Sunday, July 11, 2010

IDDS 2010 Lazy Sunday

A short play by play of a lazy Sunday at IDDS 2010. Got to sleep in today and woke up at 7am. Walked over to breakfast, and met up with some participants there. We had breakfast together and talked about the upcoming World Cup game of Holland vs Spain. There was a more in depth conversation about Paul the Predicting Octopus (whom accurately predicted that Spain would win). 

I walked back to the dorm with some people, and got to working on the computer in the lounge between 9am and 10am. Was joined by some participants, and we listened to Explosions in the Sky and Prince. Had a lively conversation about Prince promoting the internet, and now declaring it dead. With that, we walked outside for an hour and twenty minute Yoga session. 

After Yoga, I biked over to Big 5 sporting goods to purchase some goggles for swimming at the pool. I spent about two hours crying the previous day after about thirty minutes in the pool. Big 5 is only a block or two away from the campus, but I got lost on the way. Upon returning to campus, I went over to lunch. A number of participants were already there, having a noon time lunch to make it back to the dorm in time for the 12:30 World Cup kick-off. After lunch I joined everyone in the basement of the dorm to watch Spain win. Many IDDSers were happy, some weren't, I got some video of their reactions to tense moments.

Between three and five in the afternoon, Sollys (the team I'm working with this year) met to discuss Venture Sketches and planning of our goals for the summit. Combined with our individual work prior to the meeting, we made good progress. I hope that we can make some more significant progress in the coming week. Particularly, gathering documents to create a packet by the end of the summit is goal we hope to achieve, and move through this coming week.

After the meeting, I went swimming with the new goggles. Then headed off to dinner when the gym closed at 6pm. Talked about what I liked to cook at dinner, and heard similar information from others. Walked back to the dorm for participant presentations between 6:30 and 7:30... which actually went until sometime past 8pm. 

After the participant presentation, the organizers got together to have a meeting which went until 11pm. Now I'm writing this post, sending an email off to Ghana, cataloging photos and videos and making some notes for the coming week. And researching micro-credit. Maybe this wasn't such a lazy Sunday. I'll do one or two more posts like this of some days during the week.

IDDS 2010

Paul Hudnut and Amy Smith opening words for IDDS 2010.

IDDS 2010 has started up, in CSU at Fort Collins, Colorado. I've been helping to organize it, and am now participating on a team that is work on the dissemination of Solar Lights in India. For frequent updates, visit where Niall will be updating with day to day Summit posts, like this one. I'll also be taking some photos and videos of the conference, which I will post on flickr.

I'll also be keeping track of the day to day from a team perspective of the different topics we are covering and ideas we are working on regarding solar lights. Here is a link to the iddsummit project page. So far we've mapped out where our the venture is at, and are starting to come up with venture sketches, one of which we will develop further over the next few weeks.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

iPhone Review, 4 Years Later

At a glance summary, I'm satisfied with the iPhone, it has come in handy in ways I couldn't have originally imagined. The problems I encounter are failing coverage and noticable slow down in performance over time. I'm worried about future OS upgrades further degrading performance and feeling left out with newer applications using hardware features my phone doesn't have.

Short story of how I came to own the phone. I didn't think I would buy a first gen device like the iPhone, as I had a phone. Then it was stolen, within a month of the iPhone's 2007 release. After living a life without a phone for 2 months (something I enjoyed) I purchased the iPhone. It was great, my contacts synched automatically with those on my Macbook Pro, so I didn't have to manually enter them all over again. The touch typepad was better than having to select letters on 10 digit numerical keypad, I finally started texting. The camera was okay, but about as good as an old point and shoot I used to have (which is impressive for a phone). I started listening to Podcasts for the first time, which was amazing.

