Posts tagged “user”

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 'Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed' inventor dies at 92 – The inventor of the "Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed," which brought weary travelers 15 minutes of "tingling relaxation and ease" for a quarter in hotel rooms across America during its heyday as a pop culture icon in the 1960s and '70s, has died.
  • Vending machines for Gold? – While it's just a plan at this point, it seems that the idea is more about disruption and promotion than simply "vending."
  • Let’s Embrace Open-Mindedness – My article published at Johnny Holland, considering the challenges in living up to the standard we set for ourselves. And there's a story about cheese, too!
  • Why some cultural products and styles die out faster than others – To investigate how cultural tastes change over time, Berger and Le Mens analyzed thousands of baby names from the past 100 years in France and the US. (Because there is less of an influence of technology or advertising on name choice, baby names provide a way to study how adoption depends on primarily internal factors.) The researchers found a consistent symmetry in the rise and fall of individual names; in other words, the longer it took for a name to become popular, the longer it took for the name to fade out of popularity, and thus the more staying power it had compared to names that quickly rose and fell. The effect was robust, occurring in both countries and across various time windows.

    According to the results, the quicker a cultural item rockets to popularity, the quicker it dies. This pattern occurs because people believe that items that are adopted quickly will become fads, leading them to avoid these items, thus causing these items to die out.

    (via Lone Gunman)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Cows with names produce more milk, scientists say – The story is slightly hyperbolic – a cow with a name is a proxy for all the other differentiating factors in cow-care. "Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name can – at no extra cost to the farmer – also significantly increase milk production. Maybe people can be less self conscious and not worry about chatting to their cows."
    (via @timstock)
  • Time magazine has called Beer Lao Asia’s best local beer, but outside Laos it's almost impossible to find – Like a film festival winner without a distribution deal, the rice-based lager has struggled to turn cult status into anything other than good press. Just 1 percent of its annual production is exported. Lao Brewery hopes to change that. It would like to see 10 percent sold abroad, and it is counting on Vang Vieng’s beer-loving backpackers to help them make the sale.

    Lao Brewery is building a network of fans-turned-distributors who import and sell the beer in select markets. Some distributors are former travelers who see potential in a brand with little international exposure. Others just really like the beer.

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Listening to customer feedback? Twenty-Five Years of Post-it Notes (Thx, @susandra) – In '77, 3M decided to test-market. It failed to ignite interest. “When we did the follow-up research, there just weren’t a lot of people saying this was a product they wanted.”
    "We knew the test markets failed, but we just kept saying, ‘Maybe it was us. Maybe we did something wrong. Because it couldn’t be the product—the product was great.”
    To see for themselves how people responded to Post-it Notes, 2 execs cold-called offices, giving away samples and showing people how to use 'em. The responses were more enthusiastic. “Those things really were like cocaine. You got them into somebody’s hands, and they couldn’t help but play around with them.”
    1 more test was in order. They got newspapers to run stories about it. They festooned stationery stores with banner displays and point-of-purchase materials. 1000s of samples were sent to office managers, purchasing agents, lawyers, etc. People demonstrated it to potential customers. It was a huge success, and 3M decided to launch Post-Its.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Peter Arnell Explains Failed Tropicana Package Design – Big outcry over the Tropicana packaging design (which this suggests was NOT tested but that's hard to believe) led to a return to the previous packaging.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Malcolm Gladwell on the Aeron chair – The Aeron chair was originally despised and deemed ugly. It didn’t catch on for 2 years, and then it quickly became the most popular chair. Everyone came to love it. Gladwell concludes that people find responses about some topics extremely difficult to articulate. While they may think they dislike something (like the Aeron chair), in their hearts they may actually like it. There is a disconnect that causes people to express dislike in their heads while they actually like it in their hearts (and vice versa).
  • Listening to customer feedback? Hate Facebook's new look? You'll like it soon enough. – Slate advances the point that people react to change negatively but eventually get used to the change and make it work.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Problems With NBC’s ‘Parks & Recreation’ – When do you listen to negative feedback and when do you follow your vision? I think there's an important middle-ground that is often ignored: understanding what lies beneath that feedback and choosing carefully if and how to respond to it, or how to create supporting activities that help get over the barriers that the rejection points to

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Design Research Methods for Experience Design – Triading is a method that allows a researcher to uncover dimensions of a design space that are pertinent to its target audience. In triading, researchers present three different concepts or ideas to participants and ask them to identify how two of them are different from the third. Participants describe, in their own terms, the dimensions or attributes that differentiate the concepts. Participants follow this process iteratively—identifying additional attributes they feel distinguish two of the concepts from the third until they can’t think of any other distinguishing factors.

    The benefit of this process is that it uncovers dimensions of a particular domain that are important to the target audience rather than the researcher or designer. For example, participants may describe differences in groups as “warm” versus cold” or business-like” versus fun.” Designers can then use the most relevant or common dimensions as inspiration for further design and exploration.

