April 2012


Breakfast on the German ICE train

While there are a few things not to like about German trains – officious staff, annoyingly slow ticket machines – it’s small beer (especially when compared to Germany’s beers).

This is the view of my breakfast on the Inter-City Express train to Switzerland that I have to take to work on many mornings. I normally grab something in Basel on the way and today was a luxury, although at 8.20 euros, including table service, it’s not much different to what I pay on-the-hoof in Switzerland. It made dragging myself out of bed at 5.40 AM more bearable.

Comfortable seats, proper tables setting, linen tablecloth, waitress. All remnants of a bygone age for trains in many other countries. This isn’t First Class either – there they bring you the food to your seat so you don’t have to even move your executive arse. It is the restaurant car for normal mortals.

The ICE trains in Germany are clean, quiet, punctual, well-equipped (each seat has a power outlet) and, well, relatively expensive too. My half-price ticket from Offenburg to Luzern and back is around 59 Euros (to give you an idea, that’s about 230km one way). But most commuters have a BahnCard, which gives 25, 50 or 100% off ticket prices and pays for itself pretty quickly. If you’ve paid for a BahnCard 100, it also has the effect of time-shifting the pain of payment. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet – you paid up front, so you take the train as much as you can instead of the car. On the other had, if I drive I pay about the same in fuel.

It should be obvious why all this matters. It makes train travel a pleasure rather than a hectic, sweaty, cramped horror, which is my memory of train travel in the UK. This matters not just for my personal comfort, but because it shifts behaviour. Taking the train is a far better and more pleasant alternative than driving. The car becomes second or third choice, not the default, which is just how it needs to be.

Kickstarter, Pitchforks and Torches

by Andy Polaine on April 27, 2012

in Links

Kickstarter, Pitchforks and Torches – the latest update from Casey Hopkins’s Elevation Dock Kickstarter project has a priceless paragraph about the responsibility of having such a successful project:

You do not know stress until you have a successful KS project. I have had these recurring dreams of the whole internet outside my apartment with pitchforks and torches if we shipped late or the parts were crappy. And everything is magnified – any hiccups cause world-ending lows; when things go right, it’s mass euphoria. The Gantt chart I made pre-Kickstarter had a solid 4 week buffer if anything like this had to be re-tooled or changed. At this bigger than expected scale, each of the dependent steps takes longer, so that buffer time goes away and any modifications affect ship time. Looking forward to my first solid night of sleep in 4 months when we can get that first Dock out the door.


Bye, Hillman. Knowing you has been a privilege.

April 20, 2012

Photo: Gabriel de Urioste What a sad thing to hear. The very brilliant and lovely Hillman Curtis died on the 17th April at the too-young age of 51. I watched Hillman completely shape the way many designers were thinking about Flash in the early days of Flash on the web and inspire many to get […]

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All companies are going to become software companies.

April 20, 2012

All companies are going to become software companies. Jon Kolko trying out some provocative thoughts. Obviously the idea that all products are services appeals to me, but the point is that these kinds of thought experiments force you into the “if this, then…” mode of inquiry, the perfect accompaniment to “what if?” What is clear […]

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Photo check deposits fail from Chase Mobile App

April 20, 2012

Photo check deposits fail from Chase Mobile App – Marco Arment details why Chase’s idea of a mobile app with which you can photograph your cheques and then digitally “deposit” them falls over. The key quote is, “This is one of those ideas that sounded great until I actually tried it,” but read the whole […]

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Entrepreneur designers in final form

April 18, 2012

Entrepreneur designers in final form – Liz Danzico has posted a thorough set of links to SVA’s IxD MA (@svaixd) brilliant course (in Europe we would say module) on Entrepreneurial Design taught by Gary Chou and Christina Cacioppo. The final class project is that students must raise $1,000. Many, but not all, have gone the […]

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Does Your Research Exist?

April 11, 2012

Does Your Research Exist? Another great list of tips from John Thackara about how to get your research out there in a useful way. These three are particularly good: Tip 3 When presentiong to me, assume I know nothing. NOTHING! The first two minutes – of my visit, or of your presentation – should answer […]

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Design research: sorting your shoe walking from your talk talking «

April 10, 2012

Design research: sorting your shoe walking from your talk talking « is a good piece on being realistic about design research and choosing the appropriate method from @skewiff (Mel Edwards). I liked this update of the old cliché: Do I think this is the most overused collection of words in relation to research: “To really […]

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On The Value of Tinkering

April 9, 2012

On The Value of Tinkering is a thoughtful piece by Jeff Howard on the issues of teaching service design: An entire generation of web designers have bootstrapped themselves into the profession without the need for a n actual client or project, or anyone else’s involvement or permission. That experimentation is how we learn. But for […]

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Germany Is a Nation of Grumblers

April 8, 2012

Germany Is a Nation of Grumblers says SAP Co-Founder Hasso Plattner. Maybe they wouldn’t be if SAP’s software wasn’t so awful. There’s a weird contradiction going on in this interview, because Plattner clearly doesn’t think a lot of the German HQ of his own company and much of what he has to say makes sense, […]

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