Etymology. So. I can't find the origin of the word "poontang."
It's stuck in my head because in my dad's car, he played an old
(sounded like 20s or 30s era) jazz song taped for him by a friend,
where a woman refrains, "Ohhhh, Mr. Mitchell, I'm crazy 'bout
your sweet poontang!" supposedly referring to a baked good.
A neuron buried in my noggin tells me it's of African descent (like
'goober'), but, well, a search for 'poontang' on the Web turns up
The RCA-CRD 2000
show is up, and should provide hours of mouse-clicking enjoyment.
The RCA-CRD is a kinda British art school version of the Media Lab.
The kind of link for which you turn to peterme.com!
One of these days I'll learn to talk to girls. Honest. A couple
nights ago Dad and I went out to eat, and found ourselves next to
a table of two women speaking a foreign language. It sounded like
French to me, and my dad, to verify, asked them where they were
from. Turned out one was Belgian and the other French, though both
lived in San Francisco. The Belgian, when asked what she did, replied,
"I'm a scientist." I loved that. "Scientist."
So proudly generic. She researches HIV at SF General Hospital (about
5 blocks from where I write this). The Frenchwoman was an architect.
We found out where to get the best Belgian ale (Amnesia, on Valencia),
and chatted amiably for a bit before they headed out.
flummoxed (tm Calamondin)
in situations like this. Here were two smart, friendly, attractive
girls, talking to us, hell, giving me an opportunity to make an
offer ("Well, we should try this ale at Amnesia some time soon"),
and when it comes to say something, I sit there, a mute idiot grinning.
self-flagellation before y'all? 'Cause I'm kinda sick of this behavior
on my part. I don't know what the obstacle is.... I suppose it's
some fear of rejection/desire to not intrude/feeling like a dork
that gets in the way. Just need to bolster my resolve.
It's all about the freakin' user. So, the last meme referred
to working. What I've been toiling over mostly is user testing.
We've done some fabulous research at Epinions, generating some interesting
results. Still, I find typical usability methods frustrating. So
I posted to CHI-Web:
So, we're engaging in a fairly extensive program of user testing
at Epinions, and we've been getting some fabulous results. However,
we're not able to find out all that we seek, a problem which seems
borne of the common methods of 'usability engineering.'
I think the problem lies in that, if I'm not mistaken, usability
engineering was developed for applications used in work contexts.
Folks trying to accomplish obvious discrete tasks, and clear success
metrics (time-to-completion, etc.).
When it comes to consumer-oriented Web sites, though, things
get fuzzy. "Number of clicks" or "time to completion" aren't very
worthwhile measurements, unless you're studying an extremely highly
specified task. But such high specification, I fear, confounds
results, as it's *so* unnatural--while the test environment is
an okay approximation of the environment of a user focused on
a work-oriented task, it bears little relationship to the environment
for a more experiential, wandering task like 'researching products.'
(which is likely to be done in 10-15 minute intervals, at work
and at home, many distractions, etc. etc.)
The trickiest bit has been developing metrics for what's 'successful.'
While I can say that a user can get to a product in X clicks or
X seconds, that's not really successful. What's more important,
and well-nigh impossible to measure, is what happens afterward.
Any pointers/suggestions to usability engineering for the mushier
domain of consumer-oriented, content-heavy sites will be greatly
and got some great
responses. If you have any thoughts, let
You know, this is the
first serious 'usability' engagement I've driven. In the past, I've
often been labelled 'usability' guy, even though I did no user research
and testing. I did advocate 'user-centered design,' but that's a
superset, of which usability engineering is a component--that which
proposes problems, suggests solutions, and tests designs. I've been
an interaction designer--specifying systems that would meet users'
needs. It's funny how folks would just lump it all together. In
my mind, they're quite different.
Can't blog... Working....
Reinventing Comics Is Not Meant For You. So, I'm finally getting
around to discussing Scott McCloud's latest.
Unless you draw comics, the book is not meant for you. Whereas Understanding
Comics is an exploration of a communications medium, and thus
has bearing an all communications media, RC is an open letter
to the comics community (creators, publishers, sellers, and, to
a much smaller extent, readers). A treatise that if the community
doesn't get its act together, it could very well go away. And a
proposal for how to solve the problem, step-by-step, and ensure
the medium's vitality and longevity.
is much simpler than UC. In UC Scott McCloud was an
explorer in the New World, reporting back to the old world what
he'd found. There was an ecstatic quality in detailing the discoveries,
and an impressive attempt to capture everything about this
Scott is a settler on the east coast in the 1840s, and his writings
are a diary the mess that he witnesses around him. The book's first
half details the failings of the comics industry, its inability
to transcend pulp schlock, its willingness to squander a vast audience
in favor of the locked-in market of pimply white boys, and its refusal
to give artists a fair shake.
feels all is not lost--there's a vast frontier to explore, and he
urges his colleagues in the comics community to "go west."
