Category Archives: Minutes

The Apple Watch comment

It’s a very quick one – and one has to write something anyway after such a long hiatus. Even though we’re talking about pretty different things, both the Watch and the Research Kit have Apple taking on different verticals (luxury, healthcare), the “traditional” industries that are very much any agency or consutling firm clients base. In the automotive industry e.g. we’re seeing self-driving cars coming both from technology or service platform leaders (say Google, Uber) and the conventional automotive players. I guess this is a kind of different competition that it’s worth exploring with clients.

On a general note, I enjoyed the news discussion from the Leo Laporte Twit tech podcast élite (as usual). Here is the link to the 9th of March edition of Tech News Today.

Less brainstorming, more reasoning

Over the past few weeks I bookmarked, well, I pinned on my Pinboard a couple or more of posts and titles about logical and cognitive fallacies. I’m not the one entitled to give a lesson on the topic,  but it might be helpful to recall that some of these discussions are centuries old. With the reading of Adland still resonating in my mind, and being immersed myself in the design of digital communication and marketing projects on a daily basis, I found out that these kind of basics were very relevant to me – perhaps much more relevant now than when I tried to grasp them as a student.

In fact, the business of designing digital platforms for brands (“digital platforms what?” ok, it’s a namesake!), or, more precisely, the design process that’s behind it, works through innumerable discussions that might greatly benefit of a thorough understanding of these common fallacies. As everyone in the field knows too well, the reality of agency life, and of the agency/client relationship, is dominated by meetings and discussions, many of them face-to-face, but also in writing (oh yes there are collaboration platforms too, but that’s not the point at the moment). Well, honestly I think that the quality of these discussions is quite poor pretty often, in the sense that are ridden with bad arguments. It’s a paradox but that’s happens even during brainstorming exercises (I’ve just been shown a great parody of the case by some good folks at DigitasLBi London but I don’t have the references right here) – and brainstorming in any case is frequently reduced to an unstructured “informal chit chat” as J.C. Jones noted a long time ago (no wonder people then have better ideas just sipping a coffee in a quiet place).

I put “reasoning” in the title but I could have written “rhetoric”, meaning the good reasoning, the use of good arguments. So I tried a Google search and Scholar also pointed to a world of research about design and rhetoric that it’s worth exploring (with a bit more time on hand). Anyhow, let’s have a look at the basics, as said. Here you have short readable pieces, a well illustrated book and even a poster (free in Pdf form). Enjoy. No, think about it.

First, from FastCompany Co.Create, the story about a recently published illustrated book about bad arguments.

Now More Than Ever, You Need This Illustrated Guide To Bad Arguments, Faulty Logic, And Silly Rhetoric

With your mind well refreshed by the logic gymnastic, you can get a bit of psychology.

The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational

Back to logic now. “Thous shall not commit logical fallacies” is a more concise guide printable in various formats – some big enough for an agency or a client meeting room…

The (mythical) design funnel

I wrote a small bit of slideware on the topic for my lessons. I often refer to the “funnel” talking about process and methods but I lacked a handy reference. In terms of analytic clarity, I think the best representation is in Buxton, Sketching User Experiences, p. 144, that is based on Laseau, Graphic Thinking for Architects and Designers. Buxton discusses the topic also in relation to sketches vs. prototypes and other point of views. In my slides below you just have the combination between “divergent” and “convergent” phases. The classic scheme from J.C. Jones is still the underlying essential reference, although his specific terminology for the different phases has not achieved common usage.

One question that I can’t answer: who has been the first in talking about the “design funnel”? Who has been the first in using the “funnel” metaphor to express and represent the design process? (Yes, I checked on Wikipedia, maybe too quickly).

