Jun 10

Learning in Style

The Oatmeal is a creative engine producing a crazy mix of learning graphics.  Beer and Coffee are among my favorites (and addictions).

May 10

The Perfect Grocery List Interface

Kottke says iPad.  I think there is an equally portable and user-friendly approach:  the pad and pencil.  If all it helps you do is walk around to make a list — not a plus.  If it, instead, organizes what shops, and route through the store, based on my list — now you’re talking.  If it tries to identify things I’m almost out of and haven’t listened — win.  Otherwise — paper and pen work…

May 10

Pickle Jar: Affordances and Innovation

Last night I had a rough time opening a jar of pickles.  I exerted quite a bit of effort to finally pop the lid.  It made me think of my grandmother (who passed a few years ago).  She lived alone for quite a while.  As she got older, and a little sicker, she seemed to eat less and less.  And I think her diet suffered quite a bit.

With the baby boomers aging into the retired and elderly phases of life I think about the pickle jar.  How many objects don’t have elderly-friendly affordances?  The old-time canning jar (and versions of it like the pickle, olive, etc) hasn’t progressed much.  They are innovating around refrigerator boxes of beer and soda, beer bottles that supposedly make the beer taste better, easy flow ketchup, etc.  But what about making it easier to for people who it isn’t easy for?

I bet my grandmother started to select food items at the grocery store she knew she could open.  As much as she loved pickles, I bet she stopped buying them.

As any parent knows, another big packaging issue is toys.  So many boxes are impossible to open (and this extends to many products that require knives to break through the plastic shell).  And then the toy itself is fastened with plastic coated metal twist ties.  Tens of them.  Not only is it a pain to open — you’ve got all these choke hazards lying around.

Instead of innovating around package design to either stand out or increase consumption — why not focus some effort on facilitating use in the first place.  Innovate around your product affordances… create them or make them better.

Apr 10

The Magic of Dance

If your kid (evidence only for kids <3) is acting out his/her terrible two part — there is a solution:  Queen and Michael Jackson.  My 2.5 year-old daughter asked for a few encores of “Rock You” song.  And, if you ignore the lyrics and just groove, PYT, Beat It, and Billie Jean are winners.   We jammed for a good 20-30 minutes — and she transformed back into her fun self.  I had forgotten how fun it is to break loose and dance.  I wonder what happens between the body and the mind that releases all those good vibes.

Evidence Exhibit A (weak)

Evidence Exhibit B (no science — but makes sense)

Evidence Exhibit C (getting closer):

Still, dance boosts mood more than does exercise alone. In a study at the University of London, researchers assigned patients with anxiety disorders to spend time in one of four therapeutic settings: a modern-dance class, an exercise class, a music class, or a math class. Only the dance class significantly reduced anxiety.

Evidence Exhibit D (seems like the real deal)

Apr 10

Lost Touch

When a critic turns his aim towards a medium he doesn’t understand:  see Ebert’s article on why games aren’t art.  He’s handicapping his argument through a critique of a TED talk.  Nonetheless, his premise is flawed and mired in logical inconsistencies.

A quick example:  I would contend Ebert thinks some commercial films (and books) are works of art.

I allow Sangtiago the last word. Toward the end of her presentation, she shows a visual with six circles, which represent, I gather, the components now forming for her brave new world of video games as art. The circles are labeled: Development, Finance, Publishing, Marketing, Education, and Executive Management. I rest my case.

Why is he selectively ignoring the fact that any film studio or publisher has business structures like the above?

Most unsettling, and perhaps most demonstrative of his antiquated view, is the feeling that I think his main problem is that “players” control the narrative of the game.  He makes faulty logical arguments.  In the end he stands on taste.  And Ebert, stick to the movies, you’ve got a better sense of taste there.

P.S.  I usually like (even if I don’t agree with) his points of view.  This kind of article just makes him seem irrelevant.

Apr 10

Under a New Waxing Moon

It’s hard not to try to find a story here — but rather than the connections between these — the big deal is that all this unrelated violence can happen in one single night.

Chicago Tribune

Apr 10

Apple Thinkpad

Woman in airport is using an IBM Thinkpad with an apple  sticker right where you’d expect to see it on a mac.  Weird and rather strange  seeing that white apple on and ugly black-gray box of a laptop.

Mar 10

33 Beers and the Flavor Wheel

This is very cool.  Need to get some expert training and validation on the tastes.  Not sure I’m properly tuned to them all.

Hat tip TAB.

Mar 10

The End of a Market Economy?

What happens when you no longer own goods, but rather have rights to access them?

Is this happening?  Music, movies, and books.  At best, in the music world, you own a digital version of a song, encoded in an open format.  At worst, you own the “rights” to play a song in a proprietary interface.   Blu-ray will keep the physical aspect of movies rolling for a while — but with Hulu, Netflix On-Demand, and the like, streaming takes movies to the same place — “rights” rather than ownership.  And finally, as I play more and more with my Kindle, I see the world of books moving this way.

The common denominator in all of these are that they are information goods.  How do you create a market for goods you don’t own?  A key component of a market economy is that the goods are salable.  Now that I’ve purchased a book for my Kindle, how do I sell it when I’m done reading it (or donate, give it, lend it)?

My prediction: “Rights’ Exchanges.”  If software protection can ever get ahead of protection cracking, you’ll see people buying and selling rights to things.  I’m going to have to go back to my Econ books to figure out what the implications of that are.

Imagine instead of buying my public transit smart card, I buy transit rights — ones that I can use, trade, sell, or give away.  I wonder if the city could make more money by discounting bulk rights purchases so they could basically sell to capacity — rather than sell to demand.  Would this work?  It’s kind of like being a season ticket holder.  The original seller ensures a floor of revenue, minimizing risk, while the resellers take on more risk if they choose to time demand spikes.

Going to have to think more about this one.

Mar 10

You Can’t Tickle Yourself

Why does food taste better when someone else cooks it?  It always feels better when someone else scratches your itch.  A self-massage, forget about it.  Wonder what in our programming makes us feel this way?