Patterns And Asks Left And Right, With Innovative Iterations Kinda, Sorta, Somewhat In Sight

by Ben WisemanIllustration by Ben Wiseman

I published an article on Medium last week entitled, Understanding Snowflakes, Wheels, and Innovation.

The gist of the five-minute read is pretty straight-forward: smart modern day product teams aren’t slaving through 12 hour days within a high-cost, iterative gestation process in the pursuit of a “born perfect” entry to market; they’re most likely stitching together an experience based on a saturated market’s best practice patterns (think: regenerative braking in an electric car, or access to apps for smartphones).

Only once the business deems the market viable will a deep investment in major differentiators begin.

None of that is news to product teams, but what I’m discovering in my first B2B enterprise software rodeo is that the sales variable is much more influential than I had understood when breaking into the space six months ago. From shipping expectations to requirements definition to even the definition of the interaction model itself, sales greatly influences product across the board.

This reality has me attempting to work out an equation to immediately support ever-spawning sales profit arteries while nurturing an innovative and iterative product design culture, one that will have much more impact on our end users the farther we go down the line.

A brave new world. Interesting stuff.

Traditional Vs. Non-Traditional Journalism

Chris Anderson and Will Hearst talking shop in May of 2006:

Publisher, Will Hearst, on the evolution of journalism:

[..] In the era of 20 years ago, there was a notion of a professional journalist — I’m not saying let’s race back to that era — what I’m saying is that notion is utterly gone. And what we are seeing as so-called professional journalism is really freelance material, shot in Baghdad, shipped to New York, somebody voice-overs it and that’s supposed to be “live news.”

And we’re covering Israel out of London and we’re covering Nairobi out of Tokyo, you know, we’re kidding ourselves. So in a way, I think the cure is not to go backwards, but to go forwards and to label that stuff and get more of that material and do away with this pseudo-professional news, which it really isn’t.

I mean if we’re gonna have “citizen journalism,” then let’s have it. […]

I completely appreciate the sentiment, but Will Hearst knows better than anybody that isn’t going to occur through the existing mainstream channels.

Mainstream news outlets — television and newspaper alike — are busy attempting to figure out how to keep the best parts of their old revenue model in place while leveraging the independent voices of the information age.

While the conglomerates look for new ways to count the same beans, innovative distribution models with decentralized reporting have already taken hold.

This shouldn’t be the cornerstone of the conversation, though. Even without an organized effort to distribute decentralized reporting, there are already 30 million active blogs in play around the world.

The news is becoming hyper-local and hyper-topical without the steady hand of industry drivers to guide it; traditional journalism is going the way of the stock broker.

Now traditional ethics? Well, that’s another story entirely

Shine On, Syd

Cobain influenced my attitude, Lennon influenced my understanding of love, but Barrett influenced how I perceived the world around me.

syd

He was a revolutionary thinker and musician, an explorer of the mind, body and soul, forever changing our culture with his tripped out, yet beautiful fusion of jazzy, psychedelic guitar, lyrics and surround-sound amphitheater concerts.

Not once, but twice, Syd left the glow of the spotlight way too early for many of us.

R.I.P.

SXSW2006 Day Five: Democratization of the Moving Image

rocketboom
Andrew Baron and Amanda Congdon are Rocketboom.

We are in an interesting time, as production tools for mass communication are dirt cheap and accessible.

Rocketboom:

An interesting intersection of blogging, TV over IP, radical advertising, etc. […] The art of the possible.

  • Personal filters (media, people they meet, events, etc.) – always on the lookout for more information.
  • Design – “One of the most important aspects of Rocketboom is… interface design; making the interface comfortable and easy to use.” The simplicity of the interface equals the experience for all viewers/users.
  • Global – “Audience is scattered all around the world. Correspondants are in Kenya, Prague, all over the States.” Very interested in global stories. Rocketboom.jp just launched to communicate from Japan, presenting video stories which isn’t language-centric.
  • Time – “Time is power.” Whoever has information before another will have a huge advantage. Large organizations cannot be agile enough to move fast. Rocketboom is daily, so it becomes habit-forming. “Simple concepts, but so important to us and our success. It’s worth considering them in-depth.”
  • Consequence – Unlike other business models built on one, two year business plans, Rocketboom deals with consequences in the moment. They’re able to shift their approaches in the moment to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Being open to change is huge.
  • Interactive – 25% of Rocketboom stories are user-generated. Then there are comments, emails with viewers, etc. They feel very strongly about the communities this interaction with viewers build. This medium is interactive, so even though a user is digesting video, it’s not TV.

The show is already available on cell phones (thanks to a fan hack), TiVo viewers, PSP and iTunes.

SXSW2006 Day Three: Serious Games for Learning

jim-brazell

Jim Brazell moderates this panel and kicks off the discussion.

The X-Box 360 costs $300. In 1995 the same computing power would have cost $100M.

