October 06, 2010

The Human Factor

It has been a while since I've written a post, but that's because there were so many interesting things happening the last months. Among these were the opportunities to present the PeRSoN.NeL project at both the Hybrid City conference in Shanghai and the SATE10 conference in Orlando.

In it's core PeRSoN.NeL is about enhancing human communication and interaction, and it's in the periphery of above mentioned conferences that I found two examples that stressed the human factor.
First there is the Dutch Pavilion at the World Expo 2010. Before going I was a bit weary because of the very playful setup of the building; it's not an architectural feat. However, when we actually walked through(!) the building and saw how it was used as a pass-time by the visitors (see image below), I realized that this building actually best serves the purpose of the Expo: it invites people to participate in, in this case, the Dutch (parks) culture.

The second example is a comparison between some of the attractions at the Universal theme parks in Orlando. After experiencing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (top of the bill), E.T. Adventure (memory lane; both story and technique), The Simpsons Ride (amazing show), JAWS (an adventure), Twister..ride it out (technical challenge), and the Jurassic Park River Adventure (from wonder to wet), the one we kept remembering was the quite old JAWS ride.
The big difference in this 'ride' is the fact that each tour is accompanied by an actor that plays the roll of captain of the boat (your boat!) that gets attacked by the shark. The 3 minute, completely orchestrated, show, that they put on - over and over again - is just overwhelmingly entertaining.
Part of it might be due to - and at the risk of sounding old - the fact that the newer rides are just too fast and physically challenging to share the experience during the ride. The wait-in-line at the Harry Potter 'flight' and the pre-show that is put on there (you won't believe the beauty and realism of the talking portraits) is, in this respect, much more memorable.

To bring this all back to the virtual world we all live in ;-), the challenge will be to keep building in this human factor. An interesting project is the new NASA Robonaut 2, the robot that next to assisting astronauts can be interacted with on Twitter (@astrorobonaut). The biggest challenge here will be to have it respond with a genuine "LOL".

Posted by Almar at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2008

Street credits

According to the Urbandictionary.com 'Street credits' are "the points you get for doing something impressive and bold. The more street credit you have the cooler you are". It seems that an online equivalent is appearing. More and more people are leaving a serious 'footprint' online. It's no longer an option but a real need to be in a social network; preferably more than one. And the profile pages people maintain on these networks are getting more extensive by the day: the more widgets, embedded movies and wall posts; the cooler you are!

Next, of course, it is important to brag about it: to establish your 'virtual status' (a term introduced by Olly Wright at Pecha Kucha Amsterdam). This bragging in turn is facilitated by lifestream services like Friendfeed.


This allows you to follow whatever your friends are doing in their different virtual hangouts and for you to top that with something more impressive (and they will be automatically notified of your efforts!).

Posted by Almar at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2008

From randomness to serendipity

Current developments on the Internet seem to have a randomness to them: connecting on social networks seems a goal in itself and providing your 'current status' (however insignificant) has become the killer feature. A lot of people don't 'get it' anymore, because from the outside it indeed looks useless, even silly (the Twitter public timeline can be a real turnoff).

However, when you're willing to give it a chance, you will experience a moment of unforeseen relevance very quickly (for example learning sometime interesting you weren't looking for, from someone you didn't expect it from). And the relevance seems to come out of nowhere: an act of serendipity. It has even been called a sort of Extra Sensory Perception.

It can almost become a surreal experience when you involve Internet connected objects like the Nabaztag. These 'Internet Rabbits' are becoming the quintessential example of the Internet of Things.

Nabaztags on GoogleMaps

They can perform random actions through their 'Nabazmoods', like abruptly stating "Ah well, whatever" in the middle of an argument you just might have. And when you involve their RFID capability, who knows what might happen!

Posted by Almar at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2007

Learning from the master

Micro-blogging tools like Twitter re-introduce the master-apprentice principle that emerged with the development of guilds in medieval Europe. The tool allows the apprentice (in the case of a public timeline this is 'the rest of us') to follow 'the master' in all the steps he or she cares to share. You learn by seeing how somebody else does things, with little explanation and lot of example. A point in case is Loïc le Meur, who is showing how he is setting up his new venture Seesmic (which is actually a 'micro-vlogging' tool)

- Seesmic 'follow us'

There is no preset curriculum or anything, just the fact that Loïc was successful before.

Posted by Almar at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2007

Creating a respectable online identity

The fact that most of us now join and use social networks (e.g. Facebook), metaverses (e.g. SecondLife), and a realm of communication (e.g. Twitter) and sharing (e.g. Youtube and Flickr) tools means we are establishing an online identity; largely unintended. And how much this identity is congruent with our real identity is even another question.

Nevertheless you would want that identity to be respectable. To what degree and by whom is open for discussion, but it's at least handy to have an overview of your 'identifiers' and be aware of the current online values. An example of the first is the 'Universe of rapper 50cent', where it is also evident that creating an (online) identity can be a business in itself. One of his 'identifiers' is his avatar in a metaverse called Faketown:

50 Cent avatar

An example of the current online values is harder to find, but the existence of companies like 'Reputationdefender' and 'Defendmyname' that 'cleanup' your online reputation says enough (see also the privacy marketplace discussion I joined on Freedomlab).

