Category: Friday Reading

Friday Reading 31

Today is Thursday (when I wrote this it was). Tomorrow (today) I go on holiday to France. It has been a pretty crap week (my car got hit by a crane, machine not bird, it is a long dull stressful story) and I can’t wait to get away. Nevermind all that have some auto posted reads. Six lovely posts on a diverse range of topics including the dangers of simplification, praise of play, downsides to corporate accelerators, flat pack futurism, creative perspective and why undercover police officers should not use social media.


The Simple Truth

In More work for Mother, Ruth Schwartz Cowan illustrates how less work and more free time through mechanization has never been the case. In manufacturing, the machine ethic is adopted in order to compress work with the aim of increased productivity, rather than allowing the employees to leave earlier each day. It’s entirely logical that if we adopt the same ethic in domestic spaces, the result remains constant: our expectations just keep pace with the current reality. Simplification does not lead to leisure credit, it allows for more work to be completed in a similar timeframe. Ultimately this exerts a productivity pressure upon humans as they try to keep pace with the machines, a phenomenon that James Gleick characterizes as ‘hurry sickness.’


In praise of play

The pursuit of the pure, free, play is the true driving force behind the games, art, story, and experimental technology worlds I encounter in my daily work. Intelligent people simply will not spend significant chunks of their lives working on difficult problems unless they are motivated, and motivation is the art of remaining excited. What’s more exciting than the universe at your fingertips? Creative play is the excitement of infinite possibility.


Are corporate startup accelerators doing more harm than good?

What I tell people is that accelerators created by corporations or funds have a tendency to create “silos”. They often have one location where participants move into on day one of a program, work for months, and finally emerge on Demo Day with brilliant presentations. They normally bring in a group of professionals as mentors, with a tendency to create “our” group of mentors as opposed to “your” group of mentors. Through their affiliation with, say, a big media company, they claim to bring in exclusive benefits from their respective backer – with the keyword here being “exclusive”.


The death of the cool: fan-fiction futurism

‘The next market shift could come from using our devices as doorways into tomorrow’s Digital World.’ … OK, so it’s a woolly metaphor. Carry on.

‘If you think digital is cool today, you don’t know the meaning of cool’ LAY IT ON ME, DADDY-O; THIS HEPCAT’S HOT TO TROT FOR TEH FUTUREZ LOL (If there is a meaning of cool beyond the one that refers to relative temperature, middle-aged men talking like they think teenagers talk is its antithesis.)


A Short Lesson in Perspective

It takes a certain amount of courage, thinking out loud. And is best done in a safe and nurturing environment. Creative Departments and design studios used to be such places, where you could say and do just about anything creatively speaking, without fear of ridicule or judgement. It has to be this way, or you will just close up like a clamshell. It’s like trying to have sex, with your mum listening outside the bedroom door. Can’t be done. Then some bright spark had the idea of setting everyone up in competition. It became a contest. A race. Winner gets to keep his job.


Activists Identify DC Cop Who Infiltrated Bangladesh Sweatshop Protests

On April 20, MacAuley spotted “Missy” at a protest outside of the World Bank and snapped a photograph of her (above left). Meanwhile, Light and Canavan dug up evidence that Rizzi was a police officer, including a photograph posted on yfrog of Rizzi pointing out a typo on a piece of mail addressed to the “DC Metropolation [sic] Police Department.” Rizzi’s finger partially covers up the address line, but it appears to read “Director, Intelligence Branch.”


Short and sweet, just like my holiday I suspect.

Friday Reading 30

I have managed to do this 30 times. That must be enough to have formed a habit by now. Anyway I only managed to write this as a meeting got cancelled which is a bonus (for me, you might have hoped for a week without this pointless curation).

After a week in which the continued focus on Twitter Trolls and their awful sexist/threatening/outright criminal behaviour has been almost as depressing as the UK Home Office taking to social media, it is a wonder anyone uses the Internet at all.

Someone who was forced off the web (and I have mentioned a few times before as a bit of a hero), Kathy Sierra, was back on Twitter and with a new blog as well. She published an amazing first post on the cognitive drain interface designers place on people. it ties in so well with a few things that are really bothering me about banking, especially security related, interfaces. Other things to make my brain smile were a letter from a director at NASA to a nun, a deep web heist, JP Rangaswami on customers and flow, William Heath Robinson, why most innovative companies aren’t and the info ladies in Bangladesh.

This image also caught my eye this week. My first thought was that it is hilarious, my second is that when someone is responsible for destroying art/fun/creativity etc then their face should be on that decision…I would like to see something similar in my place of work.




Your app makes me fat

If your UX asks the user to make choices, for example, even if those choices are both clear and useful, the act of deciding is a cognitive drain. And not just while they’re deciding… even after we choose, an unconscious cognitive background thread is slowly consuming/leaking resources, “Wasthat the right choice?”


Why explore space?

Very fortunately though, the space age not only holds out a mirror in which we can see ourselves, it also provides us with the technologies, the challenge, the motivation, and even with the optimism to attack these tasks with confidence. What we learn in our space program, I believe, is fully supporting what Albert Schweitzer had in mind when he said: “I am looking at the future with concern, but with good hope.”


The blockbuster heist that rocked the Deep Web

On May 15, 2013, just as HackBB was attempting to reestablish its primacy, a second attack brought the forum to its knees. The attacker was thorough and deceptive in ways even these experienced hackers and criminals hadn’t expected. During the first attack, Boneless had used his admin powers to create other, hidden accounts under his control, then granted them administrator status. It was as if, before leaving, he had dropped a half-dozen secret keys around the property.


