Posts tagged “transparency”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Apple Says Chinese Supplier Made Changes After Suicides [] – [The awkward truths revealed by increased transparency around our fancy gadgets is a topic we've discussed before. Here, Apple's investigation is admirable, but hotlines and nets to catch suicidal employees do not seem to be adequate solutions reaching towards the core of the problem.] Apple said that Mr. Cook and a team of independent suicide prevention experts conducted a review of Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen in June and made a series of recommendations. Mr. Cook and the team also reviewed changes that Foxconn had put in place, which included “hiring a large number of psychological counselors, establishing a 24-hour care center and even attaching large nets to the factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides,” Apple said in the report. “The investigation found that Foxconn’s response had definitely saved lives.” Apple said it recommended areas for improvement, including “better training of hotline staff and care center counselors and better monitoring to ensure effectiveness.”
  • [from steve_portigal] Create with people, really! [] – [Google Translate excerpt from a French review of our innovation session at Lift11] But this is not the most important, says Steve Portigal, because all these methods can be acquired by whoever wishes. No, the most important thing is to change the culture, the process by which we do things. "Companies often think they know the problem and are confident they know to solve it, better than anyone." It is their products, services, customers, suppliers, engineers … But a little humility does not hurt, the consultant recognizes the height of his experience "It is actually rather sit back and see that the problem is not what we thought. We must confront the ambiguity and be tolerant to other approaches, to reach the measure of data (and methods). "
  • [from steve_portigal] Shorter E-Books Show Promise for Mobile Devices [] – [In ReadingAhead we called for the creation of *digital* reading experiences] The Atavist is (publishing) stories that are longer than a typical article but shorter than a novel ­ in the hope that they will find a home on the glassy screens of mobile devices. The dimensions of mobile devices are quite limited. So it’s important to exploit the advantages that the devices do have. Success depends on thinking beyond a “one-to-one transition from book to e-book,” and on doing more than replacing paper with pixels. The Atavist integrates clever tools into the text, like interactive timelines and character biographies to help a reader quickly find her place without spoiling the plots…But it’s much too early to know whether the Atavist and its brethren will become permanently rooted in our reading culture or become a “fossil, embedded in the archaeology of the medium of reading…We are seeing a new category take shape that reflects a new paradigm of what it means to read on a new device.”
  • [from steve_portigal] Geneva and Lyon, 2011 [a set on Flickr] – [Photos from my trip to Geneva (with a side trip to Lyon) for Lift11]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Yes Men Attack Apple, Advertising Special "Conflict-Free" iPhone [Fast Company] – [I blogged earlier this month about the increasing but not-always-pleasant transparency emerging around the ingredients and manufacturing practices that enable our beloved gadgets. Well, the Yes Men have taken hold of the idea. Their fake web site raises some good questions. What do we do, now that we know?] The Yes Men, the group of clever activist/designer pranksters, struck again this week–or tried to. Their target this time? Apple. They launched a website that was a spitting image for Apple's, and professed to be announcing a new product: the iPhone4CF. 'CF' stood for conflict-free, and the site promised that the new phone was exactly like the normal iPhone 4, only it didn't source its minerals from conflict-ridden regions like the Democratic Republic of Congo, thereby fueling atrocities there. The Yes Men has taken on some very big targets in the past–Chevron, the US Chamber of Commerce–but they seem to have met their match in Apple.

Cupcake Take: Steve

Broken fridge, San Diego, July 2010

Imagine running a commercial kitchen that produces your flagship product. What do you do when a key piece of equipment breaks? While there was probably some freaking out, this gourmet cupcake shop found a necessarily-small-business solution: move everything to a new refrigerator, in this case, the beverage cooler right inside the front door. Doing this effectively brought the backstage into the frontstage. Not only is there transparency here about their process of making cupcakes (as Julie describes here), they are also transparent about their challenges in running a small business. While companies like Google can get away with the Beta label currying forgiveness for the not-ready-for-prime-time-but-we’ll-use-it-anyway-for-free line of products, we probably wouldn’t be charmed by a sticky note on a broken server that contains our data. Some things are mission critical, but having to reach around some eggs to get my can of Mountain Dew isn’t one of them. It’s kinda fun and surprising to see the backstage appear frontstage (see the kitchen design at In-N-Out Burger) and charming that this business could take what was nominally a failure and create a gentle celebration around it.