In 2008, Apple came out with the second generation iPhone, and the App Store. The App Store was equally amazing. Now the capabilities of the iPhone were expanding, and it could start to become the 'mini-computer' I envisioned having when I first purchased the iPhone. I was hesitant though, and didn't purchase many Apps. I've downloaded many free apps, and have probably paid for about 10 total. The first app I did purchase was a Sketching app, I don't remember what it was, but now I have Brushes and Sketchbook Pro Free Version on my iPhone. One of my most frequented paid apps is Money Book. I would like to add Sleep Cycle to that short list, but I never got it to work (other friends have said it has worked great for them), so I'm holding out for when I change my bed or change my phone.

Now it is 2010, Apple has released the iPad and there are some leaked iPhone 4 models on the internet. The building where I work has very poor reception for my phone (co-workers with 3G seem to get better reception, but not exceptional reception).  The phone itself has problems logging on to networks from time to time, to the point that I have to turn the phone off and turn it on again. I do use the device frequently, as an alarm, expense tracker, twitter reader, password storage and map. Sometimes I play games or draw with it, but this is rare. I don't take or share photos with the iPhone anymore. I don't listen to music, because I've worn out a number of headphones, and am hesistant to purchase another pair only to break them (the inset headphone port doesn't help matters, as I have to check for compatability).  I text with the phone more than I make calls with the phone now.

This very late review is written as I consider whether to purchase an iPad, wait and purchase a 4th Generation iPhone, or just hold out and make due with what I have. I am trying to use my experience with the iPhone as a reason to wait on the iPad (the biggest selling point for me is a larger touch screen to use the device as a digital sketchbook). I originally bought the iPhone because I thought I would only have to update the software, not the hardware. In analyzing my use of the phone, I question if any new hardware features would really benefit me. Upgraded camera, video capture, gps, is that really how I use the device now, or hope to? I get by without these features, and sometimes wish for them, but have yet to be in a situation where GPS would change my life. The one exception, and it is something of a big one, is the poor reception might improve with 3G. For now though, I'll wait.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Money Management, Behavioral Economics, and Interaction Design

image by AMagill

In search of a money management application for my iPhone, I came across MoneyBook, a beautifully crafted app. The creator/developers have done a wonderful job on the app, and the ethos surrounding it. They currently keep a well updated blog, that gives tips for using the app and details their reasoning and and challenges behind the apps continued development (I particularly enjoy "the importance of an app icon" entry). All of this work they have shared surrounding the app, illustrates a work of passion to me, taking into account the user experience beyond the app itself (Note: as of writing, I still haven't purchased the app, because I'm that cheap when it comes to app purchases Update: I purchased it).

Being aware of my ability to be wooed by gorgeous interfaces, I looked online for reviews of Money Book. Many of them have come back very positive (iPhone App Review, 148apps Review and Just Another iPhone Blog). I also looked at the reviews in iTunes of the application. I often look for reviews in the extreme of the spectrum first, and was interested in a particular review that commented that Money Book is a copy of Pennies. I believe the side by side screenshots below will show this to be a fair criticism.

Just to be sure, I checked to see if they were the same developers (which would be odd), and they're not. Pennies is made by Austin and Clemens of Design by a Knife, while Money Book is made by Sandro and Mischa of Noidentity. That is the end of that investigation for now, I will leave that story to someone else. From a visual critique, I have to say I prefer Money Book over Pennies. The meter gauge over the fuel gauge is more appealing, along with other touches, such as richer colors and subtle textures. Even the name, Money Book is more preferable to me than Pennies (its aspirational rather than miserly).

After only watching youTube videos of the applications in action, they seem extremely similar, supporting the criticism that caught my eye in the iTunes comment. I am well aware that the Money Book Promo is done by the creators of Money Book, while the Pennies review is done by user/reviewer. This gets to my final topic of this post, the Money Book people created a youTube video (4 actually, 2 about the development/evolution), while I couldn't find one by Pennies. Pennies does have a visual demonstration on their website, but the story ends there. Money Book has videos and a blog they follow closely, where they reveal their character and purpose not just of the app, but of themselves as well. As the reviewer in the Pennies app states, there are a few features that Pennies doesn't have which would be nice to see, like a notification when he is going over budget.  Money Book doesn't have this feature either, they do have reasoning why they don't though. Noidentity's reasoning is presented to me in such a manner that I want to adopt it.