Thinking about customers and flow

Scale begat lobbies. And lobbies begat regulation. And somehow or other these regulations enshrined the new status quo, of pace being set by manufacturer and distributor not customer.


Heath Robinson: the unsung hero of British eccentricity and innovation

In the run up to and during World War One, Robinson became known for a series of drawings in magazines such as The Sketch and The Tatler, poking fun at modern living, carrying normal tasks to ridiculous extremes often using complex or convoluted contraptions — described as “simple devices” — to perform trivial tasks, such as potato peeling,wart removal and pancake making. Very quickly his work became popular, allowing him to command healthy commissions.


Why the Most Innovative Companies Aren’t

The larger the company, the deeper the orthodoxy. Leaders of complex organizations tend to surround themselves with likeminded people, which reinforces their conventional approaches. At every stage in the life of a new idea or initiative, compliance crushes dissent. The Point: According to executives the biggest challenge they face is connecting the dots between departments, regions and other companies which is inhibited by organizational design and control-based rules


‘Info ladies’ go biking to bring remote Bangladeshi villages online

As she approaches the village, Sathi rings her bicycle bell and the children come running to meet her, shouting “Hello, hello”. Women emerge from their homes one by one. Sitting in the middle of a beaten-earth yard, Sathi carefully places her laptop on a plastic chair, plugs in headphones and launches a session on Skype. The faces of village men working thousands of kilometres from here appear on the screen.


Have a lovely weekend. Feel free to subscribe to these reads via email or via RSS here or you know, don’t bother. I am happy if you got this far.

Friday Reading #29

This week it seems I have been collecting articles that actually relate to my job, which is increasingly rare these days. The fact it is half year review time and our team is going through some organisational changes I am sure has not had a subconscious impact on my reading of choice. A heady mix of innovation stuff, organisational working attitudes and styles, Google’s attempts to become a real enterprise software provider, the failure of platform thinking at Facebook, two interviews with innovators (innovatorviews?), dark UX patterns and what happens when you test the prisoner’s dilemma with actual prisoners (not obviously work related although maybe it is). Read them and be ready for your appraisal…sort of.


Slow Ideas

In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.


Stop Backing Visionaries

…if you examine the births of the most successful consumer internet companies, you’ll quickly realize that initial product and “vision” are flawed criteria. More often than not, founders, early employees, and investors of the largest tech companies will tell you that the product that took off was never part of (at least not fully) the original “plan.” Twitter spun out of Odeo, Instagram was a Burbn pivot, BuzzFeed evolved from one of many “for fun” experiments?—?the list goes on and on. By and large, innovative products aren’t strategically imagined ahead of time – they’re stumbled upon while experimenting on-the-go.


What gets done is what gets done

The opposite of the work hero is the person on the team who has kids. Well, they’re probably more of a hero than the work hero, but that’s another story. They do good work, they’re prompt, professional, committed and they’ve got experience. The trouble is, that if you have work-heroes around, you’re bound to have a nasty moment where the people who just can’t work late or drop weekends to satisfy the heroic workload pattern end up looking like they’re slacking or are uncommitted.


To Do to Done: Jank ‘n’ Drank

According to Ford, who came close to dubbing the Tuesday night sessions Work ‘n’ Twerk,”jank” is a very specific category: “Long-standing bugs, slightly broken user experiences, processes that could be automated or improved, visual imperfections in the product, development environment annoyances, hacky code that’s on the verge of causing that one bug, again, and other tasks clinging to the bottom of a to-do list.”


The sad story of Platform, Facebook’s gigantic missed opportunity

Today, just after its sixth birthday, Facebook Platform is a shadow of what it could have been, a missed opportunity that might amount to tens of billions of dollars of squandered revenue. Outside of games, there has been no killer Facebook app. Other than Zynga, you’ll struggle to name a single business that has built itself entirely inside the Facebook framework. Once-promising startups Slide and iLike would ultimately abandon their big bets on the platform, selling to Facebook rivals Google and MySpace for amounts smaller than their one-time valuations.


Google wants to own enterprise, but it’ll do it Google style

Petlon didn’t want end users to perceive that this new technology was being jammed down their throats, so nothing was taken away and growth toward Google Apps was organic. If users wanted to use an Outlook client to access the Gmail back end, they could. Two years in now Petlon estimates that 90 percent or more users are happy Googlers. Collaboration using Google Apps probably doubles every month, he estimates, and having to use Microsoft Word documents with “track changes” turned on feels as old school as getting a fax.


IFTTT Puts the Internet of things in your pocket

“But with the Internet, there’s no common understanding,” he continued. “There are things everyone gets like email or hyperlinks, but there’s still this lack of concrete rules. Could that cause-and-effect thing be turned into one of these fundamental rules? How do we productize that? How do we make this available with an interface anyone could use? What are some of those other rules that might exist?”


Interview with Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, inventor and CEO of Sugru

One night, I was giving myself a really hard time and my boyfriend, James, brought me into the kitchen and pointed out all the humble little solutions I had done. He said, “What if it’s not you that’s the creative person, and what if it’s not one perfect design or solution? What if this could be a humble, handy household product thateveryone could use to make their things better?” Suddenly, it was about everyone’s potential; users know why things don’t work, from the teapot that doesn’t pour properly to the shoe that’s really uncomfortable. That was a real light bulb moment for me. I saw this huge potential and everything clicked. I thought that if I could make it simple enough and attractive enough, then millions of people could use it—I felt very sure from the start that it had the potential to be something universal.


