Like many people, I am continually amazed by the obesity of people in the US, and coming up with theories to explain it is kinda fun. I have two theories so far.
One: individualism. The US is an extremely individualistic society, and it shows in the way they consume food. People here costumarily order things like “a sandwich on this type of bread with extra that without that and with some that and something else on top, and can I have a water of this brand with that, oh, and make that sandwich with this type of mayo”.
It’s baffling. I often have trouble when ordering food because I can’t do that. Kids are taught that way as well: they get to order whatever they want – it is the american way. Individualism also means family meals are probably less popular here than in, say, Europe.
Second theory: US is the country of the big. Portions are huge. Third theory: processed foods are cheaper than non processes foods.
(ok so I have more than 2 theories)
Fourth theory: infrastructure. US is the country of the cars. In Holland, almost everywhere next to the car lane, there is a separate lane for bicycles, and then one for people who walk. Here, it is hard to walk anywhere because it feels like you’re walkig on the highway always (no lanes for bycicles). Kids get brought to school in cars or buses in most areas.
I’m probably wrongg or badly informed on many of these things, so feel free to correct me.
Fascinating: MELISSA BATESON: “Life is filled with choices: a hungry starling has to decide which field to forage in, a peahen has to choose between the various magnificent peacocks she encounters on a lek and we have to choose which brands to buy every time we visit the supermarket. I am interested in how both animals and humans make decisions between alternative options, especially when the options on offer differ in more than one attribute.”
Alphagalileo: “AlphaGalileo is the fast effective way to get news to journalists around the world. AlphaGalileo provides instant access to news, images, background information and a database of experts.”
Edge: WHY DO SOME SOCIETIES MAKE DISASTROUS DECISIONS?: “My UCLA undergraduates, and Joseph Tainter as well, have identified a very surprising question; namely, failures of group decision-making on the part of whole societies, or governments, or smaller groups, or businesses, or university academic departments.”
Diary of a Superfluous Man: “People used to be willing to put up with frustrating usability experiences, convinced that it was their fault technology products took so much time to learn. No more. Today people are as sophisticated as they are ruthless. Frequent interaction with the technology of our always-connected world has given users a sense of power, freedom, and control. People have the option to disengage at any time and demand that technology interact with them in familiar ways. People now expect the applications they use and the Web sites they visit to be usable. Period. Usability today is table stakes %u2013 it is what is required to let you into the party to play.
So why do we as a community of designers spend so much of our time and effort debating, blogging, attending conferences and writing essays about something that is akin to %u201Cshould the television turn on when the power button is pushed?%u201D Everybody agrees that the products we design should be usable.”
trust-security-privacy: “Imagine a future where enterprise systems are distributed across continents, where applications are built from e-services and software agents acting autonomously and where people are using them on the move from almost anywhere.
Now imagine what spies, fraudsters and electronic vandals will do with those same tools and systems available to them.”
A Distributed Product Review Data Standard (Stefan Smalla’s Info Feed): “I think we could all profit from a decentralized way of standardised product reviewing.” Nice. “It would have to hang onto some (actually many) centrally available product catalogues.” Nope. It could use psi’s for that instead: published subject indicators as used in topicmaps.
Semantic Blogging Demonstrator. Too bad they don’t use facets or xfml, but a good blog anyways.
Ramana Rao: “Before the Internet became the Internet, I had access to perhaps one of the finest Intranets of all times at Xerox PARC in the
early eighties. There were amazing documents available, and it really deepened my appreciation of directly reaching the ideas of other living people through documents lying around on networks.
And to top things off there was a great library at PARC as measured in the quality of the librarians. Once I asked one of them, Kathy Jarvis, about famous papers. She pulled out a folder of papers with the word “Seminal” scrawled on a bunch of Xerox manuscripts. Many of these are now well-known because of various popular historical accounts and because the Internet is now full of people that also found these documents.”
Usability News – CHI 2003 Feature: Testing… 1 2 3 4 5 … Testing…, wherein Dennis Wixon brings some common sense to the usability profession: “the total set of problems is irrelevant. The true goal of testing is not finding defects but fixing them.”. Amen brother. Read it if you want to find out why Rolf Molich himself predicts the downfall of the usability profession.
:: phpPatterns() – XUL: rendering GUIs with PHP: “What’s particularily wierd about XUL is how little attention it’s getting while (IMO) it’s a truly outstanding technology. That probably has alot to do with who’s paying the IT press to talk about their products (Open Source relies on developers to spread the word) as well as Mozilla being perceived to have “lost” the browser wars.
Given PHP’s pervasiveness on the web, if the PHP Community as a whole began to “push” XUL, that situation could change radically.”
I have a feeling that, if I just understood what this was, I would get some insights of some kind. Via Tanya. Mushrooms might do the trick equally well though.
Making Intelligence a Bit Less Artificial (NY Times – free registration required): “To improve the recommendations, many software developers are doing an about-face from the mid-1990’s, when they put their energy into getting computers to do all the work. Today they say that automated programs that look for patterns in customer data are not smart enough to detect a gaffe. Something more sophisticated is required: the human mind.
People are becoming a critical component: analysts who understand why a particular type of music appeals to some people, categorization experts who know how to cross-reference material, retail executives who tweak the system to improve the bottom line and reviewers who check for nonsensical or offensive results.”
Horizontal CMS Tools: “You may add links to a Listing, a Search, a faceted Directory, and a Feature Comparator to your CMS site. Simply select the appropriate code below and paste it into your site.”
This is very cool. Something I wanted to do for years, but now someone has done it for me. Have a look.
Google Buys Applied Semantics: “In addition, the purchase gives Google a presence in Southern California, where it hopes to recruit new engineering staff. Overture is already based in the area, and its Pasadena headquarters is only 30 miles from Santa Monica-based Applied Semantics. The close proximity means that if Google and Overture are both after a particular engineering candidate in Southern California, accepting a Google offer will no longer require relocation to Northern California.”
Taxonomy Warehouse – A Comprehensive Web-Directory of Taxonomies. Excellent. If only they would make their database available as XFML – then we could browse it in Facetmap and use that as a superior browsing interface.
Wireless News: Why Blogs Haven’t Stormed the Business World: “That way lies trouble. While the actual pages in a blog may be simple HTML, the sum total of elements in a blog is a giant heap of files and folders understood only by the tool a blogger is using at present. What would happen if you were to switch tools tomorrow? With even the simplest blogs, many users would be daunted by the need to move files, change directories, get the new tools to hook up with the old. In short, each new tool would break your current blog. There simply is no portability under the current structure.
While such a situation can be a frustration for individual users, it could be a huge barrier to entry for blogging in the enterprise. Just as instant messaging has been hit with claims that its security and bandwidth use are not efficient on local area networks, the heap of content produced by blogging is not the ideal knowledge store a company might wish to produce as a result of employee participation. It is just a big heap of stuff. What’s needed is a uniform way for every blog tool to understand the blogs created by another tool and to pick them up when a user switches tools, much like the way browsers can share HTML.”
Nonono. While Ray identifies the problem correctly (blog knowledge is unstructured), the solution is NOT to make blog tools exchange their content (even though that would be a nice feature). Exchanged content is still unstructured. The solution is to add a flexible layer of metadata on top of the existing blog content, whether that content be in a database, an exchangable XML format or identified by URLs. The technologies exist: use Topicmaps or XFML.
Lou’s Enterprise Information Architecture Seminar is kicking in, have a look if you can easily get to Washington, LA or Chicago.