Lonely Child

She was crying in the chapel,
She lay in a basket alongside her feeding bottle…
Last night in the spine chilling winter’s cold,
Brought by her mother sad and old.
She had no money, no dime, no penny,
Even to raise the kid to see the summer mornings so sunny…

There she lay on the ground,
As around her people surround..
Yet no ones ready to go forward,
And everyone is behaving like a useless turd.
In her basket under Mother Mary’s watchful eye,
Crying her lungs out she shall die…

But then comes an angel with a smile so mild,
Declares that the girl is none other than The Lord’s own child.
Says she ‘I shall raise her well n fair,
Oh Lord these people are more worthless than the man on the wheel chair’.

And then one day the child who was lying that night there,
Grew up to be the most beautiful girl in the entire square…

The night is still young and so are you

Tonight you look much more beautiful,
With the moon up and bright, shining full.
Even the moonlight, falls short of your body so glistening,
Just looking into your eyes, I could stay all night gazing.
And as the droplets of water trickle down your shoulders,fast and few,
All I want to say is the night is still young and so are you.

And as you walk on the sand, towards the endless ocean,
With each step, I feel my heart melt and burn.
You step closer and your pashmina like hair brushes my face,
I cannot stop but just in amazement continue to daze.
Under the endless skies that are dark and blue,
The night is still young and so are you.

And now you start walking far and away,
My heart stops; my jaws drop each time your hips sway.
You turn and give me a scintillating look so long,
A stream of immense content flows,
As I have never seen someone so gorgeous in a SARONG.
To have this continue I can give anything in lieu,
The night is still young and so are you.

What am I to her? A mystery I have never been able to solve

I was going on a business trip to this beautiful place, a land that had beaches, sunlight and everything in paradise that you could imagine. A day before I was leaving I was more excited about meeting a certain individual, someone who I always thought could understand me, hear me out and share everything that she felt with me without any filter. It was a year since I last saw her, it was a couple of months since we last talked, but something about this opportunity still seemed so attractive and dragged me towards this feeling of a positive expectancy.

So then I got there, to this paradise, spent the first couple of days doing what I always do, and then came this moment when we were to meet. She invited me to this place, a dimly lit restaurant with a lot of character to share what you felt and to connect on a whole different level.

I walked in through these huge double doors, looking out for her, and she comes running towards me, shouts out my name and gives me a tight hug. Oh! It felt majestic and I could have been in the warmth of those arms all night. We then sat at this table, which was pre-occupied with some of her friends. We talked and talked and talked, with me being engrossed in her face, glistening in the candle and yellow ceiling lights. Most of the time, I did not even realize what we were talking about and I was lost in those eyes. She even caught me a couple of times but I made justifiable excuses to avoid an embarrassment.

Of the parts of the conversation I do recollect, there was this one small chunk of time when we were talking about our failed relationships and what we looked for in a person. I inadvertently went ahead and just described what I thought of her when she asked me that. I said, I like a person who makes me feel dumb and takes care of themselves first, in terms of health, wealth and other mannerisms. I told her I like people who are really ambitious and always are looking to leap and make those giant strides in different forms of life. This was after she told me how much she was into fitness and that she was running a marathon, and of course professionally she is carving a huge space for herself at what she does. I felt she would take the hint, and did not want to press more as we were surrounded by her friends, who kept cracking jokes that I had hardly had any context about. But even though I lacked a lot of common ground, I smiled, probably giggled every time I saw her smile or laugh.

The night came to an end, she wanted to party with her friends and I had to go back. I wanted to spend sometime with her so badly; my chest was pounding as if it were to explode soon. And as I type this it still does. But how could I just ask her to come along and spend the night with me; I was worried, I’d wipe that smile off her face. I wanted her to do what she wanted. We said our good byes and I took a cab back. And each moment till I reached my destination, I thought: could this night have been any better? What if her friends were not there? And then I thought am I being a little too selfish? Either ways, now as I am traveling back from this Paradise I visited, I wonder if I regarded it as Paradise because I met her. Possibly true, but I do realize that she will be smiling and as long as she is, she is in a better place and I would not want to disturb that. As for me, I don’t know what I am to her, a friend, a trusted advisor, or a crush? But as long as I am a significant something, I shall be happy.