The slippery slope

So how would you react when your boss says to you that you have to cut wait times to under 5 minutes per patient or you’re fired. Just think about this for a moment. You’ve got no spare capital, no spare staff time, no way to stretch your resources. How can you possibly do this? Well here’s a little idea. How about you create a job role for a nurse where their job is simply to say hello to new patients. Nothing more. That way the patients are seen to, that way the wait time problem is solved. You get to keep your job. Sounds devious – but this really happened throughout the NHS in the 90s.


They Finally Tested The ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ On Actual Prisoners — And The Results Were Not What You Would Expect

In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well.  However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation. Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.


Bonus Aden Link i.e. blatant inclusion of my own writing.


Six Little Fields

I assume that most people who own financial services products, be they current accounts, credit cards, loans, savings, insurance etc. do not have them all from the same organisation. Even though I work for a bank, and I should probably whisper this, I do not have all my products with that organisation. This is of course the benefit of a free market, competition and choice, which is a fantastic thing. The big issue from my point of view is what is known in the banking industry as single customer view i.e. the ability to see your full financial picture in one nice shiny interface. This is not a new problem in the industry it is also something I have written about before, but it is one that seems far from being solved or even on any of the banks to do list.


Enjoy the rest of your Friday. Feel free to subscribe to these reads via email or via the much cooler (and more content filled) RSS here

Friday Reading #28

The hot weather in the UK has been a delight, the rare feel of warmth is showing off our best and least pasty side…although there are a few lobsters about (there is even mention of lobsters in one of the articles posted below).  As well as being joyous weather wise, this week has also been good for interesting things I have read on the Internet. Topics covered this week are a real mixed bunch, Do things that don’t scale, design fiction pedagogy, unhappiness is good, and so is shyness, why we should all have something to hide, interviews with Vint Cerf and Marshall McLuhan, Cricket technology and the theory that all the Pixar films take place in the same universe. Get yourself an ice lolly and enjoy.


Do things that don’t scale

Startups building things for other startups have a big pool of potential users in the other companies we’ve funded, and none took better advantage of it than Stripe. At YC we use the term “Collison installation” for the technique they invented. More diffident founders ask “Will you try our beta?” and if the answer is yes, they say “Great, we’ll send you a link.” But the Collison brothers weren’t going to wait. When anyone agreed to try Stripe they’d say “Right then, give me your laptop” and set them up on the spot.


Design Fiction as Pedagogic Practice

What first seems like a good idea, can have unexpected, unintended and undesirable consequences. Use fiction as a way to think through a full range of possible consequences. The interesting (and often dangerous) impacts of objects happen on the outskirts of intention, like a ripple effect on reality. Pretend before you mess the world up.


A Case for the Pursuit of Unhappiness

Forgas’ idea is that a happy mood inclines you to feel that the world accords with your beliefs and emotions. Conversely, he argues, unhappiness inclines you to think that the world doesn’t match your inner state—so you’d better adjust. Accordingly, a happy mood inclines people to pay less attention to detail, rely more on stereotypes, give credence to what they’re told and even to argue less effectively.


The crystalline wall

Shyness is something different: a longing for connection with other people which is foiled by fear and awkwardness. The danger in simply accepting it, as Cain urges us to do with introversion, is that shyness can easily turn into a self-fulfilling persona — the pose becomes part of you, like a mask that melds with your face.


We Should All Have Something To Hide

Over the past year, there have been a number of headline-grabbing legal changes in the US, such as the legalization of marijuana in CO and WA, as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage in a growing number of US states. […] What’s often overlooked, however, is that these legal victories would probably not have been possible without the ability to break the law.


Internet pioneer Vint Cerf talks online privacy, Google Glass and the future of libraries

“I just moved to London and I’ve already been accepted by Barclaycard. And you know that reader they send you (a personal device required to log into your Internet banking account), I was thinking ‘what’s that?’. Now I understand that this is two-factor authentication right there, and I’m damned impressed. And I’m also impressed that people are actually using it, because it’s slightly annoying having to carry one around with you.”


The lost Marshall McLuhan tapes

Newman: What’s ahead? What is the most surprising trend we can expect?

McLuhan: The biggest job in the world will be espionage. Around the world, people are spending more and more of their time watching the other guy. Espionage at the speed of light will become the biggest business in the world. But the CIA and the FBI are really old hat using old hardware by comparison to what’s coming, in which everybody earns pocket money by watching his own mom and dad or his brothers and sisters.


Test Match Special and Technological Agency

A number of different approaches, one based on Hawk-Eye, another using chips implanted in footballs, are currently under trial. However, Blatter has long opposed these, based partly on their accuracy, but also going on the record to say that “Other sports regularly change the laws of the game to react to the new technology. … We don’t do it and this makes the fascination and the popularity of football”. What underlies this statement is a fundamental belief that sport is a human undertaking, with all the confusion, fallibility and debate that that involves.


The Pixar Theory

Every Pixar movie is connected. I explain how, and possibly why. Several months ago, I watched a fun-filled video on that introduced the idea (at least to me) that all of the Pixar movies actually exist within the same universe. Since then, I’ve obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call “The Pixar Theory,” a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme. This theory covers every Pixar production since Toy Story. 


