Funny. After something of a brief hiatus, Carl
is writing again. Tasty content nuggets. Though, I suppose knowing
him helps me appreciate it. Though, everybody knows Carl. Some have
just not yet met him.
pointed me to this
article on mapping cyberspace. Some cool pics. [NYTimes,
free registration required. You've registered right? I mean, there's
no reason not to.]
Thompson pointed me to his Scientorium
project, an intriguing science museum concept. On the home
page scroll down a bit and read "The Museum as Church,"
an approach to exhibit design that's novel for focusing on the thoughts
and interests of the visitors, not on the items in the collection.
Picking up where you left off. So, yesterday I had lunch with
Squishy, the Senior Director
of User Experience at Bigstep.com,
and conversation turned to the task-oriented nature of the site's
(damn fine) interface. (Yes, we actually have discussions like this
A key aspect
to the Bigstep task-based design was "resumability"
(no, it's not a word, but it should be. Webster's listening?), the
way that the site remembers what you were doing when you
were last there and helps you continue upon return. It's a notion
so pathetically lost in software and Web design, which typically
assumes that users remain transfixed to their computers,
ignoring that computers exist within some context, be it home or
office or cybercafe, where numerous distractions abound.
to an online store, loaded up the shopping cart, answered the phone
and engaged in a long conversation, and returned to the store only
to find your items gone because your session was killed? (BroadVision
is notorious for this behavior). Bad design.
world is riddled with non-persistent shopping carts. This assumes
that, oh, you know, browsers don't crash, and that you can
find everything you want quickly, and that anything you place in
your cart you want to buy right now. Ahem.
a baby's bottom. Last night I enjoyed a martini made with Anchor's
Junipero Gin. Ardent peterme
readers will recall my love
of Old Potrero, distilled by the same company. Well, Junipero
Gin is amazing--smooth, dry, goes down like drinking silk. If you
see it offered (most likely on here in SF), do yourself a favor
and order it. This store
seems to carry it.
Ich mag den Telefonstand des Ödlands Mojave. When I visited
Desert Phone Booth, a couple of guys from a German radio station
were there getting the story. It's now on the Web. Head here
for the pics (I really do need to extract sponsorship from Unocal
76), and click this
for the RealAudio stream (When you hear a voice say, "Mojave
Desert Phone Booth, how may I direct your call?" that's me.
of hearing about books? Have something you want to say? Then
head on over to Jen's forum
future of books."
what I want. So Richard
[September 26] calls me out on the apparent contradiction in my
lambasting the mercenary attitude taking hold in this city, and
then turning around and saying, take everything you can get. [See
my September 24 post] He glosses over a key phrase: "In whatever
the situation." The situation takes primacy, and bounds the
monetary possibilities. At Voyager I took as much money as I could
get--it's just that the amount wasn't all that much, particularly
compared to elsewhere in the industry. And there was no way I was
going to leave Voyager for money's sake. To be mercenary
is to place the importance of money before the kind of work being
ends with the question, "How has your life changed, Peter?",
and considering the lack of context for the query (Over the last
3 years? Ever since SF became mercenary? Since I worked at Voyager?),
the only consistent answer I can provide right now is, "it
Multiple Attention Span Theater. Paul's
musings on the worth of attention include the the notion that it's
theoretically possible to follow three simultaneous conversational
threads at once. In Rethinking the Book (mentioned below),
David discusses a section of the Brain
was used to elucidate multiple overlapping voices. In the score
shown the soprano is singing four different and overlapping lines.
One of the properties of music is that, as Marvin Minsky says,
it 'lets you think of three or four things at a time.'
"We were unsure if we could give the audience the idea that
they could read more than one thing at a time. By using motion
paths to distinguish the four typographic streams, we were able
to create the sense of four simultaneous voices, even if the audience
only thought that they read the actual text."
channel information reception, anyone?
Research is fun! So, in poking around the Web attempting
to develop a syllabus for my information design course, I find myself
stumbling across delightful nuggets.
the Book [1.3 MB PDF, worth the download] is David
Small's Ph.D. thesis written at MIT's Media Lab. It's an exploration
of interactive textscapes, definitely in line with my musings
in the qualities of the "book." If nothing else, I learned
that the formal name of the bound-pages book is "codex,"
as distinguished from the single-sheet books you know as "scrolls."
what a wee furor my thoughtwander on the book caused! All sorts
puzzled by my puzzlement of people's devotion to the physical form
of the book. And you know what I learned? You're all a bunch
of book-sniffing weirdos. The most-offered reason for the love
of tangible books was the way they smell. Which, well, has nothing
to do with the purpose of books and kind of proved my point.
