Dead trees

I don’t think I disagree with anything Craig Mod writes.

In his: “Books in the age of the iPad” he argues succinctly for the abolishment of most printed books in favor of those that are properly designed for the medium.

I myself am going to get rid of all of my books save the design, poetry and photography ones. Because:

The convenience of digital text — on demand, lightweight (in file size and physicality), searchable — already far trumps that of traditional printed matter.

It’s good that most people haven’t caught on to that yet. It gives me time to get rid of my book collection before the perceived value of printed paper plummets through the floor.

Nasr doet een nieuwjaarsgroet

Aangezien onze dichter des vaderlands zijn eigen blog niet zo goed bijhoudt moet het goede volk zijn gedichten hier en daar bij elkaar schrapen of speciaal voor dat handjevol een abonnement nemen op de NRC. Geen doen dus.

Speciaal voor de fans herhaal en link ik zijn gedichten hier ook maar. Dan heb ik ze tenminste ergens waar ik erbij kan, en jullie ook. Hieronder ook het fragment waar Ramsey Nasr het zelf voordraagt:

Nieuwsjaarsgroet

Zo JP, hoe voelt het om te liegen
en dan te moeten zien dat het gedrukt staat?
Hoe voelt dat, om als christen-democraat
de zijde van Herodes te verkiezen

en honderdduizend kinderen te doden
omwille van één koning? Volkenrecht?
Ik ken een land dat dozen resoluties
juist dankzij ons al jaren naast zich neerlegt.

Ziehier onze premier, hij leest de krant
en denkt: klaat ze maar lullen, mijn geweten
is zuiver. En geen koren zonder kaf.

’t Is goed te liegen voor het vaderland.
De beste wensen nog van alle Irakezen
massaal vernietigd en bevrijd in ’t graf.

Daar heeft ook Frits Barend niet van terug denk ik.

Necessities for digital magazines

Ben Hammersley poses the question which has been on my mind for a while (tweet) now after seeing the various concept demoes of rich magazines on high resolution tablets.

There have been a couple of these concepts floated around recently among which the digital Sports Illustrated and the Mag+ demo for Bonnier:

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

These magazines with rich media and builtin games and other interactions look great, but who’s going to make them? From what I know assembling a publication is an efficient but quite messy proces. It gets the thing out the door before the deadline, but not much more.

The web part of the publication is usually bolted on and content is copy pasted from one into the other usually to the detriment of the web versions. And now we need to add another layer of richness somewhere inside this flow?

Like Hammersley says digital publications are just a symptom of a bigger problem. And the bigger problem of assembling such a magazine is just part of the transition from the old process of creating, assembling and publishing print media to the new way of doing things.

Device capabilities

Of course everybody is waiting for Apple’s tablet offering which will most likely set the industry standard, but imagining what a flat high resolution interactive tablet will look and work like, is not too difficult. A (multi-)touch screen, some hardware buttons, network connectivity and HD image and video display. Do you need much more?

Using that hardware to reimagine the concept and use of a magazine including its more indirect properties such as coffee table displayability, spine information etc. are what Jack Schulze talks about in the Mag+ video by BERG.

Toolmaker and platform

Being a more technically inclined, I’m very interested which platform will be used for these publications. Right now two obvious contenders would be:

  • A Flash/AIR version which is not very hopeful from an openness point of view. And also what we’ve seen from the current Flash web magazines and applications, the user experience will probable be nothing to write home about (page turn animations anybody?).
    If the current state of Flash on the iPhone is an indication, Apple will not allow this.
  • A HTML5 version which seems a very likely contender. Apple is already pushing this hard for advanced stuff using HTML5 on the iPhone and with a similar sprinkling of Webkit specific extensions it should be more than possible to deliver the experiences enivisioned in these prototypes.
  • Native applications seem too cumbersome for the publication release cycle and building a CMS-like solution for digital magazines in a native language yields the same problem: how to markup the magazine in the CMS? Which would result in a more or less complex markup language (such as HTML).

Adobe probably already has tools that make it ‘easy’ to create rich publications from their existing publication tools such as InDesign and Flash though I can’t find anything about such tools except this news release on a collaboration with Condé Nast. If I go to Adobe.com, there’s nothing about what I can do to ready my business for this transition.