PS: yep the post title is a play on the Mythical Man-Month

“Smartphones”: market share & usage data

After every quartery release industry analysts, experts and all comment on the latest market share data, based on sales in that timeframe — something a bit misleading if you think about the expression “market share”: in fact, these numbers does not tell much about the actual distribution (i.e. platform share in a given period: look e.g. at the market share of Symbian, RIM and iOS published alongside this FT piece on Nokia CEO troubles, in which you have Symbian declining from over 60% in 2006/2007 to slightly above 40% in 2010, RIM moving from less than 10% in 2006 to 20% in 2010 and Apple iOS raising to something like 15% after the 2009 slightly higher peak; sorry for not being precise but the chart is very small… precious exact figures are missing ofc).

Update: via @tomiahonen I just found a Reuters infographics, Strategy Analytics data, that shows the general dynamic very well.

This is not to say that this information is not important: of course it is, 100%, for a number of obvious reaasons. But there is big but here in my opinion: if we want to look at the “user” side of the coin (end-user or business), then discussing smartphones market share makes sense as long as they are accompanied by some data on the actual usage of the specific capabilities that make them different (supposedly “smart”) when compared to “dumb” phones: i.e. online applications usage, be they related to Web app/mobile sites or native apps. Even in this case, we would still be at a very high level, unless we discuss about some sort of activity or product/service category: e.g. search, games, social networks etc.

To make the point clearer, look e.g. at the chart below, taken from a post on a recent Pew survey:

In other words: we might well have a relatively small number of iPhones around, but if iPhone users (or Android users, or whatever) are those mostly actively browsing the mobile Web, using and spending on mobile apps, searching and possibly clicking on those paid search ads etc. then this is what matters most from a business and marketing perspective.

Now, data on mobile products/services usage vis-à-vis actual smartphone penetration divided by platform do not seem easily available, at least in the public domain — or am I wrong?

Update (27-7-2010): cf. e.g. these conclusions from a Yankee Group report (Why iPhone matter; premium access only, the following quotation is from the public executive summary): Two-thirds of iPhone owners use the mobile Web daily … Plus, iPhone owners download more apps, are more interested in mobile transactions and conduct more mobile e-commerce than users of other [smartphone platforms I guess — it’s truncated right there!]

PS: I put the quotation marks on smartphones in the post title for the same reason: Wikipedia tells that a smartphone “allows the user to install and run more advanced applications based on a specific platform” and then that they “run complete operating system software providing a platform for application developers”. Still you can use a smartphone pretty much in the same way of a dumb phone, as perhaps one went for it for other reasons than the possibility to use apps, the mobile Web and the likes. In short, couldn’t be this one the case for so many Nokia smartphones around? (especially in Europe) Smartphones are not created equal…

Latest “Internet trends” from Mary Meeker

Mobile business and online advertising enthusiasts have welcomed this latest deck from Mary Meeker, perhaps the most famous Wall Street Internet analyst to date (see the Wikipedia bio). I noticed it on the blog of London-based mobile agency Addictive (their weekly Mobile Fix is also worth reading).

The presentation has been given at a major industry event in New York just a couple of days ago. I read somewhere that Meeker has been often credited with an outstanding capability to capture big trends early on. So, her takes on the “unprecedented early stage growth” of the mobile Internet are of particular interest for all of those concerned with mobile things.

Meeker co-authored a seminal report on then emergent Internet industry more than 10 years ago — “The Internet report”. There is a digital version available from the Morgan Stanley web site but it comes also in book form from Amazon. The picture below is from KPCB site.

Mary Meeker portrait
Mary Meeker (pic from KPCB site:

Apps are suburbia, the Web is downtown (or Chinatown)

Chinatown by Atomische – Tom Giebel 2006 Creative Commons

The analogy is by Virginia Heffernan, television critic and columnist for “The Medium” at the New York Times — it is included in “The Medium” dated online 17 May, but it appeared the day before in the Sunday supplement. I think the article title is somewhat misleading: The death of the Open Web; well, to me she does not argue very much about the actual or desirable death of the “open Web”, but rather she contrasts the differences between the more closed enviroment of the App store, the iPhone, the iPad etc. on one side and the more open, or totally open Web. But I had better report here the synthesis of Leo Laporte and Jim Louderback, from which I learned of this article; it’s clear and funny (as always with Leo Laporte’s TWiT):

Jim Louderback It’s almost like we are seeing 1990 played out again with the Mac and the Windows, or 1984, or whatever.

