January 22, 2006

A Trend I'd Like To See

Titling movies and teevee shows with simple expository sentences reflecting the content. See:

Snakes on a Plane

Skating with Celebrities

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Posted by peterme at 04:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 19, 2006

Why my participation on this site, and mailing lists, and other places, is currently light

I have my fingers in many pies.

For Adaptive Path

  • Leading a Big Client project (strategy, research, design)
  • Separately, managing a team of 5 practitioners
  • Adjunct role on an internal redesign team
  • Adjunct role on an internal brand team
  • Planner of weekly brownbags
  • Attend management meetings
  • Putting together plans for a book
  • Advising on our UX Week workshop
  • Getting increasingly involved with company oversight
  • Assisting with our consulting sales process
  • Assist with specific sales opportunities
  • Assisting with our project staffing
  • Talk to and vet potential contractors
  • Attend recruiting days at key schools
  • "Develop the practice" -- whatever that means

    For the IA Institute

  • Weekly board meetings
  • Develop a business plan
  • Plan a major fall conference

    Other things

  • Speaking at the IA Summit
  • Moderating a panel at South by Southwest
  • Write a column for the ASIS&T journal
  • Conduct an extended conversation with GK Van Patter at NextD
  • Figuring out the right messages to get invited to speak at other conferences
  • Buying a car (#368)
  • Working with my parents to buy them a house

    Things I'm not doing

  • Laundry
  • Yard work
  • House cleaning
  • Financial planning and management
  • Overseeing work on the house (new back deck, build out the attic)
  • Engaging with my neighborhood associations
  • I'm sure there are other things. . .

    Posted by peterme at 09:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
  • January 17, 2006

    Genres drive web users "blink"

    The jounral Nature reports on research that shows that web site users make snap decisions about the quality of a web page. While such early research requires being taken with a grain of salt, it's definitely clear the first impressions are crucial.

    My guess is that these first impressions are very much a product of what Andrew Dillon calls the "shape of information." We engage with information not just semantically, but physically. The shape, structure, and form of information drives our initial impressions of the meaning and quality of information.

    I dealt with this issue in my explorations of document genres. (That link leads to a Google search that turns up articles from this site.) Users use genre to quickly identify the kind of information they'll find, so genres allow people to seek information that will allow them to satisfy a particular purpose at hand. Genres are very much about the form/shape of information -- for example, when looking at a menu, it's is the structure and layout of the information that first cues people into it's menu-ness. The actual content of the menu registers later.

    With the research proposed in Nature, I suspect we're seeing a visceral impact of genre on web design.

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    Posted by peterme at 08:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 16, 2006

    Does anyone *like* renting a car?

    This article on Hertz' change in insurance policies to have drivers responsible for acts of god just adds yet another log to the "rental cars hate their customers" fire.

    My experience with Budget after my accident is seemingly typical -- even though I was not at fault, Budget was still hostile toward me, sending terse threatening letters about how I owed them money.

    Or the car I rented this past weekend from Avis -- the Lost Damage Waiver was $23.99 a DAY, which is more than the car cost. I declined, trusting the gold card to cover it. But, I mean, come ON.

    Does anyone have satisfactory rental car experiences? Even Enterprise, whom I had trusted, gouged me on both the additional driver fee as well as an underhanded upgrade that caught us off-guard until we realized what had happened. Why do I have to be "on my guard" when renting a car? Why do I have to assume they are out to get me? How does that build customer loyalty and trust?

    Where is the JetBlue of the car rental industry? Hell, why isn't JetBlue in the car rental industry? It is so clearly an industry in need of some form of disruptive competition, because the current set of companies are simply racing to the bottom.

    Posted by peterme at 12:05 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    January 12, 2006

    Anthropological thought pointing the way

    Last night I attended an exceedingly enjoyable dinner brought together by local members of the anthrodesign mailing list. About 15 of us crowded around the table(s). To my left and right were folks from Yahoo, and across from me was an account planner at Grey Advertising, an anthropologist working for the architectural firm MKThink, and the senior user researcher at Walmart.com. Also at the table were a retail anthropologist, a strategist from Frog, a guy who works at the Center for South Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, and user interface design luminary Aaron Marcus.

    I was particularly excited talking to Mark from MKThink, because he's getting MKThink to move beyond standard architectural practice and consider ethnography as a method toward constructing better built environments. It was also fun hearing Ari's stories of reconciling being an anthropology postdoc with working for one of the world's leading advertising agencies.

