Monthly Archives: March 2005

New New New… Change is so good!

I went to a show last night at Slims. I saw Ash and The Bravery. The show rocked! At the end of the show, the lead singer of The Bravery gave a shout out to Live 105 for being the first to play their music. I love this town! Innovation is everywhere!

Monday, I had a sensational day. I awoke to the FEDEX man delivering me my new PowerBook. “Happy Monday Morning Anita!” I’ve made the switch!!! I then moved to my new apartment and stayed there for the first night!!! Change is so good!

I posted something awhile back about life as an entreprenuer and as I get further into this all my perspective changes. I’ve realized that it is all much more personal than I thought, but at the same time it’s still business. It’s become as much if not more about inner struggles than outter.

I’ve had to take a step back or up, and think less about users, metaphors, affordances and graphics and much more about strategy, vision, and teammates. I’ve learned that these things are the crux of what is important. Product naturally follows.

I’ve learned even more the necessity of momentum. I talked before about pacing and inertia. I’ve always known the importance of this, but having felt it now build and halt has made it stick closely with me. It’s so hard for Fred to start his car with his bare feet, but keeping it rolling he can do much easier. When he goes up a hill, he need’s Barney’s help. Its stunting to begin to travel along a path and shortly after have someone decide they don’t want to continue any more. Be careful about when you choose to make these decisions!!

Most of all, though, remember that you are only human (well with caffeine maybe superish human)…. Don’t give up!!! I know I said it before, if you’ve never done this you are bound to make mistakes. I know I’ve made mine. If you make a mistake however, get up. Forget about it. Do something drastically new. Find new inspiration. Give yourself a new perspective. Open yourself up and allow new opportunity to spark.

And most of all… Embrace Change! New things spark new momentum, new inertia, and new ideas. They inspire. It’s not going to end up how you thought it would. It’s not going to happen the way you thought it would. Its just going to happen.

Change is so good!

Auto Upload A Privacy Risk?

Steve Chan a student at SIMS (Berkeley, School of Information Management), which is the same program where Erick and I attended, recently lost his Nokia 7610 in Korea while on vacation. The interesting thing is that the newer version of the research Erick and I did was installed on the phone. Why is this so interesting?

Well, Garage Cinema Research is a group looking to explore automated capture of metadata. Mobile Media Metadata does it on Camera Phones. The software that was installed (MMM2) has an automatic upload function. So… someone has been using the phone and taking pictures of themselves… And we now have the pictures.

Mary Hodder, posted them here and has raised quite a few questions about privacy. They appear to be young girls, most likely under the age of 18. Should we be posting these pictures to find out who has the phone?

I on the other hand, am not so concerned with that question, but more the fundamental question that auto-uploading causes. Should content be transferred to another location without an active confirmation by the user? In some camera phone studies I did over the summer, one user told me that they were confused by Sprint’s autosync mechanism. They understood when they sent their photos to the desktop, but sometimes, they reported that they would “just appear”.

The flip side, is that for phone recovery purposes, crime protection, and phone storage limitations (not to mention general back up), this is actually a very good idea. Imagine if you witnessed a crime, took photos, somehow lost the phone or had it stolen. That evidence is still preserved. Or your memory is full, simply delete your photos and you already have them in an account somewhere.

The age privacy question that this incident sparks, however, is a rather interesting one. If the phone then falls into the hands of a minor… that content is no longer private. Even broader, it automatically ties the handset to a specific wired user account. Is that necessarily good?


Move over PodCasting… it’s PSPCasting!!

If you haven’t yet… check it out! PSPCasting!

Videora + PSP Video 9 represent the first pspcasting solution. Videora is used to automatically download video you want from the internet by utilizing BitTorrent and RSS technology. PSP Video 9 then automatically converts these videos into the video format that the PSP understands and automatically copies these videos to your PSP.

PSP in stores Thursday!

Women’s Voice!

