September 30, 2000
Some thoughts to end the month. So I'm reading Forward
Through the Rearview Mirror: Reflections on and By Marshall McLuhan.
It's perfect for folks like me, who haven't actually read the man's
scholarly work, but want to understand what he said and the contexts
in which he said it. It's also delightfully designed, juxtaposing
bold thoughts with bold graphics to better bring points home.
I've just landed in the
chapter titled "Medium is the Message," discussing McLuhan's
thoughts on the forms of communication and the effects they have.
The editor's notes point out that McLuhan was influenced by Harold
Innis, whose books Empire
and Communications and The
Bias of Communication discuss how empires are shaped by
their predominant media. Media that emphasize time (stone tablets,
pre-literate speech) lead to organizations characterized by conservatism,
hierarchy, and a devotion to the sacred. Space-based media (writing
on paper, electronic media) foment highly secular organizations
concerned with legal and political issues.
Clearly, the internet
and Web take space-based media to what is perhaps its extreme. Newer
readers of petermemes might not know of my fondness for David Weinberger's
Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization,
a newsletter predicated on the notion that:
The Web is doing to business organizations what it has done to
Documents traditionally have a hierarchical structure (also known
as an "outline") created by an author. Readers move through the
hierarchy in the way the author intended. The outline may be quite
complex and intricate.
The Web changes all that. The Web pounds documents into many
small pieces, loosely joined. Now the reader decides the order
in which she'll read the pages. The pages lose their context in
the hierarchy. The author loses her position of central authority.
Now, take an outline, rotate it 90 degrees, and you have an organizational
chart...another hierarchical structure that the Web -- in the
form of intranets -- is pounding into many small pieces, loosely
joined. (From here)
The potentially darker
side of this equation is well-presented by Denise Caruso in her
speech, Of Bonding
and Bondage: Cult, Culture, and the Internet.
What does it all mean?
Clearly, we're still figuring it out. McLuhan was very clear that,
in media and communication, what's most important is not the content
of the message, but the impact and affect the message has on its
receivers. It recalls Women,
Fire, and Dangerous Things--we develop categories not based
on some inherent quality of the things categorized, but on how we
interact with those things (obviously, the two are often related.
but where they're not, the interaction, the use, is more important
than the thing qua thing.)
This underlies my frustration
with common information architecture practice, where the qualities
of the thing are considered most important, and used to determine
the structure of an information space. And why I'm particularly
interested in social navigation
and other methods and practices for understanding how people actually
use the information offered them, and ways information spaces can
adapt to such use.
September 29, 2000
Hrm. Odd way to end my birthday week, but I'm in a bit of a
foul and lethargic mood. Low motivation. Little black cloud over
my head. Don't know why. Maybe not exercising enough. Or a biorhythm
September 25, 2000
Oooh! Bonus! For those who liked Being Mark Hurst (below), there's
this. From Már Örlygsson,
my most interestingly-named petermeme reader of which I know.
Ahem. Happy birthday
to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear self-obsessed weenie,
happy birthday to meeeee! (c)1963,
I'm 28. A football score
September 24, 2000
Being Mark Hurst.
Customer experience. Customer experience! Customer experience
customer experience customer experience. Customer experience customer.
Experience customer experience. Customer experience. Customer
experience! Customer experience customer experience customer experience.
Customer experience customer. Experience. Customer! Experience
Spindly lines-n-labels navigation. Fans of Thinkmap-like
interfaces will dig ReferralWeb,
a Java applet that visualizes the connections between people. The
database is of researchers in aritificial intelligence and cognitive
science. If you don't know any names to put in, start off with Donald
Brooks, and Marvin
Minsky. I love how it finds and graphs the connections between
any two researchers.
September 20, 2000
Linkylove. It turns out Mark Bernstein, mucky-muck at hypertext
tool firm Eastgate, has a
homepage. Some good
leads to good thoughts there.
points to the notes from the Social
Navigation workshop at CHI 2000. Lots of tasty information on
leveraging the use of spaces to help define their navigation--yummy
self-organizing stuff. Some poking around lead to the Social
Computing Program at some Swedish university. More yummy info.
Too much yummy info. Getting bloated on yummy info.
is letting us peek into his academic life. He links to the Web sites
for all his courses, including User
Interface Design, Prototyping, and Evaluation CS 160 - Fall 2000.
Professor Landay has been good enough to post lecture
plans and notes for the world to see. I <heart> the Web!
More on TiVo and marketing.
