Friday, December 16, 2011

Is Christian Bale an Utter Fool?

8 hours from Beijing, Christian Bale, along with a CNN camera crew, attempted to visit a Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, who is currently under house arrest. Bale and company were chased away and manhandled by guards.

Much of the incident is on tape and is now available online.

Bale was in China for the premiere of his new film, "Flowers of War," which is set in China and funded in part by the Bank of China. The film is set in the 1930's and revolves around the story of a mortician who protects young girls during the invasion of Nanking by Japan. If this Chinese-Linkbacked film is part of an effort to develop a more sympathetic image in the West, that effort has backfired somewhat thanks to Bale's unfortunate conflict with Chinese guards outside Chen's home.

Previously, Bale has been criticized for participating in propaganda for the Chinese government. Was his attempted visit to Chen an effort to prove his awareness and concern about human rights abuses in China?

Could the Chinese gov't punish Bale and set an example for all by putting Chen behind bars again?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Debt Catastrophe: Another Lesson in Self-Reliance

Lesson learned: "experts" can't be trusted to alert us to critical risks that face our society.

Financial media and journalists should have SCREAMED bloody murder about interest rates being too low and housing prices climbing too high while incomes stagnated. But, they didn't want to be responsible for triggering a panic. And they didn't want to tell us what we didn't want to hear. Who wants to accept, before it's absolutely necessary, that the Titanic is sinking?

It wasn't just the centralized mass media. The blogosphere also failed to raise an alarm, for the same reasons. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news when it's on this scale. Try doing it at your office and you will get your ass in trouble. Believing the mass lie is a means to survival. We invent our own truth until we get hit by the "Reality Bus" as Alec Baldwin put it in his recent post.

The situation with our national debt is no surprise. We've been hearing about its huge-ness forever. But the commentators and pundits preferred to talk about military strategies and election speeches and Sarah Palin and social issues like abortion, school prayer, and gay marriage. Important things, but distractions from the fact that the earth was crumbling beneath our feet.

I hope the situation we're in now teaches us that a false sense of security is no protection; and that the people who get paid to interpret events for us, and even the people who do it for free, can't be relied on completely. We have to rely on ourselves to connect the dots and fill in the gaps.

Why didn't we?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Takeaways from Nielsen Normal Paper Prototyping DVD

If you enjoy hands on, in-person usability testing and you have clients who don't need to see ultra-slick deliverables, paper prototyping can be a great tool to elicit user responses and gain insights as you evolve an interface design. The Paper Prototyping DVD from Nielsen Norman is a eye-opening introduction to the possibilities.

You can have test subjects work with low or high fidelity wireframes, hand-sketched or fully designed in Photoshop . The advantage of working with paper is that it's fast, flexible, inexpensive and fun. And, it encourages conversations with users in ways that interactive prototypes and real websites don't.

For instance, to test content, you can lay a cardboard window on top of the page to indicate a scrollable viewing area. When the user needs to scroll, he waits while the test facilitator moves the window down the page. While this isn't the way people really interact with content, it slows down interactions and provides opportunities for users to share their thoughts.

There are several other user testing scenarios covered on the DVD, but what I enjoyed most was the section that covers all of the different, crafty 3-D tricks with construction paper and post it notes to add features like pop-up boxes, drop-down lists, and other controls to your prototypes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Google+ Ambitions Crushed by Facebook?

Facebook recently shut down some random dude's's Facebook ad promoting his Google+ circle.

I hope Google responds by eliminating Facebook posts from their search results!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Groupon's "Unsubscribe" Link Is at Top of Every Message

Is Groupon's the only one doing this?

Here are some companies that aren't (their link is still at the bottom):
  • Ace Hardware
  • Adagio Teas
  • Amazon
  • Amtrak
  • Careerbuilder
  • CVS
  • eBay
  • Living Social
  • Mint
  • Monster
  • Real Simple
  • Safeway
  • Save the Children
  • World Market
With email at the core of their business model, Groupon needs to cultivate a list that is as self-selected and engaged as possible. Disinterested list members should be able to opt out easily - lest they generate negative buzz.

Let's see if Living Social and other email-centric businesses follow suit.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Casey Anthony Verdict

On hearing "not guilty..." I felt disappointed that the truth will never be known, that no one will ever pay for what happened to Caylee. But I'm glad that the system worked. "Reasonable doubt" is better left broadly defined for everybody's sake.

Beautiful Films I've Seen Lately

The October Country
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
A Room with a View
The Picnic at Hanging Rock

Monday, July 4, 2011

"About Us" in Utility Navigation

Doing research for a new client, I found three peer organizations whose "About Us" lived in utility navigation:
Makes sense to me. While the American Institute of CPAs' primary audiences might be somewhat curious about "About" content, their greatest need is to understand and fulfill membership requirements. They can't do their jobs without meeting those criteria, so there is some urgency there.

And an understated positioning of "About Us" is a form of playing it cool - an appropriate branding move for some organizations.

People like the American Bar Association realize that they don't need to have their elevator speech front and center. Instead, they keep their primary navigation squarely focused on meeting user needs - without unnecessary distractions.