“Always on” will start to turn off

by Dirk on September 30th, 2012 - Comments (0)

Each day, more and more people go thru their lives with their head tilted downward and their thumb manipulating a handheld computer. This is not class-based behaviour: these expensive machines and/or the data plans that govern them are being accessed as readily by the cashier at Burger King as the corporate CEO or suburban soccer mom. The prevalence of these devices and the addictive behaviour that governs them infects people of all ages, professions, and places in society. In the process, we walk, drive, eat and talk while maintaining the familiar head tilted downward and thumb dancing feverishly that signifies our participation. Indeed, if “Seinfeld” were a modern show, we must assume there would be an episode featuring George Costanza attempting to use his personal computing device while “pleasuring” his befuddled girlfriend-of-the-moment.

This “always on” use of our handheld computers occurs in parallel with an increasing realization that our large and primary computers are undermining productivity and concentration. The perpetual “ding” of new email, new Twitter posts, and Facebook notifications is chopping up our workdays into a distracted, unfocused, chaotic mess. More articles, processes and even coaches are engaging us and attempting to find the proper balance between making the most of the marvelous technology while avoiding a tumble into the attention-sucking abyss. The early adopters of the connected technologies are already well into employing corrective behaviours, while these mitigating efforts are more slowly spreading to others.

At the same time, governments are attempting to regulate the use of handheld computers in dangerous situations, particularly while driving. Increasingly, states are making the use of handheld computers while behind the wheel illegal. At some point issues of sanitation will be addressed as well: I was somewhat horrified today to see the person preparing my food alternately put my order together while using his smartphone. Of course the social experience was somewhat horrifying as well, as all four employees at this tiny restaurant at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport were frantically using their devices. The cashier entered my order with one hand while looking at her device and tapping in messages with the other! Call me old-fashioned, but it made me feel pretty much irrelevant for these “service professionals” to be focused on far-flung people as opposed to me, their customer, three feet away from them. What, exactly, are we paying them for?

There is a hue-and-cry that this situation is only going to get progressively worse, not better. I think this analysis is wrong-minded. As we are learning how destructive “always on” computing is to our performance and productivity in the workplace, so are we learning that being disconnected from our physical environments in service of our handheld bits and bytes has deleterious impacts on our quality of life. Far beyond the obvious “if you text and drive, you will eventually crash”, we are learning about impacts on our personal psychology and broader society. Never being present for the people we interact with not only promotes potentially sociopathic mindsets and behaviours, it makes the quality of our lives worse.

I suspect the evolution of the use of these devices will come to resemble the presence of other addictive and potentially damaging cultural forces like alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking. Over time, these highly addictive and immediately gratifying behaviours have decreased. It took time, education and awareness for this to happen. They persist in certain segments of society – particularly among the poor and poorly educated – but the average person has struck a balance with the object in their lives. A beer or glass of wine becomes the routine, but drinking too much is reduced to being only a periodic behaviour or being symptomatic of the culturally excluded. These devices are a part of our lives and, over time, will find their proper level. As such they will better service us as opposed to the current trend where it increasingly seems that it is we which are in service of them.

The decay of good products

by Dirk on September 3rd, 2012 - Comments (0)

Remember when Spam was just meat in a can? I’m not quite sure when “spam” became a daily and often painful reality of my life – sometime after 1994 but before 2000 – but if it wasn’t for spam filters I suspect email as an online tool would already be obsolete. If you create something good, that people pay attention to, and can make money, it is inevitable that the parasites, crooks and “capitalists” will soon follow to piss in the once-pristine pool.

One of the best new software ideas of the past few years is Kickstarter. The pioneering crowd funding platform may not have been first with the idea, but they certainly were the first (and to this point, only) such product to break thru into the mainstream consciousness, boasting mindshare among various other software titans. As a consumer I love Kickstarter because it puts me closer to creators, and lets me help fund interesting creative products without greasing an otherwise-pointless middleman. As a creator I love Kickstarter because it puts me closer to customers and allows me to be more richly compensated for my creations.

