Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What Happens When ABCNews.com Posts A Wacky Story About A Wacky Teenager Singing Numa Numa?

ABCNews.com is pushing their new iCaught stuff with its own site and growing mentions on TV. To get your attention they show the typical video clips of lightning strikes, wedding proposals, flash floods and violence. What caught my attention today was that they were hawking a story of the Numa Numa Guy. This is almost three years old?! It was published in 2004, and there was a NY Times article on Gary Brolsma in 2005.

Who is ABCNews.com creating i-Caught for? I have a few things for iCaught to promote next week:

  • The “Oh the humanity!” Hindenburg clip
  • The Zapruder film of the JFK assassination
  • 1940 Tacoma Falls Bridge collapse
  • Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon
  • The Death Star exploding
  • Pam & Tommy Lee sex tape

Cutting edge.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Old Media: "Cancelled." New Media: "All Hope Is Not Lost! Anchorwoman Can Be Saved!"

There was news this morning that a new Fox TV series, "Anchorwoman" has been cancelled after a single episode. It attracted a third of the viewers that the previous time slot had a week earlier. This isn't that interesting to me. What is kind of interesting is that as soon as the news hits tradional media, the star of the show is broadcasting her own messages via new media. Lauren Jones, the star, posted this message on her MySpace page:

Hey guys, It has been a roller coaster of a day, as you can probably imagine. Last night, Anchorwoman aired on FOX at 8pm and we received lower ratings than what the network had hoped for. When I say "ratings", it means that the viewership was not there; we simply needed more people to tune in. Those who did loved it! We just needed more to have known about it so they could have loved it also!

This may have happened for a number of reasons. We only filmed the show in June and then quickly turned it and aired it in August. That is quick and doesn't leave much time to get a huge audience on board. That could be one component. The word was truly not out there as it could have been. There are also many other reasons that the viewership wasn't there. The thing that stinks about this is that Anchorwoman is such a great show and gets better and more fun with each episode! It gets funnier, more tense, more lovable, and we all believe in it - still! And there is some good news, and it's tough to be positive during a time like this, as I'm sure you can imagine. Those who actually saw the first two episodes LOVED it!!! This means a number of things! While the show is no longer on FOX on Wednesdays at 8pm, it will STILL run - we just don't know the details yet - and possibly be ressurected in another, possibly better fashion! All hope is not lost, this could possibly turn out good. The show may go to another network, we are not sure. Voice your opinion and let FOX know how you feel, because nothing in this world is permanent.

Share your thoughts, voice your opinion... you and your voice matter!

Lauren Jones

I've blogged about how this can work with the famous tons-o-peanuts campaign to save Jericho and how ON Networks is taking this to the next level. I'm interested to see how using these tools for a show that doesn't have a lot of buzz and hasn't won critical praise will fare.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Windows Live Writer

This and the previous blog were written with Windows Live Writer, a cool new desktop application by Microsoft. It's not perfect, but gets me closer to how I'd like to blog. Up to now I've written my blog entries in Word and when ready, I upload via Blogger. I do this because Blogger has lost a lot of hours of typing for reasons I can only attribute to dark magic. The only problem I've had with using Word in this manner is that I have to copy/paste to notepad and replace things before I upload to Blogger because of Smart Quotes and other non-web-friendly characters. With Windows Live Writer it's just like working in Word, but I can publish directly to Blogger. The only downer is it can't publish images. I have to go back into Blogger and upload there. I'm sure there's a way around this but so far, so cool.

There are a bunch of other features I haven't had time to dig into yet, but I'm sure there will be a follow-up post coming.

Back In The Windows Saddle Again

Losing your computer in 2007 is a lot different than it used to be. I've owned personal computers for the last 20 years, but the experience is so much more immersive today. Computers touch so many facets of our life that when it is gone it is almost like losing a room in your home. Family photos, personal videos, music collections, blogging, collaboration, etc. My dependence on this box has crept up on me. Too many special things now exist only in digital form on a gimantic, fragile hard drive.

I've spent the last week thinking about next steps and how to approach Gateway Hard Drive 2.0. I'm still unsure about a lot of it, but my perspective has been changed by this awful experience. Just as the iPod took a few years before it became the innovation darling it is today, iLife has a lot more meaning to me now as well.

It's good to be back, however tenuous it now feels.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Third Strike: The Hidden Cost of Windows Compels an Apple Reunion

My computer has crashed and I have lost everything, for the third time in a year. This is very painful. I have a backup of files from a couple months ago, but recovering the files is just part of the mess. Re-installing all the software I work with and getting the workspace set up takes at least a week. Reconnecting to all of the websites I work on will be tedious. There just doesn't seem to be a way around this. This is the hidden price of working on a Windows machine.

