June 01 - June 09, 2001
May 01 - May 31, 2001
April 01 - April 30, 2001
March 01 - March 31, 2001
February 01 - February 28, 2001
January 01 - January 31, 2001
December 01 - December 31, 2000
November 01 - November 30, 2000
October 01 - October 31, 2000
September 01 - September 30, 2000
August 01 - August 30, 2000
July 01 - July 27, 2000
June 01 - June 30, 2000
May 24 - May 31, 2000
May 1 - May 23, 2000
April 1 - April 30, 2000
March 1 - March 31, 2000
February 1 - February 29, 2000
January 1 - January 31, 2000
December 1 - December 31, 1999
November 1 - November 30, 1999
October 16 - October 31, 1999
October 1 - October 15, 1999
September 8 - September 30, 1999
August 29 - September 7, 1999
August 13 - August 27, 1999
August 6 - August 12, 1999
July 25 - August 5, 1999
July 17 - July 24, 1999
July 11 - July 16, 1999
July 01 - July 10 1999
June 09 - June 30 1999
June 01 - June 08 1999
All of 1998
meets wireless. The
Wireless Roundtable is a group of New York user experience
types getting together to make strides in developing smart practices
for designing for mobility.
I like the name.
My friend Andrea is working on a wireless thesis project called
Annotate Space is a project to develop experiential
forms of journalism and nonfiction storytelling for use
at specific locations. The stories will be presented in
the form of web pages that users can download to their PalmOS
PDAs, with some materials available as MP3 audio files.
I will author and produce materials for 3 or 4 different
guided experiences of public spaces in New York City, and
test these materials with individuals and small groups.
The idea, in short,
is to go beyond Vindigo,
into applications that aren't so purchase-oriented.
One thing I wonder
about is the marrying of location-based devices with collaborative
filtering. "People who walked down this street also walked
down...", "People who ate at this diner also ate
at..." Or the idea of leaving virtual notes in locations,
things to be picked up by people later. Marry that with Epinions,
and you could have someone review anything at a spot, and
those who come to that spot read more about it. (Let's set
aside the un-likelihood of folks writing reviews as they wander...)
I dunno. I'm guess I'm thinking place-aware Third
Voice. Um, the original, notes-leaving version of Third
Voice, not the current QuickClick
More on Wireless.
pointed me to Fiona
Raby's talk at the Doors of Perception conference.
makes [wireless] so potentially interesting is that this
tiny screen is networked into a much richer and more complex
social and cultural infrastructure.
much more eloquently than I, many of the issues I addressed
previously. A little rooting around turned up Ms.
Raby's website, showing design projects from the last
10 years, including a fair amount on FLIRT,
which she discussed at Doors. (Unfortunately, her use of frames
doesn't read well on Win/IE. I'm guessing she's a Mac type.)
favorite Asian Dot Com Millionaire
pointed to ZeFrank's collection
of web toys. Hoo-eee. Lotsa clicking fun to have here. I <heart>
Meine Kleine Draw Toy.
on Design for Mobile/Wireless Devices
At SXSW, among the more invigorating panels was a discussion
on designing for wireless technologies. Some notes/ideas from
A flaw in the design of many websites is that they do not
fit within a user's context--they were designed to replace
it. There was a bizarre assumption that users would happily
transfer all that activity to the Web. This faulty understanding
was a core factor contributing to the ineffectiveness of many
sites. In reality, a web site is lucky to get, oh, 15 minutes
out of a person's day. A smart designer understands this as
a constraint, and builds a system to support it.
Happily, what I
saw on the wireless panel was an understanding of this behavior,
probably due to the form of wireless devices. Small portable
objects. They obviously cannot replace a current experience,
but it's clear they can augment one.
of Exploiting Proximity in Design
The obvious benefit in using mobile computers is that, by
being with you, they can assist you in the context of your
other activities. An example is Vindigo--it's
9pm, you've just seen a movie, and you want a bite to eat.
But where to go? Vindigo will point you to restaurants (with
reviews) located near you.
As GPS become standard
in such devices, they'll automatically know where you are.
These computers will best be of help by being aware of your
surroundings. What I'm wondering is--has anyone developed
any models or theories around designing for location-aware
technologies? I was hoping MIT's
Oxygen project was going to speak to it, but I can't find
anything of interest. So far, the emphasis has been on the
tech--where are the models of use?
not about the screen
an unfortunate bias in design towards the visual artifact,
such that when people think about "Designing for Wireless"
they think about "designing for a teeny-weeny screen."