But alas, the unsightly stream of urine is beginning to show in this particular pool.

For those who are not Kickstarter creators, Kickstarter has a closed messaging system. You can only message to people with whom you have a creator-customer relationship (or vice-versa). In theory this should prevent unwanted communications, and certainly of the anonymous/spammy kind. So it was that I took a deep breath and crinkled my face upon receiving this from a past customer of my product; I’ve (redacted) any personally identifying information for them:

Dear Dear Sir / Madam!

My name is (redacted), I develop a new web based online game called (redacted) (http://(redacted).net).

(redacted) is a virtual world that puts players into the role of an up-and-coming criminal with missions ranging all over the seedy underbelly of society. Players can choose to take a more physical route by getting into bloody gang fights, or use a more cerebral approach by closing deals. The release of the game is currently being advertised on major game website.

Our ‘Pro Level’ team of web developers are searching for competitive partners willing to take part in the development of our project. The project is currently in the development stage, therefore should you be interested, in return for your investment we offer the following opportunities:

1) A share of game’s profit
2) Your brand name appearing on game’s items
2) Your brand name will appear in all game’s published material

Please support our project on http://www.indiegogo.com/(redacted)

Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us by email or follow the development of the game on Twitter @(redacted)

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Kind Regards,

There’s a lot of things not to like about this note: the “blast” nature of it (despite it being only and singly sent to my personal Kickstarter account, which can’t be spammed); mis-spellings (including the comical “Dear Dear” to kick things off); the whiff of desperation radiating from the whole thing; the fact that it is pointing to a campaign at a Kickstarter competitor. It is just unseemly.

This is not the first such note I’ve gotten on Kickstarter, albeit the one I found the most distasteful. And it certainly will not be the last. Even knowing that this is an inevitable byproduct of something becoming popular and profitable, I cannot help but to bemoan seeing the decay of this latest good product in my life.

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Designing Business Collaboration for a Knowledge Economy

by Jon on August 22nd, 2012
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The age of information is upon us, and much has been made of the great improvements to communication, collaboration, and business process efficiency as we transform from an industrial- to a knowledge-based economy. However, despite all the rapid technological changes of the past 20 years, we are still at the very beginnings of the knowledge work era. At the dawn […]

Understanding Our Virtual Connections

by Jon on August 15th, 2012
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One of the great challenges of knowledge work is in understanding how to integrate virtual tools into the oftentimes tricky realm of human communication and relationships. We take for granted that the constantly evolving toolset available to us is ultimately helpful to our productivity and ability to complete our day-to-day tasks. How did work ever get done without mobile phones […]

The University: A Catalyst for Boston’s Innovation Economy

by Jon on August 1st, 2012
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The university system is critical to the Innovation Economy in Boston. Not only do schools supply the region with well-trained creative class workers in fields like engineering, science, design, and architecture; they also serve as R&D labs, generating new technology research; and as catalysts for the marketplace of ideas that fuels entrepreneurialism and a growing ecosystem of start-up companies. In […]

Energy and Software

by Jon on July 23rd, 2012
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Energy is the industry that IT forgot — or at least until recently. While sectors as varied as finance and healthcare, entertainment and communications have roared ahead with digitization, automation, and analytics, the energy industry has not evolved as rapidly. Despite this fact, it’s clear that the future of energy lies in software. In both conservation and sustainability, software offers […]

Mobile, Content, and the Divergent Ecosystem

by Jon on July 12th, 2012
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Yesterday, at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s Mobile Summit, panelists and audience members eagerly discussed and debated developing for the often volatile ecosystem of mobile. The summit general session, “Content is King” featured panelists Phil Costa, Director of Product Management at Brightcove; Jeff Moriarty, VP of Digital Products at the Boston Globe; and Sanjay Vakil, Director of Mobile Product at […]

