An article in the Guardian about MySpace…: “It’s really nice to be called a Social Software expert again – particularly after slightly losing my identity inside the monstrous belly of the BBC. I have felt a bit disconnected from the social software community over the last year or so in that while I feel I still have as much to say, I never really get the chance to express it in public. And that makes you invisible and eventually redundant. I’m going to have to try and spend a little more time engaging in the debates of the day from now on, I think.”

I know a lot of IA’s who work in small and large companies and have a lot of expertise to share, but don’t. I want to encourage them. Write a blog. Or a book. The blog is easier, and it gets you almost as much recognition as a book does, so start with that. It’s more fun too. But if you always wanted to write a book, that’s cool too. If I’ve learnt one thing from my time online, it’s that conversation is what it’s all about. I’ll shut up now.

The Disney Muppets: why that just isn’t funny. I don’t think Disney can bring the muppets back. Something about large corporations – the values of the leaders trickle down, and if those values are cold, hard cash, creativity suffers. I watch a lot of Disney movies (the cartoon ones), including the recent ones. They had a few good ones in the 90s (Alladin, The little mermaid), but mostly they’ve been dissapointing (The lion king was the best of the bad ones), and the latest 5 years they haven’t done 1 decent one (I don’t consider the recent brilliant Pixar movies (Toy Story, Finding Nemo) Disney movies. Disney just did the distribution.). Disney will probably fuck up the Muppets, and kill millions of cherised childhood memories along the way. Ah.

Folksonomies: “There only need be a small connecting layer between folksonomies, classic AI and classic IA for the end result to be very, very compelling on many levels.” Exactly right.

You remember those Spanish innovative UX guys I spoke about. Javier Canada let me know they are beta-testing La Coctelera, a new free blogging service with a pretty innovative interface. It’s light on features, but in that good way that makes it feel easy and sufficient. It’s Ruby on Rails and Ajax and all those buzzwords (who cares?), but one of the big, visible innovations is their really easy navigation: to change something, click on the area of the screen that corresponds with it:

Another review in English.

Photoethnography.com: Fieldnotes: My interview fieldkit. And: “I have read of people who go to really dirt-poor parts of the globe and pack a Canon battery-powered 4×6 dye-sub printer, so they can make prints on the spot and give them to the people they photograph as a thank-you gift. In many countries, less blase about photography than our pampered industrial societies, these would become prized family heirlooms.”

Waw, in March I served 1,049,751 pages on poorbuthappy.com. That’s a million! I wonder how much of th upsurge in traffic the recent months is due to spammers.

Stupid fucking academic burocrats. In order to speak to a researcher to help her with her dissertation, I have to sign and mail or fax a disclosure form to them. I can’t just email an “I agree”. I am moving and don’t have access to a printer. What century is this?

freevlog.org (all NEW) explains stepby step how to set up a completely free videoblog, including free video hosting. Brilliant. (And using none of those crappy free hosting sites that send you popups and stuff).

It now seems to be ok (legally) to share your Google adsense revenue.

Mark: “Since August 6, 2003, I have made $7915 from Google Adsense. My daily revenue peaked in April 2004 at about $18 per day and has been steadily declining ever since. Last month I averaged just under $9 per day. I have ads on Dive Into Python, Dive Into Accessibility, Dive Into OS X, and dive into mark.”

I’ve made $3,641 since June 2003 – in 4,638,888 pageviews. Not bad. Most of that comes from ads on my Colombia forum. Very little from the ads on my blog, that I have turned on and off at different times.

What this means for working for yourself: ads on a blog won’t get you much $$, unless you’re a super A blogger and even then. Building a useful community site seems to work much better for generating ad revenue.

I just found a good way to re-arrange pages in Visio. Problem: whenever you add a new page to Visio (insert>page), it adds it to the end of the stack, and then you have to drag it to its right place, its truly annoying using the tab at the bottom. Dragging pages takes like that like 15 seconds each. Fix: open view>drawing explorer window, and re-arrange pages there by simply dragging them around. Much better.

Joi Ito’s Web: Japanese punctuality: “For instance, in my Silicon Valley meetings people tend to allow important meetings to run overtime and eat into the next meeting whereas in Japan, I will often be ushered from a very important meeting to a completely worthless meeting in order to maintain punctuality.”

Boing Boing: Whose sign is it anyway?: “This AP photograph of some soldiers in front of a sign in Kabul, Afghanistan looks normal enough, until you notice that the sign they’re standing in front of (presumably aimed at the local population) is written in English.”

Russell Beattie Notebook – Backpack: Too Bad It’s Not Mobile: “Backpack’s kinda nice… for a PC app. You know, so much effort being put into a dying platform, it sorta makes you sad. Really, it’s too bad there’s not a mobile version baked in from the start.
[…]
this stupid AJAX fad just makes their web pages more non-standard and all that much more impossible to re-use, so they decided to skip it.”

New Scientist Info-overload harms concentration more than marijuana – News:”he and his team asked 80 volunteers to carry out problem-solving tasks, first in a quiet environment and then while being bombarded with emails and phone calls.

Despite being told to ignore the interruptions, the average IQ of the volunteers dropped by about 10 points. Not everyone was equally affected – men were twice as distracted as women. Studies have also shown that IQs of people high on pot drop by only 5 points.”

