[the City] has incredible resources of data and information

Recently DataSF launched and I’m not very familiar with the concept, but it looks like a step in the right direction for city based data initiatives more or less in line with the “Cities That Think Like the Web” initiative. I still think the holy grail of reusability for government websites is a bit off and can only be combined with excellent websites and web literacy, but we are making progress.

We could pass the Open City Motion here in Amsterdam but there is in fact nothing in it which is new or contradicts current legislature and initiatives regarding open data and open source. It’s all already in place, it just is not being done (properly).
The biggest problem is that the issue is mudlded by a bunch of directives —is this NOIV or some other initiative?—, a lot of people don’t know what they’re doing and the political will and prioritization from the top is missing.

After a significant enough portion of the populace has become more web literate and one or more election cycles have passed we may get a group that will implement this, but I and my early adopter tech friends can’t really wait for that. So what to do?

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

Enjoyment of Public Space

Jan Chipchase had asked this question recently in a post on this street scene which already had me thinking.

Enjoy Public Space

Yesterday I was present at a lecture by Dirk Overduin on some succesful interventions around the use of public space.

It’s hard to strike a balance between the use and abuse/overuse of public space. Mostly perceived ‘abuse’ of public space stems from other social problems (homelessness etc.) and regulating public space too rigidly impoverishes all of us.

Looking at the street scene from China, I’m disappointed that we do not have similar uses of public space here. To be able to play tavla on the sidewalk in the city while drinking çay…

Gecekondu on the island at ARCAM is a fun initiative and they have a full program for the next couple of days so be sure to visit them.

De krant is stuk. Wat nu?

Van het weekend gebeurden er weer een paar dingen die me met de neus op de feiten drukten hoe kapot het concept ‘papieren krant’ wel niet is. Ik zeg het al een tijdje en heb opgeschreven waarom ik principieel tegen de papieren krant ben (alle argumenten), maar dit was wel saillant.

Plek in het leven

Net een stuk in de Times dat het ochtendritueel van veel Amerikaanse gezinnen wordt verstoord door gadgets en sociale media:

Technology is morning’s first priority: […] “After six to eight hours of network deprivation — also known as sleep — people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities.”

Hetzelfde voor mij. Mijn laatste proefabonnement NRC.next bleef braaf in de bus liggen tot ik ‘s avonds weer thuis kwam als ik hem er dan al uit haalde. In het weekend een weekje kranten bijlezen is leuk, maar tijdrovend. Mijn ochtendkrant is (in bed) het teruglezen van 8 uur tweets uit verschillende tijdzones met links en artikelen en filmpjes die geplaatst zijn door een groep mensen die ik daarop heb uitgekozen, een groep mensen die ik grotendeels ken. En als ik ‘s ochtends al bewegend beeld zou kijken dan zou dat geen ontbijt-tv zijn maar oude Daily Shows.

Ontbijttafel, krant, rust? Dat is allemaal voorbij, maar het wordt nog erger.

Actioneerbaar nieuws

Afgelopen weekend las ik deze tweet van Jaap Stronks over een goed stuk van Jort Kelder dat in de NRC zou staan. Dat leek me wel interessant en het leek me leuk om naar de kiosk te gaan en een krant te kopen. Dat plezier werd me ontnomen toen dezelfde Jaap even later de link naar het artikel retweette. Dus niet het weekendritueel maar gewoon internet.

Sommige mensen zien het verdwijnen van dat ritueel als een verlies. Je zou ook kunnen zeggen dat de tweede tweet het NRC omzet door de neus heeft geboord. Hadden ze het maar niet online moeten zetten… Maar het alternatief is erger.

Stel je hebt een papieren krant en je leest er iets in, dan heb je er niks aan. Papieren krantenkartikelen zijn niet actioneerbaar en zeker niet zo makkelijk sociaal actioneerbaar als we tegenwoordig gewend zijn.

Dit terwijl als ik iets online lees, de kans al groot is dat ik het via een sociaal medium tot me heb genomen. RSS lees ik al nauwelijks meer, het meeste komt binnen via Twitter en het is op die manier gericht of ongericht weer makkelijk te herverspreiden.

Het stuk heeft een link en rondom die link kunnen mensen weer dingen opbouwen. Bijvoorbeeld een levendige ge-engageerde discussie op Sargasso over het stuk. Jammer alleen dat het discussieformaat op Sargasso stuk is maar ze doen het beter dan bijvoorbeeld next zelf waar ik tussen de vele artikelen over Twitter niks over dit stuk kan vinden.

Dat zijn acties, de tijd van het passief consumeren van media is voorbij. Een papieren krant is zo’n passief medium en het voelt anachronistisch en te-weinig-interactief. Wanneer is dat duidelijk en hebben we dan een alternatief?

Social Drinking in Print

Things are a bit slow in Amsterdam, this being high summer. Having Foursquare (see previous post) and being able to drink some beers in the city now and then does make it a lot more relaxed.

Robert Gaal and I initiated the launch in Amsterdam and it looks like it is really taking off right now. Dutch daily NRC.next wrote a two page spread on the site and quoted me and some others in it. Normally I don’t bother with papers, but I went to our neighborhood store and bought a copy:

Ben in Paradiso, kom ook man

It’s a nice balanced overview piece of the service and the trends towards more ubicomp in your nightlife experience. The big question is, these guys have delivered, will anybody else match them in the foreseeable future?

Local social network Hyves is bluffing they will introduce similar functionality but it begs the question why they didn’t already? I’ve seen this concept come by in briefings more times than I care to count and nobody has been able to get the buy-in and pull off the experience.
And when was the last update of the Hyves iPhone App? Or of the Facebook App for that matter?

In other news: There was some drama recently with people from outside of Amsterdam adding venues outside of Amsterdam and getting rebuked by some people within AMS.

Foursquare’s policy is that anybody who wants to play in whatever fashion should be allowed to do so. The data generated can always be filtered better later on using better algorithms and more insight. Just think twice about friending me if you plan on checking in outside of Amsterdam.

Urban Teleportation Device

I can’t say enough how pleased I am to be riding this bike through the city.

Urban Teleportation Device

I’ve given her a name but it functions mostly as a teleport to a random location in the city where t < 15m. Already being familiar with the topography of Amsterdam is a plus and tearing through the city, riding faster than most people without any effort is fantastic.

Now comes the more difficult task of keeping this bike in this city.

Back where I began

Last Sunday we did a big haul and carried most of our stuff over to the new place in Amsterdam. Now we’re almost done with the tedious process of making sure the basics are taken care of, sorting through stuff, eliminating duplicates.

Half A Life Apart

My story in Delft had been finished for a while now. Loads of friends but also a lot of dead ends. Being in Amsterdam gives a fresh perspective and breathing space.

The only thing is, I don’t usually mind giving up comfort, but the comfiness of ten year’s worth of accrued social contacts, friends, loose acquintainces, class mates, colleagues and the likes is a real loss. I hope to be able to build something similar quickly over here (and lose that again as well).

So this is new beginnings in familiar places with lots of fun.