life hacks


Related to this much older post about realtime translation, Kintrans is yet another dimension of this type of capability.

 

new MOO business cards

Image by massdistraction via Flickr

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.

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Marbles - Schulenburg, Texas

Image by adamj1555 via Flickr

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.

First, and I think most interesting, is the way that the concept of Circles melds the idea of a network of friends/connections with tagging/categorization so that, without having the clunky thinking of classifying or inviting people to groups, the user is able to achieve the elusive sense of having multiple personas representable within one system.   Some people maintain their professional network in one system (LinkedIn, for example), and their personal network in another (e.g. facebook).  Others maintain multiple accounts in a single system in order to segregate their “work” online presence from their “family” or “personal play” selves.  For those who already maintain multiple Google accounts, G+ lets you log into multiple accounts at once.  I have yet to see how well you can interact in ways that cross over account lines.
Image representing Twine as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

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).

Together, Sparks and Circles could take us a lot closer to a dream system I yearned for a few years back, that I referred to as a Virtual Dynamic Network.  In this, rather than having defined groups that you would need to join (which would send you related material along with much you would prefer to do without), material you both receive and send would be routed based on what it is about and how it is classified. I would love to see distinct sets of controls for in-bound vs out-bound content.
I won’t know until I get to try it, but ideally G+ will enable you to tie Sparks to Circles for you.  I’m also hoping you’re able to group your Circles – to relate and arrange them even hierarchically (consider: a large Circle for your work persona, which might contain multiple Circles for various client or team categories; or a large personal Circle, with sub-Circles for family, local friends, remote friends, classmates – all with overlap management to avoid multiply-sent content).

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.

Ripples

Image by Bill Gracey via Flickr

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…

Additional links:

  • How to Get Started with Google+… (socialmediaexaminer.com)
  • A good ScobleEncounter listen (scobleizer on cinch.fm)
  • Quite a collection of tips growing on this public google doc
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    Symbol for languages. Based on Image:Gnome-glo...Image via Wikipedia

    If this isn’t one of the coolest things you’ve ever seen…

    You probably thought it was Jetson’s material that someone could speak one language into a phone, and you could hear it in a different language on the other end.  Pretty great stuff, translation on the fly.  Think about looking at something that is written in a different language, and being able to able to see it in another, without having to go look it up somewhere!

    That’s exactly what the Word Lens app from Quest Visual does – which you’ve got to see to believe (if not understand)!

    I don’t know if this is exactly right, but “bastante salvaje” if you ask me!

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    Del.icio.us logoImage via Wikipedia

    It is a sad day, but it seems Yahoo! is shutting down delicious (see also).

    Del.icio.us has been a reliable web-based bookmarking resource that has not only enabled bookmarking in the cloud, so bookmarks could be accessed from any computer you happen to be using, and sharing them with others.  It facilitated multi-tag classification of them, so that you could zero in on what you’re after by triangulating with related words in your own naming convention, and breaking free of traditional, hierarchical folder storage structure.

    It has been a great resource for researching the language that others use to describe the topics and pages you are interested in, and has allowed, if not encouraged, the development of worldviews and, though some scoff at the word, folksonomies.

    While this news is a shame, the truth is that the resource has not been leveraged, and some say it has been neglected, since it was acquired in 2005, which happens to be when I began making use, about 5,000 bookmarks ago.  I recently signed up for Pinboard (which has a one time cost of about $7 right now, and offers an auto logging archive for an annual subscription).  The thought of paying for something you’ve done for free might bother some, but Barry Graubart makes an interesting point in his post on this subject when he says “remember that the lack of a business model is what required Delicious to sell to Yahoo, who neglected it.”

    I’ve long been compiling material for my (in progress) book entitled “Long Term Short Sightedness”.  I’ll have to be sure to save some room to write about this decision by Yahoo!

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    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.

    The American manual alphabet in photographsImage 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.

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    Day 191: Sticky Notes Mean ProductivityImage by quinn.anya via Flickr

    If you haven’t already encountered Google’s newly released Sidewiki, it is a web annotation feature accessible via browser plug-in or their toolbar – and is essentially a means for people to comment on pages and, unlike tools for making notes for just yourself (like sticky notes on your screen, or the electronic equivalent), these comments are visible to others who use it and visit those pages – right on the page with the content.  This isn’t a new concept, but one that gives cause to consider the “traditional” dimensions of web experience.Generally speaking, users of web resources have typically thought of the pages they view as being depicted in the way intended by the owner of the domain (or page).  If we want to get philosophical, ownership of the rendering of the page, it could be argued, is the user’s – and plug-ins empower such customization, as this is referred to.

    Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

    Similarly, functionality of a site is has typically been considered by users to be provided/delivered by, and/or controlled by the site owner.  In the context of beginning to think of rendering as being other-webly (i.e. from other than the provider), the same holds true with respect to functionality.  The functionality being added to the experience here is around the ability to comment, and to see comments of others, about the page.

    This starts to bring home the concept that the browser is acting as the actual platform, rather than the page/site itself.  In this case, we’re talking about the bringing together of the page’s content with toughts or opinions about the page – or about things that are on the page.  So in essence, what sidewiki adds is a virtualized forum – where the forum content is in the hands of Google rather than those of the owner of the site – but is displayed alongside the content itself.

    Image representing AdaptiveBlue as depicted in...Image via CrunchBase

    This is not altogether different from what AdaptiveBlue’s Glue does – though there are a couple of key difference.  In both cases the user must be using the plug-in in order to see or add content – akin to joining the community.  And in both cases the comment / opinion content that is generated as a result, is in the control of the plug-in provider.  The first, and most notable difference (for now, at least) is that sidewiki “acts” as if the user generated content is about the page which it annotates, while Glue’s emphasis is on the asset to which the page refers.  The key benefit of the latter, in the cases where the commentary relates to an asset referenced on the page, is that it decouples the item referred to from location which makes reference to it.  This translates to Glue displaying  the comment on any page in where the same item is found, as opposed to just being seen on the same page where the comment was made.  This difference won’t likely persist, and seems more a matter of emphasis/focus and positioning.

    Since the annotations are only visible to users making use of the particular service used when making the annotations, the more of these services we see, the more fragmented the sea of commentary.  The next level may be about “aboutness”, and differentiation by the ability to determine relatedness of otherwise unassociated commentary and content – and making the virtual connection between the two for the user.

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    Someone recently shared DarkCopy with me.  This seemingly has little to do with my recent writings, and some would call it silly – but under the surface, it is pretty relevant.  Some of  the key drivers of the things I’ve chosen to write about include: efficiency, productivity, drivers of value, usability, tools for enablement…

    So many of our environments tend to promote wearing no blinders, so you don’t miss anything that might be relevant.  In contrast (particularly relative to my previous post), this is a “simple” tool that lets you make efficient use of your computer for writing – a place that can otherwise prove to be the most distracting place to work (if you don’t count just being within voice-reach of one of your kids or your spouse, or the phone or your pda, or…   Sorry, I’ve got to go; my phone is ringing, an important email just popped up, and someone is at the door.  I guess I should have been writing this in DarkCopy!).

    Networking is often thought of in terms of finding people – either for work or social purposes, and as an essential means of information sharing (for both gathering and spreading). There’s another interesting thing to be learned – about you – through examination of who you network with and how you do it.

    An interesting article on network analysis, while covering the traditional concepts of network analysis, has some hidden gems – emphasizing the role people play in the world around them. For some, examination of this can bring to the surface a facet of their own character that they might not generally recognize or appreciate.

    There is so much emphasis on title or position, in business or organizations and even in our communities, that individuals often lose sight of the role they actually play (through their interaction) and the impact they make.  The directional focus of the article is on identifying people and channels for increased information flow and impact.  Thinking about this in reverse, from you as an individual, in terms of who you touch, how and why… can be worthwhile and enlightening.

    Due in part to the week spent out at SemTech (which proved to me that we really are moving into a new phase for the semantic technology space – more on that shortly), I am sorely behind on many things – most visibly with respect to posting here. A big part of my being, and one of the major roots for my interest in semantic technology, is a drive to find ways to put improvements to efficiency in the hands of everyday people and thereby boosting their individual satisfaction.

    There are technical and non-technical ways to accomplish this; at the technical end this can involve information architecture and engineering – and at the other end, simply making people aware of tools and shortcuts out there. In regards to the latter, I’ll make an effort going forward to post interesting life hacks that I come across.

    One such tool – Doodle – lets you set up a quick poll of dates/times – providing you with a link that you can email to anyone and which will tabulate the results and even notify you if you like. They also have a flavor (AnyDoodle) that lets you list things you’d like people to choose between – things to bring or be responsible for, which movie or pub to go to… This a quick and simple, low glitz tool similar to the popular evite.

    Hopefully, by taking advantage of enough of these hacks, I’ll finally have enough time to catch up and do more posts here.

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