It seems that there is a big opportunity for new toolmakers working from agile principles and using open standards to create the authoring and collaboration environments for the publications of the future.

What’s also interesting is how much of the magazine will be downloaded offline (like the podcast, App Store model) and how much of it will rely on a web connection. And how big will a Sports Illustrated filled with high res images and HD video be? Probably more than 1G. How does that impact your immediate reading experience?

Photo-/Videographers

Another thought is that because most of the publications are not as space constrained as print media, they can allow much more space for beautiful photography and video material (as the Sports Illustrated issue does). Depending on the compensations paid, the increased demand could at least herald an interesting new age for professional photographers.

Future

I’m interested in what Hammersley will write as a solution to all this. I have no experience in print and am writing this as a bystander with an interest in the web.

Some salon reading

Never enough time for reading, but thanks to Instapaper got around to reading some stuff that was due coincidentally both of these are from Salon:

Book review: “An End to Evil” by David Frum and Richard Perle — Very interesting to read these neocon perspectives in an time when the world and America have shifted away from a position when those points of view were desirable and feasible.

Maxed out — Interesting take on pornography and how it reflects on society.

De anatomie van het nieuws

Shirky schreef pas zijn anatomie van het nieuws in: “Rescuing the Reporters” waarin hij een krant ontleed in nieuws en restmateriaal en dan ook nog dat nieuws splitst in zelf-gemaakt en uit andere bronnen afkomstig.

Het leek me boeiend om dat hier ook te doen, dus kocht ik afgelopen vrijdag twee gedrukte exemplaren van nrc.next en wegens tijdgebrek knipte ik ze dinsdag aan stukken.

Start

Ik kwam daarbij wat interessante dilemma’s tegen. Wat Shirky hard nieuws noemt komt voor, maar daarnaast staat er in onze kranten ook veel lifestyle-achtig achtergrond materiaal. Het is dus een beetje onduidelijk in sommige gevallen waar dat bij zou moeten.

Separated

Maar hier eerst even de resultaten van mijn steekproef:

nrc.next totaal 103g 100%
Advertenties 19,5g 19%
Anders 37,5g 36%
Nieuws 46g 44%
Nieuws uit eigen productie 34g 33%

Ik vind dat er nogal wat dingen in staan waarvan ik vrij zeker weet dat het niet behoort tot de ‘iron core of news’ zoals een stukje over de inhoud van het kerstpakket, wat over freefighting, een pagina grote illustratie en een dagboek van wat politici in Suriname. Als ik die weglaat, dan hou je 18,5g (18%) stricter nieuws uit eigen productie over.

News or not?

Het is de vraag of we hier dezelfde conclusies uit kunnen trekken als Shirky doet voor zijn krant. Maar zijn betoog dat er weinig origineel nieuws is en dat de verslaggevers gered kunnen worden in non-profit instanties is misschien zo gek nog niet.

Kranten maken een herdefinitie door offline en online en de hoeveelheid écht eigen nieuws wordt minder. Wat ze dan wel doen: becommentariëren van nieuws op blogs, smaakgids zijn voor mensen met weinig tijd, lifestyle magazine spelen. Daarnaast wordt er strak gestuurd op de kosten en weinig geïnvesteerd in digitale infrastructuur vanwege het korte termijn-winstoogmerk. Terwijl het volgens sommigen niet eens zó slecht gaat met de krant.

In ieder geval kan ik hier nog wel veel over schrijven maar ik ga zaterdag op vakantie en bewaar het voor volgende posts. De gegevens van het verknippen wilde ik alvast publiceren.

een stittie die stilstaat

Ramsey Nasr bewijst met zijn nieuwste gedicht ‘mi have een droom’ dat hij overduidelijk de beste Dichter des Vaderlands is die we ons maar hadden kunnen wensen:

Volledige tekst en meer uitleg op nrcnext en op nrc.tv wat achtergrond met ook zijn andere Koninginnedag-gedicht ‘In het land der koningen’.

