I am breaking radio-silence for a bit to let you know the slides and video for my Reboot 10 presentation are now available online, in case you’re interested. I presented this talk before at The Web and Beyond, but this time I had a lot more time, and I presented in English. I therefore think this might still be of interest to some people.1 As always, I am very interested in receiving constructive criticism Just drop me a line in the comments.
A presentation by Cabel Sasser at C4. He’s the chief designer at Panic, probably the best-known independent Mac software developer. Amusing presentation (he freaks out about a button being a few pixels off in a screenshot of one of his first apps, for instance) and a rare sneak peek into their design process, which seems to happens almost exclusively in Photoshop… (Via Ianus.)
“Fritzing is essentially an Electronic Design Automation software with a low entry barrier, suited for the needs of designers and artists. It uses the metaphor of the breadboard, so that it is easy to transfer your hardware sketch to the software.” Clever, another piece of the puzzle found.
“it’s my feeling that experiences can’t really be designed. You can only provide the resources for people to have an experience; then it’s the people (users) themselves who create the experience” Right on.
Well, well, an actual review of Spore. I wondered if I’d ever see the day. It sounds like worth picking up: “while there is a lot to do, you’re prepared for it, thanks to what’s arguably Spore’s greatest trick: the hours you’ve spent up to now were an elaborate combination of character-creator and tutorial masquerading as a game”.
Some interesting bits on the gaming of social software. Whenever I read discussions like this, I am reminded of children accusing each other: “You’re playing the game wrong!”
“WirePod is a grey power pod that begins with a wall plug and branches out into four curled arms, each ending in a three-prong socket. The pod rolls and unfurls as needed to accommodate different functional requirements.” Being a person who’s annoyed by all the wires lying around his house (I suspect I am not alone) this is a nover approach. It’s a bit telling that all product shots I’ve seen so far have noting plugged into the device itself though. That would make for an aesthetically less pleasing image, right?
A fascinating indie MMOG, with a focus on social colaborative play, and procedurally generated environments and characters. Via Bart.
“superDraw is a platform for visual expression using drawing. At the most basic level it is a simple line drawing program. The aim is to give the artist super powers by enabling them to do things impossible with pen and paper while retaining the basic idea of a drawing interface. superDraw explores the idea of storing animation within a single line. The artist has complete control of all aspects of the line and it’s visual representation.” The web version alone is lots of fun to play with.
Getting Scott McCloud to make a comic that explains your product? Smart move. (Although parts of this were, quite frankly, a little boring.) For me, the most notable bit was that they’ve put Quicksilver into the address bar. That’s cool.
Looks like I’ll be able to have an Availabot on my desk soon. Yay!
Another Stamen visualisation has gone live and as usual, it rocks. Some interesting changes from previous work, though: “We’ve historically shied away from doing work that’s overly predictive and analytical, preferring to focus on the lyrical and metaphorical aspects of visualization. This is the first time you can make a decision based on something we’ve built, and I’m glad we seem to have crossed that barrier without fretting too much about it.” I am particularly interested in the thinking that went into the predictive part — future data does not look that different from past data. Deliberately so?
“Kokoromi challenges you to create a game that uses red/blue stereoscopy in an innovative, experimental, and/or integral manner. Why red/blue? It’s free, it’s simple, it’s fantastically retro, it puts the focus on your gameplay rather than complicated technology, and a room full of people wearing 3D glasses is just so damn awesome.” I might just have to join in with this. (Via Hessel).
A wonderful project by Julian Bleecker, a machine to make dérives, more or less: “The Drift Deck (Analog Edition) is an algorithmic puzzle game used to navigate city streets. A deck of cards is used as instructions that guide you as you drift about the city. Each card contains an object or situation, followed by a simple action. […] The action is meant to be performed when the object is seen, or when you come across the described situation. […] The cards also contain writerly extras, quotes and inspired words meant to supplement your wandering about the city.”
Yesterday I attended my first Mobile Monday in Amsterdam. The theme was “value” and in my mind, I had already equated the term with “user experience”. This was a mistake. Contrary to my expectations, the event was well outside of my comfort zone. Discussions were dominated by business and technology perspectives. I found the experience frustrating at times, but I guess this is good. Frustration often leads to new insights. Therefore, although this may not sound as a recommendation, I would say MoMo is an event worth visiting for any designer interested in mobility. It will remind you that in this industry, many ideas you take for granted are far from accepted.
I thought I’d share some thoughts concerning the salient points of the evening.
Context was often equated with location. To me, these two are far from the same. Location is, at best, a component of context, which also involves what people are doing, who else is there, what objects are present, etc. But, more importantly: Context arises from interactions, it is relational and therefore cannot be objectified. Coincidentally, Adam Greenfield has posted some valuable insights on this topic.
As an example, consider a person present in the White House, in the possession of a firearm, in clear sight of the president. The meaning of this situation (i.e. the context) depends completely on who this person is and what his motivations are. He might be working (bodyguarding the president), he might be at war (making an attempt at the president’s life) or he might be playing around (the gun isn’t real, he’s the president’s son).
Anyway — I subscribe to the view that we should not attempt to guess context, the above example has hopefully shown that this is an impossible task. (At least, as long as we cannot reliably read the minds of people.) In stead, we should ‘limit’ ourselves to giving places, things, etc. a voice in the conversation (making them self-describing, and accountable) and having context arise those voices, as determined by the people involved.
Ajit Jaokar posited that open source mobile software (such as Android) will lead to new device manufacturers entering the arena. The analogy was made to the PC industry with the emergence of white-label boxes. I wonder though, for this to truly happen, shouldn’t the hardware be open-sourced too, not (just) the software?
In any case, I think having more handset manufacturers is wonderful. Not in the least for the fact that it will open the door for a more diverse offering, one potentially tailored to regions so far under-served by device manufacturers. Which brings me to my next point.
Local, global, diversity, relevance…
Several speakers alluded to the fact that mobile is a global market, and that businesses shouldn’t be shy about launching world-wide. I see several issues with this. First of all, without wanting to sound too anti-globalistic, do we really want to continue on making stuff that is the same no matter where you go? I find diversity a vital stimulus in my life and would hate to see software experiences become more and more the same the world over.
Let’s in stead consider the following: A service that might make perfect sense in one locale very likely does not offer any distinctive value in another. I think the example of the now defunct Skoeps1, which was discussed at the event, illustrates this perfectly. It did not work in the Dutch market, but offers real value in ‘developing’ countries, where the amount of video crews on the ground is limited and images captured by locals using mobile phones are therefore a welcome addition to the ‘official’ coverage.
Which brings me back to the question of context, but in this case, the role it plays not as a component of a service, but in the design and development process itself. I was sad to see the most important point of Rachel Hinman’s video message go unnoticed (at least, judging from the fact that it was not discussed at all). She said that starting point for any new service should be to go out “into the wild” and observe what people are doing, what they want, what they need, what they enjoy and so on.2 From this real and deep understanding of people’s contexts, you can start making meaningful choices that will help you create something that offers true value.
- Skoeps — pronounced “scoops” — was a social video site focused on citizen journalism. It went out of business because not enough “users” were “generating content”. Ugh. [↩]
- Not surprisingly, Hinman works at Adaptive Path. Athough I very much agree with her presentation’s premise, I felt her example was a bit disingenuous. I find it hard to believe Apple designed iTunes to fit the mixtape usage scenario. This, I think, is more of a happy coincidence than anything else. [↩]
- Hyves is the biggest social networking site of the Netherlands. [↩]