Category Archives: cycling

smörgåsbord choice cuts (iii)

I have flirted with the idea of stripping-back my old Orange P7 ever since seeing the beautiful work at the Orange P7 project site . Back in 1995-6 I saved everything I earned at Sainsbury’s as a checkout assistant to buy my beloved bike. Back then it cost £1,200. It astonishes me that I could afford that when I couldn’t even justifiably cobble that together today for a MacBook Pro. Every so often the idea of bringing it back from the dead is freshened up and the post of the GT Bravado I saw on Cycle EXIF just serves to remind me what beautiful single-speeds 90s MTBs can make when treated with design dignity.

Information Architecture
Regular readers will know I curate (word of the moment for these days) thisisIA. The site showcases everyday examples of information design and organisation. I added a wonderful example today from Iain Tait’s crackunit blog that resonates with my autistic desire for order in cabling (Dare people should take a look at my zip-tied desk cables..).

A quick look at a wonderful idea from the Hotel Exerda (found on PSFK) whereby hotel diners can see the recipes for the dishes they eat. Very much along the lines of those hotels where you can buy the fixtures and fittings.

A very cute and simple idea seen in this Vimeo demo from Studio Sophisti [in het Nederlands] to use two lamps connected by the net (Ping) to sense when the other is on and consequently burn brighter. In so-doing the lights create a non-verbal communication link between the two users. I love the subtlety and intimacy of this idea that could be a very sweet way of connecting with loved ones. Away from your wife or girlfriend, both of you have connected lamps and you are working away when the lamp begins to burn brighter … touching.

A great find last week from my friend @Ppparkaboy was John Crace’s review in The Guardian of Roland Huntford’s new book Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen. This review draws our attention to the fact we seem to laud Scott of the Antarctic despite of his catastrophic failure, yet Shackleton – “who didn’t lose a man .. remains a footnote in the national psyche”. I suspect, when we think about this, we can find similar examples amongst many of the modern era’s heroes – athletes, talent-show contestents and so-on. Huntford continues:

“Only in Britain do we revere the man who died in failure above the survivor. Elsewhere in the world, Scott is seen as rather second-rate – an incompetent loser who battled nature rather than tried to understand it.”

It is definitely worth absorbing the remainder of this review.

Nota: I have added a few more sources to my collection of regularly-monitored feeds to mix things up a bit. I get a little bit of a PSFK and FlowingData overload so would like to share a little more UX. I will also try and keep to the subheaded structure to allow scanners to skip past content they’re not interested

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smörgåsbord choice cuts (ii)

With a pile of Tabbloids bulging in my tote bag, it is time once again to roll out a few selected links, observations and all-round ephemera from the web. I have decided this is going to to be a recurring but infrequent feature of the ‘bord. I have appended a scalable lowercase numeral thus (ii) as this marks the second of the smörgåsbord choice cuts.

First up is the bystander effect. The Nudge blog reminded me of this well-known social psychology observation whereby passive peer pressure leads to inaction. Most famously observed in experiments where subjects made no attempt to save themselves or other victims when other (acting) persons remained apparently unconcerned. In an observation on the communal fridge (viz.”how long would you ignore [an item that had gone off]”), I would posit that a stronger observation of this could be a packed train carriage. A passenger may stand in acres of space whilst the carriage fills up tightly by the doorway but because no-one has yet asked the person in space to move down, neither will they. No-one wants to be the first, no-one wants to be the outspoken one – even when the group would benefit.

Once again, Nudge blog alerts us to a nice bit of persuasive design. Sweden’s Speed Lottery rewarded the obedient motorist by entering all law-abiding, non-speeding cars in a given zone into a lottery to win 20,000 SEK. It remains to be seen whether such a carrot approach produces the long-term reduction in speeding that a fine-based stick approach has attempted in the past. (på Svenska)

A quick find on Twitter now, apparently the design of the new web-based Twitter user interface is based, at least in-part, on the golden ratio. The extent to which the golden ratio matters is debatable, as is the success of the Twitter redesign. That said, it’s always nice to see someone using principles in design layouts.

Simon Lamb once again finds a sweet cycling link to share and in light of (Le Tour 2010 winner) Contador’s peculiar suspension (a tiny, ineffectual amount, on a rest day … are the regulations just a little excessive?) I thought I would share to build a picture of the Landis allegations against Lance Armstrong. Of course, Landis remains the only other Le Tour winner to be identified as being a doper. Bill Gifford, “The Case Against Lance“.

I will, at some point, write a post about my beloved Rapha and why I am torn in two about their recent (last two years?) brand growth. For the meantime, draw your own conclusions about how I feel about their move into skincare. I cannot deny that the image and product quality are outstanding. The attention to detail that Bianchista outlines in her ‘unboxing’ post “Rapha Skincare – First Look” is typically high and redolent of the tifosi tone they have woven throughout their kit. But soaps? Really, is there anything more to this than simply chasing the indulgent gift market? Does it devalue the brand they established in exceptional race and training garments? That said, if you go to Rapha and use the promo code ventoux5 you get free shipping.

