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The Flicker Blog and Podcast

Subscribing to the podcast will keep you up to date with all of the new Flicker material as it gets released.The blog itself will contain all manner of things about music and user-experience design.

Archive for the 'Design' Category

Eye Tracking by Etre

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Five eye-tracking experiments conducted on 5 sites, over 5 days.
Etre have (rather helpfully) released the findings for their tests on the Dixons, Currys, Amazon, Marks & Spencer and HMV sites.

It was interesting to read how Amazon exploit their awareness of the page’s hotspots to market offers and services more effectively than many of their competitors.

Microsoft iPod Parody

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

Watch the video
Apparently, this was produced internally at Microsoft as a tool to communicate to the Marketing and Packaging teams just how wrong they tend to get things. It’s both a funny and powerful example of why less is so often more.

Also related (being about Microsoft marketing) the current Office Poster Campaign: ‘It’s time to evolve’ strikes me as having a rather inappropriate underlying message. Given the widespread use of Office by Enterprises, isn’t the suggestion that corporate life is currently hell (unless you upgrade to the latest version of office) also saying that this is the case because the previous version of office is unusable? For instance, a human being with a dinosaur head is seen turning up at reception saying ‘I’m either here for a 12 o’clock on the 11th, or an 11 o’clock on the 12th.’ Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, is that because you’re a dinosaur, or because you use Outlook?

Kids: The Converged Consumers?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

I attended an interesting event last night at 01 Zero One in Soho.

Paul Tyler talked about his production for the BBC, Bamzooki.
Frank Alsema talked about The Blackbeard Connection.
Gary Pope of Kids Industries gave a very entertaining talk entitled ‘Are children over-indulgent technology eating monsters, or are they still kids?’ Ashley Cooksley, Manager, Kids, Teens and Learning, AOL UK presented the results of research conducted recently with 10 year olds across the UK and Richard Deverell, Controller, BBC Children’s talked about the future for broadcast media in the on-demand age, and the shift in power between channel and programme brands.

Paul Tyler – Bamzooki

I knew nothing about this show (if that’s an appropriate manner in which to refer to a cross-media broadcast) prior to attending, but was rather impressed with the concept – offering kids tools that they can download, from which they can build their very own ‘Zooks’ and upload them for possible inclusion in the TV broadcast. The Zooks are effectively virtual robots, designed by the kids, and suitable for certain tasks or environments. Kids are encouraged to share experience and learning, collaborating to for me teams for the tv programme, where the ‘Zooks’ are pitted against one another in competitions. An understanding of mechanics, physics and an observation of what works in nature yields better results. So, the interactions encourage learning on several levels.

Paul was one of two speakers talking of the ‘Interaction Pyramid’ – the easily grasped concept of a diminishing number of participants as more interaction or engagement is required. He admitted that the bar was set quite high for this show and that a very small percentage of the kits downloaded actually resulted in uploaded ‘Zooks.’ He was relatively unconcerned about this but I feel that the comments by another speaker, Gary Pope of Kids Industries about ‘Proximal Development (that we learn most and are most attentive when we’re just between the ‘can do’ and ‘can’t do’ spaces in any task were particularly relevant here. It appears to me, that too many of the kids are firmly in the ‘can’t do’ camp and as a result, get less from the experience. I’m also slightly cynical about the attitude that passive consumer (or lurkers) forming the majority of the audience is both acceptable, and even desirable. My suspicion is that this is driven by the needs of the dominant medium (TV in this case) and not by any higher ideology. If all the million kids who downloaded the kit uploaded ‘Zooks’ how would they be judged fairly, and how would you make a compelling TV show using the existing format (several teams competing against one another)?

Frank Alsema – The Blackbeard Connection

Hmmm. Not entirely convinced about this one. A ‘true cross media’ game. Again, the ‘interactive pyramid’ was mentioned; and again, this seemed to be the limitations of the games engine or medium driving the need for a high rate of player attrition. Not that I’m saying games shouldn’t be competitive, but I wonder how engaging the format is for the non-participant? A feature length movie, broken up into 3 minute chunks, broadcast daily with clues for players wouldn’t, I suspect, hold much interest for a non-player or one who has dropped the ball and is out of play. Then again, the idea of watching a bunch of wannabees do mind-numbing and demeaning activities whilst captive in a house on live on TV seems utterly ridiculous to me too.

