Sunday 30 November 2014

May The Force Be Around You ; Snakes and Ladders to recycle, NYC Subway car as a living space & Three dimensional audio for blind people.

In our neighbourhood, we're given multiple dustbins ( refuse bins) for all our waste. There's a green one for foliage and grass clippings, a blue topped one with dividing inserts for recyclables and a standardised, black topped bin for everything else.

All of the aforementioned are 'wheelie bins' ( two wheels on the base, for you to lift and manoeuvre), and are collected by the city waste contractors in a weekly arrangement; blue and green one week and the black the next. Whilst it wasn't an easy thing to initially adapt to after years of an 'all in one' bin system, it's now part of a regular and unobtrusive routine. More importantly, it helps contribute to the environment by means of easier separation at the rubbish dumps/ tips. 

There are noticeably more cycle lanes in our vicinity, too and although I don't own a bicycle, I can still ride one. It's odd how you never forget how to ride and control a bike once you've learned how to do so and it's a marvel of our design as human beings that we can contain this in our memories at a subconscious level. 

It's also a healthier way of getting around, with plenty of physical benefits from the action required to keep moving. Particularly so in warmer and sunnier climes, where the ( hopefully) fresher outdoor air is also doing you a world of good. And of course, parks and recreational areas have designated cycle tracks and lanes for you to savour and take along family and friends with you as well.

So it's only inevitable that someone somewhere would come up with a way to champion the cause of pedal power :-

Clever New Version of Chutes and Ladders Helps Cities Promote Cycling

If you click on the board image and have a detailed look , there's a lot of detailed factoids, which arent  getting into the realms of becoming sanctimonious and dogmatic. All in all, a fun way to get a valuable message across. 

Other than bikes, the alternatives to the car are trams and trains. Subway systems are prevalent in many of the larger cities, and they help deal with a lot of pedestrian traffic that would normally be logjammed into a near-chaotic system of overground traffic.That is, taxi's and relatively slow moving vehicles, such as buses. 

In new york, the subway system is quick and easy to use. The amount of footfall that passes through each train and subway car can be phenomenal, with some stops being absolutely jam packed with commuters getting on and off. So it was a surprise to see that someone managed to pull of a feat like this, without anyone documenting the set up stage :- 

Cardboard furniture turns NYC subway car into an apartment, sorta 

Note the cigar and ashtray as part of the set up. It's almost enough to let you feel, even if only momentarily, that you can pull up the chair and take a quick nap. Cosy, is an apt word to describe it. 

Getting around a large city, or indeed any city environment can be challenging, as already discussed. But imagine having to do all that, and be partially sighted as well. The constant changes, such as footpath repairs, roadworks and so on, can make even regular trips haphazard and cumbersome. But one company has put their thinking cap on, to alleviate a problem that no one else has attempted to tackle and kudos to them for this :- 

Microsoft pilots 3D audio technology to help blind people navigate 

This has trully made my week, and I sincerely hope that they refine and perfect the technology to a very affordable price point for it's potential user base. It might even be an idea for microsoft to run workshops and trial runs of it, when it's in full beta. That's not as obvious as it sounds, as the workshops can be for others to attend, such as friends and carers, in order to get a better understanding of how this great piece of innovative technology is helping others to help themselves. 

That's where effectively, all of our thoughts and processes carry the most benefit. Helping ourselves and helping others in the process is a real win-win situation. Productivity and systems thinking and technologies are heading in that direction, with more time and energy available to us all.

But we have to be more willing to think more globally and ecologically, even if at a smaller local level, for this to bear long term fruit. I think we can do it, cause a little bit here and there, can and does go a long way. 

Sunday 23 November 2014

Living By Numbers ; Ive has a secret to tell you, Subscribe to skip adverts & Drink shots/ Make faces

When you work on something, be it an article, a job spec / costing, a piece of music, a painting or even a sculpture of your vision of the future, how long do you give yourself to start and end the project? And what factors do you consider when working? For example, does  time spent = money invested in the project for you?

A lot of people, myself included, mostly work to a deliverables vs time/cost basis. Either or both of these in some malleable combination are worked out with the client(s), to deliver maximum value and feel strengthened by the value given and received on your hard work. 

There are, however, a lucky cluster of people who don't have to worry about 'the bottom line' as much as the rest :-

Jony Ive Is So Focused On Design He Doesn’t Know Apple’s Key Financial Numbers

Ive's design nous is currently unparalleled, so it's not too surprising that he's not having to bean count his way around his conceptualisations. Apple's products and their success speak for themselves, and whilst I'm not their biggest fan in the world for a number of reasons ( except the laptops and desktop range, but more about that at a later date), you can't argue with the look and feel of the product line.

It'll be interesting to see what they come up with next, as the watch doesn't seem to have lit as much of a fire as the original ipod and iphone did, which can be down to future ennui ( or technology fatigue). More importantly, the competition in that sector of the market is now much greater than it was even five years ago, so will they continue to innovate and spearhead or..? Wait and see.