    One of the things I realized is how the tenor, and discussion, in this group is different from other professional groups I hang out with. Professional groups tend to be identified by the domain of their work, not their practice. So information architects and interaction designers are very much beholden to the Web and software. Graphic designers are relegated to print material and interactive. Architects work on built environments. Industrial designers make physical products.

    The people in attendance at dinner, though, bringing anthropological thought to the world of design, are refreshingly free from being shackled to particular domains. And I think it's for a simple reason -- when you begin by engaging with people, it's obvious that people hop domains (say, web sites to phone calls to in-store) and they're not particularly concerned with subjects of domain. They just want to get something done. Not to say that domains aren't important (MAYA's work showed that hopping domains was a key break point in the process of library visitor), but it's paramountly foolish to find yourself restricted to a single one. Anthropological approaches can't help but demonstrate the how these various domains come into play.

    The drum I find myself beating this year is trying to get the methods I, and my colleagues, practice used in domains that go beyond the web. Not to give short shrift to the web - I love the web, and find the challenges there remarkably engaging. But "the web" is just one part of the elephant, and focusing solely on it leads to short-sighted solutions.

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    Posted by peterme at 10:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    January 11, 2006

    I resolve to do what they all resolve to do

    Adaptive Path has published its yearly set of resolutions. It's a remarkable piece of commentary, and makes me exceedingly proud of the people I work with.

    Posted by peterme at 02:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Extending the metaphor (to the point of breaking)

    A long time ago, David Weinberger wrote that, in our practice of categorization, we're moving from trees to leaves -- this was a way to distinguish monolithic singular hierarchies from what's happening with tagging and folksonomies.

    David cites Peter's response, which can be found in his new book Ambient Findability. Peter originally shared this view with us at the IA Summit in 2005, as written about by Gene:

    Peter Morville responded to the quote by saying (this is paraphrased):

    And we know what happens to leaves when we rake them together. They rot. And become food for new trees.

    And at the beginning the his presentation Peter Merholz said (again, paraphrased):

    And sometimes the trees get really big and block out the light and kill off everything on the ground. So you have to chop the trees down.

    As David was getting the meme sent around again, I thought it worthwhile to point to Gene's post on the subject.

    Posted by peterme at 02:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    January 05, 2006

    Pricking the insular tech bubble

    Structured blogging - this strikes me as a solution in desperate need of a problem. Well, I know *who* has the problems -- blog search engines, rss aggregators, and the like who are hoping to be able to better define the blog reading experience. But the users definitely don't have the problem -- neither the reader nor the writer is calling out for structured blogging... Are they?

    Attention Trust. There's been quite a bit of blog froth about the subject of attention, and the development of Attention Trust, a group dedicated to ensuring that people's attention is appropriately valued. I was hoping I could avoid saying much about it, because it seems like a circle jerk of well-meaning technologists who are totally out of touch with consumer needs. I was dismayed, then, when the otherwise on-the-money Bokardo identified "attention" as a trend to watch in 2006. Dismayed because, frankly, there are much more important problems for designers (and engineers, and, well, anyone) to solve than managing issues of "attention." Attention management is one of those classic problems that direly affects the cognoscenti, and has little impact on the bulk of humanity. There are so many more bigger issues to address -- can we focus our attention (ha!) appropriately?

    Posted by peterme at 01:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Adaptive Path Workshops in L.A. Miami, and Seattle

    Just a little beginning-of-the-year plugging for some workshops we're doing around the country.

    You can receive a 15% discount to any of these workshops by using the promotional code FOPM when you register.

    Los Angeles

    The two L.A. workshops take place on campus at UCLA. I then encourage attendees to get gutbusting donuts at Stan's in Westwood.

    January 25
    The Elements of User Experience

    January 26
    Designing and Building with Ajax


    February 9 Designing and Building with Ajax I have nothing clever to say about Miami. I have never been. I have never been to Florida, even.


    February 15 and 16 Beyond Usability: Designing the Complete User Experience Early registration discount deadline is January 15. And this will be in the fabulous new Seattle Public Library, a truly interesting piece of experience design itself.
    Posted by peterme at 01:31 PM | TrackBack


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    A Trend I'd Like To See
    Why my participation on this site, and mailing lists, and other places, is currently light
    Genres drive web users "blink"
    Does anyone *like* renting a car?
    Anthropological thought pointing the way
    I resolve to do what they all resolve to do
    Extending the metaphor (to the point of breaking)
    Pricking the insular tech bubble
    Adaptive Path Workshops in L.A. Miami, and Seattle
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