Monday, December 19, 2011

Amazon and Permission Marketing

I got an e-mail from Amazon today asking me to rate my experience with one of their sellers.  I'm usually happy to give my feedback, but there are a few things that serve to dissuade me from doing feedback for a vendor or anyone else.   Foremost of my peeves are sellers that ask for "a minute" and then proceed to ask a myriad of questions on every aspect of the exchange all the while never telling you how many questions are left, and using a vague clock or status bar to show your progress.  I'm sure these retailers are questioning why there are so many abandoned questionnaires.  "If only they'd finish all 243 questions, we'd have the answer to everything."

Asking a few pointed questions and getting good answers on a few questions is better than bad data on many questions.  Amazon does it right in this instance.  They ask 3 questions, a rating and a comment.

What Amazon fails here at is requiring the comment which appears to be a public proclamation about the seller.  It moves from How did the seller do?  to Tell others about them."

I'm happy to give you feedback on your product, service, transactions and the like (I'm rarely short of an opinion).   However, requiring me to "tell others" in order to do that is inappropriate.  Amazon would not allow me to submit my response as is because the text field is blank.  I was tempted to make snarky comments about the inappropriateness of requiring the field, but it's not really the seller's fault.

How many people feel compelled to complete that box?  "What?  I can't submit my three responses until I give some feedback on that field?  Okay then."

What consumers need to remember is that we're part of that transaction too.  Seth Godin wrote about Permission Marketing and how it's about engagement with consumers and getting permission to market to them.   The flip side of that coin is us, as consumers, giving permission.  When a business or on line retailer doesn't ask permission, don't give it.  If they interrupt by spamming you, subscribe you to a newsletter without your permission, sell your information or try to force you to give a response when its you doing the favor, walk away.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Timberland Zipable Trail Shoes

I love the design, but am left a bit wanting.   I want them to either zip together, zip to each other or zip with the sole side in or both.  Zip them together with the soles facing each other.   The video has you zip them up and hang off the outside of your pack, so it makes sense to zip the cloth inside, but for storing inside your pack, you'd want the sole (and the dirt) on the inside
They start at $29.99 from Amazon

Friday, December 16, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Upcycled Dictionary Book Art Prints

I stumbled across these on Etsy the other day, and love the combination of vintage illustrations on the book pages.   The seller, PRRINT calls it upcycling, taking an old object and rather than recycling, they're making it more valuable. At $8.00 a print (plus $2.50 shipping to the US), they're very reasonable. 

Sadly, many of the photographs are a little out of focus, but they look like beautiful illustrations.  I especially like the head as it has a very Monty Python feel.

Jelly Fish
Frog Reading
Bike on a map
Alice in Wonderland

Beware of What You Put Inside

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Denali Experiment

Great video of a team hiking Denali in Alaska and skiing and snowboarding the mountain. The description from the makers describes the film as
"Free-ride skier Sage Cattabriga-Alosa and big mountain snowboarder Lucas Debari step out of their elements and make an attempt to climb, ski and snowboard Denali. Sage and Lucas get a helping hand from a huge cast of seasoned and professional climbers and ski mountaineers from the North Face Athlete Team, including Hilaree O’Neill, Conrad Anker, Ingrid Backstrom, Jim Zellers, Emilio Previtali and Giulia Monego, as the two embark on the hardest expedition of their lives."

Image from National Park Service

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tigger, Che and a Smurf at School together-

Great character renditions by Sakiroo Choi from South Korea.

Characters range from Darth Vader to Picasso and Ronald McDonald.  Below are a few of my favorites.

He calls this series "Yellow Lemon" and notes;
One day, I thought..There are schools to study a world-class class. Movie class, Comic class, Brand class and Artist class. Student is a celebrity. and they all wear school uniforms with yellow lemon.
See the full set at Behance

 Smurf #19
 Donald Duck #30
 Tigger #25
 Che Guevara #22
Mickey #21

Sakiroo Choi can be found
His website
Twitter @sakiroo

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do

I love this video of Gulver Tully presenting "5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do" which is a shortened version of his book "50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)".  Perhaps the most insightful of them is teaching kids that things are "knowable".   It's a powerful concept.  You're not teaching facts, but creating the idea in them that they can learn it.  So if they hit a point where they do not know something, its not an end, there's another step which is to find it out. Whether it's a machine as Gulver is talking about, or a plant, animal, computer or anything else, there's always something to find out that we don't know.

This idea also plays into the idea of self efficacy.  Wikipedia defines it as the "belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals."  More simply, it's the believe that you can impact change, make something happen.  While some people see life happening to them, while others make things happen. 


Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Springsteen Halloween

Happy Halloween

Enjoy some Bruce Springsteen "A Night with the Jersey Devil".  The intro the song tells the story:
"On a stormy night in 1735 Mother Leeds gave birth to her 13th child.  The child was born normal, but transformed into a creature with hooves, a horse's head, bat wings, and a forked tail.  He inhabits the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Laughing Stone and Zippered Rocks from Hirotoshi Ito

I love these striking pieces form Hirotoshi Ito.  He gives stone a fluid, warm feel.  These pieces are both beautiful and imbued with humor. For more pieces visit his flickr stream

Laughing Stone

Plush Stone





Cooking Stone 09


I know you

Laughing Stone

Look Up

The Stairs

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hobbit Holes from Maine

I got the chance to see these Hobbit Holes in person over the weekend at the Maine Organic Farming Association's (MOFGA) Common Ground fair and they're beautiful.  Inside are curved trusses which support the curved roof lines.  Playhouses start at $2300, sheds at $3600 and cottages at $5500.  They have great round doors on the front, and some models have rectangular doors at the back.  Given the space and the money, they'd be a cute addition to the garden.  Hit the bottom of this page for a tour of the cottage.

And the added benefit, they're made here in Unity, Maine.  Visit Wooden Wonders site for more pictures and pricing. 

hobbit house with green door

hobbit house with door open and futon inside

hobbit house inside with wooden table and chairs

hobbit house showing side dormer

man nailing floor boards in hobbit house

large cottage hobbit house with outside lights and blue door

Friday, September 16, 2011

How to Dock a Folder in Your Taskbar in Windows

This is a great tip on how to dock a folder in your task bar in Windows. It allows you to then navigate down through the layers and access files directly without leaving the document or browser window you're working on. It's quick enough to do, that it can be done and undone based on what you are working on at the moment. It does take up space on the taskbar, which is why you may not want to dock more than one or two folders there, but otherwise is a great, handy tool.

docked folder with files expanded
To dock a folder right click on an empty space on the task bar > Toolbars > New Toolbar >  This opens a new window where you navigate to the folder you want to dock and click "Okay".
To remove a folder from the task bar right click on the folder > Toolbars > and uncheck the file you want to remove.
See the video demonstration below.

Transcript of the video: Hi this is Joshua Howe from I want to show you how to dock a folderin the footer in your taskbar in Windows. Thiswill allow you to then navigate down through the layers of the folder without ever leaving the document or the browser window you're on.So in order to dock oneyou right click on an empty space in your task bargo to toolbars > new tool barand from here you can navigate to the document, sorry the folderthat you want. Drill down (through the files). And now it appears in your taskbar units available to access. Removing documents is just a simple. You go to toolbars and we'll see the two items that are checked are the ones that appear in the taskbar If you click on them and uncheck them they disappear from yourtaskbar.The other thing is if you want to be able to open an entire folder from your desktop you can right clickand say open this'll allow you then to be able to work and manipulate documents within that folder but if you just want to be able to access information in that folder, access the document, that's easy enough to do. You can add new documents to this folder but you can't drag and drop from this window it won't actually let you put anything and move them around from this window.For more information and more tips visit Thank you

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lefty Ironman Watch

Timex ironman watch
I love my Timex Ironman watch with the exception that it doesn’t stay on the time.  It keeps great time, but continually changes the mode it’s in.  This is primarily because the mode buttons are on the left hand side of the watch.  Being left handed, I wear my watch on my right hand, and because of this, when ever I put my hand in my pocket or knock the watch reaching for something, it frequently hits the mode button. The only other one on that side is to set the watch, but that needs to be held down, so that rarely becomes an issue.  Were I right handed, these buttons would be on the arm side (versus hand side), and protected from getting accidentally hit and those that are exposed on the hand side are the light and start/stop buttons.

Given the configurability of electronic components, why don’t manufacturers allow you to configure the buttons on your watch.  With my computer mouse, I can swap left and right buttons, choose my pointer and choose how my scroll wheel works and how fast.  Why can’t I decide which buttons change the mode and which turn on the light?  It could be as simple as providing the option for a left handed and right handed mode.  It could also clean up the face by removing the instructions on the face.  If they’re really necessary, etch them on the back of the watch. 

Were Timex to implement this change, people would complain that its too complicated.  More options add complexity, but give power to the user.  What are you feeling it too complex, but is really greater power?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Would you pay $300 for an ax?

The ax has been around for centuries in essentially the same form, a long handle with either one or two flat blades. There have been long, short, straight and curved handles, and blades that are flat, curved, large and small, but each incarnation is recognizable as an ax.

Then there’s the Leveraxe. Unlike traditional axes where the handle is centered in the blade and split by acting as a wedge, the Leveraxe offsets the handle and the force of the blow, causing the head to twist to the right. This combined with a rapidly widening head, causes the log to split using lever action and preventing the blade from becoming stuck in the log.

