Twitterductions

If memory serves, the following people were at Thursday night's Syracuse tweetup. If I missed you (and I likely will miss someone), @ me and I'll get you on the list post-haste. If you're on MySpace, friend our hosts, Recess Coffee.

@beaslee (Nicole)
@billpfohl (Bill)
@bradfordmorse (Bradford)
@bradintheam (Brad)
@burrito19 (Beth)
@dagsly (Frank)
@Gaelen2 (Pat)
@itsahero (Rachel)
@JayClewis (Jay)
@Jill_HW (Jill, with Tom)
@JoshShear (Josh)
@kelvinringold (Kelvin)
@kitschqueen (Susan, with Jason)
@Mitch_M (Mitch)
@paddyshaughn (Patrick)
@philatsun (Phil)
@samskelton (Sam)
@tdog4494 (Tim)
@toddengel (Todd)
@tracytilly (Tracy)

Redesigning newspapers


Take five minutes to watch this presentation. Thanks to Susan Hall (Twitter) for passing it along.

First let me say that that newspaper is gorgeous. Decorate-your-wall gorgeous. And if you transfer those infographics to the web, they'd kill on digg. And yes, I'd probably buy it with some sort of consistency, because I like pretty things.

I wrote about 2,000 words about why I think this wouldn't work in the U.S., focusing on the fact that people who read newspapers like to read stories and people who write newspaper stories like having a place to show off their writing and more and more, the stories in this paper are being told with photos and graphics.

But I realized as I was writing, it's fairly obvious that readers don't enjoy reading quite as much as writers enjoy writing. So the fact that there might be no more than 200 words on a front page or 500 words in any interior spread isn't a problem for me.

I do, however, think it has a magazine-like quality that makes it less attractive as a daily news source and more appealing as something to look at slowly throughout the day or week. It makes me want to admire the artwork, not find out what's going on at school board meetings – I think I'd be distracted from the news.

But then, maybe that's just me. I like news, and I like the written word. Perhaps people would get more out of bigger graphics and shorter stories, though – USA Today has done very well on that model, and it's not a paper I pick up at all, which means I likely wouldn't be the target audience for something like this.

What do you think?

Link exchange? How about better SEO?

I won't lecture you on link exchanges and search engine optimization. Instead, I'll tell you one way to fish for more work (and possibly end the link exchange requests).

I received this email the other day:

Dear Webmaster,

We sell health products at [a vitamin site] and are interested in exchanging links with your website.

Regards,

[person's name]

This email is NOT sp/\m. It only ever gets sent to each website once. If this is not the case please let me know.

Rather than deleting it, I decided to write back.

Hi [Name],

The new social web is adamantly against link exchanges, so much so that search engines like Google and Bing recognize link swaps that don't appear to make sense (e.g., I don't write about vitamins, supplements, or even health with the rare exception, so why would we link to each other?) – and worse, they penalize sites for such exchanges, sometimes even de-listing them entirely.

I am available to help better optimize your site for search engines and improve the usability on your site, if you are in need of such services. Please see this page for a description of what I do and a current portfolio.

Best,
Josh

I'll let you know if they take me up on the offer. Cuz that'd actually be pretty cool.

On innovation, with Tom Kelley of IDEO

Tom Kelley, co-founder of design firm IDEO and author of The Art of Innovation (2001) and The Ten Faces of Innovation (2005), spoke in Syracuse January 12 as part of the Famous Entrepreneurs Series. Here are some take-aways.

About IDEO

IDEO began as David Kelley Design (after Tom's brother), and was a group of engineers when David asked Tom to join the team. IDEO was formed in 1991, and has designed products that are both physical and conceptual for a lot of companies you've heard of. They're responsible for the fact that kids' toothbrushes have fat handles, which they designed for Oral B, and Bank of America's checking account that rounds up to the nearest dollar on purchases and sends the change into your savings account was their idea as well.

Using IDEO's design, Oral B became the top-selling kids' toothbrush in the world for the next 18 months (when everybody started selling the wide-handled ones), and in the first year of the Keep the Change campaign, Bank of America opened 2.1 million new accounts, 700,000 of them for people who had never banked with the company before.

IDEO also designed the Apple mouse and the Palm V.

On innovation

Kelley focused on innovation. Everybody's for it, he said, but in your day-to-day worklife, it can usually wait until tomorrow, because you've got other things on your mind (like deadlines and sales quotas). Here is an example of why that's not OK.

