Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mike Colameco-Inspired Google Map of New York City Restaurants

Mike Colameco has a Food TV show and a radio show here in the New York area. I really enjoy his insight into what makes restaurants great. It was seeing his interview of Michel Richard that inspired the trip to Georgetown for my 40th birthday dinner at Citronelle. It was that experience that was the fodder for my first blog entry.

What really appeals to me about Mike's shows is the way he interviews the chefs. He gets them into such a great storytelling mode, you learn things you wouldn't learn anywhere else. It's the kind of interview I strive for with customers during field study work. 

I've put together a Google Map with many of the restaurants he recommends on his website and his mentions on his TV & radio shows. This adds the dimension of location, making it easier to find a place near where you may be when in NYC.

View Larger Map

Monday, January 26, 2009

Guess The Product: Sales Tumble 54 Percent as Product Sales Dip $100 Million Last Quarter

No, that's not an iPod Classic with a bunch of old Nanos. That's the product that just went down 54 percent in sales. At this same time, the iPod grew over 3% in overall market share. I can hear Liszt's Totentanz (Dance of Death) faintly playing in the background (or is that the intro to The Shining?).

The Zune is at the very least, up against the ropes. It's inability to gain traction and move up the rapid customer adoption slope is a testament to poor product design. You just don't hear stories from people on how much they love their Zuning experience. More importantly, you don't hear anything that really distinguishes it as a product that connects with consumers. What is "Buy from FM?" Know anyone that does this? It's the top feature on the Zune's What's New web page.

There are even rumors that Microsoft may mash up the product to become a smartphone device. Strange how some products (and people) fail upward.

Direct link to Liszt goodness here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlOtaUDq8Sg

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mythology vs. Reality: Charlie Kaufman Doesn't/Does Do a Lot of Press

Below is a video of Charlie Kaufman doing press for his latest movie, "Synecdoche, New York." Watch from the beginning to 2:43 in the video below, and observe his reaction to the interviewer who presupposes something about his subject. The interviewer prefaces a question with an assumption about how Charlie doesn't want to do a lot of press. This triggers an unexpected reaction from Mr. Kaufman for the next couple minutes. Here's a quote from it:

There's all this sort of stupid mythology about people that just gets perpetuated constantly. People decide something about someone and then it doesn't ever change and it's not based on anything.

Clearly this was meant to be an icebreaker, going, but ends up having the opposite effect. This got me thinking...

What things do we assume about our customers that may be completely wrong? What things do customers perceive about our products that may be completely wrong even though it isn't true? Mythologies are so very aggravating from any angle.

Enjoy the video (direct link here):

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Understanding The Significance of Jargon: Steve Portigal's Latest Interactions Article

There are few people out there offering the insight in the field of User Experience Design at the level of Steve Portigal. His latest article, "Poets, Priests, and Politicians" has been published in the Association for Computing Machinery's Interactions Magazine. Here is a tasty morsel from it:

A few years ago, I took a client into the field to study how families were using home entertainment technology. We met one family in which the father was visibly proud of his provider role, especially regarding technology. On multiple occasions he mispronounced TiVo, the up-and-coming digital video recorder brand, as “tie-vo.” Without looking, I could feel my client (an engineer) wince every time the father did this. But being a good interviewer, I reflected back the language our respondent was using, and in my follow-up questions, I also referred to “tie-vo.” When my client asked the family a question later in the session, he was physically unable to use the “wrong” pronunciation, and referred to TiVo as “tee-vo.” At that moment, the dynamic in the room shifted critically. The family leader had been shown up by some visitors, and suddenly we were the experts, not him. The interview wasn’t ruined, but after that we were sorely limited in how far we could go. Even the mere pronunciation of a word impacted the interaction.

This is a great example of Steve's ability to get customers into a comfortable storytelling mode. I recommend not only reading the rest of this article, but if you ever need an ethnographic consultant to provide valuable findings from your customers that lead to innovation, his firm will hit a home run every time.

