Posts tagged “sydney”

Krispian’s War Story: If Texas and England Had a Baby

Krispian Emert has over 12 years experience working in UX. She has worked all over the world: for startups, agencies, and companies like Microsoft, The NFL, Thompson Reuters, ING, etc. Currently, she is lead UX Researcher at TELUS digital. She told this story live at Radical Research Summit.

It was my first field study at my new job in Sydney, Australia. I had just uprooted my family and flown to the other side of the world to work for Australia’s largest user experience consultancy. Did I want to do a good job? You bet. Was I nervous? Hell, yes!

I had had a couple of weeks to settle in and explore the city, and to get to know my colleagues. My impression of Australian culture was that it was surprisingly similar to Canadian culture: We both have the Queen on our money, we both drink copious amounts of beer, and we both say “no worries” a lot. The only glaring difference I was able discern up to that point was that for a casual greeting Canadians asked “How’s it going?” and Australians asked, “How’re you going?” So I had experienced little culture shock thus far.

The assignment was for one of the big banks. We were to conduct contextual field studies in the moment while people used the bank’s ATMs. The only problem was that due to privacy constraints we had to recruit people just as they were about to use the ATM. This was made more challenging because the bank gave us very little in the way of official ID.

This meant that I, an extra polite Canadian, was nervously approaching busy Australians and anxiously stammering the first few sentences of my recruitment spiel. To say that I got turned down by my prospective interviewees is an understatement. The fact that I didn’t look “official” or in any way affiliated with the bank made me seem suspect at best, and criminal at worst. ATM users glared at me as though I were panhandling, and time after time, I was told to “Fuck off!”. I was worried that I wouldn’t complete the assignment. I needed 10 participants and after two hours I had exactly none.

As I stood in the street in Sydney, miles from home, failing to secure participants and on the receiving end of some choice language, I had a “Dorothy moment.” I was not in Canada anymore. Despite my initial impression that our countries were similar, I was in whole new culture – one where people were not afraid to say the F-word to a complete stranger. I realized I had to stop assuming people would stop and politely listen to my lengthy recruitment pitch, and that I had to just accept Australians for what they were – blunt and direct. I changed my approach, and went up to prospective participants boldly, waving my gift cards at them. I shortened my pitch to state only the benefits of participating in the research. This produced much better results.

They say that if Texas and England had a baby, it would be Australia. After this experience, I grew to appreciate the unique Australian culture of “wild west gunslinger meets cricket games and meat pies.”

And despite our differences, I guess we’re pretty similar after all.

The global watercooler


Sorry about the picture quality, but I grabbed this image quickly. I was in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia. A streetcar is went by and with an advertisement for The Walking Dead. Underneath the title of the show, the poster reads “Same day as the U.S.”

The value proposition here is that viewers can be part of the global conversation, taking place on social media. If you can’t see episodes of a popular show until days or weeks or months later (as has been the case for secondary markets) then you missed out on the party and it’s already spoiled.

Granted, with global time zones, this is not a fully synchronousexperience (but then neither is viewing in the U.S., with a three-hour breadth), but this is a fascinating sign of the times and more evidence that Water Cooler TV is still important.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Mice as Stand-Ins in the Fight Against Disease [New York Times] – Looks like this has been happening in some measure for a while, but some new methods are increasing the usage. The most science-fiction thing you’ll read all week.

In what could be the ultimate in personalized medicine, animals bearing your disease, or part of your anatomy, can serve as your personal guinea pig, so to speak. Some researchers call them avatars, like the virtual characters in movies and online games. “The mice allow you the opportunity to test drugs to find out which ones will be efficacious without exposing the patient to toxicity,” said Colin Collins, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

Australia 2012 [Flickr] – My complete set of pictures from Australia earlier this month.

Chinese families’ worldly goods in Huang Qingjun’s pictures [BBC] – We’ve seen other projects like this, but the focus on China captures a material culture in transition.

Amid China’s tumultuous dash to become rich, one man’s photographs of families posing with their worldly goods will soon seem like records from a distant era. Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people who have sometimes never been photographed to carry outside all their household possessions and pose for him. The results offer glimpses of the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese who, at first glance, appear not to have been swept up by the same modernisation that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities. But seen more closely, they also show the enormous social change that has come in a generation. So the photo of an elderly couple of farmers outside their mud house reveals a satellite dish, DVD player and phone.

Four Big Things, a phrase dating from 1950s for most sought-after goods for newly married couples: sewing machine, bicycle, watch, radio. It’s since come to refer to whatever is most fashionable at the time. By 1980s the four big things were: TV, washing machine, rice cooker, fridge. Now, consumer goods flood China’s cities, it tends to be used to describe people’s aspirations for the latest thing.