"west" is cyberspace, and the second half of RC
is devoted to the coming impact of digital media and distribution
on comics. This is the section with most relevance to whomever reads
my site, particularly Scott's discussion of "the infinite canvas,"
the notion that comics must no longer be confined to the bounds
of a printed page, but can stretch and unfold endlessly, in any
direction. Of particular note is Scott's belief that hypertext will
give way to a more spatial mode of display and navigation; that
the link will be seen more as an artifact of a low-bandwidth age,
to be replaced by information spaces that provide context and holism.
of what Scott has to say will be new to peterme readers. Anyone
who's read Wired at any point over the last 6 years has already
heard plenty about the miracles of the net for allowing creators
to go straight to consumers. About the fluidity of the new economy.
And folks who've been designing for computers learned long ago to
think of the display not as a screen, not as a page, but as a window.
okay. Those parts aren't meant for you. Those parts are meant for
Scott's colleagues, many of whom are wilfully ignorant about anything
cybernetic. Whose tongues and fingers are blackened by inkstains,
who will give up their Koh-I-Noors only when you pry it from their
cold, dead hands. Scott does a good job of scaring them into realizing
the dimness of the future if they don't pay attention and do something
to save themselves.
I want to
finish by discussing some of the form of RC. The presentation,
matching the exposition, is straightforward--far less play with
panels and borders than exhibited in UC. Also, there's a
notable difference in drawing style, borne of the fact that RC
was produced all-digitally. If I'm not mistaken, Scott even sketches
using a Wacom tablet--no drawing on paper and scanning it in. This
provides a remarkable precision in the lines, though causes some
bezier artifacts to ruin smooth curves. It also frees Scott to exploit
some helpful visual effects--smooth blurs, transparencies, and endless
cut 'n pasting help him get his points across in ways too cumbersome
for ink and paper.
point is a suggestion for Scott to continue drawing information
graphics. His dissection of the supply chain (how print comics get
from creator to consumer), his mastery of iconography in telling
a story, basically, his ability to use comics to explain abstraction
(comics are almost *always* narrative) demonstrates a remarkable
skill for visualizing ideas that hadn't yet seen full flower with
UC. Any magazine art directors should have Scott's name and
number in their rolodex, for when they need to get across a particularly
I liked it. And while it's not meant for you, you might very well
enjoy it. So pick
up a copy (and give Scott a buck in doing so.) If you feel a
desire to point to this review, I've also posted
it to Epinions.
fantasy. The latest New Yorker (the fiction issue) offers
up "The Smoker." Though there are almost no typically
indulgent elements (except for age difference), the story is a remarkably
powerful fantasy for smart single straight men aged 25-35. It caught
me off-guard. I was irrevocably drawn to that which was a kind of
news. The Museum of Jurassic Technology
will soon open
a new exhibit on 17th-century Jesuit scholar and polymath Athanasius
Kircher. Perhaps a road trip to L.A. is in order...
Whoops! Forgot to point to my debut Media
photo bliss. So, Caterina
pointed to The
Boys of Bundy College, a nifty online photography exhibit. That
reminded me to check out Cosmo's
site to see if Archeological Collage has been completed. And
it has. CHECK IT OUT. It's *way* cool. Play with the
slider. (And if you haven't yet, visit Personal
me of the multimedia photography CD-ROMs we published at Voyager,
Photograph to Remember, by Pedro
Meyer, who is responsible for the beautiful ZoneZero
site. I did a related link search on Google for ZoneZero, which
turns up a bunch of delightful
photography excursions. Have fun!
New servers. Switched to my new host, which brings with it some
moving pains. Excuse the creakiness.
Don't ever stop thinking. Scott
McCloud's new column, "I
Can't Stop Thinking!" has debuted. I'm reading Reinventing
Comics (that link is for Scott's affiliate site), and though
I'll have much more on it later, I can say that I think the periodical
form might be the best milieu for Scott right now.
Mmmm. Tasty! So, I just finished Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen
Confidential, a 'tell-all' memoir of one man's life in
the restaurant biz. I loved his juicy essays in the New Yorker,
and his book doesn't disappoint those looking for a sordid read
of the seamy underbelly of cooking. It's not perfect (the autobiographical
bits aren't nearly as strong as his descriptions of "a day
in the life" of a restaurant kitchen), but holds interest for
those who love to go out to eat.
of the book on Amazon are quite a mixed bag (moreso than with any
other title I've seen there), and one reviewer suggests reading
"going online" to read the NYC restaurant reports from
the department of health. Which
I did. And which are fascinating. Every single restaurant is
listed, and the health infractions therein. Almost every Starbucks
I looked at had a problem with "Vermin." Heh.