Today I am reminded of why I began this blog. Why I named it and why i began writing down my thoughts. I was surprised at how few women were present in the mobile industry… at conferences, mobile interest groups, and the industry at large. Im happy to say that at the last Mobile Monday, I counted 9 women. This is 7 more than, Elle and I, who used to be the only two there.

That’s about 9% of the total attendance… the same amount percentage of the speakers who were female at Etech! Ha!

So, today I’ve been reading really interesting discussions about the gender difference at SXSW and ETech. David Weinberger, posted that only 5% of the papers from Etech came from woman this year… which, yes, resulted in about 9% of the total speakers being woman. Conversely, as Mary Hodder points out, about 50% of the crowd was female at SXSW.

I dont know if it’s because it’s emergent technology that it has a different appeal, or because of the difference structure of the conference itself.

Liz Lawley points out that there was a different, perhaps more social mood around SXSW.

Not all the faces were male. Not all of them were Caucasian. The voices were rich and varied. The vibe was open and warm. There were more conversations than there were pontifications. (SXSW doesn’t call panel participants “speakers,” either, which I like. We’re panelists. A subtle distinction, but one that makes a difference.)

Danah Boyd rants on marginilzed populations and how the in-crowd is the boy’s club at Etech and it will continue to stay that way, if we don’t address it, because they will keep socializing and keep reinviting one another to attend.

All I know is that Im bummed I didn’t go to either and after reading all this…Damn it, I wish I would have submitted something to Etech!!

It’s really important that we get female voice in emergent fields. The things we are creating are for both genders. It’s the future of where we are going. It’s important that we understand what we each need and important to converge on balanced opinions and ideas.

Perhaps there are certain flavors of events that men and woman are each drawn to, but we should start recognizing that and catering to those different appeals. Maybe we can try to think about ways we can create more interesting social dynamics or structures to public events that will draw a more mixed crowd and attract more women.

Food for thought.


ps. Please also continue to keep in mind Guy Kawasaki’s Male Killer Gene theory…

Thoughts on Hardware Design and Interaction

Russell has recently posted a few interesting posts this one and this one on the function and design of hardware. I’ve been enjoying thinking about these issues again, because inherently many of the problems mobile interaction designers have, is how to design things which integrate into extremely disparate hardware form factors.

Today Russ posted this:

Mobiles are the ultimate consumer computer. They are meant to be used by 12 year olds, teens, college kids, business people and your mother in law. But right now, the design of the interface is still way too confusing. Even Nokias which rank high on the usability scale have problems when it comes to using their phones. I was just talking to someone today about the “overloading” problem with Nokia. The re-use the same button for different, completely disparate tasks: like your power button to change audio profiles. What?! And the fact that if you click the menu button once, you go back to the home screen, and if you click it again you go to the menu, and if you hold it down, you get a list of running apps. On other phones, they have a tendency to do things like combine the power and hang up keys. Huh?

The problem he is describing here, is a classic problem of modal interfaces. As Jef Raskin so clearly coined: “Modes can change the effects of habitual actions they can cause errors or draw away the user’s
locus of attention from the intended task.”

In summary:

In his book, Jef argues that all modes are evil, whether we are talking modal dialog boxes, different selection modes in graphical editors, or even having different applications that behave differently. Since humans are creatures of habit, we have a hard time remembering which mode the computer is, because we want to focus on the task at hand; modes divert our attention to keeping track of the mode, and hence slow us down.

Often too much functionality will be crammed into one button or object, with the intent of space saving. It seems that manufactures have been revisiting the multi-modal interface. The problem, however, as Russ points out is pattern recognition and recall. We think the button means one thing, but then it means something different. Moreover it brings up a questions of language. Trying to use the same term to mean two different modes creates errors. For example, back meaning clear. “The problem with overloading the clear and back buttons is that if you get into a text entry screen and change your mind half way through? If you don’t have a back button, you can’t escape without deleting all your text character by character first.” But I bet a lot of people try to do it, thinking that they will go “back” to their previous state.

