Category Archives: News & miscellanous

Sketching mobile application concepts on paper

Sometimes I am faced with a little bit of wonder or surprise when I suggest to sketch application concepts on paper — even from expert professionals. So the video below comes handy; I just found it by chance on Pixelthread‘s blog, a London agency, and the video itself is from Adaptive Path.

PS: students often hear me talking about the new meaning of sketching in the digital/ubicomp realm, a discourse largely drawn on the work of Bill Buxton; still, it’s nice to see here something in the more literal sense (of course, sketching as drawing is also part of the analysis of Buxton).

“Which [mobile] operating system does your future device run?” (RTM survey results)

RTM-Remember the Milk has published the results of their Mobile Survey, addressed to the RTM users’ base. With 3.300 respondents recruited only through RTM and no incentives I think that this is an original and very interesting piece of research even beyond the scope of mobile RTM evolution (I joined the survey too as an RTM pro (!) user).

See here the table concerning the question cited in the post title, one of general interest.

table about RTM users responses about their expectations on OS

A previous question on the mobile OS currently in use has Apple first and Google second. So, the very short brutal synthesis about mobile OS evolution could be:

  • iPhone first and Android second, the rest is just fragmentation;
  • then, Android first and iPhone second, same as above, that’s it.

Or is this oversimplification?

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?

You don’t ask your customers what they want

“Being customer-driven doesn’t mean asking customers what they want and then giving it to them,” says Ranjay Gulati, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “It’s about building a deep awareness of how the customer uses your product.”

via Prototype – Seeing Customers as Partners in Innovation –

This is from an article by Mary Tripsas, associate professor in the entrepreneurial management unit at the Harvard Business School; it describes “Customer Innovation Centers”, special facilities set up by big companies like 3M. Bruce Nussbaum has a post on it in which he refers also to the discussion raised by a provocative short essay by Donald Norman on the role of technology in radical innovation (“Technology first, needs last”). I won’t try to make a synthesis of Norman’s argument and the related debate (see e.g. one of the always nice ChittahChatta Quickies by Steve Portigal pointing to an interesting and critical post). But I would like to add here my 2 cents. The quotation above points to a common negative prejudice about design research, way less articulated than the takes by Norman. Quite many design research methods and techniques — or even the entire design research approach (see e.g. the MIT Press reference) — are often miscoinceved as ways to just extract innovation directly from users’ and customers’ minds, e.g. by inviting them to dull focus groups in which they are asked “what they want”. This is *not* design research but a caricature at best <grin>
Update: if you are interested in the discussion raised by the original essay from Donald Norman, see this other post from Nussbaum and the related comments, including one from Norman himself. En passant, and with all the due respect to everyone (the big and famous and all the others), I am a bit puzzled by the almost total absence of explicit philosophical argumentation. E.g. am I wrong or the all discussion might also be seen as a reneweal of the debate on technology determinism? The comment from Michele Visciola on the relative importance of human needs and their relation to culture points in the same direction from this point of view. Then one could argue that the all idea of contrasting technology and culture is weird, as technology is a cultural phenomenon — the cultural phenomenon for some, but this leads to wider questions.

400.000 people at 4G speed in Nordic Wonderland

TeliaSonera today switched on LTE networks in Stockholm and Oslo with coverage for 400,000 customers.

via 4G network goes live for lucky few • The Register.

I first heard about 4G technologies when I started attending conferences on telecommunications technologies back in 2004 — at that time we were just starting Mobilife, a big collaborative R&D project about “B3G” mobile applications and services. I travelled quite a lot since then in the Nordic countries, and I have always marvelled at how fast they are in adopting new things, quite simply — and I guess you don’t need to be a technoenthusiast (I am not) to agree. Anyhow, the news from the Register is a worhty and fun reading.  It will be intersting to see what will come out of this.TeliaSonera today switched on LTE networks in Stockholm and Oslo with coverage for 400,000 customers.

via 4G network goes live for lucky few • The Register.

New visualisations from playground

At, we enjoy being mad scientists, playing with data and infographics — stay tuned for more in the visualization department!

via – the Blog · Mad Science + Awesome! = New playground apps.

The “Tube Tags” map snipped above is a visualisation of alter‘s listening habits, using music tags and related artists as this fictional Tube main lines and stops, and changes as lines directions (so e.g. as I was listening more of Mozart the corresponding classical music brown line goes up or “North”, and the same for the yellow “Folk” line as more of Stefano Miele was scrobbled).

The link above from official blog has more on the topic — in short, the team has beefed up the service “playground” area with some new visualisations, available only to subscribers but visible to everyone.

I like the idea very much, even though no practical implication is evident at the moment — or maybe exactly for this reason. This is also really on the same lines that were discussed in Vertigo, a conceptual design and exploratory research work on which I have been active over the last few months (in Vertigo the scope was larger than music and included movies, pictures, linear media in general).