Microsoft Surface and the Unified User Experience

by Jon on June 18th, 2012
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Today, Microsoft fired a significant salvo in the war for a Unified User Experience, with the debut of its Surface tablet. Taking a page from the Apple playbook, Microsoft is creating both the hardware and software for the Surface, a strategy it once executed successfully, with the Xbox 360 gaming console; and twice not so successfully, with the Zune […]

The Software Revolution Will Be Televised

by Jon on June 6th, 2012
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Last year, Internet luminary and entrepreneur Marc Andreessen wrote a significant essay in the Wall Street Journal, outlining the many ways in which software has become absolutely vital to our world. Software allows us to extend our reach even further than we did before, automating processes, accelerating the rate of change, and providing the sinews between people and data. […]

Rethinking Work

by Jon on May 21st, 2012
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We’re at the very beginnings of a significant evolution in the way we work — not just in from a technical perspective, although that’s a significant driver — but in the culture and nature of work and organizational relationships. The way we work today is markedly different from the way our parents worked, and even more distant from the way […]

Health Reform 2.0: Envisioning a Patient Centered System

by Jon on April 29th, 2012
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Massachusetts has the dubious distinction of spending the most money on healthcare per person of anywhere in the world. At the Mass Technology Leadership Council healthcare community meeting on Tuesday, April 24, “The Need for Technology Solutions for Providers Under Payment Reform”, held at WilmerHale in Waltham, MA, keynote speaker Sarah Iselin, President of the Blue Cross […]

Nine Principles of Great Companies

by Jon on March 28th, 2012
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At Involution, as a part of our commitment to learning and growing as a company, we conduct semi-regular studio critiques. This kind of critique is important to our ongoing evolution as an organization and helps everyone, from leadership to staff, understand the broad vision and values of the studio. As a part of that ongoing discussion, we’re drafting a set […]

Crowdfunding and Common Sense

by Jon on March 25th, 2012
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On Thursday, the US Senate passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act (73-26), which allows start-up companies for the first time to solicit early stage investments from the general public. The Senate version added some protections and requirements to the original bill previously passed by the House on March 8. For instance, in the Senate version, the Securities […]

Discovering Boston Innovation, Globally

by Jon on March 22nd, 2012
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One of my all time favorite books on innovation and the ecosystems that support it is Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class”. Using census and economic data, Florida examines the factors that make Creative Class jobs — in science, engineering, technology, architecture, and the arts — primary drivers for economic growth. He also identifies a number of Creative […]

Boston is a Hub of Marketing Software, the Next Big Tech Sector

by Jon on March 17th, 2012
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A few hours ago GigaOm published an article declaring “Marketing is the next big money sector in technology”. In the first paragraph, the author, Ajay Agarwal of Bain Capital Ventures, sets up the future of the industry this way: “For the first time in history, businesses can leverage big data for the benefit of driving marketing insights. We are […]

Risk Taking and Accelerating the Next Technology Revolution in Boston

by Jon on March 9th, 2012
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Yesterday, the Mass Technology Leadership Council — which represents a wide range of Massachusetts industries, including energy, robotics, software, life sciences and healthcare — held its annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge. The event featured a keynote on the Council’s vision for 2012, a comparative research report from the Mass Technology Collaborative, a state of the […]

What the iPad Retina Display Means for Designers

by Jon on March 7th, 2012
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Today Apple revealed the third generation iPad with its Retina screen, bringing the most powerful mobile visual display to market with a whopping 326 ppi in its 9.7 inch space. Print resolutions typically range from 300 – 1800 dpi, which means that Apple has effectively brought mobile computing into that same realm, a significant step to say the least. […]

Five Ways to Make Learning a Part of Your Company Culture

by Jon on March 2nd, 2012
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I don’t think there’s any question that the creative class jobs that drive our innovation economy — designers, engineers, scientists, architects, entrepreneurs, writers, etc. — are all positions that require constant learning and evolution. In a larger sense, our economy, the companies that survive and thrive, the types of jobs in demand, and the skill sets required to successfully compete […]

