Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Looking for a Pillow Fight? OK, Here are Stories About Cancer and the President.

CNN search is awful and is sponsored by porn. Come again? That's right. I went on to CNN to see a video that was posted about the flash mob pillow fight in Union Square in NYC over the weekend. I had seen a link to it during the day yesterday and didn't have time to watch it until today. It wasn't on the homepage anymore, so I did a search. The results were ridiculous.

I didn't really want a bargain price on a pillow fight from Shopzilla. These results teach me to ignore sponsored results as we used to ignore graphic banner ads.

Getting to the real search results is even worse than the sponsored results. Here are the top results for 'pillow fight':
  1. State of the Union address
  2. Why we're losing the war on cancer
  3. Holiday shopping in September
  4. SAT scoring error
  5. Moussaoui trial enters penalty phase
  6. Entwistle pleads not guilty to killing wife, baby
What do pillow fights have to do with the state of the union or why we are losing the war on cancer? There were 3 other Entwistle stories after this list, so I guess that had a lot to do with pillow fighting.

This clearly shows that people don't use search when looking for news because it fails to give you anything near what you really want. People searching for news must scan, or 'winnow' to quote Jared Spool.

I typed in some different terms to see how CNN search would handle them. It seems that terms like fetish or sex resulted in sponsored results from porn websites. Who knew that CNN is sponsored by www.getiton.com!? Don't tell Farrah Fawcett that searching for 'anal' gets her the top spot in the search results. I also learned that you can get bargain prices on Cleveland Steamers on Shopzilla.

If you are interested, here is a link to the website for the actual pillow fight that I found with a Google search. Funny thing is that dead smack in the middle of the page, is the link to the CNN video that I wanted in the firstplace. Note taken.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Are Google Apps Ready to Unseat Microsoft?

Google has unleashed its offering to loosen the global stranglehold Microsoft has on corporate infrastructures. I'm a big fan of their Search, Gmail, Maps and Images search applications. I have a few concerns though on some of their other offerings and how these experiences will transcend into the most important components of our working lives. Here are some of my experiences with their other applications.

Google Mini
The Google Mini was not simple to implement and was very tedious in setting it up. More interesting though was the experience getting it. It’s a piece of hardware that you control via browser. They delivered it to my office while I was on vacation. Instead of letting someone sign for it, they returned it. I called when I got back from vacation and asked what happened. They apologized and resent the Google appliance. The return though automatically triggered a refund, so a week later I received my Google Mini and a check for $5,000. I never cashed the check, but still have it hanging up in my office. How could they not have this simple scenario covered?

Google Video
I’ve sometimes found interesting videos that are only on Google. I want to share these but have had problems doing so. The player often crashes the browser of my friends and my work computer. Now when I have to send out a link to an interesting video, I first search to see if it is on YouTube which has been more reliable. When are they going to merge these two? Also, I’ve not been successful using their software to embed the video on their own blogging service Blogger. I still can’t get the Seth Godin video to play on my Blog.

Google purchased Blogger and made it so that if you have a Google Account you can easily start a blog. Makes sense, but they haven’t worked out the identity management. Blogger never remembers me even though I click on “Remember Me” every time I sign in. When trying to post to Blogger from the video component it refuses to validate my credentials. Very frustrating.

As Google moves into richer and more complex applications and user experiences, will they be successful? It seems as if they excel at the simple applications that generate word of mouth. The buzz about Google Apps Premier Edition so far has been about the price tag of $50 and not the experience. What helped them unseat Yahoo and others was repeated great experiences that people loved to share with others. As they grow and move into this new territory I hope they don't forget this.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hide Your Children -- Microsoft is Coming!

It's interesting to me how new products from companies are portrayed by the media. When Apple is announcing new products there is this sort of innovation buzz surrounding it. Apple seems to manage this really well and plan on it on a quarterly basis. Microsoft, on the other hand, usually gets a negative or almost fearful wave of news as new products are release. From IE7 to Zune to Vista. Here's an example:

Here Comes Windows Vista -- Like It or Not

Where's the buzz? Can't wait to go get me an upgrade after reading this. I think Microsoft's brand has been damaged by not delivering repeated good experiences. Funny thing is I'm not having such a great time with Google products but they are still poster-children for genius design. I can't get Google video links to work or Blogger to remember my Google account to make it easier to write this blog. Google flaws seem forgivable while Microsoft problems seem to get piled on.

From their current marketing pitches and vibe on the web they seem to be looking to change. Seeing this go beyond words and departmental changes within the company is going to be the key. Start making things that work well over and over and the words will ring true. Here are some things I thought show that they are at least looking in a good direction to deliver better UX Design:

I also wonder...Could your typical Microsoft-sucks or Apple-is-great kind of story also be the result of lazy reporting?

Revenge is a Dish Best Served...Online?