Another way to visualize your online identity is creating a so-called 'Lifestream' (with tools like Tumblr), which aggregates all your online expressions. If it can be enhanced to include archives of e.g. your various backgrounds and icons over time on Twitter it could be like a continuous 'time vault'.

Posted by Almar at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2007

Dress to impress (your corporate website that is)

The role of the corporate website is changing. Some say it has even become irrelevant.

I think it's role should become to impress instead of to coerce; showcase 'what your made of' instead of 'what you make'. In terms of target audiences you should compare it to who sees(!) your corporate headquarters and who gets invited in (and gets to see what!).

The approaches can be different. You can fill your headquarters with art, or make the headquarters and art object in itself, like these real life examples:

3547_4_38deBrugRoosAldershoff.jpg (JPEG Image, 135x102 pixels) Gasunie-Groningen-1.jpg (JPEG Image, 200x150 pixels) Google Image resultaat voor http://www.amsterdamtourist.nl/upload/afbeeldingen/consumentensite/architectuur/INGhousegr.jpg

Posted by Almar at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2007

A website as an art object

Artworks can be a lot of things; from beautiful to provokingly ugly. Most websites don't strive to be artworks, but at least have the intention to look nice. Some are not. In those cases it's usually due to lack of skills or effort: not provocation. In the case of the Saatchi Online website I'm not sure. They use an automatic translation module that - at least in Dutch - produces very 'artistic' expressions:

Posted by Almar at 09:40 AM | Comments (1)

August 14, 2007

Taking pictures of the web

I expressed my wishes for taking pictures of the web before. Doing this literally was already possible in a sense, but through a new tool called 'Skitch' the experience got a whole lot better. Skitch allows you to 'snap' a screen and immediately post it to the web. It doesn't automatically provide a link to the source/subject of the picture yet (like Google Notebook), so we're not 'web-tagging' (as opposed to geo-tagging) yet.

You're basically collecting screenshots or screendumps. But then again a postcard (or literally translating from the German and Dutch 'Ansichtka(a)rt(e)' which means 'viewcard') is in essence a 'scenery shot'.

In addition, through microblogs like Twitter (and especially the links/tinyurls that are posted), you get a real feel of the current webtraffic (at least within a certain group) and you can literally follow the crowd to the 'scenic viewpoints'.

And for an example of a 'web picture'; something starring myself in a semi-interesting situation (like most family-album photos):

Almar's need to know's (629)

Posted by Almar at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2007

Feeding the network by playing tag

The power of the network is derived from the messages that flow over it (see Message from Stowe Boyd). The easiest way to keep the flow going (apart from feeding it new messages) is tagging existing content through social bookmarking. Lot's of sites/blogs support this by providing the links for the different social bookmarking sites (like del.icio.us and furl) which results in a very colorful byproduct:


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Posted by Almar at 08:56 AM

July 05, 2007

The Next Wave is Cultural after being Social

I posted the following comment on the article Digital Life vs Life Digital: Our Inevitable Digital Future on Read/WriteWeb:

I couldn't agree more! For what you call 'Life Digital' I introduced the term 'VIRREAL' (see www.almarvanderkrogt.nl/blog).
There is a strong momentum building, especially with tools like Twitter.com (with microformats for location) and Plazes.com, which will virally tag the world.

My goal is to actually channel some of these forces to create 'WEBMARKS'; entities on top of the real world that gain importance through their existence.
This could mean that, in addition to the features you mentioned (like providing historical information when you point your phone to a building) virtual elements are added: e.g. artwork, visual information streams or additional visual context.

So maybe the next wave is cultural after being social.

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Posted by Almar at 06:57 PM

June 12, 2007

Claiming your stake

Claiming your stake on the Internet used to be 'as easy' as claiming your domain-name. However this is not enough anymore these days; you now have to claim your stake on social networks, blog aggregators, personal homepages and even OpenID's. It seems a never ending quest driven by popular demand.

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Powered by ScribeFire.

Posted by Almar at 06:21 PM

September 21, 2006

Subsize it

In the quest for ultimate usability almost everything becomes the same; the right size, the right contrast, etc. However, with this the last bit of inspiration and imagination gets lost.
Isn't it more interesting (also for the user) to be challenged to look for something. Therefore I say 'subsize it': use especially small print for certain links, put stuff in the corners, maybe even hide some code (like an easter egg). It could trigger a whole viral campaign.
In general I think that among todays 'slick' sites a webspot with some Wabi Sabi (the art of imperfection) is likely to attract more attention.

Posted by Almar at 06:57 PM

August 20, 2006

Sliding doors

In some houses (especially Japanese ones) and most conference centers, sliding doors are used to rearrange rooms. By opening or closing the doors a new space and thus a new context is created.
Online the same thing happens in portals/portlets and dashboards. However, usually it is predefined and user interaction with regards to the actual framing is very limited.
I'm suggesting to give the user/visitor more options in this respect. A bit similar to taking a picture, where you determine the composition next to the actual subject. I mentioned some options in a previous entry 'Can you take a picture?'.