Online Privacy Needs Product Design

by Jon on March 1st, 2012
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In the new digital world, we are the sum of our trackable behavior. The web sites we read, the items we share, the products we buy, are all elements that contribute to our digital personas. Online marketers desperately want to collect our behavioral data so they can analyze our history, better target their offers, and maybe even predict our next […]

The Internet of Things, Seeding Boston Start Ups, and One User Experience for All

by Jon on February 22nd, 2012
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

The Internet of Things Will Rise in Boston
With the advent of the mobile revolution, we’re now living connected lives, where our day-to-day activities are closely tied to the digital products and services that we carry with us everywhere […]

The UI is the Hero

by Jon on January 26th, 2012
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Is the age of ubiquitous computing is upon us? We may not be living yet in William Gibson’s plugged-in future, but there’s no doubt that we’re absolutely dependent on the digital realm. From tablets to smart phones to laptops to car navigation systems, we always seem to be connected. The digital life is everywhere we go, and software is […]

SOPA, Job Innovation, and Creativity in Isolation

by Jon on January 16th, 2012
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

SOPA: Anatomy of a Public Uprising
As most of us of are aware, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill in the US House of Representatives, while purported to protect content providers, in fact hides within its depths the […]

Laptop Music, Kinected Hacking, and Supply Chain Design

by Jon on November 9th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

If You Make Sure You’re Kinected, the Xbox is on the Wall
Last week, Microsoft’s Kinect turned one year old, and the Redmond giant celebrated the “Kinect Effect” with a video highlighting future applications of the technology from […]

Software Design is a Team Sport

by Jon on November 4th, 2011
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I’m a big Boston sports nut. And, as cliched as the sports metaphor may be for discussions on teamwork, there are lessons to be learned from the collapse of the Red Sox, which was the worst in baseball history and has ongoing and transformative consequences for the organization. There were, of course, many reasons for the losing streak that took […]

What’s Next?

by Dirk on October 6th, 2011
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As countless, near-identical Steve Jobs obituaries spew out of the blogosphere/Twitterverse today, let’s honour his contribution by doing what he did best: anticipating at what will be next…

As Robert Fabricant eloquently wrote in a recent Fast Company article, Apple achieved the pinnacle of design as represented by past forms. Their use of analog metaphors and comfortable affordances […]

The New Age of Software

by Jon on September 4th, 2011
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Last month Marc Andreessen published a significant essay in the Wall Street Journal, outlining the many ways in which software has become not just important to our world, but the critical guts and infrastructure of it. Andreessen is, of course, pointing out a trend that has been building for some time, which has culminated in a sea change in […]

Cloud Co-opetition, Hurricane Irene Infovis, and Nokia’s New Design Emphasis

by Jon on September 3rd, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Visualizing Irene
For those of us on the Eastern seaboard of the United States, last week was quite a ride, starting with Hurricane Irene wrecking havoc all the way from North Carolina to Massachusetts, and continuing with an arduous […]

Wearable Health Tech, Beautiful Subway Stations, and Democratizing Data Analysis

by Jon on August 27th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Health Tech: Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve (or Maybe Your Arm)
It won’t be long before the walk-in medical clinic gives way to the walking medical clinic. Wearable medical technology that can monitor heart rate, blood glucose levels, […]

Car Sharing, Comic Book Art, and Intellectual Jazz

by Jon on August 21st, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Better off TED?
Richard Saul Wurman is re-inventing the conference format for the 21st century with his follow up to the wildly popular TED conferences. The new venture, WWW.WWW, is billed as “Intellectual Jazz” and will have no […]

On Talent, War, and Devastation

by Jon on August 12th, 2011
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Ever since the U.S. started on its long road to recovery from the Great Recession and tech companies began expanding the ranks of their employees again, there’s been a dearth of talent to choose from, especially those most important senior level team members in engineering and user experience. This lack of readily available personnel has driven not only an increase […]

