Tue 29 Jan 2013
Tue 29 Jan 2013
Tue 4 Dec 2012
This is absolutely genius.
You have to watch (and listen to) it twice in order to really appreciate it.
Wed 18 Jan 2012
Our latest Semantic-Link discussion was interesting in that it touched on some distinct but deep topics that tend to recur in our discussions, namely: usability, privacy and the old standby – the definition of semantics itself.
I won’t spend any more time on the definition of semantics beyond that the consensus (for purposes of this discussion) was that it means “meaning”, with contexts including: linguistic/NLP related word-meaning semantics; and the other being compliance with W3C standards – or architectural Semantics. In essence, the latter is what enables a machine version of the former.
The focus was actually a conversation with guest Nova Spivack, and his more current efforts, including Bottlenose and StreamGlider. (Next time we’ll have to let Nova do more of the talking, as we only really had time to dig into the first of those.) Bottlenose is intended to help people manage and interconnect their interaction across the multiple electronic realms in which they operate. While Nova mentions that the system doesn’t currently make use of W3C standard architectural Semantics, it does use ontologies to relate topics and navigate meaning. This is particularly visible in Bottlenose’s Sonar – which renders a visualization of the active topics, hash-tags, and people around you, with adjustable time-horizon. If you’d like to try it out during the private beta, visit Bottlenose.com and you can Sign Up using the Invite Code: semanticlink.
Listen to podcast here: Semantic Link Podcast – January 2012
As mentioned above, two key items arose from the discussion – the matters of privacy, and the question of transparency. In the case of privacy, would it become an issue, from a business intelligence standpoint, that others could more easily see the topics that someone is discussing or investigating – especially if such a tool could cross multiple networks/platforms in finding patterns.
As is often the case in these Semantic-Link discussions, the question of “how much should be exposed about the use of semantics” arose. There is of course a balance between active vs viral evangelizing of semantics, and the cost of exposure is simplicity and usability, while the benefit is flexibility and control, for those who can handle it.
The answer itself is complicated. On the one hand, technologies need to evolve in terms of leveraging semantics in order for people to really benefit from the underlying semantic capabilities. At the same time, those same people we’re talking about getting the benefit shouldn’t have to understand the semantics that enable the experience. Paul Miller, host of the podcast, also wrote about this issue. I’ll add that Investors do to like to hear that their company is using unique and valuable techniques. So too, though, is it the case that any company making use of semantics likely feels it is a competitive advantage to them – a disincentive to sharing details of the secret sauce. .
As mentioned during the podcast, this is a matter of which audience is being addressed – the developers or the masses. And in terms of the masses, even that audience is split (as is the case with almost all other software users). There are the casual users, and there are those who are hardcore – and when we’re talking about masses, there are many many more people would fall into the casual camp. So from a design standpoint, this is where usability really matters, and that means simplicity.
So in the case of Bottlenose, for the time being they’ve chosen to hide the details of the semantics, and simplify the user experience – which will hopefully facilitate broader adoption. There may too be room for a power-user mode, to exposes the inner workings of the black-box algorithms that find and weigh associations between people, places, things… and let users tweak those settings beyond the time-frame and focus adjustments that are currently provided.
Mentioned by Nova was the LockerProject in which personal data could potentially be maintained outside any one particular network or platform. This of course helps on the privacy side, but adds a layer of complexity (until someone else comes along and facilitates easy integration – which will no doubt chip some of the privacy value).
Personally, I’d love to see the ability to combine slices of personal activity from one or multiple platforms, with tools such as Bottlenose, so that I could analyze activity around slivers or Circles (in the case of Google+ usage) from various networks, in any analytical platform I choose.
Fri 12 Aug 2011
We recently used Moo to get some really nice self-designed cards made, and were really happy with the quality.
Here’s a 10% discount you can use as a new customer, if you like – the equivalent of entering TPX88K as a promo code in the checkout process.
Thu 7 Jul 2011
While I’m still actually waiting to get “in”, I have a couple of comments regarding Google+, from outside the Circle.
From descriptions of this Google Social Networking effort (following Orkut, Wave and Buzz), key elements as of now are: Circles (think of them as groups of people within your network); Sparks (which are topics or areas of interest); Hangouts (video chat rooms); Huddles (group chat); and Instant Upload (automatic mobile photo syncing).
Considering potential for integrating capability across product areas has always been most intriguing to me. In serving them up “together”, G+ makes it that much more likely for capabilities to be used together.