Word is that ReplayTV's ad
campaign features a scenario similar to the one I suggested previously,
though with baseball instead of football. Replay's site is smart
not to stress anything about programming your own "personal
tv network" and instead focus on the simple thrills of pausing
September 18, 2000
Reality Distortion. Both the National Organization of Women
and a coalition of organizations representing minorities are dogging
Nader as being oblivious to their concerns. From what I can
gather, they're upset that Nader doesn't pay enough lip service
to women's and race issues. Never mind that Women's
Issues and Racism
are addressed in his platform. Never mind that most of Nader's
candidacy issues touch these concerns. Never mind that the Democratic
Party will basically sell women and minorities down the river in
the interest of corporate greed. What matters is that Nader isn't
pandering to their desire to be pandered to. Sigh.
TiVo's misguided ad
campaign. Everyone I know who owns TiVo loves it. If I had cable
television, I'd buy it in a second. I mean, it's super-cool--it's
easy to record programs, you can "pause" live television,
you can eradicate TV ads, and, perhaps niftiest of all, the box
begins learning your TeeVee tastes, and automatically records shows
and movies that it thinks might be of interest.
TiVo has blitzed the
Bay Area (and probably a number of other markets) with TV ads about
their service. There are currently two in rotation, Network
Execs, and Cops.
The latter ad is simply kinda dumb, and I'll ignore it here. The
former ad's premise, that ordinary viewers at home can program
their own TV network, is a tellingly misguided attempt at selling
Normally, I wouldn't
bother critiquing ads in depth. But the off-the-mark qualities of
the TiVo campaign reveal a lack of understanding that permeates
the internet industry. Namely, that people want to do work.
That people will invest significant effort in a thing if the payoff
is significant enough.
That's simply not true.
People HATE work. I hazard to guess that the notion of "programming
your own TV network" frightens off more potential viewers than
it seduces. It offers no obvious benefits over the VCR. It's a symptom
of that product-killing syndrome, Being Too Clever For Your Own
Good. The folks who run TiVo are smart. They're ad agency is probably
also smart. They're clever people who love the cleverness of their
device, and think others will, too.
They're wrong. If TiVo
wanted to watch their sales increase tenfold, they'd have a TV ad,
shown during football games, of guys watching a football game, and
some incident interrupts an amazing Hail Mary pass, and the guys
pause the game, deal with the incident, and then continue as if
nothing happened. Couch potatoes across the country would spit
up their beer, and Circuit City wouldn't be able to keep it
There's an analogy here
in a technology many petermeme
readers are familiar with: Blogger.
Blogger began as an afterthought of the Pyra collaborative workspace
engine. (Sippey's got a great
review of Pyra, the technology). But Pyra is Work. It's Clever,
probably Too Damned Clever For It's Own Good. Blogger is god-awful
simple. Dumb as dirt. And quite popular. As Meg put it in an email
to me, discussing Pyra's (the company) history:
"We stubbornly stuck with Pyra App on and off until about
May of this year. We kept wanting to build that. The market kept
clamoring for Blogger. The users saw what they wanted and we finally
decided to listen....
Young visionary web kids who get it come up with visionary plans
for how the web should/could work. Unfortunately, explaining that
to the rest of the world is nigh on impossible. And scaling back
the vision so that it becomes something a VC in Texas can comprehend
results in a boring product no one wants to build.
It's why we shied away from Blogger for so long. It's too simple,
we said. It's so obvious, we said. People could do this on their
own, why do they need us, we said. But we forget that we're months
(perhaps years) ahead of the market, of the average consumer,
of the type of thing most VCs still want to fund..."
The market taught Pyra
something TiVo (and anyone in this space) should learn.
September 14, 2000
Picture of me. Dancing.
Dig that crazy shirt! (Which I blame on an "island" theme.
Ahem.). Oh, and picture taken by ginzu.
3-D drawing for the
pointed me to Teddy,
a Java applet where you sketch in 2-D, and it fairly intelligently
turns that sketch into a 3-D render. Simple and powerful. Also supports
a number of gestures for altering the sketch.
Chatting about narrative.
An email found in my inbox alerted me to the forthcoming Hypertext,
Narrative, Image, Flash roundtable/workshop (not a conference!)
occurring Veteran's Day weekend in Boston. It sounds right up the
alley of peterme readers. From the announcement:
of narrative in the Web experience is a pressing concern throughout
the Web world, from entertainment to ecommerce. How can we manage
the narrative experience in the presence of both interaction and
We hope to
bring together a small group of leading writers, designers, and
theoreticians to define (and extend) the state of the art in an
intense weekend roundtable and workshop.
