Singapore

I am back in the Nether­lands for over sev­en weeks now but I am still busy run­ning around the coun­try recon­nect­ing to peo­ple and telling them about my expe­ri­ences in Sin­ga­pore.

It was great.

I real­ly did man­age to recon­sid­er a lot of things and got reori­ent­ed, about which more lat­er.

Learned a lot about myself and oth­ers by meet­ing and work­ing with lots of new peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds.

And I do miss the city already. The iron-clad guar­an­tee of sun and warmth. Many places to explore offer­ing lots of sur­pris­ing expe­ri­ences. And on every street cor­ner, amaz­ing afford­able food.

I will miss Sin­ga­pore, and I am thank­ful for all it has done for me in the brief peri­od I got to call it my home.

Below are some pho­tos. More are over at Flickr. Hap­py scrolling and maybe don’t look at these if you’re hun­gry.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Sin­ga­pore

My year in cities 2009

Last year was thank­ful­ly much low­er on trav­el than pre­vi­ous ones. We’re almost a week into 2010, I know, but I still thought it would be worth post­ing these.1

  • Van­cou­ver
  • Saint Augus­tine
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Lon­don

One or more nights were spent in each place. All of these were love­ly in their own way, but KL’s my favorite of the bunch. Best city for food any­where on the plan­et. In case you’re inter­est­ed, I keep track of these on Dopplr.

  1. As per Kot­tke and many oth­ers. []

Goodbye DK, Hello NL

A photo of the Oude Gracht in Utrecht, the Netherlands taken by Josef F. Stuefer

And that was it. After exact­ly one year in Copen­hagen I am back in Utrecht. I enjoyed my time in Den­mark tremen­dous­ly, it has proven to be a great place to start my new life as a free­lance design­er. Now I will con­tin­ue my prac­tice over here. Dif­fer­ent city, same inter­na­tion­al out­look.

The final peri­od in Copen­hagen con­sist­ed main­ly of me speak­ing at a lot of con­fer­ences. First there was The Web and Beyond, then came From Busi­ness to But­tons, NLGD Fes­ti­val of Games and final­ly Reboot — I could not have wished for a bet­ter going-away par­ty.

There is not much time to catch my breath, how­ev­er. I have client projects hap­pen­ing through­out July and of course there is also plen­ty of unpack­ing and merg­ing of the old and new life to be done. I hope to pub­lish the NLGD and Reboot stuff short­ly, but it might take me a while.

Now that I am back in the Nether­lands, I can also move for­ward with some small plans I’ve had for some time: one being a local design event and the oth­er a ‘dif­fer­ent’ kind of office space. I am also still look­ing for a cre­ative tech­nol­o­gist to part­ner up with on poten­tial future projects. If any of this piques your inter­est, do drop me a line.

Pho­to cred­its: Josef F. Stue­fer.

Jalan Jalan — 3 weeks of travel

Hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly fin­ished the last of my client work by the end of the week, it is now time to start pack­ing. I’ll be vaca­tion­ing in Asia for the next three weeks and will be back on April 7.

Those that fol­low me on Dopplr will already have an idea of my itin­er­ary: Hong Kong, Java (Jakar­ta and Surabaya), Bali and prob­a­bly Flo­res and Komo­do. Kali­man­tan has sad­ly proven to be a bit too hard to get to on a bud­get.

This’ll be my third vis­it to Indone­sia and as always I’m look­ing for­ward to it—what’s not to love about a coun­try filled with friend­ly peo­ple, rich cul­ture and awe­some food?

I’m also plan­ning to do quite a bit of this:

Pulau Bunaken

If you’d like to keep in touch, your best bets are my Twit­ter and Jaiku streams (and pos­si­bly Flickr for the occa­sion­al mobile snap­shot).

Nor­mal blog­ging ser­vice will resume when I return. See you on the oth­er side!

GDC and another interview

This Sat­ur­day I’ll be jump­ing on a plane to San Fran­cis­co. As men­tioned ear­li­er, I’ll be attend­ing the Game Devel­op­ers Con­fer­ence. I have a ses­sion at the GDC Mobile sub-con­fer­ence ele­gant­ly titled “Design­ing a Casu­al Social Gam­ing Expe­ri­ence for Gen­er­a­tion C”. Read more about my ses­sion on the con­fer­ence site. It’ll basi­cal­ly be 1/3 crash course on the social web, 1/3 rant on mobile gam­ing and 1/3 talk about enabling cre­ative expres­sion through games. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ll be in SF the full week (fly­ing back the next week­end) so if you hap­pen to be around, and feel like hang­ing out, do drop me a line. (Your best bet is an email to “kars” at this domain or d-ing me on Twit­ter.)