De combinatie straattaal en lyriek wordt heel soms wat dissonant maar toch biggie props hoe hij het zich eigen heeft gemaakt. Ik ben wel een beetje benieuwd hoe hij dat gedaan heeft. In het andere filmpje kun je zien dat hij in Antwerpen woont en bijna alleen maar klassieke muziek heeft.

Goed om te zien dat hij net zo goed als in Antwerpen en beter nog voor ons dicht. Ik vraag me af hoeveel PVV’ers de spiegel in dit gedicht voor zich zullen zien.

Sketching User Experiences part I — notes

I recently reread part I of Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton for UX Book Club Zuid-Holland and made notes during the proces. ‘Sketching’ is one of my favorite UX  books and well worth a reread which I found reveals different layers and gets you to reflect differently with the experience you have accumulated since the last time I read it.

I thought it may be worthwhile to share those notes here, so here goes.

Coming change to more digital behaviour embedded in the fabric of everyday life is going to force us to focus on context.

How do you design for context?

Does Buxton deliver on the promise he makes at the start of the book? He tells a nice story but where’s the sketching for software?

He talks about designing agents systems and complex behaviours. Doesn’t emergence play a large part? Don’t we need foundational guidelines more than anything?

p. 13 This is a start. It is a rough sketch.

Many participants of the bookclub thought the book fell short and was overly meandering. No it is not a howto guide to designing user experiences.
By Buxton’s own admission it is a sketch an initial concept for how a book like this should look. But still I don’t know any other book which provides such a broad view on the field of UX and such an in depth treatment of one of its foundational processes (sketching).

Physical devices can recast a problem in a new light.

p. 37 We must make our best efforts to understand the larger social and physical context within which it is intended to function.

p. 37 We ideally need to be able to experience our designs in the wild during the early stages of the process.

p. 38 Without informed design, technology is more likely to be bad than good.

p. 47 Why shouldn’t executives want to have their company create breakthrough products that generate great returns?

Great realistic analysis of the Apple design process for executives. In that light the piece “You can’t innovate like Apple” is also worth a read.

p. 53 Everyone is essential but no person or group is sufficient on his or her own.

What’s the relevance of (software) product design with its version iterations to website projects which are unfortunately mostly one off?

p. 71 My underlying approach in what follows will be to put forward a holistic approach to experience-based design. Along the way, I will show how the weaknesses of software product development can be complemented by the strengths of traditional product design, and likewise, how the weaknesses of traditional product design can be complemented by the very real strengths of software developers. But my strongest argument is for the need for an explicit and distinct design process, integrated into the larger organization, supported by appropriate executive leadership.

p. 78 Get the right design. Get the design right.

p. 80 It takes very strong and brave management to admit that we don’t know what we are doing at the start, and therefore need to accomodate that in our process.

My addition: The act of sketching constrains your freedom. Every stroke you make in a sketch finalizes something. That is the whole point and that what makes the process converge. Then if the result doesn’t please you start anew with a blank sheet.

p. 105 [a sketch is] a graphic means of technical exploration

p. 111-2 Sketches are:

  • Quick
  • Timely
  • Inexpensive
  • Disposable
  • Plentiful
  • Clear vocabulary
  • Distinct gesture
  • Minimal detail
  • Appropriate degree of refinement
  • Suggest and explore rather than confirm
  • Ambiguity

p. 117 By examining the externalizations, designers can spot problems they may not have anticipated.

Ambiguity but also the resolution of complexity.

p. 135 “Sketching Interaction”

How do you sketch tone of voice? For instance by employing product personas that act out the interactions your product has with users.

How do you sketch look and feel? By creating broad mockups supported by mood boards?

p. 139 “Sketches are not prototypes”

Prototypes may be less disposable but they can also be very agile and reusable. But admittedly prototyping would take place post-sketching.

p. 143 Arguing for the need for user involvement in a modern book on product design is as pointless as a discussion about the need to know the rules of arithmetic in an advanced mathematics textbook.

p. 147 A healthy team is made up of people who have the attitude that it is better to learn something new than to be right.

p. 151 “You make that sound like a negative thing”

Design rationale and strong criticism are essential to move forward but hard to find.

p. 154 “If someone made a sketch in the forest and nobody saw it”

A communal corkboard provides:

  • Shared awareness
  • Baking in
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Juxtaposition
  • Critique