As 3rd party developers it’s challenging to decide to follow similar interaction patterns to their native software or to create a new interaction paradigm for the user to learn. Users have often already learned (or perhaps created) how to use their devices, recognizing that there are problems with them, do we try to recreate the interface or choose to accept the principles and design in accord to what the user already knows?

When I was at Yahoo! we thought about this a lot. Building a brand… do you a. create a new interaction that remains consistent across devices or b. make it easier on the user by customizing each interaction mechanism, per device. The second is obviously better to the end user. Building on mechanisms which they already understand, customize each experience per handset. However, that becomes outrageously costly. Porting each application is one thing, but customizing the entire interface is another altogether. What we decided then, and I’ve stuck with, is to find the common hardware elements that are mostly consistent across devices and utilize those to be the main controls and interaction controls into your app. The question then is what are those hardware elements? At one point I had suggested that we survey old phones and try to ascertain which hardware interfaces are sticking around and which have gone by way of the roadside. Remember the side direction buttons instead of the joystick for directional navigation? Trying to find patterns in the hardware interaction features can then help us guess which ones may be present in the future and thus help drive the software interaction models.

I still wish someone would do this survey.

Currently, what I go on as common features are: 5-way joystick. If necessary a secondary, 2 softkeys. If I can design things which only utilize those hardware features, I’m pretty confident that the experience will a. work in almost the same manner across all phones b. be easily portable (ie save time and money) c. not break any current models the user has for how those hardware features work. Directional navigation, select, back. That’s it! (Sometimes that means that there are two back keys. I believe that’s better than none.)

It sure would be nice, though, if some people decided to start converging on things like back, home, and clear! Duplication within our apps then wouldn’t have to exist. We can change the language of our apps to be consistent across devices, but why should we have to?

The first step, I think, to recognizing which hardware mechanisms on the device really do make sense is abstracting all the things we want to do. I think we may just be getting to this point. Then obviously think about the common interactions and keep abstracting. When a common pattern can’t be found put another element! The iPod is such a great example at an abstracted interface. Navigation and select… that’s it! (Yes, back would be nice). What would a phone look like with just a directional navigation and select? The problem is that we have already decided that there needs to be dedicated hardware to specific functions. It’s when we start to pull these specific functions out and give them each a new button that things get crowded. We already decided that 9 numeric keys are necessary. But who’s to say that’s true. Mfoundry has an awesome text entry interface, that is perhaps faster then T9 and only uses directional navigation and select. Two buttons. Maybe it’s a problem of too many shortcuts. Or perhaps not understanding enough which ones are really essential.

“So wait, am I just recreating the web browser on my mobile phone? Sorta… and even if I am, that may not be a bad thing.” That makes sense, Russ, cause after all aren’t we in the browser war of the mobile revolution? … and just beginning to really understand what users are doing with their mobiles?


Last GDC post

The LG SV360 rocks! Besides the PSP and Nintendo DS most of the rest of the exhibition floor was covered with 3D rendering for mobile games. Except for this guy! In an earlier review:

although of course suffering from the does-two-things-good-but-neither-one-really-well syndrome, is quite an intriguing little device. To blame? The built-in accelerometer which lets you control games by moving the SV360 around mid-air.

And what fun it is. Boasting a graphics accelerator chip capable of cranking out 1 million polygons per second, games playing on the unit I fondled in Cannes were actually rather nice for a) not being developed by an established brand name, and b) playing on a mobile phone. To top things off, a 2.2″ TFT colour display with what appeared to be QVGA resolution proved sufficient screen estate to actually play games and not just squint at them.

I played a snowboarding game which was controlled by moving the device itself! And I have to admit it was completely fun! I’m sure there are some more interesting things we can think of that will utilize an accelerometer rather than just for single player gaming. I wonder if multiplayer games could contain a component where you had to control balance and positioning, maybe you are riding two persons on dog sled, or motorcycle, or maybe you are both walking toward each other on a narrow swaying bridge through the jungle.