I've looked at other money management applications before (iXpense It and some app that I've forgotten the name), and I stopped using them because they were overly complex with their options. While some of the added features on these other applications might have been very useful, they weren't motivating. When Noidentity explained the reason for the icon of Money Book, I identified with that, I want a beautiful icon on my iPhone screen. I want an icon attractive enough that I put it on my home screen, and when its on my home screen, I use it more. I want it to function with just enough, that it doesn't create extra information, but simplifies what I already have. That is the success of Money Book, they've created an attractive, simple to use interface, that I want to use.

Money Book is a great example of interaction design, that extends beyond the interface. My aspirational goal, is that if I use this application, I will see where I am spending my money, and be able to adjust my spending according to other factors in my life. Measuring and visualizing is the the first step for me though, and this application will allow that. The combination of aspiration, interaction and measurement is the Behavioral Economic part of this post. Rationally, I should just keep track of my spending habits on my own, in a notebook, but I haven't been successful yet. Hopefully this is the game changer for me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gaming to Save the REAL World

Great TED talk by Jane McGonigal, seeing the more optimistic side of gaming. She says that gamers learn four things when playing games:
Urgent Optimism - the desire to act immediately believing in possible success.
Social Fabric - gaming creates trust between people.
Blissful Productivity - knowing we're happier working hard than doing nothing.
Epic Meaning - people love being attached to awe inspiring missions.

She says this creates empowered people who believe they can change the world... the virtual world. So, she's gone about designing some games that create more interaction with the real world. Amazing stuff. Check out her latest game experiment at Urgent Evoke, where by playing, you will learn social innovation skills, and get certified by the World Bank Institute if you complete the game! The Evoke Vimeo instructions voice narrator sounds like Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (not exactly the same, but similar). I signed up, because it can't hurt to play along for a while (I have some free time) and see what is going on.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bioprinting Organs

NPR does a short report on a 3D Organ Printer Prototype by Gabor Forgacs at the University of Missouri. See the University's website on Bioprinting here. While I think this is amazing, and am happy that it gives me a reason to link to a clip from the 5th Element, I'm not clear as to what is new news about this. The very smart people at the University of Missouri  have been in the news about this for at least the last 5 years, and are self reported to be as equally far from initial human testing. I was hoping the article would mention a new break through, but it didn't. Sigh... it is a far off future indeed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Design Process InfoGraphics

A collection of information/visualization graphics of the design process from around the web. They are here for their variety in perspective and representation. Favorites are noted.

One of the most accurate infographics on chaotic human element the design process, "the squiggle" originally done by Damien Newman of Central Office. (This is a personal favorite)

Make Magazine's Online explanation of the design process is too the point, and if you visit the page, written out well. I agree with their cycle of build/evaluate/redesign.

I personally enjoy hand written diagrams such as this one from Life is a Design Thesis. The element that made it worth posting was explicitly noting that the design should answer the initial question.

Mike Ditullo's comparison of the written design process to how it actually happens, available at ThinkMakeDraw.

Taco Lab's iteration focused, sketchy design process. Very similar to the squiggle, I enjoy this one a lot.

Frog Design's process of Discover, Design and Deliver.

Dubberly's overly stylized design process infographic, that has a lot of useful elements when you get past the intense graphic.

Flow Interactive's User Center Design Process, promotes a continuous evaluation of designs.

Telono's User Centered Design process visualization.

Brannen's circular design process, with descriptions of each stage.

Funnel graphic of the design process by Goddard Technologies.

A design process that put a man on the moon, courtesy of NASA. It is actually an old challenge of theirs for student teams to build a plant chamber.

Akendi has interesting wording incorporated into their design process centered around human experience. Adding the person in the middle does a lot to say that they are human centered.

The group at Birdsong Creative incorporate celebration and many meetings in their design process.

From, simple graphic, that leaves too much to consider and isn't explained on the website.