There are two problems with this.
The first is that
auditory interfaces make TONS more sense with small wireless
devices, particularly (and obviously) cell phones. They all
have microphones and speakers built in--why aren't those used
more? And why are they never used in tandem with the visual
The second is that
designing for wireless shouldn't be about designing for a
particular mode of output, anyway--it should be design toward
augmenting an experience, the presentation of some little
bit of content, of information, in the context of a real-world
setting. It's the design of the process of interaction, not
of the outcome of those interactions.
about that screen...
During the talk, there was a fair amount of discussion over
having to design for multiple wireless devices. A "write
once, view everywhere" sentiment. An assumption that
the wide variety of displays we now have will always be here.
Which doesn't ring
true. If we've learned anything from the deployment of new
technologies, it's that while there might be an explosion
of contenders at the beginning, the market tends to settle
on one or two after a while (see: operating systems, web browsers).
Such that this immediate need to support multiple displays
is likely more a hiccup of The Moment than a legitimate design
requirement going forward.
Now, there will
likely be heightened development of specialized devices, like
the Modo (RIP). But it won't be expected that the content
on your cell phone is the same as what would have been displayed
on the Modo. (And no, I don't think the failure of Modo is
significant in determining trends in wireless... It was simply
a matter of bad timing.)
There's not a lot out there on truly smart design for wireless
on wireless experiences, and their UXBlog
often address it (I recommending register, for free, to their
User Experience of Mobile Computing).
PDA/Wireless links. Nothing new since October 2000!
Aware Computing, and the Nomad
interests in mobile context aware systems, and the GUIDE
I still plan on
posting my thoughts on wireless. It's just that these things
take time. Which I don't have. Did I mention I started a company?
About The Content. Signal V Noise clips
a blurb from a UIE newsletter, talking about how content-related
issues were the primary obstacles in online shopping (not
site-functionality issues). For what it's worth, I've seen
exactly this thing. (In fact, I posted a
note to CHI-Web that inadvertently addressed this.) User
research without real content proved almost worthless. Yet
all of the standard product development processes tend to
treat content as an afterthought. This needs to change.
around with color schemes when I should be writing. Of
course, once I decide on a color scheme, I have to go back
and change the whole site. Bleah.
Brain full of thoughts. Some stuff from SXSW. And I haven't
even written my copious thoughts on wireless.
Watch excerpts in Quicktime format: high
bandwidth | low
bandwidth. Scott, as usual, was a delight. I had little
to do but wind him up--he'd happily just go and go. He also
called me "Pete," many times, much to the amusement
of my friends.
The P2P and wireless panels were my favorite at the show.
They had the energy that Web panels had a few years ago--wide-eyed
enthusiasts excited by the possibilities of a new frontier.
And they provided the most interesting thought fodder. P2P
featured Brandon Wiley from FreeNet
(who loved calling things "beautiful"), Gordon Mohr
from Bitzi, Sean Parker,
cofounder of Napster (who couldn't say much, due to legal
restrictions), and Cory
Doctorow from OpenCola
(perhaps the smartest person I met at the conference.)
to this point, the discussions
of P2P I've observed frustrate me because they're largely
focused on the tech, or libertarian ideals, or micropayments,
and rarely address what people might actually *do* with the
technology (and attempts at building compelling applications
with the technology, like Groove,
are often scoffed at as not-P2P-enough). During the panel,
utility was discussed, but only briefly.
question I posed was, "Is P2P all that interesting in
and of itself? Is it some new special sauce, or is it what
we've seen before, only moreso?" The answers I got were
pretty much the latter (though the panelists, in their heady
pioneering, would probably disagree). I walked away feeling
that P2P is simply another step in the evolution of the internet,
not the terrific buzz-worthy quantum leap that it's been hyped.
This doesn't mean it's not interesting--the opportunities
made feasible when every computer is a server are potentially
thrilling--it just doesn't feel like the New New Thing.
I moderated a panel on emerging trends and cultural implications
of interface design, wherein the recurring theme dealt with
how the barriers between design and use were coming down--more
and more, design processes incorporate user input, and, more
and more, the final product is built to be tailored, if not
designed, but the communities that use them.
Rickenberg, of Standard Deviation Studios (no website yet),
discussed "users as designers" in the historical
context of vernacular architecture. He also mentioned design
patterns as guidelines derived from VA. (Interested in
vernacular architecture? Of course, there's a website
devoted to it.)