So it’s proven: information overload is more distracting than smoking the funny cigaret.

IA in Spain

After describing the IA scene in Belgium, in this post I will describe the IA scene in Spain. Again, please correct me where I go wrong. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures (couldn’t find my camera) when I was there. If you have any pictures, send them over, I’ll add them to this post.

IA in Europe (and Germany) in general isn’t doing that well. People are frustrated with clients who don’t know what IA is, and there doesn’t seem to be much innovation. Imagine my surprise when I visited Spain and found a small but thriving IA community!

I gave a workshop in Barcelona first, organized by Raquel Navarro who works at the department of technology of the Pompeu Fabra university. Attendance was good, there was a variety of people (Spain’s largest bank sent 8 attendees), and the workshop went pretty well. Workshops in Spain are fun, by the way, people are not afraid to speak up and ask questions. I also had the pleasure of meeting Ricardo Baeza (Javier Velasco worked with him in Chile) – an expert in information retrieval. Unfortunately I had to run because I was visiting friends that night and the next day I had to be in Madrid.

Afterwards Toni Granollers i Saltiveri gave me a ride (and Jesus Lores Vidal), and explained me the UX work (in the GRIHO) they’re doing in the university of LLeida. For example, they are experimenting with online cardsorting and building a new tool to make that easier. They are also doing remote classes (online teaching) and seem to have a great deal of experience with this.

Toni Granollers

Then I went to Madrid for an informal talk (a “Cadius lab”) organized by Cadius, the Spanish speaking UX mailing list/community. I gave my talk which was mercifully brief, we went to the bars and a good time was had by all. By the way, if you are ever invited to give a Cadius lab, go. They’re great hosts.

cadius lab - don't they all look bored..

The talk was in La Biblioteca de las Indias Electronicas (Libary of the electronic indians – the BIE), a non-profit small library space focused on Internet research. It has a big iron spider on the ceiling, some sci-fi, a bunch of UX and political books and hand dolls. It felt like home. They do a lot of events there.

Here are some of the people I met:

Nacho Puell just came back from a trip to Japan, and has one of the oldest weblogs in Spain (since 2000). It’s about usability, information visualization and such.

Javier Cañada has a weblog too, and Nacho described him as “our most famous person outside Spain”, partly for his representation of the UX cosmos (PDF). He and Nacho together are the founders of Cadius.

Isa (isabel ines casasnovas) is, within Cadius, the
person that organize the Labs (thanks Isa!!) and works at the UX team of Idealista.com.

Juan “3 verdades” Leal (works with Isa) explained to me the three truths about men. Ask him. He has an interesting blog, and also runs seisdeagosto.com, where he translates interesting articles originally written in English or Spanish to Portuguese. Isa says about him: “Somehow, he is the “link” between Spain and Portugal in UX matters”.

Juan “Taliban” Fuertes was doing research on mobile phones so had dozens of them (or so it seemed) with him that night.
Juan Fuertes

David de Prado works at the DNXGroup as well.

David de Ugarte is one of the world’s experts on social networking analysis (you can even follow a course on social network analysis in Madrid!). They’re doing social network analysis with a political/enthographic bent – fascinating stuff. He writes a lot at ciberpunk.net Too bad we didn’t have more time to talk. He gave me his book (“networks to win a war”) – thanks! I really hope it gets translated into English.

David de ugarte

Apologies to all the other people I met whose names I didn’t remember. If you send me an email I’ll add you to this list.

And here’s an (undoubtedly incomplete) list of UX companies in Spain.

  • DNX (Nacho Puell works here), founded by Humberto Matas: a user research consulting company who are doing very interesting research work and have a pretty impressive international client list. An extremely talented bunch was my first impression. A tip: if you go to interview with them, no need to shave if you don’t want to ;)
  • The Cocktail is DNX’s big competitor in Spain. Both companies fight for the same clients, but there seems to be a great deal of respect between them. Javier Cañada works here. Another really talented bunch of people.

I was pretty impressed with the Spanish UX scene. Not only are they active, they are innovative. They are coming up with their own ideas and their own research. I see a great future there, especially because they have a common language with (most of) the isolated talent in Latin America, which means they should be able to really innovate outside of the box the traditional/US IA’s seem to be stuck in. Keep an eye out for them.

More pictures. More comments (in Spanish) (I am now known as “el gran xfml father”). More blog posts about the talk.

More pictures from Madrid:

I spend a lot of time in the US, and in the last 15 years I think I’ve crossed US immigration about that many times. I’ve grown afraid of entering the US. Nothing but bad experiences, unneccesary arrogance. I get nervous when I get on a plane to the US, even though I tell myself I have no reason to.

When I was called aside to be frisked entering Canada a few months ago, for the first time I experienced a friendly frisking. (No, this isn’t going to be a story like that!) The gentleman who did the duties explained me step by step what was happening and why – clearly he’d received some kind of customer service training – and afterwards I felt strangely respected, almost happy. Weird.

A few days ago I entered the US again and had an even weirder experience: a human immigration officer. The man was friendly, he asked the usual questions but then we made a few jokes about it (how he was planning to leave his job too and start a rogue immigration office next to the official one).

A human experience is even better than a professional userfriendly one like the one in Canada. I don’t think I’ll ever experience this again at US immigration but I just want to thank the gentleman in question. For being human. Thanks.