January 2007  
Give Aaron Sorkin His Drugs Back

Few people, I'm sure, were as excited as I was about the announcement last April that Aaron Sorkin was going to have a new TV show in the 2006-7 season. I blogged about setting my Tivo to record it six months before the show aired. But after watching this last episode ("Monday") of Studio 60, preceded as it was by a string of incredibly uneven episodes, I'm throwing in the towel. I simply can't watch anymore. It's like visiting a hospice where talent lays dying every week.

This show is such a disaster that makes me have to re-think whether the previous Sorkin shows I loved so much--the early seasons of The West Wing and my dear, cherished Sports Night--were really as good as I thought they were. (For Sports Night, yes. Especially season 1. For West Wing...the jury's still out.)

Studio 60 seems to have it all: a pretty cushy time slot with a buzz show (Heroes) leading in to it. Plenty of promos from the network. A rapid fan base generating buzz early. A cast that most producers would sacrifice their aged mothers for. Guest stars! Sting playing a lute! But all this is thrown out the window by the wildly varying tone, under- or over-written character development, and the utter improbability of pretty much every situation. I've watched episodes of 24 where I have to suspend my disbelief less. The comedy is flat, the drama shrill and preachy, the sexual tension weird and creepy when it's not cold and lifeless. Is it a comedy? Then why do the sketches all suck? Is it a drama? Set at a comedy show? Why? Are we supposed to care about millionaires who have to put on a show once a week? What the hell went wrong?

Then I remembered: Sorkin's now clean and sober. That's what's different from the earlier shows! I say, get this man a speedball, stat! As much as I can appreciate the nobleness of his sobriety, man do I miss the art he seemed to be able to create while seriously high. I'm afraid we have to score some blow, euthanize Studio 60, and start over. The guy who wrote this bit of Sports Night dialogue, "Sometimes it's worth it, taking all those pies in the face. And some days you just stand there, waist deep in pie" deserves as much and should understand. Right now, he's waist deep in pie.

Originally posted on Tuesday, January 23, 2007 | Link | Comments (7) | Trackback (0)


Spring Speaking Engagements

Somehow, I have a lot of speaking engagements coming up in the next couple of months. Hope that I'll see some of you at them!

  • March 10: SXSW: Learning Interaction Design from Las Vega$ (Austin, TX)
  • March 22: IA Summit Workshop: Learning from Las Vegas: Insights from the Ordinary and the Extraordinary with Steve Portigal and Bill DeRouchey. How often do several hundred user experience practitioners gather in Las Vegas, a global capital of experience design? The opportunity is priceless. Let's get out of the hotel and go see it. Let's go Learn from Las Vegas. (Las Vegas, NV)
  • April 18: The Future of Web Design. Topic still TBD--probably something like A Toolbox for User-Centered Design. (London) My colleague Ryan Freitas will be speaking instead.
  • April 25: Intermediate Advanced Interaction Design. An Adaptive Path workshop. Still top secret (shhh). (Chicago)
  • (What, nothing in May?!?)
  • June 15: From Business to Buttons conference, speaking on Playful Interaction Design. This presentation will examine what interaction designers can learn from games and other forms of play.

More stuff is happening later in the summer, including UX Week and maybe another trip to Sydney. Stay tuned...

Originally posted on Thursday, January 18, 2007 | Link | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)


iPhone Mania

Never have I seen one topic, let alone one product announcement, light up my RSS feeds so much. You'd think the Holy Grail had been discovered or Steve Jobs had invented a car that runs on water. This afternoon I was simply astounded at the sheer number:

And that's just my meager RSS feed list, about 20% of which has thus far commented on the iPhone. And that doesn't even include the discussion on the interaction design mailing list. I can only imagine how the blogosphere is lighting up.

Originally posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 | Link | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)


The Return of Command Line Interfaces

I just finished reading Neal Stephenson's ode to Linux called In the beginning...was the command line. It's an interesting, if dated (written circa 1999) and idiosyncratic read; I doubt few people would be willing to give up their UI to return to a purely command line interface, no matter how much control and power it gave them.

And yet, command lines still have their place. When I worked for Datek, we had an alternative to filling out an online form to trade stocks for active/day traders. It was just a small pop-up box with a text field--not even a submit button--that you could type an order string into (e.g. b100AMZN15.51), hit enter and have the oder execute. Yes, users had to learn the grammar of the command string, but that small portion of traders who did so and used it, loved it.

Likewise, recently command lines seem to be making a comeback thanks to a growing number of power users on the web platform. Sugardcodes and YubNub (WTF is it with these names? gah!) both offer command line interfaces to YouTube, ESPN, Wikipedia, Amazon, etc. I've been playing around with YubNub's plugin for Firefox and it's nifty and not hard to learn at all. (There's a crazy number of ways to access YubNub.)AIM bots like moviefone and SmarterChild are command line interfaces with hints of personality and the bonus of being available in a window many people always have open anyway: the IM buddy window.

Where I think we'll see a lot of use from command lines is in mobile devices, where screen real estate and entering full URLs is a real issue. (Why type in http://www.google.com when you can just type g?) YubNub is already doing this. Once can also imagine them being used for things like kiosks and internet appliances, where typing URLs without a keyboard would be tedious.

With all the cool new interaction paradigms out there, we shouldn't forget the humble command line.

Originally posted on Wednesday, January 3, 2007 | Link | Comments (3) | Trackback (0)


Making Better Interaction Design Decisions

I'm speaking on Wednesday, January 17th at 7:30 at Yahoo! in Sunnyvale, CA for a BOF BayCHI talk: Good Guesses: Making Better Interaction Design Decisions. Hope to see some of you there!

| Link | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)



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