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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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August 2005
31 August 2005

Why decisions need design [Business Week]

Roger_martin
Big corporations today can be viewed as decision factories — but where’s the elegant design approach that’s applied to products?

Great design is characterised by deep user understanding, visualisation of creative resolution of tensions, collaborative prototyping to enhance solutions, and continuous modification and enhancement after launch. The result is design solutions that are easy for users to adopt, delightful for them to use, and likely to get better over time.

Corporate decisions, in contrast, are likely to be driven more by producer desires than user needs, accepting of unpleasant trade-offs generated without intensive involvement of users, and applied inflexibly. As a result, decisions tend to take a long time to make, often unravel, take expensive and time-consuming “buy-in” procedures, and are lower quality than they could be with greater user understanding and input.

[By Roger L. Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Management]

Read full story

31 August 2005

120,000 European workers needed in India over the next five years [Yale Global]

Protestingoffshoring1
India will face a shortage of managerial and marketing skills while dealing with Western customers, creating a significant opportunity for European and American workers. A recent report from researchers Evalueserve estimates that 120,000 continental European workers will be needed in India over the next five years alone. The growing number of American and European interns at Indian technology firms shows that they at least are not waiting Godot-like, for a New, New Economy at home.

Read full story

Related:
- Indian call centres to swell with foreigners soon – [Hindustan Times, 6 June 2005]
- 120,000 foreigners needed to plug India’s skills gap – [Silicon.com, 3 June 2005]

30 August 2005

John Thackara voicing doubts again on EU research priorities

Doorsheader_1
The European Commission has published a new plan, called i2010 for ‘the completion of a Single European Information Space’.

The Commission proposes an 80% increase in funding for ICT research focused on areas where Europe has recognised strengths: nano-electronics, embedded systems, communications, and ‘emerging areas such as web-services and cognitive systems’.

Now you probably knew, but I did not, that Europe is a leader in cognitive systems. To be frank, I had no idea what they are, or do. So I checked them out.

Read full post

30 August 2005

Teens prefer mobiles to TV, survey shows [Cellular News]

American_teens
Survey results released from ACE*COMM indicate most North American parents aren’t supervising the mobile phone use of their teenaged children. Seventy-one percent of teenagers surveyed admit they enjoy unrestricted use of their mobile phones.

The Itracks survey also found that many teenagers are abusing their mobile phone privileges. More than one-third (38%) of teens surveyed use their mobile phones to text-message their friends during school, 30% play video games on their phones while in school, and more than one-quarter (26%) use their phones to talk to people their parents would not approve of. The survey also revealed that on average, teens spend almost as much time on their mobile phones as they spend doing physical activity.

According to the survey, teens are very attached to their mobile phones. Fully one half of those surveyed said they would rather have their TV privileges restricted than their mobile phone use, while more than a quarter (27%) indicated they would prefer to have Web access or use of iPods limited rather than have their mobile phones taken away”.

Read full story

(via textually.org)

30 August 2005

Qualitative Research Consultant’s Association

Qrca
The Qualitative Research Consultants Association is a not-for profit organisation that promotes excellence in all aspects of qualitative research.

QRCA brings together nearly 1000 qualitative research consultants throughout the world. They include focus group moderators, facilitators, interviewers and planners with expertise in focus groups, individual depth interviews (IDIs), ethnography, observational research, usability research, idea generation, and other qualitative approaches in-person and online.

(via Customer Experience Crossroads)

30 August 2005

Stanford d.school launches Ambidextrous magazine

Ambidextrous
Ambidextrous Magazine is the design journal of the nascent Stanford d.school. It is a magazine for the wider design community, which includes engineers and ethnographers, psychologists and philosophers. Rather than focusing on promoting product, Ambidextrous exposes the people and processes involved in design.

Ambidextrous is a forum for the cross-disciplinary, cross-market community of people with an academic, professional and personal interest in design. The magazine is geared toward high subscriber participation and interaction. It is expressly designed to be informal, irreverent, and fun to read.

Go to website

(via CPH127)

30 August 2005

Urban planners in Fused Space

 
The Fused Space design competition was inspired by the question: can artists and designers do a better job than the marketing industry in creating new application for ITC in public space?

The 300+ entries satisfied juror John Thackara that the answer is yes.

On 21 September, a meeting will be held for city and regional policymakers to discuss whether the ideas raised in Fused Space might be used in real-world planning and development.

Read full post

29 August 2005

Cell phones that cater to the junior set [San Francisco Chronicle]

Kidphone030rad
Companies tailor new offerings to preteens and their parents.