Also on Friday, Will Wright gave a great talk revealing his new game: Spore! Much like SIMS it involves content and world creation on the part of the player. If you have ever wanted to build your own world in space or maybe a bubble world on Mars, or better yet travel out of the galaxy. You will now be able to do it. As well, it allows you to port living species from one place to colonize the next, but careful execution must be taken as not all living environments elicit the same organic properties. So if you take a being from the moon to Pluto, but forget to build in conditions to allow them to breathe or live… they’ll blow up! Right there in front of you.

Please remember the oxygen!

GDC Awards

Last night were the Game Developers Choice Awards! For the full list of winners you can look here on Slashdot, but I I would like to recognize a few myself…
Multimedia message

Best Game: Half-Life 2 (Valve Software / Vivendi Universal Games)- photo above
Innovation: I Love Bees (4orty2wo Entertainment)
Game Design: Katamari Damacy (Namco)
Visual Arts: World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment)

Im so excited that I Love Bees won an award. SO EXCITED! It’s proof that where we are headed is not just the land of more graphic video games. It validates the movement towards games that involve the real world, the imaginary world, and everything in between. Im thrilled that this game was recognized. I was chatting with Jane McGonigal (4orty2wo Entertainment) last night, she was of course thrilled herself, but she agreed… It’s a monumental shift that an immersive game was actually recognized amongst all the big graphic guys. WhoooHooo!

My hats off to Half-Life 2! I was so sure that WOW was going to take so many of these awards. Everyone I know, right now, is completely obsessed with WOW… completely obsessed! Perhaps proof of the bubble in which I live. I was thrilled when some other great games were recognized. Congrats Half-Life 2 Guys! I do have to say, though, that WOW is a completely fascinating game… all the way from the social, economic, and visual angles. I look forward to seeing what happens when it has been around for longer then a few months. I have yet to make the plung. It’s probably what is keeping me sane. Congrats to the WOW guys too for getting noticed for such a pretty game!

And Katamari Damacy?… what more do I say about then extremely well deserved and totally awesome! Another innovative game.

I think this year we are going to see some really really really cool stuff emerge!


GDC Mobile: It’s all about the Casual Game

For the last two days I’ve been hearing some very interesting going-ons at GDC Mobile.

Monday, some folks from EA gave a talk and are beginning to ramp up their efforts in the mobile front.

Karthik Swaminathan gave a nice talk outlining some of the perceptual cues necessary for consuming content on a small screen. Where basic psychological cues become bigger factors. Things such as contract, proximity, peripheral vision, and grouping all become ever more important on a small screen when your eyes are focusing on such a small focal point. Many of us practice these things on a daily basis, but rehearing the basic constructs from where they were formed was quite nice.

As well: Matt Haney gave a good talk on the philosophy of mobile game design. He talked about drawing in ideas from The Schedules of Reinforcement, by Skinner, The Stages of Birth, from Jean Piaget, and Maslow’s Hierarchy. While, I have to admit most of these learnings can be applied to most Game Design as a whole, Matt did do an excellent job of pointing out that games are about Fullfilling Basic Needs. He noted that most games about fulfilling simple needs, for example the game Perfection about pattern matching, Battleship about sorting and searching, and Tamagotchi about parenting.

Yesterday, my friends (Marko Turpeinen, Fernando Herrera, and Risto Sarvas) at HIIT Digital Content Communities Group gave a nice presentation on some of the work they are doing there with Community Photo Sharing. I worked with folks at HIIT while at Berkeley and much of our work continues to be very parallel. Futurice, a small (excellent) Symbian Developer company just released their first commercial product of the work done at HIIT. It’s about sharing photos on your mobile with your private group of friends. The product is called Photos to Friends ( In their words: “Free and Private Photo Sharing.” Marko gave a nice plug about Caterpillar Mobile (yeah!) and it sparked some great discussion in the audience about gaming with photos, not just the camera (which was really quite nice to hear). I think we are doing things that people will really like.

