Photographer’s Rights

Photography Prohibited

I’ve long been uncomfortable and unclear about the law when it comes to taking photos in public places and have read of several situations when ‘security’ or police have prevented or questioned photographers or downright threatened them or made them delete images (the old film cliché of opening the camera back and spooling out the film is no more).

Fortunately, Photojojo have published a guide to photographer’s rights and a link to a handy PDF version. Also links to similar PDFs for the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

During the six and a half years I lived in Sydney I noticed a considerable shift from the happy-go-lucky mythology of Australia to an increasingly controlled environment due to ‘security concerns’. Like many governments, fear was used as a control mechanism and one of the casualties of this was photography.

Sydney councils tried to ban photography on the beaches after a couple of incidents of people photography topless women with cameraphones. It all fed into the moral panic about phones with cameras (most of it completely illogical) and started to clash with the right to take photographs. (In the topless women-on-the-beach incident, the counter argument was that if you went topless on the beach, you could expect to be stared at, but in the case of the guy who took the photos, they were basically voyeuristic close-ups). Sydney beaches – and the people on them – are very photogenic and it’s a classic place to take photos, banning them is absurd and probably illegal.

But there are other odd cases too. Iain wrote about being banned from snapping a sandwich, Southgate just outside Melbourne (every bit as dull as Southgate in the UK) tried to ban tourists taking snaps on the grounds of ‘terrorist threats’. There’s also a blog called Strictly No Photography with photos of places where you’re not allowed to take photos.

For photographers like my friend Ray Lewis, whose particular eye on everyday life I wouldn’t want to see banned, it can be a problem. As it can also be for interactive installations in public places that use cameras.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that photographer’s rights are surprisingly wide-ranging – no wonder paparazzi rarely get arrested. Not that it would happen not being a celeb, but although I wouldn’t want people sticking a lens in my face all the time, I’d put up with it to preserve my right for a security goon not to be able to stick a fist in my face.

(The photo is one I took at Mumbai airport – I wasn’t really sure what I wasn’t allowed to photograph – outside, inside, the gardens, the sign?)

[tags]photography, rights, law, security[/tags]

iSmoke – How wrong? Very.

ismoke.jpg

I walked past this ‘iSmoke’ ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes the other day. How wrong? Let me count the ways…

  • It’s lazy creative. This is a one-minute lame idea that borrows everything from someone else’s campaign, badly.

  • The type is wrong. Apple use Myriad for the iPod campaigns (and most other marketing) now. It’s also badly set.

  • iSmoke – what kind of message is that? I think it’s a response to the partial smoking ban here in Germany. The right to kill yourself and others around you is highly regarded by many.

  • The equation of the Lucky Strike packet to the iPod? That’s part of the one-minute lame idea. Bored creative sitting in the pub with iPod and cigarette packet on the table sees easy idea.

  • The deliberate youth targeting.

  • The possible attempt to obfuscate the health warning.

Any more that I have overlooked?

Not that I really want to see more cigarette advertising, but I haven’t seen anything that’s remotely clever for about 20 years. It’s as if the ad industry has just given up on it being a lost cause.

[tags]germany, ipod, ismoke, lucky strike[/tags]

Got ripped off in a MacHeist? It’s a UI failure.

No, not a hold-up in McDonalds, but the MacHeist Mac software bundle sale/game.

Like many, I got charged ten times and received nothing and also heard nothing back from MacHeist’s support, which is pretty lame. The culprit for all the multiple charging was a terrible bit of user-interface design, which goes to show how crucial UI design is.

When clicking on submit to place the order, the server responded with the form page again and the error “* This transaction cannot be processed.”.

The problem is that it’s a programmer’s kind of error message. To the user it either means nothing or, worse, it suggests the transaction didn’t go through, so they (like me) feel they should try again. As a result, many people got charged every time until they gave up.

What should have happened is that the transaction was immediately cancelled and error said “This transaction cannot be processed, your credit card has not been charged.” This gives the user comfort and errs on the side of being secure. A follow-up e-mail confirming the failed transaction would be pretty good too.

Alternatively, if for some reason the system couldn’t deal with that, the error message should have at least explicitly stated “please do not submit your order again, contact customer support on, etc.”.

They also should have responded immediately to all the e-mails they inevitably got sent, but they didn’t. Not at all. (I still haven’t heard back from my five e-mails throughout the week).

