Great Experience – Quicken Online

April 22, 2009

I was logged into my Quicken Online account earlier today, but then I got distracted by other things (as I am wont to do). When I returned, this message was waiting for me:

Quicken Online Session Timeout Message

Quicken Online Session Timeout Message

This is a great message, because it:

1) Tells me what happened,

2) tells me WHY it happened (a lot of people forget this part)

3) tells me what to do about it, and

4) tells me all of these things in a helpful, friendly tone.

So simple; so rarely done this well.  I’m not too surprised, because every Quicken product or service I’ve ever used has been great with the user experience. (I am guessing any of you out there who have used TurboTax recently would agree.)

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The White Sox, psychology studies, pop Vader, and other things I liked today

April 7, 2009

Here is a list of things I liked today:

1. White Sox won opening day, beating KC 4-2. Their first crooked number was earned in true Sox fashion, by needing four hits to score a single run in the 3rd. But pitching looked solid, Getz and Fields had great starts, and Thome bat 3 for 4 with the game winning homer in the 8th (not a solo shot thanks to Getz and Fields). My only extremely sizeable worry is Dewayne Wise as leadoff.

2. Shakespeare Had Roses All Wrong. Article about how the gender of words in different languages may change the way the object itself is perceived.  There’s a bunch of research out there about how language shapes culture and vice versa, and it never ceases to fascinate me. (Source: NPR)

3. In your face.  The parts of our brain responsible for face recognition aren’t messing around – they are seriously wired to see faces. Don’t take my word for it – watch the Charlie Chaplin video 3/4 of the way down the page, and you tell me. It seems that even when you know what you’re supposed to be seeing, you still can’t force your brain to see it (unless, apparently, you’re schizophrenic or really drunk – the theory being that the sensory and conceptual areas of your brain aren’t connecting properly).  (Source: Wired)

4. “Pop art meets evil dad.”  The Vader Project at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

5. Free books and research tools. Read, mark, take notes, etc on entire books (research oriented)  for free at  Questia Online Research: http://www.questia.com/read (You do have to sign up for a free trial, so it’s not quite as good as it sounds.)

6. Games Lilly Allen plays (maybe). Is it true that she hides tickets to her shows in different cities, and gives people clues about where to find them via  her Twitter feed? I also read she watches from near the hiding places to make sure they are found. I know Shaq likes to give away tickets to people who spot him around town, too. Awesome way to connect with your fans (and get new ones).

7. Learning new words. I love that people in the Obama administration use words that force me to break out a dictionary every now and again. New words are good for the soul.

8.  The word antipodean. –  1 : the parts of the earth diametrically opposite —usually used in plural —often used of Australia and New Zealand as contrasted to the western hemisphere 2 : the exact opposite or contrary


The intersection of science & design

February 23, 2009

I’m excited about this new column from Paola Antonelli on SEED magazine’s Web site.  Antonelli curated the fantastic “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibit at MOMA (I never saw it personally, but I’ve spent hours on their brilliant Web site).

Here’s an excerpt from the first column, called “Core Principles”:

” Designers find themselves today at the center of an extraordinary wave of cross-pollination. Because of their role as intermediaries between research and production, they often act as the primary interpreters in interdisciplinary teams, called upon not only to conceive objects, but also to devise scenarios and strategies. To cope with this responsibility, designers need to set the foundations for a theory of design and become astute generalists. At that point, they will be in a unique position to become the repositories of contemporary culture’s need for analysis and synthesis, society’s new pragmatic intellectuals. As scientists increasingly embrace this role of the designer, and also recognize in designers like-minded innovative thinking, science will become design’s most precious ally.”

I’ve always been fascinated with the intersection between science and art, especially from a ‘that-which-makes-us-human’ standpoint , so this prediction that science and design will intersect in a very pragmatic way is exciting to think about. Much as our primary role as Americans drifted from citizen to consumer with the introduction of mass marketing in the early 20th century, so it seems (and I am absolutely not the first person to say this) that mass distribution of conversation and ideas is moving us from consumer to consumer/creator in the early 21st. Fun.

Links:

SEED magazine: http://www.seedmagazine.com/

“Core Principles” by Paola Antonelli: http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2009/02/core_principles_1.php

Design and the Elastic Mind: http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/


Who Loves the Sun?

October 13, 2008

Dammit. Do you ever find nature to be so magnificent that it breaks your heart?


Keepon Keepin’ On

August 17, 2007

Yeah!


Combatting Foggy Brain

August 9, 2007

Here’s an oldie but goodie from the Creating Passionate Users blog (one of my favorite, and sadly extinct blogs). I am resurrecting it because I believe it explains the case of ‘foggy brain’ I can’t seem to shake at my current gig (in a big, beige cube in a big, beige building at a big, beige bank):

“You always knew that dull, boring cubicles could suck the joy out of work, but now there’s evidence that they can change your brain. Not mentally or emotionally, no, we’re talking physical structural changes. You could almost say, “Dull, lifeless work environments cause brain damage…

Apparently all work and no play makes Jack not just dull, but dumber. So don’t forget to have fun…”

I am taking this to mean a trip to the new Whole Foods across the street is in immediate order – can’t argue with science! Unless of course, you’re the Bush Administration.

And yes, I think grocery shopping is fun – especially when the store has a wine tasting station and encourages you to drink while you shop – now that’s good user experience!

Full article: http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/02/brain_death_by_.html

 


Four Cool Sites

August 9, 2007

Some great sites I’ve run across over the last couple of weeks.

1) Walkscore.com  – Find out how walkable different neighborhoods are – just type in an address, and it shows you bars/restaurants/stores/services/schools nearby.  It’s only as good as Google Maps, because that’s the data they use, but that’s pretty darn good. It seems as though it’s original purpose was to help folks scope out new neighborhoods for real estate purposes, but it’s great for finding local places where you already live (especially if you haven’t lived there for long), or for traveling (e.g. what’s near my hotel, or better yet, where should I stay?).

 2) Slidecast  – from Slideshare. As they say on the site: slideshare + podcast = slidecast. And it’s free.

 3) Songbird – desktop app that lets you play all your music and anything on the web. love the interface. love what it can do.

4) Hey – it’s that guy! I remember this site from a few years ago – it lists all those character actors you can’t quite remember (inspired by the late, great J.T. Walsh – aka Cigarette Man from the X-Files among other things).  After racking my brain yesterday to remember what it was called, I revisited it – there was a guy in front of us at the Steppenwolf the other day who we recognized from some TV show or other but couldn’t quite place. I never did find him on the site, because frustratingly it doesn’t have pictures, but I spent a couple of hours on it anyway -it’s just so darned entertaining.