PS: This is a combination of some stories I have heard on my travels and some free-flowing imagination and is not intended to bear resemblance to an occurrence in my life or anyone else’s.

Humans do not always Google!!!

So earlier this week, I in a group of five, performed a cultural probe with 6 participants. We made them go into unfamiliar situations and come across unfamiliar objects. WE were surprised with our results.

Only one of the six participants chose to google the item at the outset. We often tend to play and understand the physicality and other characteristics of the object/ situation on our own. Another finding was that we rely on a trusted compatriot more than searching for the information online. This was the second most used approach. Humans often believe that they will get more contextual and meaningful information from another human being.

Interesting?

An anatine Duck and a repurposable decorated shed

In this article I am going to touch upon a topic that has been very familiar in the field of architecture but lately has found some place in the field of digital information. I take a stab on Robert Venturi and Scott Brown’s concept of Ducks and Decorated Sheds and draw a comparison as to how it maps on to all the information we have access to, on our phones, computers and other digital devices at the click of a single button.

Ducks and Decorated Sheds as an architectural concept

First let us look at a duck in the field of architecture. A duck per se is a structure which is very closely related to purpose of the structure. This can be clearly depicted in the picture to the left. This structure is specifically used to sell duck eggs. One important conclusion to draw from such structures is that they can almost certainly never be repurposed to do anything else. For instance, it would be odd to house a bank inside a structure that looked like a duck on the left, unless it is Uncle Scrooge’s (from duck tales). Hence generally ducks are so closely related to the purpose of the structure and when the structure has served its purpose it is usually demolished.

Chase bank

A decorated shed is completely the opposite of what I described the duck to be. A decorated shed is a structure that can be easily used for two completely different purposes without taking the structure apart. It is more of a multipurpose structure. For instance, look at the picture on the left. This Chase bank outlet in the heart of New York can be repurposed very easily to be used for any other purpose. Just take the words ‘CHASE’ out of the top of the store and voila you have a space that you could use for a Pizza Hut outlet tomorrow.

Now lets don our digital hats
In the digital world what would you consider a duck or a decorated shed. Lets talk about ducks first. What are the things that are closely related to their purpose as far as the digital world is concerned. Perhaps the ‘like button’ on Facebook. It is exactly what it looks like, the ‘thumbs up’. The ‘thumbs up’ sign signifies a like, a sign of approval.
The decorated sheds on the other hand are things that can be multi purposed. So lets take a Flat Button that can say ‘submit’ today and can be labelled as ‘hit it’ or something else.
Also if you consider certain core values of certain websites then you may say that these are ducks. For instance, Twitter’s core purpose/ value is for users to tweet. This is a duck. A change in this purpose/value would require a complete overhaul of the existing service i.e. twitter in this case.

Another analogy as far as ducks are concerned is closely tied to Don Norman’s idea of Feedback and Affordances. Sometime back we used to have buttons that used to pop up even on a computer screen. Hence you had to click them. This was made so perhaps as the mouse was clickable. And this activity was repeated on the screen on the popped up buttons which went down when the mouse button was pressed and came back up when the mouse button was released. Nowadays people are relying heavily on touchpads and hence buttons just change color to show feedback but do not get pressed like earlier as there is no longer the need to click on touchpads (at least most of them). In fact, we have touch mice nowadays. So we are slowly moving away from certain ducks and adopting certain decorated sheds. But as it stands today, the internet and the digital world have both Anatine Ducks and Repurposable Decorated Sheds, both of which have their own importance and function.

