Blog catchup: Peterme insight

From an October 11 post about a BayCHI event, two interesting insights:

  • There are no good user research methods of emergent behavior. Cross this with Rashmi Sinha’s classic on design patterns for social sharing and I’ll bet you could come up with some handy metrics.
  • What do we deliver in a world of ever-evolving designs?… contemporary systems seem to live in perpetual beta, that they continually release new features, functionality, and interface designs, and, well, what do we do about that?. It’s not just about “endless beta”, the convention for communicating that things might be evolving (good) or buggy (bad). It’s about the spread of agile methods, where services are designed and developed in smaller chunks. Peter acknowledges that the trend poses a challenge for design firms used to working on big bang redesigns and long-cycle product development. This is true in my experience; it’s hard to hire outside consultants unless they are willing to “go native and work closely with the client across the multiple small iterations of a longer design cycle.

Vista late adopter

Shoplifting is a problem for stores. The logical solution? Retail stores require that all clothing and bag makers redesign the pockets, handbags, and backpacks. If you try to steal something, an alarm goes off when you try to leave the store. If someone, somewhere has figured out how to steal using your model of backpack, then your backpack will stop opening til you get it fixed. Want to go shopping? You need to buy a new bag. Is there a bug in the store’s system? You can’t put your hands in your pockets.
This is Microsoft’s approach to DRM. In the interests of protecting content providers, Microsoft requires peripheral vendors to support DRM. This widely discussed essay talks about the various vulnerabilities and anti-features of Vista DRM support. Microsoft can disable or degrade your peripheral if somebody somewhere has compromised your driver. If you want to play DRM content, Vista requires all of your peripherals to support DRM, so you need all new display, speakers, etc. The hardware DRM means a step backward, away from universal drivers toward device-specific drivers In all, it sounds like Vista makes your system unreliable and cumbersome, in the interest of protecting content providers.
Given these risks, I’m not going to get Vista any time soon on my own computers. I’ll wait til the experience of millions of others demonstrates whether it’s as burdensome and flaky as it sounds like it might be.

Boston: can’t get there from here

I’m spending the xmas-to-newyears week on the east coast, with midweek in Boston visiting friends in JP, Brighton and Somerville. That itinerary has a serious “can’t get there from here” problem. Rental car parking is somewhere between awkward and impossible. The subway system is hub and spoke; getting from one one spoke to another is cumbersome. It would be pretty cool if Boston had what various European cities have: commuter bicycle rentals with easy access to the train station. Slow bus rides ahead, instead.
ps. Why the reluctance to ride the bus? Because I get carsick reading on buses but not trains.

Democratic congress and tech policy: better and worse

The new D congress seems to have mixed prospects for tech policy. Internet policy looks to be getting better,with Ed Markey, a supporter of Net Neutrality, now chairman of the internet subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee. Copyright looks pretty scary, with Berman (D, Disney) in charge of the committee responsible for IP law. Privacy’s looking better, with Waxman looking to investigate government violations. Energy is better than it was when the reps from XOM were in charge. Unfortunately, money seems to be headed from oil subsidies to ethanol subsidies. Given the farm lobby, I wonder if there’s any way to stop that boondoggle.