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Putting People First

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March 2012
28 March 2012

An introduction to Lean

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Laurence McCahill, design lead and co-founder of Spook Studio, explores for .net magazine the Lean Startup and Lean UX movements, which bring a groundbreaking approach to product development, and what it means for designers, developers and clients.

“If there’s one thing the Japanese know a lot about, it’s effective car production. And that’s where the term Lean derives from – it all began at Toyota when the car manufacturers found a new, more efficient method of producing the cars valued by its customers.

The principles learned at Toyota became known as Lean, and are now more of a management philosophy that can be applied to almost any business. At its core is the principle of creating value by reducing unnecessary risk and waste. More recently the term has become synonymous with startups, thanks to Eric Ries (a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former software engineer) and his Lean Startup movement.

The Lean Startup is modelled around the already established disciplines of customer development and agile software development, and claims to be a scientific method for creating innovative products (whether a website, app or service). Lean thinking is not new but has had lots of media coverage recently mainly as a result of Ries’s work.

Over the last year or so the design community has also embraced Lean through the Lean UX movement, thanks to Janice Fraser and Jeff Gothelf amongst others.”

Read article

27 March 2012

Who, Where, How We Work: The Intersection of Culture, Workplace, and Social Media

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What happens when designers & manufacturers discuss the workplace & social media?

Dexigner reports that IIDA has published a whitepaper summary of the IIDA Industry Roundtable 15, focused on the changes in the industry, and in the world, their experience of the evolution of the workplace, and more importantly the way we work.

The roundtable participants also explored change management enabled by positive collaboration and the shift in workplace culture that elevates work strategies.

Of particular interest were the topics of use and access to social media in the workplace, the ways that social media has changed the definition of “work” and its specific potential to elevate a brand, and client dynamics in the new world of online transparency and access.

27 March 2012

Technology can push our crazy buttons, rewire brains

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Our tech saturation has reached such a critical point that some experts say it’s rewiring our brains.

Research psychologist and computer educator Larry Rosen of California State University, Dominguez Hills, suggests that being so hyperconnected can make us behave as if we have real psychological disorders.

In his new book iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming its Hold On Us, Rosen says technology is causing some people to exhibit symptoms of problems including narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction and depression, among others.

“My concern is that we have become very enmeshed with our technologies … it is affecting every single aspect of our world. It’s gone past the stage of ‘this might be a problem’ to ‘it is a problem for many people.’ ”

Technology today is “so user-friendly that the very use fosters our obsessions, dependence and stress reactions,” Rosen says in his book. “I am not arguing that we are all crazy and technology is to blame. I find, however, that our actions and behaviors when we use technology make us appear out of control.”

Read article

27 March 2012

I’m being followed: how Google (and 104 other companies) are tracking us on the web

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Who are these companies and what do they want from me? Alexis Madrigal’s voyage into the invisible business that funds the web.

“This morning, if you opened your browser and went to NYTimes.com, an amazing thing happened in the milliseconds between your click and when the news about North Korea and James Murdoch appeared on your screen. Data from this single visit was sent to 10 different companies, including Microsoft and Google subsidiaries, a gaggle of traffic-logging sites, and other, smaller ad firms. Nearly instantaneously, these companies can log your visit, place ads tailored for your eyes specifically, and add to the ever-growing online file about you.” […]

“Behind the details, however, are a tangle of philosophical issues that are at the heart of the struggle between privacy advocates and online advertising companies: What is anonymity? What is identity? How similar are humans and machines? This essay is an attempt to think through those questions.”

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26 March 2012

Samsung criticised for lack of privacy protection on HD-TV’s

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Samsung’s 2012 top-of-the-line plasmas and LED HDTVs offer new features never before available within a television including a built-in, internally wired HD camera, twin microphones, face tracking and speech recognition, writes HD Guru. While these features give you unprecedented control over an HDTV, the devices themselves, more similar than ever to a personal computer, may allow hackers or even Samsung to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.

“While Web cameras and Internet connectivity are not new to HDTVs, their complete integration is, and it’s the always connected camera and microphones, combined with the option of third-party apps (not to mention Samsung’s own software) gives us cause for concern regarding the privacy of TV buyers and their friends and families.

Samsung has not released a privacy policy clarifying what data it is collecting and sharing with regard to the new TV sets. And while there is no current evidence of any particular security hole or untoward behavior by Samsung’s app partners, Samsung has only stated that it “assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable” in the event that a product or service is not “appropriate.””