To conclude this post, I would like to say that though we have the tendency to adopt simpler things and go for decorated sheds in the digital world, this might be just a passing trend and the mighty ducks might rise again to defeat the decorated sheds. But this presumption is based on what I have come across in my very limited research. If you have inputs please share, I would definitely like to hear more.

Architecture Vs. Design

Architecture vs Design

Sometime back we had a discussion in our class about Design vs. Architecture and when you put 50 odd information professionals in a room and ask them to deliberate and debate on an issue there are bound to be a lot of new things you would learn from it, And so I did. All you read from here on is my own opinion and interpretation of this intriguing conflict between architecture and design. No other person is to be blamed for the same.

Ahoy! So lets start with Architecture. In my opinion architecture is the set of protocols that you follow when you are designing a product. Architecture induces some sense into the design and dictates as to how the end product should be perceived as a whole.

Design on the other hand is very much contextual. Based on the limitations of the architecture, you use context and design sense to make the product/service as robust as possible. And let me clarify one thing, when I use the word limitations with respect to architecture it does not mean that architecture is constraining and has negative effects on the final design. In fact this limitation in itself renders a strong meaning to the whole design.

Confused? Lets look at an example for the same. Do you like cars? Consider the example of a Muscle Car. A muscle car in itself is architecture. You need to follow a certain set of rules and protocols to when designing a muscle car such that it functions and looks like one. At the same time there are various manufacturers that come up with their own version of the same. A Ford Mustang is definitely different from a Chevrolet Camaro. This is where the design kicks in. To differentiate these cars based on the creativity of the designer and the customer base or market research (context).

So one may ask then how does this architecture get defined or where does it originate. This might seem a bit perplexing, but it originates from an innovative design. The word innovative here is important. Every now and then there will come a person who would be willing to break the rules and when this happens it might or might not give birth to a new architecture depending on how it is perceived and received by the user base. Thus new architecture arises from an innovative design and then goes on to dictate other designs to follow. The muscle car for instance is a classic example of this, someone made something new in 1949 that was seen as a benchmark and it persisted to become a piece of architecture.

My final throw of the dart would be at this question that was raised in class and I believe is very important, which is “Is Architecture time bound?” I might argue the same. Architecture is not time bound but instead the right question to ask is “Can Architecture become obsolete?” The answer to this, in my opinion, is a ‘yes’. If people find a new architecture to make more sense and to help them relate to then they will simply adopt the new one. Peoples’ perceptions and ways of thinking change with time. Hence some stand the test of time and some don’t.

To sum up this article I would like to say that the relationship between Design and Architecture is similar to that of a hen and an egg.

Car Email Notification System

As a part of this exercise I designed an email notification system for a car based on two major components:

  • A method of notification delivery that visually alerts the driver when an email has arrived.
  • A way for the driver to access the content of the email about which s/he has just been notified. Include:
    1. a small amount of information that allows the driver to determine whether the email is important enough to “read.”
    2. a way to access the full content of the email if desired.

DESIGN DESCRIPTION
The visual alert for the email will appear as a yellow envelope along with the name (and photo if available) of the sender that is projected onto the center of the windshield toward the bottom. This will be accompanied by a voice alert announcing that you have a new message and will then read the name of the sender and the subject line. The driver then has the option to say aloud either "open" or "ignore."
For safety concerns, full text of emails will be spoken aloud by the email system so that the driver does not necessarily need to look at the text. If the driver chooses to open the email, the text can be referenced on the tablet screen to the right of the dashboard. This should be similar to the typical interaction with a tablet computer.