Final­ly, if that isn’t enough self-pro­mo­tion for one post, (I’m risk­ing a mass unsub­scribe here) I was inter­viewed a sec­ond time for the Playy­oo blog. Head over there for some talk about the Game Creator—a tool I designed for them that allows peo­ple to cus­tomise clas­sic games and pub­lish them to mobile:

And then there are the games that are entire­ly per­son­al. They make no sense to you or me, only to the per­son who cre­at­ed it and their friends. For exam­ple, I saw one vari­a­tion of Lunar Lan­der where you need to land a crab on someone’s, let’s say Debbie’s, head. Now, I have no idea who Deb­bie is, but I can imag­ine Deb­bie is a friend or sis­ter of the game’s cre­ator. And it must have been a lot of fun for them to include the pic­ture, and then have an easy way to dis­trib­ute it to their friends.”

Finding playful patterns at dConstruct 2007

Fortune cookie with design wisdom and dConstruct 2007 bag

I didn’t announce it on this blog, but if you’re fol­low­ing me on Twit­ter or Jaiku, took a look at the Upcom­ing event page or share trips with me on Dopplr you’re prob­a­bly aware that I attend­ed dCon­struct 2007 in Brighton.

By way of a short con­fer­ence report I’d like to list some of the ref­er­ences to games and play that jumped out at me dur­ing the day. It might be that I’m slow­ly but sure­ly going a lit­tle crazy or that have real­ly dis­cov­ered the secret order of the uni­verse, but either way I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised that most talks sug­gest­ed that suc­cess­ful expe­ri­ence design ben­e­fits from an under­stand­ing of the dynam­ics of play. Here goes:

  1. Game design is a sec­ond order design prob­lem, mean­ing you can­not direct­ly design the expe­ri­ence of play but only the ‘stuff’ that facil­i­tates it. Jared Spool point­ed out that suc­cess­ful expe­ri­ence design is invis­i­ble, it’s only when it’s done wrong that we notice it. This makes good expe­ri­ence design hard to sell, and I would say the same goes for great game design.
  2. The prac­tice of game design is very much a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary one, with a lot of spe­cial­ties on board. Sim­i­lar­ly, there is no way you’ll be able to do good expe­ri­ence design when you use a relay-race-like pro­ces. You need to have peo­ple from a lot of dif­fer­ent back­grounds solv­ing prob­lems col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly (or a few peo­ple who can do a lot of dif­fer­ent stuff real­ly well.) Jared Spool briefly point­ed this out, Leisa Reichelt gave a lot of good sug­ges­tions on how to facil­i­tate this with wash­ing-machine method­olo­gies and Tom Coates fin­ished his talk encour­ag­ing cross-dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion too.
  3. Because good expe­ri­ence design (like game design) is a sec­ond order design prob­lem, and it can only be done mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary, you can only do it in an iter­a­tive and incre­men­tal way. Good games get play-test­ed to death to ensure they’re fun, good expe­ri­ences (on the web or wher­ev­er) need the same treat­ment. Leisa Reichelt had some inter­est­ing ideas on how to actu­al­ly pull this off: Intro­duc­ing UX to Agile, by hav­ing design and devel­op­ment teams both work­ing in the same rhythm, but han­dling dif­fer­ent stuff in their own iter­a­tions, with a lot of hand-over and com­mu­ni­ca­tion back and forth. Well worth try­ing out I think.
  4. More thoughts on the invis­i­ble nature of expe­ri­ence was pro­vid­ed by Peter Mer­holz, who used a quote from Tim O’Reilly: “Design­ing from the out­side in”. Start with the UI and then fig­ure out the data and log­ic. I wouldn’t equate user expe­ri­ence with user inter­face (because — again — the expe­ri­ence can­not be direct­ly designed) but I think it’s a good quote nonethe­less. I liked Merholz’s empha­sis on the impor­tance of an expe­ri­ence vision most of all.
  5. I was great to hear Denise Wilton and George Oates talk about B3ta and Flickr. A lot of peo­ple are prob­a­bly aware of the gamey ori­gins of Flickr but it was enlight­en­ing to final­ly see some of it on the big screen. It came as no sur­prise to hear that Ludi­corp’s process in mak­ing Flickr was very much wash­ing-machine style (although they did 0 user test­ing for a long time!)
  6. Matt Webb was per­haps the speak­er who most explic­it­ly drew par­al­lels between game design and expe­ri­ence design. (He men­tioned Raph Koster’s A The­o­ry of Fun, for instance.) He also point­ed out that cus­tomi­sa­tion is vital to any expe­ri­ence, that a prod­uct should be able to recom­bine with oth­ers in its ecosys­tem, as well as allow for per­son­al­i­sa­tion. Both cus­tomi­sa­tion and per­son­al­i­sa­tion encour­age play. Tom Coates lat­er men­tioned some­thing very sim­i­lar — that your prod­uct (which as he was eager to point out is more than just your web­site) should be re-com­bin­able and extend­able with and by oth­ers.
  7. One of the major themes in inter­ac­tion and game design for me is behav­iour, the way prod­ucts encour­age behav­iour in their users and the kinds of behav­iours they have embed­ded in them­selves. Matt Webb also men­tioned that peo­ple love to tell sto­ries about the expe­ri­ences they’ve had. This is very true of gam­ing, which is all about verbs, actions, doing stuff. Game design is not sto­ry­telling, the sto­ry­telling hap­pens after the game.
  8. I had com­plete­ly for­got­ten about Dis­co, the CD burn­ing app with sim­u­lat­ed smoke effects that serve no pur­pose besides play. So thanks to Matt Webb I now have an exam­ple to com­ple­ment the Wii Help Cat! (Come to think of it, the dis­cus­sions sur­round­ing Sta­men Design’s Twit­ter Blocks might be anoth­er good one.)