Read article

26 March 2012

Desire engines

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Nir Eyal’s third Techcrunch article on behavioural engineering, delves into the topic of “desire engines”.

“Desire engines go beyond reinforcing behavior; they create habits, spurring users to act on their own, without the need for expensive external stimuli like advertising. Desire engines are at the heart of many of today’s most habit-forming technologies. Social media, online games, and even good ol’ email utilize desire engines to compel us to use them.

At the heart of the desire engine is a powerful cognitive quirk described by B.F. Skinner in the 1950s, called a variable schedule of rewards. Skinner observed that lab mice responded most voraciously to random rewards. The mice would press a lever and sometimes they’d get a small treat, other times a large treat, and other times nothing at all. Unlike the mice that received the same treat every time, the mice that received variable rewards seemed to press the lever compulsively.

Humans, like the mice in Skinner’s box, crave predictability and struggle to find patterns, even when none exist. Variability is the brain’s cognitive nemesis and our minds make deduction of cause and effect a priority over other functions like self-control and moderation.”

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24 March 2012

mBCC Field Guide for Developing Mobile Behavior Change Communication Programs

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The “mBCC Field Guide: A Resource for Developing Mobile Behavior Change Communication Programs,” is a new tool that helps users guide the design of mobile applications for health and provides insights about what works in mobile behavior change communication is now available. Compiled by Abt Associates, examines what is known about the power of mobile communication tools to influence health behaviors for consumers and health care providers. The guide was developed under the auspices of the mHealth Working Group, a global health forum established in 2009 for members to provide and share guidance on mHealth implementation. It is supported by the United States Agency for International Development’s Knowledge for Health project.

Mobile behavior change communication (mBCC) is defined here as the use of mobile phones to promote behavior change. This definition encompasses health and clinical behaviors for clients and health providers (e.g., reminders to take a pill or quizzes to improve health workers’ counseling skills) rather than operational behaviors (e.g., shifting from a paper-based survey to a mobile survey).

The primary audience for the mBCC Field Guide is practitioners experienced in developing BCC strategies who are considering employing mobile solutions but need guidance on key issues and on questions to consider in the design process. Evidence-based examples and tools are highlighted wherever possible, although we recognize that few programs have published impact or outcome data.

The authors hope that this Field Guide will be a “living document.” We welcome your feedback and suggestions for improving the guide’s usefulness. We plan to issue updated versions as mobile platforms and the evidence base evolves. Contacts and references to relevant organizations and resources are noted wherever possible to facilitate communication and collaboration. Please use the evaluation form at the end of the guide to provide specific comments and recommendations.

21 March 2012

Futurescapes – imagining what the world will look like in 2025

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FutureScapes, an open collaboration project by Sony and Forum for the Future, aims to bring together a range of expert thinkers, designers, futurologists, writers (including those from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit and Wired Magazine) and you – the public – to explore the opportunities and challenges of life in 2025, and to consider the potential contribution that technology and entertainment can make in shaping a better, more sustainable future.

“FutureScapes is all about imagining what the world of 2025 will look like and the role technology could play in our lives.

To inspire you and provide a starting point for your thoughts we’ve come up with four different scenarios of the world we may be confronted with in 2025. These aren’t predictions of the future, but are intended to help us visualise the possibilities for our future and think about how we might plan for those possibilities now.

The written scenarios are a result of an open and collaborative process involving people across Sony and Forum for the Future, as well as leading futurologists and experts from a range of fields.

Watch videos
Download report

(via Bruce Sterling)

21 March 2012

Helsinki Street Eats: a book about everyday food

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Helsinki Street Eats: a book about everyday food
By Bryan Boyer and Dan Hill, with contributions from Ville Tikka, Nuppu Gävert, Tea Tonnov, and Kaarle Hurtig.
Sitra / Low2No

Street food describes systems of everyday life. In its sheer everydayness we discover attitudes to public space, cultural diversity, health, regulation and governance, our habits and rituals, logistics and waste, and more.

It can be an integral part of our public life, our civic spaces, our streets, our neighbourhoods. Street food can help us articulate our own culture, as well as enriching it by absorbing diverse influences. And it can enable innovation at an accelerated pace by offering a lower-risk environement for experimentation.

