On target with experiences and systems

I’ve been thinking a lot about experiences and the systems that support it. So I was excited to read my colleague Brandon’s blog post on Target’s ClearRX prescription system, best known because of the iconic (and smartly designed) pill bottle.

The thing that I find most gratifying is how the pill bottle (created as a student project) served as an experience strategy, a vision to drive the design of Target’s system.

Diagram from Brandon’s post:

Autism activism

Over on metafilter was a link to In My Language, a video of an autistic woman’s expression and interaction with her environment. The video’s creator, Amanda Baggs, appears to be active in Autism causes.

Watching this video reminded me of a fascinating feature on CBC Radio’s science program, Quirks and Quarks, titled “Rethinking Autism.”. In it, you’ll hear of how an autistic person, Michelle Dawson, has been collaborating with a cognitive neuroscientist, Laurent Mottron, to explore the subject of autism. Listening to Dawson forces you to accept a radical new perspective on autism, it’s nature, and how it should be addressed. Needless to say, it lead to a firestorm of protest on the part of CBC listeners.

Anyone curious about autism owes it to themselves to watch Amanda’s video and listen to Dawson’s discussion. The discussion attached to the metafilter post, which includes comments from Amanda (slientmiaow) is worthwhile, too.

When Less Is More

For reasons I don’t understand, people pay attention to Nicholas Carr. He made his name a bit back with the question, “Does IT [Information Technology] Matter?” (his short answer: no), which has been parlayed into punditry. I see links to his stuff all the time, which baffles me, because most of what he writes is crap. Or hackery. Or both.

A recent post exemplifies this. He laments the “shrinking” of our culture, the small chunking-ness, the bite-sized-ness lead by things like YouTube, finishing the post with the ominous, “we’re getting smaller, too.”

All of which is bullshit. The most obvious arguments (the success of the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, the viewership of episodic serials like SOPRANOS and LOST) are well presented by Tom Coates and Nick Sweeney in the comments to the post.

I think there’s an important, and more subtle reality here, if you take a purely economic perspective to the issue.

Before the Web, it wasn’t economically feasible to distribute content in small chunks. If you did small chunks, it had to be collected with other small chunks (in a magazine, newspaper, sketch comedy television show). There wasn’t an economic model that really supported the release of a standalone 3-minute non-music video, or a standalone 1000-word essay. Essays had to be bundled with other things in order to get someone to fork over $3.95 to pay for it — even if the reader just wanted that one essay.

The Web has made it feasible to deliver 3 minutes of video, or 1000 words of text, on its own, without any bundling. I suspect it’s less a matter of the shrinking of our culture, and more a matter of the market simply providing more options for expression across a spectrum of delivery sizes, and people are taking advantage of them all.

YouTube isn’t shrinking our culture — it’s simply presenting another choice alongside many others.

Lodging and Libations in Las Vegas

In March, I’ll be in Las Vegas for the IA Summit. The conference will be at the Flamingo, but I’m not particularly keen on staying at that hotel. I’ve stayed at the Venetian and the Bellagio before. I’d love any suggestions for where to stay.

I’d also love suggestions for where Adaptive Path should host a cocktail hour. There is no shortage of drinking spots in Las Vegas, which makes the task of finding a good one for us daunting. IAs love beer and gin and tonics, and they want to be in a place that’s not TOO LOUD so they can geek out.

Please leave suggestions in the comments! Thanks!

The most informative thing I’ve heard for a while

The podcast interview with Chip Heath, Stanford B-School professor, on the ideas in his new book MADE TO STICK, proved to be the most valuable 40 or so minutes I spent with my iPod of late. In it, Heath discusses the qualities of ideas that survive, that stick, that take hold of others’ imaginations. (John Kennedy’s, “send a man to the moon in this decade” is his canonical example). As someone who gives a lot of presentations and engages in other modes of discourse (whether pedagogical or persuasive), I found it quite instructive.

Pan’s Labyrinth: Boring

Last night I went with some friends to see Pan’s Labyrinth. We were looking forward to the film because it promised something different — a macabre fairy tale about a girl who retreats to a fantasy world in order to deal with her difficult Spanish-Civil-War circumstances. We were hoping for a film with real teeth, depth — something compelling for an adult audience.