Leo Laporte Well it come down to – do you read Virginia Heffernan’s article in last Sunday’s New York Times where she said apps are the suburbia of the Internet. She said the free and open worldwide web is essentially like downtown where anything goes, there’s ads, there’s scummy people…

Jim Louderback Chinatown…

Leo Laporte It’s dangerous, it’s Chinatown Jake.

Jim Louderback Forget it.

Leo Laporte Forget it. And she said, but apps have become the suburbia, the place that you go…

Jim Louderback It’s a strip mall.

Leo Laporte It’s a little nicer, it’s a little cleaner, there’s – and so – but it has the same problem where if you have everybody leaving the city, the city goes to hell, you stuck with these apps and I think this is the problem. I think we are seeing a fight now between open and closed. Open is always messy, it’s dirty, it’s not – it’s got little issues with the UI. But closed is dangerous in the long run, that’s what I would submit.

Jim Louderback Yeah, I can see that. I can see a good parallel there of Apple’s app store and Android’s app store for that matter being like the strip mall, where you get individualized…

Leo Laporte You get porn.

Jim Louderback …sanitized choices…

Leo Laporte Right.

Jim Louderback …that are very easy to get to, get on a [indiscernible] (43:50).

Leo Laporte Yes, yes, yes. But Apple’s especially, not so much Android’s.

Jim Louderback But you are not going to be able to find the chalk that gets rid of the ants or the weird ethnic food or…

Leo Laporte Right.

Jim Louderback …any of the cool stuff.

The (wonderful) TWiT 250 transcript is from Podsinprint

I recommend the reading of the NYT piece, not just for the point under discussion but really for the analogy as such. I think we need more of this to make sense of what’s happening. Concrete images, communicative and inspiring.

Then, the idea of apps as suburbia might be more or less appropriate, but it certainly conveys some values or desires and expectations of people living in suburbia. This is the most interesting part, as it leads to a discussion about culture and technology. Then one might consider that “suburbia” are not the same all over the world…

PS the hint on “porn” in the transcript might be not very clear– shortly after this part Laporte and friends went on with an amusing exchange on porn on iPhone etc. — but it was too long to be included here… play TWiT if you are curious about it (I also recommend TWiT in general; I wonder sometimes how many listeners they have here in Europe).

Design research “against needs”

What we need from research is more than description, and especially, more than a list of “needs,” explicit or implicit, met or unmet.

This is from Rick Robinson‘s talk at IIT Design Research Conference 2010, very recently made available online as a video on Vimeo. I listened to it one first time while writing but I will strive to go for it a second time with more attention.

Among other things, Robinson argues against the point made by Donald Norman in a much debated post and following article on Interactions, in which he said that ethnography-inspired design research quest for “unmet needs” can not provide a basis for breakthrough innovations, which are rather a result of technology invention (Norman added also that still design research has a key role in improving innovative products, making them usable and enjoyable).

One of the key points of Robinson is that actually “needs”, and hence uncovering “unmet needs” is not or it shouldn’t be the main business of design researchers; instead, they should focus on the values that inform design decisions.

Now, it is interesting to note that at the end of the talk Norman himself stood up and expressed his praise for Robinson, saying that he was not in agreement 🙂 about their disagreement (and asking for one of the t-shirts exhibited by Robinson, namely the one with the “against needs” slogan).

IIT Design Research Conference 2010 on Vimeo via Putting People First.