Posted by Almar at 05:06 PM

July 24, 2006

Support user behaviour; with force

All design forces certain behaviour, both intendend and unintended. Architecture (of any kind) also does this. Intended forced design is usually referred to as functionality, which has the ideal user process in mind. Especially these days where all roadblocks to the online user shall be removed, I think it is time for some counter measures.

This can go in different directions. On the one hand, when something it is hard to get it can become more valuable; so let them put in some effort (this approach is used on some viral marketing campaigns like for the Microsoft Xbox 360). On the other hand you could design to prevent or even punish unwanted behaviour. This is actually inspired by Malinese chief-houses that are characterized by big impressive roofs that are so low to the ground that you can only sit under them. The reasoning behind this: the low roof prevents people from jumping up in disagreement when tough decisions are being made, or differently; good decisions can only be made when everybody is calm and (physically) positioned for the task at hand.

Posted by Almar at 07:39 PM

April 20, 2006

A virreal park

I like to be online but have a relaxing environment at my disposal as well. Stepping away from it all, without going offline (because my goal is to enhance the online experience).
I therefore consider setting up a virreal park. A place you can walk into (link into?), just as a short sidestep during a websurf. I mentioned parks before, but since that time my ideas have become a little(!) more specific.
It should be a spot where you can wander around, stand still and enjoy the view and even encounter others. In a way it should be similar to avatar-environments like SecondLife or Habbo-hotel, but it should be more open (e.g. part of a 'regular' website or group of websites) and maybe less life-like. This way it can also be a platform for all kinds of digital artists, who can create the virtual equivalents of statues, fountains or streetperformers that you find in any park.
So, still very conceptual, but maybe a hint for a new open-source project?

Posted by Almar at 09:09 PM | Comments (1)

January 03, 2006

Can you take a picture?

A great thing about real life architecture is that it can be documented (e.g. photographed), often in very special ways, which gives it additional significance. Question now is how this can be translated to virreals? Is it feasible to document and published how one experienced a virreal in an online way?
In my opinion there are some examples. First RIOT (an alternative webbrowser) and FEED (an artistic webmonitor) at Potatoland by Mark Napier.
Second the Firefox extension Greasemonkey which allows to make scripts to change the behaviour of a website in your own defined way.

Posted by Almar at 12:10 PM

November 08, 2005

Travelling a Virreal

In a virreal world travel can get a new dimension. In anticipation of a real world journey or just for (cyber)fun, one should be able to travel from local hyperlink to local hyperlink. This then should inspire visits to the real locale.

In principle this is possible already and lots of holiday preparations are done online. However, to say the least, it is a bumpy ride so far. You get a very limited view; mostly commercial and informational but not esthetical let alone a rewarding experience.

Online sightseeing is unchartered territory.

Posted by Almar at 07:48 PM

October 14, 2005

Bridges and Waterways

Great cities tend to have great bridges because they are located at main waterways (being the historical gateway to the riches). The analogy between a river and for example a search engine as main traffic generator is easily made. But what about the bridge? Is there a need to cross the main way of transportation? Or should it just be seen as a crossing, with commercial value but no extra physical challenges or esthetical expressions.
I don't have the answer yet, but I do hope to find a reason or means to create the online counterpart of the bridge.

Posted by Almar at 08:23 PM

Take a stroll

Great cities usually have great parks. They are sometimes called the lungs of a city, and are greatly appreciated by its inhabitants. It gives them the opportunity to slow down and relax just around the block.

So maybe, a good way to keep somebody on your site is to allow them to 'take a stroll'. I do not mean letting them browse around but offering them something different, something esthetical or possibly natural.

This relates to my plea for integral art which also could be a means for 'on site relaxation'.

Posted by Almar at 07:59 PM

August 15, 2005

Superstructures and Substructures

It seems contradictory, but in my opinion websites are still very one dimensional. It think there is room for structures on more levels. So next to the structure, there can be super- and substructures.

- above main content level
- purpose: to impress
- room for art and musings

- below main content level
- purpose: to facilitatie
- e.g. virreal subways

Posted by Almar at 04:09 PM

July 18, 2005

Sneak previews

Like a building under construction it should be possible to follow the developments on a website (while it's under construction). One should be able to wonder what it will be that you see appearing.

Posted by Almar at 02:53 PM

June 28, 2005

Virreal Skyline

A virreal done right should create a virtual experience along a series of webspots, like a skyline does to (the buildings of) a city. I consider the skyline one of the defining structures of a city, just like subways do.

Posted by Almar at 08:57 PM

April 12, 2005

Virreal Subways

In my opinion all great cities have subway systems. Stated otherwise: a city can't be great if it doesn't have a subway system.

What now makes the subway such a good feature: it connects parts of the city in an efficient way. Therefore I think parts of a virreal should be connected by a subway-like system.

The fact that subway-lines have fixed routes with fixed stops, should be incorporated in the virtual variety. These elements add, namely, to the build up towards arriving at the destination.

Posted by Almar at 02:45 PM