What we got was boredom. Every one of us walked out of that movie bored. It was predictable, mechanical, and just didn’t hold interest. The story is gruesome for gruesome’s sake, or rather, for the sake that del Toro seems to have no ability to engage the audience’s emotion except through repulsive imagery.

Pan is really two movies — one about a girl and her imagination, one about people fighting the Spanish Civil War. The latter is a rote resistance-from-within war movie, with an evil ruthless captain, rebels, supporters of the resistance operating on the inside, and no heart. The former is about a remarkably self-centered girl striking out on various quests, often behaving so stupidly that it’s hard to have sympathy with her plight.

In the same way I’m appalled at the critical accolades bestowed upon Letters from Iwo Jima (another boring, rote movie), Pan’s Labyrinth has received almost unanimously glowing notices. Have critical notices always been so off? I suspect that, like I said with The Descent, people who watch movies for a living are exposed to so much utter crap that anything which doesn’t just outright suck is lauded.

What’s troubling for me is that given how bored I was with Iwo Jima and Pan, I’m fearing going to the theaters to see anything. I’m interested in Children of Men, but fear it will be just as boring. The Pacific Film Archive here in Berkeley is showing an Ernst Lubitsch retrospective. Now there, I can’t go wrong…

My obligatory iPhone post

I don’t know what I can add to the discussion around Apple’s latest unveiling, but I feel obliged to say something.

In 1993, Apple released the Newton. This was CEO John Sculley’s big dream project. It was going to be his Macintosh. However, from a standpoint of market acceptance, it failed.

Now, Steve Jobs loathes John Sculley. He’s been quoted saying about Sculley, “”What can I say? I hired the wrong guy. He destroyed everything I spent 10 years working for; starting with me, but that wasn’t the saddest part. I would have gladly left Apple if Apple would have turned out like I wanted it to.”

So, I just get the sense that, every step in the 2-and-a-half year development of iPhone, Jobs had this bone to pick with Sculley, and that Jobs’ portable computing device was going to be nothing short of “insanely great,” and that at every step, he was determined to not just surpass, but blow away his predecessors.

Because, that’s the thing with the iPhone. Everyone knew it was coming. No one knew how it was going to transcend their expectations. It is such a quantum leap forward, not just for a phone, but for the whole field of consumer electronics, and I don’t think we’ll understand the implications until a good year or so after its release.

Other thoughts

This is a remarkable Trojan Horse on the whole netphone front. Yes, it’s a GSM mobile phone and there’s an exclusive deal with Cingular. But also, it’s a mobile wi-fi device, and so, why use Cingular if you can just Skype?

2 megapixel camera — impressive. But does it only have still picture capability? Considering they’ve put an iSight in everyone of their computers, I’m surprised that iPhone doesn’t have a video camera built in.

I drop my mobile phone with some frequency, and my iPod occasionally. How rugged is this device?

It’s a little strange that they ended up calling this “iPhone,” considering it’s essentially a small tablet PC. I mean, it probably makes sense from a marketing perspective, but I’m curious as to what happens when “the street finds its uses” for the device. I wouldn’t be surprised if phone calls is not the primary function.

Quick Review: Letters from Iwo Jima

I’m appalled at the near-unanimity of the glowing reviews for Letters from Iwo Jima. We saw it a couple of days ago, and were left with one strong, overriding, feeling: boredom.

It is an overwhelming trite and surprisingly rote war movie. You know everything that is going to happen, not just the big things, but the little things as well, long before they occur. I suspect Eastwood was simply overwhelmed by his subject matter. Unlike Million Dollar Baby, which interestingly upended notions of The Boxing Movie, Letters from Iwo Jima seems too daunted by the Epic Realities of War to deliver anything that isn’t cliche.

I can find one review that captures my sentiment.

Adaptive Path-related activity.

First off, a reminder about Adaptive Path’s MX–San Francisco conference, addressing issues around managing experience through creative leadership. We’ve just posted an excellent brief interview with IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown, who will be keynoting the second day. Register by January 15 and save $200. Register with promotional code FOPM and save an additional 15%!

Also, I posted on the AP Blog about how experience design is not about brands, and that conflating them does the notion of customer experience a disservice.

Also also, the talk I gave in Chile, “Beyond Transactions: Experience Strategies for Financial Services” has been posted. View the slides, listen to the audio (neither makes sense without the other.)