Friday, May 30, 2003


An interesting paper about the challenges the CIA faces in getting and processing information. It sounds like a mess. For some reason, I thought people in an information gathering organization would have the best tools and processes for doing just that. But apparently not.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

User Testing

I sat through six hours of users stumbling through the designs I've worked on for the last five months today. How exhausting! With day two tomorrow. Although it is great when something works and a user just instinctively gets it. Which, thankfully, is happening more often than not. This is also the second round of testing, so it isn't as painful as the first round, where users tripped over everything like blind men in an unfamiliar room. It's so nice to actually do user testing, however. Kudos to Ameritrade for giving us the money to do it. It's such a reminder that our personae are real people with real goals who have to work every day on our site.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Gizmo Design

I'm reading a very fascinating book by Bruce Sterling called Tomorrow Now. One notable section (Stage III: The Lover) is really all about design: product and interaction design. Or as he refers to it, Gizmo design.

"The ninteenth century made machinery. The twentieth century made products. The twenty-first century makes gizmos. In a "product" form follows function. There isn't much decoration...For a gizmo, the function is the decoration. A gizmo...has more functions than the user will ever be able to master, deploy, or exploit. It's designed to have baroque or even ridiculous amounts of functionality."

Whoa. This definately goes against like likes of, say, Alan Cooper or Don Norman, who are all about simplification of interfaces. But wait, there's more...

"A gizmo...doesn't want you to accomplish any task in particular. It wants a relationship; it wants to be an intimate experience...It wants you engaged, it wants you pushing those buttons, it wants you faithful to the brand name and dependent on the service."

Ok, so, why would people buy these gizmos if not to accomplish tasks? Just to have them because they are cool? Sterling argues that more and more, tasks are about establishing connections and relationships, not about accomplishing things in and of themselves. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with that. My job is about as information age as you can get, but even so it isn't only about connecting with people and thoughts. There are also things that need to be done and created.

"End users don't want to solve problems. A solved problem is actively dangerous for them. Any end user with a permanent solution has lost a job...This also explains whyend users don't settle for cheap, simple, fully usable software. After all, if software is simple and useable, then anyone can use it. End users...can't afford to be just anybody, because this is a swift ticket to poverty."
Double whoa. No one really wants software that is simple and useable. It's a very interesting theory, especially for high-end users. Which, he apparently thinks, one day everyone will be.
"A gizmo needs an interface, and an interface for its interface...Even its web pages need web pages. And this is where you work."

Ouch. That is where I work.

Like I said, a fascinating book, with much to think about.

Posted at 01:51 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, May 24, 2003

Blue about Blue at the Mizzen

I finished the 20-book Aubrey/Maturin series. It's quite a literary achievement, although the series doesn't quite end as it should have and the last three of the books are really kind of stunning in their callousness towards some major characters. Otherwise, I agree decidedly with David Mamet in his elegy for Patrick O'Brian: there can be genius in genre books. Too often these days, writers forget that one of the main purposes of literature (of any art, really) is to Delight. POB never forgot that.

I hope the upcoming movie isn't too bad.

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Thursday, May 22, 2003

Email Tax Sarcasm

Of course the solution to stop email spammers is to tax email. Brilliant solution. Really.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Elvis is King

His last couple of albums have been sub-par, but Elvis Costello is still pretty cool.

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The Jayson Blair Witch Project

Being married to a reporter, the Jayson Blair v. New York Times scandal/debacle has gotten a lot of play in our house. I find it sort of amusing, that someone could be hanging out in Brooklyn, churning out fake NYT front page stories. Another amusing tidbit is that he proposed a book deal based on the fake stories he was doing. You gotta admire that.

Posted at 11:02 AM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Total Information Awareness

Apparently the TIA system is about to be switched on and our privacy about to be switched off.

That being said, I'd love to see the data on this one, the algorithms they are using to filter it, and the interfaces they are using to view it. They are probably pretty damn interesting.

Posted at 11:13 AM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Friday, May 16, 2003

Blue OvalIf Ford's blue oval

Blue Oval
If Ford's blue oval logo is "a thread in the fabric of our culture", then why are they changing it? Seems like it's becoming more and more common these days to alter your logo in the hopes of respositioning your company. Burger King a few years ago springs to mind.

Posted at 03:09 PM | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link



The new Bush Tax Cut is an absurd gamble. Haven't we tried this before and watched it balloon the deficit? Wouldn't this money have been better spent bailing out state govenments, which are having to cut services aka jobs? The Democrats have to hit Bush as hard as they can on the economy if they want to beat him in 2004, but I don't see that happening. Instead, they're focused on universal health care and on who can be the most boring candidate. Sigh.

Posted at 02:34 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, May 15, 2003

Mousetrap, Writ Large

A really amazing commercial for the Honda Accord. Apparently it took five months to set it up and 606 takes to get right. It's practically a M.F.A student's master's thesis project.

Posted at 03:29 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Turn and Face The Strange

Well, the three regular viewers of this site will notice that it's changed a little, in preparation for my move to Pittsburgh next month. New address. New site structure. And, most importantly, a new blog that will focus on my school experience.

Posted at 04:54 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, May 12, 2003

Defining Gen X, Y, and the Millennials

The concept of generations (as detailed in the fascinating book Generations) has interested me for years now, so it's neat to see how advertising has really latched onto the idea and is refining the characteristics of the current generations.

Posted at 11:48 AM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Painting and Programming

Fascinating article/speech by Paul Graham about the links between painting and hacking. A lot of what he has to say is also applicable to interaction design as well. I was especially heartened by the discussion on how to work: sometimes you tackle the ambitious, sometimes the routine. You work by working, not by thinking about how you are going to work.

Posted at 02:12 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, May 1, 2003

#2 Baby!

US News and Word Report ranked the program I'm starting next month as number 2 among multimedia/communications grad schools. Damn you, Cal Arts!

Posted at 04:45 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link



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