Ubiquitous computing is the fourth generation of computing; a system on a chip. Cooper’s law says that the capability of wireless computers is doubling every year. The convergence of science and technology is driving this technology.

(Wait… he just said that they can control the movement of a mouse, just like a remote aircraft. The tipping point of creepiness?)

Serious games are serious. The US Armed Forces, the UN, foreign countries, they’re all creating games for training, social changes and then remixing them with the industry to create n number of emmersive, narrative experiences.

Irwin Kaplan

The Army is redesigning their training corriculumn from level 1 (books) to level 3 (interactive), SCORM Conformant (has to run across a network). They upped their interactive traing from 0 of 150 hours to 82 of 150 hours. They’re trying to equipt soldiers to react in the midst of battle with necessary information available from everywhere.

They have simulation centers as large as the ACC to train soldiers on games. Warehouse sizes.

MLT is Medical Leadership Training. They build realtime scenarios based on field exercises and import them into an interactive narrative, running on the Unreal engine.

He considers himself an educator… and recruiter.

Dr. James Bower

Whyville teaches kids how to eat right based on an avitar/persona thats responds to good or bad choices. There are 1.5 million kids on the site and they stick around (one kid has visited 2000 times over six-years, that’s one visit per day). They play with the social/non-social curve of the game’s narrative to watch boys and girl’s interests shift.

The kids have been writing articles for six years now. They’re running their own government online. They’re replicating democracy.

Now marketing is interested, and smart firms like Toyota, are dipping into Whyville to understand the concept of interactive engagement. They offered Nestle to get involved, but they only wanted to get Purina involved; healthy choices meant more to Nestle in relationship to dogs than kids.

New marketing will enable people to design their worlds and affect mass production.

Michael Whalem

Ignite Learning has developed Reality, Inc., which creates emmersive storytelling games for middle-school students, based 100% on state curriculum. The virtual head of the reality space (Mortimer Gravitas) presents the goals for moving through the interactive curriculum. (very similar to a project I worked on in 1996, “Simon Fefher’s Junkland Jam”)

It’s a linear progression through different activities, such as a game full of levers, which must be moved, created, put in motion to feed some monkeys bananas. If you mess up, it’s ok, try again (the army guys smiled when he said that).

Quote of the day: Bower:

The more games tap into the chemical changes of the brain… the more we will learn.

Disclaimer: This is live blogging; all quotes are paraphrases.

SXSW2006 Day Three: Everyware – The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing

adam-greenfield

Adam Greenfield is dealing with Godly AI interfaces.

What is ubiquitous computing?

Well, what happens when computers get cheaper, faster, better? They become invisible, but all around us. The possibilities to crunch concepts, data, information explode. We move into a post-graphical user interface, from gesture to voice.

Multiple users, multiple spaces. Moving away from the one-to-one paradigm.

Human behavior and ubicomp become as one. “The activation process dissolves away into the behavior of people.” Ubicomp is already social. Once devices become ambient, social interactions can meld into a contextualization of backgrounds, ideas and relevance.

  • It’s present at the level of the body to world interface, as with data captures of physical movement to track, say, the range of motion of an elbow.
  • It’s present at the level of a particular space — a room — to a processor reading the reactions of the room.
  • It’s present at the street level, reacting to movement on the street and surveillance of social interactions

Ubicomp can crunch a variety of input or data, all passed through a relational database to construct information or entertainment for digestion.

People live life in real-time, while ubicomp works with their behavior to support their needs/desires. Space is never neutral, as the politics of position can be taken in numerous degrees.

Ubicomp is now. Why?

The digital home is the next big market and the future is structurally latent. (Crazy meta-meta-meta tagging in the real). Also, public safety comes into play. Post-9/11 mentality has crept in with, “Reduce the publics fear, reduce access and monitor activity.” We need to engage in ubicomp to control our destiny and the degree of misery which could be on the horizon.

Locus of attention disappears with ubicomp, so troubleshooting the invisible become a cognitive challenge. Signage is incredibly important to navigate the explicit behavioral captures of our implicit progression through our day-to-day.

The challenge of implicitness is… an ethical challenge.

5 guidelines of designing for ubiquitous computing

  1. Ubiquitous systems must default to a mode that ensures their users safety (physical, psychic and financial). Graceful degredation moved towards a default to harmlessness, based on cultural definitions.
  2. Be self-disclosing; ubicomp must contain provisions for immediate and transparent querying of their ownership, use, capabilities, etc. Seamless interaction in physical spaces must be optional, as ubicomp could invade the privacy of individuals. “Seemfullness with beautiful seems.”
  3. Be conservative of face; allowing people to save face. Ubicomp must not unnecessarily embarrass, humiliate or shame their users. Humane interfaces must be taken into consideration, especially while designing the experience of invisible ubicomp systems.
  4. Be conservative of time
  5. Be deniable; allow for the opt out of the program at any time. Alternatives should be provided to people who want to avoid these systems.

Disclaimer: This is live blogging; all quotes are paraphrases.