The demonstration videos are impressive for sure, but is it worth nearly $300? Don’t miss the slow motion video.

Slow motion video:

Product Page: Lever Ax
Pricing: $282 (incl. shipping)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Don't Touch- A Repairman Has Been Called

This sign is in my office.

sign reading

There are so many reasons I love this sign.
  1. Woodgrain
  2. Embossed Letters
  3. Metallic Lettering
  4. Unnecessary Quotations
  5. It must pre-date computer printers
  6. It happened frequently enough for someone to send out to have it made.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Last Thoughts on Amy Winehouse

When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they've had enough, that they're ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it's too late, she's gone.- Russel Brand in the Guardian
Amy Winehouse died in her home in London on Saturday at the age of 27.   She was a unique voice that brought jazz back to a population that may never have encountered it. 

I first heard her on YouTube long before she was available in the United States.  I had a friend in England send me her album, and I bought her second album when I went to Ireland later that year.  I've embedded below some of these early performances of hers which are why I first fell in love with her music, and demonstrate why we've lost someone truly special. 

Teach Me Tonight


Monkey Man

Take the Box

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Don't Pity a Disabled Man- Find Him a Job" -WWIPoster

Text: Don't Pity a Disabled Man-Find him a job.  YMCA logo. Side bar with "Phone Regent 4030 The Red Triangle Employment Bureau for Ex-service men, 102 Dean St. W.1. or your local Employment Exchange"

Image Source: Imperial War Museum, London via We Make Money, Not Art

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Google Music Rocks- A Balanced Review

 I was a huge fan of until it was killed by Apple in May 2010.  Lala allowed you to listen to any song in your personal collection from the web well as listen to any song in their catalog once for free.  They also provided the ability to buy web access to songs at a fraction of the mp3 price (.20 versus .99).

So when I received an invite to the beta version of Google Music I was psyched.  Similar to Lala, it allows you access to songs in your personal collection from the web, though the difference is that you actually have to upload the songs versus just have Lala match them by scanning your computer. I’ve uploaded over 1000 songs so far and have been very pleased with the service. I’m impressed with the clean interface, devoid of extra noise. It has many of the features that I would expect from a music player such as shuffle, custom playlists and the ability to favorite songs (though only thumbs up or down, no ratings).

As with other music players, songs are cataloged by artist, genre, album. After uploading my collection, the genre’s needed some cleaning up, but this is more about there not being a consistent standard so one album is labeled “Dance/Electronic” while another is “Electronica/Dance”.  You can manually change the genre for an album by editing the album’s information. As its designed, it allows me only to type in a genre as opposed to the ability to choose from the existing genres in my collection as well as add a new genre.  This would prevent me from making a typo when trying to remember how I wrote Dance/Electronic; “Did it have a space before or after the slash? Was it Dance_/_Electronic or Dance/Electronic?” (Its not smart enough to notice that they’re the same, though does recognize “Dance” the same as “dance”.)  See the review below for demonstration of some of the this as well as other features.

An excellent feature is that you can select multiple songs and edit their properties, such as their genre.  So rather than individually reclassifying Electronica/Dance albums as Dance/Electronic, you can click on the genre, select all of the albums and rename their genre.  With many web applications, the ability to select multiple files or elements is limited, and done using check boxes or other unique mechanism, while this one functions on the familiar Windows convention of using shift or control to select multiple files simultaneously.

Having the controls docked at the bottom of the browser window is good in that as the window shrinks, the controls stay in view while it shrinks and hides other information like track listings.  However, being at the bottom of the screen is not a convenient place for the controls.  I initially thought this was a because I used to iTunes having the controls at the top.  However, its not a habit issue.  Using tabbed browsing, I have multiple tabs open, and if I want to pause my music I must to go from the top of the window to change to the music player tab, to the bottom to pause the song, then back to the top to change tabs.  The alternative is keep the music player in a separate browser session, but this still doesn’t solve the top/bottom issue. 

Deleting songs or albums can be done by expanding the menu and choosing to delete.  However, you can also delete songs by highlighting it and clicking delete on your keyboard. I know this b/c I did it by mistake.  Thinking that I was in my e-mail on the other screen, I still had focus on the music player window.  Clicking delete (for the e-mail), I mistakenly deleted a song.  It did provide a mechanism to undo the action, so I could recover the song.  I am not sure what it would do if I repeatedly clicked delete and how far back I could undo.  Where expanding the menu and choosing delete is a very intentional process and shouldn't require a warning message, it should have a warning message if delete is chosen from the keyboard.

All views except songs are images or icons. There is no way to view items in text form. It’s not possible to view a list of artists or albums in a list versus icons of each.  This gets especially challenging when looking at an artist list and you have albums that are from various artists b/c you’ll see multiple images of the same album cover as it’ll be listed for each artist.