In the 1960s, 100% of the passenger car tires in the U.S. were manufactured in the Akron, Ohio, area by a handful of companies. Minor innovations would appear every few years (new tread patterns, etc.), but nothing major. Then some upstart French company developed something called the radial tire. People in Akron laughed. Now, everyone has radial tires on their cars and roughly 0% of the passenger car tires in the U.S. are manufactured in Akron.

That's right, 100% to 0% in fewer than 50 years.

Interbrand's Top 20 brands in 2009 featured five brands that weren't in the Top 20 in 2001 – that's 25% turnover in 8 years – Google, BMW, Louis Vuitton, Samsung and Apple. (See source PDF, page 12.)

So the answer is yes, you have to innovate. And in a flat world – that is, a world where you compete globally and have to deal with factors like big differences in labor and materials cost – you have to do it quickly if you want to stay ahead in the game.

In 2001, you would never have even thought to look at a Samsung TV unless the price point against a Sony was the most important thing to you. Now, Samsung outsells Sony in consumer electronics. Who missed the innovation boat?

The Ten Faces of Innovation

Kelley didn't learn until after he wrote The Ten Faces of Innovation that we're good at remembering 7 items, plus or minus 2. So he doesn't talk about all ten, since everyone will forget all of them. He breaks the ten roles people play in innovation into three categories: learning personas, organizing personas and building personas.

Learning personas: These are anthropologists, experimenters and cross-polinators. They're the people who observe and learn what people need, the people who try stuff and learn from mistakes, and the people who combine ideas that are already out there with new ideas.

: These are hurdlers, collaborators and directors. They're people who may not be the fastest, but they’re the most efficient (most Olympic hurdlers don't run significantly faster without the hurdles), people who work with others, and people who position other people to be the stars (think about movie directors – they rarely appear on screen, rather they help actors to be great at their jobs).

Building personas: These are experience architects, set designers, caregivers and storytellers. They're the people who put all the pieces together, put the people who propel innovation in a good space, anticipate and help fill customer needs, and evangelize how the whole process comes together.

Kelley focused on two of these personas: anthropologists and experience architects.

Anthropologists

Kelley is the first to admit that when anthropology PhDs started showing up on the payroll, he didn't get it. There were a lot of them, and he didn't get it for a couple of years. "We have engineers who are developing laptops that don’t break when you drop them four feet onto concrete, and these people go out and watch kids fish and take pictures?" he asked.

He's come around 180 degrees, he says. It's when you go out and watch people that you figure out what they need.

The kids' toothbrush I mentioned in the first section? Anthropologists went out and saw that kids' toothbrushes were really just smaller versions of adults' toothbrushes. But adults brush their teeth with their fingertips – they have the manual dexterity – while kids hold toothbrushes in their fists. That's why they needed fatter handles.

Bank of America's Keep the Change account came about because IDEO anthropologists went into the field and discovered that people were writing checks to round numbers – for example, if your electric bill came to $56.24, you wrote a check for $57 so you could do easier math. Lots of people were doing this, and lots of people thought they were the only ones doing it. So they devised this system where if you paid that $56.24 on your debit card, $57 came out and you wound up with an extra 76 cents in your savings account.

The key is this: you have to go out and observe to figure out what people need.

Experience Designers

These are the people who create an overall experience. Kelley uses a sushi restaurant as an example. Your food is only part of the experience. There's the presentation – especially important in sushi – and then there's not only your table/counter service for beverages and the like, but you actually get to interact with the chef, whose preparation becomes a performance.

In terms of a website, visitors create some of their own experience: we can't influence their physical surroundings, the noise level in their room, the size of the screen, the weather, etc. But we can set up a website experience in such a way that they can get our content (the primary reason they come) in as pleasant a way as possible. [Kelley didn't mention Steve Krug's book Don’t Make Me Think, but I'd highly recommend it.]

Your Customers

Your current customers can help you innovate in baby steps, but they're never going to tell you the next giant leap – you have to figure that out for yourself. For example, let's say you make VCRs, and you ask your customers what they want. They say, "we want it to rewind much faster so we can just bring the tape right back to Bliockbuster."

So you go back to your development team and they say, "Sure, we can do that," and next year at the Consumer Electronics Show you arrive with a table showing off the fastest rewinding VCR in the history of the world.