This all happened because I installed new software. I paid for it, downloaded it and installed it. It’s just a small utility to help create cascading menus for websites. When it was done installing, it asked me to restart the machine, which I did. That was the last time I saw my desktop. The new software screwed up a .dll and the old machine won’t startup. I had run Adaware and a Virus check hours earlier, which I have to do religiously because I work on Windows.

I’m currently on an old laptop. I can get on to the Internets so I can try and find help, but even that is difficult. The Geek Squad would take a week to even come to my home for $250, and dropping it off at Best Buy would take 3 – 5 business days and $200. This is just to get started and doesn’t include anything else. Luckily, a good friend is trying to help, but the time and effort is not trivial.

Since 1987 I’ve owned Macintosh computers. I still own one but the cost to maintain all of the software was prohibitive to keep them both. Three years ago I started using my Windows machine as my primary workstation. No more. Never did I ever lose data or have to reformat a drive for any of my Macs. Not my Mac SE, IIsi, Performa, Quad, PowerComputer, G4 or any of them. Not one. I did have system problems, but I would just put the system disks in or a third party piece of software and fix the problem.

I will make my way back to Apple this week. It will cost a bundle, but I can’t even begin to think of what three crashes on three different machines has cost me. Windows, I will still keep you around for testing and unimportant shite, but my eggs are now back in an Apple basket.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

What Makes People Laugh at the Baconator Commercial Makes User Experience Designers Cry

The TV Commercial for The Baconator from Wendy's superimposes the heads of middle aged men over crazed teen fanatics most likely from the Beatles era. The men have the same hysterical faces that the teenage girls did for the Fab Four, only this time it is for a bacon cheeseburger.

This is overtly funny. There is nothing subtle about it. It's the same humor that anchors countless comedic films such as "All of Me," "Switch" and "Freaky Friday."

This sort of persona switch happens all the time in User Experience Design, only there usually isn't much smiling going on. It's not obvious when it happens and it is like swimming upstream to challenge. It can derail meetings and design in its most egregious incarnations.

The next time it happens, I'm going to bring up The Baconator commercial.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Why Didn't I Know What I Didn’t Know?

I've had an iSkin protector for my iPod Video for the last year. I bought it because I didn't want to scratch up my iPod. Simple. Last week I am sitting on my NJ Transit train, and while I'm struggling with the iSkin it finally dawns on me: Why am I doing this? Here are the things I really hated about it...

First off, it is a pain in the ass it is to get the clear plastic shield into the rubber layer, especially at the top. As you got the outside lip of the rubber it would pull itself away from the iPod itself and you'd have to start over. Grrr.

Next, while the rubber skin in front of the click wheel was ok for basic navigation, it was torture if you had to scroll through a lot of data. Your finger would stick to the rubber and not move smoothly. It was almost impossible for me to get the alphabetical navigation to popup because of this.

The Hold button is covered by the rubber so you can't tell what state it is in or even change it. You have to pull up the rubber to see it or change the setting, which causes you to have to wrestle it back into place with the plastic cover again when you're done. Every time.

Lastly, just to pile on, over time the rubber would grab all kinds of small debris and made it look like shit. Why should my pretty iPod be hidden under this dirty case?

I realize how much I didn't like using my iPod because of having to deal with the iSkin itself. I go online when I get home and see this cool looking acrylic thing from Belkin. I order it, and got it by the end of the week. Wow, is this thing easy to use. Every scenario above is remedied by this case, and it looks great.

So why did I wait a year until I did this? I didn't know what I didn't know. This was my first case for my first iPod Video. It was doing its job of protecting the iPod from scratches, it just wasn't a good overall experience. If this had been my fifth iPod case for my seventh iPod I would have known as soon as I opened the box a year ago.

It reminds me a lot of when you first begin to play a musical instrument such as electric guitar. Do you like a Les Paul neck or a Fender Stratocaster? What kind of pickups do you like? What kind of picks? What weight strings do you prefer? What kind of Amplifier? What kind of speakers? You just don't know the answers to these questions before you have experience, and a lot of it. After investing time with your instrument and your equipment, you just know. Now I know what I didn't know.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Complex Definition of Innovation

Just as I recently wrote about how the words User Experience are becoming Elastic, Innovation has been thrown around in the same manner. Dr. Sam Pitroda is the National Knowledge Commission chairperson of India. He just released a report on how innovations in processes and products could bring about seminal changes in the functioning of large and small and medium enterprises. When giving the report, he and his fellow researchers had a tough time deconstructing the definition of innovation. When reading about this I felt good because it is complex and so many use it so cavalierly these days.

In the report, while 81% of large firms agree that innovation is critical to growth and competitiveness only 37.3% of them have introduced breakthrough innovation. 76.4% feel as if they have introduced incremental innovation. I guess that means that 76.4% have a pulse and that, sadly, 23.7% are in a corporate coma. You'd basically have to do nothing at all to not have any incremental innovation under their definition.