Another week done, enjoy the sun, fingers crossed for England to win the second test and tell your email obsessed friends to subscribe and your cooler RSS using friends to add this feed. Bye.

Friday Reading #27

A sunny and busy week. Coincidentally I had a fewer links to choose from which shows what impact nice weather can have on my usage of the web. No real theme or big topics this week, although there are two stories with connections to drugs which might have some meaning.


You Are Not an Artisan

People substitute creative for sexy in describing their aspirations (to themselves and others) because it sounds less narcissistic. If you seek sexy work, you could be viewed as self-absorbed, entitled and attention/status seeking. If you pretend it is creative work, you’re suddenly God’s gift to the world, basking in the gratitude, admiration and adoration of all simply for existing.


Heat Death, Crap Systems, How Connected Studio Will Save the BBC

Money and ideas went in one end; those of us unconnected with the innards of the black box hung around and eventually watched or listened to what came out the other end: a naked production of Shakespeare, the Six O’Clock News, a documentary about Hitler’s Killer Sharks, an exhibition of Rutger Hauer’s artwork. No doubt what went on inside the box was complex. But the processes were invisible and the box was not connected to the outside world.


When To Give Up

A simple measure to know if you need to kill something, is to be aware of how you’re feeling when you’re talking about the thing you’re working on. In giving the latest in a long line of elevator pitch summaries to a stranger, how are you feeling? When you’re talking to friends, are you excited about other things, and when asked about how it’s going with your main thing, do you deflate, feel flat, change the subject? How’s your body language when you’re talking about it?


The #indieweb as a minimum viable social web ecosystem

Although there have been significant advances in the field over the last five years, there remains a need to prove the business value of decentralized web technologies. To many of us involved in both the industry and the movement, this seems silly: after all, the business value of other decentralized technologies, like email and the phone system, are hardly questioned. Nonetheless, in a world where centralized data siloes regularly receive multi-billion-dollar valuations, the onus is on those of us who are building more open technologies to demonstrate their worth. Note, it is not enough to argue their worth: we must build, ship, and actively demonstrate a profitable product or service with a business model where the decentralized social web is an inextricable component.


Why I’m hiring graduates with thirds this year

So my game theoretic instincts suggest that if we confine our recruitment efforts to people in the lower half of the degree ladder we shall have an exclusive appeal to a large body of people no less valuable than anyone else. And such people will be far more loyal hires, since we won’t be competing for their attention with deep-pocketed pimps in investment banking.


Can a Low Dose Go a Long Way?

He’s been in the trenches of legitimate mind-altering research for over four decades, and with time has become a sort of champion of the micro dose. Nowadays, he’s tickled to find himself almost sober, if you could call it that, among the brain-blasted, self-important new gurus and high priests of what could be called a psychedelic renaissnace. Speaking at the 2013 Psychedelic Science conference in San Francisco, Fadiman did not mince words: “It’s wonderful to be conservative in this crowd.”


Have a nice sunny weekend (assuming you are in the summer half of the world). Subscribe to these reads via email here or via RSS here

Friday Reading #26

I have recently read Bill Moggridge’s wonderful book, Designing Interactions. It looks at a number of key points in the lifecycle of technology as we know it today and the people and processes involved in making it a reality. Chapter one of that book is dedicated to the desktop interface we know and love today and the interaction device that made computing more accessible and usable to billions of people, the mouse. The man widely credited with the creation of that device, Doug Engelbart, sadly passed away this week. To say he ‘just’ created the mouse would be to do him a great disservice. His pioneering thinking on the collaborative uses of technology to augment the ability of humans was revolutionary back in the 60s and has still not been realised today. This classic video demo, from 1968, of a multitude of technologies and methods of interaction with computers is still mindblowing, I can’t even imagine what the reaction was 50 years ago let alone the impact it had on computing. There is a quote from Doug at the beginning of this video which resonated with me strongly;

“If in your office you, as an intellectual worker, were supplied with a computer display, backed up by a computer that was alive for you all day and was instantly responsive to every action you had, how much value could you derive from that”

Watch the demo and you will see all kind of wonderous things such as collaborative editing, video conferencing and a method of interacting with computers that along with computers themselves was alien to most. As I sit here writing this on a very flaky work machine which has limited collaborative capabilities I can only hope that in another 50 years time the truly pioneering vision that Mr Engelbart had will have come to fruition in all large enterprises.

The other things that I read and enjoyed this week include a look at where the next innovation hotbeds will be, a look at the rise of African mega cities, Oracle & Salesforce suddenly getting all friendly, what we dreamed of in the kitchen before the microwave, quantified self whoring, technology’s threat to retail, how to get a Klout score of 60 in under 4 weeks and the problem with pilot announcements.


The Click Heard Round The World

All of a sudden – wham! – I got an image of myself sitting at a big CRT screen with all kinds of symbols on it, new and different ones, manipulated by a computer that could be operated through various input devices. All the material on the screen could be controlled with great flexibility. Other people had their display units tied to the same computer complex, and you could connect them. Everybody could share knowledge. The vision unfolded rapidly, in about a half hour, and suddenly the potential of interactive, collaborative computing became totally clear.