And then you look over at the next table and see a DVD player – no rewinding at all, and the discs even take up less space than videotapes.

Your customers can tell you how to improve your existing product a bit at a time, sure, but if you really want to innovate, you need to get out there and see what people need.

Suggested Reading

» Previous speaker at FES, Chris Hughes of Facebook

{ purpose }

there are few things that look so forlorn when not fulfilling their purpose as swings. an empty swing, whether still or moving on a breeze or the momentum of only recent abandonment, is incomplete and can only wait for its complement.

when people go unfulfilled, they either fake fulfillment, convincing themselves or others. when puppies feel unfulfilled, they try to find a human or toy to fill in the spaces.

swings just wait.

labor day is the unofficial end of summer. the leaves are changing in central new york. the mornings are chilly. autumn is coming on quickly. more and more swings will spend more and more time unfulfilled.

when a swing is fulfilling its purpose, it helps a person accomplish things. long looks at the sky, long looks at the ground. the freedom of movement. defeating gravity, if only for moments at a time.

swings often rest above soft ground, and so, when still, are forced to stare at the footprints of the last person to walk away until the next person comes.

won't someone please think of the swings?

photo credit

Retread: Conversation with The Poet

An email came to me this morning that reminded me of a conversation I had had several years ago, and posted on an old blog of mine. I'm going to recreate that here for you, because it was an interesting night. The conversation was composed on one of those pads servers at restaurants carry around.

The Poet's words are in bold; mine are in italics.

What/and how macchiato?

espresso, dollop of foam.

Why/and how don't these barristas know this —? Cappucino?

they've all been to starbucks. Not macchiatos.

When at [starbucks] I speak the following: "Doppio macchiato, extra dry"

Or ask for SHORT cappucino

[The Poet nods] Café au lait

coffee, steamed milk, even proportions

          

Mountains?

I'm a fake professional Drinking decaf tea

Kerouac          standing@desola-
tion peak updside down
why are we all upside down

That book damN Near put me off kerouac forever

Words? —

The assembled, in their particular order. Never before
Have I stuck with one book for three months

I read all books in random order these days, sometimes moving from the middle to the beginning and then end

these days it's only been working if i swallow them darn near whole. lots of chuck palahniuk

I like bhikku

Not read. trying for fiction. been TOO many years

Poetic language theory Wittgenstein, speak-ing about gradation of language utilitarian, vs. litererary —

language — particularly the language of politics — has been fascinating me of late

it is a class of language all its own a very researched, intended

AND spoken in words that don't mean the things they are purported To express

— maybe silence answers languages longing

if silence = lack of WORDS and MOVEMENT, (NOT) the dictionary definition: lack of sound

— yes, inner silence, in which sounds exist as they will, word not as they never have

Not named; but can inner silence negate the need/desire for communication in the form of language? Will we [NOT] want still, to find words, even in our minds, to describe that which we feel?

we are void, and within there is no mind — but
(flip)
in the event we need to achieve "communication" information is, therefore directly perceptible

How, then, can such communication be conveyed — as in, with intent?

by merging with intent intent precedes will

must we then will our intent in varying directions, to be absorbed by only those the communication is intended for?

How does space describe direction?

it does not. content leaves source bound in direction, must pass through space to reach recipient; intended or not

— So, by be-ing mergéd w/intent, which is pure existence — absolute — intent is the:form=content, then the answer is seen as; how does the presence of the universe make our presence within it known —
this is progress of consciousness. this is the only communication
(flip)
(the apperception of) Love.

Love i see, understand, feel, convey without intent; convey sometimes without intent and there-fore, communication without intent [may be] love (is?) but with, more perceptibly love — though perhaps hate — and only that which is intentionally conveyed can most assuredly be almost un-love, but for the unconveyed
         indifference

I understand that Love is awareness of various focul points the know-ing of how to move between such it is as the greater "intent" it is the know-ing same love to the universe is aware—ness, impersonal
what is a "person loving" anyways? I AM
the Universe

person loving = all, in their purest, knowing, un-knowing, whichever, both, universe (or not)

Balancing the public knowledge with the actual knowledge

I hope you read my post yesterday on the newspaper crisis hitting close to home.

Assuming you did, you probably realized that I was writing about the privately-held company I work for.