Instead they are relying on a MacHeist forum thread to communicate, which surely is being missed by plenty of people.

It adds up to a lot of disgruntled customers, damage to the MacHeist brand, random serial numbers floating around out there, the Mac software developers losing out and a big headache for someone to sort it all out. All of it could have been saved by a decent bit of interface design that accounted for the worst case scenario.

Next time I’ll buy direct from the developers.

It’s not been a good week for customer service.

UPDATE: Amazing how someone can make things go from bad to worse in a very short time. John Casasanta, one of the founders of MacHeist responded to the double charing thread without bothering to apologize and with not a little surliness. Of course, it added fuel to the fire ending with this wonderful piece of customer relations:

Ok, now your posts are starting to get inflammatory. I’m sick of your BS and the next time you do it, I’ll be imposing a 30 day ban on you.

A ban? On the customers you over-charged and didn’t deliver to? On a forum that’s useless anyway?

I’ve stated SEVERAL TIMES that we’re doing what we can to fix EVERY problem but you’re acting like a spoiled child. And I have no patience for it. Instead of getting issues resolved, I’m now trying to placate a whiner in the forums and this is what we’ve been trying to avoid all along.

With 44,000+ sales, there will be some support issues. And we’re working hard to fix then, not blow you off. So you seriously need to take a deep breath and chill the hell out.

Some companies will go to the ends of the world even when a customer decides to sh*t all over them and you’re definitely dealing with the wrong person here if you expect that kind of service from me. We’re doing whatever we can humanly do to resolve any and all issues but you’re insane if you think I’m going to take the childish insults you’re throwing at me.

It’s not the most confidence inspiring response. A simple blanket e-mail to everyone in the MacHeist database would have cleared the air and would have taken five minutes to do.

UPDATE 29.1.2008: If anyone is still reading this (!), MacHeist have done the right thing and sent out bundles to most of the people affected.

John Casasanta remained mostly irate on the forum thread, proving that some people can do marketing well, but not customer service.

I came up with some speculative numbers of MacHeist’s profits in response to some comments that customer support costs money. It turns out my numbers were pretty off, though based on Gus Mueller’s post about the MacHeist deal last year. Some developers took umbrage and let me know they were quite happy with the percentage they got (so, not a flat-fee as in Gus’s post). The point was never to complain about them making money, but even if they only took a 2% cut, it would be enough to pay for someone to man support for a few weeks. In any case, a blanket e-mail to all customers would have cost them nothing.

It turns out that most of the problems weren’t MacHeist’s doing but, surprise, surprise, PayPal’s hellish service, which is making it very hard to track erroneous transactions.

[tags]MacHeist, John_Casasanta, service, ripoff, user-interface, error, paypal[/tags]

PayPal, A Customer Service Nightmare

Companies like PayPal are basically all service and no product, so it makes sense that they should spend a lot of their time on it as do First Direct. Sadly, they don’t.

Like ISPs and telecoms companies, everything is fine until it goes wrong – only then do you really find out what they’re made of. If you have followed any of Iain’s rants about Virgin Media you’ll know what I’m talking about.

What follows is a highly abbreviated version of the utter incompetence of PayPal’s customer service staff. I don’t really want it to fill the main page here, so click if you want to read more (some of it is entertaining in its horror).

Continue reading “PayPal, A Customer Service Nightmare”

Use Designers Better

designers_fault.jpg

For several years I’ve been trying to express how design thinking can be used across a whole range of disciplines from sustainability to education to, well, design stuff. Service Designers like Live|Work do a great job of bringing much of these ideas under one discipline. It helps designers move up the chain of events in a project and have influence earlier on, when it’s really needed.

Designers aren’t just there to pretty stuff up. We can be used far better to solve problems. That’s what designing really is, especially in this whole interactive, interconnected, interweb world.

Thank goodness, then, for Ben Terrett’s brilliant talk that he’s put online called I’m a Designer, Use Me Better. It’s insightful, concise and funny in the way that things are funny when you know they hit on home truths.

Every designer, from every area, should read it.

Even more so anyone who is ever thinking of employing a designer should read it – I don’t agree with Ben that as designers climate change is our fault. We perhaps don’t voice our opinions often or early enough, but we also rarely get in front of the right people to voice those opinions to. Unless designers are used better and earlier in the process we’ll be at the mercy of corporate consultants pretending they know all about it.