The report also commented on how public & private owned firms are much more innovative than government agencies. Maybe this is the reason NASA and other agencies are sponsoring these contests in order to innovate. Are they just not built to innovate? Didn't they innovate when they were in a race to get to the moon?

Non-government agencies need to show profits in order to stay in business. This doesn't force them to innovate however, especially after they've produced something that has made them profits. A lot of times companies that display innovation initially lose that over time. This is especially true for public companies that have to justify every penny they spend. It's easier to show an investment into Technology vs. Innovation. This goes back to the difficulty in defining it. What does $300,000 invested in innovation mean? I know what $300,000 of technology means or even $3,000,000, and I can share that easily with my shareholders. Innovation inherently includes risk in its investment and is a much harder sell.

Look at what has gone on with Nintendo and Sony. The result? Nintendo stock is at a six-year high while Sony stock continues to slide since May. It’s difficult to compare the two stocks for a lot of reasons, but if you read the stories about the two over the last year you get the point. Nintendo innovated with the Wii and won while Sony stayed in the game console arms race and lost.

The Wii spawned stories about people using the system while the Playstation boasted processor speed and Blu-ray capability. Experience vs. Technology. Even the bad experiences didn't really hurt the Wii. Stories of the joystick flying out of player's hands and breaking HD TVs or even giving their girlfriends black eyes have done nothing but created more buzz about the console. There is even a website dedicated to such stories. There is a strong bond between experience design and innovation.

The investment Nintendo made in their innovation must now look very small to its shareholders while the technology investment Sony has made will probably weigh down their annual report. It's important to remember that Nintendo innovated during the seventh generation of video game consoles. So how do we move this away from Monday morning quarterbacking and get investment in innovation well before annual reports are printed?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Nitpicking? Bull! Checkbox/Radio Button Usage 101

This is absolutely nitpicking, but if you had someone manage money on your behalf you might nitpick with them too. Merrill Lynch makes a lot of money and manages lots of money. When I signed into my account tonight, there was this form I had to fill out before getting to any data. Obviously they are looking to save money on having to send out actually statements by defaulting to saying "no don’t send me anything." I can live with that, although they make enough money to just send the silly things. I like saving trees, so I will do it anyway. What annoyed me is that they use checkboxes in places where they should obviously use radio buttons. It makes me rethink my decision to let them manage my hard earned cake. Ok...I feel better now.

UPDATE Jan 17, 2008: 'Anonymous' (C'mon...Who are you?!) wanted to see the full screen without the 'bull.' Below is the original screen grab:

Doomsday For Matlock Fans: 2-17-2009

There are a bunch of stories online today about how U.S. Senators are already terrified of possible consumer backlash coming in 2009. This is all about the impending switchover from analog to digital TV signals. Here are some quotes from some Senators:

"They're not going to call you, they're going to call me. And they're going to be mad." - Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO

"The transition poses a high potential for a train wreck here." - Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA

"The government needs to act before the digital transition devolves into digital disaster." - Daniel Inouye, D-HI

This feels like the millennium bug coming all over again, except this time we know it will happen. The big difference this time is it will likely impact the poor and the elderly the worst. This will be the Katrina version of the millennium bug. It’s interesting how the UK is spending $400 million on their educational campaign while we are only spending $7 million.

Knowing that the poor and elderly will be the ones most affected, AARP is trying to predict their reaction:

"These consumers will be confused, frustrated and angry that this important information and entertainment source in their home is no longer operational, through no fault of their own." - AARP board member Nelda Barnett

This clearly won't end well. Only 10% of people surveyed in the U.S. know of the February 17, 2009 deadline. Managing customer expectations is something we are very aware of in the User Experience Design field. This impact is on a scale that is very hard to relate to.

Stay tuned?

The High Cost of Innovation And Not Adopting It

George Christopoulos had heard of a little girl from Ontario falling out of an eighth floor window to her death. This was all the inspiration he needed to invent the WindowGate. George owned a window repair business so he knew this domain. He designed it to fit over most apartment building windows. It lets you open the window to let air in on hot days, but it doesn’t let children out. He worked on it in his garage for a long time. That was almost eight years ago.

Christopoulos was selling WindowGates in a safety store until he learned he would be liable if a child fell from a window equipped with the device. After making inquiries he discovered the insurance to protect him would cost close to $24,000 a year. He already had spent a good chunk of his savings on creating the gate and wasn't prepared to bankrupt himself for his invention. "I'm so disappointed. There are more and more children every year that shouldn't fall," said the 70-year-old.

Although we seem to cherish stories of amateur innovators as a culture, we really need to get more of it into corporate culture. Especially with the ideas that may flourish could save the lives of kids. Shouldn’t the companies that own apartment buildings or window manufacturers be better suited to have come up with this and to get it deployed?

Anybody want to buy his patent? He is selling it.