Also see: Vodafone celebrates construction around their retail outlets here and a far less celebratory sign from the same store here.

Cupcake Take: Julie

We believe in the power of transparency at many different levels. We regularly advise our clients to leverage transparency as a design strategy. Over the years, our research repeatedly shows that people are more comfortable when they know where their stuff comes from, what’s in it, and who’s making it, and that this comfort leads to good things like loyalty, brand affinity, adoption.

Transparency around gadgets is getting some attention these days. Some of the spotlight has been focused on

While our shiny devices have made our individual worlds more transparent through features such as GPS, augmented reality and user reviews, the devices themselves still feel magical. Their origins and inner workings are utterly mysterious. As our relationships with these devices deepen, as a culture we are becoming more interested in what we’re consuming.

Take a look at how transparency feels in this much lower-tech analog: gourmet cupcakes. At a cupcake shop in San Diego, ingredients were featured rather than hidden because of a refrigerator malfunction. The backstage became front-and-center, as Steve talks about here.

As a customer, it felt great to have a window into the process, in a kind of “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” way. Gourmet cupcakes are made of the same things we use at home! Wholesome! Recognizable! Comforting! Trustworthy. When I took a bite of the finished product my enjoyment was subtly enhanced by knowing what I was sinking my teeth into.

Transparency as a policy is risky in some cases, of course. Knowing more about my cupcake felt good; finding out about what’s inside my iPhone is not producing those same reassuring feelings!

Thank you for voting

Thank you for voting, Green Valley, AZ, January 2009

An interesting way to toot one’s own horn. This sign in Papa Murphy’s prominently yet graciously thanks us for voting for them as BEST PIZZA CHAIN in America. To paraphrase Monty Python, I didn’t vote for them. Did you? In fact, a little investigation reveals that this was a customer satisfaction and preference survey by Restaurants & Institutions Magazine. A survey is not an election. No one voted for anything.

R&I’s Consumers’ Choice in Chains survey respondents are a representative sample of U.S. consumers weighted to match the population by age, gender, household income, ethnicity and region. In all, 3,132 adults provided data about their awareness and patronage of more than 200 of the largest U.S. chains. These brands were selected for inclusion based on rankings in R&I’s 2007 Top 400 Chains list. The margin of error for this data is +/- 2%.
To gauge customer loyalty, respondents who patronized a chain in the past year are asked whether they intend to return. In addition, guest satisfaction on eight attributes is measured through customers’ ratings of each chain they patronized. To derive overall scores, performance on the attributes is weighted according to the category. This is done using separate ratings that consumers provide to indicate the importance of each attribute in selecting a restaurant in a given category. The weighted overall score can be used to compare chain performance across segments.

I applaud Papa Murphy for trying to induce a sense of participation in their patrons, reframing an external assessment as something that we can feel some involvement in, thereby sharing in their success. But the fact that the claim doesn’t stand up to just a little bit of scrutiny reveals them to be a little bit dishonest. Almost, but not quite.

See previously: Local Starbucks exhibits passion for their customers

Paying for ease-of-use/trust

Yesterday’s NYT Magazine article about the check cashing industry offered an insightful anecdote about the sometimes counter-intuitive tradeoffs people make:

I met Oscar Enriquez leaving the Nix branch in Highland Park, a working-class area near Pasadena. He was skinny and just shy of middle age, with a quick grin and tattoos down his sunburned forearms. Enriquez worked in the neighborhood as a street cleaner; he picks up trash and scrubs graffiti. The job paid about $425 a week, he told me, a good chunk of which he wired to his wife, who has been living in Mississippi and taking care of her ailing mother. He told me he tries to avoid debt whenever he can. “If I don’t have money, I wait until the next payday,” he said firmly. “That’s it.” But he pays a fee to cash his paychecks. Then he pays even more to send a Moneygram to his wife. There’s a bank, just down the street, that could do those things free. I asked him why he didn’t take his business there.

“Oh, man, I won’t work with them no more,” Enriquez explained. “They’re not truthful.”