Some critics have complained that the service doesn’t allow you to purchase music through it or automatically add songs purchased elsewhere to your library (a la Amazon Cloud Music).  I suspect that this will be the next phase for Google Music.  Not only can Google Music move into the music sales business, but there’s also the ability to add audio books and  podcasts (free or otherwise).  As Google continues to encourage users to move to cloud based services which use stripped down hardware with limited memory, such as their new Chrome book, it will be increasingly important for services to have the ability to move information within the cloud without downloading.  The ability to move information within the cloud, from vendor to cloud storage, will be critical.

Overall, it’s a strong application that has a few features that could be refined, but that’s what beta testing is all about.  Google’s got the weight and trust to make this a strong presence in the on line music scene, though their high profile also makes them a target of publishers and regulators.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Toob: Creative Annotation of Video

I love the internet because every day I have the opportunity to be inspired, stunned (good and bad), challenged and intrigued. I found an amazing site that succeeds on so many levels.  It appears to be a side project as it's part of the person's domain.

The project is called toob and the creator is Travis McLeskey.  He describes the site;
"toob is animated, anyone-edited annotations for YouTube videos. It's a site where you can add time-coded annotations to videos and then watch them swoop in and out as the video plays....I made a fan website for an album by the mashup artist, Girl Talk. The album was "Feed The Animals", and my website was The whole point of the site was to let you listen to the album while a readout below the music player showed what songs Girl Talk was sampling at the current playback position....While it was originally made for music and video mashups, it's really just a wiki of video annotations."

As he says "you listen to the album while a readout below the music player showed what songs" are being sampled.   The songs featured on the site are largely rap and remix type albums, as you would expect.  However they've gone beyond simple listing of the tracks that are being played and overlayed, and this is the beauty of the design.

The different tracks float in from the right, appearing stronger as they near being played.  The length of the bar underneath them illustrates how long the track appears for before fading out and flying off the left side of the screen. The effect is a natural reading flow.

Editing is fairly rough, but effective.  The formatting is:
  start time|stop time|line 1|line 2|row number|color  

So the elements I added read
3:09|3:11|Pulp Fiction||5|#00CCFF
5:47|5:50|Blues Brothers||5|#00CCFF
The nice part about the editing is that you can tack your edits onto the last of the other edits. This is nice b/c you don't have to order them in any manner, but it does make it challenging to correct other people's times.

The video at the top is a Beastie Boys song which illustrates the integration of the various music clips and the lyrics flying in from the right and leaving on the left. The second video is a Kleptones video which is comprised of various movie clips.  While the music isn't as complex or layered as the Beastie Boys song, the use of the fly in for movies is a nice use.  I have to say that I was saddened by the fact that Hair and the Blues Brothers weren't called out in the clips, so I had to correct that before recording these demos.

Monday, June 27, 2011

National Association of the Deaf File Lawsuit Against Netflix over Captioning

Netflix logo versus National Association for the Deaf logo

National Association of the Deaf  File Lawsuit Against Netflix over Captioning

NAD are charging that Netflix violates the Americans with Disabilities Act not providing captioning to all of their streaming content. The lawsuit was filed June 16 in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts

"An estimated 36 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. The deaf and hard of hearing community has repeatedly expressed concerns—via letters, petitions, blogs, and social media—to Netflix about its failure to provide equal access to “Watch Instantly."
“We have tried for years to persuade Netflix to do the right thing and provide equal access to all content across all platforms. They chose not to serve our community on an equal basis; we must have equal access to the biggest provider of streamed entertainment. As Netflix itself acknowledges, streamed video is the future and we must not be left out,,” said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins.
“There is no excuse for Netflix to fail to provide captions so that deaf and hard of hearing customers have access to the same movies and TV shows as everyone else,” stated Arlene Mayerson, Directing Attorney of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. “Netflix admits that there is no technological issue. For people who are deaf and hard of hearing, captions are like ramps for people who use wheelchairs.”
View the statement from the NAD below.  Be sure captions are enabled as statement is signed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chris Hosmer and his Tape Pictures (and other stuff)

Chris Hosmer is an artist who currently lives in China and is managing director of Continuum Shanghai.  I came across his tape "drawings"on the design blog Core77, but as a dug into his site, realized he's a versatile talented artist.

Tape Drawings

"I first saw a tape drawing while I was working in the Saturn Studio at GM's Tech Center in Warren, MI. I was the design lead for a 3 person team tasked to develop a Saturn concept vehicle. My two colleagues, a sculptor and an engineer, sat together as we watched a veteran car designer draw a full scale car profile in tape. It was revelatory for me. I never considered drawing this way before. The car designers do it because it's a little bit more controllable than a white board. And it's physical. It requires your whole body."

Hashidate Stop Motion from Chris Hosmer on Vimeo.


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