Console Game Memories, Low Cost Internet, and Facial Recognition

by Jon on August 10th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

The History of the Game Console
If you were a console gamer back when it all began in the late ’70s, and have sweet, sweet memories of playing Atlantis on the Magnavox Odyssey 2 or TRON Deadly Disks […]

Visualizing Data

by Jon on August 4th, 2011
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In this age of ubiquitous information, knowledge workers and organizations can be overwhelmed, even paralyzed by the mass of data presented to them daily, unable to make sense of it all. Our ability to collect data has increased exponentially as our lives and careers have become increasingly digitized. From e-commerce transactions to bodybug health sensor info to digital video capture, […]

The Trouble with Tracking

by Dirk on August 3rd, 2011
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I’ve had a few brushes recently with different tracking technology deployed in automobiles used by professionals. When the Geek Squad came by to help with printer problems, the tech explained that his company-provided car has a tracking device that logs where the vehicle is at all times. Today I read an article, pointed to by Jason Long, about […]

Boston Talent Wars, iPhone Facial Recognition, and Freedom of Tweets

by Jon on August 3rd, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Tech Talent Wars: Boston
The Talent Wars are heating up in Boston, as tech companies of every kind, from start ups to Fortune 500 firms, unload their best artillery fire in the recruiting battle. One of the most original […]

Technology, Health, and Our Memory of Art in the Internet Age

by Jon on July 27th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

The Therapeutic Touch of the iPad
The iPad may be the most important new computing device since the PC, as evidenced by its beautiful interactions, rapid adoption, and stunning sales numbers. With the iPad and the proliferation of tablet […]

Lion Roars, Google Labs Shuts its Doors, and Math Gets a New UI

by Jon on July 20th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Lion Roars
Apple launched the latest version of their ground breaking OS X operating system today with a host of UI innovations culled from their iOS mobile platform. As might be expected, these innovations were met with both […]

Facebook Domination, Driving Distracted, and NASA TV

by Jon on July 13th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Facebook Closes the Door on User Data
Facebook is racing to shore up the walls of its garden, in an attempt to keep Google+ and others from leveraging its social graph and contact data.

According to ZDNet, […]

Seven and Seven: A Look Back on Involution’s History

by Jon on July 7th, 2011
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Last week Involution Studios celebrated seven years in business. We’ve had a bunch of highs, a handful of lows, and a whole lot of fun in that time. We’ve had amazing employees, partners and clients, and even as another recession seems to be looming we are going strong and showing no signs of slowing down. Here are the seven most […]

Design Lessons, Home Health, and Killing the RFP

by Jon on July 6th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Death to RFPs
A List Apart has a great article on why RFPs are no way to hire a creative firm. While I’ve heard from some that there’s plenty of great work to be had by responding to […]

Where are you, Edward Tufte?

by Jon on July 1st, 2011
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On Tuesday, Involution Studios Creative Director, Juhan Sonin challenged infovis guru Edward Tufte to engage more fully in the discussion regarding our nation’s greatest problems, including education, energy, finance, and health, among others, during a segment on The Digital Life podcast.

Edward Tufte was appointed by President Obama on March 5, 2010 to serve on the […]

Talent Wars, Typography, and Standing Up

by Jon on June 30th, 2011
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Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our third links round up.

The Hiring Wars
The tech talent crunch, especially in Silicon Valley, is leading to all sorts of crazy stunts on the part of employers to recruit and hire the best dev and UX people, including acquiring their companies […]

Gesturing Towards the Future

by Jon on June 22nd, 2011
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This week, our links round up on design and innovation in the digital life features a little something for everyone: from the future of gestural interactions to a ground breaking transparent concept plane to J.K. Rowling’s latest online endeavors.

Welcome to the Machine
There’s no question that the flexibility of being a digital worker has both pros and cons. […]

Law and Order and Social Media

by Jon on June 16th, 2011
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At Involution, since we’re fully immersed in the digital life, we’re often deluged with articles via RSS and Twitter. In this, our first links round up, we thought we’d share some of what we’ve been reading online on the topics of innovation, social media, life, the universe and everything.