A few words on Doug Engelbart

The problem with saying that Engelbart “invented hypertext”, or “invented video conferencing”, is that you are attempting to make sense of the past using references to the present. “Hypertext” is a word that has a particular meaning for us today. By saying that Engelbart invented hypertext, you ascribe that meaning to Engelbart’s work. Almost any time you interpret the past as “the present, but cruder”, you end up missing the point. But in the case of Engelbart, you miss the point in spectacular fashion.


In Innovation Quest, Regions Seek Critical Mass

Unhappily for regions that have spent billions attempting to become the next Silicon Valley, the answers to these questions are still in debate. “Clusters exist—it’s empirically proven,” Yasuyuki Motoyama, a senior scholar at the Kauffman Foundation, told me. “But that doesn’t mean governments can create one.” What’s certain is that they are trying. The largest such effort we know of is the Skolkovo complex outside Moscow, where $2.5 billion is being invested in a university, a technology park, and a foundation. Another, in Waterloo, Ontario, aims at gaining a lead in a particular advanced technology, quantum computing. The price tag there: $650 million so far.


How Africa’s New Urban Centers Are Shifting Its Old Colonial Boundaries

For decades, Lagos suffered one of the worst images of any city in the world, known widely as a place of thieving politicians, streets that crackled with danger, rotting infrastructure and “go-slows,” the monstrous, daily traffic jams in which people melt in their seats in the stifling, humid heat while praying they won’t be held up at gunpoint by robbers. The city’s most famous native son, the late musician, Fela, even coined a shorthand term for the Lagos’s litany of hardships: “impossibility-ism.”


The week Oracle suddenly became BFFs with everyone in enterprise software

Thankfully both Benioff and Ellison promised it wasn’t the end of the potshots and drama: “I’m sure we’ll try to continue to be entertaining,” Ellison said, “while making sure the entertaining never distracts from working together.” Benioff admitted things had gotten a bit rough between Oracle and Salesforce lately. Maybe they’ll start a reality television show called “Oracle OpenWound.”


How We Imagined The Push-Button Kitchen Before Microwaves Existed

In the mid-1950s, the promise of our food future was the push button. The microwave oven was still decades away from becoming a mainstream reality in the American kitchen. But soon — very soon — all your food would be cooked automatically in just a matter of seconds!

Pick your favorite foods! Then this imaginary SUPER CHEF assembles your choice from a vast freezer storage, cooks it to perfection by infra-red ray and serves it by conveyor in a matter of seconds!

Mad Scientist Sees Future Where We Sell Our Quantified Selves on eBay

Wired: So what do you think of Vinod Khosla’s prediction that 80 percent of doctors will be replaced by machines?

De Brouwer: Everything is going to be replaced one day. This debate between carbon and silicon has long been lost. Khosla is right. In telecom, a lot of people were fired in the ’90s. We replaced them with switches. Because, you see, a switch does not make mistakes. The introduction of a human being is an opportunity to make a mistake, so the more little machines you put in your network of course the less you’re going to make mistakes. A machine doesn’t have a hangover.


Death of the Salesmen: Technology’s Threat to Retail Jobs

Should we mourn the end of retail? The exodus from American farms marked the end of self-sufficiency and an uprooting of families from their heritage. As manufacturing sputtered, so too did a jobs engine that could carry people with few initial skills into the middle class. It’s harder to get nostalgic about mall jobs and supermarket cashiering.


The Future Of UX Design: Tiny, Humanizing Details

These atomic design moments, Saffer argues, are what whole products, and even whole systems and “wicked problems,” ultimately boil down to. If microinteractions are delightful, humane, and effective, then their success accretes and trickles up into the broader user experience in general. “Most good designers have been doing this for decades, especially some of the great industrial designers like the Eameses and Dieter Rams,” Saffer says. “The on/off switch is often the first microinteraction people encounter with a product.”


Two weeks and $40 got me a Klout socre of 60

Back in April I had a Twitter conversation with @wildebees about fake social media followers.  I mused whether I could artificially acquire a Klout score of 60 in a month, for less than $50.


The pilots announcement problem

When the hotel asks if you’ve had anything from the mini-bar. Grrrrr – there must be a better way of getting that information that doesn’t delay me when I’m trying to leave your hotel. Or better still get rid of the stupid mini-bar…


I do hope those links delighted you. If so then why not subscribe via email or subscribe via the increasingly rare RSS feed, for even more witterings from me. Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday Reading #25

Another working week draws to a close and it has been a pretty good one. I started a little Fintech roundup.  I am however struggling with some other writing at the moment so this Friday Reading has come as a welcome break. On the positive side things are moving along nicely with the War Cards project and next week scanning of them will take place. This is a nice little milestone and then the project can really begin and we can actually make something. I rarely get to make things and I am also not very good at it which is a constant source of disappointment.

To turn that round into joy this weeks roundup begins with an interview with Anne Holiday who has produced some lovely little films about some people that are very good at making. Read and watch. Other things that I liked this week include a great piece on making little ideas out of big ones, old ideas being better than new ones, a couple of articles on fiction as a driver for new ideas, can too much collaboration be detrimental and can spaces be designed to promote the greatest form of collaboration, Sex. Finally there is a wonderful oral history of one of the greatest banking films of all time, Trading Places. To begin we have a lovely letter from Dorothy Parker to her publisher when she was struggling with writers block. I might just send this letter to my boss.


