Monthly Archives: May 2009

Maybe I’m Overthinking This…

As I’m watching the Mets seemingly lose to the Red Sox Saturday night (this is pre-Santos heroics), my wife asks, “why is the 7th inning stretch in the 7th inning? Why isn’t it at the halfway-point of the game in the middle of the 4th?” Good question, I never thought about it as a question of when the break is positioned, just that a break happens. As a matter of fact, Wikipedia also fails to address the origins of when, other than saying that people were hot, and Brother Jasper decided to randomly call a timeout when his charges were restless. Wikipedia entry:

The origin of the seventh inning stretch is said to be in the story of Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., the man credited with bringing baseball to Manhattan College in the late 1800s. Being the Prefect of Discipline as well as the coach of the team, it fell to Brother Jasper to supervise the student fans at every home game. On one particularly hot and muggy day in 1882, during the seventh inning against a semi-pro team called the Metropolitans, the Prefect noticed his charges becoming restless. To break the tension, he called a time-out in the game and instructed everyone in the bleachers to stand up and unwind. It worked so well he began calling for a seventh-inning rest period at every game. The Manhattan College custom spread to the major leagues after the New York Giants were charmed by it at an exhibition game, and the rest is history.

Is this the ultimate User Centered Design Approach? Observing the fan’s (user’s) needs, the rules of a system (baseball game) were altered to accommodate. In this case, that people could sit and relax for only so long without growing restless and requiring a short break – and that the time intervals fell at an odd time in relation to the length of the game in innings. The rules of the system (game) weren’t altered to provide symmetry or balance to itself. This is an important distinction. Often times in what we do we try to design the perfect design system, often taking the opportunity to make the system itself as beautiful and as balanced as possible. And that’s good, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes an imbalance or asymmetry in the system itself is necessary to provide balance and a better user-experience for the end-user.


VizualPV3D is a free Flash application that provides a GUI interface to create and manipulate objects in 3D scenes using Papervision3D.

A Juxt Interactive project, designed and developed by Gary Stasiuk, VizualPV3D provides a visual interface to Papervision3D that not only helps people see exactly what they are getting, but also enables designers and non-developers to create their own scenes.

Wow. Someone has finally done it. Big kudos for even undertaking this kind of initiative. Now I can talk about little UI niggles I have with this application (check-boxes are on when they’re black?) but I won’t focus on that. I think it’s absolutely amazing that someone has pulled this off. I’m currently playing around with it and kicking the tires now and it certainly works – how well it addresses what I consider popular use-cases remains to be seen. More updates on this in a bit…

Times Reader is Here – For $3.50/wk…

I saw this demoed at Adobe Max and was blown away. The experience they’re creating in AIR makes you want to read the newspaper. After seeing the demo I wanted to run out and subscribe. But some time has passed and the newness/hotness/gotta-have-it-ness of the application has worn off a bit and I’m left wondering, “Why would I pay $3.50 per week for content I can get completely free?’ Is the recreation of the newspaper-reading experience so good as to warrant a $3.50/wk expenditure?

The problem with this application strategy is that it hitches it’s wagons too heavily to the Newspaper Experience – not the content experience. Meaning that, is a dual-column, page-turning format the best for absorbing the content? Is it best for exploring content/concepts/archives/photos giving you related content, taking advantage of hyperlinks and rich media?

It may be an exact replica of the newspaper experience, but is that what customers really want? Mother economics will ultimately be the judge.

Physical Changeable Buttons On a Visual Display

(hat tip Bred)

Chris Harrison, a Ph.D. student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, recently proposed it can be done in the research project titled “Providing Dynamically Changeable Physical Buttons on a Visual Display”…. He is also the author behind data visualization projects like Digg Rings, Amazon Book Map, Google Trigrams, Visualizing the Bible and many more)

It’s all coming together – before you know it we’ll all wake up in The Diamond Age.