Adaptive Path Events News – Online, in SF, and in Copenhagen

So many things happening with our events over at Adaptive Path. Use the promotional code FOPM when registering for any of these and receive 15% off.

On August 6th, Brandon will be presenting a live virtual seminar on “Showing the Value of UX.” It takes place 10:00am Pacific, 1pm Eastern, and 5pm GMT. This 75-minute online seminar provides aspiring UX professionals with the approaches for thinking and talking about the value of UX within your organization as well as specific tools and design activities that lead to and communicate business value.

From August 12-15, we’ve got UX Week 2008, which is going to rock the house down. We’ve got amazing keynotes, workshops, visits to museums, and a show floor dedicated to the future of user experience. There’s still some seats available, but I’ve been told we might have to cap registration soon.

And then 13-16 October (note the date format!) we’re offering UX Intensive Copenhagen, our hands-on four-day workshop on the core elements of user experience.



Reading an article in The New York Times on how Kids These Days are reading more and more online, and fewer books than their predecessors, and the concerns as to whether or not this is a good, bad, or neutral development, there’s a quote from eminent biographer David McCullough: ““Learning is not to be found on a printout… It’s not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books.”

How pathetic. Learning is “acquired” (if that’s even the right word… it makes it sound like something you can get at the store) through doing. Through processing. Through acting.

Dark Zeitgeist – Needless Nihilism in Batman’s Bombast

Last night we went to see The Dark Knight. I try not to get my hopes up for superhero flicks, but the buzz around this one was so strong, I was definitely looking forward to it.


I found one review that agrees with how I felt, and I shouldn’t have been surprised that it came from the man who is possibly America’s most insightful film critic, Michael Sragow (his thoughts on Indy 4 not withstanding).

My main complaint is that the movie simply goes on too long. My other complaint is that, even at 150 minutes, there’s so much plot that the narrative has no room to breathe… There’s no cadence or flow, it’s just one big thing after another.

As such, The Dark Knight suffers from the same mistake as Spider-Man 3 — too many stories for one film. In Spider-Man 3 you had three villains loosely connected (Venom, Sandman, and evil Spidey), and it felt like the writers were afraid to bet such a big film (and franchise) on any one story, and so spread it around. TDK has two movies packed into one — The Arrival of The Joker, and The Rise and Fall of Harvey Dent.

The Joker thread is the least engaging, as it simply revels in chaos and nihilism for its own sake. It might be valid social commentary, but it makes for lousy storytelling.

The Harvey Dent thread is more disappointing, because inside it there’s a legitimately good movie waiting to bust out. The love triangle between Dent, Batman, and Dawes, mixed with the origin of Two-Face at the hands of the corrupt cops that Dent attempted to ferret out… these are elements of strong drama.

But because that story is intertwined with the Joker’s, its heart gets lost. I so with Nolan had the guts to choose just one of the threads (I’d prefer the Dent thread, though a Joker thread with an actual narrative could have worked), and gone with that… But, again, I think there’s a fear of putting all your eggs in one narrative basket when dealing with a $150 million investment.

The thing I find most intriguing is the public perception of TDK. It will be the highest grossing movie of the year, and it also has remarkably high critical acclaim (95% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, 82 on Metacritic). All I can think is that this relentlessly dark and nihilistic film is tapping into the American Zeitgeist, confirming our society’s misery in the face of an endless war in Iraq, housing prices up, gas prices up, food prices up, economy stalled, health care a mess, having to face the reality that our government condones torture, etc. etc.) Americans feel like victims of forces far beyond their control, as do the citizens of Gotham at the hands of the Joker.

Denver Art Museum’s technology-enabled experiences

At FOO Camp I met Bruce Wyman, the Director of Technology at the Denver Art Museum (He occasionally blogs on the Museum’s site.). For the past few years at UX Week, we’ve had museums (first in D.C., now in SF) share with us how they design for experience. Had I met Bruce a few months ago, I would have definitely invited him to be part of the event, because the work he’s doing is very impressive.

Projects of interest include:
Multi-touch table for exploring art

Select-a-chat, which uses a physical object as an interface to a digital experience (it’s explained here)

Bubbloo, where you pop bubbles projected on a floor to reveal art on the wall (explained here)

Flickr Cascade, where they pull Creative Commons licensed photos of the DAM and show them in an app they wrote that takes advantage of Mac OS X’s Core Animation).

If you’re a total nerd about this stuff, go to Bruce’s YouTube page and follow the links to the DAM Tech Walkthroughs, where he explains the technology and ideas behind the various pieces.


In my post “Crime dramas shot in the city,” I mention my love for High and Low (my personal favorite Kurosawa flick.) Well, I just found out that on Tuesday Criterion releases a new 2-disc special edition of the film. Their prior DVD release was just the film, no frills. The new one’s got all kinds of goodies (commentary track, making-of documentary, interview with Mifune), which might get me to *purchase* it (and I never ever purchase DVDs).

Bold Shill – UX Week News

There’s a lot happening yon Adaptive Path way as we gear up for UX Week 2008.