Two years ago, Enriquez opened his first bank account. “I said I wanted to start a savings account,” he said. He thought the account was free, until he got his first statement. “They were charging me for checks!” he said, still upset about it. “I didn’t want checks. They’re always charging you fees. For a while, I didn’t use the bank at all, they charged like $100 in fees.” Even studying his monthly statements, he couldn’t always figure out why they charged what they charged. Nix is almost certainly more expensive, but it’s also more predictable and transparent, and that was a big deal to Enriquez.

Banks (and phone companies, cable companies, airlines, etc.) are institutions that are not easy to use. There’s a lot of fine print, arcane legalese, hidden fees, and a general lack of transparency. Here’s someone with a limited amount of income that makes the calculation and pays a significant amount of that limited income to avoid going through that. The relationship with the bank failed for Oscar, and he’s paying money to avoid dealing with them.

We normally think of the privileged as those who buy their way out of inconvenience and hassle, but really, it’s something we do at all income levels. It’s just that our experiences frame what is and isn’t a hassle. If we’re middle class then we expect to be jerked around by Big Business because we have all our lives-as-consumers. If we’re lower class and we haven’t had those experiences, it may be less likely that we’ll tolerate them.

Yeah, I think she worked here or somethin’

In a nice attempt at transparency, NBC’s official site for ER includes a section about former cast members, entitled (of course) Where Are They Now (sans question mark)

So where’s Julianna Margulies now?

(emphasis mine)

Julianna Margulies spent a total of six years playing Nurse Carol Hathaway on the medical drama ER. After leaving the show, Margulies went on to star in a number of plays and movies. Her career took her to the stage of the Lincoln Center to the starring role in such movies as “Ghost Ship” and “Snakes on a Plane”.

Note the horrendous grammar, the highlighting of some poor films and of course, no mention of her new starring role in Canterbury’s Law (on FOX). Maybe NBC isn’t quite as genuine/generous with its transparency as we’re supposed to believe. Don’t publicists check up on stuff like this? Or are they totally powerless once the contract with NBC is over?

We need a new term like greenwashing that describes the false transparency such as what we see here from NBC (and whether it’s ineptitude or malice, the lack of care and finish tell us something about what NBC cares about).


We’re located near the Pacific Ocean, where Highway 1 scoots along past small towns like ours, and then zips long a crazy road known as Devil’s Slide, with a mountain to the east and a cliff edge to the left. A tunnel is being built (after decades of controversy and planning) but most of the progress is hidden by the mountain itself. Not to mention that as you drive along at breakneck speed, it behooves you not to peer too closely at whatever is not the road itself.

So what are they building in there? Well, Caltrans, in a remarkable display of transparency, has photographers who document the work as it progresses. The pictures are really amazing, showing the people, the process, and the previously hidden environment. For some these are simply your usual construction photos, but for people who drive by there every day, waiting for the tunnel to open (2011 or something) and have little sense of the work behind the scenes, this is a really wonderful peek. There are tons and tons of pictures to browse, and I’ve nicked a few, below.








Fruit Comes To The Door – but from how far?

In Fruit Comes To The Door I wrote about some our experience with home delivery of organic produce

Small farms – I don’t know if this true and I don’t care to verify it but I get the vibe that the producers of these products (perhaps because of the organic thing) are small businesses themselves, and as consumers we hear about the corporate farms and how that’s vaguely bad, so there’s a further flavor of Doing Good attached to this purchase.
Local farms – Again, I don’t know if this is true, but it’s part of the mythology of the service – but I’m guessing the food hasn’t come a long way (the stand itself highlights some local farms). We’re being told that having a product sit on a truck and burn fuel to go a long distance isn’t good for us or the environment.

Nice improvement to the weekly pricelist from Sweet Peas (in the form of a spreadsheet) – now includes the name of the grower, their location, and the distance to Montara, where Sweet Peas (and we) are located.

Much, but not everything is local (however you interpret that term), but at least they are transparent about it. Way to go, Sweet Peas!

Speaking of local food, I had an amazing (free) lunch at Google’s Cafe 150 a few weeks back. Everything is from within 150 miles.


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