Must-See Video: How a Woman With No Arms Dresses Herself. What Assistance Can Design Provide? [Core 77] – I love the reaction; that excitement of discovering how current solutions could be improved. Designers are so great at bringing that creativity and know-how to bear to make change for the good. But let’s remember, we don’t need videos to be posted by users to uncover what things aren’t working for them. Are designers waiting for broken products to appear in front of them so they can spontaneously improve them, or are they out there looking at current behaviors and solutions in order to proactively find opportunities. Designers: you don’t need the disabled (or anyone) to post their own videos, go and shoot your own!

I hope that more folks with disabilities make videos like this, not just to share with others what their particular trials are, but to enable us designers to improve upon the objects they use.

FILMography – a Tumblr with an incredible series of images where a printout of a still from a film is held up in the actual location where that scene was shot. It’s a “trick” I’ve seen before but mostly as a one-off; the breadth here is fascinating.

FILM + photography = FILMography.

Out and About: Steve in Sydney (2 of 2)

I got back last week from two weeks in Australia, traveling around as well as speaking at UX Australia and Service Design Melbourne. Here is the second of four posts with some of the highlights. Part 1 is here.

All my pictures are making their way to Flickr, as well.

Nice combination of cultural iconography.

I liked seeing the range of medical services laid out like this. Not very confidence inspiring, however.

Manners poster.

Asian preferred.

A really awful brand name and sign. What does crocodile have to do with thai? And what is added by making him or it senior? It’s a puzzle.

Father’s Day is September 2.

Milk for the workplace. At last.

360Àö Self-Portrait at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Although there are no visual cues, the artist is in some contraption that moves her around, through a complete circle. As she moves, gravity deforms her face slightly while she essentially remains expressionless. The net effect is compelling and disorienting.

The 18th Biennale of Sydney was chock full of astonishing spectacle. Really wonderful. And I only heard about it because I checked in (via Foursquare) at the museum and a kindly person on Twitter suggested I head over to the island and see it.

A crushed car was on display and yet needed to be marked before and after with warning signs so that traffic going by would not be alarmed. Are the signs part of the work or something that is imposed on the artist in order to allow their work to proceed? And what does it mean to have a sign announcing “End Artwork” anyway? Is that an observation or an imperative?

Out and About: Steve in Sydney (1 of 2)

I got back last week from two weeks in Australia, traveling around as well as speaking at UX Australia and Service Design Melbourne. Here is the first of four posts with some of the highlights. All my pictures are making their way to Flickr, as well.

The diminutive is a common Australian form. Toasted sandwich becomes toastie. Football is footy. Breakfast is breaky/brekkie. Motorcycle gang member is bikie. Slot machine = pokie. Self-portrait is selfie. I saw this in advertising, building signage and the newspaper.

I’m certainly impressed to know that Sol Levy is such an esteemed tobacconist. What related line of business does he offer that requires one to be over 18 in order to take a trip down memory lane and reveal treasures? Some sort of vintage tobacco porn? The mind boggles.

The savory pie is an Australian dish, sold in all sorts of stores including the ubiquitous Pie Face, where their pies are decorated with, well you guessed it, faces.

Yet another example of personas (or the aesthetics of personas) turned into customer-facing messaging: “Hi, I’m James. I’m a freelance TV producer. But before you write me off as some sort of knob who owns a fancy European car, think again. I don’t even own a car! Instead, I just use GoGet Cars whenever I need one. So when I’m on a shoot and I’ve got expensive equipment to transport, I’ll use this van.”

I was astonished at how foreign I felt in Australia. Despite a common language, there are so many disconnects around vocabulary. This ad on the back of a bus reads “Grab an iinet Combo. It’s like a showbag for grown-ups.” Sure, I can read that, but what the heck are they talking about? Some Aussies clued me in that showbags are gift bags from the equivalent of state fairs. Whatever – that feeling of cluelessness was a particularly wonderful aspect of the whole trip.

Whether you say please or not, the option of opting out at the mailbox is something I’ve seen in Europe as well.

Prohibited clothing.

And more prohibitions.

This Week @ Portigal

Just a quick update for the week:

  • I’ve been in Sydney for the past few days, exploring, socializing, taking pictures and adjusting to the jet lag; tomorrow I head to Brisbane for my workshop at UX Australia. I’m looking forward to the Monday pub night where I’ll see a few local folks (and a few fellow travelers).
  • Check out my SXSW proposal for The Power of Bad Ideas. It’d be a tremendous help for me if you’d vote yes and add your comments, too!
  • Ten years gone: From August 2002 – a new story for SUV owners, kids and art.
  • What we’re consuming: Spice I Am, Circular Quay, PIE.


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