Flying to Seoul

I am heading to Seoul and Jeju Island for ten day to work on LIFT Asia. The BBC reports a tensed political situation but I hope it will be business as usual out there. This trip should be an occasion to try to pass level three in local food tasting. After octopus sashimi and rotten fish I was promised there was something even more… original waiting me for. Keep an eye on my YouTube account ๐Ÿ˜‰

Taking off from Seoul Incheon airport

If you are around Seoul send me an email! My phone works when I am at my hotel so sms if also fine.

Identity and the tupperware economy

I have been interviewed by Germany based think tank Trendbuero – organizers of the Trend Days – on digital identity, social advertising and privacy. I hope this time my concept of tupperware economy will be picked up by bloggers ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think it’s a nicely ironic summary of what Facebook and the other social networks are trying to achieve. Technology takes us back to the basics almost all the time. Different means, same results.

[…] Identity is increasingly becoming digital, and is therefore managed not only by ourselves but also by others. Are we losing control of who we are?

I am not sure we lost more control. I wonder if it is not simply that we now have more feedback than before. Take a village a 100 years ago. Everybody had an opinion on everybody. One could go to a person in the street and ask โ€œwhat do you think about him or her?โ€ and get tons of information. Before new technologies, we had very little possibility to know what others were thinking about us. Now we have Facebook compare, hot or not, comments, ratings, we suddenly feel like we are losing control. I wonder if it isnโ€™t simply an old process that has scaled to the global level. And thatโ€™s why it suddenly looks out of control.

Link (german version here)

Visual thinking

Running notes from the recent Dave Gray workshop at Arvetica.

Dave Gray, founder of Xplane, gave a great workshop on how to use visual techniques to organize ideas and share them more effectively with others. Here are my notes:

  • Drawing allows to agree more easily on things and is a more effective way to present and share ideas. Pictures allow to communicate with short term memory via the visuospatial sketchpad, and to reach long term memory.
  • A picture is worth 84.1 words ๐Ÿ˜‰ which is not bad even if it is below what conventional wisdom teaches us.
  • Every 5 years old can draw. We have all been 5 years old. We can all draw ๐Ÿ˜‰ and it proved right for
  • With a basic set of shapes one can draw everything. It is a sort of visual alphabet (line, arc, circle, square, angle, etc…) that can be combined to draw anything. Dave offers a few tricks, like the fact that we tend to draw large heads and small bodies while the opposite makes it more simple to show attitudes.
  • Now to the core of the process Xplane works with:

    Clarity leads to Understanding, which leads to Decisions that turn into Actions who produce a result. Dave advocates a process that allows to work on all the steps of this process and produce better results. The idea is to start from the end and work back to finally create 5 or 6 drawings which will create clarity, and all the steps afterwards.
  • Results
    What are the expected results? For example: convince my boss our team needs a new office. That’s the easy part.
  • Actions & Decisions
    The goal of this step is to identify the actions that will have to be made to achieve the goals. To do this, Dave suggests to start identifying the “ministries of no” – i.e. those who can prevent you from achieving your result (a boss, a colleague, a client) – and list the decisions they will have to make.After that, impersonate each ministry of no and draw the following on a poster:

    • What is the decision that person needs to make for you?
    • What is that person thinking about what you are asking?
    • What is that person seeing? (in our example, could be “sees the Google offices pictures in Wired)
    • What is that person hearing (from peers, boss, etc…)?
    • What is that person saying

    Do this for each “ministry of no” and you will be able to come up with the most common questions, which allows to decide on which ones it is crucial to communicate.

    Once you have all the key questions, order them by topic without any pre-conceived notion of what the topics should be. Put each question on a post-it, and start organizing them in columns. Naturally you should come up with 5-6 columns, one of them very likely will be all questions related to money (“how much will it cost? why should I spend my budget on this?”). Each column is a topic you will need to address with one drawing, so you just found out how many pictures you will have to draw.

    Now we need to order the drawings. For that rely on simple story telling techniques: your drawings should follow the Situation -> Complication -> Resolution flow used in movies. In our example, “Why the team needs a new office” is the situation, “What is the new office we propose” the complication and “How we will move to the new office” the resolution.

