Be A Good Friend

My Social Fabric

What a joy to discover Steven Blyth’s My Social Fabric project (thanks to Mike Coulter at Digital Agency). Essentially the My Social Fabric project gives all your friends an avatar that gives you visible feedback to the state of your relationship with them. Haven’t been in touch for a while? Maybe they’re giving you a moody look. Forgot their birthday? They turn their back on you.

My Social Scene - close up. Number 8 is not happy

Apart from being a cute piece of interaction design, it also highlights a way of thinking which taps into the human ability to recognise emotions from even the vaguest posture. Most of us have had the experience of recognising a friend’s silhouette in the distance just by their gait. My Social Fabric relies on that to give you a sense of your social network at a glance.

Those of you out there who may be thinking this is all a bit emotionally disconnected and really should we be able to tell or remember by our contact with the real person might have a point. On the other hand it is very easy when travelling a lot or working a great deal or living in another country to forget.

There is more on the design process here and be sure to check out some of the scenario videos.

Re-imagining Higher Education

Recently I have been giving much thought to the structure and issues that most of us in Higher Education have been struggling with for several years. There are three areas of thought that come together when re-imagining education, particularly within Art and Design education. The theory of the Long Tail, the Play Ethic and Cradle to Cradle sustainability. Each of these requires a radical turn-around in current ways of thinking. Tweaking the edges won’t do.

What if we thought about education the same way we thought about our other precious resources or the same way that we think about the changing face of the media? The full post after the jump is quite long, but covers a lot of thought. If you would prefer to read off-line, you can download a PDF version (with references) here.

Continue reading “Re-imagining Higher Education”

You Tube Advertising Dollars

Some enlightening “theoretical” figures being bounced around in Endgaget’s series about You Tube’s potential for generating revenue. Clicker contributor, Stephen Speicher, even came up with a new metric – “Eyeball Minutes” (but are these adjusted to account for those with only one eye?)

I have written quite often about this previously (see related links below), in particular the relationship to traditional TV shows and advertising. So it’s great to see some figures, however theoretical, being produced about how this might work. Speicher, once again, uses Judson Laipply’s “Evolution of Dance” clip as an example (my goodness, Judson must be pretty happy right now – 15,529,686 downloads as of today and it’s not even that funny):

Just for fun let’s do one other comparison. Let’s look at ad revenue:

Again we will use “Evolution of Dance” as a comparison. If you still don’t think that micro-content could be a macro business, consider the following. Six minutes of network content would be accompanied by 1 minute and 30 seconds of advertising. For a show with 15 million viewers, expect an ad rate in the neighborhood of 200k per 30 second slot. That’s right; “Evolution of Dance” would garner 600k dollars in ad revenue if calculated with basic “network math.

Check the all three stories for more – it’s an interesting read.

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Get Smart with your metering

Quick post about the BBC’s story on Smart Meters – the meters, designed by More Associates show you exactly where all your energy is going. The theory (and practice, it seems) being that when you know what you’re using, you use less.

It’s a good example of how decent interface design (not to mention a smart idea) can help you re-interpret data in a meaningful way.

Check out where all your energy is going

The second screen shows you what you could have done with that energy instead. Rather like the ideas in Change the World for a Fiver (a book I encourage everyone to buy – at least visit the website). Simple ideas, well communicated.

Then find out what you could have done with that energy...

Whilst you are at it, check out the link on the BBC story about how appliances on standby use up energy. It’s pretty shocking:

[Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat’s environment spokesman] has calculated that the CO2 emissions from electrical equipment being left on standby are equivalent to 1.4 million long-haul flights.

So, now I just need to turn everything off for about ten years to make up for all those flights to and from Australia…

Thanks to the good people at Worldchanging.com for the link.

Images More Associates.

Being honest about your company

It pays to be honest, even when it’s all going wrong.

A while ago I bought the very useful application, Spamfire after I went on holiday and came back to about 1,700 e-mails of which about 350 were non-spam. I’m not using POP mail at the moment so I don’t need it, but I just received an e-mail from Michael Herrick, CEO of Matterform Media who make Spamfire. They’ve had some problems and he has been incredibly honest about the situation and what they’re doing about it.

We’re still a tiny company — Daniel and I are the only full-time employees right now — but that should make it easier, not harder, for us to provide the kind of personal service that only Mac users can expect. We’ve been thinking and worrying about this problem for some time and have come to some realizations:

  • We’ve been trying to provide tech support like a large company, instead of relying on our strengths as a small company.

  • We’ve been trying to fit our customers’ service needs into categories that we thought would be convenient for us, instead of asking our customers what they really want.

These two misconceptions have caused us to rely for too long on a high-end case management technology, one that we designed for large companies. We held tenaciously to the belief that we needed more technology to solve our customer service problems. We kept making the technology bigger and better and ended by losing touch with many of our customers.

At the end his gives his personal e-mail address (but hey, I guess his mail is filtered pretty well) as well as his iChat address. There aren’t many CEOs who would be willing to do that and, for me, it is one of the great things about the web – it flattens social hierarchies. Wouldn’t it be nice in this age of corporate corruption and politics to see others being so open?

The other significant point is that technology, though sometimes amazingly useful, can often slow things down to a crawl. I would add policies and procedures to that as well – the paperwork required to buy a cheap online flight through my university took so much of my time (and therefore the Uni’s money) due to their purchasing policy that is meant to save money that it was almost pointless to do so.