Archive for the 'User Insights' Category

George Murray

Ubicomp Moving Toward Mainstream

We’ve moved our blog closer to home with a permanent address at This post can be found here:

In a previous post about the iPad, I introduced why I think the iPad and tablets have a place in the mainstream consumer’s everyday life. What I’ve found is that many of the attributes that make the iPad appealing and successful are also aspects that make incremental progress towards a computing concept called ubiquitous computing (ubicomp).

In this post I’ll give a brief intro to ubiquitous computing: it’s concepts, history, and current state. Most of this I’d like to be in service of us (those of us making devices) finding solutions for today out of these various historic and futurist perspectives. If we agree that the iPad fits ubicomp criteria, and we know the futurist path of ubicomp all the way to it’s ideal (networked t-shirts!), we may be able to derive a path for the consumer devices we’re working on today. We may also be able to detect future problems before they arrive. Let’s see where we can get…

Take a look at this short Intel commercial:

This commercial features a series of technological ah-ha moments. From video games to the internet, wireless internet and finally Intel’s 2010 Core processors (which features a very ubicomp ability of scaling power) each moment exhibits a technology that is not fully understood until personally experienced.

One could imagine another scene at the end:

Two 20-something, upper-middle-class men are hanging out watching an uneventful World Cup match at what appears to be a “man night”; Pizza boxes are strewn around a basement room with a Star Wars figurine collection on display in the background. One guy passes an iPad to another, sharing a YouTube video of a keyboard playing cat (or a very smart TED talk),  in sheer delight, the recipient exclaims ”It’s like you’re HOLDING YouTube in your hands!”

This is one of the promises of ubiquitous computing.

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Jared Benson

Idle Bites: 10 March 2009

In case you’ve not had time to follow the backchannel chatter, we’ve gathered some of the mobile user experience articles from the last few days that caught our eye. Here’s some quick recommending reading that describes our changing digital lifestyles, mobile trends, future tech considerations, and there’s even a good robot story thrown in for good measure.

If you’ve come across a great mobile user experience story in the last few days, let us know! Post it in comments or find me on Twitter:


MWC’09 Trends by John Strand

Vision Mobile’s Mobile Megatrends 2009

Design Exploration

New Tab Page: Proposed design principles and prototype (Mozilla Labs)

iPhone prototype caught on video


The future of TV lies on the net

Digital Media newsletter (PDF)

Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) is coming, cable companies better adopt to changing times


Mobile TV Popular In Korea, Not Making Any Money

Emerging Technology

Charging mobile devices wirelessly: eZone by Qualcomm

Wintek to supply touch panels for Apple netbook, says paper

Philips: OLED windows in a few years

Japanese gadget controls iPod in blink of an eye

Robot Programmed to Love Goes too Far

Experimental Multitouch UI for Nokia S60

Social Networking

Social Networking More Popular Than Email, More Profitable Than…Er…Um

When Everyone’s a Friend, Is Anything Private?

General News

Internet, Mobile Phones Named Most Important Inventions

Chinese political advisor urges innovation to tackle downturn, emphasis on creative

Charlie Rose: A conversation with Marissa Mayer, V.P. of Search Product and User Experience, Google

Recession Forcing Automakers To Think About Mobile

Why we’ve reached the end of the camera megapixel race

Joe Pemberton

Twitter Etiquette:
Avoiding Twitter Abuse

Twitter is popular because it’s insanely simple — which means it’s easy to abuse. Here’s some etiquette that will make Twitter a less noisy, more relevant way to connect.

Five Guidelines for Twitter Etiquette

1// Replying is fine. In fact it’s an interesting way to discover people and ideas. Just remember your followers are only listening to half of your conversation. Fill your followers in on the topic at least. For example “@joetheplumber Haha, my cat does the same thing” is more usable information than just “@joetheplumber ha ha“.

People don’t follow everyone you’re talking to, so if you reply to someone in public, give everybody else some context. If it truly is worthy of a live reply, chances are your followers will want to see who you’re talking to. For more on relevant replies, see #2.

2// Twitter isn’t chat! I didn’t follow you so I could listen to you have a back and forth conversation with someone I don’t know. I followed you because you have interesting updates and bits to share. Learn the value of the direct message, d instead of the reply @. This especially applies to corporate Twitter accounts. The most common mistake is broadcasting the same announcement as a reply to individual users, seemingly forgetting that everybody else is seeing their redundancy.

3// Don’t hog the screen space. When you tweet every 3 to 5 minutes you selfishly fill up your follower’s Twitter window, burying their other friends’ messages. Uncool. (This is the reason I don’t follow Robert Scoble @scobleizer anymore. His tech geek powers were overcome by his Monterey weather updates.)

4// Finally, filter yourself. Leave the text unsent for a second. If it still sounds clever, witty or smart it’s probably good enough for your public time line.

5// Saying “good night Twitter” at the end of your day is kind of cute, but it’s mostly just sad. Sad and weird.

A few Twitter resources: For help with managing Twitter followers, try FriendOrFollow. For a great desktop Twitter client, check out TweetDeck.

You can follow @joepemberton on Twitter.

Joe Pemberton

The Future of Advertising on FaceBook?

File under: Ways social media is changing advertising for the better.

User Ratings for FaceBook Ads

In the past I’ve expressed my distaste for FaceBook’s advertising approach. They used to run ads in-line with the “news feed” and it was designed to look in every way like content generated by a friend. Tricking me, if only for a moment, into thinking a friend recommended some product or movie tarnished my trust for FaceBook.