Android surge vs. iPhone repeats Windows vs. Apple pattern

This is not the blurb of some Google enthusiast or Apple hater but the reasoning of Fabrizio Capobianco, the CEO of Funambol and a leading voice in the industry, especially when it comes to mobile and open source. See the original post (published about one week ago. 9th of November 2013 update: failed to open page…) for the complete commentary on the NPD data on US 2010 Q1 sales reported below (again, copypasted from Fabrizio’s blog 9th of Nov. 2013 update: same data and image now taken from this post at Android and Me blog by Taylor Wimberly).

smartphone operating system unit share trend circa 2010

In short, the parallel drawn by Fabrizio is about the contrast between better but closed operating systems (the ones from Apple) on one side and not vertically integrated / somewhat open alternatives on the other side (Windows in the past for the PC, now Android for mobile — yesss, not open source on the MS side 😉 The end result is that Apple’s share in the PC market never reached high marks.

Any pattern recognition? I bet. That’s the PC business. One Apple operating system which was closed, and one Microsoft operating system that hardware manufacturer could adopt and ship at “low” cost (for the time). Apple was better and now they have 4% of the PC OS market share.

via Mobile Open Source

Two personal takes:

1, We all have heard the argument that you can run a very successful company with a small share of the market; but it can be counter-argued that the perspective of the analysis above is not focused on a single corporation as such, but on general market dynamics, which at some point in the future could indeed impact the performance of any company in the arena.

2, I know that I am mixing (real 😉 apples and pears, but the surprising NPD data are a striking confirmation of the expectations about future mobile OS diffusion expressed by the respondents to the RTM survey on which I blogged about a while ago (it was: Android first, iPhone second, but now it looks like it could be a very distant second).

Update: I noticed that Apple has publicly reacted to the NPD data claiming that “this is a very limited report on 150,000 U.S. consumers responding to an online survey”, as reported by Reuters and others. Furthermore, Apple reference to another report by IDC on global market sales for mobile vendors in 2010 Q1 highlights also how big is the difference for Nokia penetration in the US vs. the global markets. BTW, perhaps analysts shoud measure (OS) platforms and device vendors together (terminology discussions on “smartphone” vs. “mobile converged devices” might be interesting but they are not very practical).

He can’t circle his programs in red pen [on the EPG]

Photo credit: Finding Love, Then by jonesing1 CC License

My Dad stopped getting his major city daily when they shitcanned the TV guide. He’s 87. I tried to explain the guide on TV. But he can’t circle his programs in red pen on it so it’s useless to him.

This comment from TroisFilles is one of the nicest from a Gawker piece on the continuous decline in magazine sales in the United States (found via Vanz feed). I think it’s remarkable because this 87 gentleman has a very good point in being dissastified with the EPG — even if I suspect that most of us would be tempted to delegate the issue to specialists of “technology for the elderly”…  Marking preferred programs with a red circle is certainly practical; I bet that whatever bookmarking feature is offered on an EPG, it can’t match the traditional pen ease of use and immediacy. But having an EPG where people can mark programs making e.g. a circle with their finger does not look like science fiction, right? Repeat with me: TV, EPG and STB needs massive doses of interaction design. (PS: this should be of concern to magazine publishers as well, unless they have already surrendered to the destiny of being reduced to pure content providers).

Audiobooks questions Books Bestsellers: The most popular items in Audiobooks. Updated hourly

How many audiobooks are commercially available? What is the percentage of the total book counting? What about the difference between sales of single titles and sales tied to subscriptions? I haven’t done any research on the subject, so this might sound naif — all the answers might be somewhere already (please point me in the right direction if you have a clue <grin>). The fact is that today I tried to look for something interesting to buy, and the result has been quite disappointing. None (or almost none) of the titles in my Amazon wish lists has an audio version. The most popular items list (see above) is full of self-help books, with a good bunch on diet, cutting fat in a week etc., a sizeable group on marriage, divorce etc., then a few fiction best-sellers… Am I just not aware of the all thing or what?