Source Design Against Crime, a beautiful graphic, that is not as intuitive as I'd like.

Source from Industrial Design Queensland, the top of a long graphic with detailed specifics of the design process. The description is mechanical, but a well documented project.

Zurb's Design process for Interaction design.

Anthony of Design Bit share's his web design process.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pad Notes

This is the application I have been waiting for on a computer. I need the ability to type and draw in the same document, and export PDFs. Does such a thing exist for Mac OSX? It would be nice to save myself $500.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Technology and Humanity

I have come across a number of articles lately that talk about the intersection of Humanity and Technology. First, there is the Kevin Kelly's recent TED talk on How Technology Evolves, in which he clearly states that Technology is Humanity. I was convinced with the argument he has set up.

I came across this article on PSFK, on people liking Roomba's because they are like us (faulty). There is also discussion of how people are adjusting and incorporating technology into our lives by naming devices and humanizing them. This humanistic element as faulty can be seen the the 2008 Pixar movie Wall-E. The thing that makes the main character so lovable is that he is not operating exactly as programmed. He is an hyperbole today's Roomba, figuratively and literally. There are also subtexts to Wall-E that speak to the dehumanizing aspect of technology, specifically in a mechanization and homogenization of life.

The combination of these articles and meanderings reminded me the late 80s film, Robocop, by director Paul Verhoeven. Somewhere in the commentary track, Mr. Verhoeven notes that one of his goals with the film was a reaction to other films at the time that pitted man against machine. Robocop on the other hand, was about a man thrown into the middle of this evolution, who had to come to terms with himself as technology. I think a trend in films from man vs. machine to man & machine could be plotted, and we would see an increasing number of films with people coming to some kind of peace or mediation with humanity and technology (the Matrix trilogy, iRobot, Ghost in the Shell, Battlestar Galactica 2004 series, etc). The Terminator series, started by James Cameron, has a recently updated storyline through the TV show on USA (Sarah Connor Chronicles), that started to hint that in the future, not all machines wanted to destroy humans. Some it seemed would choose to aid humanity, and did not need to be reprogrammed.

image source spoiler tv

What does all this mean though? I think it supports Kevin Kelly's proposition that Humanity is Technology. Sometimes in the race to extend our grasp, we get so focused on the reach, that we forget why we are reaching (there are some great thoughts and subtexts to this in The Prestige, Battlestar Galactica, and Steamboy), and extend our hands hoping to grab anything that come along. Many of the films and shows I have sited, are full of warnings of the what happens when Humanity and Technology come to an intersection. More and more stories are forming conclusions and stories about how this intersection can be resolved in a win/win scenario rather than a zero sum game.

Luxury Changes People

Harvard Business School study on the effect of Luxury on people (mindsets and outlooks). Quote from the article: "Luxury does not necessarily induce one to do harm to others, but simply causes one to be less concerned or considerate toward them."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Evolution for Advertising

image via (credit unknown)

Interesting that people banded together to petition for the advertisement/re-model to stay at the train station. It is a sad that it got taken down. This could be inline with some blog posts I did some time ago (here and here), with various advertisers in the Boston area carpeting every single add in a station. Hopefully sponsored remodeling could be the next step in advertisement (and some of these atrocious posters can be taken down). This goes specifically to one of the articles cited in the previously linked posts of the Apple possibly subsidizing Chicago CTAs remodel.

How this might happen with a company like Homebase (think UK Home Depot for those in the states), makes a lot of sense, as that is their market offering, home (and now subway) improvement. How this fits into the market offering of Apple, is not as clear, but I'm sure many people would be excited (as I'm sure some would deplore it as well) to be in an Apple inspired metro station. Seeing how they might physically structure the space to reflect what they offer is intriguing. At the very least, I imagine there being free wireless.