With an estimated 80 percent of adults between 18 and 65 owning a cell phone, the potential for growth in the cell phone market is slowing. By contrast, only 10 percent of preteens have a cell phone, leading industry observers to see them as perhaps the final frontier for cell phone manufacturers and carriers.

Read full story

29 August 2005

Green petite cars tempt tourists in southern Spain [BBC]

Blobjects
The narrow, cobbled streets of Cordoba in southern Spain are no place for a car, but Alfredo Romeo, a Spanish entrepreneur wanted to change that and set up a business with “blobjects”, electric hire cars that are proving popular with tourists.

Romeo has been taken with the idea of blobjects ever since he heard technology guru Bruce Sterling discuss them in a speech.

Each Blobject car comes with a touch-screen computer system, based on open-source software, mounted in the dash. Through a USB port, you can plug in a flash drive containing information on Cordoba in Spanish, English or French.

By using GPS technology, the computer keeps track of exactly where you are in the city. When you pass a certain landmark, the computer then knows to display the appropriate text, audio and video information about that landmark on the screen.

Read full story

29 August 2005

The new PR wiki

New_pr_wiki
The communications and public relations landscape is changing rapidly. Are press releases dead? Will blogs soon replace them? For dialogue and debate on this and more, check out the New PR/Wiki, set up as an in-depth resource for executives, PR professionals, and anyone else who is interested in the points where business, new media and public discourse intersect.

(via Communication Nation)

28 August 2005

Africa’s cellphone boom creates a base for low-cost banking [Christian Science Monitor]

Africa_phone_banking
Cellphones are already used for music downloads, text messaging, and video games. But here in South Africa, they are beginning to perform another function: personal piggy bank.

With the new technology, a grandmother in rural area can receive money from her son, working hundreds of miles away, with the beep of her cellphone. A teenager can buy groceries with a few punches of keys. Not a coin need change hands.

It’s a high-tech solution designed to help poor people here who never have had access to banks, cash machines, or credit cards. And it’s another example of using digital technology to fast forward development in remote areas.

Read full story

(via textually.org)

28 August 2005

The global future forum

Slobodan
The global future forum, which originated within Unisys, is an independent partnership of futurists, academics and businesspeople, committed to helping organisations extend their strategic planning horizons, and better prepare for the future.

It offers business a single point of access to the world’s leading future-thinkers, and develops the knowledge-bases and methodologies to enable business to adopt future-thinking as an integral part of their strategic planning process.

The 2005 conference takes place from 21 to 23 September in Saint-Paul de Vence, France. Several sessions focus on the importance of understanding people.

The conference homepage links to a number of interesting publications on branding and foresight.

27 August 2005

New York Times on the experience of being a patient

Patient1841ch
My Experientia business partner Jan-Christoph Zoels alerted me to a series of New York Times articles on the isolated, frightening, overwhelming and often dehumanising experiences many patients have in hospitals, and what social, cultural and demographic changes are playing a factor in this.

Awash in information, patients face a lonely, uncertain road (14 August 2005 – Permanent link)
A generation ago, patients argued for more information, more choice and more say about treatment. To a great extent, that is exactly what they have received: a superabundance of information, often several treatment options and the right to choose among them.
As this new responsibility dawns on patients, some embrace it with a sense of pride and furious determination. But many find the job of being a modern patient, with its slog through medical uncertainty, to be lonely, frightening and overwhelming.

Patients turn to advocates, support groups and e-mail, too (14 August 2005)
Battle-hardened by the medical system, patients have become pretty good at taking care of one another. If they are not learning enough from their doctors about diagnoses and treatment options, they can turn to organisations that offer support and education programs for specific illnesses. Doctors can often make recommendations about which of these groups are reliable.

In the hospital, a degrading shift from person to patient (16 August 2005 – Permanent link)
Entering the medical system, whether a hospital, a nursing home or a clinic, is often degrading. In interviews and surveys, people who have recently received medical care say that even when they benefit from the expertise of first-rate doctors, they often feel resentful, helpless and dehumanised in the process.
“The point is that when they talk about quality of health care, patients mean something entirely different than experts do,” said Dr. Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Foundation. “They’re not talking about numbers or outcomes but about their own human experience, which is a combination of cost, paperwork and what I’ll call the hassle factor, the impersonal nature of the care.”

Essential but uncommon knowledge: Patients have many rights. Just ask. (16 August 2005)
You can refuse treatment. You can almost always leave when you are ready to. You can demand to know the name of anyone who enters your room. You may be able to have better food – and even wine – brought in from outside. In many cases, you can ditch the hospital gown and wear your own clothes.