Street food can do all of these things, but it doesn’t necessarily.

This book is an attempt to unpack what’s working and what isn’t in Helsinki, and sketch out some trajectories as to where it could go next.

We see that the history of Helsinki’s street food is inextricably tied to food in Finland in general, and so it is caught up in deep currents of regulation, politics, commerce, national identity and culture. As unlikely as it may seem, when viewed from this historical and cultural perspective, street food might be a powerful force for shaping everyday life. It also presents an economic opportunity.

The Low2No project is interested in understanding these systems of everyday life, in order to assess how best to support, influence, and invest into them to enable a greater capacity for sustainable well-being. We’re interested in enabling food entrepreneurship with an eye towards diversity, quality, and sustainability – this short book is our first step towards our next projects in this space. Take a bite – download a PDF or order a print-on-demand copy – and get in touch if you want more.

See also: Bryan Boyer’s blog post on the book

20 March 2012

Behavior Driven Design 101

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Design is becoming an applied behavioral science, and your art school background is no longer sufficient, says Jason Hreha, behavior designer and UX advisor.

“Fields like neuroscience are starting to come of age, and are beginning to give us insights into human decision making. Companies like Zynga are taking these academic findings and applying them to their products to induce addictive behaviors in millions of their users. Other companies, like Path, are taking findings in social psychology and sociology, like Dunbar’s Number, and using them to build compelling user experiences.

The good news is that you don’t need to get a PhD in neuroscience or psychology to start applying neuroscientific and psychological findings to your work. In fact, with two models of behavior, and one behavior-analysis method, you can start designing behavior-changing products tomorrow.

In this presentation [at SxSW], I am going to teach you the neuroscience of addiction (engagement behavior), and show you how an understanding of the human reward system can help you build more successful products. We will also cover BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model. With this understanding of behavior, we will then move on to Behavior Chain diagrams – my favorite tool for analyzing the behavior of any given website, product, or system. Finally, I will show you how to mine the academic literature for practical insights that you can then apply to your product design work.”

View presentation slides
Listen to audio

19 March 2012

Donald A. Norman and Roberto Verganti on incremental vs radical innovation

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Donald A. Norman (of the Nielsen Norman Group) and Roberto Verganti (Politecnico di Milano) have jointly published a paper entitled “Incremental and Radical Innovation: Design Research versus Technology and Meaning Change“, based on a talk presented at the Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces conference in Milan, June 2011.

Abstract

We discuss the differences between incremental and radical innovation and argue that each results from different processes. We present several methods of viewing incremental and radical innovation. One is by examining the quality of product space, envisioning each product opportunity as a hill in that space where the higher one is, the better. Under this view, human-centered design methods are a form of hill climbing, extremely well suited for continuous incremental improvements but incapable of radical innovation. Radical innovation requires finding a different hill, and this comes about only through meaning or technology change. A second approach is to consider the dimensions of meaning and technology change as two dimensions and examining how products move through the resulting space. Finally, we show how innovation might be viewed as lying in the space formed by the dimension of research aimed at enhancing general knowledge and the dimension of application to practice.

We conclude that human-centered design, with its emphasis on iterated observation, ideation, and testing is ideally suited for incremental innovation and unlikely to lead to radical innovation. Radical innovation comes from changes in either technology or meaning. Technology-driven innovation often comes from inventors and tinkerers. Meaning-driven innovation, however, has the potential to be driven through design research, but only if the research addresses fundamental questions of new meanings and their interpretation.

The paper has been submitted to Design Issues.

Download paper

19 March 2012

User experience vision for startups

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In a TechCrunch guest post by Uzi Shmilovici, CEO and founder of Future Simple, outlines how he came to the conclusion that there’s nothing more important for a startup than the ability to clearly understand what it builds and then relentlessly focus on it – which he defines as the concept of a User Experience Vision.

Here are what he considers te four critical elements that make a great User Experience Vision:

  • It addresses a real need – If you don’t know what is the need you are solving for, I suggest that you take time and think through it. Now. It will also give you a good starting point for defining the UXV and help you focus on what is meaningful for the user.
  • It is simple — keeping the UXV simple is critical so you can communicate it effectively to your customers, team, partners or any other stakeholder. If it is not simple, you probably didn’t figure out the right UXV yet.
  • It serves as a guiding light — a successful UXV provides guidance to your team as for what to build next. It can help you think through your roadmap and identify whether the next feature you are building will be useful or not.
  • It is unique — it does not apply to every other startup on earth. Don’t have as your UXV something like “Great User Experience”. The more unique it is, the more meaningful it will be.

