Posts tagged “norms”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • DEVO – Focus Group Testing the Future [YouTube] – Filled with brilliantly sarcastic soundbites, this is definitely pushing on post-modernism/post-irony. DEVO doing focus group testing (or so they say) on every aspect of their 2010 offering (brand, logotype, instrumentation, clothing). Interesting also to see how this appears in the press with varying amounts of the irony removed.
  • Theater Preshow Announcements Take Aim at Cellphones [] – In a production of “Our Town” the director, David Cromer, who played the Stage Manager, took a minimal approach because he wanted to stay true to Thornton Wilder’s desire to forgo conventional theatrics. “In that show we had this issue, which is that there was to be no theater technology. The whole act of my entrance was that you were supposed to think it was someone from the theater,” Mr. Cromer explained. “We didn’t want the Stage Manager to come out and say, ‘Please turn your cellphones off,’ because that would be rewriting Wilder.” Instead Mr. Cromer simply held up a cellphone upon entering at the beginning of each act and then turned it off and put it away, casually showing the audience what to do without talking about it. “The first time I was watching another actor take over in the show as the Stage Manager,” Mr. Cromer said, “he came out, held his cellphone in the air, and the woman next to me said, ‘Oh, someone lost their cellphone.’ ”

Up in the air

Aka, a removable feast. Strong signs of cultural change as airline meals morph, evolve, and devolve. Compare my recent repast on United ($7 for the boxed snack set)

with the hot meal below, from a 1960s Braniff domestic flight.

It’s striking how much cultural norms and consumer expectations around hospitality in this context have changed – imagine handing that 1960s passenger the meal I got on my flight.

See more airline meals throughout the decades here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Interview with hamster hotel proprietor – Short audio is worth a listen as the interview veers necessarily into "What *is* normal?" territory
  • French hamster hotel lets guests live like rodents – Visitors to the hotel in Nantes can feast on hamster grain, get a workout by running in a giant wheel and sleep in hay stacks in the suite called the "Hamster Villa".

    It is the latest venture from owners Frederic Tabary and Yann Falquerho, who run a company which rents out unusual venues to adventure-seekers. Both architects, the men designed the room in an 18th century building to resemble the inside of a hamster's cage.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Streisand effect – The Streisand effect is an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be publicized widely and to a greater extent than would have occurred if no censorship had been attempted.. Origin is in reference to a 2003 incident in which Barbra Streisand unsuccessfully sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and for US$50 million in an attempt to have the aerial photograph of her house removed from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs, citing privacy concerns
  • NYC replaces automated toilets with staffed restrooms, a signifier of trust – But where the floors of the old restrooms had a tank-tread-like surface that automatically rotated across a scrubbing system after each use, and the toilets themselves were cleaned by a rim-mounted U-shaped traveling brush, the new ones are inspected, mopped and scrubbed — 15 to 25 times a day — by eagle-eyed, uniformed men and women.

    “It’s an attendant who knows what’s going on and has functions that go from sanitation to exchanging a few words with you to generally having a sense of what should be done,” said Jerome Barth, the partnership’s vice president for operations. “People see them, and they know the bathrooms are clean.”

  • Florida judges shouldn’t friend Florida lawyers on Facebook – A new advisory warns it may create the appearance of a conflict. Being a "fan" is still okay.

This Year’s Virtual Model

Not new, but new to me: Lands’ End Virtual Model, allowing people to shop online for clothes and see what the clothes would look like on a person. The idea is that the person is you, the shopper, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between projection onto a mannequin (digital, even) and projection into a mirror. The person in the mirror is us. It doesn’t approximate us, it looks exactly like us and it naturally moves in response to our every movement. The virtual model is clumsy in comparison.

I think the whole notion of seeing the clothes in context is (including in combination) is brilliant, but I think the conceit (and it really is just that) of presenting this us a projection of us is completely wrong. Looking in the mirror is the gold standard and this breaks that badly. There’s a lot of customization (just like an avatar builder) of height, weight, body type, skin tone, hair style, etc.

So I started with

Umm, hello, body image norms?

and eventually customized him/me/it to end up with

Umm, is it weird to post this? It’s virtual, but the concept suggests this approximates what I look like in my underpants. I can tell you not to worry, it really doesn’t, but the idea seems a bit transgressive, because of the level of accuracy we expect from representations. A photograph isn’t me, but carries a certain truth. Also don’t worry, no actual underpants pictures of me are coming up in this post either.

As for the virtual me, I think we’ll feel better if he/me has some clothes on!


Frankly, I think this Simpsons avatar is more true version of me, even though it abandons reality, it also offers a kernel of truth and overall feels more accurate.