Hanging around and occasionally waiting for things to happen, is something you get used to when watching a lot of video related content on the internet. But it doesn't have to be like that :-

To Keep Its Stars Happy, YouTube May Let You Pay to Skip Ads

This has, to my knowledge, been mooted and talked about for quite some time. Either that or the eating and drinking places I frequent on my travels, are full of frustrated creatives and techies who want more of a slice of the action. In any case, at this stage of the game, it would be a brave move to roll this out en masse.

We're all very used to watching and hearing great ( and not so great) content on youtube for nothing, so to convince people (even if it's a fanbase, for instance) to start paying up for the latest video of a song, or the making of an album or vlog etc, will require some exquisite marketing nous. Who knows, maybe they will pull it off.

But the current state of play with the online entertainment industries and their extension of traditional formats such as t.v. and video in order to monetise, sings a different tune. Thankfully, times are changing and rightly so, otherwise the entertainment media sector will be running in ever decreasing circles, keeping out an even bigger majority of musicians and artists than ever before.

We clearly need more people within the industry, rather than on the fringes of it, so hopefully the labels and even the artists themselves (U2 are mooted to be working on something with apple, in order to add value to content, according to various scribes on the internet), will bring their A-games to the table, and soon.

On the subject of  fun and games :-

These Are The Gnarly Faces You Make When Drinking Shots

This is why ( thankfully), I'm glad no one I go out with for an evening, takes pics of any of us whilst imbibing alcohol.

Actually that's not true. There's a handful of pics on my phone, and I know that at least three others have pictures of me, getting quite inebriated, on their phones.


Time out.

Can you Dig it? ; How you process logos, How you look Vs how you think you look & Your very own anti-zombie log cabin

In an age where we're almost ritualistically bombarded with messages and iconography of all types, it's a wonder we sometimes still manage to make sense out of what is trully going on at micro and macro levels. For instance, if you use your smartphone first thing to check your emails and social media accounts (before you've even thought about making any phonecalls or returning them), then you've already entered into the realms of sensory uplift and even overload. 

In effect, your brain is having to recompute and recalibrate to a load of kinaesthetic and auditory information presented to you in a form of shorthand, such as links to other sites; online videos are a perfect example of this. You just know what you're seeing and hearing, without getting the full picture (pardon the pun). 

Now think about how easily you can identify a t.v. show, film, band, and ultimately a brand, just from short glimpses  :-

How Your Brain Processes Logos

How many of these we all know about and/or have identified easily, is subjective. What matters is that we just know what they are, which is all about clever and effective exposure at so many levels. 

The right colours, the right slogans, the synergy between the product and the message and so on, all contribute to this. Some of it could be put down to instinctive or intuitive processes, but ultimately it's all about collating and presenting a 'best fit' for the purpose ( i.e. representing a brand or corporation) at hand. Then you have to leave it to the audience, plus lady luck / the lap of the gods and hope for the best.

Wishful thinking is all about optimism and hoping for the best. It ultimately lies around concerns and issues about our perception of self; in other words, what the reality is and what we want it to be :-

These Photos, And A Bit Of Science, Show What People Wished They Looked Like

It's fair to say that many of us aren't happy about looking less than our best. More importantly, we all believe at some level that we're better looking than we actually perceive ourselves to be. Notice I didn't say 'to others', as this whole scenario was demonstrating a self perception analysis. In any event, the photographer responsible for this fascinating study, Scott Chasserot , has to be lauded, as do the participants who allowed themselves to be reproduced for this.

On the subject of being wide-eyed :-

Zombie-proof log cabin has 10-year anti-zombie guarantee

Flame throwers, water cannons and an XBox. What more can you want in the event of a zombie apocalypse? A tin of Spam, perhaps. They haven't mentioned any alternative for vegetarians, so I'm assuming they'll somehow cater for themselves.

I don't think there's any zombie danger in my area, although the looks on some of the faces I saw in the supermarket earlier, might prove me wrong. 

Time out. 

Sunday 2 November 2014

Timing, Reason, Understanding ; Using a chart to change someone's mind, Letting someone else decide and Emotional shopping

Over the countless dinners, brunches, lunches and drinks I've had recently, once the how are you's and hugs are out of the way, there usually tends to be some topic of debate thrown in to the mix. I like a bit of heavy duty banter over dessert, or even midway during the chompathon, so to speak. It gives the phrase 'food for thought' a new meaning, and it very rarely descends into petty squabbling and feather-ruffled madness.

What tends to happen, is that some newsworthy item of the day or week is brought up to dissect and 'yay or nay' over, as I like to call it. At some point during the conversation, someone will throw in some quoted facts and figures, almost like a rhetorical graph or histogram.

The validity of using this as a construct for putting your point across with conviction, is age old, and hence this caught my eyes immediately :- 

Want to Change Someone's Mind? Just Show Them a Random Chart

I loved reading this and found the correlatory theories hilarious because I could relate to the whole thing on a personal level. Ironically, I'm loathe to quote figures such as percentages myself, cause they tend to sway and vary a great deal from source to source. Unless I'm pretty sure the quoted figures and graphology implemented are from a trusted source, then I tend to go on the rest of the information presented, as a whole.