Read article

19 March 2012

Four new chapters on interaction-design.org

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Four new chapters of the interaction-design.org resource are now available:

Requirements Engineering
from an HCI Perspective
by Alistair G. Sutcliffe
The chapter is structured in six sections. In the section 13.1, the Requirements Engineering process is described. This is followed in section 13.2 by a review of scenario-based approaches which illustrate the convergence between Requirements Engineering and HCI. Section 13.3 deals with models and representations in the two disciplines, then section 13.4 returns to a process theme to assess the differences between HCI and Requirements Engineering approaches to development. Section 13.5 reviews how knowledge is reused in the requirements and design process, leading to a brief discussion of the prospects for convergence between HCI and Requirements Engineering.

Context-Aware Computing
Context-Awareness, Context-Aware User Interfaces, and Implicit Interaction
by Albrecht Schmidt
In this chapter, we introduce the basics for creating context-aware applications and discuss how these insights may help design systems that are easier and more pleasant to use

Disruptive Innovation
by Clayton M. Christensen
A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect. Although the term disruptive technology is widely used, disruptive innovation seems a more appropriate term in many contexts since few technologies are intrinsically disruptive; rather, it is the business model that the technology enables that creates the disruptive impact.

Open User Innovation
by Eric von Hippel
Almost 30 years ago, researchers began a systematic study of innovation by end users and user firms. At that time, the phenomenon was generally regarded as a minor oddity. Today, it is clear that innovation by users, generally openly shared, is a very powerful and general phenomenon. It is rapidly growing due to continuing advances in computing and communication technologies. It is becoming both an important rival to and an important feedstock for producer-centered innovation in many fields. In this chapter, I provide an overview of what the international research community now understands about this phenomenon.

17 March 2012

BOOMERANG, death by gadget: the mobile phone

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BOOMERANG, death by gadget : the mobile phone », a new kind of documentary presented by Diego Buñuel, March 21th , 8:55pm on CANAL+

BOOMERANG is a 90-minute French documentary that decodes a globalized world, a world in which our actions as consumers can have unsuspected consequences. This unique program combines in-depth reportage, investigation and human adventure.

By going back to the object’s origin, BOOMERANG takes us on a fascinating journey to the four corners of the planet (DRC, CHINA & INDIA), where specialized journalists are dispatched to shed light on the incredible itinerary of the most sold gadget in the world: mobile phones, as we take a close look at its life cycle, from creation to destruction.

Without detracting from the seriousness of the subject matter, Diego Buñuel and his team present the investigation in a fast-paced and offbeat style, offering a fresh and humorous approach. Diego Buñuel will introduce you to alternative solutions in order to change your consumers habits.

Trailer
Background article (in French)
Watch live (March 21th , 8:55pm CET on CANAL+)

17 March 2012

The origins of futurism

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Bruce Sterling, the celebrated science fiction writer and author of Tomorrow Now, explains why you don’t need to be clairvoyant to predict the future. The article is part of the Futurism series in Smithsonian Magazine.

“The fifth and final method [to forecast the future] is the most effective of all. If individuals have never encountered modernity, then you can tell them about real, genuine things that already are happening now—for them, that is the future.

Put another way, the future is already upon us, but is happening in niches. The inhabitants of that niche may be saint-like pioneers with practical plans for applying technology to eliminate hunger or preserve the environment. Far more commonly, they’re weird people with weird ideas and practices, and are objects of ridicule.”

Read article

17 March 2012

An update on the use of e-readers in Africa

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What does it take to introduce e-books and e-readers into communities in low income countries — and is this a good idea, asks Michael Trucano on EduTech, a World Bank blog on ICT in education.

“Judging by the increasing number of inquiries we receive here at the World Bank on this topic, we are not alone in asking such questions.

If you want help in trying to answer these and related queries based on evidence from pioneers in this area, you will most likely find yourself at some point in contact with the folks at the Worldreader NGO. Co-founded by one of the former senior executives at Amazon, Worldreader is working with its partners to “bring millions of books to underserved children and families in the developing world”.

