A day or two late this week, as I was on the road for a bit.
Before we dive into the newsletter, a quick plug: Jed Hallam writes an absolutely wonderful, if infrequent, newsletter of his own called Love Will Save the Day, focused on music and the people who give generously of their love for it. If that appeals to you, please subscribe. His is an enthusiasm to which I aspire.
As always, thanks to those of you who share this with a friend or with a follower. Thanks also to those of you who’ve replied to this email with personal notes. I found a trove of unread messages in my TinyLetter inbox from old friends and new readers, and they made my week. You are beautiful.
This week in admitting — however reluctantly — that ‘The Net’ > ‘The Circle’
The BBC’s R&D blog continues to be one of the best sources around for new thinking on content workflows and design. Jasmine Cox’s writeup on adaptive stories workshops (4min) — built around the team’s previously-cited idea of object-based media — is another fantastic example. It’s a brilliant blend of speculative design and user experience thinking.
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Ryo Takahashi published an on-point piece on the role that blockchain technologies can play in creative economies (8min) on the McKinsey blog. I’ve had quite a few conversations at work lately stemming from inquiries by colleagues looking to ‘understand’ or ‘wrap my head around’ blockchain, and I almost always end up back at smart contracts and reputation management. While plenty has been written about the ways in which these technologies will benefit large enterprises, I get most excited about the transformative effect that they might have for sole proprietors — street merchants, artists, and musicians.
Speaking of which, Plasma looks very interesting.
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I got a kick out of Lakshmi Mani’s illustrated guide to hyperbolic discounting (3min) — a concept with which I was admittedly unfamiliar. Used in a sentence: ‘why do [these clients] insist on locking themselves in a perpetual loop of hyperbolic discounting?’
This week in the dulcet tones of Dunkirk:
Now you’re going to hear the Shepard Tone everywhere (3min).
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Do read Page Laubheimer’s argument against dispensing with personas altogether in favor of Christensen’s ‘Jobs to be Done’, as some have espoused. A point that I (among many, many others) have frequently made, as well:
Unfortunately, many personas (really, marketing segments being masqueraded as personas) don’t go any deeper than the demographic or personal level, which is why personas can often be derided as less valuable for making design decisions than jobs-to-be-done…rich personas typically will include information related to specific goals that users must achieve when they use the product; these goals are directly comparable to the information found in the jobs-to-be-done definition.
Related, via Chris Smith: Tanjo’s animated personas are especially intriguing (11min).
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Just as with traditional manufacturing, there’s a drive to provide a more dynamic, live environment for factory automation and analytics.
Interestingly, it’s both a software and a hardware opportunity.
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The Paris Review published an absolutely must-read profile of electronic composer Suzanne Ciani. A gem of an excerpt:
For Ciani, phrases like having a voice and agency had long taken on new meaning through technology (to say nothing of taking on an industry). Part of her—which is also the part that got her into the Pinball Hall of Fame—lives inside the stroboscopic pinball game Xenon. Vocoded and then sampled onto a vocalizer chip called a “daughter card,” hers is the first female voice in the arcade. This distinction may thrill gamers more than it does Ciani herself, though she’s cool with taunting generations of boys out of their lunch money. (A friend of mine was introduced to pinball while in the womb, just hours from the world, his mother, a professional therapist yelling, “You mother funhouse!” back at the machine, smacking flippers in the back of of a deli on Seventy-Second Street.)
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Pippin Barr has released a game in which the player is confronted with a history of computer-rendered water (3 minutes or maybe forever) — traditionally a benchmark for the level of visual sophistication of an interface. I know, really I do — but check it out anyway.
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This is what happens when we strap human will and effort to the yoke of machine pace: a fashion model capable of completing 30 poses in a 15 second window.
This week in the hidden subtext of face with head bandage:
Alex Palma’s written a genuinely-great piece for the Cyborgology blog of The Society Pages on cyberpunk as a roadmap for navigating consumerism (5min). A particularly smart point:
Those interested in Cyberpunk can quote William Gibson ad nauseum on this: “The Street finds its own uses for things – uses the manufacturers never imagined.” What Gibson is saying: characters in Cyberpunk overcome the assigned manufactured purpose of the things around them. Cyberpunk fiction is filled with individuals owning what they own but simultaneously do not “own.” It’s filled with individuals who subvert prescribed use.
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As a rule, one should avoid prognostication on future tech from sites that make excessive use of CSS-based drop shadow, but the article on body-area networks (4min) on the Institute for the Future site is worth a read. File this among your copious notes on the battleground that our personal preference profile has already become:
As the next decade unfolds, our body area networks will take advantage of this new science of decision-making—the biomarkers and personal histories that affect the ways we decide—and remind us to do things like eat protein bars before tense conversations. Our bodies are becoming one of the new frontiers in contextual computing. In much the same way our phones can guide us toward different routes based on traffic patterns, our body area networks will guide us toward different decisions based on the patterns of our biomarkers—altering us when our decision-making ability is impaired or even taking action to get us in a better decision-making mindset.
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As part of a larger, infinitely-fascinating body of work, MIT researchers have slayed that darkest of dragons — the sarcastic use of emoji. Ups to Patrick Tomasiewicz for the link.
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At the intersection of The Wayback Machine and a Trump Tweet for Every Occasion, there’s Neal Agarwal’s amazing, perfect Ten Years Ago. You’re welcome.
Jobs for Misfit Toys
Boston residents: Tetra Science is hiring for a Customer Success Manager. This is an absolutely fascinating company, with some brilliant people behind it.
Also in Boston: a company close to my heart, Pillpack, is hiring a Consumer Product Manager. One of the best teams anywhere.
Made Movement is hiring a Senior Strategist in Boulder. You could do much, much worse.
Siberia is hiring Design Leads and other such things in fancy cities across the US. Management is even-handed, if unable to suffer fools.
Until next week.