’s March cookies — some smile and some cry, some hold musical instruments and some play sports — are much more challenging to manufacture than people might think. “We have a special technology that puffs up the koala-shaped cookies so there is hollow space inside where soft chocolate can be injected later,” Mr. Nakamura said. “And unless you have the right technology, the cookies are going to break easily when packed into boxes.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Will gadget revolutionize our reading habits? – For the concept of a device that allows books to be read electronically, "this is the year we get it," said Steve Portigal, the head of Pacifica consumer research firm Portigal Consulting. "But there's this huge psychological chasm we have to cross before people buy them."
  • 15 Google Users Tried Bing for a Week and 10 of them Switched – Students often ask me about ethics, i.e., our findings being influenced by corporate agendas. Here's a study that Microsoft commissioned to see if Google users would switch to Bing if forced to use it. Results say "yes." The research question may not have been "Will Google users switch to Bing?"…it may have been "Help us understand how Google users react to Bing [once they don't have to think about the choice between Google and Bing at search-time]" It may be that the findings led themselves to this promotion.
  • Sports Illustrated future vision for their Tablet – So the future of reading is, apparently, television. They've managed to throw everything into this demo, including nekkid (almost) ladeez, game playing, and really bad sound effects (note: boop and page-flip don't make a coherent soundscape IMHO).

Microsoft gets bookish

In our recent Reading Ahead research, we heard a lot from people about the physicality of books: how significant their tactile qualities and the kinesthetic experiences they afford are to the reading experience. So it’s interesting to see Microsoft going in a book-like direction with their Courier tablet device, here at Gizmodo.

While not explicitly geared towards reading, the Courier experience shown in the video below leverages some of the kinesthetics of book use, such as page turning (at least a digital approximation) and annotation.

What seems particularly promising here is development towards a synthesis of digital and analog gestural languages.

One Hour Design Challenge – Enter our Reading Ahead-based design competition in partnership with Core77 (the submission period ends Oct. 14)

The Trapper-Kindle – a response to the One Hour Design Challenge

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

  • How commercial software products are developed (or "get some empathy for clients, right here") – I worked on the "Windows Mobile PC User Experience" team. This team was part of Longhorn from a feature standpoint but was organizationally part of the Tablet PC group. To find a common manager to other people I needed to work with required walking 6 or 7 steps up the org chart from me. My team's raison d'etre was: improve the experience for users on laptops, notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs. Noble enough. Of course the Windows Shell team, whose code I needed to muck about in to accomplish my tiny piece of this, had a charter of their own which may or may not have intersected ours.

    My team had a very talented UI designer and my particular feature had a good, headstrong program manager with strong ideas about user experience. We had a Mac [owned personally by a team member] that we looked to as a paragon of clean UI. Of course the Shell team also had some great UI designers and numerous good, headstrong PMs who valued (I can only assume) simplicity and so on.

  • Not quite-credible story about Best Buy differentiating on making technology usable/understandable – Mr. Dunn said he wanted to create an atmosphere where consumers were attracted not just to products but also to services that help them master fast-changing technology and configure and connect devices.

    One of Best Buy’s main competitive strategies has been services, something it has done better in the past than any national electronics retailer. That translates into selling product warranties, or help with installing a home theater or configuring a computer.
    Mr. Dunn said a chief example of the kind of thing Best Buy wants to be known for is a service it calls Walk Out Working that it began introducing in May 2007. The service, which is free, helps consumers configure new mobile phones so that when they leave the store they are able to use features like music playback and Web surfing.

    …He argues that [other retailers] cannot compete with Best Buy when it comes to offering individual service, explaining technology to customers and charging to help them adapt to it.