Facebook Reveals Vancouver Criminals
Unless you’ve been living in complete […]

Planting seeds and tilling soil

by Dirk on June 10th, 2011
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Jared Spool delights in being provocative. Listen: I like provocative. Much of the way people frame our professional world is outdated or out-of-touch. It takes provocateurs to get most of us to look in a different direction and consider new things. Unfortunately, many of those who make provocative statements as a matter of routine espouse half-baked and incorrect things alongside […]

Considering Transhumanism

by Dirk on May 15th, 2011
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This weekend I attended the Humanity+ Conference at Parsons in New York City. Subtitled “Transhumanism Meets Design”, the conference aspired to “explor(e) emerging technology, transdisciplinary design, culture and media theory, and biotech.”

My exposure to transhumanism was previously limited to very high-level themes and the notion of Singularity so, in preparation for the conference, I took some […]

Investing in Africa: challenges and constraints

by Dirk on March 30th, 2011
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This series on technology in Africa is written by Involution friends and emerging markets experts Niti Bhan and Muchiri Nyaggah.

Imagine counting kilobytes while surfing the web. Or keeping track of how much data capacity you have left for essential tasks like answering emails. Or avoiding bandwidth-hogging websites, thinking twice about uploading photographs to Flickr or hesitating to ‘Attach’ that […]

Software in Africa: more, better, different

by Dirk on March 25th, 2011
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This series on technology in Africa is written by Involution friends and emerging markets experts Niti Bhan and Muchiri Nyaggah.

It may come as a surprise that great software has been coming out of Africa for some time. By 2007, South Africa was already on Gartner’s global top 30 software development outsourcing destinations list, while as far back as 2002 […]

Mobile in Africa: from SMS to Android

by Dirk on March 16th, 2011
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This series on technology in Africa is written by Involution friends and emerging markets experts Niti Bhan and Muchiri Nyaggah.

It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted to post a letter from Ghana, a former British colony, to any of the countries that border us — Cote d’Ivoire, Togo or Burkina Faso, all former French colonies — it […]

From OLPC to VC: Africa leapfrogs the digital divide

by Dirk on March 1st, 2011
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This series on technology in Africa is written by Involution friends and emerging markets experts Niti Bhan and Muchiri Nyaggah.

I reach out
Gather the dust in my hands
Let it sift through my fingers slowly
It is barely moist
Barely there
Yet, yes, it is there

- A Quiet Storm is Brewing (Barely […]

Get over it: Silicon Valley remains the international capitol of software

by Dirk on February 24th, 2011
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I’m in the midst of a four week trip to downtown Venice in Santa Monica, a little enclave amidst the commercialism and sterility in this little part of the world. While driving down Wilshire the other day something inescapable hit me: Silicon Valley is the capitol of software, just like Hollywood is the capitol of movies and television.

I see […]

Africa: The Next Frontier

by Dirk on February 22nd, 2011
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This series on technology in Africa is written by Involution friends and emerging markets experts Niti Bhan and Muchiri Nyaggah.

2011 is the Year of Africa

The Economist kicked off 2011 with an in-depth look at the latest reports from The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and concluded this is to be the year of Africa. […]

Facebook Game Design is an embarrassment

by Dirk on February 9th, 2011
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After a conversation on The Digital Life with Brenda Brathwaite and Soren Johnson about “Social Game Design”, it became clear that I needed to get to know Facebook Games better and see if there was more there than I thought. So right after the show I signed up for about a dozen Facebook Games. I played all of them […]

Someday soon, your OS and browser will be the same thing

by Dirk on November 10th, 2010
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This week’s much-ballyhoed launch of RockMelt is again getting the tech intelligentsia in a lather about a potential new browser. What they seem to be ignoring is that the battle has already been won and lost: the best case scenario for RockMelt is, romantically, they become a plucky cult favourite like Flock before running out of steam and sinking […]