Jonathan Wareham, a professor at ESADE in Barcelona who serves on the Worldreader – Spanish Foundation Board and collaborates with the organization on various research activities into the use of e-readers and e-books, recently stopped by the World Bank to talk about what Worldreader is learning from its work in Africa.

Read article

17 March 2012

On the relationship between socio-economic factors and cell phone usage

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The ubiquitous presence of cell phones in emerging economies has brought about a wide range of cell phone-based services for low-income groups. Often times, the success of such technologies highly depends on its adaptation to the needs and habits of each social group.

In an attempt to understand how cell phones are being used by citizens in an emerging economy, the authors, Vanessa Frias-Martinez and Jesus Virseda of Telefonica Research, present a large-scale study to analyze the relationship between specific socio-economic factors and the way people use cell phones in an emerging economy in Latin America. They propose a novel analytical approach that combines large-scale datasets of cell phone records with countrywide census data to reveal findings at a national level.

The main results show correlations between socio-economic levels and social network or mobility patterns among others. The authors also provide analytical models to accurately approximate census variables from cell phone records with R2≈0.82.

Download paper (posted on MobileActive.org)

17 March 2012

Cognition and the intrinsic user experience

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Over the past few years there’s been a lot of discussion around whether an experience can be designed. But it seems, writes Jordan Julien in UX Magazine, like everyone’s just getting hung up on semantics; an experience can be designed, but the user will always have the opportunity to experience it in a unique way.

The reason, he says, every experience has the potential to be unique to the user is, in part, because cognition is unique to each user.

Cognition is about knowledge and understanding, so there’s a ton of psychological principles that fall under the umbrella of cognition.

In this article Julien focuses on two principles – cognitive barriers and cognitive load – that, once understood, will elevate a UX practitioner’s designs to a whole new level.

Read article

17 March 2012

Exploring mobile-only Internet use (South Africa)

 

Exploring mobile-only Internet use: results of a training study in urban South Africa

Using an ethnographic action research approach, the study by Jonathan Donner (Microsoft Research India) and Shikoh Gitau and Gary Marsden (University of Cape Town) explores the challenges, practices, and emergent framings of mobile-only Internet use in a resource-constrained setting.

“We trained eight women in a nongovernmental organization’s collective in South Africa, none of whom had used a personal computer, how to access the Internet on mobile handsets they already owned. Six months after training, most continued to use the mobile Internet for a combination of utility, entertainment, and connection, but they had encountered barriers, including affordability and difficulty of use. Participants’ assessments mingled aspirational and actual utility of the channel with and against a background of socioeconomic constraints. Discussion links the digital literacy perspective to the broader theoretical frameworks of domestication, adaptive structuration, and appropriation.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Communication.

Download paper (MobileActive.org)

17 March 2012

Meet the 2020 Chinese consumer

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By 2020, Chinese consumers will join the ranks of the world’s choosiest and most sophisticated consumers. In the March 2012 report “Meet the 2020 Chinese Consumer” Yuval Atsmon, Max Magni, Lihua Li and Wenkan Liao of McKinsey China contemplate the profile of the Chinese consumer in 2020.

“Most large, consumer-facing companies have long realized that they will need China’s growth to power their own in the next decade. But to keep pace, they will also need to understand the economic, societal, and demographic changes that are shaping consumers’ profiles and the way they spend. This is no easy task, not only because of the fast pace of growth and subsequent changes being wrought on the Chinese way of life, but also because there are vast economic and demographic differences across China. These are set to become more marked, with significant implications for companies that fail to grasp them. In the next decade, we believe yawning gaps could open up between companies that have similar sales turnover today but display different levels of focus on the best growth opportunities for the future.

Since 2005, McKinsey has conducted annual consumer surveys in China, interviewing in total more than 60,000 people in over 60 cities. The surveys have tracked the growth of incomes, shifting spending patterns, rising expectations sometimes in line with the respondents’ western counterparts and sometimes not—and the development of many different consumer segments. Those surveys now provide insights to help us focus on the future. We cannot, of course, predict it with certainty. And external shocks might confound any forecast. But our understanding of consumer trends to date, coupled with our analysis of the economic and demographic factors that will further shape these trends in the next decade, serve as a useful lens through which to contemplate 2020. We do not claim to paint a complete picture of the 2020 consumer. Rather, this report points to those traits likely to influence the way companies ride the next wave of growth in China’s consumer market.

Article with key data (McKinsey Quarterly)
Full report