Service.

In terms of User Experience Design, the web can learn a lot from the restaurant world —

For me, service is how people look at you, talk to you, engage you as human beings. It’s not about how fast they pick up the crumbs on your table or even fill up your water glass.

Christian Puglisi (Relæ) in Cutting it Down to the Bone, Eater

Later, he talks about giving the right amount of information to diners, ensuring that each person’s need is appropriately met —

I don’t like the idea of waiters pulling off monologues, especially when the people might not understand or want to hear it. So, better to spend time with the person who really wants to know about the weird wine they are being served or something like that.

These seem like really obvious things — do what you should do, not what you can do; treat users like humans; give them the right amount of information for what they want — but they’re often the first failure points in any user experience.

Ugle: The Networked Owl.

Einar and Jørn from Voy have finally made a video to explain and demonstrate Ugle: the networked owl.

In their own words:

Ugle is a wooden owl that can be controlled over the internet with an iPhone application. It lets you send colour-messages from your phone to your home. When you change the position of the colors on the owl on the screen, the physical owl turns its head to the chosen color. It is a decorative personal message system where the household has to decide what the colours mean.

— Hoot hoot! A new Ugle film, Voy

I bring up Ugle quite a lot, in talks, in conversation, in day-to-day life. It’s the perfect example of the kind of products that people should be designing for the home — networked but not screaming network, undemanding, ambiently conveying meaning. The meaning is constructed between the people that use it, rather than being dictated by the object.

It is designed for natural tendencies, casual observation, rather than trying to create a new behaviour.

Too many products that come out of the Internet of Things end up putting utility above beauty, whereas it can be both. Ugle demonstrates that it’s possible to have a domestic, networked object that is functional and pleasing to look at (see also the Good Night Lamp by Alex D-S).

Ugle is calm, ambient, networked and beautiful, and that’s what our homes need.

Watch:

 

Lovely.

‘Limited Edition’ publishing in a digital age.

Walk The Plank 7" first press, "limited blah blah"

Today is Record Store Day 2012. A day designed to “celebrate the art of music” by encouraging people to visit, engage with, and purchase physical products from physical record shops.

It’s a noble aim, to support something that has brought a lot of light to people’s lives — the people at Probe Records in Liverpool, Piccadilly Records in Manchester have been particularly helpful in nudging me down avenues that the racks of HMV, Virgin MegaStore or the algorithms of Amazon’s recommendation engines never could.

The first thing that is particularly interesting about RSD is that it mimics the music industry’s recent shift from sales to events. Touring acts are now the primary focus for income from the major labels, and RSD is an event to encourage merchandise sales. There are plenty of in-store performances in record shops to entice the curious. Although, if you’re a regular at Rough Trade East in London, you might be put-off by today’s special performance: Keane.

The second thing that is interesting is the means in which RSD offers added value: limited edition records. Small number pressings of seven/twelve inches by bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The Hives, Talibam!, Belle & Sebastian and, er, Abba.

What these two things are doing is drawing a massive line in the sand, demonstrating what record stores can do that the online merchants of Amazon, eBay, Discogs etc can’t do: physicality and ‘value’. The online value is usually down to price; offline value is about being able to be part of something, hold something beautiful, and — crucially — be one of the few people to have that experience or product. As Andy Votel notes, “tangible & sociable (not invisible)“.

The internet does scale well, the ‘real’ world does intimacy well. The question is: can the web successfully do limited edition publishing, with intimate value?

It is dangerous to mimic the models of one form in another, and I don’t want to see a replica, but the frictionlessness of online is perverting the value in supply and demand. If everything is always available, can it have value?

It’s a question I’ve looked at briefly in some work. MemCode — a small publishing project — follows an issue model of publishing, looking at quarterly editions of memories and form experiments (issue 2, blue). An initial idea was to have a payment system, for intangible moments/memories, with a built in half-life of the link. That’s a form of the solution, but it doesn’t enable a person to retain the ‘product’ permanently, and leaving a trail of dead links across the web is littering.

Another form of this is a project I have worked on with Philter Phactory’s Weavrs MMM — a storytelling platform for bots, where a majority of the narrative is hard-written and a percentage is generated based on searches and API calls. It’s a version of ltd edt as each version is likely very different, but it’s not quite the same.

At the moment, it is very binary: paywall or completely open. Yesterday, I noticed this tweet from Caitlin Moran (by way of Mary Hamilton) about a temporary paywall amnesty:

I think this is the start of something along the lines of what I describe above. The offering is the value of not having to pay, but also the satisfaction of being one of the people who got it when it was available.

A limited edition offering, a ‘first pressing’.

Exploring Breivik’s Manifesto.

The Guardian Data Blog has done some excellent work exploring the links and references in Anders Breivik‘s Manifesto. This is genuinely fascinating, a much better way of engaging with how a person processes information and distorts it.

This won’t explain Breivik’s motivations entirely, and a lot of things are contradictory, but it is a brilliant means for exploring the contexts that encourage such unhealthy paranoia and delusion.

SLIDES: Beauty of Digital, Sheffield (28/03/12)

I was invited to take part in the Sheffield leg of a series of events run by Creative Times called The Beauty of Digital.

I spoke briefly about digital not being a thing, and it being a tool. I made a bunch of slides that looked like this:

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It was an enjoyable session with a pretty inquisitive audience. The rest of the speakers were James Wallbank (Access Space), Bea Marshall (Moogaloo) and James Boardwell (Folksy).

LINKS ETC:

1. X1172 by Max Capacity, via New Aesthetic
3. Chromaroma by Mudlark
4. Derby [2061] by Mudlark
5. Birmingham Civic Dashboard by Mudlark
8. One Minute Internet, Part 2: Fukushima (March 12, 2011) by Marcus Brown
10 & 11. MemCode, Issue 2 by Mudlark
14. Ugle by Voy
15. SXAESTHETIC by James Bridle
16. Foo Fighters, Live From Reading ’95 by The Uprising Collective
17. You Don’t Compare Wolf, via New Aesthetic
18. Parasol via Circumambient (oft NSFW)