Khan quotes an old Klingon proverb in Star Trek II while exacting revenge on his mortal enemy, James T. Kirk. These days you don't have to hijack a starship and steal the Genesis device to get your vengeance. All you need is a blog, and they are free. Frank Bruni the restaurant critic of the New York Times recently gave Jeffrey Chodorow’s new restaurant Kobe Club zero stars and a scathing review.

Chodorow gained notoriety from his stint on the TV Show “The Restaurant” as Rocco DiSpirito’s meddling patron. That show ended in litigation and the closing of the restaurant.

So how does Chodorow avenge a zero star review on his new baby? He takes out a $40,000 full page angry ad in the NY Times…and starts a blog. Like Kolchak the Night Stalker, he vows to follow Mr. Bruni’s trail of reviews to provide his own take on the same establishments.

It’s interesting to me how a blog can almost create this air of a level playing field online so that an individual can go up against an established behemoth like the NY Times. I can see this happening more and more against mass media critiques. Mass media will of course respond with their own blog. I enjoy Bruni’s blog and look forward to seeing how this plot thickens. There's also the opening of Chodorow's new restaurant Wild Salmon to keep things interesting.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tire Swing 2.0

This great cartoon has gotten an update and a website dedicated to it:

On the website you can edit the captions, rearrange and remove the cells, and share your personalized version with your geek-friends that will get the humor.

Strange comparison, but...
The effect this cartoon has on most people reminds me of the scene in True Romance where Dennis Hopper makes his point to Christopher Walken through a story about the history of Sicilians. You are not sure where he is going with his story until he gets to the end and asks if Walken can tell if he's lying (Great music in the scene that crescendos as the scene does).
I see this impact whenever I show this cartoon to someone that hasn't seen it. They giggle a bit throughout the different cells and when they get to the end there usually is a knowing smirk and a nod. Acquiescing to the point that the current lifecycle in place may have something to be desired when it comes to really knowing what the customer wants.

Monday, February 19, 2007

7 Kinds of Broken by Seth Godin

Seth's books such as All Marketers Are Liars and Small is the New Big make you think outside of the dictation of society and other accepted norms. Here's a presentation he gave at Gel 2006 that I found on Google:

The problem I've found while trying to post this is that it is, ironically, broken. Here is a direct link to the video. Too bad.

The Iraqi War Filter: Where Do Ideas Flow From?

I just watched a video on Google. It was called, "Iraq: The Hidden Story" and the title is what led me to it. Clearly there was a political slant here, but I wanted to hear about what I guess I wasn't hearing. The story was about the information blackout in Iraq. The country is too dangerous for western reporters to go out and get real interviews, so they rely on brave Iraqis to gather fodder for stories for them. A point is made about how this stops professional reporters from the west from asking the deeper questions they feel that they would have followed up on but can't because they weren't present. Any interviewer feels the same when they miss out on an opportunity like this.

Throughout the 49 minute piece there was mention of the presence of Iraqi bloggers and their impact on the reporting of this war. The conclusion made by the narrator was that while this perspective is good, the Iraqis speak with a decidedly Iraqi slant and don't have the ability to perform the analysis that a real reporter would. This is what propelled me to blog about it.

There is such a breakdown of language and culture here, why do they feel as if they would perform a better job of giving a true perspective on Iraq over an Iraqi? A ton of Iraqi blog data would provide a much greater missing piece here than a few more reporters giving their analysis of things.

An example of this is while typing this I wanted to see what images would come up on Google if I typed in the string iraqi blog. The result was lots of purple-fingered-Iraqi voters, US service men and George Bush images. Propaganda style photos and not real people sharing their view of the world. I typed in a variety of search terms but kept getting the same stuff. Probably a language thing or Google thinking too much for me. Maybe Time's person of the Year wasn't an Iraqi.

So this leads me to think about what would be the best idea gathering mechanism for what to do in Iraq? Our news is censored, the western political views don't seem to map to the region, and the insurgents/terrorists/people-with-guns are the loudest voices from within the country. The customer of this war is the Iraqi. Is there a process or product lifecycle for the outcome of war?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What Customer Tested This?

I just went to the Riedel website and ended up staring at the screen waiting for something I could click on to appear. I waited. Was something loading? Here is the link: www.riedel.com/html/1280.html

Did you experience the same thing I did? How many customers do you think you'd have to put this in front of in order to figure out that this was a brick wall? Interesting how a website can give you a glimpse into the design process a company implements.
If you didn't figure it out, you have to stretch the browser very wide for the interface to appear on the left. The browser title bar reads, "you are welcome." Thanks?

Episode 2 of Innovation in Sports: The NHL Listened, The NBA Told.

Last month I blogged about the NBA not involving their core customers, the players, early in the design process. This was a design change that would impact something that had been in place for more than 30 years. I didn’t know at the time, but the NHL was about to unveil a new design of their own of something that had been in place for more than 40 years: The NHL Uniform.

