Posts tagged “standards”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] National Onion Labs, Inc. – [Bet you didn't know that there was a national onion lab, or that there were standards for onion certification. Now you do. You're so very welcome!] People use onions for their unique and distinctive flavors and by looking for the appropriate NOL certification you can be assured that the onion you choose will be appropriate for your use. Look for NOL’s trustworthy quality certification Certified Extra Sweet®, Certified Sweet®, Certified Medio™ and Certified Sizzler™ when selecting onions.
  • [from steve_portigal] From Muses To Music: Where Ideas Come From [NPR] – [Transcript of a Talk of the Nation episode at the Aspen Ideas Festival, with a broad cross-section of participants.This was my favorite snippet.] Q: Joining us now is Eric Fischl. He's a painter and sculptor…Not where do your ideas come from, but how do you come up with them? A: I'm a painter of people, so one of the sources of my inspiration is body language. And when I see people sitting, standing, moving, twisting, turning in very specific, very idiosyncratic ways, I'm riveted by it. I don't know why. If I have my camera with me, I take a photograph of it. And then back in my studio, I look at that photograph and try to find a context for explaining why I was fascinated by that particular gesture.[They don't all work out] but the process is always fascinating.
  • [from steve_portigal] Technological Superstition [The Technium] – [KK takes a direct look at how we imbue objects with meaning, although he frames it as "superstition." Funny how that word really agitates me, whereas my term (meaning) is pacifying. In our work, perception often is reality, but I'm refreshed and challenged by Kevin's close reading of reality, just plain reality.] They honestly believe that artifacts can transmit the aura of a human who uses it. In this case, the steel transmits the bravery of the firemen rescuers, and the innocence of the civilians who died. But it can also transmit cooties. They believe that wearing Hitler's sweater would be a bad idea, while sleeping in a room (completely remodeled) that Lincoln slept in is a good idea. This is magical thinking….In the end, a historical technological artifact is one of the reservoirs in the modern world where superstition still flows freely.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] LCARS Standards Development Board – [Library Computer Access/Retrieval System is the name of the operating system used by ship systems on Star Trek. As fan sites and other bits of consumer-developed tech emulate the look and feel of interfaces from Star Trek, this site is an effort to create a set of UI standards around colors, fonts, animation, sounds, and other interactive elements.]
  • [from steve_portigal] How Kanye makes his musical sausage [Kottke] – [If you've been enjoying our recent examples of inspiring or provocative thoughts on creativity from performing artists, here's another one] Interesting piece on how Kanye West's latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, got made. Lots of good creative process bits

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] The Media Equation – The Antenna Uproar – No Hair Shirt for Jobs [] – [In the case of the missing iPhone signal, traditional publication Consumer Reports had more impact than younger, leading-edge media sources] How did Consumer Reports make Apple blink? In large measure, the article in Consumer Reports was devastating precisely because the magazine (and its Web site) are not part of the hotheaded digital press. Although Gizmodo and other techie blogs had reached the same conclusions earlier, Consumer Reports made a noise that was heard beyond the Valley because it has a widely respected protocol of testing and old-world credibility.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Pop-Up Magazine [website] – [The return of the variety show? Media channel-bending experiment marries a magazine-esque approach to content with the ephemeral nature of live performance.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Concern for Those Who Screen the Web for Barbarity [] – [Mind you, these consequences serve to reinforce the value of the service] With the rise of Web sites built around material submitted by users, the surge in Internet screening services has brought a growing awareness that the jobs can have mental health consequences for the reviewers. One major outsourcing firm hired a local psychologist to assess how it was affecting its 500 content moderators. The psychologist developed a screening test so the company could evaluate potential employees, and helped its supervisors identify signals that the work was taking a toll on employees. Ms. Laperal also reached some unsettling conclusions in her interviews with content moderators. She said they were likely to become depressed or angry, have trouble forming relationships and suffer from decreased sexual appetites. Small percentages said they had reacted to unpleasant images by vomiting or crying. “The images interfere with their thinking processes. It messes up the way you react to your partner.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Autom, a weight-loss robot coach – Autom's human qualities, if primitive, were an important factor in keeping 15 dieters motivated during a trial in the Boston area. Another 15 slimmers were given a computer with a touch screen running identical software to Autom's and 15 had a paper log. Each had to stick to a certain eating and exercise regime. The average time someone used the robot — almost 51 days — was nearly twice as long as with paper — almost 27 days — and 40 percent longer than with the computer. "Even if you have an animated character that looks exactly like Autom on the computer screen, you cannot have the same interaction as you can with an actual robot," Kidd says. Kidd says the fact that people were able to humanise Autom made the information it gave them seem more credible. Maya, Casper and Robbie were among the names users gave their robots. Some even dressed them in hats and scarves.
  • We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat [CBC News] – Companies working off Nova Scotia's coasts have been told to supersize their lifeboats to accommodate bigger workers. The current standard for lifeboats is based on a person weighing 165 pounds in a survival suit. The proposed standard is 220 pounds. "The reality is such that the workforce is considerably larger nowadays," said Dave Scratch, the regulator's chief safety officer. A lifeboat may be rated for 50 people, but that doesn't mean they all fit. "We've had a number of [exercises and drills] where they actually wouldn't. We found that most lifeboats had to be downsized just because people were larger and wouldn't fit in the allocated locations," said Scratch. The board is following the lead of the U.K., which adjusted safety regulations after a study found offshore workers are heavier now than 20 years ago.

