Posts tagged “press”

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).

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Electric Literature Magazine Offers Fiction in New Media – The founders of Electric Literature, a new quarterly literary magazine, seek nothing less than to revitalize the short story in the age of the short attention span. To do so, they allow readers to enjoy the magazine any way they like: on paper, Kindle, e-book, iPhone and, starting next month, as an audiobook. YouTube videos feature collaborations among their writers and visual artists and musicians. Starting next month, Rick Moody will tweet a story over three days.
  • French Government Offers Free Newspapers to Young Readers – Under “My Free Newspaper,” 18- to 24-year-olds will be offered a free, yearlong subscription to a newspaper of their choice.

    “Winning back young readers is essential for the financial survival of the press, and for its civic dimension,” the culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, said.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Steven Johnson in TIME on Twitter and innovation – The speed with which users have extended Twitter's platform points to a larger truth about modern innovation. When we talk about innovation and global competitiveness, we tend to fall back on the easy metric of patents and Ph.D.s. It turns out the U.S. share of both has been in steady decline since peaking in the early '70s. (In 1970, more than 50% of the world's graduate degrees in science and engineering were issued by U.S. universities.)…

    But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. ..if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.

    How could the forecasts have been so wrong? The answer is that we've been tracking only part of the innovation story.

  • New Yorker on the significant power of storytelling in the unfolding of the Parrot Flu outbreak in 1929-1930 – Press plays role in raising awareness, hype ensues (kill all parrots!), backlash ensues (Americans are hypochondriacs and there's no such thing as Parrot Flu), small but significant number of sicknesses and deaths (pre-antibiotics) occur, scientists triumph, National Institute of Health is founded. Curious to read this right after watching 1950s plague thriller "Panic in the Streets."

Design an “Experience” for Users – Profiled in a Japanese technology magazine

Portigal Consulting is covered in a recent cover article (Design an “Experience” for Users) in NIKKEI ELECTRONICS, January 28, 2008 vol. 970.

A large number of companies are seeking detailed information from end users that will hold clues for products offering a brand new experience. But for an idea to become reality, companies will have to discard any basic assumptions they already hold.

The magazine is print-only, and is in Japanese (link above is only to the article summary). If you’ve got a copy of the article and want to share, please let me know. We’d love to see the piece and someday even find a translation.

Update: scans are posted here. Thanks, David!

Son of Boston-Globe-quote

Stones ticket prices take a plunge

“I feel like they’ve kind of been mailing it in for a while,” says Steve Portigal, who in ’92 started the first Stones Internet discussion group, “I used to fend off comments about the band being too old, but I’m embarrassed to say I’ve changed my mind about that.”

It’s not word-for-word what I said, but I guess it’s close enough. And a little different than the previous Boston Globe quotes (here, here).

Designer Gods

Disclosure/disclaimer – I teach in the Industrial Design program at CCA, where Yves Behar is the co-chair.

This Wired article may not be the most egregious example, but it was the one that tipped things for me. It describes the work of fuseproject on the $100 laptop. But like many articles about fuseproject, and indeed many articles about design firms in general, it casts the firm as the manifestation of a single person’s talent, skllls, and vision. I don’t know how they work at fuseproject; I would imagine you’ve got to be pretty damn good to get a job there (given the reputation and output of the firm). This management of public image using Yves exclusively may be part of a deliberate attempt to build a brand around an individual, it may be ego, it may accurately represent how things work. I’m working hard not to make too many unfounded assumptions.

As soon as they accepted the challenge, Béhar and a handful of his 28 staffers began a stretch of late nights at the studio, sketching shapes on tracing paper. They reviewed 20 or 30 models that other designers had proposed at various points in the project. They gave special attention to Design Continuum’s original version, a boxy green laptop with a prominent power crank.

“There were too many parts flapping around, too many open places. It wasn’t realistic,” Béhar says. “It should be compact and sealed, like a suitcase. And it should really look and feel different. It shouldn’t look like something for business that’s been colored for kids.” (That’s more than an aesthetic concern: An unmistakable, childlike design will be the laptop’s only real defense against theft and resale.)

“My temptation as a designer was to explore a lot of options,” Béhar says. He looked into electronic ink displays, which run on very low power and could allow for smaller, lighter batteries. (The laptop must be light, since kids are meant to carry it everywhere.) He liked the idea of a soft keyboard, connected to the screen with something called a living hinge (think of the way a cap attaches to a shampoo bottle), which would be cheap and practically indestructible. But E Ink technology is not mature enough, and kids who have no desks at school would find a floppy hinge awkward to balance in their laps. Besides, the laptop was supposed to roll off an assembly line at Quanta, the world’s largest laptop manufacturer, by the end of 2006. He had to move quickly. “A lot of concept ideas I eliminated pretty early on,” Béhar says.