Would the NHL fare any better? The jury will be out until the 2007-2008 season. That alone speaks volumes. The NHL pushed out the full rollout an entire year based on feedback and to make further modifications. Feedback trumps timelines? Rare. The NBA had a much shorter product lifecycle that focused on technology and missed out on avoiding customer backlash by not involving the players in the process. The NHL on the other hand has iterated over the last 31 months with players on the new uniform. Of course they have their own trademarked technology as the NBA did, but customer feedback trumped technology advances.

For example, the NHL worked with MIT to perform wind tunnel tests to determine what would produce the least amount of drag. After they determined this, they created prototypes for the players to wear. The feedback? The players didn’t like their Jerseys tucked in. They were used to playing with them hanging out their whole lives. So what did the NHL do? They nixed the tucked-in design going against MIT findings.

They listened to a large pool of people as well. Outside of current players they incorporated feedback from the NHL Players Association, general managers, retired stars and even draft picks.

That leaves the NHL to contend with a secondary persona, The Fan. What do fans care about most when it comes to uniforms? The way the logo looks. Interesting enough, they have addressed this as well. Here’s something from an ESPN story by Paul Lukas:

Another issue with those stretch-mesh panels: Will it be a problem to embroider the Rangers' wordmark over them? A Reebok official tells Uni Watch that this shouldn't be a problem, because the company actually has eight to 10 distinct tailoring patterns, so the mesh panels can be moved a bit to accommodate logo stitching.

I really like about stories like these that involve customers that tend to be incredibly superstitious. How do you address that trait?

So why did the NHL take a completely different approach? Is it because they are the underdog, just went through a lockout and couldn’t afford another misstep? Clearly these mandates have to be in place from the highest levels of any organization. It has to be cultural.

Here’s the official Rbk Edge website from Reebok.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Living in iPod Oblivion: The real iPod Killer

New York Senator Carl Kruger is looking to ban the use of iPods on the streets of NYC. He wants to make it against the law to listen to any kind of electronic device while crossing a street in any major New York city or face a $100 fine. Being hit by a bus because you can't hear people screaming for you to stop is the story that drives this legislation.

I would also like to call for the following:
  • Talking on a NY Subway with a friend while listening to your iPod. This leads to overly loud babble followed by the apology of, "Oh, was I yelling? Sorry, I had my iPod on. Yeah...I can't hear myself." $25 fine plus a $1,000 fine if caught stating the obvious.

  • The use of non-in-ear headphones on trains and subways and turning your iPod all the way up. I can hear that awful music you are listening to. I want the ability to make a citizen's arrest here and have the right to taser.

  • Should legislation really interfere with Darwinism? People that walk into buses probably shouldn't be allowed to procreate anyway. If you are hit by a bus while listening to an iPod and surivive you must be neutered plus a $50 fine.

  • Holding your iPod in your hand and waving it around so everyone can see that you have the latest iPod. Clearly this points out I have my old crappy one that isn't cool anymore. Everyone should have to keep their iPod in a generic, technology-concealing sleeve in social situations in NYC. If caught, lawbreakers should have to wear an orange jumpsuit for a year.

  • Anyone driving while listening to their iPod that cuts me off AND flips me the bird. Consecutive life sentences for this.
Here is more on the Kruger's idea to legistlate.

Blogging Hiatuses

I hadn't blogged in a while. My father passed away. There will always be times where life takes you away from routines and gives you pause. I am back to work and into the swing of details of life, but I have been feeling like some penance must be paid to...well, I'm not sure to whom. You?

What do you do when you have a blog and can't post to it for a while? Is there a custom? It seems like others post a note if they are aware that they are not going to be around for a while. New babies, new homes, health scares, death, computer death, overwork, the list goes on as it does in life when you go missing. Most of these bloggers then apologize when they return. Here is one:

First of all, thanks so much to my loyal blog-friends, for having swamped my inbox with your e-mails inquiring about my well-being! So, here are my apologies for the sporadic blogging and sharing of experiences, as well as for my lack of commentaries in your blogs as of late. It doesn't means that I have detached myself from the blogosphere, how could I?! It's just that lately it seems like as if my inspiration well in fantasy-land has somehow dropped below normal levels, leading me to this temporary drought of creativity. Hence I find myself struggling to find both, some free time and the appropriate wordings to pour here, about all of these overwhelming changes in my activities and emotions I am experiencing nowadays. Thus forgive me for the absence or even worse, for having left my blog become dull lately. Just know I am alive and well, and trying hard to stay afloat as I go through the formidable shift from living in a illusive world onto the real.

So as we move toward a more technology driven society and Web 2.whatever deploys, it's nice to know that this experience seems to be more human than we may have anticipated. Maybe we aren't heading towards the dystopic visions of Metropolis and Logan's Run.

I apologize.