Ultimately, I felt that pursuit of the ‘Convergence’ holy grail drove the game model. Rather than the value of each device/platform being used for it’s unique merits, I felt that they had a shopping list of devices and platforms they wished to include, then dreamt up rather clunky means by which to link them in a game. Still, it’s early days and there was a lot to admire in the aspirations of the project, if not in the execution and design.

Beatport would still appear to suck

Saturday, January 14th, 2006

One month on, Beatport still hasn’t managed to resolve the problem with my order. There follows, a particularly long post detailing what I believe to be an utterly ridiculous and convoluted discussion with Beatport over the fact that I had a problem with an order from them.

I wrote a post about the terrible experience the morning after placing my order. Given that a month has now passed and I’ve written far too many emails to them trying to resolve the matter, I feel inclined to post the correspondence. I doubt many people will have the inclination to read all the emails, but it certainly helps me feel justified in my frustration to lay them out end-to-end and confirm that they have done absolutely nothing to resolve what should be a trivial issue. I’ve taken out names, phone numbers and email addresses, but otherwise, the content below is exactly as received/sent.

From: Paul Crowley
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2005
To: Beatport
Subject: Re: Beatport Download Order #273870

Please tell me what is going on!

I selected that I wanted WAV format for my purchases, and even got the confirmation pop-up dialogue, yet the download page is saying that the purchased music is in MP3 format.
What do I do?

Yours frustrated,

Paul

From: Paul Crowley
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2005
To: Beatport
Subject: Re: Beatport Download Order #273870

Hi,

I’ve just noted another problem with my order.
Not only did I order WAV and get MP3, but I also didn’t get what I ordered!
I order Beatz iN Peacez 01, 02 and 03. Instead I got two copies of 01 and one of 03.
Please can you let me have Beatz iN Peacez 02 please?

Thank you very much,

Paul

From: beatport.com

Subject: Dear Valued Customer,

Date: 14 December 2005

To: Paul Crowley

Dear Valued Customer,

Thanks for Contacting Beatport. We apologize for any inconvenience you are currently experiencing. We will respond to emails in the order they are received and normally handle requests within 24 to 48 hours.
Sometimes the answer to your question may be in the FAQs section on our site. Most other technical, library and refund inquiries can be handled here.

Thanks for your patience in this matter.

The Beatport staff

From: beatport.com
Subject: RE: Beatport Download Order #273870
Date: 19 December 2005
To: Paul Crowley

Hello Paul,

This sounds like a possible glitch with your account. I apologize for this inconvenience. Let me forward this to our engineering group and I will follow up with our resolution. Again I apologize and we thank you for your patience in this matter.

Regards,

Beatport

From: beatport.com

Subject: RE: Beatport Download Order #273870

Date: 20 December 2005

To: Paul Crowley

Hello Paul,

I checked out your account and it does show MP3s. This might be a glitch with your account. Let me forward this to our engineering group for troubleshooting. Hopefully I will be able to follow-up again soon when resolution is available. I apologize for the inconvenience in the mean time.

Thank you for your patience in this matter,

Beatport

From: beatport.com

Subject: RE: Beatport Download Order #273870

Date: 28 December 2005

To: Paul Crowley

Hello Paul and thank you for being so patient.

Beatport experienced technical issues during the migration of the WAV download feature. We’re containing the glitches but for the most part most problems have been resolved. We hope no more issues arise. Let me know if the error still persists on your end. I will troubleshoot further if need be. You are also more than welcome to give us a call at ***-***-**** if you would prefer to expedite this issue.

Regards,

Beatport.com

From: beatport.com

Subject: RE: Beatport Download Order #273870

Date: 28 December 2005

To: Paul Crowley

Also I can reset any tracks you may have lost during this delay.

From: Paul Crowley

Sent: Wednesday, December 28, 2005

To: Beatport Support

Subject: Re: Beatport Download Order #273870

Hi,

I’ve just gone to my account page, and I’m still getting mp3s for download instead of WAV.
I also received no comment on the fact that I have two copies of ‘Beatz N Peacez 01′ and one of part 03, when what I actually wanted was parts 01, 02 and 03. I hope you can assist?