Sick and scared, and waiting, waiting, waiting (20 August 2005 – Permanent link)
Waiting has long been part of medicine. Patients like Ms. Odlum wait for test results; others spend weeks or months waiting for appointments or stranded for hours in doctors’ waiting rooms. But health care researchers say the waiting problem has only gotten worse. Advances in technology have created more tests and procedures to wait for, and new drugs and treatments mean more people need more doctor visits.

Alone in Illness, Seeking Steady Arm to Lean On (26 August 2005 – Permanent link)
There is no way to calculate how many Americans of all ages living alone happen to be sick or disabled, but hospital discharge planners and home health care agencies say they are serving more single people without an obvious person to look after them.

Where to Get Help in Planning for Illness (26 August 2005)
To be ill and alone requires far more advanced planning than is required of those who live with their families. It is a predicament poorly understood by health care providers, who are likely to advise hiring a home health aid or other professional.

Related: IDEO’s design cure – [Metropolis, October 2002] (pdf, 828 kb)

27 August 2005

SMS activism: don’t call us, we’ll call you [The Feature]

Sms_political_1
The increasing ubiquity and popularity of mass SMS-enabled but temporary political affiliation may actually end up bringing its demise.

These are not true bottom-up, spontaneous, grass-roots expressions of networked solidarity, nor even representations of groups willing to follow up on their stated convictions; they are simply instances of large numbers of people momentarily willing to take their orders from above.

Read full story

(via MobileActive)

27 August 2005

State of the art in ambient intelligence

 
John Thackara reports:

Five threats are identified in a report from a powerful European consortium: Surveillance of users; spamming; identity theft; malicious attacks (on AmI systems); and a cultural condition they describe as ‘digital divide’.

The research consortium – whose members include the Fraunhofer Institute, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel – has been asked to investigate ‘Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence’ (hence its embarrassing acronym, SWAMI).

In a 200+ page interim report, the team reviews the state of the art in AmI. Their initial conclusion is that ‘ambient intelligence technology violates most of currently existing privacy-protecting borders’.

Read full John Thackara post

25 August 2005

Podcast with Régine Debatty of we-make-money-not-art

Reginerh_1
“La Signora dei Blog!” is the title of Lele Dainesi‘s introduction to his interview with Régine Debatty, author of the cult blog we-make-money-not-art.com (which has been a favourite link on this blog pretty much from its beginning and was recently listed by Feedster as one of the 75 most popular blogs). Lele Dainesi is in charge of the Mash-ups in Italy blog and the more corporate Key4Biz podcasts.

The Italian-language interview (Régine also lives in Turin, Italy) can be listened to as mp3 and as podcast.

For more information

25 August 2005

Putting People First author in podcast

Mark_thumb
Mark Vanderbeeken, the author of the experience design blog Putting People First and a senior partner of the experience design company Experientia, has been interviewed by Lele Dainesi, who is in charge of the Mash-ups in Italy blog and the more corporate Key4Biz podcasts.

The result of the interview — in Italian — can be listened to as mp3 and as a podcast.

For more information

25 August 2005

Fly pentop computer for children [Business Week]

Flyintro
Developed by LeapFrog Enterprises, a maker of educational toys, the amazingly clever Fly “pentop” computer is just what it sounds like: a talking computer hidden within a pen the size of an electric toothbrush.

The gadget, which contains an actual ink pen, can “see” what you write, read it out loud, and respond to written commands. At the heart of these capabilities lies a tiny camera, which is embedded near Fly’s writing tip, and special Fly paper, which must be used with the device. The dots printed on this paper and invisible to the eye tell the pen’s camera exactly where it’s positioned on the paper, so as it moves, the pen “sees” exactly what you write.

The device, aimed at 9- to 14-year-olds, is likely to be a hit. Kids can use it as a calculator, keep a calendar, create and record music, and play complex logic and geography games.

Read full story

25 August 2005

Visit BrightHouse and experience the power of a slow company [Fast Company]

Brighthouse
Slower is better. That’s just one of many unconventional ideas about creativity that are taking shape inside the restored yellow mansion, on Atlanta’s Peachtree Road, that BrightHouse calls home.

The 17-person company, founded in 1995, works with only one client at a time. It charges $500,000 per project, and the entire firm spends 10 weeks on each assignment. And while the firm’s goal is to devise breakthrough ideas, Brighthouse CEO Joey Reiman insists on following a rigorous four-step process for achieving that goal.

Read full story

25 August 2005

Cellphones catapult rural Africa to 21st century [The New York Times]

Cell_africa
Africa is the world’s fastest-growing cellphone market, a boom that has taken the industry by surprise.

From 1999 through 2004, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent. South Africa, the continent’s richest nation, accounted for one-fifth of that growth.

Asia, the next fastest-expanding market, grew by an annual average of just 34 percent in that period.

Read full story

Related: Guardian story (14 September 2005)