Seargeant, from frog,
discussed the "passionate producer" -- wherein the
device user plays an integral role in its development. She
touched on two primary models--participatory design (as practiced
by Sonic Rim) and Kansei engineering. Kansei
engineering is a process by which designers derive and
then incorporate the consumer's emotional connections with
the product. The best-known product of such a process is the
Miata. For an insightful take on Kansei in human-computer
interaction, read chapter 16 of Bruce Tognazzini's delightful
on Software Design. (You do own that book, right?
on Interface, too, right? If not, well, um, do so.)
ended her talk with a quote from Clement Mok:
"We're moving beyond the idea of easy-to-use into
a more rigorous period of thinking about usabilityuser-centeredness
[leading to a clearer understanding of what users desire].
We've had exchanges of information with users, but very
little bidirectional conversation. Interaction has meant
getting someone to click the buttons and buy something.
That's great, but it's not conversation. Conversation gives
you context and the emotional bond and relevance to sustain
a relationship over time."
Tension," an article on Web design)
is one of those concepts you can't get away from right now.
Most famously promoted by the Cluetrain
clique ("markets are conversations"), it's popping
up all over.
May Clark, of Monkey Media,
approached the subject from a sociological perspective--how
people 'design' their identities online, and the nature of
online community spaces. She provided the best URLs for the
talk, from the infamous Peter
Pan guy to Boycrazy.com.
Anuff, editor at Plastic,
finished off by discussing the deliberations he and Steven
Johnson made when choosing the base technology for the site.
Originally enamored of the deep self-organization of Everything2.com,
they realized its unwieldy interface made using it too difficult.
They settled on Slashcode,
the source for Slashdot,
which they subsequently modified.
panel proved both compelling and frustrating. Participants
David Galbraith (very smart guy from Moreover.com), Lance
Arthur, Bryan Boyer, and moderator Jason Kottke had difficulty
defining the topic, and the discussion occurred in fits and
starts, never finding its groove.
place to start thinking about microcontent is Jakob Nielsen's
where he coined the term, stating that microcontent is
information that refers to macrocontent; headlines, page titles,
etc. Paul Meagher expanded
the meaning to include any content that can be produced
with relatively little effort at regular intervals.
find the referential definition of microcontent uninteresting,
in large part because it's nothing new--we've had headlines,
abstracts, bestseller lists, and any number of other kinds
of 'referring' microcontent for a while.
excites me, though, is microcontent qua microcontent. Some
worthwhile ideas simply don't need more than, oh, 500 words,
and before the net, the economies of publishing meant that
such content would not get distributed. (Exceptions existed
in magazines and newspapers, but such microcontent would be
published only alongside longer content that warranted such
the atomic unit of feasibly publishable text is no longer
the "page," but the "post," which could
be as small as one word. The growing popularity of weblogs
demonstrates what happens as the barrier to entry lowers.
Though largely dreck, there's a wealth of ideas being brought
forth that before would never have seen the light of day.
A Web Business From Scratch
panel featured my company partners Lane
Becker and Janice
Fraser, as well as Meg
Hourihan and Rudy Rouhana. It was a content-rich discussion
on starting web businesses. The most memorable comment came
from Lane, where he addressed the psychic dichotomy necessary
to run a company. On one hand, you must delude yourself into
thinking that your business is utterly necessary, that of
course people want your product, that you will change the
world. It's such notions of greatness that inspire you and
your colleagues to keep going. On the other hand, you must
firmly ground yourself in reality, watching the balance sheet,
listening to what people are saying about your product, making
sure you can adapt to fit the market environment. This balance
needed to operate on both sides of this duality is tough to
maintain, and separates the successful from unsuccessful business
an up-and-down day. For the past few days, I've been in
Austin, attending SXSW Interactive. It's been great--met some
interesting new people, sat in on some invigorating panels
causing neuron rearchitecture, been stuffing myself with tasty
March 13, was planned as a day of celebration. Adaptive Path
had put together a launch party for the closing night of SXSW
Interactive--it was at SXSW that many of our friendships solidified,
so it was fitting to acknowledge the formation of our new
enterprise among what consider our tribe.
morning, though, I received sad news. Argus
Associates shuttered its consulting business. The entire
staff was laid off. The market downturn proved too costly.
news felt like an emotional sucker punch. I feel winded, and
a little choked up, when I think about it. Mostly, I empathize
with the frustration that Lou and Peter and their amazingly
talented consultants must feel--knowing that they were doing
smart, good, and important work, work that was having an impact
beyond their company and their clients, but to a burgeoning
community of like-minded souls, folks dedicated to improving
the experience we have of navigating the rough seas of information
met first got in touch with Peter and Lou in 1996. I had recently
returned to San Francisco, and found myself researching navigation
design for an article titled "Approaching the Perfect
Interface" to be published by the Net magazine.