I bought the first edition of Communicating Design sometime around 2006 when Dan Brown came to a NN/g conference in London. I loved it and it changed the way I did user experience documentation and the way I thought about explaining to people what we were doing. So I am delighted to have pre-ordered the updated and revised version. I could get books on expenses through Dare but I choose not to for things like this, I want to own it. It is very much my book for me to consume. In a post last week, Dan talks about his work on the revised Flow Charts section. The little peep-show of the typesetting and diagrams are wonderfully intriguing. I can only hope that this busy family-man can find some time in his schedule to run a workshop or two in the UK in the near future.

Of all the presenters at UX London in 2010, Stephen P. Anderson stood out as offering up the most inspirational – and instantly usable – content delivered in the most friendly and measured style. I was much pleased to see his post “Playing Hard to Get: Using scarcity to influence behaviour“, carries on this clear and measured theme. Stephen’s work is not a dusty academic study and nor is it a soaring aspirational call-to-arms for the Ux community. His observations are genuine, vivid and transferable. If you read one Ux post today, make it that one.

And finally, D&AD curate a section in British newspaper Metro each week which examines and critiques the output of the creative industries. myFry was featured this week and consequently my face was printed on 1.4m pages along with some of my observations given to the charming Seb Royce (Creative Director at Glue Isobar). You can read the article online in Metro (use a made up email address to access it) or on the D&AD site: “I can’t say no to this truly tasty Fry app“.

A few things I need to tell you about

A couple of years ago, maybe 18 months ago, I started using Tabbloid. Tabbloid is an HP-originated project that takes-in RSS feeds of blogs and other news-like content that interests you and, each day, outputs a PDF of that day’s posts. This PDF becomes your daily personal newspaper (an example of a Tabbloid PDF).

It isn’t that novel an idea now, a host of other sites do a similar thing. I make no assertion that this is the best, only that it suits me down to the ground. I am a frenetic gobbler of content. I save tens of articles a day into my Instapaper iPhone app and rarely read them (partly because I forget to synch before I find myself offline). I read and equally large number of posts daily when I stumble across them, follow a tweeted link or email. But what suits me best is the slow absorbption of content when I am offline. On the Tube. No connection, just a PDF in my hand with lots of stories about tech, cycling, gardening, architecture, behavioural psychology, satire…

So, what I tend to do is take a sharpie and mark-up articles I am going to explore further when I get back online. What actually happens is that I end up with bundles of 15-page duplex-prionted PDFs in my laptop bag and only a  handful get further exploration and even less get broadcast to my friends and colleagues.

Today I thought I might have a quick blitz and share some things I read last week in my Tabbloids:

1. A bit about how Wal-Mart’s CEO clears his inbox every day. This post from Good Experience resonnated with me as I recall the days of long commutes from Chelmsford to Norwich with a work laptop, clearing correspondence religiously at the start and end of each day.

2. The (harsh) reality of Nokia’s acquisition of Dopplr was explored by The Guardian and Signal vs. Noise took up the story and opined about the consequences of similar acquisitions. As a long-term Dopplr fan (a consequence of their tone of voice and functionality), it made for honest and sober reflection on the commercial realities of such deals.

3. PSFK‘s machine gun of inspiration regularly lands a direct hit and last week myself and a colleague both picked up on the behavioural psychology at work in the role of using kindness to punish Danish bike owners violating cycle parking arrangements in Copenhagen. The authorities treat each violator to a full bike service before leaving a message about their violation. Max from Dare suggested that the violators’ subsequent good behaviour might be due to a sense of reciprocity in his post to our clients. I wonder whether the lack of repeat offense (given that such a positive punishment would seem to reward bad behaviour) may be due to an implied belief that the first action was a warning and future violations would actually incur a genuine negative action from the authorities.

4. Late to the party as I don’t track his blog that intently, but as a fan of “Everything Bad Is Good For You“, I was struck by Steven B. Johnson’s forthcoming book when I heard about it this week. His blog post describes the content of the book, called “Where Good Ideas Come From” which is due out (hardcover) in early October.

> Super interested readers can explore my thoughts on “Everything Bad Is Good For You” in a post from June 2005

5. Cycling afficionados may like this post from Cycle EXIF showcasing Pedro Jeronimo’s Slütter. Featuring a belt-drive and some of the most refined titanium metalwork I have ever seen, it is wonderfully different to the derivative hipster fixie in the urban bike category.

6. Hopping about a bit now, this one is an information graphics one. For fans of old-school information design, take a look at Harold Fisk’s hand-drawn map of the Mississippi River in 1944 which illustrated the history of the channel the river took. Beautiful and intricate, if not altogether immediately accessible as an illustrative device.  My thanks to Flowing Data for the spot.

7. Having read Matt Rendell’s wonderful “The Death of Marco Pantani” last year, I was familiar with a few of the pictures posted over at Simon Lamb’s passionately-written La Gazzetta Della Bici. The other pictures he posted were a captivating exploration of the numerous highs and the ultimate low of the tragic death of Il Pirata.

8. Another quick flip over to Flowing Data where their short piece on Harry Kao’s commuter map left me thinking that Mapumental had done a much better job of this data by combining it with house prices in the UK.

I think I will save up a few more of these and share from time to time. If only to identify a few of the great writers and destinations I visit daily on the web that inspire me in work and play.

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