This and his previous articles written for the ACM are available online. Here are links to them:

Here is a link to his blog, All This Chittah Chattah: http://www.portigal.com/blog/

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Conventional Wisdom Myths Debunked...So What?

A new study finds that a lot of things people believe in are not true. For example:

  • Sugar does not have ANY connection to hyperactivity in children (12 highly scientific studies back this up. All the differences in the behavior were in the minds of the parents).
  • Eating at night Does NOT have any link to weight gain. It's not the time of day, it is the amount of food that impacts weight.
  • Suicide does NOT increase around the holidays.
  • Poinsettias are NOT poisonous.
  • You DON'T lose most of your body heat through your head
  • You CAN'T cure a hangover. Time is the only thing that gets you over too much alcohol consumption.

So now you can pass this juicy stuff around to your friends. But the reality is perception is all-powerful and will probably override the facts. Look at the example of sugar and children. Do you think parents will now give out candy to kids without thinking they will become hyper?

Now think about your customers. What are their perceptions and what things can't you combat even if you can prove they are false?

What User Experience Designers Can Learn From Emotion's Role in Our Economic Downturn

Whenever the stock market goes up or down sharply, you know you will be getting the usual image on all the major news websites. Either really happy trader with fist in air or pensive trader rubbing his eyes.

The reality is most exchanges today have a large, non-human component. Black box trading models aren't something you can take a picture of for a front page story. They are constructed by financial wunderkinds often referred to as quants.

One of the problems these models had over the last year was not being able to factor in emotion. Here are a few excerpts from an article in the New York Times:

Their credibility suffered for it last year. They did not see a recession until late summer. One reason they were blindsided: their computer models do not easily account for emotional factors like the shock from the credit crisis and falling housing prices that have so hindered borrowing and spending.


There is a psychological factor that Robert Shiller, a Yale economist, hopes will come into play. "If we have massive infrastructure spending and people feel that it is working, it could create a sense that we are O.K. and people will go back to normal," he said. "The real problem is that we are on hold. Everyone is."

This has been a long running theme in sci-fi books, movies and TV shows. From Star Trek to most recently The Sarah Connor Chronicles, getting computers to be more human has always been an interesting storyline.

When User Experience Designers approach a project, we can easily fall into the same trap of not including the emotional part of product design. This is because it's just not easy, all around. Not easy to gather or measure, hence making them hard to budget for. But the most successful products we all talk about are the ones that strike an emotional chord with us. Let's not fall into the same trap the quants did.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How Do You Tell Others What Twitter Is?

Did you ever have trouble conveying what Twitter is to others over the age of 25? It's easy to tell people that it is a place where you can post messages up to 140 characters long for others to read and vice versa. That doesn't convey the value of Twitter, an online application that has been around since 2006. This is clearly a problem for Twitter because their home page has What? Why? and How? buttons right at the top of the page. Then they have a video trying to explain it:

Direct link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o

After reading the definitions and watching the video, I still have problems telling a simple story to people about the value of Twitter. If you look under the video itself on YouTube, the comments are:

  • Twitter is gay
  • Twitter is a waste of time
  • None of my friends have Twitter, so what's the point?
  • this app looks stupid and a waste of time.
  • that sucks. why dont just pick up ur f**kin phone and call a friend? THATS networking, not posting on a stupid website and stop talking to genuine human beeing (typos left in place to protect the illiterate)

I don't have an answer here, but the other day something struck me while listening to AM Radio. I was listening to a New York news station, 1010 WINS, and realized that the manner in which they tell us news is Twittering. They don't give you in-depth news coverage. They give you updates of the most important stories. Want to know what is going on in the Middle East or who will really get Obama's vacant Senate seat? You'll get 140-characters-ish snippets of the latest on these stories, but not an essay or even a blog entry.

That still doesn't answer the content problem of why you'd want to know that I'm drinking coffee right now, but you really have to take a step into Twitter's world to see the value. So go on and tweet...Sign up for free if you haven't already: https://twitter.com/signup

You should probably do this fast before Facebook's version of Twitter replaces it. ;)