Architect" column was among the only writing around
on the subject, and so I picked up the phone and interviewed
years later, I've had the fortune of getting to know them
both personally and professionally. Through the IA2000 conference
and visits to Ann Arbor, I've also met many others on the
Argus team. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more friendly,
talented, and enthusiastic bunch of folks.
it is to them I am writing now. At this moment, you're likely
in a state of shock, anger, depression. The worst feeling
is that all that work has gone for naught. Well, fight that
feeling. Argus and its employees have left an amazing legacy.
There are the obvious examples of the polar bear book and
the web architect columns, and the efforts of the ACIA in
publishing and conferences. But less tangible are the discussions
had on mailing lists, in hallways at conferences, over lunch
at various companies. How you educated a bunch of self-important
Web geeks that the rich history of library and information
science has tons to offer. And the impact you had on your
clients--through your efforts you demonstrated to many the
importance of a thoughtful information architecture. Those
folks now know that "IA" isn't a line item that
can be simply crossed out on a spreadsheet. They understand
it's an essential element of success in developing a robust
system. And they're telling their colleagues the same.
while during this market hiccup (or maybe it's a belch), it
might seem that you stood behind a lost cause, let me tell
you that it's not true. That the work you did, both tangible
and ephemeral, lives on. And that you will reap the benefits
of your efforts.
I hear of Argonauts visiting the Bay Area, and they don't
let me buy them a drink, I'll be most upset. You know where
to find me.
straightforward. I was interviewed for this
article on the mental state of Silicon Valley, but none
of what I said made it into the piece. Mark talked to me to
get perspective on his discussions with Nirav from Epinions
(who is quoted). I guess what I had to say wasn't damning or
ironic enough to fit the spin he had planned. Oh well. (Not
the The Spin isn't justified, but I don't think it's particularly
well-suited to Epinions... He tried to get me to talk about
how we were all in it for the money, and, well, I wouldn't.
Not that we weren't in it for a pay day, but I was always in
it because I believed in the concept. I could have worked in
any number of places for even higher pay, had that been my sole
driver. But I guess such viewpoints don't make good copy.)
your bandwidth. I don't know what this
site is called ("Conclave obscvrvm?"), but it's
a tasty treat of Flash design goodies, with somewhat a macabre
and haunting sensibility. Worth clicking around.
I'm poking around some online comics, doing a little research
before the interview,
and while most of what's out there simply sucks, David Gaddis'
is beautiful and engaging. Do read it.
of the interview--Any questions you ever wanted to ask Scott
McCloud? Let me know.
If I use a question of yours, you'll get full credit and pointers
and all that.
the content to where the readers are. Sip
discusses "site-non-specific publishing" in
the context of his "Next USENET" piece, which echoes
(more precisely) a thought I had back when I first joined
Epinions. Shortly after I joined, David
Hudson interviewed me. From the
A movie fanatic, he used to post reviews on his Web site.
Not anymore. "Why simply give away the work of writing
a review when I can maybe earn some cash, maybe even recoup
the cost of the ticket or rental?" There are other
reasons. "If I want my thoughts on movies to be read
by as many people as possible, it makes more sense to put
it in a place devoted to movie information, such as the
Movies area of Epinions, than on my personal site."
into Sip's thoughts. What's interesting is that the folks
at Epinions, with their delightful fundamental understanding
of the networked nature of the Web, realized this, too, and
recognized that Epinions was likely not that optimal "destination."
From the beginning they had a content partner program, where
Epinions feeds could be placed on your site (though the implementation
did leave a bit to be desired). User research showed rather
conclusively that for Epinions content to succeed, it had
to go to where the buyers are (typically etailers, also shopping
bots and other places that have been able to attract people
researching products), and Epinions is aggressively pursuing
the distribution of its datafeeds to suitable partners (the
S10 reviews at MSN's eShop are an example).
I guess this all
begs the question, in Sip's next USENET, how are the differences
between content published for money and content published
for love handled? Epinions wants its feeds out there, but
wants to be able to capture the value of those who read it.
