Monday, September 29, 2003

Queenan on Pittsburgh

One of my favorite writers, Joe Queenan, reveals the difference between Pittsburgh and New York.

Posted at 04:36 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, September 22, 2003

Still the Economy, Stupid

Wow, if these poll numbers are even vaguely correct, Bush could be seriously vulnerable.

Posted at 10:41 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Emmys: The New Grammys

People always complain about how out of touch the Grammys are with the music industry. Well, they've got nothing on the emmys this year. West Wing for best drama? The West Wing was pretty bad last season. All those Sopranos wins? The Sopranos is the most overrated show on TV. Everybody Loves Raymond as Best Comedy? Yeah, two years ago.

The only thing Emmy voters got right: the wins for The Daily Show for writing and best variety series.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Bad Apple

More Apple bashing, courtesy of Michael Mace, who worked there from 1987-97.Who Killed Apple Computer? tries to explain what happened at Apple int he late 80s. Why they dropped the ball in interface design.

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Thursday, September 11, 2003

9/11: Year Two

The day has arrived again. Luckily, I've been so busy with school that I haven't thought about it much. It also helps that I'm several hundred miles away from Manhattan now, and that my office doesn't overlook Ground Zero like it did when I worked at Datek.

I'm remembering not only that day two years ago, but last year as well, listening all morning to the list of the names of the dead. Hours of names, including the people we knew, Neal Dullard and Ingeborg Lariby, and the thousands we didn't know, but could have.

I'm also thinking a lot about a short film Ken Burns did for the Today Show's 50th anniversary. He spoke about it and since I can't find the footage online, I'll excerpt a little here:

"My own only solution was to tape the horrendous footage and do, as a kind of prologue of a couple of minutes to this short piece that ran on their fiftieth anniversary, of rolling back and reversing the footage, the clouds of smoke not moving uptown, but moving back downtown. I built each tower. I sucked each plane out, and left us sort of stunned by this beautiful, early fall day, with Katie Couric saying, "At 8:30"--just eighteen minutes before the horror would begin--"September 11, 2001, just the most beautiful day in New York City."
I remember tears falling from my face as I saw the Towers being rebuilt on film. Nothing but art could undo what was done.

This year will probably be like next year and every year afterwards for me. The events of that beautiful and terrible day in New York City will tint the day, but not consume it. I didn't lose a friend or family member or my own life, so I have that luxury. I also have something else: thanksgiving. I'm glad I didn't go in early that day. Glad I didn't get that job on floor 83 of Tower Two I interviewed for just weeks before. Glad I was not on a plane trip or simply walking by the WTC, like I did every day for a year. And glad I could make it home on September 12 for my daughter's first birthday.

Thanksgiving will come early for me every year from now on. September 11th will be a day I remember how much I have to lose, and how quickly it can be taken away. I will remember the value of friendship, how I fled to Brooklyn and sought shelter at Sylvia Bachmann's house. I will remember the feeling of walking through my front door the next day and seeing my wife and child. I will remember that although there are those whose hatred of us is so strong they would fly planes into buildings, there are the people who knowingly went into those buildings to save people. I will remember that life is precious, and that we do not not know the day or the hour or the way it will all end, so every day should be our September 12th: a day of homecoming, and birthday cakes, and the smiling face of a one-year-old.

Never forget.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2003

All Things in Moderation

I'm not sure how or why I was chosen, but I was asked to moderate a weeklong discussion for the new interaction architects community. The topic: Target Membership. Who should be included in a new group? Who should be excluded? How do we judge this? Job title, deliverables, position within the company?

I wrote up a brief opening salvo, which I'll excerpt here:

Our membership should include anyone who creates or develops (or oversees the creation and development of) interactions, be they digital or not...

By interaction, I mean a relationship between two things, filtered through a medium (such as a computer, phone, toy, environments, etc.).
And by relationship I mean that (ideally) the two things would be able to react and adjust to the input provided by the other.

I know this is pretty broad, but so is our field, encompassing people who design the interactions for cell phones, 3D worlds, gaming, wearables, "smart" rooms, robots, toasters, alarm clocks, cars, medical equipment, and, yes, websites and "traditional" applications.

I would also caution us not us use deliverables as instruments of exclusion. Lots of people have many different ways of approaching the same problem. What is important is that a design process (as opposed to, say, a business analysis or a programming methodology) that is user-centric is used for problem solving.

Some of this language is straight out of the interaction design bible, as preached by Dan Boyarski and Dick Buchanan and the other CMU faculty. I'm being indoctrinated!

Posted at 08:45 PM | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Sunday, September 7, 2003

Apples and Oranges

I've had my Powerbook G4 for about three months now. And now that I've grown used to some of its idiosyncrasies, I like it just fine.


The operating system (OX 10.2.6) is not as intuitive as Apple (and the hardcore Mac addicts) would have you believe. In fact, I find it about as inutitive as Windows XP. This is not to say that Windows XP is perfect: far from it. I have to tinker a lot "under the hood" to fix the stuff that goes wrong with Windows, which I haven't yet had to do with my Mac. But here's the thing: both interfaces are still too damn hard. The level of sophisitication needed to operate both operating systems effectively is still very high. There is still a lot of the guts of the computer exposed. Which is great for power users. But I think about my grandfather, who is basically deaf. The computer would be an excellent thing for him to use to communicate with people, but if I plopped an Apple or PC down in front of him, he'd never figure it out.

Yes, we are raising a group of hyperwired kids (my daughter can click and drag with a mouse to play games on the computer at age 2), but there's probably a huge underserved market out there who could use some sort of operating system that was powerful enough to run what they need and yet be hassle free: the elderly, the very young, the uneducated. These people, however, are also often poor. Which is probably why this hasn't happened yet.

It's the same deal with my cell phone. There's three or four features I use all the time (voice mail, ringer off/on, missed calls, make a phone call). All pretty basic cell phone features. And yet it's a pain to get to them. It's just poor design.

I'd love to design an operating system that's as clean and simple to use as most cars. You don't need to know how the engine works to drive a car. You shouldn't need to know how an operating system works to use a computer.

Apple, in some ways, blew it. OS X is nice and all, but it isn't substantially different than the Mac OS I had 10 years ago. Yes, the insides are different. But there was an opportunity to jump ahead of Windows again, to show us the future. Instead, we got a cleaner interface with a few new bits and pieces for fun. There wasn't a complete rethinking, just a slightly better version. That's not really what one expects of Apple. It's what one expects from Microsoft.

Posted at 03:45 PM | comments (1) | trackback (1) | link


Tuesday, September 2, 2003


Reading this article on adults who don't want to grow up has me wondering whether I'm a borderline kidult. The evidence? My car.

[T]he average age of Element drivers, [Andy Boyd, a spokesman for the American Honda Motor Company] said, is 40. "That's exactly what we anticipated," he said. "It's a new definition of the family buyer someone who doesn't want to give up their individual character even though they're getting older."

Now, I don't wear Sesame Street t-shirts or collect Care Bears, but I do appreciate the value of play. It's how you keep things flexible. A lot of design is about playing with stuff.

"[A]dulthood has lost its appeal," said Frank Furendi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent at Canterbury in England. "Adulthood has got nothing attractive about it anymore."

Well, duh.

Posted at 09:19 AM | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link



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