Tangent: A search on "codex
book" turns up all manner of interesting
into the form
of the book
amidst the onslaught
on David's colleague Yin
Yin Wong led me to this paper on "Dynamic
Presentation of Document Content for Rapid On-Line Skimming,"
[PDF] (oddly pertinent to the whole blog phenomenon, and suggests
strategies to deal with "How
People Read on the Web") as well as Stanford's
highlights for non-students is the Human-Computer
Interaction Seminar, an open-to-the-public event where industry
types speak about what they're up to. If you can't make it, the
lectures are available online.[Click
"CS547"] The October
8 presentation looks quite tasty.
is also home to captology,
the study of computers as persuasive technologies. And professors
Byron Reeves and
Clifford Nass wrote
Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media
Like Real People and Places, which I keep meaning to read.
Self-serving? Yes! It's my site! Happy Birthday to me-e-e-e!
The last I'll be nn. Unless medicine starts making some
leaps and bounds.
Need a movie to rent? While
everyone runs out to rent Patton, may I make a couple of
other George C. Scott suggestions? The most obvious is Dr.
Strangelove, featuring Scott's turn as General Buck Turgidson
("He'll see the Big Board!"). Another treat, quite appropos
of these The Sixth Sense times is The
Changeling, a tasty haunted house story that you really
don't want to watch alone.
deep thinking for a Friday afternoon.
I know, I know, you're all thinking, "Weekend!" but maybe
some mind candy to take with you.
Pangaro is a smart and articulate man, with whom I've had the
happy fortune to work, and who loves wielding the term "cybernetics."
If interested in design, organizational theory, personalization,
or anything to do with computers, read his stuff.
Alamut comes a pointer to Synthetic
Zero, a lemonyellow-inspired
notebook. He immediately gets on my good side with many Feynman
Where Art Thou? In conversing with a friend who's lived in this
city for the past 6 years, I figured out something that's bloody
obvious, but I hadn't yet put my finger on, as I'm so immersed in
the environment: for the first time since the Gold Rush, people
are moving to San Francisco for money.
this transient-attracting city (it's hard to find people who were
actually raised here) has drawn folks for cultural reasons--the
beat scene in North
in the Haight, queers
in the Castro. Or simply the general openness and friendliness
of the place. More recently, artsy geeks were drawn here for the
mix of culture and technology (its apotheosis being Burning Man,
for better or worse).
in the age of Dot Com mania, people are moving here for the cash.
To work. To get paid. It's a mercenary attitude, highly individualistic,
and I fear its effects on life in the city.
Money, at heart, is a shitty motivator. I learned this at Voyager.
We were a woefully underpaid staff. With some of the most brilliant
and capable talent in multimedia. We could have worked anywhere
else for twice as much. But we stayed at Voyager because nowhere
else could we take part in projects as cool, important, deep, meaningful,
and do so with a team of brilliant brilliant colleagues. Companies
that wave higher salaries and stock options in the hopes that people
stay on or join a miserable environment just don't get it. The money
might provide a temporary salve, but the wound will eventually reopen.
is not to suggest money's not important. In whatever the situation,
get as much money as you can--the person employing you plans to
make as much profit off your labor, so why shouldn't you? Money
is what makes our capitalist society go 'round. It's just
not where good work comes from.
Hrm. So, I don't get how items are added to Epinions. I've reviewed
Comics for the Art and Architecture section of books, but
the only way to find it right now is through my page. It seems.
Damn shame, as it's a book that needs to be on their list.
Narrative as organizing principle. In New York a couple weeks
ago I did a consulting gig, preaching the gospel on information
architecture and user-centered design methodology, and the continually
recurring theme was, "What's your story?"
are an amazingly powerful tool for cohering design, as well
as ensuring that what you're creating, well, makes sense.
point: in the design of a weather page on the site, a three column
structure was used--thin left column for navigation (natch), big
middle column for feature weather story, and thin right column with
temperature in various cities.
you go to a weather page on the site, what is it you want to do?
It's likely either you want to find out what the weather will
be where you are or where you're going. However, the story being
told by the aforementioned design says, "Dave goes to the weather
page to find out what's happening in the world of weather."
Silly, huh? Almost ludicrous even. When going to a weather
page, people likely don't want weather news--if they want news,
they'll go to a news page.
the design's message as a story, the fallacy became bleeding
obvious in a way that simply viewing The Design wouldn't show--the
page had nice composition, a single striking image to draw attention,
pleasing colors, and other hallmarks of "good" design.