Figuring out how to protect everything from dust and moisture was harder. Béhar replaced the traditional keyboard on Design Continuum’s model with a sealed rubber one and built a sensor right into the palm rest to eliminate the seam between it and the trackpad found on a regular laptop. Other problems: The USB ports were exposed to the elements, and a pair of radio antennas had to stay outside the machine. (The Media Lab wanted the antennas to have a half-mile range for building a city- or village-wide mesh network, with each laptop acting as a node.) Solving one problem solved the other: Béhar turned the antennas into a pair of playful “ears”that swivel up for reception or down to cover the laptop’s naked ports.

“Everything on the laptop serves at least two purposes,” he says.

In March, Béhar’s team presented two models to the One Laptop per Child panel of researchers, engineers, and former Media Labbers. Members of the Design Continuum team also presented two versions. Only one design would survive to a final round of revisions. After Béhar showed off his work, he wandered out to the hall for a glass of water. Fifteen minutes later, he walked back into the room and was greeted with a round of applause.

At least there is an acknowledgement of this as a team effort in a couple of places. But the writer (and Yves himself) attributes decisions and actions to Behar alone.

Contrast this with a piece of Kevin Smith’s My Boring Ass Life

My apologies for the lack of updates, but we’ve been pretty fucking busy. Week 3 is wrapped, and tomorrow, we start our second to last week on the show. Both cast and crew continue to dazzle. I continue to dream about getting more sleep, as I spend all day on set, then lock myself in the editing room ’til usually two or three in the morning. I may be sleepy, but I’ve cut every frame of film we’ve shot already, resulting in one hour of the movie completely assembled. The simultaneous-to-shooting editorial has been tremendously helpful in allowing us to go back to scenes and shoot any missing pieces I didn’t know we’d need, or allow me to revisit scenes I feel need a bit more (or less) detail. If you’re ever gonna make a flick, cut it (yourself) while you’re shooting, kids; you won’t regret it.

We went an extra day last week, shooting on Saturday to get Lee on his “Earl”-free day. The Randal/Lance showdown is a real highlight of the flick, but the award for scene-of-the-week goes to Mewes. When you see the film, you’ll know what I mean.

If you’ve seen Smith interviewed (or giving those entertaining convention or college campus talks), he surprisingly uses “we” to refer to the filmmaking process. He will also use “I” regularly to talk about writing or other things he alone does, but he seems to have made a conscious choice to keep language collective and plural as much as possible.

It’s certainly apples and oranges and I think it’s too easy to draw ridiculously simplistic conclusions from the comparision here. I think the contrast is interesting, however, because it suggests that either way of presenting the creative head is not the only way it can or needs to be done.

[Additionally, I thought the Wired piece was blogworthy because it offers the rare-for-press snippy stuff that always goes around designer conferences around which firm screwed up this for that client and who came in and saved ’em. I always hear those stories but never see ’em in print.]

I’m in the Boston Globe!

I’m featured in The Boston Globe (registration required) in an article about the cultural impact of IKEA.

Its prices are just one way IKEA is altering how America decorates
By Linda Matchan, Globe Staff | November 3, 2005

STOUGHTON — When the Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA opened its first US store 20 years ago, the country wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

”An anomaly to furniture retailing,” concluded HFD, a furniture trade publication, in an article called ”The IKEA impact.”

”IKEA’s main strength is that it is selling hype,” one furniture manufacturer commented suspiciously.

Fast forward two decades, and it’s hard to imagine a home furnishings company that’s had more impact on design and home furnishings retailing than the anomaly called IKEA, which, as it turns out, has sold a whole lot more than just hype. Last year, IKEA’s cash registers rang up more than$2 billion worth of products, among them such signature IKEA items as an $80 Po?ng armchair; a $40 Billy bookcase; a $200 Klippan sofa; and the all-time IKEA bestseller, Glimma tea lights, $3 for a bag of 100. (Not to mention 371,041,280 Swedish meatballs, according to an IKEA bulletin dispatched Oct. 26.)

”To me it’s an amazing emotional experience when I walk through IKEA and see how much stuff I can get for under $10 — and these are all things I already own,” says Steve Portigal, founder of Portigal Consulting, a California firm specializing in research, design, and business strategy.

”And yet I find myself thinking, ‘This is a cool watering can,’ and then fighting the urge to buy seconds and thirds. The low barrier to purchasing things, and the ease with which you can buy more of something you already have, doesn’t make me feel very good,” he says.


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