matter. I think I've lamented in these pages how corporate America
seems to blithely ignore research occuring in academia, missing
out on some worthwhile projects and findings. DENIM
strikes me as a potentially brilliant solution to rapid Web design
prototyping, and utilizes zooming user interfaces to boot! In separate
news, devilishly handsome Frank McClelland (not that I've ever met
him nor seen him, but he is a regular reader who has been supplying
me good links, so I must simply assume he makes the girls swoon)
pointed me to CANIS,
a project out of UIUC that "is developing and deploying unique
analysis environments for large-scale information retrieval applications
based on discipline and community scale collections." Sounds
good to me.
is... a day in which I have nothing planned, where no one is
expecting me to be somewhere at a certain time, and I'm free to
do what I want when I want.
Consider this an anti-pointer. This will be catty. And might
annoy folks I know at Razorfish (Hi Karen, Terry, Victor, Heather
Anne, Shel, and Ethan. Please note I say this only to hope that
you publish things that aren't Craig Kanarick vanity pieces and
that don't just give an extremely cursory overview but instead provide
depth... Like, say Karen's engaging 'modularity' talk from ASIS.)
After wasting time clicking through "Razorfish
Reports" (in PDF? Hello?) I can safely suggest to you all
to pretty much not bother. It all kind of gives "science"
a bad rap. And the numerous typos don't help matters.
Kooky kollidge kids. Alex chimes in with a report
on what the folks at NYU's Interactive
Telecommunications Program have been up to. Sigh. I miss the
time I had surfing student projects sites. Sites like RCA's
CRD, MIT Media Lab, Carnegie
Another damn blog. If you like my site, and places like Alamut,
Calamondin, and Lemonyellow
(RIP?), then you ought to start reading Caterina.net.
Thoughful links on art and stuff. And she updates regularly, unlike
some. Err, by "some," I mean me.
More on Tourette's. Jason
points us to this
article on Shadow Syndromes, the notion that many people (often
'nerds') suffer milder versions of neurological disorders. This
a while back.
Hyde wrote me:
I felt compelled to email you about Jonathan Letham's book because
my son has a severe case of Tourette's. It's a fascinating thing
to live with, although some elements of it are trying. His sister
gets annoyed that he has to eat snacks in pairs, which messes
up the "how many did you have?" fairness that kids demand of each
other. (But at least he's down to pairs. We laughed over the White
Tower burgers scene in Letham's book because my son use to eat
Fruit Rollups in groups of four.) His vocal outbursts get trying
too because he's 13 (the age of perversion) and lately it's been
"do you want a stinky face?" which you *don't* wanna know about.
[s] (But it beats the "my dick is bigger than yours!" that use
to greet me at breakfast each morning. To which I'd answer, "well,
I certainly hope so" or "thank you for that update." Humor helps.)
Sometimes, it's hard to stay on track with him because every so
often, he has to shuffle his feet a certain way and a certain
number of times before he can even take a step forward.
But I always know what he's feeling or thinking, based on what
tic he's doing. (Facial grimacing and head nodding usually mean
he's excited and happy, for example.) The meds he takes for the
Tourette's and a mood disorder (high co-morbidity there) dampens
the tics but hasn't come close to killing them.
What I find fascinating about Letham's book is his innate understanding
of Tourette's without being a sufferer himself.
Calling all New Yorkers! You are an idiot if you live or will
be near Manhattan tomorrow (June 3) and do not attend Excavating
the Archive: New Technologies of Memory.
We're all a little bent. So I'm reading Motherless
Brooklyn, a fab novel whose main character suffers Tourette's
Syndrome. The characterization is remarkably vivid, a marvelous
job revealing the impulses on the inside, not just the expressions
of tics and utterances.
struck by is how Tourettic some of my own behavior is. This actually
comes up with almost any neurological disorders I learn about. They
usually seem to me to be an extreme type of activity that I (and,
I assume many people) do all the time. Tourette's, or autism, or
whathaveyou, aren't binary problems, where you either have it or
you don't. I suspect we all "suffer" these syndromes,
just some much more than others. Studies of neurological disorders
fascinate because we're really learning about ourselves, where these
extreme examples help highlight exactly what's going on. Hrm. I
fear I'm not making sense, and I'm now compelled to return to work.
birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!
the use? By way of Dack I
became familiar with ForUse,
a website promoting "usage-centered design", a methodology
for interactive systems. Of particular interest is the experience
forum, featuring papers on "Misused Metaphors," "In-site
Searching," "Accelerated Modeling," and more. Constantine
and Lockwood's Big Thing are Essential Use Cases, which have always
struck me as an appealing method, but which I've never practiced,
as I've never had the time to really study it and feel comfortable
applying it. Makes me wish I had a cushy agency job or was back
in school. Instead, I must produce!