Actual data? God forbid!
Prompted by a rather puerile
discussion on the effect of download times on the user experience
(prompted in turn by a puerile
column on Infoworld on this topic, which was in turn prompted
by a puerile "study"
conducted by Zona Research--never trust a "study" that
doesn't actually tell you how they get their data), a CHI-Web listmember
pointed to some actual worthwhile research, a study titled Quality
is in the Eye of the Beholder: Meeting Users' Requirements for Internet
Quality of Service [Word .doc]. It suggests that users are willing
to tolerate a long time of page-load latency, as long as the page
is loading incrementally. Interesting stuff.
Campers and Bloggers.
So, tpodd is discovering that
Camper shoes are quite popular
among the blog kids. I love my pair. SO COMFY. If you blog and wear
Campers, let him know.
September 12, 2000
Psssst. Buddy--wanna model? Jodi Forlizzi presents
a number of theories of experience in product design. Lots of
pretty colored drawings. A must-have for the XBlog,
Get back to work!
Instead of toiling in my info-mines, tpodd
(designer on my team here at Epinions) has been, you know, thinking.
Most recently, he's been having trouble finding a grad school that
satisfies his desires. Previously, he ruminated on interaction design,
and how frustrating the Web is for interaction designers, but how
promising the world of wireless is.
September 10, 2000
Winer has posted yet another
graphic from a site not his own and doesn't mention the source.
I love it when people appropriate imagery, but I hate when they
don't give credit. Thanks for listening.
[Note: Dave wrote to me that
he credited the graphic the following day. Which he did. With a
little link totally unrelated to the graphic. And, really, I'm just
annoyed at his comment about Rebecca's fab
[Later note: At 4pm on Sep 11, two days after
he first posted the graphic, I received this email:
Subject: It's even worse than it appears
If you click on the graphic it takes you to the site.
I guess HE SHOWED
ME! Not that I have a clue about what's "even worse than it
thoughts. I've written up my
research on the etymology of the word "poontang."
Of particular interest is that it features the complete lyrics to
the song that started it all--lyrics that undoubtedly point to its
Shilling for others.
eFriend Todd Levin
(perhaps best known to peterme readers as the coiner of the "shut-the-fuck-up
bullets" meme), asks us for some support for his new super
secret project. Todd needs your high
school photographs. You should do what Todd asks. He sold a
Cool Site of the Year award on eBay. Then you should read his No
Exit, Part II. A must for existentialists everywhere.
September 6, 2000
So maybe I overreacted a bit... in my snarky comment on September
3. But it really bugs me when people trivialize rape by associating
it with that with which it has nothing to do. She qualified the
statement, but you can't even breathe the word 'rape' without it
having some effect. I mean, yes, of course the whole help-me-get-laid
stunt was dumb, but that's really all it was.
Anyway, gosh and golly,
but I've been a busy bee. This isn't a real update, and there probably
won't be one for a bit.
I've read The
Humane Interface and recommend it highly. It could turn out
to be a very important text for interaction designers. Lots (and
lots) more thoughts later, when I'm out of this work hole.
I'm reading Down
and Out in Paris and London and recommend it highly. I was pointed
to it after expressing my enjoyment of Kitchen
Confidential, as Orwell describes the seedy underbelly of restaurant/hotel
work in Paris quite vividly.
I'm volunteering for
Ralph Nader. I'll be on
18th Street in Potrero Hill this Sunday. Stop by. I've never campaigned
for anyone or anything before.
I'm working. Work work
September 3, 2000
Thank goodness for eternal vigilance. What would we do if smart
right-thinking people didn't tell us how
Good new month.
peterme through the hole
of a Krispy Kreme donut.
Taken by Ryan Sims.
what--comics! The best of the recent spate of Scott McCloud
interviews is this lengthy
one at PopImage. I first became familiar with one of the interviewers,
Albert Boime, through his amazing lecture/presentation/explanation
of Van Gogh's
Starry Night on a Voyager CD-ROM.
(and those visiting) might be excited to know that comics geniuses
Clowes and Chris
Ware will be interviewed by book jacket designer extraordinaire
Kidd at the Cartoon
Art Museum on September 16. The event is free, but seating is
limited and there are no advance reservations--looks like it's camping
out time. Anybody else interested
in joining me?