Otherwise re-iterating information that itself is easily questioned, can make you look like a self indulgent nitwit, which isn't a good idea at any time of the day. Who want's to look bad, over dinner and drinks? Or lunch?

Speaking of bad :-

Forced to be bad: Consumers happier when someone else decides they can indulge

It could be argued that this is hardly surprising, and that a whole slew of things could be wrapped around this premise. As the article states, children tend to use this sort of scenario a lot , to get out of punishment, but the general concept is pretty solid. So does this mean that man ( in the generic sense), is ultimately a naughty child who has to be trained to do the right thing? Of course not. It's an opinion ( although carefully measured and thought out) formulated on analysing and assessing a set of data, which has been interpolated by a collective or team of human beings.

Just like :-

Feeling guilty or ashamed? Think about your emotions before you shop

I admit being occasionally burdened by one or the other; on a very rare moment, even both. I can exemplify via a recent slew of online purchases, where I bought some designer branded shirts and t shirts. It was complete coincidence that during  one of my usual brief ad-hoc browsing sessions online, I suddenly remembered the brand in question and noticed on their site that they had a sale on. Having not bought anything from there in a very long time, I took the plunge. And took it again. And again. And finally one more time. I don't think the last one was really necessary in hindsight, but I'll know for sure when the final batch of stuff arrives.

In my mind, there is no perfect condition when shopping or even browsing. It boils down to brand loyalty, which is a complex cornucopia of things including happiness, value and utlity. Then of course, there's marginal utility, when each successive purchase beyond a point of satisfaction can mean you start to enjoy the experience less than you would have before the tipping point. 

And it's that particular point which everyone strives for, wether it's buying goods, services, or even reading an article online ( like this one), or a book. That's what the alchemy of marketing and advertising is all about, to a greater extent. As far as I can see, it's cyclical, too. Which brings us into the realms of 'the product life cycle', but that's for another time.

And right now, I can also see that it's time to hit the road. The leaves have fallen all around, and it's.. hang on, this isn't a led zeppelin song?

Time out.

Message Received Loud & Clear ; Think before you respond to an email, The Terminator is 30 & Visualised thoughts and feelings.

I recieve anything between 100 to 200 emails a day. Those are the ones I see in my inboxes, across various email accounts. It used to be twice that, but I had a good spring clean about four years ago. There's probably about half that, which go into the spam/junk folders, and of course out of the aforementioned figure, some of those are just cold call type sales related mail.

Then of course, new friends, client/business emails occasionally end up in the junk trough, and I go through the junk folder ad-hoc and occasionally catch them. I've no idea what algorithms are used to sort the wheat from the chaff, so I do my own dilligence as already mentioned  All in all, it's a lot of information to plough through on a regular basis. That's why this, caught my eyes :-

Before You Respond to that Email, Pause

I've already talked about procrastination here,  and that's not the scenario in this situation. This is more about thinking things through, which although sounds obvious, is food for thought. 

Years ago, when I studied to be an I.T. systems guy, part of the syllabus track I took involved the learning of nettiquette ( or internet ettiquette), which sounds a bit comical now, but consider how rapidly we mostly respond to any sort of interactivity on the internet these days. If you're a social media user, it's very fast indeed. Again, I've gone into this at various lengths in other articles and posts ( such as here, for instance), so I won't go into it all over again at depth. But I will say that counting to three or even ten, and re-reading the content before sending out any sort of response is a very good idea indeed.

Speaking of counting, it's now 30 years since a particular cyborg landed on our screens, and turned a world champion bodybuilder into a hollywood superstar :-

'The Terminator' turns 30: Time to revisit the sci-fi classic

It's ironic now, looking back, that even those involved in the film never thought it'd be as successful as it was. Maybe the odds were stacked against it on paper, but I think it captured the zeitgeist in a different way. Or rather, it captured the darker side of the 'what if?' scenario that may well have loomed in so many people's minds, with the advent of rapid technological progression from the late 1970's onwards.

The video game market had exploded and permeated into everything, thereby facilitating a growth in silicon chip based technology investement, all across the board. Ironically, although the first video game crash had already happened by the time the film was released ( and another is being mooted about now, if the write ups are to be believed), the tech explosion was here to stay, and home computers were becoming more powerful. Apple and the PC revolution were still some years away, but the paranoia that a fully automated world could create, was obviously generating questions in many minds.

James Cameron went on to make three others and a fifth one is in production as we speak, but for my money, nothing captured the vibe so exquisitely as the original. I can still remember watching it on VHS tape and being stunned, shocked and confused at the ending. It was like nothing else at the time; great visually and with a synthesizer/electronic based soundtrack.

Speaking of great visuals and what they can represent, here's a slab of goodness to end on :-

35 Visually Expressed Thoughts and Feelings by Carlos Lang

Beautiful. If each of these were a postcard or set of cards, I'd buy them. 

And on that note, it's time to empty my pockets a little for a new blazer ( or Sports Jacket).

Maybe a herringbone finish. Black I think, as I already have a blue one. Actually I have two blue blazers. And then there's the other 14 or so jackets which are more for..

Time out.