  • Mapping Oakland – Mapping Oakland is a research project aimed at mapping people’s perceptions of neighborhoods and urban space within the City of Oakland. Mental maps have been used in geography to understand individual perceptions of space and place for sometime. The method has proven useful in helping geographers understand how people perceive elements within the landscape for navigational purposes and to understand the cultural value of spaces. This web site provides citizens throughout Oakland access to a survey that measures how people perceive and use public open space in the City of Oakland.
  • How ethnic groups change Oakland neighborhoods – When Robert Lemon, a UC Berkeley landscape architecture grad student, was a community planner in Columbus, Ohio, he noticed that despite the car-oriented landscape, residents of the city's Latino community, for the most part, liked to get around on foot and bicycle and, as a result, were bending the neighborhood to their collective will. Taco trucks and open-air produce markets popped up in vacant parking lots on one of the city's main shopping thoroughfares. The bicycle was a key mode of transportation even though there weren't dedicated bike lanes, and colorful murals appeared on the walls of large buildings. The neighborhood had the feel of small-town Oaxaca, the Mexican state from which many of the city's Latinos hailed.

    In California, he found similar changes occurring in Oakland's Fruitvale and Chinatown neighborhoods. He is conducting a formal survey as part of a fellowship & has gone through Oakland's diverse neighborhoods, walking up and down the streets asking questions.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Dave Cortright's #1 takeaway from Interaction 09 Redux – "Steve Portigal gave a condensed version of his workshop Well, we did all this research…now what? But the one thing I took away was something simple, yet obvious in hindsight. When you are doing observational and ethnographic research, the observee is the boss. They are always right. Their knowledge, experience, feelings, work environment etc. is the truth, and it is the truth that you seek. You are not there to fix things, or correct them, or show off how smart you are. You are there to learn about the world from their perspective."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Report: Real-world police forensics don't resemble 'CSI' – Even before the popularity of shows like CSI, there was presumably a cultural belief in the "science" behind these techniques. But the report finds that:
    – Fingerprint science "does not guarantee that two analysts following it will obtain the same results."
    – Shoeprint and tire-print matching methods lack statistical backing, making it "impossible to assess."
    – Hair analyses show "no scientific support for the use of hair comparisons for individualization in the absence of (DNA)."
    – Bullet match reviews show "scientific knowledge base for tool mark and firearms analysis is fairly limited."
    – Bite-mark matches display "no scientific studies to support (their) assessment, and no large population studies have been conducted."
  • NJOY electronic cigarette – Looks like a real cigarette, complete with glowing tip on inhale, and exhaled vapor that resembles smoke. Gives an inhaled nicotine experience, while messaging to the rest of the world that you are really smoking a real lit cigarette. Paging Erving Goffman?

    Someone was using one a party last week; someone else got out their simulated Zippo lighter (an iPhone app) and lit it for them.

Fruit 2.0

It’s great to see an awareness of user experience popping up in humble, low-tech places. Grabbing an apple yesterday, I discovered the small arrow pictured below at the top of the sticker, telling me exactly how to get the label off my fruit. Delightful. No apple under my fingernails on this one.

User Interface

And last week, I had another fruit-related experience that, while not as unequivocally positive, was still thought-provoking.

I poured myself a bowl of cereal-no raisins. Looked all through the plastic liner bag-no raisins. Figured I had defective cereal. Then I noticed a little yellow callout on the box-“Stay Fresh Fruit Pouch Inside Box.”

Sure enough, there it was at the bottom of the box-a silver foil pouch full of raisins. The experience promised by Health Valley on the pouch: eternally fresh, plump raisins and my choice as to the cereal/raisin ratio for each bowl.

Custom Cereal

While I still think I prefer having my cereal pre-mixed and ready-to-pour, I do appreciate the concept of this approach-the appeal to freshness and personal tailoring. Though I’d suggest that Health Valley do a better job calling attention to their packaging system, so that people don’t have to go through the same terrible moment of perceived raisinlessness that I did.

Learned Behavio(u)r

One of the fun yet challenging aspects of spending two weeks in another country was stumbling over all the little things that I know how to do back home but didn’t work. I paid for a snack using pocket change, and eventually had to hold the pile of coins out to the counter dude so he could take the right amount. The coins say their value, in English, but in order to complete a transaction in the normal amount of time, you have to be familiar. It was an interesting feeling, to be such a foreigner.

At another point, I was riding the DLR (train) with my Oyster (smart card). A conductor comes along to swipe the card and there’s a small interaction where the passenger holds out the card and the conductor holds out the wand (yes, it was a wand, not the usual credit-card-swipey-slot thing). I wanted to put my card on top of his wand, but he wanted to put his wand on top of my card. I was just supposed to know the gesture. Sounds like a bit of a dominance issues, actually.

In using the self-check at Tesco (a grocery store), I realized the software was the same as what I’ve seen here at Home Depot, etc. but when it came time to pay, the voice prompt told me to insert my card into the chippenpin device. Turns out this was Chip-and-PIN, where credit cards and/or ATM cards have extra security via an embedded chip, and an associated PIN. These readers use a different swipe gesture, with the card going in the bottom of the keypad. Anyway, I stood there with my non-chipped credit card, putting it in and out of this bottom slot, to no avail. After I surrendered and paid cash, I realized there was the familiar vertical swipe slot along the bezel of the monitor, a different piece of hardware than the chippenpin.