Sippey wants to write about DeLillo and simply get the widest
and most appropriate audience to read it, remuneration be
damned. Should Sip
simply publish via Epinions, and let the service handle
the rest? Is that sufficient? Is a model like Epinions anathema
to the underpinnings of The Next USENET? Could Epinions simply
publish into that global RSS feed, and attach a "check
latest prices" button, so as to capture value if the
review spurs a purchase?
it begins. Presenting Adaptive
Crap. (The original file is here,
but if you click to it, you won't see it. If you cut and paste
the URL into your browser, you will. I have no idea why it's
working this way.) Maybe we should change our names to We
Have Big Heads Consulting?
tasty. Malcolm Gladwell on "The
Trouble with Fries." Who doesn't love french fries?
Mmmm. Ah, the potato. Anyway, good follow-up of Fast Food
Nation. Gladwell always asks the interesting questions.
we have liftoff!
click into further. "Multimedia
from Wagner to Virtual Reality". Via email from Jeff
blog to watch out for. Erin Malone has posted her initial
which are some meandering notes from attending the AIGA conference
on Design Criticism and History. Erin is a friend (and a sharp
cookie), so I'd be on the watch as her musings develop.
her inaugural post, she asks a series of questions on the
design history of interactive media. For some reason I'm compelled
to respond (my comments are very off-the-cuff, though the
subject definitely warrants considered response):
What is the design history of interactive media?
There's very little, from what I know. Most books and essays
address the "now" of interactive media... Considering
there's a developing body of such work, they provide something
of a 'history,' though the works are rarely deliberately
Who stands out of the crowd and why?
I don't know which "crowd" Erin speaks of--the
crowd of designs/designers or historians?
From a historical perspective, the stand-outs would be folks
who have proven themselves smart interactive media critics--Steven
Johnson and Janet Abrams come to mind. Oh, Carl Goodman,
curator of interactive media for the American
Museum of the Moving Image, deserves credit for
his trendspotting and preservation efforts.
Do interaction/experience designers have a history yet
and can it be chronicled before everything disappears?
I think it's pretty clear that "experience designers"
have a history, and a pretty rich one at that (particularly
if you lump, say, architects and filmmakers into the world
of Experience Design).
What is worthy of recording?
All of it! I suppose that's facetious. Though I don't
know if this is what Erin intended, there are definitely
some Great Works worthy of preservation:
- Ivar Sutherland's SketchPad
- The Xerox Star
- The Lisa
- The Macintosh Finder
- Douglas Engelbart's NLS
- Voyager's Beethoven's 9th CD Companion (perhaps the first
general-audience content-driven "multimedia" work)
- Oh, lots more, but I could spend all day writing it out
How do museums save or collect work that is dynamically
driven and highly interactive or relies on lots of complex
I dunno. I do know that AMMI, the Walker Art Center,
and SFMOMA are all devoted to preserving worthy interactive
Do the artifacts that we as IAs and Interaction designers
make need to be kept as well to provide a cohesive sense
of the process and effectiveness of our work?
Definitely. In fact, I think the most interesting products
of current practice are our process artifacts. Considering
how the delivery media are so unstable, the sketches, notes,
diagrams, print-outs, etc. etc. of how we got to the end
product have a chance for greater relevance as time marches
Even in a more stable delivery environment, the process
is fascinating. I love going to MOMA exhibitions on the
documents detailing what happens "behind the scenes"
on movies--cast lists, memos from producers to directors,
storyboards (mmmm storyboards), marked shooting scripts,
A true pleasure of the traveling exhibit on the Eames'
was seeing the artifacts that showed how they got to those
food. Searching for information on Fast
Food Nation (a book which I recently finished and
found extremely compelling and important), I came across Chowhound.com,
a site for foodies. Of particular interest are the Chowhound
message boards, an active online community devoted to
the pleasures of eating throughout the United States.
with Eric Schlosser, author of FFN:
"If we continue to allow the growth of a low-wage
service economy, one in which unions are weak and workers
have little say about their working conditionswell,
then the fast-food chains will have a bright future. On
the other hand, if we bring the minimum wage up to the level
it was thirty years ago, in real terms, and we enforce the
rules about overtime, and make it easier to organize service
workers, the fast-food chains will have to change their
business model. Or go out of business."
"The McDonald's Corporation, at the moment, in many
ways reminds me of the Soviet-era Kremlin. I was unable
to get a single question answered after weeks of calling
them, e-mailing them, and faxing them."
discussion of FFN on Slate