Finally, I can imagine one minor detail that gets in the way of remodels like the one pictured above, and would worry companies like Homebase or Apple in having a permanent advertisement/remodel: MAINTENANCE. I'm lucky enough to live in Cambridge right now, and the metro's are kept extremely clean, very rarely is there a big mess. The place is still very dirty though, just by way of what it is. There are drink spills from time to time. Dirt and soot layers up high places, along walls and pipes. When it rains or snows, the ground becomes very wet and mucky. The Homebase remodel above, however appealing, would not last very long in such an environment. I'm not saying this is a deal breaker, only a challenge to overcome.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hospital Infections

A news article from NPR points out study about deaths related to hospital acquired infections. This is possible fuel to look into interesting solutions such as the Plasma Sterilizer. I particularly find this interesting because being around MIT, this years Yunus Challenge is about sanitation, focused on clean hands. In the kick off for this event, there was much talk about how hand washing might improve health or persons in developing world situations. One specific example was washing hands before eating to reduce fecal/oral contamination. I recently spoke with a person who works at a well known hospital here in the Boston area, and was surprised to hear that they had only recently achieved the standard for hand sanitation. Compliance is hard no matter where in the world people come from, technology and money alone are not enough in any environment.

Augmented ID

I recently discovered TAT Augmented Reality through a Technology Review Article. It is an interesting proposition. However, the actual social interaction of using this currently looks awkward. Mobiles are an awkward enough subject/object of interaction during meetings, so the following youTube doesn't sell me on this. I'm not saying the technology is bunk because of this, only actual social integration needs to be polished more. People will most likely be awkward about it initially, I think there is an opportunity for some solutions in addition to just awesome technology though.

There was a great comic strip I saw online ( some time ago and can't find,) of a man approaching a woman at a bar, and she snaps a photo of him, and through facial recognition software, decides she doesn't want to talk because of his bad rating on yelp or the like. So the next step in all this facial recognition software, is deceiving it real time. I know that people have been able to use magazines photos to fool such imaging systems (Your Face is Not Your Password and Age Verification Fooled). How would that work in real time though, a digital ski mask?

UPDATE (2010.02.25): NPR Article on TAT Facial Recognition software, that draws out a scenario re-enforcing the need for my digital ski mask idea.

Monday, February 22, 2010

D-Lab Online

I currently work at MIT's D-Lab, which is a program that fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions within the framework of international development. We have recently had a push to expand our communications to the outside world, which include a blog, updated weekly by instructors and a twitter feed. I would recommend for anyone interested in development (and particularly development education at Universities), to follow these feeds for a while to see if you like it. I was particularly impressed with a recent post on the D-Lab: Energy class which had students take a test by candlelight to get a different perspective on lighting situations experienced around the world.

Read the D-Lab Blog and/or follow the twitter @dlab_mit.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Interest vs Representation

I just uploaded over 100 photos from my January trip to India. While going through them, I realized how difficult it is to select ones that accurately represent the place and experience. I feel compelled to post unique and interesting photos, but these do not always equal the day to day experience of a place. One idea that occurred was to take photos on the hour every hour, or on the half every half hour. So that regardless of what I was doing, there might be a greater representation of life and actions in a place, without the filter of "unique" upon it. Starting to brainstorm other ideas on how to go about this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stoves Around the World

I recently uploaded about 92 photos to my flickr account from my travels between Southern California to Africa to India, all around the topic of documenting stoves. It is something I plan to continue to do throughout my travels around the world. See what I have so far here, Stove Photos.

I recently worked with an MIT student, Olin Professor, local Welder and NGO in India on designing a stove. It was more of a research project towards the eventual design of a stove. A prototype ended up being built, that taught everyone involved a good amount about stove design. Through this experience, we used the Rocket Stove design principles as one of our main guides towards fuel efficient stove design. It is worth a read, you can download it here, design principles for wood burning cook stoves.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Back From India

After a week of re-integrating, I am unpacked and ready to start posting photos and observations from my trip to Uttarakhand (a state north of Delhi, in mountainous India). I visited a few NGOs and the villages and slums that they work with. There were many friendly people, and at least 40 cups of tea on this trip.