And you probably realized that I know at least a little more than I shared.

If you've ever worked for somebody else – either as a full-time employee or an independent contractor – you've probably signed something that said you won't give away company secrets.

OK...but how do you know what's a company secret?

Basically, if you can't verify it independently of internal communications within your company (including face-to-face meetings or phone calls), it's a company secret.

And if you have a blog, or a Twitter account, or a Facebook account, or a MySpace page or a... you'd better be damned sure what's a company secret and what's not, because you're Google-able. And expendable. Just sayin'.

That's why I made sure to link to a publicly available source for any news about the company. And while I do have some other information, I'm not sharing it. That's part of a balance you need to know – and as more graduates enter the workforce for the first time in a we-share-everything-because-we-think-it's-only-for-our-friends environment, it's something worth thinking about, both as a potential employee and as a potential employer.

Jill talks about this a lot at panels and in classes – about making yourself available, but not laying it all out there.

It really is a fine line you have to walk, but it's really important that you walk it, erring on the safe side.

Dinner, the way it should be, with recipes

Amy, Dwayne, Libby and I did a long, slow dinner last night.

It's been my experience the past few years that doing dinner has meant arriving, sitting down for a drink and warm-up conversation, sitting down to eat, clearing the table, and regrouping for a cookie and a sitcom before wrapping up. Total time? Maybe two hours, probably less. It's a rather minor investment in time.

My guests arrived around 6:00 last night, and we sat down to appetizers. There was a bit of a warming-up period, as Libby had not yet met Amy and Dwayne. After maybe an hour and a half, we sat down to dinner. After clearing and doing a partial clean-up, we moved on to dessert, and everyone moved on a little before midnight.

That's how dinner's meant to be done.

Recipes

I'm presenting you these recipes as ingredients lists and preparation instructions. I do my measurements by taste, and I do my cooking by feel, so you'll have to have some confidence in the kitchen to follow these.

There were two eggplant appetizers, medallions and babaganouj.

Eggplant Medallions

Eggplant
Beefsteak tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar

You need to give yourself some pre-prep time for this. Slice the eggplant, and place it on a paper towel. Lightly salt it, and cover it with another paper towel. Let it sit for about 45 minutes. This draws out some of the liquid.

Bake the eggplant for about half an hour, then let it cool to room temperature.

On a serving tray, lay out slices of eggplant. Cover with balsamic vinegar. Top each slice of eggplant with a slice of tomato, a slice of mozzarella, and a leaf of basil.

Serve chilled.

Babaganouj

Eggplant
Tomato
Roasted red peppers
Spanish olives
Olive oil
Water
Garlic salt
Rosemary

Purée everything in a blender. Serve cold with crackers or bread (we used Triscuits).

Served with two beers: Hennepin and Three Philosophers.

Dinner included a salad, topped salmon, asparagus and rice. It was paired with a 2007 Lindemann's Bin 65 Chardonnay. We decided universally the wine was mediocre, and we're not recommending it.

Salad

Mixed spring greens
Radishes
Grapes
Grape tomatoes
Walnuts
Feta cheese

Dressing: Balsamic vinegar, honey, oregano, basil

Salmon

Sauté Atlantic salmon filets in apricot nectar, Guinness, brown sugar and cinnamon. Top with topping (below).

Topping

Sauté chopped Cortland apples, walnuts, onions and raisins in butter and cinnamon.

Asparagus

Steam asparagus stalks in water seasoned with oregano and cloves.

Rice

Season brown rice with masala spices (usually a combination of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and others).

Libby did dessert, Armagnac-prune-chocolate cakes topped with Armagnac whipped cream and Armagnac-soaked prunes. You'll have to watch her blog for the recipe (I'll update here when it goes up).

Dessert was served with American Honey, a bourbon-based, honey-flavored aperitif.

On vocabulary

This week, I had a gentleman named Kevin Kawa in the office to show him around the administrative tool for his new blog about television. He had sent in several suggestions for a title, and we kicked them around the office and settled on Primetime Rewind.


Pilfered from PostSecret, 15.02.2009

Not two days later, I saw a note from Jeff Pulver that the company had added Facebook Connect to their TV startup. It's name? Prime Time Rewind.

It got me ruminating on language. Given barely similar circumstances – basically, evening television as a topic and a need for an Internet-friendly title – people who have never met will select precisely the same language, despite the many combinations of words possible.