In con­clu­sion, I think it’s great that Clear­left used this year’s edi­tion to intro­duce the web devel­op­ment com­mu­ni­ty to the won­der­ful world of expe­ri­ence design. I was also very hap­py to see a few peo­ple on stage I had not seen present before, but knew had a lot of good stuff to say. The pre- and after-par­ty were both a lot of fun (thanks to Media Tem­ple, Yahoo! Devel­op­er Net­work and the BBC for spon­sor­ing those with free drink and food.) And if you’re curi­ous, I under­stand there will be pod­casts of all the ses­sions online soon, so keep an eye on the site.

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…

Reboot 9.0 day 1

So here’s a short wrap up of the first day. I must say I’m not dis­ap­point­ed so far. The over­all lev­el of the talks is quite high again. Here’s what I attend­ed:

Open­ing keynote — Nice and conceptual/theoretical. Not sure I agree with all the claims made but it was a good way to kick off the day on a gee whizz way.

Jere­my Kei­th — Good talk, nice slides, didn’t real­ly deliv­er on the promise of his pro­pos­al though. I would’ve real­ly liked to see him go into the whole idea of life streams fur­ther. The hack day chal­lenge sound­ed cool though.

Stephanie Booth — Very top­i­cal for me, being a bilin­gual blog­ger and design­er often con­front­ed with localisation/multilingual issues.

My own talk — Went rea­son­ably well. I guess half of the room enjoyed and the oth­er half won­dered what the f*** I was talk­ing about. Oh well, I had fun.

Ross May­field — Could have been much bet­ter if it hadn’t been for tech­ni­cal screw-ups and per­haps some tighter pac­ing by Ross. Still the work he’s doing with social soft­ware is great.

Matt Jones — Very pret­ty pre­sen­ta­tion, nice top­ic and Dopplr looks cool. I’m not a fre­quent fly­er but I can see the val­ue in it. Still not quite sure it will improve the con­se­quences of air-trav­el though.

Nico­las Nova — Came across as the high con­cept, the­o­ret­i­cal twin to my talk. Lots of cool per­va­sive game exam­ples. Nico­las always bog­gles my mind.

Jyri Engeström — Cool to see how he’s devel­oped his talks through­out the past Reboots. I guess he deliv­ered on his promise and stayed on the right side of the ‘I’m push­ing my prod­uct’ line.

The evening pro­gram — No micro-pre­sen­ta­tions (which to be hon­est was fine by me, being quite exhaust­ed). Good food, nice con­ver­sa­tions and plen­ty of weird gen­er­a­tive art, live cin­e­ma etc. All good.

On to day 2!

Packing for the IA Summit

Just fir­ing off a quick post while pack­ing for the IA Sum­mit. Tomor­row morn­ing I’m tak­ing off on my flight to Vegas. For any­one curi­ous about my doings while in the states, your best bet is Jaiku1. SMS-ing the occa­sion­al update should be afford­able and won’t take too much time. No live blog­ging I’m afraid, I will be tak­ing plen­ty of notes2 and promise to do a prop­er write-up when back.

1. Although all the crazy Amer­i­cans are hooked on Twit­ter like an addict on crack, so to keep up with what’s going on there I’ll need to switch between two pres­ence apps. Grum­ble.

2. A fresh squared Mole­sk­ine pock­et note­book is ready for action.

Off to Barcelona

Well, I’m off to Barcelona for a long week­end. It’s been qui­et around here for a while (apart from the auto­mat­ed book­mark posts). Per­haps when I get back I’ll be able to get back into the habit of post­ing more fre­quent­ly. Back in 4.