We’ve just announced the actual super final completing of our program, including Jury Hahn, and the presentations we’ll get from the folks at the Exploratorium.

My colleague Leah Buley conducted a marvelous interview with Audrey Chen, lead IA on For anyone wondering what role an IA serves in our modern Web world, look no further.

And I’ve had the fortune of email-conversing with Michael B. Johnson, who runs the Moving Pictures Group at Pixar. There’s a lot to chew on, touching on everything from prototyping to hiring to management and morale.

You can register for any combination of days at UX Week, though I recommend coming for all 4. And use the promotional code FOPM and receive 15% off!

FOO Camp – My Meta Experience

This past weekend, I had the fortune of attending FOO Camp 08, O’Reilly Publishing’s confab on their campus in Sebastopol. FOO Camp is the original tech “unconference”, where there is no pre-set program. There’s an empty grid of presentation and discussion slots, and attendees fill them out.

I enjoyed myself, though it took me a while to find a rhythm. The experience is a little disorienting at first, as you navigate the space, the people, and the program, all of which feels like it’s shifting. I didn’t really get the hang of it all until the end of the first full day, when I finally just began to relax and engage with the people around me.

There’s an adage that the best part of conferences are the hallway conversations, and one point of the unconference is to create an event that is all hallway conversations. The thing is, the hallway conversations at FOO Camp were still much more interesting than the vast majority of the sessions (including the session I lead… more on that in a bit). There’s something about the spontaneity and organicness of a simple conversation that simply can’t be improved upon.

I also suspect I didn’t choose sessions well. Most of the ones I attended were “meh,” though I’d hear about other great sessions after the fact.

What I learned is how not to run a session. Jeff and I facilitated a discussion around new user experiences that go beyond keyboard and mouse. I didn’t want to overly define the session, and as such, it ended up being far too broad and diffuse. There’s an art to crafting a topic that finds a happy medium, where it’s not too narrow that it discourages exploration, but not so broad that there is no anchor. If I were to do it over, I’d have chosen a narrower aspect of new user experiences (probably natural interfaces (touchscreen, gesture, voice input, etc.) and use that to go deeper.

Tim only knows if I’ll be invited back next year.

Dashboard For Your Life

One of the emerging themes of FOO Camp 08 dealt with people’s relationship with the data they create in their life. It began with the first session Saturday morning, where Esther Dyson lead a discussion on “user-generated metadata.” With services like Dopplr, Tripit, 23andMe, Mint, Wesabe, etc. etc, capturing all this information about our lives, what does this enable? I was disappointed at how quickly the talked turned negative, dwelling on privacy and policy concerns, and essentially fearful of tracking.

I believe that there’s immense opportunity in helping people make sense of such information about themselves. Actually, not only make sense, but use it as a kind of mirror that can serve as a form of feedback that allows you to understand the consequences of your actions. In the past, I’ve ruminated on the idea of a personal dashboard that presented data from seemingly disparate aspects of your life, and that could help you understand correlations between them.

As such, I was intrigued by the session Tom Coates lead on “Instrumenting Your Life.” Tom’s work on Fire Eagle has inspired him to think about how geodata can interact with other data about your life. Tom started the session with a brief presentation largely drawn from a talk he and Matt Jones gave at Web 2.0 Expo, titled “Polite, Pertinent, and Pretty.” It’s a must-read presentation for anyone interested in personal informatics. Tom’s session was the hopeful invert of Esther’s — as we throw off data in a variety of forms, what would it be like to align them?

Tom even spoke of the idea of a personal dashboard, making me believe that there’s something there. When I think of a personal dashboard, it quickly gets overwhelming because there’s the potential to track so much personal data. The blog The Quantified Self showcases a number of tools and technologies for tracking aspects of your life, and any interface that attempted to present all of them would overwhelm most users.

I guess this post is something a Lazyweb request for someone to start building that personal dashboard. Let me align my movements in space, Flickr activity, blog posts, heart rate, and financial status!

Crime dramas shot in the city

A few posts back, I linked to a video of Bullitt‘s famous car chase geocoded. As a near-San Franciscan, one of the things I love about Bullitt is the use of real San Francisco locations.

I recently rewatched the mother of all shot-on-location crime pictures, The Naked City. I strongly recommend viewing the Criterion Collection edition, which has a gorgeous picture, audio commentary from the writer who crafted the story, and illuminating interviews.

If it weren’t for The Naked City, you’d have no Law & Order or CSI – this one movie pretty much is the blueprint for all police procedurals to come. And, in addition, it was shot on location in New York City (107 locations!), and used the entire city — not just the shiny parts of Manhattan.

The Naked City was released in 1948, and Bullitt in 1968, so we also have their anniversaries to celebrate. I have no idea if there’s a quality location-shot crime drama from 1988, and I’m pretty certain we haven’t seen any this year.

(It’s also worth noting that The Naked City is the second of a string of 5 amazing pictures helmed by Jules Dassin, perhaps one of the most overlooked/underappreciated directors in Hollywood history.)