  • Understanding & Clarity
    Now is time to draw. Each of your drawing should address one of the topics identified at the previous step. Remember that metaphors are good to express emotions, literal drawings are good to illustrate processes, and schematic drawings the best way to explain logic. A mix of these types of drawings should allow you to clarify your points. Try this, it is much easier than you think.

That’s it! You just used visual thinking. This method, starting from the goal, moving up to the more complex and numerous questions to find the “meta questions” and address them via drawings is quite powerful.

I am now looking forward to Arvetica’s next workshop on may 28 on how to make powerful powerpoint presentations. I will be looking for a few tips to pass to the LIFT speakers.

Pacte Multimedia 2008

The Swiss TV (probably one of the country’s most advanced organization when it comes to multimedia, and I don’t say that because they are partners of LIFT but because theirs shows are available online a few minutes after they have been aired) is launching the second edition of the Pacte Multimedia, a national contest to promote the best multimedia projects in the country. Who will succeed Mixin? Maybe you, enroll and you might win 50’000CHF to pursue your vision!

Always different and still the same

Interesting brand created by Todo (a Torino based design studio) for their “cultural avatar”, an association called Nada. The brand is consistently changing but remains recognizable.

TODO has an interesting manifesto that would make a lot of economist happy (the “we will never retire part”)

we listen
we ask questions
we research
we take risk
we make mistakes
we like busted knees
we solve problems
we are happy
we’ll never retire

Another mac bites the dust

Maybe it’s my lifestyle, maybe it’s bad luck, maybe it’s bad quality. Whatever it is the result is the same: 2 months after my last crash my mac went down again, losing one week of data and a day of work in the process.

I am now again faced with the decision to go with better hardware – like a ThinkPad – and realized one thing: I am locked into macs! Not only because I like the interface better, or because I think OSx is safer than XP. I am locked because I have Time Machine backups, and like iTunes files can be played only on iPods, Time Machine backups can only be restored on macs.

Buy a PC, lose all your data. Steve Jobs was – again – a step ahead of me. But now I am warned.

Grandma diners in Canada

Here is another example of the (amazing) power of the Internet. My grandma diners idea has been found by the groovy people of Spark, a show about new technologies on Canada’s public radio. They loved the idea, called me to ask for a few tips, and now they are launching it on the other side of the pond!

The Internet is really allowing ideas to flow freely around the world, and from my seat here in Geneva I probably contributed to make a canadian grand mother happy and valued at the other side of the planet, fantastic ๐Ÿ™‚

More info on the Spark blog (audio interview here).

Impressions on Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha is certainly one of the trendiest conference format of the moment. Started in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, this original format (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, no exceptions) is intended to keep “presentations concise, interest level up, and give more people the chance to show“.Pecha Kucha nights have now been organized in 107 cities around the world, and by the time you read this article the number might have increased.

Being a conference organizer, and having to regularily play with the usual parameters (length of talk, number of presenters, slides or not, questions or not, etc…), I was very eager to see one of these nights. After yesterday’s Pecha Kucha Torino here are a few observations:

  • For speakers, Pecha Kucha is a reassuring format as it takes a lot of stress away. There is no risk to speak too long, you have the support of slides without much of the usual negative consequences, and expectations are not set too high as in the public’s mind, you should not expect too much from a short format.
  • Constraining the number of slides is a good idea. Constraining the duration is more discussable. The speaker should be able to accelerate a particular slide (without getting any extra time for that) because 20 seconds can be an eternity when you only wanted to show an email address or a boring but needed information like a title. Yesterday at least 3 presenters waited for their slide to pass, creating a huge silence that was a catastrophe for the room’s ambiance.
  • A good speaker can turn a bad format into a good time, but a good format can’t turn a bad speaker into a star. Things like charisma and intelligibility can’t be influenced by any format, and are still the most important factors of success. It is not because you are using the Pecha Kucha format that you can put anybody on stage. Event organizers, you won’t escape a little work ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • 6 minutes and 40 seconds can’t be considered short, and as soon as a less interesting speaker takes the stage you notice it. 3 minutes is short, and would really give more rhythm to the whole format.
  • This trend of creating a soft set of rules and packaging it under a brand is quite fascinating. After barcamp, Pecha Kucha, and at home coworking, it’s time to brand and push my grandma diners (see episodes 1, 2 and 3)!