And this one was subtle but confounding:
This is the TV remote from my Paris hotel room but the London hotel had a similar issue. In my experience, the red power button turns the TV on and turns the TV off. But in both these hotel rooms (and maybe this was a hotel issue more than a Euro issue) the way to turn it was to press the channel buttons. Enter a channel and the TV would go on and display that channel. The power button was actually on “off” button. You can imagine me sitting in front of the TV with a remote and trying to turn it on, in vain, until frustrated random button press gave me the result I wanted.

I often look around at local transit and marvel at how much the cues and other information in those systems are designed for people who already know how to use them; but I was able to plan for and learn about transit enough to be come a fairly comfortable user. It was these small interactions without cues, and under time pressure, where I found myself bemusedly incompetent.

A seat at the table

You may have already seen this proposed seat layout around the blogosphere. It appears today in USATODAY

PAIG and its design partner, Acumen, used experts from 12 major international carriers as a focus group in developing the seats. None of those 12 – which Bettell said he can’t identify because of non-disclosure agreements – has placed an order yet.

This raises an issue well articulated by Graham Marshall at the IDSA SHIFT event this past weekend…that in many business situations, the people being designed for aren’t just the end user, but include partners, and customers (where customers refers to the company who buys the product, such as Target, UPS, or United Airlines). Of course, as Graham made clear, it’s crucial to develop with and for all those groups. Here we’ve got a story about a company that ran (yuk) focus groups with the airlines only. Sure, those people have asses and backs, so they could try the seats out (assuming the focus group went full-out and had model seats that could be experienced) but they are not the ultimate user of the seats. It seems that doesn’t really matter at this stage of the process! You’ll sit in ’em and you’ll like ’em!


It’s not a new phenomenon by any means, but the fake Amazon product reviews are hilarious and surreal. Is this subverting Amazon’s attempt at community building/crowdsourcing/whatever? How does Amazon decide when reviews are too far out or should they even?


Having spent 20 years in the Far East I returned to Blitey with a greying head of hair. This unforseen aging process also affected my tash. Now, a tash is the signature of a Far East Expat, everyone knows that. So, yes hullo, I had to try and salvage what dignity I had.

I first of all tried to dye my tash. This resulted in me going to A&E for severe burns to the upper lip and they had to shave my white tickler off. I was distraught. I had an important meeting with some government ministers the following week and I would never grow my pride and joy back in time.

Hense my intro to FAKE MUSTACHE – 6 WAY. I was saved, and I had 5 spares incase number 1 fell into my beer.

My meeting with the governement ministers went very well indeed and everyone commented on how good I looked and how my tash had grown to a quality expat thickness.

I now no longer grow my natural tash as ‘6 WAY’ is more versatile and I can put it to bed at night (I have a little action man bunkbed for him) meaning I dont have a shabby tash in the morning.

Hurrray for 6 WAY.

Yes hullo…


Is there a man, woman, or child who would not benefit from ownership of a FAKE MUSTACHE – 6 WAY? I think not. Once the crucial element of Rosalind’s transformation in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, now the centerpiece of my casual Friday wear, the FAKE MUSTACHE – 6 WAY is as timeless as hair itself.

The product ships with an extensive manual describing the different curves the moustache can take, but neglects to list the six accepted ways of wearing the hairpiece:

1) Below the nose, above the lip: the classic; highly recommended.

2) Atop a bald head, in lieu of a toupee: be careful when removing your bowler.

3) On one’s right-hand index finger: briefly popular during the Victorian era; long out of favor in polite society.

4) On one’s bait and tackle: a delightful surprise. Ladies love this, as will your fellow fishermen.

5) Atop one’s feet: requires two moustaches. One bare foot looks ridiculous.

6) On the cheek: a jaunty variant of the classic upper palate.

It saddens me that I need to say this, but I have seen too many neglected moustaches to remain silent: please, gentlemen, take care of your moustache! I heartily recommend Colonel Ichabod Conk’s Moustache Wax. If you can withstand the Colonel’s grim visage staring at you from beyond the grave (and the side of the jar), your FAKE MUSTACHE – 6 WAY will thank you for the much-needed wax job.

The sharpest knives in the drawer

Zippy profile of Oxo in the LATimes.

“We do a lot of shopping, we do a lot of talking to consumers and chefs,” Sohn said. “We do consumer testing, we do a lot of surveys, we talk to people we know, people our sales reps know, all over the country.”

Oxonians also apparently do a lot of yelling. Sohn said product meetings among the staff can be brutal, in a culture where criticism is not just encouraged but venerated.

Surprisingly, what Oxo does not do is design. The staff is made up of product managers and engineers, all focusing on the idea end. They then work with nine industrial design firms, including two in Japan, to translate pie-cutter-in-the-sky notions into eminently usable gadgets.

“The ideas of what to make and what features to offer come from here,” Lee said, then designers at companies such as Smart Design in New York and Bally in Pittsburgh do the rest.


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