I cant look you in the voice


The Makers of Things

What do you think the message of the series is, what story were you trying to tell with the films? If anything, it’s that we’re all makers of things. Sounds a bit cliched but the title The Makers of Things just came from something Norman said. He said that even when he was 14 and had a shed in his parents’ garden he made sawdust. I like the idea that whatever your discipline, your chosen material or intention, you can make stuff.


The Little, Big Idea

When you’ve got a Big Idea, you’re always thinking about it, and if you focus on just making that first step, you’re maximising on that passion and energy. It’s pointless trying to do a Big Idea when you’re not passionate about it, and the main problem I see with the “write it all down, spend a year getting lots of documents together” model is that your passion isn’t going to be in it. It’s a formula for making sure that you’re tired of it before you’ve even spoken to any users.


Old Ideas Are Better Than The Idea You Just Thought Of

Some ideas are stacked up on shelves because, for one reason or another, they’re just bad. Others are set aside because, while they might be good, they’re either really hard to execute or the team isn’t ready to pursue them. Or maybe the timing isn’t right or the person who had the idea doesn’t know how to convince others of its merit. Regardless, once an idea begins to age, it can be difficult to tell whether it has potential. All old ideas are then sullied with the bad-idea funk and people forget how promising those good ideas once were. After a while, it’s hard to tell them apart.


An Introduction To Infrastructure Fiction

The first assumption that needs to die: that infrastructure enables designed objects. As the old saying goes, the problem is that it’s not even wrong; it’s just one-sided. The relationship between infrastructure and designed objects is duplex, a synthesis. The multiplication of designed objects, of tools and machines and appliances, both necessitated and enabled the construction of infrastructure, which in turn enabled a further proliferation and multiplication of appliances.


Better Made Up:The Mutual Influence of Science Fiction and Innovation

Buzz Aldrin, who really did stand on the moon, recently offered a transporter to Mars to a Radio Four programme asking for donations to an imaginary museum. It was received as the first way to ‘hitch a ride into space’… ‘since science fiction’. Aldrin, who has criticized NASA’s priorities, who seeks a Mars programme, and who has been engaged in work on a Mars Cycler, intended this fictional gift to be a real world intervention. Science Fiction and Science ‘fact’ – science and technology innovation, policy, public knowledge, investment – are not two separate realities but are two entangled and overlapping fields.


Too much collaboration is hurting worker productivity

In the last few years, increased collaboration is both intentional, encouraged by managers intent on fostering innovation and shared resources, and unintentional, partly the result of corporate cutbacks in office space during the recession. Much of the reduced space affected collaboration areas, which pushed conversations and collaboration into the general work spaces, said Hoskins. “Everything was squeezed” and so workers felt less able to focus, the Gensler survey of 2,035 knowledge workers shows.


Room for sex

The sudden proliferation in the 2000s of National Lottery-funded public spaces in the UK seemed to be rooted in a longing to return to Edwardian times, with all the attendant anxieties about sex and class. This longing was abundantly clear in Foster and Partners’ redevelopment of Trafalgar Square (2003): a magnificent architectural project, but one that limited human behaviour to the polite promenade. Perel’s understanding of the limits of civility, from a sexual point of view, helped me to form a powerful critique of architecture. In sum, architecture was principally about order; sex was not.


It’s The 30-Year Anniversary Of The Greatest Wall Street Movie Ever Made: Here’s The Story Behind It

JOHN LANDIS: The script was developed for Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. And when I was sent the script, Richard Pryor, unfortunately, had his accident where he burnt himself rather badly, and they sent it to me and said, ‘What do you think?’

‘48 Hours’ hadn’t come out yet, but they’d previewed it, and Eddie Murphy had previewed very well, and they thought, ‘Ah this kid’s going to be a star,’ So they said, ‘What do you think about Eddie Murphy playing the Billy Ray Valentine part?’ And I of course said, ‘Who’s Eddie Murphy?’


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Friday Reading #24

It has been one of those weeks that seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. I must have been busy or just very ignorant. I went to London for a pretty good banking conference run by the nice people at Anthemis. I met a very nice and helpful lady for a chat about the War Cards. I got a new broom. It has been all go. No real theme or big subjects for this weeks readings. Some stuff on the Ultramundane, blunders, PRISM, simplicity, not just any innovation but M&S innovation, raising the bar, the Internet of actual things and words. I published two parts of a long post I wrote about the adjacent possible in large multinational corporations. I also include a picture and a link to a description of an Owl Theremin because it made me smile this week.


Owl Theremin


Goods were no longer good, they were incredible. They didn’t just perform, they over-performed. Ours is the age of the ultramundane. Far from meaning what it sounds like it means (i.e. very boring), “ultramundane” refers to the otherworldly. Ultramundane products are both banal and yet too good for this world.


Blunders of Genius: interesting errors by Darwin, Pauling, and Einstein

When James Joyce wrote in Ulysses: “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery,” he meant the first part of the statement to be provocative. History has shown us that even some of the greatest scientific luminaries, towering figures such as the naturalist Charles Darwin, the twice-Nobel-Laureate chemist Linus Pauling, and the embodiment of genius — Albert Einstein — have made some serious blunders.


Secret to PRISM: Even bigger data seisure

So much data was changing hands that one former Microsoft employee recalls that the engineers were anxious about whether the company should cooperate. Inside Microsoft, some called it “Hoovering” — not after the vacuum cleaner, but after J. Edgar Hoover, the first FBI director, who gathered dirt on countless Americans.