I am fascinated by the idea that visualisations can be informative and entertaining at the same time.  It’s a blend of functional and aesthetic (or edonistic) values that to me is badly needed in the digital space, where they are often separated (so that you might have applications or services that are either overtly functional or overtly easthetic-driven, or let’s say dominated by formal technological and media experimentation — not a bad thing as such of course! in both instances).

See here below another example, a collage of top artists pictures (again, alter‘s view).

9th of November 2013 update: the pics originally inserted into this post got lost in this blog Oct. 2013 crash, so I replaced them with the one below, taken from the Visualizing Music blog – thanks them! not that I asked before…) Tube Tags visualization
At, we enjoy being mad scientists, playing with data and infographics — stay tuned for more in the visualization department!

via – the Blog · Mad Science + Awesome! = New playground apps.

“Television is really broken”

Via Putting People First, I found out the Ethan Zuckerman’s blog report of a speech given by Herkko Hietanen (his Copyfraud blog here) at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Isn’t the piece below a remarkable synthesis? 😉

The medium isn’t rising to its full potential, isn’t providing consumers with programs when and where they want them. To set the scheduled for what you want to watch, you need to be at your television. And there are frustrating geographic restrictions on programming […]  it lacks interactivity with broadcasters and other viewers. It forces consumers to sit through irrelavent commercials.

Hietanen is an affiliate of HIIT-Helsinki Institute of Information Technology, with which I had the good luck to cooperate at MobiLife times. His talk, as discussed by Zuckerman, expands on the big theme of so-called “social television”, and the limits of past experiments on the field, e.g. because social interactions might be placed not squarely on the TV screen while the show goes on, but before or after it. This is very much one of the core assumptions of the research ideas sketched in Vertigo.

“City soundtracks” at

The city is a living organism with distinct character, taste, smell, sound. Its thriving music scene offers a special kind of storytelling about the city’s personality quirks and cultural passions — an auditory window into the soul of the city. opens a dozen such fascinating windows by delivering the latest music from some of the world’s most interesting cities, from Sydney to Stockholm to San Francisco.

via Global Soundscape: | Brain Pickings

This is a fascinating way of listening, or, better, explore music, especially new music – one of the most attractive aspects to me in services à la The idea of connections between media and real world contexts is also one of the guiding principles of Vertigo.

9th of November 2013 update: the service seems to gone, but thanks to this post at Maria Popova’s Brainpickings (ode to her! in general of course, not just for this one) I can re-publish here an image of it (the one that I captured back then has been lost during this blog crash in October 2013). visualization visualization


From (mobile) walled gardens to carriers stores

Verizon Wireless came up with a series of announcements geared to new revenue streams in the emerging world of the mobile cloud and open web services. As well as its M2M venture with Qualcomm, it hosted its first developer conference, showing off the Vcast application store and throwing open the doors to its traditionally tightly guarded network. “Our future success is no longer in the walled garden,” Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam told the developers gathered in Silicon Valley.

“It’s a new day [in wireless],” McAdam said in his keynote and webcast to developers. “Our success is tied to you.” He stressed the advantages that carriers stores – as opposed to those from device or software makers like Apple, Microsoft and Google – bring to programmers, notably access to mobile subscribers and their personal data and preferences, plus a familiar billing platform. Like Vodafone, the US cellco is creating open APIs to allow developers to hook into Verizon’s billing system, to support one-click purchasing, and into other subscriber platforms within the network, such as location-based services, presence, and messaging.

via Vcast store finally destroys walled garden at Verizon – Rethink Wireless.

Having just posted about Vodafone Live! death, I couldn’t resist to quote again from Rethink Wireless on another “walled garden” happy end. So, now it’s “carriers stores” time. They are expected to offer some concrete advantages over the leading Apple Store and other followers, in terms of telecom-specific features (if I got it right, the money for the developer would be the same 70%). On a personal note: the Live! news brought me back to MobiLife business modelling times; this one to the SPICE business modelling work, with smart people at IBBT, NTNU, Telenor, Telecom Italia and Telefonica.

(Vodafone) Live! is dead

Vodafone is to dump its once all-important Live brand as it revamps its mobile web strategy […]

Vodafone Live was a ground breaker in its time, making the cellco the first major outside the Far East to recognize that it needed to associate itself with a software experience and web portal. But its operator-centric approach still clung to the walled garden, and has become old-fashioned in the world of app stores and open web services. Now Vodafone will adopt a new portal structure and brand – the unoriginal My Web – boasting all the features that the modern consumer supposedly wants, such as personalization and integration of social networking and messaging.

via Vodafone drops Live brand as European cellcos regroup – Rethink Wireless

Big news for me and everyone I think following mobile business / mobile design things. Vodafone Live! has been one of the biggest operator-led service ventures over the last few years (in Europe — note the careful distinction about the Far East above). It started in 2002. At that time I was dropping extra office hours with Neos friends to get onboard the MobiLife proposal and consortium, and we made it. Then, as I was working on business models with MobiLife folks in 2004-2006, we often made references to Live! as a typical operator-driven model, quite far away from the opennes envisioned in the project. Now let’s see how the new My Web will look like.