But the story showed how it actually failed to meet real needs.
from original in my blather about storytelling and design. Tom
Erickson wrote a marvelous essay, "Design
as Storytelling," showing the power of narrative to communicate
design ideas. Digital storyteller and designer extraordinaire Abbe
Don weighs in with the deeply academic (and I mean that in a
good way) "Narrative
and the Interface." And here's a more business-friendly
approach to the subject (great for showing those with the purse
strings who think "storytelling" is what you do in kindergarten).
for the day. Riding my bicycle to the DMV to renew my driver's
is what I've got. Without any person to focus it on, I'm finding
that I'm producing tons of diffuse "love energy" (sorry
for the New Agey speak), and it's having the odd effect of sapping
much of my motivation. I feel almost paralyzed.
update. So, Aaron has tweaked surfmenu to be more pop-up window
aware. Right-click (or option-click) this
updated bookmarklet. Added features include: 1) Automatically
loads the first blog into the main browser window; 2) When clicking
"horz" or "vert" to set-up your preferences,
the big blog list appears in the main browser window.
be wondering, "Where the hell are the petermemes?" Well,
they'll be coming.
Void where prohibited. Bryan
Boyer sent me a little fix to the bookmarklet I discussed yesterday.
Now it won't return that ugly "_newwin" in the main browser
window. Right-click this
bookmarklet for the new goods.
Pop-o-matic! So, I've ditched "peterme surf" in favor
of using Aaronland's surfmenu.
It's continually updated with the latest blogs (care of eatonweb),
and just makes more sense.
extended surfmenu to allow for easier browsing. Here's what you
1. Go here
[spawns window] and check off the blogs you like. Save your preferences.
Then come back here.
(or option click, I guess, on a Mac) this
bookmarklet I created and select "Add to favorites..."
in Internet Explorer or "Add bookmark" in Netscape. Name
it something you'll remember.
your favorites/bookmark list, select the bookmarklet. Watch as it
pops up your surfmenu in a small pop-up, and as you click through
it, sites are viewed in your main browser window.
Let me know.
funny stuff. The video stylings of Ingredient
X are well worth waiting for. "Party" and "Pickle"
are good places to start.
no one. So, I just submitted my first epinion, a review
of American Beauty (good flick, go see it.)
minds. This morning Marc
pointed me to a bunch of goodies:
SmartDraw, another business
graphics tool in the Visio vein.
Spyonit.com, a service for
tracking anything on the internet (news items, weather, favorite
band in town, package delivery, what have you).
Elab, a consultancy which, like
the Doblin Group mentioned a few days ago, applies ethnography to
help businesses understand their customers and their role in the
market. Also like Doblin, Elab has published some interesting thoughts
about experience design on their site, though, also like Doblin,
their site is presented in frames, so I can't point straight to
the article (click "By us").
of course, click around Marc's personal site, as it's got Good Content
and a top-notch recommended reading list. His excellent taste is
made clear by his love of Understanding Comics.
Get me rewrite. Wanna know what you'll be seeing in theaters
next year? Follow the script
and pitch sales done throughout Hollywood. I love pitches. The
log lines are great. A story boiled down to its essence.
If the pastor had a gun, this
wouldn't have happened, is what I'm assuming Moses
Lawrence reminded me that
Systems acquired The Doblin Group. (referring to the petermeme
below) Such synergy!
to Judith. "It's delightful, it's de-lovely, it's de-meta!"
The ever lovely Viv pointed
me to The
Music of the Internet, which composes a musical arrangement
based on your IP number.
Get Paid To Think! The Doblin
Group is a business consultancy renowned for applying Deep Design
Thinking to their client's problems. They actually get away with
in order to best understand customers. They also love love love
models--charts and graphs that reflect trends. This morning, Michael
pointed me to their Innovation
Landscapes, a report with lovely red charts 'n graphs for Visualizing
Innovation. You see, if you show people enough charts and graphs,
no matter how specious the data (and I can't qualify the data on
these pages), people will believe whatever it is you're saying,
because, look, it's right there in the chart. Ross
Perot understood this.
being unfair to the Doblin Group. Any antipathy expressed is solely
due to jealousy, as these guys get to sit around and think and observe
and make models, and they don't really have to do anything,
and clients seeking their wisdom prostrate themselves before them.
along with providing a toy to print out and play with, highlights
the five stages of a "great experience":
It calls to you. You want to try it, watch it, play it.
As you enter the experience, you are removed from your everyday
world. [Reminiscent of this
piece I wrote]
You are doing it, Feeling it, listening to it, smelling it, forgetting
As the actual doing of it ends, you rejoin your everyday life.
You want to share it, relive it. You collect programs, call a
fellow traveler, search out similar experiences.
