June 15, 2006
Don't you all know what each other is going to say?
So, one of the things that is explicit for me in planning IDEA is that I *don't* want the usual suspects speaking. I'm feeling particularly good about this as I look over at the latest cause of conference buzz, Aula.
The main public event features Clay Shirky, Joichi Ito, and the follow on private event includes Dan Gillmor and Dan Hill (also speaking at IDEA) and danah boyd and Adam Greenfield and Matt Jones and Timo Arnall and Justin Hall and Cory Doctorow and Ross Mayfield and all I can wonder is, "Don't you all know what you're going to say already?" I'm getting increasingly frustrated in these events (Etech is guilty of this, too) where it's the same old people singing much of the same old song.
Why aren't things getting shaken up more? Or are these just excuses for friends to hang out fabulously in public?
The World of The Sinister
I'm talking left-handed people. The most recent episode of Quirks and Quarks, CBC Radio's weekly science program, has a lengthy and interesting segment on what causes left-handedness (MP3, 20 min) (hint: still not quite known), and typical traits of left-handers. If you've got a left-handed person in your life, it's worth listening to! (And considering subscribing to the Q&Q podcast!)
June 12, 2006
Stories of the George Foreman grill
From the It's old but it's new to me department comes this story of the George Foreman grill as a means for the impoverished to prepare a meal.
I recently subscribed to a bunch of new podcasts, including NPR's Hidden Kitchens, and this was the first download. It's remarkably touching, particularly hearing George explain his upbringing, and how the grill that bears his name unintentionally became a point of utility and pride for those in adverse situations.
Thoughts while reading the premiere of IN: Inside Innovation
Its process of creation stirred controversy in the blogosphere. Last week, the first issue of BusinessWeek's Inside Innovation appeared to the world. Here are my thoughts as I read it.
- Marissa Mayer on the cover? Really? Did BusinessWeek feel a need to "catch up" to Fast Company? Do magazines talk of a Mayer gap? (Or, more likely, a woman gap?)
- Hmm... that Nokia phone sure is pretty. I wonder, though, if it's an example of "pretty device, shitty user interface."
- The tools and trends stuff seems pretty cool, and potentially useful. Though a bit scattered. I do like the idea of investing in a "customer experience" index fund.
- Hmm... that Swedish car sure is pretty. Why, though, is it starting to feel like the layout of this magazine is all about encouraging as little copy as possible?
- Oh, here comes the future of journalism -- blog posts as magazine copy! That's a cheap way to develop material. And look, it's "interactive," because it included comments from the original blog post (one by Steve. Hi Steve!). How To Get Copy Without Paying For It!
- Also, in the last paragraph of that blog post, Nussbaum uses the word "cool" twice in two sentences. Is Nussbaum the Dave Winer of innovation? I think so!
- O Patrick Whitney, with your eyes closed, and that smile -- do you want to kiss me?
- Though, yeah, the Institute of Design pretty much gets all this stuff better than anyone else... At Adaptive Path we've now hired two folks from their program, and have another as an intern this summer.
- So now BusinessWeek has anointed 25 people as their "champions of innovation," but have said almost nothing about how they were chosen, except for a brief "IN talked with innovation consultants, thought leaders, managers, and drivers of change inside corporations for this list." That's rigorous enough for me!
- Christ. More fawning coverage of Marissa Mayer. Why doesn't this article uncover the fact that there are whole swaths of Google who do what they can to avoid her? That they choose projects that don't report up to her because she's a terrible design critic? Or how she got her influence?
- Uh oh. "9 Notions of Innovation"? Is BusinessWeek falling into the facile magazine editorial trap of Numbering Things?
- What a pretty spread on pages 22-23! So many photos! So little copy! Oh look--Marissa reads Bruce Nussbaum's blog!
- Yes, it's interesting that 17 of the 25 "innovation champions" are women (though, again, how were they chosen?), but as the slide show proves, 24 of 25 are white Westerners. How do you take seriously a list of innovation champions that includes no one from Japan, South Korea, or China?
- Steve already said what needs to be said about "the ethnographer"
- I actually quite like the indata infographics -- clever, attractive, informative (though don't play so well on screen)
- I like the Keep the Change story, too, though it's frustrating that BofA wouldn't let BusinessWeek actually name the "innovation and design research firm in Palo Alto, Calif" or the "four researchers from a West Coast consulting firm." That's not really exhibiting partnership on BofA's part.
- I'm sorry, but inBlogs wins the award for "content-free" page in this issue. What are essentially three links are given an entire page, with meaningless whiteboard-scribblings as a backdrop.
- The Xbox page - uh, okay.
- Though falling under that cliched magazine editorial trap of Numbering Things, the Five Key Strategies for Managing Change is probably the single most valuable material in this entire issue (too bad it's at the end, after you've already thrown the magazine across the room). I appreciate Dev's quest for evidence (setting metrics and getting data), and suggestions on relationships (finding buddies and aiming for quick hits), because we've seen all these things succeed in our work.
And now some concluding thoughts...
- What's with the breathless prose? The copy in this issue is so rah-rah it would make an editor at FastCompany blush. You cannot take something seriously that isn't critical.
- *This* is the design that ended up causing all of that hullaballoo? I mean, while it's definitely easier on the eyes than standard BusinessWeek fare, it's remarkably conservative and dry. And every one of the illustrations is unflattering.
We'll see how this evolves come next quarter. I hope for some writing with *teeth*.
June 11, 2006
Don has a point but...
In a recent essay, Don Norman bitches about the tendency among designers and researchers to call the people who are the subject of their efforts anything but, well, "people."
And I think he has a point -- words do matter. Though I think he overstates the point -- those other labels (well, except for "consumer," which I'd like to see banned) have use as well.
Still, in a rant that features the phrase "we design for people," why on earth would Don not acknowledge Henry Dreyfuss' watershed book, Designing for People? (There's also the brilliantly titled "Housing as if People Mattered").