Stories, moments, people and ideas of interest from within the worlds of innovation and design, spotted and written about by Helen Walters, design writer, editor, and ideas editor at TED. Attitude, errors and opinions obviously all the writer's own.
Ask me anything
December 4, 2012
"That most existing iPad magazine apps are slow, badly-designed, can’t search, etc. does not mean iPad magazine apps cannot be fast, well-designed, and searchable."
The post mortems and “I told you so”s are in full swing for the late Murdoch iPad publication, The Daily, with commenters split on the reasons for its fail. John Gruber (above) has a good piece which does not fall for Felix Salmon’s take that it wasn’t The Daily’s fault it was bulky, slow, and difficult to navigate. Gruber writes: “He’s 180 degrees wrong. All of these problems were entirely The Daily’s fault.” And, he concludes, this is really one more example of the fragmentation of big business as we used to know it: after all, a lean publishing team should be able to thrive on a budget of $5 million a year (though how many of those outfits, employing how many people, would be able to make a living from this, is another question altogether.)
Meanwhile, Twitter’s Michael Sippey flagged a post he wrote after one issue of The Daily, which turns out to have been awfully prescient. “The product doesn’t deliver on two fundamental features of today’s web — community and real-time,” he wrote, which if you ask me neatly nails the issues on the head. I follow the news pretty carefully, and can’t remember a time in which anyone flagged a story from The Daily. However painstakingly written, carefully edited, lovingly designed and beautifully produced, The Daily stories lived in a bubble. And that bubble just burst. iPad publishing will continue, of course, and hopefully those at the head of large organizations with an alleged appetite for innovation will be able to avoid the obvious mistakes next time around.
Not entirely sure what to make of Double Robotics’ “iPad on a pole,” which enables remote workers to zip around an office (or, perhaps, a museum) from afar. This Digital Trends piece dubs it a “$1999 Telepresence Robot” and talks up its ability to “peer over partitions to see what others are up to when they think no one’s looking,” which all sounds suitably Orwellian. Perhaps the best comment comes from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who noted on Twitter, “I once told Larry and Sergey they should build something like this but I don’t think they ever did.”
The Touchy-Feely Future of Technology is a super package from NPR that digs into the background, development and impact of tablet computers and touch technology. There are a number of pieces and, unsurprisingly, lots of references to Apple and the iPad. But I particularly liked this comment, from usability expert and former Google and Mozilla designer, Kevin Fox: “Science fiction is the brainstorming part of science.”
Then there’s Bill Buxton, who pops up to give us the history of touch technology, referring both to his own development of an electronic touch-controlled drum in the mid 1980s, and his theory of “the long nose of innovation.” (Disclaimer: as the editor on that original BusinessWeek piece and, now, a friend of Buxton’s, I’m pretty much completely incapable of being unbiased when it comes to his thinking.) Still. Check this out: Buxton’s simply wonderful explanation of the importance of cross-disciplinary thinking when it comes to innovation—and a reminder that focusing on being wildly successful or making massive amounts of money isn’t likely to end in anything particularly interesting.
I was trained in music, not in technology, where nobody told us it was hard. It seemed just a pretty obvious thing to do at the time. But what wasn’t clear was that we had different insights and just the right people around to make it happen. I love that part of things, where people who are just completely open in terms of imagination try to do creative things and have no business doing that kind of technological innovation [but] actually have insights that turn up many years after the fact to have had huge impact. I like it in that sense it’s just your imagination driving that; you’re not trying to be so deliberate about doing something really important. That makes you uptight and constrained. It’s better just to find something you love doing and chase it down and the rest will fall out.
Buxton appears again towards the end of the episode, and is probably one of the only people who would compare Microsoft Surface technology with “two cups and a piece of string,” though he does also describe it as “a whole new realm of interaction.” Then there’s a segment on the use of iPads in healthcare (in particular, some sage insights from a spokesman for the West Wireless Health Institute, who bemoaned the U.S. lagging behind in its development and adoption of electronic medical records and pointed out the inter-compatibility issues plagued by systems built on Windows and now trying to integrate Apple.)
The episode concludes with Sherry Turkle, playing her usual concerned citizen role and reminding us that the world of “I” might mean we lose touch with the shared world around us. All in all, an excellent episode and well worth listening to the whole thing. Also, check out the history of touch-screen technology featured on the All Things Considered website.
"Business-model innovation is a hot topic. As the field has matured beyond a focus on new products and ideas, there is an increasing emphasis on identifying new ways for businesses to earn money. The challenge is that business-model innovation is far from straightforward. It is not a matter of simply changing how you get paid. It more often requires a fundamental redesign of how you create and deliver value, involving all aspects of the business — and, importantly, the jobs people do."
— Doblin’s own Erik Kiaer writes a nice piece for Fast Company, An iPad App That Helps You Overhaul Your Business Model. It’s a review of the iPad version of Business Model Generation, the book by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur that was first published some years ago. In general, Erik gives the app two thumbs up, though he choked a little at its hefty price ($29.99.) It’s clear that publishers haven’t figured out the economics of new media publishing yet: converting print to digital (especially in a way that uses the medium appropriately) is by no means cheap. And yet in the main, publishers have carefully taught consumers to expect digital things for free, or for very little money. No one has figured this out yet; expect to continue to see prices all over the map.
Ah, that old visual chestnut, the solar system. How designers *love* solar systems. Planetary is a new, “stunningly beautiful way to explore your music collection.” Within a 3D iPad universe, artists are stars and albums are planets, orbiting around the artist star. Individual tracks, meanwhile, are moons, orbiting the planets at a speed based on the length of the song. Confession: I have yet to experiment with this, so can’t speak to either its stunningness or beauty, but it does seem like a pretty slick way to visualize artist/song/album information, and we can certainly expect more of this type of experimentation in the future. Note too the management team behind the app, from newish startup Bloom Studio, which includes old hands from hot companies such as Stamen Design and the Barbarian Group. Last month Bloom announced a round of seed funding, led by Betaworks, adding weight to the argument that design is a new hot area of interest for investors. (Link via Joshua S Fouts.)