Better travelling with Jet Lag Passport

Neon sign that reads 'jet lag'

With the atten­tion giv­en to trav­el late­ly (Dopplr springs to mind, as well as my own increased flight fre­quen­cy this year) I thought I’d final­ly write up my expe­ri­ences with a jet lag pre­ven­tion tech­nique called Jet Lag Pass­port.

I was plan­ning my trip to Las Vegas ear­li­er this year when I was approached by Dai­mon Sweeney. He invit­ed me to check out this small book­let he’d writ­ten (sold on his web­site for 10.25 GBP) that described a pres­sure points and med­i­ta­tion rou­tine aimed at sync­ing your bio­log­i­cal clock to local time. Being a Fortean and mar­tial artist, I saw no rea­son not to try it. I print­ed out the PDF he’d sent me for free (in exchange for a blog post if I liked it) and stashed in my car­ry-on bag. While tak­ing off I took a look at it for the first time. The rou­tine was easy to remem­ber and takes up very lit­tle time. You repeat it for every two hours of flight.

Although it’s always hard to objec­tive­ly say whether this stuff actu­al­ly works (and to be hon­est I feel that’s beside the point) it worked for me. I had a short stay in Vegas (I arrived on Fri­day evening and left on Mon­day evening) and a long flight in com­par­i­son. I got into the rhythm of things on arrival effort­less­ly and had none of the weird sud­den attacks of fatigue so typ­i­cal of jet lag. This stuff may not be for every­one, per­haps an open mind and some expe­ri­ence with med­i­ta­tion (how­ev­er small) is a pre­req­ui­site, but I’ll be sure to give it a try the next time I take one of these long flights.

Check out the book­let at Daimon’s web­site and who knows, if you promise to blog it, he’ll let you try it for free…

Harmonious interfaces, martial arts and flow states

Screenshot of the game flOw

There’s been a few posts from the UX com­mu­ni­ty in the recent past on flow states (most notably at 37signals’s Sig­nal vs. Noise). This got me think­ing about my own expe­ri­ences of flow and what this tells me about how flow states could be induced with inter­faces.

A com­mon exam­ple of flow states is when play­ing a game (the play­er for­gets she is push­ing but­tons on a game pad and is only mind­ful of the action at hand). I’ve expe­ri­enced flow while paint­ing but also when doing work on a PC (even when cre­at­ing wire­frames in Visio!) How­ev­er, the most inter­est­ing flow expe­ri­ences were while prac­tis­ing mar­tial arts.

The inter­est­ing bit is that the flow hap­pens when per­form­ing tech­niques in part­ner exer­cis­es or even fight­ing match­es. These are all sit­u­a­tions where the ‘sys­tem’ con­sists of two peo­ple, not one per­son and a medi­um medi­at­ed by an inter­face (if you’re will­ing to call a paint brush an inter­face that is).

To reach a state of flow in mar­tial arts you need to stop think­ing about per­form­ing the tech­nique while per­form­ing it, but in stead be mind­ful of the effect on your part­ner and try to visu­al­ize your own move­ments accord­ing­ly. When flow hap­pens, I’m actu­al­ly able to ‘see’ a tech­nique as one sin­gle image before start­ing it and while per­form­ing it I’m only aware of the whole sys­tem, not just myself.

Now here’s the beef. When you try to trans­late this to inter­face design, it’s clear that there’s no easy way to induce flow. The obvi­ous approach, to cre­ate a ‘dis­ap­pear­ing’ inter­face that is unob­tru­sive, min­i­mal, etc. is not enough (it could even be harm­ful). In stead I’d like to sug­gest you need to make your game, soft­ware or site behave more like a mar­tial arts fight­er. It needs to push or give way accord­ing to the actions of it’s part­ner. You real­ly need to approach the whole thing as an inter­con­nect­ed sys­tem where forces flow back and forth. Flow will hap­pen in the user when he or she can work in a har­mo­nious way. Usu­al­ly this requires a huge amount of men­tal mod­el adap­ta­tion on the user’s part… When will we cre­ate appli­ances that can infer the inten­tions of the user and change their stance accord­ing­ly? I’m not talk­ing about AI here, but what I would like to see is stuff more along the lines of flOw.

Back with a black label

Just a short post to check in. I arrived back from Vien­na this week­end. The week’s train­ing was a lot of fun, very hot and quite suc­cess­ful. I man­aged to pass all my exam­i­na­tions which means I’m 2nd dan Take­da Ryu aiki­do now, and have received my assis­tants-license. Huz­zah!

I didn’t take that many pho­tos, most of them after a day’s train­ing, but there’s a few up at Flickr now. Here’s my favourite shot:

Dogi hanging to dry

Signals from the Leapfrog offices

Or in oth­er words, what I’ve been up to, besides keep­ing myself busy over at Info.nl.

  1. Reboot 8 is shap­ing up to be anoth­er great con­fer­ence. I’m already look­ing for­ward to see­ing Matt Webb and Chris Heath­cote speak, among oth­ers. I’m also still think­ing about doing some­thing myself, the ques­tion is: what?
  2. While we’re on the top­ic of con­fer­ences, make sure you don’t miss The Web and Beyond — the 10th annu­al SIGCHI.NL event. I’ve been help­ing with the organ­i­sa­tion and must say it’s promis­ing to be an inter­est­ing look at the web 2.0 phe­nom­e­non from an inter­ac­tion design per­spec­tive.
  3. I have a heap of arti­cles and posts lying around wait­ing to be fed to my del.icio.us account (I actu­al­ly read all that stuff before both­er­ing you with it). Now to just find the time to tag them all – to think this stuff is sup­posed to have a low cog­ni­tive load!
  4. Right after vis­it­ing Reboot 8 I’ll be off to beau­ti­ful Italy for some much need­ed R&R. Be sure to keep an eye on my Flickr pho­to­stream for slight­ly crap­py cam­er­a­phone shots of Napels, Rome, Flo­rence and Venice. Look­ing for­ward to that!
  5. Final­ly, you may have won­dered about the “mar­tial arts enthu­si­ast” bit in this blog’s intro­duc­tion. Between all of the above I’m get­ting myself ready for some exam­i­na­tions in Take­da Ryu this sum­mer. When I get back from Vien­na, I hope to be a cer­ti­fied teacher’s assis­tant and sec­ond dan in Aiki­do. Wish me luck.
Now back to our reg­u­lar pro­gram­ming – death­ly silence while I get some more client work out the door.