November 11, 2006

Listen to the sound of my speaking voice...

...introducing Day 2 from this most recent Adaptive Path's UX Week, as a podcast from IT Conversations. You can download the presentation deck (PDF). The podcast cuts me off, as I was also introducing Michael Bierut, but you'll see those slides in the PDF.

Posted by peterme at 11:05 AM | TrackBack

First day in Chile

Stacy and I arrived yesterday at 6:30am in Santiago airport, after something like 16 hours on planes or in airports (Oakland -->(change planes) Los Angeles --> Lima (stay on plane) --> Santiago). We slept for shit -- during the longest leg, from Los Angeles to Lima, we were in the same row as a voluble 2 and a half year old child.

So, when we landed, we were out of it. It was helped that our first sight in Chile was the immigration line:

We had been in the very back of the plane, and we had to pay for "reciprocity", because, it seems, the US are dicks to visiting Chileans. Thus, we ended up at the very end of the immigration line, as you can see there.

We were picked up by Gabriela and Katya, and they drove us to the center of town to find breakfast. We met up with Jorge (it seems that most Chilean men are named Jorge or Javier), and wandered around. As it was only 8am, pretty much every place was closed -- Chileans don't go out for breakfast. We ended up at Emporio La Rosa (Spanish-language description, English-language description (scroll down)), a heladeria that also served pastries and coffee.

Our breakfast hosts took us to meet up with Javier at his office at Yahoo! Research. We dropped our bags off, met up with Jorge Arango and Peter Morville, and headed out for a walk around downtown Santiago. We were too tired to bother with museums -- there was no way any information would sink in. So we stuck to the streets, eating mote con huesillo (sweet syrupy drink with peaches and barley), watching folk music in the plaza, and just taking in the hurly burly.

We ate at what our guide book called a "tourist trap", Donde Augusto, in the Mercado Central. Mostly we wanted a comfortable place to sit and eat, and we were hungry for fish, so while things cost more than they would elsewhere, it was an easy meal. I ordered congrio frito, a fried, lightly-breaded white fish, served a lo pobre, which means topped with fried eggs, and with fries.

We needed to work off our meal, so we headed out and up Cerro Santa Lucia, a hill in the middle of the city upon which has been developed as a park with some fanciful architecture. This was probably the most touristy thing we did.

After this hike, we headed back to Emporio la Rosa, as Jorge had a strong jones for ice cream. I had a delightfully refreshing cone with frambuesa (raspberry) and vainilla. Oh, and some espresso, because Santiago is not known for its good coffee, and I'd learned in the morning that the brew here was solid.

This fortified us for our walk back to Yahoo! Research, by way of the Alameda (the main boulevard of Chile, for both autos and pedestrians), and a Paseo whose name I cannot find. Buses awaited to take us to Santa Cruz, about a 2 and a half hour drive south of Santiago, through the gorgeous Central Valley. Our destination was Hotel Santa Cruz, a remarkably well-designed kind of colonial Spanish space which is serving as the venue for the IA Retreat.

After a much-needed shower (remember: 16 hours of air travel, walking around downtown Santiago in ~80-degree heat), we enjoyed a pisco sour in the bar, and then a meat-filled dinner (grilled beef served in slabs, sausages, chicken, etc.) accompanied by bottomless vino. A couple hours of this, and I was exhausted. And slept for a solid 8 hours for the first time in many days.

Posted by peterme at 09:00 AM | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

The Kodak Camera: the first "consumer electronic' device?

In my talk Stop Designing Products, I cite the 1888 release of the Kodak Camera as possibly the start of what we now call consumer electronics. I say this knowing that the camera was wholly mechanical -- no electricity, so no electronics. But it had the characteristics we associate with such devices -- complexity that could be exposed or hidden; support of leisure (as opposed to work) activities; priced for home/individual use (though quite expensive to begin with); portable.

Typically, consumer electronics are believed to have begun with the radio. And while that might be technically correct, I think there's value to be drawn from mechanical predecessors.

The only other devices I can think of that might be similarly considered predecessors are the typewriter and the calculator. But the calculator was not really a home device (as far as I can tell), and the first truly popular typewriter wasn't really all that portable.

What are your thoughts? Apologies that comments aren't available on my site -- I never brought them back after being bombed with interminable comment spam. If you've got thoughts on this, please email me at peterme AT peterme DOT com.

Posted by peterme at 07:42 AM | TrackBack

November 05, 2006

San Francisco Values

Yesterday the Chronicle featured an article on "San Francisco Values," as a response to all the San-Francisco-values bashing happening in this midterm election season (if the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, representative from San Francisco, will likely become Speaker of the House).

Having lived in the Bay Area for almost all my adult life (apart from two years in New York), San Francisco Values are something I've thought about. When discussing such things, one can't avoid oversimplification. Oh well.

One of the distinctions that so pleases me about San Francisco is that it is not a town of *ambition*. It might be a town of drive, passion, and spirit, but you don't get the ladder-climbing, the achievement-at-all-costs that I saw in New York, and in elements of Los Angeles. People do what they want to do not because they want to "succeed," but because it's simply their passion that drives them.

As part of this, there's a natural entrepreneurial bent in San Francisco. People are willing to try new things, and those around them are eager to support them. Even in a land of high rents and salaries, the number of small start-up businesses is pretty staggering.

Only San Francisco could have born Burning Man. There's something about the mixture of art, technology, and spirituality that resonates with San Franciscans. In particular, San Franciscans are remarkably tolerant of differing spiritual paths.

Recently, I've seen San Francisco encourage misguided, if not abominable, values (also related to Burning Man, actually). San Franciscans value outre behavior for its own sake. Piercings! Tattoos! Sexual fluidity!

Hipsterism can lead to an unfortunate fetish on appearance and presentation that I've seen enocurage people to grow increasingly superficial. People who pay hundreds of dollars on hipster wear in some strange effort to buy happiness through acceptance by others.

And, of course, there's the drugs. It's very easy to find people who will support you in your drug taking, even if the behavior is destructive. Because, you know, drugs are fun (and dangerous! (outre!)), and your hipster friends will think your cool!

Any locale's values will have it's upsides and downsides. I love San Francisco, and find it resonates with my passion. But I've also seen the harm it can do.

Posted by peterme at 10:45 PM | TrackBack


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