Pe-mail

What’s Pe-mail, you ask? It’s my fabulous new product idea!

In short, Pe-mail is a Peer to Peer e-mail system that is going to solve all of the current problems with e-mail. Woo Hoo! You’re excited now, right?

It’s sort of a hybrid between traditional e-mail and instant message. Without going into the details, here’s what I’ll be focusing on: client usability and back-end scalability.

I suppose I could work on developing it myself, but I really want to get some more design experience. I’m thinking of making it the first design project for OpenLeaf and running the development as an open source project.

So why’d I name it Pe-mail? I just thought it was funny, in a fourth-grade-humor sorta way. Certainly “Pe-mail” isn’t as funny as, say, Back Orifice, but hey, if you come up with anything better, let me know, ok?

EyeVision, Redesign & HCPI 2

…got together with the TI Crew and watched the Super Bowl yesterday. Forget about the game and the adverts, EyeVision was clearly the crowd favorite at our gathering!

The bradlauster.com redesign is coming along. In addition to looking better and being easier to manage, my ‘blog entries are going to be date based as opposed to title based – so I don’t have to make up a meaningless title every time I want to let you all hear about my fabulous life.

Intel Architecture Labs is hosting its second annual Human Centered Product Innovation Conference (sorry, no external web site). If any of you are interested, let me know and I can get you on the invite list (It doesn’t cost anything, but you’ll have to pay for transportation to Oregon and lodging). The list of speakers is pretty impressive, including Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, known for his “archetype research” process, Sarah Susanka of Not So Big House fame, Bill Moggridge and Jane Fulton Suri from IDEO, Red Burns from NYU’s ITP, Rick Robinson from Sapient, Nokia phone designer Frank Nuovo and others. I can’t wait!

Oops…almost forgot to mention: the conference is from April 30th to May 2nd. Registration ends February 15th.

Designing…

(Note from Dec. 2001: The links in this post were no longer valid, so I removed them and italicized the words that used to be linked, for reference.)

Hey, I learned something else new today: Netscape doesn’t recognize cascading style sheet class names with underscores. If that’s not the most absurd example of crappy coding, I don’t know what is.

With that last little bit of knowledge, I solved a number of design problems that were troubling my pretty little head. If you’d like to keep an eye on the progression of the design you can take a look over here. I’d love to get your feedback, so if you’ve got comments, let me know, ok?

In other news, Selena’s imwatching.tv launched today, complete with an I’m Watching TV Cam, so you can watch her watch TV. TOO FUNNY!

Feeling better…

Though I’m feeling better, I’m still not 100% over what Jenn has officially dubbed “the sickness.”

By the way, I’ve been working on my re-design and playing with a nifty little tool called Greymatter. I recommend checking it out. It’s very handy…and hey, who can turn down free source code?

Ginger — 2001’s most virulent meme

The meme, “Ginger,” is apparently a new product dreamed up by well-known inventor, Dean Kamen. I first heard about Kamen last year when I saw a report on his invention, the iBot Wheelchair. The iBot is nothing short of astounding! Not only can it travel up and down stairs, but it can balance, let’s call it “stand up,” on two wheels. Through a system of gyroscopes and microprocessors, it has the ability to keep its balance. I couldn’t believe the demonstration I saw on TV…you literally CAN’T tip it over. It’s absolutely freaky!

I first heard about Ginger on Slashdot. The Slashdot article pointed to an article on MSNBC. MSNBC pointed to Inside.com. Inside.com had a boat-load of links in their message boards, including a link to Dean Kamen’s company and a link to the related patent on Delphion.com. It has since spread to ZDNet and Reuters, among others.

The excitement and wild speculation was further stirred by comments made by Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs, both of whom have seen prototypes. Bezos said,
“[Ginger] is a product so revolutionary, you’ll have no problem selling it. The question is, are people going to be allowed to use it?” And Jobs was quoted as saying, “If enough people see the machine you won’t have to convince them to architect cities around it. It’ll just happen.” Pretty big statements, eh?

The patent suggests it’s some kind of scooter, but regardless of what it turns out to be (we’ll find out in 2002), the excitement it has generated in just a few days, has just blown me away!

OS-licious!

You may recall my post from way back in August about future OS interfaces…well, Newsweek (which is apparently now part of MSNBC) has a good article that gives a decent overview of Apple’s Mac OS X, Microsoft’s .NET and Eazel’s Nautilus environment. Mmmm…tasty!

Although I haven’t actually used any of the interfaces mentioned in the article, I have seen demos of all three. Of course, since I haven’t used them, I can only make off-the-cuff comments, but here goes anyway:

It seems that Apple’s solution goes the furthest to solve what I think is the biggest problem with current OS interfaces – window management. With OS X, dialog boxes always appear with the correct window and I imagine the need to re-size and move windows around will be drastically reduced with the advent of the “dock.”

In typical Microsoft fashion, the .NET solution seems to be focused on technical accomplishment rather than solving actual usability problems or improving user experience. Their solution, to make everything a web page, must surely have been born in the executive washroom, rather than in a meeting of skilled interaction designers. I do like the idea of a “universal type-in” bar though. Jef Raskin discusses this is his fabulous book, “The Humane Interface.” It’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft implements it.

Eazel’s inclusion of a “beginner, intermediate, expert” selector seems like the kind of solution that people who don’t really know too much about interaction design would support. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard frustrated computer users say, “I wish I could just set this to beginner,” as if that would magically solve all the human-computer interaction problems. Further supporting my opinion is the fact that their solution seems to be getting a lot of support from industry heavyweights like Dell and Sun (or at least from their execs – who probably don’t know the first thing about HCI). I must applaud Eazel’s efforts though. They’ll need big industry support to capture the market away from other desktop environments, such as KDE. I also like their inclusion of a zoomable interface. Unfortunately, I think the idea of having to worry about files and know about the file system is an idea whose time had passed.

I don’t really think any of the solutions above solves all of the problems with current OS interfaces, but I feel confident in saying that they are all taking at least some steps in the right direction. Plus, all this activity at the same time is exciting!

By the way, Andy Hertzfeld, of Eazel, will be giving a talk entitled, “Improving the Usability of Free Software” at the 01/BayCHI meeting tomorrow. Anyone want to join me?

Thank you alt.design.product!

Earlier this week, I was thinking that newsgroups had really gone down the crapper. One out of every two messages in alt.design.product was either an ad for an alternative to viagra or spam from a porno site.

As you can probably imagine, I didn’t expect much when I posted to the group asking about universities offering new product development programs. But, lo and behold, a few days after I uploaded the request, a kind person e-mailed me with a link to a cool program that’s right in my own back yard (practically). The link was to the Product Design Program at Stanford.

As a result, my faith in newsgroups was temporarily restored – right after I wrote a rule to automatically delete all posts with the word “viagra” in the subject.