Keeping options open. As I'm wary of the continuing progress
Everything™, I was pleased to find out about the existence of
Visual Thought, a business
diagramming (read: flowcharting!) tool for Windows and Unix. I'm
downloading a copy now...
Voyeurrific! Well, I guess it's not technically voyeurdom, but
I do feel like a bit of a snooper when reading this page that chronicles
the whereabouts of alumni
of Apple's Human Interface community. Still and all, the links
to the individuals' home pages are well worth following!
makes a book a book? [Thanks to Lindsay
for recovering an earlier version of this from his cache.] Reading
Fire, and Dangerous Things foments all manner of ideas.
Ostensibly a linguistics text on how categories reveal the workings
of the mind, it spurred a thoughtwander on the nature of "book."
Ever since I worked at
been surprised at how attached people are to the physical nature
of the book. Obviously, I love books--but by and large insofar as
they're the most efficient vessels for the transmission of deep
ideas. People's attachment to the form of the book, front and back
covers, leaves of paper bound together, black ink organized in recognizable
typographic symbology, has continually puzzled me.
(I am also annoyed by
smug condescension toward electronic books, i.e."Can I read
an electronic book in the bath?" This was, in part, why I so
wanted the iBook to be waterproof, because then I could tell
those folks to shut up. Since I've started, I might as well keep
going an express annoyance with intellectuals who believe that "library"
means "place for books," and get all hot and bothered
when new libraries have the audacity to offer internet access through
computer terminals. Libraries are places to traffic in ideas, in
whatever form best suits them. A good essay with some odd ASCII
formatting can be found
Bringing this puzzlement
to the subject of categories, I wondered, just what makes a book
a book? It's not its form--magazines and other periodicals often
match a book's physical properties, but would never be labelled
"book." And electronic books, which have no physical
form beyond the device through which they're viewed, still qualify
Is it the content? To
some extent. Unlike a magazine, a book's content has an aura
of permanence and timelessness, and delves into more involved
Still, though, the form
is important, and electronic books highlight this. I could take
the exact same content, and present it either in a form like a Voyager
Expanded Book, or in a single long scrolling Web page. The latter
would not be called a book. The notion of page-turning is essential
to the category of book, again, even if that page-turning is only
being done metaphorically on a computer screen.
So, a book, at it's core,
is an object containing content of permanence presented in a page-turning
I hope you weren't expecting
a point to this rumination on books. The journey is its own reward
and all that.
A host of potentially tasty links resides here,
particularly under the "Information Visualization" header.
minds thing alike. Fellow ENTP and GSSM Anil
Dash's thoughts and links will be right on target for petermeme
readers. Scroll down to August
15 for an interesting take on the notion of multi-channel
information reception. I just wish there was more on the man
himself. Unlike some,
I invariably crave context!
that effects. My friend Jan is helping teach an interface design
class, and in the first session the question was posed, "What
is an interface?" She told me some of the items that
were brought up, such as sheet
music, none of which I would have considered an "interface."
Sheet music is simply a representation of information.
was able to label what is and is not an interface, I couldn't come
up with succinct reasoning to back it up. That was, until reading
a passage in Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things on causation
and direct manipulation, and how a key factor in how humans categorize
things is how they interact with them--separate and distinct from
any internal attributes the thing might have (obviously, those are
important as well).
In my view,
an interface must be that which allows for the process of cause
and effect. Sheet music isn't an interface because, well, it just
sits there. It prescribes interaction, but I can't engage any "cause"
on the sheet music that leads to an effect. The paper the music
is printed on is an interface, as I can scribble on and annotate
I'm back from New York. Lotsa thoughts to say. But I'm sleepy.
So, before I go to bed, I leave you with this:
ever ever use the phrase "information
architecting." Gah. It sounds terrible. And "architect"
a verb. So I guess that makes me a pedantic anti-semantic.
September 10, 1999
[New York City]
GSSM's On Film. All you gay-seeming types who love classic
American movies will enjoy "The
Sissy Gaze in American Cinema," a brief and witty exploration
into the now-gone fop
archetype once so popular in American romantic comedies. Special
added bonus: tough tomboy women! (Oh how I swoon for Miriam
More on anti-semanticism.
Chomsky's critique of Derrida's intellectual strategy captures
well my ill feelings towards miring oneself in semantics and not
addressing the real problems at hand (in fact, how obsessing over
semantics is a way to not seriously address the issues.)
of right now, in the poll on the left, 37 people have said that
it would take them "more than 30 minutes" to get a soft
drink. Considering you can find Coke at base camps in the Himalayas,
I'm surprised that anyone using a computer is so far removed from
fizzy water. I'd love to hear
from those folks just where you are that so distances you from soft