Many thanks,

Paul

From: beatport.com

Subject: RE: Beatport Download Order #273870

Date: 28 December 2005

To: Paul Crowley

Hi Paul,

I took a look at your account preferences and you actually have MP3 downloads as your preferred download file type. In order to download WAVS you will have to update your information accordingly.

Log in

Click account

Click preference

Update preferred file format

I hope that clear up our mix-up. Let me know if the error still persists on your end. I will troubleshoot further if need be. You are also more than welcome to give us a call at ***-***-**** if you would prefer to expedite this issue.

Regards,

Beatport

From: Paul Crowley

Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2005

To: Beatport Support

Subject: Re: Beatport Download Order #273870

Hi,

Thanks for the tip – I have now set my preferred file type to WAV.
However, at the time of purchase, I specifically requested WAV (regardless of this preference).
Does changing this preference mean that my downloads will now be available in WAV format as I requested?
I have still received no comment on the actual tracks in my order not being the ones I ordered either.
Can you please comment on this too?

If I can be as clear as possible – I would like to have Beatz N Peaces parts 01, 02 & 03 by Peace Division (two copies of the same track are of little value).
Frankly, if it makes matters easier to clear up all of these queries, I would (ideally) like to download all the tracks I have ever bought from Beatport in WAV format. Is it possible to do this by paying the difference between the MP3 and WAV formats? I would gladly do this if it can be organised.

Thank you,

Paul

From: beatport.com

Subject: RE: Beatport Download Order #273870

Date: 31 December 2005

To: Paul Crowley

Hello Paul,

WAV files are treated as separate orders so if you would like to purchase track in these formats another purchase needs to be made. I apologize for this inconvenience. The Preferred Format which you choose will be the default format for all purchases on Beatport. You will have to update accordingly if you would like different types of format with the order.

Regards,

Beatport

From: Paul Crowley

Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006

To: Beatport Support

Subject: Re: Beatport Download Order #273870

Hi,

Yes, I understand that WAV files are priced separately to MP3. Given that all of our discussions have been about how I requested WAV files in the first instance, can I not please get what I ordered? I’m happy to pay the difference in price, but I think that it’s totally unreasonable that you ask me to make a complete new order because your site wasn’t/isn’t working properly.

And… you have still not answered the question that I’ve put in virtually every one of my emails to you – that I my order didn’t contain the tracks that I requested.

I realise that the order wasn’t a significant spend on my part, but I find it utterly ridiculous that after nearly 3 weeks and 6 emails from yourself, that this simple request can’t be met: I’d like my original order (#273870) in WAV format as originally
requested with Beatz N Peaces parts 01, 02 and 03 as ordered, rather than two copies of part 01 and one of part 03.
I wrote a lengthy blog post on my frustration at the interface design of your site, and how it messed up my order. Frankly, I’m feeling inclined to write another (quoting our correspondence). Given that I reported a problem with your sites functionality and my order, you have still done absolutely nothing to placate me despite many emails and nearly 3 weeks passing. As customer experiences go, this has been one of the worst I can remember. This is such a shame because I feel that your core offer – great music, reasonably priced and not hampered by DRM is fantastic.

Thanks for your time.

Paul

From: beatport.com

Subject: RE: Beatport Download Order #273870

Date: 3 January 2006

To: Paul Crowley

Hello Paul,

At the time of your initial order (273870) you had MP3 downloads as your preferred download file type, which you received.

To deter our customers from purchasing unwanted tracks we feature “My Crate,” which allows items to be removed at any time during a browsing session. All traditional check outs are then automatically directed to “Account :: Crate” where corrections may be made to the summarize details of the pending order. By submitting the “Check Out” button Beatport then forewarns with a disclaimer of the proceeding purchase. The order will only be finalized with our customer’s agreement.

Order 273870 also indicated tracks:

46179 Beatz n Peacez 01 Original Mix Peace Division NRK $1.49

11889 Beatz iN Peacez 03 Limited Edition Peace Division NRK $1.49

11906 Beatz iN Peacez 01 Original Mix Peace Division NRK $1.49

All being different downloads with different audio. “Beatz n Peacez 01 Original Mix- 7:05″ and “Beatz iN Peacez 01 Original Mix- 7:36″ are not the same audio. If you would like to purchase Beatz iN Peacez 02 Original Mix Peace Division NRK then another order must be made indicating the specific file format before checking out and agreeing to Beatport’s disclaimer.