The second area of note is the way that Sparks re-frames the idea of Alerts in a way that subtly shifts the nature of the material that results from them from being one-off emails or links — that you might dig into or forward on — to material that relate to particular areas of interest, which presumably parallel or align with groupings of people you associate with around those topics. Twine had used the approach of integrating topic areas and social groupings for alerts – but these were groups that potential recipients would have to join. In G+, the “proximity” to the Circles aspect, and the fact that those Circles are unique to the individual, and don’t require reciprocation, make for a compelling scenario for the “push” side of the equation. (At the same time, I see some potential issues in terms of “pull” and management by those on the receiving end).
Hangouts and Huddles are by nature “social” already, for which you’ll presumably be able to seamlessly leverage Circles. As with topical material, Instant Upload brings your photo content automatically one step closer to where you are sharing. Success of all this as a social platform depends significantly on integration between the parts for seamless use by a user across capabilities – for example, adding someone who is participating on a video call or chat right into one or more of the Circles touched or represented by the other participants on that call or chat.
Leveraging other capabilities such as linguistic processing of AdSense (and G+ may already have this in the works) it would not be a stretch for the content in your interactions to generate suggestions for Sparks which you could simply validate — places or people in photos, words in chats, terms that show up in content within Spark items. From there, it wouldn’t be far to being able to interact with your life through what I might call a “SparkMap” — reflecting relationships between terms within your areas of interest.
UPDATE: I’m now in, as of Friday afternoon, July 8. So now I’ll be playing, with more ideas to come…
Mon 25 Jan 2010
Early in my career, when working as a data jockey with an economic consulting firm, I was on a team for a particular project where, I’ll always remember, we were referred to (in the New York Times) as “nitpicking zealots”. While I knew it was meant as a criticism, I took the reference then (as now, for that matter), as a complement – emphasizing the attention-to-detail in our analysis.
Image via Wikipedia
For me, that focus has long been coupled with heavy emphasis on usefulness (ok, and logic) as a driving factor in doing or creating anything. “Stick-in-mud” – maybe. “Drive you nuts” – sure, the family says this sometimes… But things just need to make sense.
So it shouldn’t surprise me (or anyone else) that, in my recent Experience Design mini-masters project, I had an overriding need for the product idea my team was to come up with, to be of real use and value. The first task was to evaluate whether design principles had been followed in the creation of a particular product (the Roadmaster – a single-line scrolling text display for use on a car). Then we were to apply these design principles to come up with a different product/application making use of the technology for the context. We performed our review by considering the Roadmaster’s affordances (what the design suggested about its use); its mapping of controls to meaning or functionality; whether it provided feedback during use; its conceptual model and obviousness of purpose; any forcing functions, limters or defaults. Having developed a “sense” of the product, as it was, we were embarked on the design effort by adding interviews/surveys to gather research on potential market need/desire.
Without getting into our conclusions about the Roadmaster product itself, of particular interest is where we ended up going with our design as a result of performing our own contextual inquiry. Some great ideas emerged among the different teams, for which each team prototyped their design (using Axure), performed usability testing, and presented results. Most of the teams designed mainly for social-media driven applications. With our own goals including not just usability, but the usefulness factor mentioned above, we discovered potential in re-purposing the device – to be directed not to other drivers, but to the driver of the vehicle in which it is installed. Specifically, to aid hearing impaired drivers – whether for receiving guidance from a driving instructor, instructions from a gps, or conversing with a passenger.
The design, which at one point we dubbed the “iDrive” (for reasons that will reveal themselves), involves mounting of the scrolling text display out in front of and facing the driver, and integration of speach-to-text conversion, so that as words were spoken, the driver would see these words displayed out in front of them, without their having to turn to see the hands or lips of a person commnicating with them, nor would they have to look away from the road to read directions on a gps screen. In its simplest form, the design calls for an iPhone (or similar) application to perform the voice-to-text conversion, transmitting the resulting text to the display for the driver. An extension of this concept could incorporate detection and display of other sounds, such as a honk, and which direction it is coming from. Since the program, we’ve found that the required voice-to-text conversion capability, in a mobile app (e.g. for the iPhone) as we called for in the design, does exist, so with the combination of the technologies (display, conversion, mobile application, and gps capability), the serving the hearing-impaired-driver market in this way should be within reach.
A side-note to this post: The faculty of the UXD program, Dr. Marilyn Tremaine, Ronnie Battista, and Dr. Alan Milewski, helped to revealed for me that the formal processes of experience design, and particularly contextual inquiry, parallel closely with what I’ve sought to achieve through the joining of the disciplines of Usability, Value Network Analysis (perspectival), and a dash of Semantic (extensible and interoperable) thinking.