Studying users is an art

London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 forecast that future travelers would be older. Research into older travelers showed they often go into the toilet, so many new toilets were planned.

However, deeper investigation discovered they were going into the toilets….to hear the announcements. It was the only place they could find where they could clearly hear the flight calls! So now the airport is putting new audio areas where you can clearly hear your flight call….

Link

Amazing. This shows how hard it can sometimes be to truly understand users.

Whisher is out

WhisherWhisher is out! It is a project I have been following for quite a while, as it is coming out of Swisscom in a similar way than coComment. Deemed a FON competitor, it is an interesting piece of software that allows users to engage in social activities around one main thing: Wifi access points.

Whisher has a different approach than FON, and differs on one crucial aspect: you do not have to flash your router or do anything that requires deep technological expertise to use it at home. Download the software, let it work its magic, and you’re good to go.

I will test Whisher in the coming days, and actually the FON router I got for free at Leweb just arrived in the mail today, so I have all I need to make my mind. I’ll test both, and let you know.

UPDATE: GigaOM has mixed feelings, CNET is quite impressed. The discussion goes on.

Disclaimer: Whisher is sponsoring my conference and will offer free Wifi to all attendees.

Silicon Valley’s lead over Europe is narrowing

So I am not the only one feeling Europe’s potential anymore 😉 The IHT is running a post-DLD article claiming than Europe is closing the gap. While I am quite happy about this kind of discussion, I can’t stop thinking that we are always talking about the same examples (Skype, Netvibes, FON, etc…). That in itself shows that the market is not as dynamic as we would like.

But there are some great newcomers (Polar Rose, Rebtel, Vpod, Sevenload), big names to open the right doors (Varsavsky, Zennström and Friis, Chappaz, Lemeur, etc…) some money flowing in (Wikio raised 4 millions two days ago), and more and more events to put people together. We’re moving slowly, but at least in the right direction.

Further proof is found in the last past of the article:

[…] number of participants at the conference contended that with the quick spread of ideas in an Internet age, Silicon Valley companies no longer have a first-mover advantage.

Gerald Haag, a former Amazon executive who is a founder of Dropshop, a Munich-based start-up for auction sellers, cited a case in which an idea from Silicon Valley was introduced in Europe. Two weeks later, he said, “there was a German version.”

Fast movement. It’s about time it happens around here!

Link

BlackBerry = hard drugs

From TimesOnline:

Don’t let the boss get you hooked on BlackBerry

The BlackBerry can be as addictive as hard drugs, so it’s best not to take it on holiday with you, a US study suggests. […]

“The fast and relentless pace of technology-enhanced work environments creates a source of stimulation that may become addictive,”

Technological overload IS a problem; I’m happy we found out a while ago and had time to organize a LIFT panel about it.

Follow DLD

Live video is available here, and Nicholas Negroponte is about to take the stage. The conference opened with a weird panel about the “future’s future” with Caterina Fake (Flickr) and Niklas Zennström (Skype etc…). Not sure such a title is a gift as it is hard to deliver the magic it promises.

As usual I won’t bother posting my notes about the discussions happening here, but simply point you to Bruno’s blog.

What can we do for Wikipedia?

Yesterday I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Florence Devouard, the chair of Wikipedia. Initially the discussion was about organizing her upcoming trip to LIFT, but we quickly ended up speaking of our organization’s common values and problems, like the difficulty to find funding from public institutions for projects that are not always well understood.

During the discussion, Florence mentioned that Wikipedia’s latest fund raising campaign brought only one third of the needed funds, and that the foundation will soon run out of cash to pay it’s hosting bills.

While it’s hard to conceive that Wikipedia could disappear (putting the encyclopedia off line might actually be the best way to mobilize donors and get some funding), it is NOT a given. This institution, needed by all of us, about to be embedded in the 100$ laptop for the developing world, is fighting for it’s life and you and I can probably do something.

I am trying to figure out what. We will give Florence time on the LIFT stage, and relay her message as far as we can. But it seems that we have reached a point where cash contributions are needed. Act now!

In Munich

I am in Munich to attend DLD06DLD07. After a windy flight (I definitely HATE flying) I ended up touring the city for a few hours this afternoon before coming back to the hotel to catch up with my (exploding) mailbox. I hope to be able to enjoy the discussions that will go on despite the intense rush I have to deal with for LIFT.

Marissa Mayer, Luc Besson, Norman Foster and Bruce Sterling are here among others. Bruno Giussani (who is on the board of DLD just like it seems he is on the board of every single conference on this continent) told me the organizers had the best problem you can have, i.e. trouble fitting all these amazing people in the program.

No blogging

Sorry for not being able to write much around here these day. I am dealing with hundreds of emails (literally), phone calls and interruptions because the conference is here in three little weeks. I am considering lowering the easiness to reach me for the next edition (right now my mobile number is on almost all pages), and can’t wait or a few advices from our technological overload panelists.

I’m saving articles and magazines for later. If you are looking for me, I am on the LIFT blog these days.

Interviewed

I had an informal chat with Bernard Rappaz from the Swiss public television (TSR) about LIFT. I tried to explain how I think this country has all it needs to succeed in the upcoming economy, where ideas and people are the difference makers. If you speak french, the cameras were rolling and you can watch the video here.

The TSR has a really cool comment system, where you can post video follow-ups directly on the website if you have a camera. See it in action here (at the bottom of the page)