  • Jobless Benefits Web Site Adds Insult to Injury – Jobless people seeking information about their benefits on the Brazilian Labor Ministry's Web were forced to type in passwords such as "bum" and "shameless." A private company that created the site's security system is blamed; its contract with the ministry wasn't being renewed, which may have prompted the pranks.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Wired on the big big money being made selling virtual items in online games – With about 30 workers on staff, Liu was able to keep a gold-farming setup running around the clock. While the night shift slept upstairs on plywood bunks, day-shift workers sat in the hot, dimly lit workshop, each tending three or four computers. They were "playing" World of Warcraft, farming gold at an impressive clip by hunting and looting monsters, their productivity greatly abetted by automated bots that allowed them to handle multiple characters with little effort. They worked 84-hour weeks, got a couple of days off per month, and earned about $4 a day, which even for China was not a stellar wage.
  • Wired on Ray Ozzie and cultural change at MSFT: At first, the skunk works-like nature of Ozzie's operation engendered suspicion and resentment – Previously, a big part of any development team at Microsoft was making sure its new product worked in lockstep with everything else the company produced. While that approach avoided annoying conflicts, it also tended to smother innovation. "This philosophy of independent innovation…is something Ray pushed very strongly," Ozzie's approach was to encourage people to rush ahead and build things. Then he'd have a team of what he calls the spacklers fill in the gaps and get things ready for release.
    He spent a lot of time on the physical workspace for his team. He had workers rip down the labyrinthine corridors on one floor and called in architects to create a more open design. Now, walking into the Windows Live Core group is like leaving Microsoft and visiting a Futurama set. Office windows open onto hallways so that quick eye contact can trigger spontaneous discussions. Whiteboards are everywhere. Pool tables, mini-lounges, and snack zones draw people toward the center of the space.

Simulacrap 2

I already described the ridiculous persona-encrusted collateral from Yahoo’s Search Marketing. This week I received a package from Microsoft (with an unnecessary piece of styrofoam in the box to protect their precious wire-bound book).

With tips from me – Search Master Steve

Search Master Steve? Good Lord!

I’m not sure whether Microsoft’s only-works-in-IE search marketing interface is worse than Yahoo’s. I guess it’s like asking if you’d rather have two fingers ripped off by an angry gorilla or have three fingers removed surgically. These products are not fun to use and the crap I’m getting in the mail from the Microhooligans is insulting.

Job is in the details

If you’re sending someone a resume, make sure you turn off track changes in Word.

Seeing that Award winning right brained/left brained marketer was changed to Award winning right brained/left brained marketer and business developer is perhaps more information than this person wanted me to know. There’s all sorts of evil hidden goo left behind in Word documents; to be extra sure, MSFT offers a plugin that creates a clean copy, or just make a PDF. Maybe this person doesn’t even use track changes and didn’t see the same view of the doc that I do. Pretty horrifying for them, as well. Makes me wonder what I’ve done like this myself.

More trouble for the poor guy in his cover letter, that was pasted into email from a text editor where many of the characters didn’t come through correctly on my end.

I?¢‚Ǩ™m a global leader of strategy with strong expertise in how to
tackle new markets and clients. Some highlights included:
?Ǭ? Developed strategy, leadership, innovation for Fortune 500
companies that resulted adding hundreds of millions of dollars in new
sales revenue, plus decreased operational expenses by 27%.

A cautionary tale for all of us!

I would have (seriously) rated the grade of toilet paper

In My Microsoft Google Yahoo Stories we get some comparisons of internship experiences at 3 big tech companies. I don’t recommend the article necessarily, only to provide context for this awesome chart.
I love how the deconstruction of the experiences (related in detailed narratives in the article) into these specific categories give a blunt and amusing summary of, well, the person relating it. What categories we create to represent something qualitative tells a lot about us and how we make sense of those experiences.

Expression demo

I had a fun time at a Microsoft event in SF yesterday, essentially a product demo day, with 300 people watching presenters tweak HTML (and other arcane variants of such code), and then some more intimate discussions on design, user experience and so on by Chris Bernard. Given the emphasis on User Experience, I thought these demo kiosks were lovely but discouraging to use.
Things look nice.

I’m not sure about the term demo assets exactly, and why I need to get them ready, but the mess of a screen at least has a “do this first” zone.

Except it’s a non-stable trick. They put a Windows shortcut on top of that white triangle, but I accidentally dragged it when I went to click it. It’s not really a button, it’s a fake button, and one that easily breaks when someone tries to use it. Oops.

Okay, so now you do the double clicking they want you to do. And up comes a DOS window that lasts more than 1 second. Maybe I’m just un-tech enough to have that bother me, but it really seemed like the backstage was being revealed in a way that it shouldn’t. Why do I see DOS stuff when I’m running a new Windows app?

Anyway, it wasn’t clear what that was doing (perhaps restoring things to a pristine state) and it was even less clear what to do next. Some things to click were just Word documents that you couldn’t interact with (that’s a demo?), and others were apps that gave dire warnings about expiring betas. Again, maybe I’m not the right person to be trying this stuff anyway, but you can see that the commitment to design and user experience has a long way to go.

My hosts were exceedingly kind with their time and made me feel very welcome, so I apologize for having the poor grace to only post something negative. I suspect they are only too aware of the many instances of this sort of thing going on, and are marching uphill. But at least they are marching!


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