That leads me to what I have found as the most interesting thing about going to GDC: THE HYPE OF THE CASUAL GAME. It seems as though many people are just beginning to really understand this concept. They are talking about how the market for mobile games is NOT the same as the gamer market. They are trying to figure out how to create short burst, interesting games which users can play in their free time. However, many of the people in this space are coming at it from a gamers perspective. They are talking about high-end 3D rendering engines, haptic responses, and tactile reflexes. They are using the camera for coordinates or putting real images on character bodies, just because they can. They are thinking about how to create video games. Only mobile video games requiring short interaction times.

I find it very interesting. I don’t think of it that way, and don’t know if I ever did. At anyrate, the buzz around the conference was that the next killer app would be something that was totally immersive with a short augmented experience. However, creating that experience by thinking about narrative stories with fully developed characters and trying to place real photos on their heads will hardly get you there.

I was talking with Liz Goodman last night. We both have a similar perspective on this (maybe that’s why we both have had such similar projects). Why not start with a real world experiences and then augment part of it. Why not first study how children play with sticks, play tag, and shoot a soccer ball. Then think about what you can bring to them to make the game distributed and the time lapse lasting.

Then as a really kicker, remove yourself from calling it a game. Don’t focus on winning and loosing. Build the mechanics of play into your platform and watch people explore, create, and build with it. Watch the community grow together. I think that’s the sort of interaction that is going to be the killer app of this market.

… and I hope that I am working on building it right now. 😉


More on Social Interactions of Camera Phones

By the last few posts, one can probably guess that I have been traveling for the last few days. It’s amazing how clean mountain air can help to put your head back together.

This week the Feature posted a few articles on Camera Phone usage. This article on the Social Implications of Camera Phones nicely outlines many of Mimi Ito’s and Daisuke Okabe’s research on Camera Phone Use in Japan. The author speaks of the lack of archival value of the photo and the ephemeral communicative nature instead. He talks about the intimacy of the photo and as selectively capturing spontaneous events. In short, he is summarizing the essence of the camera phone photographers stream of photos as not just photo capture, but instead their reenactment of their perspective of their own life.

He goes on to talk about what I had earlier discussed as “presence peaking or semi-realtime”. In my earlier post, I had asked for a better way to describe this short, intimate, hug of communication. After hearing Mimi Ito’s talk at Berkeley about a month or so ago I had silently decided that “remote touching” was the best description I had heard. From a more social science perspective, the converging term could also be known as “distributed co-presence”, as the Feature article points out. However, I think that “remote touching” captures more of the essence of the end users experience and “distributed co-presence” more of the social scientist’s evaluation of that experience. So from now on, im sticking with the term that I think will help to foster more appropriate design of applications that take this into account…

… “Remote Touching”.

As well, in a different article, the Feature points out that in a less-intimate way advertisers are beginning to catch on to the fact that users carry their phones with them at all times and that this fosters a great way to allow them to integrate the real product into product awareness. This is by far, not the first, nor the last that we will see of this. Nokia and Verizon have already done it and other third party consumer goods parties are beginning to see the light in this sort of consumer-reality interactive advertising. It’s rich. However, one challenge I foresee with these sorts of ideas, is how not to spam. If the advertisers are going to push these types of experiences to users phones and many of them begin to do it, users may become readily frustrated and turned off to the experience all together as their inboxes become filled. Conversely, if the advertisers limit the awareness of the experience to only the desktop website, the leverage to communicate with the user and thus create a completely immersive reality experience is greatly weakened. So how do will we solve that?

And even greater, because we know these devices are used for social personal interactions among intimate communities (as the first article points out)… what happens if we were to take advantage of both of these ideas at that same time?