Friday, July 30, 2004

The Design Era

Nicholas Carr has written that IT doesn't matter.  Whether or not you agree with his controversial stance, the logical follow-up question to ask is, "What does matter?"

To me, the clear answer is design.

In a world where technology is ever-present and commoditized, function follows form.

Or less sensationally, the design of the consumer experience is more important than the underlying technology.

Need proof?  The UK's Design Council recently worked with the FTSE index to track the stock market performance of companies that placed an emphasis on design (they used design awards as a proxy for placing an emphasis on design).

The 63 companies that were consistent design award winners outperformed the index by 200%, with outperformance during both the bull market and bear market of the past decade.

Meanwhile, Virgin--a design-led firm if one ever existed--recently started Virgin Electronics to challenge the Sonys and Apples of the world.  Virgin Electronics has a staff of 10; they focus on designing the brand and experience, and let Taiwanese Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) figure out how to make the products.

When good enough technology is available to all, design is what counts.  As Seth Godin writes in Free Prize Inside, it's more important to make your products remarkable than to have to latest technology.  Design is one of the highest-leverage ways to make your products remarkable.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Job-related Benefits

Here's another story from the "truth is stranger than fiction" files:

Foreign strippers must supply nude photos to officials
"Foreign strippers planning to table dance in clubs must now provide photos of themselves with no clothes on to qualify for a visa for Canada, said immigration officials."

This reminds me of a story I once read about a graphic artist whose job was to airbrush out the nipples and genitalia for photos that would be posted on pornographic Web sites.  I'm sure that after a while, it gets old.

On the other hand, the Canadians note:

"In a memo to fellow visa officers around the world, Mercado said if a dancer passes the no-clothes test, they may then require a police certificate or medical examination."

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Guys Really Will Screw Anything

One enterprising individual modified a classic Eliza chat bot to sound like a dumb, sexually rapacious teenager.  Then he took the bot for a spin in a sex chat room.

While some of the men who encountered "jenny18" realized that she was a bot, many did not, keeping up their end of the conversation until they, er, lost interest.
Why Journalists Are No Better Than Bloggers

There's been a lot of fuss about Annie Jacobsen's recent article in the Women's Wall Street Journal.

In this article, Jacobsen describes the terror she felt on a recent plane flight, when half a dozen Middle Eastern men were talking amonst themselves and visiting the bathrooms.  Despite Jacobsen's concerns, nothing occurs until after the flight, when the FBI questioned the men and released them.  After the flight, Jacobsen was told that the men were musicians, and were travelling to play a show at a casino.  Jacobsen uses the incident to criticize the FAA for its prohibition of racial profiling, which prevented the airlines from questioning the musicians before they boarded the plane.

Various pundits lined up to alternately excoriate Jacobsen to overreacting, or blame the FAA for endangering passengers to be politically correct.

Only Clinton Taylor, a Ph.D. student at Stanford University, bothered to try confirming the musicians' identity.  Within an hour, he had located the Sycuan casino in San Diego, which had booked Nour Mehana (the Syrian Wayne Newton) and a backup band to perform on July 1, and confirmed that they had been on the flight in question.

The most terrifying thing about them?

"And then I noticed something that was truly terrifying, something linking Nour Mehana to a figure of such repulsive evil that I felt a rush of prickly fear not unlike Jacobsen's: Just one week later, the same company that arranged Mehana's performance, also booked Carrot Top!"

Why is it that some of the world's biggest publications couldn't spend one hour to check the most important part of a story on terrorism?

While there is no doubt that we should be worried about the potential for racial profiling to endanger our skies, we should also be worried about the validity of mainstream journalism.
A Pot of Ink at The End of the Rainbow?
Everyone knows that printer ink is expensive, but it takes a story like this to ram the point home.  Apparently, a swimming pool of HP ink would be worth $5.9 billion!