Update: maybe the avatar isn’t meant to be a model, but instead an effective salesperson?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Japanese cultural norms – asking about weight – Insightful little culture-clash story; an American working in Japan isn't sure how to deal with blunt (especially from the Japanese!) questions about his increasing weight
  • Clive Thomson on Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, renowned for his use of mathematical game theory models for prediction – Those who have watched Bueno de Mesquita in action call him an extremely astute observer of people. He needs to be: when conducting his fact-gathering interviews, he must detect when the experts know what they’re talking about and when they don’t. “His ability to pick up on body language, to pick up on vocal intonation, to remember what people said and challenge them in nonthreatening ways — he’s a master at it,” says Rose McDermott, a political-science professor at Brown who has watched Bueno de Mesquita conduct interviews. She says she thinks his emotional intelligence, along with his ability to listen, is his true gift, not his mathematical smarts. “The thing is, he doesn’t think that’s his gift,” McDermott says. “He thinks it’s the model. I think the model is, I’m sure, brilliant. But lots of other people are good at math. His gift is in interviewing. I’ve said that flat out to him, and he’s said, ‘Well, anyone can do interviews.’ But they can’t.”
  • New York Times Magazine on the Beatles’ Rock Band videogame – This is a fantastic article that spans many big issues: gaming, music, performance, art, history, culture, product development, authenticity, creativity, entertainment, technology. It's a must-read.
  • Brian Dettmer turns books into sculptural pieces – Contemporary visual artists see opportunity in what many bemoan as the twilight of the age of the book. John Latham (1921-2006), Hubertus Gojowczyk, Doug Beube and others have treated books as sculptural stuff. But no one whose work I have seen tops that of Atlanta artist Brian Dettmer at Toomey Tourell.

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

  • Paul Graham on the "social norm" problem with the Segway – This is a point I made in my interactions column "Some Different Approaches To Making Stuff" – Kamen is the genius who got it wrong, because he focused only on technology and not on culture and behavior.

    "The Segway hasn't delivered on its initial promise, to put it mildly. There are several reasons why, but one is that people don't want to be seen riding them. Someone riding a Segway looks like a dork.

    My friend Trevor Blackwell built his own Segway, which we called the Segwell. He also built a one-wheeled version, the Eunicycle, which looks exactly like a regular unicycle till you realize the rider isn't pedaling. He has ridden them both to downtown Mountain View to get coffee. When he rides the Eunicycle, people smile at him. But when he rides the Segwell, they shout abuse from their cars: "Too lazy to walk, ya fuckin homo?"

    Why do Segways provoke this reaction? The reason you look like a dork riding a Segway is that you look smug. You don't seem to be working hard enough."

  • Like Nike+ for happiness, iPhone app is data collection for PhD thesis – "At repeated periods throughout the day you'll be pinged by your iPhone either by email or by SMS, and prompted to answer a short one-minute survey. This one asks how happy you are, what you're doing (yes, "making love" is an option, though hopefully it's an activity you'd prioritize over doing some science) whether you exercised recently, whether you're alone, who you're talking to and what you're thinking about." Essentially a "beeper study" but somehow a more viral story ("iPhone"!) than normal.
  • 'True Blood' Beverage – "Inspired by HBO's hugely successful vampire drama series, True Blood, Omni Consumer Products struck a deal with the network's licensing division to releasing 'Tru Blood' the actual beverage..a drinkable product inspired by a beverage meant to taste like blood so that fake vampires from a pay-cable TV show can survive without having to resort to feasting on humans."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Survey Says Baby Boomers Think Playing With Your Blackberry During A Meeting Is Rude – The 'tude in the blog entry about the survey is as interesting as the 'tude the survey's creation and content point to. Social norms shift and that gets introduced and changes the way people interact gets put through the social norm filter: is it rude? Is it distracting? Should other people stop doing it? Or should we get over it? This just points to the transition we're going through rather than offering any clear sense of what's going on. Full disclosure: I'm a Gen-Xer and I bolted from a boring presentation a few weeks ago when the person behind me tapped on the shoulder and asked me to stop using my iPhone as she found it distracting [I was discreetly using Google Reader in my lap].
  • Gartner's Hype cycle – a graphic representation of the maturity, adoption and business application of specific technologies – Hype cycles characterize the over-enthusiasm or "hype" and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies.They also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and become widely accepted.