Share Festival: Manufacturing Future Designs panel

Unedited running notes from an extremely entertaining Share panel featuring the festival’s guest curator Bruce Sterling, Donald Norman (author and Breed Senior Professor in Design in the School of Engineering at Northwestern University), Luca de Biase (Italian journalist) and Gino Bistagnino (Professor at Politecnico di Torino). You better hope the talk will be available in the Share video archive soon. Please use quotes with care as the debate was extremely lively and I might not have been able to capture the exact wording.

Bruce Sterling starts by reminding the audience of Donald Norman’s rules for establishing an effective interaction between humans and intelligent systems

  • Design Rule One: Provide rich, complex, and natural signals.
  • Design Rule Two: Be predictable.
  • Design Rule Three: Provide a good conceptual model.
  • Design Rule Four: Make the output understandable.
  • Design Rule Five: Provide continual awareness, without annoyance.
  • Design Rule Six: Exploit natural mappings to make interactions understandable and effective.
  • More on the 6 rules here

    Bruce Sterling: what are properly designed objects?

    Don Norman: If you don’t notice an object it means it is properly designed. We have 100 chairs in this room and nobody needed a manual, no chair needed to beep to be used. That’s what good design is about, it does not need anybody’s attention. Technology is new stuff that confuses us. And science fiction is fiction because it is the only context in which technology always works ๐Ÿ˜‰

    BS: what’s the nightmare scenario? What are non-properly designed objects?

    It’s when the chairs wants to sit you! And then all chairs start fighting in the room.

    LDB: what is the ethical responsibility of designers? Can you design a knife that does not kill so that nobody can say “I didn’t kill, it’s the knife!”?

    It’s a bit presumptuous for designers to think that people care. You design a car, and people die driving it because they go too fast. But we all want faster cars. Designers are the wrong persons to ask a question about ethic to.

    Gino Bistagnino: is there such a thing as an intelligent object?

    We design intelligent objects because humans are too stupid for certain tasks. Intelligent cars need to exist because objects need to take over the task of driving to let more people live (in the US 6 million people are hurt by cars every year, 40’000 die). The problem we have now is that intelligent objects are only doing half of what they need to do. An espresso machine will take over the whole process, and in that sense it’s perfect. But today’s intelligent cars only go halfway, and therefore become even more dangerous.

    BS: what is the toll of using complex systems, and especially all the preliminary steps you need to take to use a complex system?

    DN: I’m against simplicity! Life is hard, life is complex. It’s like Bruce who can’t speak a sentence of less than 500 words!

    LDB (who is a journalist): when we were using type machines to write, we were thinking much more before putting our thoughts on paper. Now we can edit things more easily we don’t think as much. Has technology and design changed our behavior?

    BS: I’m against word processors. Microsoft word did not allow anybody to write a novel. And when you complain about clippy – the annoying “helper” who consistently interrupts you when you try to do something – the answer you get from Microsoft is “you should disable it”. Microsoft Word is like a world full of flying knives killing people, and the knives’ creator tells you “just disable them”.

    DN: I wrote my book using Microsoft Word! Instead of complaining you should write your own word processor.

    BS: one of my fellow science fiction authors decided to go back to writing with pen and paper. You tell me to design my own word processor, it’s like if you tell me to design my own fiat 500. It’s simply not one person’s work. Design critics are needed. I can complain and I will complain until my death!

    DN: you will complain until your death because you don’t improve anything! I have had much more effects when I stopped criticizing and started doing things.

    LDB: before we went on stage we decided we would fight because it would be more fun. Here is another fight: Apple vs Microsoft. Apple shows that design is also about stories, about distorting perception.

    Donald Norman: Apple tries very hard to be as evil about Microsoft. People at Apple don’t care about their customers. They try to make money, put DRM in their music, or unchangeable batteries. The products are identically bad, they are both evil. But Steve Jobs does a good job of distorting reality and you don’t notice.

    Bruce Sterling:Apple is like Albania: “think different and give us your money”. Microsoft is like USSR: “let’s make darkness the standard”.

    Don Norman: One common mistake is to try to do a tool for everybody. To come back to the word processors, we need a different product for screenwriters. We need more specialized things.

    Gino Bistagnino: It’s not that there are intelligent and stupid objects. I think it’s the user who does intelligent or stupid things with objects.