[tags]Ben Terrett, sustainability[/tags]

A balanced view of Second Life

I promised i would stop ranting about [Second Life](http://www.secondlife.com] and I will. Putting People First (the experientia blog) have a balanced post called Second Thoughts on Second Life.

Not only does it provide some good links to hype as well as critiques, they basically lay down what it is good for and that is… trying stuff out. It’s a good point, well-made by putting aside the usual hypes and moans. Basically it’s a giant prototyping environment. That’s okay, I’m all for people playing with new things just not telling me how well-dressed the Emperor is when he’s naked.

I still don’t buy many of the arguments about why its an interesting environment to prototype in. I remain pretty unconvinced about the importance of virtual environments in the future of the web and communications. It feels to me the same as the kind of arguments people made about video telephony, yet we all would rather send billions of tiny text messages to each other instead. I think I’d find it hard to navigate and chat in a virtual world with just my thumb whilst on a bus, for example.

It’s rather like those efforts at 3D operating systems that Scoble was hyping. 3D is great, for some things, but making everything 3D doesn’t automatically make it great, just as adding ‘interactivity’ didn’t make lots of things great in the 90s. However, I think it’s important to go through the process of trying things out and seeing just how many don’t work and the handful that do.

But hey, you’ve got to love Jaron Lanier for saying “I still believe all the ridiculous stuff I said so long ago”.

British Telecom’s Lesley Gavin on Virtual Worlds

Okay, so the whole Second Life theme is getting rather a good going over on Playpen at the moment. I think I’m probably going to have to stop writing about it because it just drives me mad.

The latest I’ve read is from The Tech Lab by the BBC. The BBC bills this “the world’s leading thinkers giv[ing] a personal view of future technologies”, but it’s not very imaginative so far. The latest is from BT’s Lesley Gavin talking about the integration of virtual worlds in real-life. Here’s the BBC’s pull-quote:

Virtual worlds will also become integrated with real environments. Buildings or public spaces may offer virtual world counterparts.

I really want to believe that large companies like BT are forging ahead with some great innovations, really I do (and I do know that there are some very smart people there), but Gavin’s comments are like someone saying “in the future people will be able to talk to each other via a ‘telephone'”. Second Life already has plenty of virtual world counterparts, most of them lame. Where’s the imagination and innovation here?

What I would much rather be reading about from BT is how they might use their considerable network infrastructure and technical research to deal with issues of traffic management, sustainability, etc., etc. This stuff is in there, just not getting out there. Sadly, this feels very much like the BBC doing the kind of CNN style “world of the future” reporting, which is almost always shallow and out of date. If you’re going to be a futurologist, it helps to know your history.

(Via Experientia)

Second Life is like an empty restaurant

I wrote a post a while back about how dull I thought it was that Adaptive Path were researching Second Life (along with many, far too many, media academics). I still don’t ‘get’ Second Life’s appeal, but maybe that’s from experimenting with virtual worlds long ago and not finding much difference 12 years on.

However, Chris Anderson just wrote about why he gave up on Second Life and points to an article by Frank Rose that he commissioned for Wired. It’s called How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life and pretty much confirms the anecdotal evidence that once you have, in the words of the article, “put in several hours flailing around learning how to function in Second Life, there isn’t much to do.”

The hook and hype of Second Life is that it is new, to most people. But once you’ve experienced the tedium of a virtual world that’s mostly empty it’s like an empty restaurant at 9pm on a Friday – you don’t bother going in.

Long ago, my first job as an intern was on the Virtual Nightclub. It was clear even then (1993 I think) that you go to a nightclub to listen to music (which you could do in the VNC), but mainly to meet, try and seduce or merely gaze at other people. The Virtual Nightclub had a smattering of people, but they were static and didn’t do anything or speak to you. Needless to say, it wasn’t a brilliant success especially as the time it took to produce it mean that all the music and styles were out of date when it was released.

Second Life strikes me as a similar phenomenon – I know there are ‘real’ people in there and some people seem to have sex chats with each other, but as the Wired article points out, you never really see a crowd (which is a limitation of the software engine). (Granted the sexual activity in Second Life, er, scores where the Virtual Nightclub didn’t.)