However these policies are not to dismiss our appreciation for our customer’s patronage. We understand that mistakes occur nonetheless. So in light of this, Beatport developers are in the final stages of yet another feature that will allow an exchange of our products of equal or lesser value provided tracks has not been downloaded. As an option I may offer you this type of exchange once this feature is available to us.

Please let me know. I apologize for the inconvenience.

From: Paul Crowley
Subject: Re: Beatport Download Order #273870

Date: 5 January 2006

To: Beatport.com

Hi,

Thanks for your reply.

At the time of your initial order (273870) you had MP3 downloads as your preferred download file type, which you received.

Yes – I’ve already had this pointed out to me. Surely, manually selecting ‘WAV’ as the format I want for this order, and selecting OK when asked if I am sure is sufficient information for you to realise that I don’t want my preferred download type this time? Particularly when the whole notion of a preferred type is yours, and not your customers. I can buy whatever I want from Amazon; and just because my last order from them was 12″ vinyl isn’t interpreted by them as permission to ignore all subsequent orders for CDs. Perhaps you could/should do the same?

I am getting a little tired of repeating myself (as I’m sure you are) but I do get a little annoyed that the responses are now along the lines of ‘You don’t know how to use our website properly’. Particularly given that one of the first emails I received from you about this issue read:

‘Beatport experienced technical issues during the migration of the WAV
download feature. We’re containing the glitches but for the most part most
problems have been resolved. We hope no more issues arise. Let me know if
the error still persists on your end.’

I really can’t believe how may emails I (and you) have had to write to resolve what should be a trivial matter.
I didn’t get what I asked for – I politely asked for the matter to be rectified, and offered to pay any shortfall that may have arisen if appropriate.

What is the problem, and why have you gone from admitting there were faults to suggesting that it’s my inability to use your site (which any usability or accessibility consultant would tear strips off)? I’ve done my best to be patient and polite, but it’s getting increasingly difficult.

However these policies are not to dismiss our appreciation for our customer’s patronage. We understand that mistake occur nonetheless. So in light of this, Beatport developers are in the final stages of yet another feature that will allow an exchange of our products of equal or lesser value provided tracks has not been downloaded. As an option I may offer you this type of exchange once this feature is available to us.

It’s not 100% clear from the above if you are offering me what I’ve been asking for, but if you are saying that you will offer to exchange my purchases for WAVs, then yes please!

Thank you, Paul

Ze Frank at Pop!Tech 2005

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Ze does an entertaining critique on Information Design that’s best defined as stand-up comedy. Talking exclusively about airline safety literature, there’s more entertainment value than education in his talk, but nonetheless, several amusing illustrations of the content vs clarity conundrum arise.

There’s a second presentation as part of this file – with a similarly humorous take on ‘Intelligent Design.’

Beatport sucks

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Grrrr. The thing is, I really want to love Beatport.
It’s an inexpensive and convenient source for buying all manner of underground electronic music – the kind of thing that was the preserve of the specialist vinyl shops that are now in terminal decline.

Not only are the prices reasonable, and the collection relatively extensive (and growing) but they do what we all want – offer content without DRM and in a variety of useful formats – MP3, MP4 and WAV.

So far, so good. So why oh why do they insist on doing so many dumb and infuriating things? The whole site is built in Flash, rendering it slow, clunky and inaccessible – the main point of which seems to give it a rather ugly UI (OK, I admit that this is a subjective point of view, but being a designer, I think I’m allowed to comment). Not only is this implementation possibly leaving them open to legal action under EU Accessibility Laws, but it serves no one in any way whatsoever that couldn’t be better and more efficiently implemented in plain old XHTML. On a Mac, it frequently doesn’t work. Typing in a search query yesterday, each successive keystroke overtyped the previous one. The buttons in the interface don’t respond, or when they do, the delay is so great that you’ve already moved on and have no sense of what you’ve clicked.

Being as there’s only one URL, the back button doesn’t work, the refresh button (which I instinctively tried on several occasions when the interface appeared to have frozen) takes you back to the front page. And of course (a major oversight) you can’t link to any content on the site because you have to use the clunky and un-reassuring search interface to get to anything.

I have content for sale on Beatport. It would be great to be able to refer any viewers of my site directly to a page where they could actually purchase our material. Surely, every one wins there?