Knowledge comes from depth, not breadth

by Dirk on November 3rd, 2010
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What search engines do best is immediately give us lots of scattershot information. It may be relevant, or it may not. It may be timely, or it may not. It may be useful, or it may not. While search engines used to be magic, as we become more mature users of connected computing devices, increasingly their results are clumsy. While […]

How the Internet made fantasy football stoopid

by Dirk on September 27th, 2010
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It is with no small bit of wonder that I recently realized my participation in fantasy sports began 20 years ago, in 1991. Originally “Rotisserie Baseball“, within a couple of years I was also playing fantasy football and it was not long before fantasy baseball fell off and I just enjoyed playing the football equivalent. So it was […]

Business and treating others with humanity belong together

by Dirk on September 20th, 2010
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I’m perplexed how common inhumane customer service is among large companies. While I’m raising the issue to generally encourage people to design their systems and policies to be human-friendly there are two specific contexts that compelled me to write this today.

The first is due to a horrendous experience I had on a phone tree. You know, you call some […]

Plugging in means exposing yourself

by Dirk on September 15th, 2010
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The widely-circulated story today that Google fired an employee for reviewing the “private” files and information of users, and even harassed a user based on their “private” information might seem shocking, but it’s really only illustrating something that those of us in the industry have known for years: anything we say, type or otherwise create that goes thru a […]

Community vs. Connection

by Dirk on September 15th, 2010
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Remember Classmates.com? Arguably the first-ever social networking website it “connected” each of us to the people we went to school with over the years. Plagued by clumsy and poorly executed “Web 1.0″ thinking, and an absolutely atrocious pay-to-play business model, Classmates.com could have been Facebook. Instead, it unintentionally ushered in many thousands of social networking start-ups that, as […]

A new era of IT consolidation?

by Dirk on September 13th, 2010
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I don’t use the moniker “IT” very often, typically only to talk about the internal stuff at my company that has to do with computing technology in the vaguest way. Under “IT” falls our hardware and software that runs the gamut of business technology: computers, phones, Internet connection, printers, other peripherals…everything. However, with the recent wave of unexpected and in […]

Point n’ click, bon voyage!

by Eric on August 30th, 2010
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I recently returned from a 2 week vacation and my source of digital consumption was with my iPhone or iPad. So for 2 weeks I was only using a touchscreen – and digging it.

Once I settled in back home I booted up the desktop, waited for the dock to load and then grabbed my mouse. With my first push […]

Implications of a “desktop iPad”

by Dirk on August 24th, 2010
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The press is reporting today on a patent filed in January by Apple for what amounts to a “convertible” iMac – Apple’s line of large screen all-in-one desktop computers – that also functions as a giant desktop iPad. This sort of device is certainly inevitable, in one form or another. The evolution introduced to everyday computing by the […]

Losing faith in “UX”

by Dirk on August 3rd, 2010
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I’ve been slowly backing away from the field of “user experience” for some years now. More and more, I’m beginning to think it is time that I turn my slow retreat into a full-fledged race to the hills. This evening Juhan pointed me to a terrifying article by renowned user experience thought leader Whitney Hess. Please do […]

The end of the mouse

by Dirk on July 27th, 2010
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Leave it to Apple to turn speculation of the future obsolescence of the mouse as a computing input device into present reality. Today Apple launched the Magic Trackpad, a mouse replacement that accomplishes all of the input interactions of the mouse as well as all of the input interactions of portable computing devices such as the iPad and […]

Crowdsourcing creative = cannibalism

by Dirk on July 21st, 2010
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There are a lot of interesting things happening around crowdsourcing, many of which intuitively seem really good. Companies like Jovoto and Genius Rocket are serving as global connectors of people who want work done with people who are willing to do it. The benefits, according to Genius Rocket, include “Providing…hundreds of custom solutions, from thousands of creative professionals.” […]

Apple’s real iPhone vulnerability

by Dirk on July 15th, 2010
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Today the Droid X was released, Android’s latest salvo in the smartphone wars.