I’ve often talked about this ‘new tech’ problem with interactive artworks and installations too. When the newness of the technology – rather than a smart or creative idea – is the drawcard it dates and becomes boring very quickly. Germany’s ZKM has a whole collection of pieces like this – awful blocky avatar heads reading newsfeeds about politics in a robot voice, for example. I can’t help feeling that Second Life is heading for the same fate.

At the very least, chucking ad dollars into it without really knowing what or why you are doing seems to be the usual approach of advertising folks desperate to be on the bleeding edge. To me it Second Life feels like a feeble ‘dad’ version of a multi-user virtual space for people who don’t ‘get’ MMORPGs.

John Gruber on the iPhone

John Gruber is one of the few Apple advocates that writes with intelligent consideration rather than just being an over-enthused fanboy. He has just written a pretty smart analysis of the Apple iPhone pricing, which Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer lambasted.

Before the iPhone was announced I was in a meeting with some folks at Fjord in which the team were discussing applications for various phones. Like many who regularly browse mobile phone shops to see what’s going on, I have long been thinking that there are simply just too many. But what struck me in the Fjord meeting was just how many different interfaces and products even one manufacturer made.

Compared to the iPod it seemed absurd. Sure there have been various generations of the iPod, but they have all pretty much been minor variations on a theme. The iPhone, as Gruber says, is more complex, but basically an iPod that also does a whole lot more.

All the different phones around are due to some misguided market segmentation, I believe. Much smarter would be to make a product with a broad appeal. Gruber makes a good point here:

Why worry about the iPhone’s appeal to corporate IT? The iPod isn’t marketed to businesses and Apple has sold 100 million of them. The iPod is marketed to people, and the iPhone is, too. RIM sold 2 million BlackBerry devices in its most recent quarter; Apple sold 10.5 million iPods in the same period.

And there’s a huge, fundamental difference between these two markets. Businesses, typically, want to buy the cheapest things possible for their employees to use. When buying for themselves, people want to buy the nicest things they can afford.

Personally I’d rather see less flavours of phones from Nokia and, instead, one or two really well designed ones each year. Much smarter to get everyone to love the one thing you make rather than make a whole spread of things badly.

Stealing the soul of design

There’s a great piece by Rick Poynor in Icon called The Soul of Design in which he de-bunks many of the management consultant myths and misunderstanding about design. He brilliantly takes apart the over exclamation marked, Tom Peters and one of his ‘cool friends’, Virginia Postrel.

In many respects I am glad to see management and ‘business’ (an abstraction that I’ve never really come to grips with – what does that actually mean?) seeing the value of design and creative thought. If they want to frame it as the ‘creative economy’, that’s okay by me. What I do take issue with is the idea that they’ve discovered anything new and that many of the Peter’s ilk appear to not actually engage designers (and other creative professionals) in this process and discussion.

The same has been going on in education as well – many of the shifts in ideas of pedagogy have been towards process and collaboration instead of learning facts and sitting written exams. You see it in all areas from mathematics, hard sciences through to engineering and music, art and design educators can offer a wealth of experience in this area. But most of the time they’re not asked about it. The same is going on in a lot of corporate areas it seems.

It all reminds me of the dotcom boom somewhat, when all the consultancy companies (many of who are accountants and auditors) got into the whole e-Experience and digital strategy. They were talking absolute nonsense most of the time from the meetings I had to endure in those days.

There’s a real danger in having design and creative processes being claimed by those without a background in it as Poynor points out:

The more design is seen as a magic ingredient with the power to melt away customer resistance and win undying loyalty to the brand, the more it seems in danger of losing what consultants who dream of wheelbarrows laden with gold like to call its “soul”. This will have profound consequences for the way we think about design and what we expect it to do for us, and this can already be seen in the views of design promoted at an institutional level.

Poynor points out the naked emperor with regards to Ralph Ardill’s essays on experience design on the Design Council’s website. From Poynor:

This kind of baloney must go down a treat with clients. It might even sound acceptable when we are talking about other people rather than ourselves. But you only have to put yourself in the picture to see what’s wrong with it. No one with an independent point of view and an ounce of self-respect wants to hear that his or her thoughts, feelings and behaviour are being nudged and even determined by other people who have gathered in meeting rooms to research, plot and calibrate exactly those desired responses.

It’s great to see design and creativity being valued, let’s not let it become de-valued again by just being the new, new thing.

(Thanks to Niclas for the heads up on the article).