Global standards and interoperability

Top: Toilet paper (US)
Bottom: Toilet paper (Netherlands)

A research respondent recently described their challenges in redistributing goods from abroad, since it turns out that a “standard” shipping palette is actually a different size in the US and in Europe. Do conflicting standards necessarily inhibit interoperability? Would North American toilet paper operate properly in a Dutch dispenser? And what do those different standards say about our history, perspective, or values? Is the gestural usage different? Are hands or bottoms in different relative proportions here or there? Is there a different tradeoff around cost and (perceived?) cleanliness?

See my Amsterdam pictures here (Note that as of this writing, only a few have been uploaded, but there are plenty more to come in the next few weeks).

Flying the sneaky skies


While checking in online for a United Airlines flight, you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus. It’s likely that most people decline upsells in many situations, though. The default would be to click “no thanks” and move on to completing the transaction. But United has done some tricky and manipulative interface design. The bright yellow arrow with bold text placed on the right is almost irresistible. E-commerce sites have trained us to envision a transaction moving from left to right (granted that they’ve landed on that model since it corresponds to how we read and other cultural factors); it’s very easy to click on the arrow and make a purchase you didn’t want. It takes cognitive work to search for the preferred option which is a lowly blue-underlined unbolded text link off to the left.

Why would United do this? Sure, they can trick a few people into mistakenly purchasing an upgrade. But at what cost to the brand? Even if they don’t fool you, you’ve had to work to avoid being fooled, and the trust (seemingly an important brand attribute for an airline) is dinged.

Grab a clue, web people @ United…this is no way to interface with customers.

Standards Shifting

Fresh and Clean International Food Safety Standards

When I took this picture (in Bangkok) I marveled at the fact that something as basic as food safety was advertised as a benefit to shoppers. What about taste? Value? Good times? Good friends? An interesting menu? Nope. Fresh. Clean. Safe.

Yet here in the U.S. we’ve got scallion problems at Taco Bell and recent problems with spinach. Am I having a Michael Pollan-induced panic or are we not as far ahead as we kid ourselves into believing?

How many people died?

The reports (and slow-to-appear-details for those of us that read RSS headlines) of yesterday’s gunman-rampage in Montreal raised an interesting detail question: how do we consider the loss of life of the perpetrator of a crime?

When I read that some asshole goes charging into a school with a gun, I don’t care what happens to him (except that he is stopped). If he commits suicide or is killed by police, does he get included in the total of dead?

If a suicide bomber detonates an explosive belt in the middle of a crowded marketplace, do we count her as well?

Headlines tell us “XX dead in Baghdad suicide bomb” or “Shooting rampage leaves Y people dead.” Do you expect the total to include only victims?

I’m not suggesting what is right, only what we are conditioned to expect. Perhaps there are some journalistic standards for accuracy here. Perhaps they vary by region. The headlines from Montreal are emphasizing that two people are dead, but one of those is the shooter.

It’s not even a moral judgement of the value of life, but just a reaction to the story “Oh my God – what happened – how many people were killed?” that focuses strongly on the victims of the crime.

Just some thoughts on mulitiple perspectives buried within a story…

Manipulating Social Realities With Technology

One stance is that technology is neither inherently good or bad, it’s what we do with it, as humans with the ability to choose and judge and reflect our own cultural norms, that’s where the morality comes in. Of course, there are any number of agents along the way to actual use. Those that package a technology in a way that instructs in its usage may persaude or encourage behaviors that are not “approved” of. We see the media blaming cell phones, texting, the Internet whenever possible – it’s a better headline than to blame a gun, or a parent, or a person. Where does the accountability lie?