I’m taking an interest in Android phones because, as an iPhone user, I’ve been waiting for them to put the white version of the iPhone 4 on sale. Well, they still haven’t done it. Along with the well-publicized reception issues I’ve become more and more […]

Google App Inventor: an interesting little app

by Dirk on July 13th, 2010
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Unveiled yesterday, Google App Inventor aspires to provide everyday people – extensively tested with sixth graders – to easily build their own Android apps using a relatively simple WYSIWYG editor. The interaction model appears based on LEGO toys, taking different, interchangeable pieces and snapping them together to create a complete app. The New York Times exclusively introduced the […]

Open vs. Closed: A tale of idealists vs. realists

by Dirk on May 13th, 2010
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Today Adobe launched an aggressive ad campaign skewering Apple’s “closed” philosophy. Retaliation for Apple’s muscling Adobe’s Flash technology off their mobile operating system, Adobe is choosing to take a “high ground” argument by ignoring their specific exclusion and focusing instead on the closed ecosystem Apple prefers.

Apple and Microsoft Need a Love Child: the real future of portable computing

by Dirk on April 5th, 2010
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I’m one of the fortunate few who has had the opportunity to use both a Microsoft Surface and an Apple iPad. While both are “magical” and “revolutionary” devices in their own unique and incomplete ways, I’m struck by the fact that both of them remind me of the only Palm device I ever had, back in 2003: a novelty that did some things well but most things poorly, and ultimately left me ignoring it in its charger.

A Most Unholy Testament: The Crusade of Patient-Centered Design

by Dirk on March 8th, 2010
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Doctors were once the high priests of health,
oracles whose absolution has diminished.
Now, the gospel of patients is preached.
“Patient centered design”, being flocked to by the masses.
But our path to salvation cannot run through
these seductive false gods and prophets.
The heresy of “user-centered design”
reached digital design decades ago.
At first it seemed enlightened
but rarely did great software come forth.

The Rise of Google, Part III: A decade of leadership awaits

by Dirk on March 3rd, 2010
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At the dawn of this new decade, Google sits comfortably atop the computing industry. Dominant in search – still the killer app of the Internet, with all due respect to social networking – Google has a variety of other essential and emerging products that put them at the very pinnacle of software.

Where is technology taking us?

by Dirk on March 2nd, 2010
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Over the last few years the Internet has become an integral part of the lives of a majority of people in the United States. Important to that sentence is integral: while the Internet became a central engine to business well over a decade ago, for huge groups of people – children and adolescents, retirees, houseparents – it is only through the rise of mainstream social networking that we have truly become what could be termed a full-time computing nation.

The Rise of Google, Part II: From start-up to superpower

by Dirk on February 15th, 2010
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With apologies to Apple and Microsoft, Google is the most important company in computing. Their rise over the past decade has been meteoric: from a struggling start-up operating out of a small office in downtown Palo Alto, California to today representing the present and future of computing. To call this ascension improbable is a gross understatement. After […]

The Apple “tablet”: what to expect

by Dirk on January 25th, 2010
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Tomorrow is the expected announcement of the new Apple “tablet” computer. Predictions for this device are all over the map, ranging from a “true” tablet computer, down to an oversized iPhone, and everything in between. I don’t have any inside information about Apple, but I think I have a pretty good idea what this new device is going to be. […]

The Rise of Google, Part I: A history lesson

by Dirk on January 12th, 2010
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This is part one of a three-part series that will detail Google’s rise to becoming the dominant company in the computing industry. Part one will review the history of IBM and Microsoft, Google’s predecessors in this position; part two will take a close look at the last decade in computing and particularly at Google’s; and part three will look into […]

The trouble with Twitter

by Dirk on December 18th, 2009
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This week, embattled R&B artist Chris Brown closed his Twitter account after a profanity-laced tirade. This makes Brown just the latest public figure to have an embarrassing meltdown and then abashedly terminate their account on the social networking giant.

At the same time, just last week a university student interviewed me to discuss trends in the relationship between social networking […]