Mode Kills Therefor I Don’t Mind Killing CAPS LOCK

Aza Raskin had a good post recently on the failure of visual feedback in interfaces and how quasi-modes are usually better than modes:

Caps Lock is a prime example of a mode that gives barely-worthwhile feedback: a small light on the keyboard glows when Caps Lock is engaged. It’s the analog of the hypothetical visual feedback for the radio in Airplane. Of course, the keyboard is exactly where no touch-typist ever looks and, to make matters worse, the Caps Lock light can be unhelpfully unlabeled:

And:

The Caps Lock feedback is so easy to ignore that it just doesn’t work. As often happens in computing, we get band-aid fixes instead of true fixes. For instance, Microsoft added a nicely non-modal message to the Windows login screen that reminds the user of Caps Lock’s state. Even that doesn’t work to prevent mode errors, as I always type my password before noticing the warning.

This folds in nicely with the nerdy uproar over Google removing the Caps Lock key on their new Chrome notebooks. The official reason from a rep was that Google wants to ‘improve the quality of comments across the Web’. I’m not sure why there was backlash about this key removal, but I welcome it. I never use it and after I read Aza’s post, I want that key gone!

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We Are All Designers

All men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all human activity. The planning and patterning of any act towards a desired, foreseeable end constitutes the design process. Any attempt to separate design, to make it a thing-by-itself, works counter to the inherent value of design as the primary underlying matrix of life. Design is composing an epic poem, executing a mural, painting a masterpiece, writing a concerto. But design is also cleaning and reorganizing a desk drawer, pulling an impacted tooth, baking an apple pie, choosing sides for a back-lot baseball game, and educating a child.

-Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change
Thanks Dalematic

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Del Toro – Disruptive Filmmaker

From Deadline:

Guillermo del Toro has teamed with director Mathew Cullen, cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and executive producer Javier Jimenez to launch Mirada, a 25,000 square foot studio in Marina Del Rey. Del Toro, a prolific producer of projects beyond his own directing vehicles, said that he expects to use the venue as a home base and a way for him to embrace a transmedia future. Del Toro will run a lot of his projects through a facility that has the ability to handle everything from pre-visualization to animatics, story boarding and visual effects work. The studio opens for business today.

PSFK explains transmedia:

Transmedia is a way of developing a story or “expanded universe” among multiple platforms while also sometimes encouraging audience participation and interactivity. In this sense, a film only represents a single segment, along with graphic novels or video games, of a much larger world that could spawn several unrelated stories or characters. It has gained steam among independent filmmakers as a new way of innovating the medium to compete with the increasing dominance of digital and interactive art forms and media. It has recently begun expanding into mainstream film.

Awesome.

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Asymmetric Competition

The New York Times has a article on how media companies like Time Warner are getting angry as Neflix continues to drink their milkshakes.
Like any disruptive technology, the incumbent’s first reaction is to kill the new innovative kid on the block rather than take notes and adapt.
Netflix is disrupting media distribution because they’re taking advantage of asymmetric competition, a term picked up from Horace Dediu’s wonderful tech blog of the same (abbreviated) name, Asymco. They’re able to distribute the content of big media companies over the web, sans hardware for one monthly price. This from a company that up until recently made most of their money mailing out little red envelopes.
The language these old media guys use is telling, like Jeffrey L. Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, viewing Netflix as an army from a tiny country:

It’s a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world? I don’t think so.

It reminds me of Palm’s former CEO Ed Colligan reacting in 2006 to the iPhone (2 months before it was introduced):

We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone, PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.

As we know, Apple did just ‘walk in’ and ended up drinking almost 40% of all industry profits from mobile phones. It doesn’t mean Netflix is guaranteed success, but it does mean we should continue to keep an eye on them.
This reaction to Netflix is why I think we’re seeing business deals happen like Comcast’s merger with NBC. In short, the distributors want to control the content. It’s bullshit if you ask me. The Comcast deal potentially opens the door for more like it, further pulling the buying power from individuals.

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I am offline

Danah Boyd on email sabbaticals:

I am offline, taking a deeply needed break while traveling. During the duration of my break, no email will be received by my computer. All email sent to me during this period will be redirected to /dev/null (aka “the trash”). If you send me a message during this period, I will never receive it and never respond to it. If you need to contact me, please send your email after January 12. If it is urgent and you know how to reach my mother, I will be in touch with her every few days. But I am intentionally unreachable during this period. Please respect that a girl needs a break and this is mine.

Words to live by. (via Minimal Mac)

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why developers do it

Great post last month by Marco Arment (creator of my favorite app, Instapaper) on why developers don’t rush to new platforms.

We’re making iPhone software primarily for three reasons:
Dogfooding: We use iPhones ourselves.
Installed base: A ton of other people already have iPhones.
Profitability: There’s potentially a lot of money in iPhone apps.

I agree 100% with everything he says in the post, but can we use another phrase besides dogfooding?