How To Improve Any Service By Simplifying It

Offering simplicity within a complex domain is likely to be so appreciated and valued by customers that it ends up being perceived as a luxury. That may surprise some marketers who make the common mistake of thinking that in order to position a brand as a “luxury” alternative, you must provide customers with more features, perks, and options; luxury, in this context, is equated with “excess.


Innovation, M&S and Plan A

…innovation is not something finite and separate from the rest of the business: it’s the means by which it propels itself towards its chosen destination, in this case full sustainability. Getting to A is what the job has become, and it doesn’t end. Innovation of this hard-nosed, business-led kind is the very opposite of brainstorming or trying to come up with world-shaking ideas in a vacuum. Instead it is about getting crystal clear on what matters to stakeholders and where outcomes must change to deliver new value to them.


Raising The Bar

We constantly talk about “raising the bar”. The phrase in itself, so well accepted that we seldom consider its meaning. We all need to raise the bar and then we ail have sorted all of the issues that we have in society. Once the bar is raised all will be well. Children will be educated, the unemployed will become employed, families will become more functional and businesses more community  minded. The bar has been raised and thus we will respond with vim and vigour and our collective efforts will see us prevail.


The Internet Of Actual things

 “This is a delicious fruity Pinot Grigio,” the bottle will tell you via its embedded e-ink screens, front and back. “Excellent with chicken and salad. Should you be drinking mid-week? Please turn me around to view messages from sponsors specifically chosen to match your interesting lifestyle. Enjoy your wine!”



We’ve become obsessed with fancy designs, responsive layouts, and scripts that do magical things. But the most powerful tool on the web is still words. I wrote these words, and you’re reading them: that’s magical.


‘Bonus’ link written by me


The Adjacent Possible In Large Multinational Corporations

In a large multinational organisation it becomes ever more difficult for the right minds to know one another exist let alone converse or meet in person. In organisations over a certain size the chances that someone somewhere in the world is coming up with similar ideas to someone else are high. How do you connect those ideas? How do you connect those experiments?  The technical problems, progressions or failures in one team, in one building, in one country, in one region could be as much a secret to someone six desks away let alone six time zones.


Hope these links made your brain work. Go on and subscribe via email if you don’t already or try an endangered RSS feed for more posts. Have a lovely weekend.

Friday Reading #23

What a technology fuelled week it was and we learned so much. Microsoft have seriously misunderstood their target market i.e. gamers, with their insistence on the always online always watching never share or sell any games ever again approach. Sony (a company with an awful record of non-standard formats and DRM hell) in response pulled off one of the marketing masterstrokes of the year. Jony Ive went from design ubergod to soundly mocked loser the minute he dare enter the artistic realm of digital interaction design and show off his flat and gradient obsessed buttons. The scariest powerpoint in the world showed what we all knew about the US spying on everything and everyone and that the NSA need to hire some designers. It is that subject we begin with this week. A classic and timeless piece from Bruce Schneier on the The Eternal Value of Privacy and a fantastic piece of writing by James Bridle on The Politics of the New aesthetic. His own words on what NA means and what he is trying to think through about how technology and humans exist together in society today and in the future. There were two other good pieces this week by James and on James that you should also read. One of the great thinkers/makers/artists of our time. Other selections this week include Stef Lewandowski on creating everyday, a Microsoft intern writes the greatest critique of large enterprises I have ever read, can robots evolve, the constant cry for attention and the teen who stole Half Life 2.


 The Eternal Value of Privacy

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest — or just blackmail — with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.


The Politics of the New aesthetic

I believe that much of the weak commentary on the New Aesthetic is a direct result of a weak technological literacy in the arts, and the critical discourse that springs from it. It is also representative of a far wider critical and popular failure to engage fully with technology in its construction, operation and affect. Since at least the introduction of the VCR – perhaps the first truly domesticated computational object – it seems there has been a concerted, societal rejection of technical understanding, wherein the attitude that “I don’t understand this and therefore don’t like this and therefore I will not investigate this” is ascendant and lauded.


Create something every day

There’s a beautiful Japanese concept that deals with entropy, and accepts it as not just a part of life, but something to be viewed as a form of beauty – wabi-sabi. We spend our lives trying to push back against the force of entropy – arranging things, making patterns out of objects, designing processes for how things happen, sometimes just attempting to keep things the way they are for a little while. Wabi-sabi is an acceptance of the inevitable decline of order and that the imperfection and fleetingness of things is to be celebrated, not mourned.


8 months in Microsoft, I learned these

Expect no documentation in corporations. I have seen the knowledge inside the company is mostly transferred by talking and hands-on sessions. Some parts of knowledge base generated are only emailed and not saved anywhere permanent. This is not how the information flows in the digital world. There are certain people, if they got hit by a bus, nobody can pick up their work or code. And it is okay. If this would have been my own company there would be tons of wiki pages.


Robot Evolution

…the MANIAC (‘Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator, and Computer’). The acronym was apt: one of the computer’s first tasks in 1952 was to advance the human potential for wild destruction by helping to develop the hydrogen bomb. But within that same machine, sharing run-time with calculations for annihilation, a new sort of numeric organism was taking shape. Like flu viruses, they multiplied, mutated, competed and entered into parasitic relationships. And they evolved, in seconds.