I’m sure that they will put it down to human error, but when I made an order yesterday, I actually bought two of the same thing from a series of 3 choices (getting part 1 twice and 3 instead of 1,2 and 3). Now, I’m sure I made the right selection, but given the lag between pressing the ‘buy’ button and getting any visual feedback or it actually registering in your basket, the possibilities for error are endless.

To make matters worse, the trigger for me buying material was to try out the newly advertised WAV downloads. So, I made my choice, proceeded to checkout (this was my 3rd attempt by the way – had to switch from Mac to PC to proceed) then chose WAV as my format. I accepted the dialogue box that verified if I wanted WAV, paid and went to my downloads page. The only problem, my downloads were there as MP3s.

So… Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Again.

I really hope that some (or all) of these matters get resolved soon. When I discovered this site, my first response was ‘there goes all my money.’ But, it’s so painful, frustrating and un-reassuring buying anything from this site, that for the time being, my money seems relatively safe.

The World According to Live Journal

Friday, July 8th, 2005

Graphical representations of the moods reported by Live Journal, as visualised by the Informatics Institute in Amsterdam. It was particularly significant (though not surprising) to see the huge downward trend following the tragic events in London yesterday.

What do your waking thoughts say about you?

Sunday, January 9th, 2005

(7.00am)
Considering that I flew into Boston late last night after a long (and 5 hour delayed flight) I’ve had way too little sleep.

Am I a freak? As I awoke (naturally but characteristically early) I found myself pondering the Wired article on digital images and automatically added meta data I mentioned recently. – and before my eyes had even opened!

In the analogue v digital camera marketplace, I realise that the tipping point has already been reached for the consumer market. I’ve held off to date, but I suspect that my personal resistance is weakening.

Maybe I should first explain my reservations:
I’m a perfectionist and a designer. My trusty Nikon FM2 yields me incredible sharp, beautiful images.
I use transparency film for the added crispness and color definition.
I am very attached to the polarising filter on the Nikkor lens that gives even greater crispness and colour saturation to my photos.
I like TTL (Through the lens) monitoring of my compositions, focus and filter adjustments.
I like depth of field, and making decisions for myself about shutter speed.
If I ever wish to ‘use’ the images in a design, or digital context, I can always get professional, super high res scans for my use… right?
I’ve always used digital cameras, but for personal or work related stuff, analogue has always been my preference.

However, packing for this trip I became aware that a shift had started to occur:
My lovely, dependable camera is built like a tank, but incredibly bulky and heavy.
My life is increasingly digital, and the photo CD offer at time of processing does very little justice to the quality of my images. If I want to use them in a digital context, expensive(ish) pro scans are the only option for this perfectionist.
Meta data! Coming back to my waking thought, I’ve started to appreciate how valuable this stuff is. Using iPhoto with Louise’s digital camera, I’ve a new found appreciation for discovering when images originated. Ask me when one of my slides was taken and I’ll be luck to guess the year. Ask me where some of them were taken and I’ll often have no idea. Maybe it’s the obsessive in me, but I do like the change in context you can get from a thousand random images – just by ordering them by date taken. You can’t get that from a random selection of a thousand slides.

With the cost of the pro-ish high resolution digital cameras falling, I’m beginning to wonder if a change is coming, and… if the view from my hotel room of the beautiful curved steps below me covered in snow would be an appropriate addition to this entry.

Blue Note covers

Sunday, November 21st, 2004

OK, so my motives were a little sad (looking for cover art for my iTunes library) but for anyone interested in the amazing cover art of Blue Note Records, I discovered an amazing Japanese website yesterday:
Vintage Vanguard

It looks to me like someone more obsessive than myself has taken it upon themselves to scan every single Blue Note sleeve (at reasonable quality) and put them online. Great resource for designers looking for inspiration. Personally, I find them a valueable lesson in composition and simplicity – incredibly innovative use of the repro technologies of the day – and how many of us designers know about repro now?

What a day!

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

Psychological profiling at work aimed at identifying my personality type (thankfully I’m not all bad!) followed by a panel interview for a fairly senior position at work. No idea how it went – but typically I’m assuming the worst.

Louise sent me this item on branding which looks very interesting (and fits with some of the things I was discussing in my interview) – brands are more than logos:
Building Brand into Structure