Well, now I feel it’s only right to come out on record and applaud FaceBook for their recent move, which presents ads with better transparency — like ads. But they go a step further into actually being helpful (to themselves and to users) by letting users identify whether the ad aligns with their interests.

This is an instance of how user choice in advertising (or even just perceived user choice) can create affinity for the advertiser and for the property hosting the ads. It’s the win-win-win that all ad people aim for.

It’s pretty clear FaceBook is trying everything with their advertising approach, as they haven’t stopped the ads-in-your-news-feed entirely. I do hope the new model works for them, because if it does it is better for everybody.

Joe Pemberton

OAuth: One Step Closer to Convergence

OAuthOne of the tenets of modern convergence, or at least our version of it, is that portability of content — across sites, portable devices and applications — is paramount. The usefulness of all that personal information, user generated content and contacts can expand and create new or enhanced services when more of those services open themselves up.

Getting these services (sites) to talk nicely, and securely, to each other is where OAuth comes in. OAuth — the “open authorization” API standard — is essentially a push for the portability of digital content. The effort made headlines because a group of influential parties, Yahoo, Google, AOL, Twitter, Ma.gnolia, Citizen Agency, Wesabe, Pownce and Six Apart have signed an agreement not to sue.

The nuances get a bit technical, but ReadWriteWeb has a good primer on OAuth and a layman’s overview of today’s news.

The upshot is we’ll see more mashups (think Google Reader + Craigslist + Flickr) which is a step in the right direction for content portability across devices and services.

At last week’s BREW conference I participated in a panel on mobile advertising (the panel’s title shares the same name as this post). Being primarily a developer conference the other panelists, and the audience to a degree, were largely interested in current and near-term opportunities. The discussion focused heavily on on-deck advertising. Frustratingly so.

The experience highlighted the current reality that as much as things are opening up there is an existing ecosystem that has to find its way. On-deck advertising for on-deck content is where the ad dollars are; simply because it’s also where most of the users are right now. This is not a surprise. What surprised me is the hesitation of discussing what the mobile web is bringing and that being where the users are in the currently emerging future means looking outside the walled garden.

If you’re an ad network, your challenge is not to demonstrate the value of mobile advertising. That’s easy. The CPMs and the CTRs back it up. The challenge is to attract mainstream credibility to mobile advertising by getting well-known brands (via their agencies) on board. This is a catch-22: companies and their agencies still have siloed approaches to mobile advertising and will until it becomes mainstream. Worse than that, even, is that deploying a campaign for the fragmented mobile landscape (carriers, ad networks, devices) is a major burden. Continue Reading »

Joe Pemberton

US Overtakes UK in Smartphone Mobile Web Usage

US smartphone users spend about 2x more time browsing web sites on their devices than smartphone users in the UK according to M:Metrics‘ newest study.

Also of interest is the sites those users are visiting.
Top US sites are Craigslist and Ebay followed by social media sites MySpace, Facebook and Disney’s UK sites were Facebook,, and Microsoft’s

The chief insight about the discrepancy between the US and UK usage is the availability of unlimited data plans in the US. Now that’s a user-centered idea.

Joe Pemberton

Chasing Early Adopters

Top US Cities for Early Adopters

If you were asked to list the top US “early adopter” cities you might start in Silicon Valley. Nope. Austin tops the list, then Las Vegas and Sacramento followed by San Diego, Washington DC, Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

The Scarborough report is a free 70 page report that aims to hone in on the “digital savvy” of the US population. The report has narrowed these people down to a small 6% of Americans who have adopted certain digital behaviors — they have DVRs, MP3 players, HDTV; they are likely to use VOD, VOIP and more advanced mobile device features. The report busts assumptions that early adopters are all MySpace users (they’re more likely to read and Download the report for the full demographic analysis.

Joe Pemberton

Asserting User Choice in Advertising

Hulu (, the web tv brand launched a month ago by NBC Universal is set to let users pick which ad to watch.

Maybe you’ve had the experience, trying to catch up to an episode of Lost that your Tivo somehow missed… You go online and are required to watch a few ads — in some cases the same ad repeated throughout the episode. This is the web. Shouldn’t it be smarter than this?

Giving the users a choice of which ad to watch is obvious. Below is a sketch of a concept we’ve put in front of some of our mobile and handheld device clients who are trying to align the gap between users and ad-subsidized content. I’ve contrasted that with what Wired describes as Hulu’s approach.

Idlemode Advertising Model - Hulu

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Peter Odum

Convergent Experiences, Divergent Devices

Punchcut Convergence is sometimes viewed as the consolidation of multiple technologies towards a singular über-device. I prefer to view convergence as the tendency of technologies, as they grow in complexity and scope, to overlap and consolidate functions. Convergence is a trend wherein devices and functions take on commonly shared traits, but this doesn’t mean that this trend ultimately ends with a single, multi-functional mega-device, no matter how cool and ‘mad scientist’ that might sound. Product mobility, technical innovation, component obsolescence, and proprietary ownership of certain functions are among the many forces that will ensure we continue to interact with ecosystems of related and overlapping devices rather than a single device with every function built in.

But, convergence as a concept illustrates how interaction design for devices is changing. As our devices advance, they are often consolidating functions previously reserved for separate devices. Examples of this can be seen in most modern devices, from mobile phones (which serve as PDAs, calculators, mini-computers, and portable game consoles as well as communication devices) to Media Center PCs (which serve as DVR, stereo music player, and digital picture frame as well as a standard personal computer).

With all this in mind, I’m offering up 7 considerations to use when designing interactions for converged devices.

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