How Not To Be Alone

Most of our communication technologies began as diminished substitutes for an impossible activity. We couldn’t always see one another face to face, so the telephone made it possible to keep in touch at a distance. One is not always home, so the answering machine made a kind of interaction possible without the person being near his phone. Online communication originated as a substitute for telephonic communication, which was considered, for whatever reasons, too burdensome or inconvenient. And then texting, which facilitated yet faster, and more mobile, messaging. These inventions were not created to be improvements upon face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if diminished, substitutes for it.

But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes.

The Boy Who Stole Half-Life 2

At 6am on 7th May 2004, Axel Gembe awoke in the small German town of Schönau im Schwarzwald to find his bed surrounded by police officers. Automatic weapons were pointing at his head and the words “Get out of bed. Do not touch the keyboard” were ringing in his ears.

Gembe knew why they were there. But, bleary-eyed, he asked anyway.

“You are being charged with hacking into Valve Corporation’s network, stealing the videogame Half-Life 2, leaking it onto the internet and causing damages in excess of $250 million,” came the reply. “Get dressed.”


Hope you enjoyed it this week. Feel free to subscribe via email if you do not already or try some RSS for full blog goodness i.e. about an extra 6 posts a year. Bye.

Friday Reading #22

I am actually writing this on a Thursday as on the Friday that this, hopefully, auto posts I will be heading down to Bath for a friend’s stag do. I will probably be in no fit state to use a keyboard by about 5pm, which is like most working days actually. This week and last I have actually been trying to use a keyboard more and start writing some stuff. I posted a grumpy thing about why I don’t like future branches and I have two other big posts currently squabbling for my constantly flitting attention. One of those is about the adjacent possible in big organisations. How easy is it to make things happen and what can you change about the organisational environment to help. Hopefully I will get that written sometime this year. Meanwhile the first post of ten looks at why innovation thrives in cities and touches on some of the very things I have been thinking about a bit recently. My other choices for this week include why your ideas get turned down (a feeling I know too well), electric cars, worthless coders, no screen design, robot brands, when Wall Street came to London, Burroughs & Bowie and seminal 90s computer games TV show Gamesmaster. What more could you want? How about a picture of a Google Glass wearing Robert Scoble, Jared Lanier, Jeremy Paxman all inside some sort of virtual reality Florentine chapel. Weirdest bit of TV this week by far.


I have no idea what is going on. Photo by Antimega


Why innovation thrives in cities

What the new work shows, Pentland says, is that “a lot of the things that people have been arguing about for centuries are not actually things that need explaining. They just come from the basic pattern of social networks.”


Why Your Great Ideas Get Turned Down

For a work to be truly creative, it has to depart from the status quo at some point. That departure makes many people uncomfortable. Despite our oft-stated desire for more creativity, we also hold a stronger desire for certainty and structure. When that certainty is challenged, a bias against creativity develops.


Plug Vs Pump

Even without a Supercharger network, EVs are actually much easier to refuel than gas-powered cars, precisely because the “scale and infrastructure” problems were solved by the electrical grid a hundred years ago. Once consumers get used to the charge-at-home ritual, the pilgrimage to the gas station will very quickly feel as inconvenient as rewinding the VHS tape and driving it back to Blockbuster.


Are coders worth it? 

I have a friend who’s a mechanical engineer. He used to build airplane engines for General Electric, and now he’s trying to develop a smarter pill bottle to improve compliance for AIDS and cancer patients. He works out of a start-up ‘incubator’, in an office space shared with dozens of web companies. He doesn’t have a lot of patience for them. ‘I’m fucking sick of it,’ he told me, ‘all they talk about is colours.’


Designing the No-Screen Experience

The point is that the Web (and, for that matter, the Internet) does *not* depend on screens for interaction. Sure, they are one, currently very major, way of interacting with electronic media, but they are not the only way – witness Apple’s Siri, whose primary interface is through voice. Even if that example is slightly spurious, it is undeniable that screens are not a pre-requisite for interfacing with the Internet or Web.


The Human Paradox

Leila Takayama’s Friendly Machines is a perspective on why we get frustrated with the limited capabilities of robots. She argues that we need to stop being obsessed with trying to make human-like robots and instead spend our efforts making robots that are more human-friendly in their form, behavior and function. Human-friendly rather than human-like. A subtle but important distinction. Now this might be a stretch but you could replace the word “robots” in the above with “brands”.


The Way They Live Now

Within a decade half the graduates of Oxford and Cambridge were trying to forget whatever they’d been taught about how to live their lives and were remaking themselves in the image of Wall Street. Monty Python was able to survive many things, but Goldman Sachs wasn’t one of them.


Beat Godfather Meets Glitter Mainman 

Burroughs: I dream a great deal, and then because I am a light sleeper, I will wake up and jot down just a few words and they will always bring the whole idea back to me.

Bowie: I keep a tape recorder by the bed and then if anything comes I just say it into the tape recorder. As for my inspiration, I haven’t changed my views much since I was about 12 really, I’ve just got a 12-year-old mentality.


GamesMaster: The Inside Story

“I’m not interested in fuelling that fire,” says Diamond, when I ask him about the feud. “The way I treated Dave on screen is not something I am particularly proud of. It was perilously close to bullying. As much as we felt Dave was being a dick, with this whole Games Animal thing and thinking the wheel was square before he got his hands on it – I think we humiliated the guy. Yes, at the time, he was a dick. But jeez, no one was a bigger dick during the 90s than me.”


More again at a similar time next week. You can subscribe via email and if you did you would have got this a whole day early this week. Can you imagine that?