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RIM PlayBook

RIM_PlayBook.jpg
Boy Genius Report posted a hands-on video demo of the RIM PlayBook, their new tablet prototype. I say ‘prototype’ since this thing isn’t on the market yet and is still very much half-baked.
The PlayBook looks well thought out with clear influence from both Apple’s iOS in the icon arrangement and homescreen navigation and HP’s (Palm’s) webOS in the tile/card multitasking (you even swipe-up to quit a program). Navigation is clear, transitions are smooth and production quality is tight.
What is yet to be shown is the ecosystem in which the PlayBook lives. The applications to make it more powerful. The software to transfer media easily. The integration of services – how email connects with photos, how maps connect with contacts.
And what of other devices? It would be a shame to put all this effort into the PlayBook without seeing the operating system extend to smartphones.
Steve Jobs confessed to Walt Mossberg at the D8 Conference this past June (at about the 36:30 mark) that they had originally started developing iOS for the iPad, but felt creating a multi-touch mobile phone was more important than a tablet. So they shelved the iPad and focused on the iPhone.
One would think this line of thinking would be equally, if not more important to RIM, given the jeopardy their smartphone devision is in right now with competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android.
It’s like RIM is in a car race with Apple and Google and instead of fixing their car, they’re in a hangar, creating a new airplane to compete with other airplanes.

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our tubes are full, help us buy more tubes

According to Bloomberg News:

Google Inc., Apple Inc., and Facebook Inc. need to pitch in to help pay for the billions of dollars of network investments needed for their bandwidth-hogging services, European phone operators say.

Do governments expect car manufacturers to help pay for roads, highways and bridges?

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cars are people too.

We first experience the human side of cars with their faces. Some are smiling, some are cute, some are angry and some are dumb.
And some are sexy like Gisele B√ľndchen:
ferrari_458_sexiest_face.jpg
I’m not sure there’s a sexier face on car out there. Look at her.
via Motoriginal

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emotional comprehension

From an interview with Stanley Kubrick from 1969:

I think that 2001, like music, succeeds in short-circuiting the rigid surface cultural blocks that shackle our consciousness to narrowly limited areas of experience and is able to cut directly through to areas of emotional comprehension. In two hours and forty minutes of film there are only forty minutes of dialogue.

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Distracted By Design

Last week the NYTimes published an article, Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. In it Matt Richtel argues that today’s youth is susceptible to far more distractions in the digital age than previous generations. The focal point of Richtel’s artlcle is Vishal Singh, a high school kid who loves to make films on his computer.
There is some truth to Richtel’s argument. Today’s world encourages distraction in the myriad of digital devices and technologies we use. Omni-present phone calls. Text alerts. Email alerts. IM alerts. Push notifications. But Richtel chose the wrong subject for his article. Vishal is absolutely a distracted kid but technology isn’t the reason for his being distracted, it’s his creativity.
I know this, because in a galaxy far, far away, I was very similar to Vishal. I didn’t break 1000 on the SATs (I got 970). I graduated with a 2.7 average from high school.
But something else was going on. While my averages were poor, my specific grades on projects would be a steady stream of B’s, C’s and D’s interrupted by sporadic A’s. My mother used to defend me to my father. She told him, “Michael’s right-brained. He’s an artist, it’s not his fault.” (reality: I drew with my right hand. I still love you mom, you were trying.)
My father, on the other hand, called bullshit. He saw those random A’s. He knew what I was capable of. He was watching me in his basement laboratory, testing voltage levels on double-A batteries, and soldering wires together on broken gadgets. If I wasn’t fixing things in the basement, I was picking up parts at the junkyard for my 1984 Celebrity Station Wagon (be jealous).
When I wasn’t fixing and tinkering with stuff, I was drawing and painting and sculpting and shooting photos and making films with my friends.
Jonah Lehrer over at Wired unearthed interesting research on this creativity-distraction connection:

Those students who were classified as “eminent creative achievers” – the rankings were based on their performance on various tests, as well as their real world accomplishments – were seven times more likely to “suffer” from low latent inhibition. This makes some sense: The association between creativity and open-mindedness has long been recognized, and what’s more open-minded than distractability? People with low latent inhibition are literally unable to close their mind, to keep the spotlight of attention from drifting off to the far corners of the stage. The end result is that they can’t help but consider the unexpected.

It’s easy to blame external forces on our conditions. It’s harder to look inward and analyze our kids and ourselves. Don’t be so quick to blame technology for your kid’s inability to stay focused. First determine if it’s their creative endeavors, and not technology, that’s causing their lack of focus.
UPDATE: Looks like Steven Johnson shares a similar point of view as me:

That said, I do find something puzzling about the whole choice of Vishal as a central study, because the piece assumes that his lessening interest in books and (some) of his coursework is due to the siren song of the digital screen. But what’s clearly obsessing Vishal is his love affair with video editing. There’s no reason to think the 1985 version of Vishal wouldn’t have been equally distracted from his schoolwork by the very same hobby.

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