Backpack PLUS Will Empower Community Health Workers

Backpack PLUS Will Empower Community Health Workers

A comprehensive toolkit to empower and activate Community Health Workers.

The Third Wave of Computing
Corpus Callosum

The Third Wave of Computing

Hear more from Theo Forbath at MobileCon 2013.

As Myanmar Opens Up, Will Mobile Money Emerge?
frogs on the road

As Myanmar Opens Up, Will Mobile Money Emerge?

Myanmar is easing sanctions and its economy is opening up.

What You Will Find On a Design Researcher's Bookshelf

What You Will Find On a Design Researcher's Bookshelf

Your guide to design research education.

Managing Schizophrenic Projects: A Summary

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the MX Conference (Managing Experience) put on by the nice folks at Adaptive Path. My topic was "Managing Schizophrenic Projects".

Very Cool Market Tracking Visualization

[Updated with full link, thanks Michael]

Twitter: The Missing Messenger

I will admit, I never answer my cellphone. I'm all for communication, but if I'm out with someone, or working, or doing anything that requires my attention, I don't like how much an unexpected call takes me away from what I'm focused on. I'm apt to try all manner of communication technologies - always hoping something will simultaneously support my desire to stay in touch with people I like, and not to be distracted. Tall order, I know. But it was with such optimism that I signed up for Twitter, a new messaging platform by Obvious, whose founders created some of the original blogging technology, and more recently, Odeo.

Twitter is perhaps the best example of a new kind of blog that some are calling a "tumblelog." The tumblelog is a bit like the old link lists: quick one or two-line entries - sometimes just a picture. Twitter in specific allows you to post, through a variety of means (IM, phone, web), short messages meant to describe what you are doing at any given moment. By establishing contacts on the site, you can also get a collected list of what all of your friends are posting.

In addition to all the established channels for posting, Twitter's API's have also made it possible for others to create tools for posting. One tool that has done a lot to make Twitter flourish is called Twitterific, by IconFactory. Camping out quietly in the toolbar, Twitterific pops a small window up whenever someone in my Twitter contacts list has posted something new. Like Outlook, or any Growl-integrated product, the window fades out and I can go back to what I was doing without having to act on anything. All day, I get nice little messages like "Thinking of summer art retreats" and "Rhododendron extract is the answer."

Twitterific is an interesting solution for someone like me. It's basically blogging reduced to what the Russian linguist and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin referred to as "the phatic function. (see note below)" Like saying "what's up?" as you pass someone in the hall when you have no intention of finding out what is actually up, the phatic function is communication simply to indicate that communication can occur. It made me think of the light, low-content text message circles Mizuko Ito described existing among Japanese teens - it's not so important what gets said as that it's nice to stay in contact with people. These light exchanges typify the kind of communication that arises among people who are saturated with other forms of communication.

Is Twitter the future? Will it become the one address I use for hassle-free communication? Or is it, as one of my co-workers pithily put forth, merely "Dodgeball for people who don't go out." Ouch! You decide.

Comedy Central Shows that Personas are Too Simplistic

In today's New York Times there is an article about the proliferation of serious authors getting interview spots on Comedy Central's Daily Show and The Colbert Report. This has turned into an unexpected boon for writers who would otherwise be appearing on shows such as Charlie Rose, often causing their Amazon rankings to jump from the 300,000's to top 300.

User Experience is a Harsh Mistress

So JetBlue has just learned the downside of establishing an outstanding user experience - when things go wrong and you don't deliver, the flak is tremendous.

The Power of Out-Failing

Increasing the Likelihood of Failure Increases the Potential for Innovation

American success is American failure. As a European, I've always been fascinated by this adage, that aptly describes why a society that rewards risk-taking and doesn't stigmatize entrepreneurial failure (as so many European societies still do) remains at the forefront of innovation.

Catch up with Carla Diana


I had a chance this week to catch up with my good friend and former sf frog Carla Diana who is currently the Professor of Interactive Design at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Carla and I met about 8 years ago working in NYC. I will spare you the small talk about Carla's life and the recent remodeling of her kitchen. However, I did want to share what's been going on at SCAD and her recent work.

The Google Logo Valentine Debacle

There are a lot of posts in the blogosphere about how Google screwed up the Valentine's Day version of their logo. The general consiparcy theory is that they accidentally left out the "L" causing the logo to read googe. Take a look at the logo and make your own decision. I can clearly see that the "L" is the stem of the strawberry.

Google made a public statement via their blog at


Mobile (still) looking for a video star

3GSM, possibly the world's largest mobile-centric event, is in full swing these days, and announcements abound.
Unsurprisingly many of them orbit around mobilization of well-known web services, with video often playing the lion's share.

Mobile video fruition has long absorbed part of my processing power, so it's good to hear that one of the key enablers needed to shift it into 2.0 gear has come of age: Adobe announced that Flash Lite will be supporting video content.
One company that will surely benefit is YouTube, apparently busy making deals with most everyone - Nokia and Vodafone global a-listers in this space.
(A side note along these lines is that one of the new flat-rate mobile data plans coupled with a future enhancement of YouTube's QuickCapture will turn any camera-equipped mobile device into a platform for broadcasting people's lives. MyLifeBits anyone?).

As I recently noted elsewhere though what needs to change is the approach to the way video content is delivered and interacted with on networked mobile devices.
Currently there's no denying the apparent disinterest consumers have so far expressed for Mobile TV's current incarnations, or the many other recurring lamentations around the complexity of the overall experience usually offered by media-rich mobile entertainment.
But that's another story.

In the meantime let's just hail the rise of a new Information Ecosystem, and let's get ready to have our Second Lives in our pockets all the time.
Doesn't that sound like fun already?

When art students do IA…

Every Wednesday night, I teach a class in the Communication Design Department over at Pratt. One of the great joys of doing so (you may be surprised to hear) is the homework I get. Many of my students are illustrators, animators, and other types of people who can draw much better than me. Often, perhaps finding my assignments a bit boring, they take it upon themselves to produce creative and beautiful things that make me glad I teach. While sometimes nearly unrecognizable as what I assigned, the best ones are things I keep around and look at well after I have marked grades and largely forgotten what the other students made. Apart from making some nice desk decorations, it's also gotten me thinking about the permanence of the deliverables we give our clients.

Last semester, one of my weekly assignments was to create site maps for the small portfolio sites the students were building. When a student handed me the object below, I wasn't sure what to make of it at first. You will notice that it bears very little resemblance to any kind of OmniGraffle or Visio document. If you look closely, you can see however that it is actually a kind of site map: each panel is a different area of the site with a pretty clear breakdown of what is on it. The backgrounds, behind the vellum, are collages of what each section contains. I've had it on my desk since last semester and am proud to talk about how surprising my students are with anyone who asks about it.

lisa map

I'm not sure it would ever fly as a client deliverable for a place like this, but even recently I saw how a well-made book we put together to augment a digital presentation managed to circulate around the client's offices and did a lot to keep messages and enthusiasm from the presentation alive. I have no doubt that the book will have a much longer run in the client's offices than any deck.

I have thus officially listed "inventing new deliverable formats" as one of my goals for work this year - maybe I'll start with an, um, accordion folder sitemap or something. Love to hear the kinds of things other people do in this area. And, to give credit where it is amply due - the map was made by the very talented Lisa Diehl - who is graduating this year.