An emerging special case is the set of technologies that we can use to misrepresent reality to others. The first that caught my eye (back in 2004) was SoundCover (company website is now defunct, but story is here), software that would play fake background noises over your mobile phone, to add credence to an excuse (i.e., “I’m stuck in traffic.”). A more recent mobile twist is the popularity dialer that will automatically call you at pre-arranged times so you can look popular, or fake an exit from a bad date, or whatever. Hacking social norms and faking reality through technology.

Those are both sort of high-schoolish in concept and implementation, but the super-geekery (and with it, super-powers) come in a couple of tools for digital photography. HP has some software built into their digital cameras that automatically slims the subjects of the photo, while some software in development in Israel will automatically beautify women’s faces. Tourist Remover carries less cultural baggage and lets you get the picture you never really got, by taking a few pictures of the same scene and putting together a composite without all those other pesky people.

HP’s entry is the most surprising, for a rather cautious organization, it seems pretty brazen. Every week is another indicator of our culture’s poor health (X-rays don’t work as well because people are too fat, toilet seats are being redesigned for fatter butts, etc. etc.), and of course our body image standard doesn’t change in the same direction. Is this technology for vanity? Or worse? Or is it any better than correcting red-eye? Or removing a blemish in Photoshop? Where do we cross the line from correcting photography to faking reality, and when is that line-crossing a problem?

[Thanks, JZC, for the HP tip]

Q107 Culpa

Last year I applauded Q107 for owning up to their deceptive presentation of a Rolling Stones bootleg as a simulcast of a club show in Toronto. I was probably too easy on them in hindsight, but whatever. Some other folks pursued the misleading handling of it by The Mighty Q with the government regulatory body, and got some satisfaction. The ruling is quite lengthy (but includes a lot of detail from the broadcast) and says, in part

As a preliminary matter, the Panel wishes to note that “promotions” are not limited to such advertising as occurs prior to a broadcast, aired in order to entice listening (or viewing) of an upcoming program; they may also include trailers, bumpers and other types of promotional material that are aired during a broadcast. Such promotions serve to identify a program that is already underway for those listeners/viewers who may be surfing or just tuning in, on the one hand, or to encourage already engaged audience members to remain tuned to that broadcast. It follows that the bumpers aired by Q107 going into and out of the commercial breaks during the Rolling Stones concert, as well as other language used by the host, all fall under the heading of “promotions”, as anticipated in Clause 12 of the Code. The question for the Panel is, then, whether those promotions were misleading.

On that point, the Panel considers that an ordinary reasonable listener could reach only one conclusion. The show promised to them was to be the live Rolling Stones Concert from that night. Nothing less. While the station said, in its reply to the complainants, “We certainly did not intend to deceive any of our listeners”, it hardly took their sensibilities into account. From the get-go, it said, “As promised, live Stones in Toronto comin’ up -“. And how coincidental was it, from a listener’s perspective, that the broadcast of the “old” concert began at precisely the same time as the live concert? And that the background sounds at the start of the concert were those of a crowd cheering and instruments warming up? To compound the likelihood that the audience would believe it was that night’s live concert, the radio host said:

Uh, the club gig, live, tonight, right now in Toronto at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. As promised all day, the Stones live in Toronto. Enjoy everybody, on Q107. [Emphasis added.]

According to the complainants (but unverified by the CBSC), similar comments about the upcoming “live” Rolling Stones performance were made on air for at least 36 hours leading up to the broadcast. Also, the bumpers during the broadcast stated “This is the Rolling Stones live in Toronto” and “This is the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band live.” The repeated juxtaposition of the word “live” and references to the Phoenix show occurring in the identical time period as the broadcast concert clearly left the impression to any listener that the broadcast was indeed that of the live 2005 Rolling Stones show. This impression was compounded by the sounds of a crowd cheering and other typical concert noises which served as background audio when Scholes was speaking. Further remarks such as “Phoenix Concert Theatre, 410 Sherbourne, the club gig for the Stones before they embark on their tour. It’s, uh, happening right now. More live Stones comin’ up, hang on” would have led any reasonable listener to assume that they were in fact listening to the concert then taking place at the Phoenix.

The only consequences are that Q107 has to broadcast this decision a number of specific times. But still, it’s pretty cool.


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