Upon my mentioning that to Kevin, he sent me a disheartening e-mail that I didn't bother to fact-check, because I don't really want the verification: the average adult English speaker uses a vocabulary of about a thousand words.

If that's true, the paragraph above this one – which isn't very long – includes over three percent of the vocabulary the typical person uses.

And in the midst of this thinking, I came across the note you see on this week's PostSecret. If you don't read PostSecret, spend some time with it. It's a nice project, and it's helping lots of people.

The note about all the postcards sounding like they're written by the same person recalled for me my thoughts this week about our limited shared vocabulary.

Perhaps the limited part of that is related to the third-person effect.

The third-person effect relates to the persuasiveness of mass media. The typical person will say, "I'm not very affected by mass media messages [like advertising], but other people are very affected."

Maybe we're looking for a lowest common denominator in our word use, particularly if we're trying to reach a very large audience.

But sometimes situations call for uncommon words, so why shouldn't we use them? I really couldn't agree more with Michael M. Spear.

Spear's research does appear to support Kevin's e-mail, and really puts it in perspective when it comes to the number of words available to us that we're not using:

Richard Lederer, a lion among linguistics, tells us that English is the most cheerfully democratic language in the history of mankind. It has 616,500 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. This compares with a vocabulary of about 185,000 words for German, 130,000 for Russian, and 100,000 for French. Yet the average English speaker possesses a vocabulary of 10,000 to 20,000 words, Lederer observes, but actually uses only a fraction of that, the rest being recognition or recall vocabulary.

Yes, I was the dork who knew what omphaloskepsis (which, by the way, spell-check doesn't recognize) meant when it came up as a word in a Says You bluffing round.

What words can you teach me today?

Catharsis: Shattered


Photo by ziggy fresh, used under a Creative Commons license

For the past three years, I've played tennis with a bunch of guys older than me – most in their 50s and 60s, some into their 70s and 80s.

There are 21 of us, with 16 playing each week. It's what's called a ladder league; we are spread across four courts by winning percentage, with the top four playing on court one, the next four playing on court two, etc. We start with the top and bottom player on each court paired up against the numbers two and three, play one set, and spin for the next partner.

Most weeks, we get three sets in, so we all get to play with each other. Some weeks, when the sets are close (and therefore, frequently longer), we only get two in [the club gives us 90 minutes; after that, other leagues are on].

With anywhere between 20 and 50 years fewer on my body than the other players, I'm the fastest, and I'm among the strongest. But I'm also the least experienced, and I wind up learning a lot – about strategy, positioning, and, what I find important, the gentlemanly aspects of the game.

Tennis is a sport in which, in organized play, players are penalized points for ball, racket, or verbal abuse. In the pros, they can be fined. Player clothing is generally conservative, although Andre Agassi changed that in the 1980s – but still, most people wear collars, and the Wimbledon Club still requires all white.

There are occasional arguments over calls. We're all male, the testosterone flows, it gets competitive, and you have to take into account what could be going on in people's lives, especially when you're talking people who either are retired or are nearing retirement in a market like this.

But tonight we actually called it a night early, when players on either side of the net got downright nasty. Expletives were flying, someone got hit with a ball intentionally, and the two of us who were getting along had to separate them, twice.

I'm not alone in being one of the people who plays tennis to relax. And I'm lucky in that I get my gym membership on trade; I wouldn't be able to afford to play there otherwise. I can't imagine why you'd drop all that money and be prepared to throw down.

And we're talking guys who are 50ish. They're no longer young and stupid.

We decided it was better for everyone if we went home early.

I got home a bit wound up (it's a four-minute drive, not exactly enough to cool down), and started to put away some of the clean dishes.

I've been moving from place to place with a set of decent glasses, and while I've dropped some of them from low heights, I've never so much as nicked one.

And one of them fell out of the dish drain, and positively shattered.

Some glasses break into a couple of biggish pieces and a few small splinters. Not this one. There was nothing left that was recognizable as having once been a glass.

One piece looked like a small bit of rock candy, but the rest was just decimated. It took almost 20 minutes to clean it up, about long enough to listen to WAER's pre-game show, ahead of the Syracuse-Connecticut basketball game.

And about long enough to wind all the way down.

I'm hoping for a more peaceful night of tennis next Wednesday.