    Five phases of the hype cycle
    1. "Technology Trigger" —A breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest
    2. "Peak of Inflated Expectations" — Frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations; There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures
    3. "Trough of Disillusionment" — Fails to meet expectations and becomes unfashionable
    4. "Slope of Enlightenment" —some businesses experiment to understand the benefits and practical application
    5. "Plateau of Productivity" — benefits become widely demonstrated and accepted

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Essayist Joseph Epstein Exposes Friendship – "Some aspects of friendship had changed, he averred. Women and men could now meet in non-sexual friendship in a way they could not in his father's generation. And through email, chat rooms, and technology, "techno friends" could be friendly without requiring personal presence."
  • Susan Roane – Small Talk – Keynote Speaker – Business Networking Techniques – Susan RoAne is the leading authority and original expert on how to work a room. Her best-selling books, popular interactive presentations and media interviews help companies and organizations successfully develop, build and manage client relationships that increase business growth.
  • Podcast: Susan RoAne, author of the book Face to Face: How to Reclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World – RoAne is an author and speaker on communication but she's blissfully ignorant that the issues she's addressing (When do you email vs. make a phone call? Should you use your laptop in a meeting? Can you wear a bluetooth headset at the opera?) are social norms that are evolving rapidly as new interactive media take hold. What kind of expert proclaims "If you are twittering more than 5 times a day, you should get a life"? Especially in the same breath where she declares it as her new addiction. While she's a champion for the value of real personal connection and considers some of these technologies as excellent ways to enhance those relationships, she also has a top-down view of what's right and wrong without really addressing that sometimes our interpretations about new behaviors are arbitrary (i.e., the act of wearing a Bluetooth headset has no inherent moral value, it's only in the way our society at this time consents to interpret it).

The Head of the Class


Yakkay bicycle helmets create a normal look by camouflaging the protective shell with a cool hat. This product reminded me of a few years ago when we worked with a client in the construction gear business who wanted to produce a premium hard hat, positioning against the near-disposable incumbent. They were already convinced that the value could be increased by solving functional problems (comfort, temperature, sweat), but our research identified that one of the biggest issues was a social one: the way people felt about themselves in their work gear both on and off the job site. Protective eyewear and footwear had recently been redesigned to be fashionable and we encouraged them to explore something similar with hard hats. We even showed a trendy Kangol hat in our presentation.

Unfortunately, this type of insight couldn’t move our gatekeeper away from what he was already imagining as a solution and I remember his audible splutter when we got to the slide with the Kangol hat. I am not sure that image survived into the next version of the presentation, even. But as far as I know, they never launched any product at all. So, best of luck to Yakkay!

See also: Talk To The 5th Guy

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Paul Graham writes on "Why TV Lost" – Lots of interesting points in Graham's essay, but I found these two, about the underlying media component of many startups, and the temporal aspect of TV-watching especially thought-provoking: "Now would be a good time to start any company that competes with TV networks. That's what a lot of Internet startups are, though they may not have had this as an explicit goal. People only have so many leisure hours a day, and TV is premised on such long sessions (unlike Google, which prides itself on sending users on their way quickly) that anything that takes up their time is competing with it."
  • Where does Twitter go from here? – My post on Core77 about how Twitter can think about evolving its overall user experience as it straddles lead users and mass awareness
  • Logic+Emotion: Skittles Smackdown, A Sociological Viewpoint – Nice words from David Armano, pulling out something I wrote yesterday about the Skittles/Twitter PR experiement

Why not?

Every drummer knows, it’s hard to find a place to practice.

Drummer, Highway 9, Santa Cruz mountains

So when I drove by this guy rocking out on the side of the road, I thought, “yes, that makes so much sense.” Plenty of space, no neighbors around to get pissed off at you.

So how come the roadsides aren’t dotted with drummers?

Even though it’s a great solution, it takes a certain degree of chutzpah to go drum in the woods.

Lots of seemingly innovative ideas never take hold. Some of these concepts may be asking customers to “drum in the woods”– to behave in ways that might stick out, feel weird, or refute what they’re comfortable with.

Nicolas Nova further explores why ideas do and don’t take hold in his visually rich Inflated/Deflated Futures presentation.

Related posts:
Minding Manners
Open Carry

The space between yes and no as a local indicator

While in the UK recently I took advantage of an extremely rare opportunity to tour the long-closed Battersea Power Station. It’s an iconic part of the London landscape, known to many for appearing on the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals.

The tour was basically a community open house, to try and drum up support/input for the redevelopment plans. Visitors were asked to complete a survey…


…and this question caught my eye:


I really got a kick out of the localized UK English choices for the responses.

Also: see my pictures from the Battersea Power Station here and more of my London and Sheffield pictures here.

Previous posts on surveys:


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