Monthly Archives: February 2009

Blu-Ray licensing

If you’re a manufacturer wanting to incorporate a Blu-Ray device in your product, you need to negotiate a license with each of the three bodies that represent the various patent holders – 18 in total.

This is an example of the gridlock economy, the problem caused by ownership distributed between multiple parties.
It’s a form of complexity that increases the cost and risk to your customers, reducing the benefits they receive (and in turn the price they’re prepared pay you!).
And it’s a hurdle that prevents your customers from making your product a raging success (because you can’t and only they can).
Fortunately, three years after the Blu-Ray product was first launched, the patent holders have announced a one stop licensing shop. The expensive lesson here is to make the end-to-end user experience of your product a priority from day one – don’t wait until it hurts your business.

Meaningful measurements

We shouldn’t be surprised that road safety authorities are obsessed with speeding – it’s an easily measured safety factor in a sea of possible factors (fatigue, distractions, blood alcohol, skill, training, conditions and vehicle maintenance to name a few) that are not. It was then only a short step to attribute meaning to that limited data set and blame speeding for almost everything. This long-running road safety TVC is a particularly good example of this, blaming speed for three dangerous behaviours that include no speeding at all:

Humans are particularly good at recognising patterns and applying meaning to data no matter how poor our data sets are – consider astrology, for example. Ensure, therefore, that you go well beyond the easily measurable data – consider instead what factors might be meaningful and find new ways to measure them.

Get out – quickly

A conversation with a salesperson at my front door last night:

I’m with [a company offering phone + internet packages] but you’re with Telstra.
Who do you use for internet?
Which package?
Fifty gig.
Oh – I can’t beat that …
You use it all each month?
It’s good isn’t it – I’m on TPG’s seventy gig plan.
Yeah, don’t tell anyone … [walking away, grinning sheepishly]. See you.
‘Night …

Doing something that you can’t believe in makes it difficult to succeed. Worse, it’s corrosive to your self-esteem. Get out as quickly as you can.


‘Hammer’ was the last shot at the end of a long and, at times, stressful day. The last location was Granville, apparently only metres from where the Granville rail disaster took place. By this time the light was fading fast – fortunately I had purchased a ridiculously long power cord the day prior and the very obliging owner of an adjacent workshop allowed me to power my studio flash unit.

Originally the image was of just the model and building behind (no hammer) and it lacked the strength I was looking for. Then the word ‘perestroika’ hit me and I went back to ask the very obliging workshop owner for ‘a large tool, preferably a hammer’.

As this image was for my portfolio, I had arranged a contra deal with the modelling agency – use of the model’s time in return for images for her portfolio. Proudly showing the agent the final images, I found that she disliked all of them except one – after a day of shooting 100 frames of 6×7 film I had, to my embarrassment, taken only one of her smiling.

User Experience Design

A modest investment in user experience (UX) design can deliver products and services that your customers love to use and recommend to others. Here are some excellent learning resources on the topic:
Adaptive Path
Consulting firm Adaptive Path runs a number of excellent UX events each year and publishes all of them on its podcast, along with a number of interviews with stakeholders from their client base. The MX talks are generally for management and UX talks for designers but there’s good crossover – I usually recommend that people start with MX Conference 2007 talks and then follow their interests.
Give IDEO a ‘product, service or environment’ challenge and they’ll create an empathic design for you. They’re generous with their methods and are prolific writers & speakers.
Boxes and Arrows
B&A run a journal for the information architecture community which contains good UX and usability design information, often recast from other sources. They also provide a useful entry point to a wide range of other user experience resources if you’re looking for more.
ClearLeft are UK-based web site accessibility and user experience design consulting firm who run the dConstruct conference.
Information & Design
This small Australian usability consultancy produces the UXpod podcast on which I’ve found some useful talks.

Bryce canyon ranger

My wife and I visited Bryce Canyon, Utah on a drive from Santa Fe to LA – what’s left of Route 66.
I had failed to set our alarm successfully (on our only morning in the park) and as a result we slept in, missing the moment that the sun breached the horizon. All was not lost, however, and we spent the morning taking in the canyon in its morning glory.
Given the depth of the amazing ‘hoodoo’ formations, I was trying to take all of my images in stereo – a process of taking two images from slightly different perspectives on transparency (slide) film to provide a 3D view. When done correctly the effects are stunning – holding the two slides up to your left and right eyes in separate slide viewers gives the feeling of looking at a miniature model of the subject.
I was looking for a ‘spark’ for an image and found this ranger who was on his radio, advising workers on the track below of approaching tourists. At the time I was mostly annoyed that he wouldn’t stand still long enough for me to take a stereo pair and almost didn’t take the shot. It turns out that this was the best image of our visit.
And yes, the colours are real.
You’re welcome to print an image for personal use: 10×15 inch 300 DPI JPEG

Front End Loader

This is one of my favourite portfolio images, probably because I attempted to make a dramatic image of contrasts without crossing over into absurdity (and felt that I succeeded). It’s also because as I look at it there’s nothing I want to change – as a perfectionist this is a rare pleasure.

Even without a client looking over your shoulder shooting this kind of scene can be stress-inducing – a model, your assistant/makeup artist and the site staff waiting for instruction and you have 15 minutes to find a scene, set up, take the shot (including backups, variations, etc), pack up and leave to do it all again somewhere else. In this case the concept came quickly but the details were difficult – the hair on her cheek, the stance with more weight on the forward foot, where she should look, the height of the tripod to locate the height of the rubble in the background, etc.

I’d show you the location of the worksite but as you’ll see from other images in this series, we took images only metres from fast-moving, rock-crushing machinery and I dare say that this was not in full compliance with work safety requirements …