The system

HOW IT GETS YOUR ATTENTION
Our design initially grabs the driver’s attention through a bottom up process. The stimulus from the envelope icon that pops up on the windshield attracts their attention. The notification icon will show up in the driver’s peripheral vision. To take advantage of this setup, we chose to have a yellow icon pop up on the screen in order to incorporate both movement and color. The driver then goes through a top down process by shifting focus to read the sender and/or subject line in order to decide whether or not it is important enough to hear the full text. We chose to include a picture (if available) of the sender to incorporate redundancy and give the driver multiple ways to recognize the sender (2 visual, 1 auditory). If he/she opts to hear the full text, he/she will then go through another top down process by first telling the system to read the contents of the email and then directing some of his/her attention toward listening to the message.


SAFETY OF THE DESIGN
When driving, encoding involves taking in visual information and converting it into spatial information. The driver is then processing this spacial information and responding manually.

Driving

The only time our design requires the use of any overlapping types of attention is when the driver is visually alerted of the new email. This transfer of attention should only take about 50 milliseconds, so will not cause much of an interruption to the driver’s attention.

Driving and reading

After the visual alert, the information will be encoded and processed auditorily (the email system reading the information aloud) and responses from the driver will be given verbally through predetermined vocal commands. Because the system reads the text of the email aloud, the driver can choose the appropriate amount of attention (if any) to direct toward the actual text that is available visually (i.e. reference occasionally to reinforce content). This allows the driver to still focus on the road as much as is necessary.

The system

After a very longtime and yes it’s about football: My favorite club Arsenal

Well this blog post of mine comes after a very long time and I was more than compelled to post this after the rollercoaster ride on the last day of the transfer window in the English Premier League. For all those American Nationals thinking as to where English Premier League came into Football from, yes you guessed it right, I am talking about the real football- Soccer for some.

Lets analyze the last day of the transfer window, when the tension among the club supporters was at a new peak especially for some of the supporters who call themselves ‘Gooners’ like myself. It started of with the supporters really expecting a lot from the manager, Arsene Wenger, considering the near misses that he made in the transfer window with regards to signing some top level players. Some of the supporters had lost all their hopes as they thought that this would be another, ‘Suarez’, ‘Higuain’ or ‘Fellaini’ episode (Wenger had missed out on signing all of these players).

The day started off with the news that Real Madrid, the club that the big star Arsenal was supposed to sign, played for had agreed on the deal for the player (Ozil). Then it was up to the personal terms to be agreed by Arsenal and Ozil. But even then Ozil had greater odds of not coming to the club considering all the close transfer fails that Arsenal had. But finally cometh the hour Arsenal did sign Ozil. It was a moment of jubilation for all the Arsenal fans, as after many years it had signed someone of world-class quality. The attitude of this German player seemed really positive as he openly stated that he is coming to the club to help it win some silverware.

The signing surprised most people including his fellow teammates but Ozil was quick enough to dismiss all speculation by saying that it was the manager who convinced him to sign for the club. If it were not for the manager he would never have joined Arsenal. Arsene Wenger, who till then was accused of money laundering and being with the club for his own vested interest was sung about now on the streets of London and by all other followers around the world.

Football today is dictated by money and super stardom. The more money you have is directly proportional to how successful you can be. I really feel this feel was over emphasized when the other clubs started venting out frustration over the signing of Ozil by Arsenal. Arsenal regarded as one of the modest spending European clubs, was thrash talked by others by saying that Ozil wanted to join other big clubs and that he would have signed for them if an offer was made for him. When I read all of this, I just smiled to myself and said, “I am glad I am a Gooner and the fact of the matter is that we have Ozil and the others can whine as much as they want”.

Creating an award winning yet unusable design.

As a part of a class I did an exercise where I had to create design an elegant but ultimately unusable universal remote control. We let our imaginations fly sky high. In the end we came up with the following design.

Remote

Introduction:
Imagine you are sitting on your couch, relaxing watching TV and you have to get the microwave on to make popcorn. You are too lazy to get up. Well you have the Crystal to your rescue. And then when you want to fill the tub with water for a warm bath you can just sit there and still use the Crystal to do it. And may be then you need the dryer to dry your shirt, well its just a button away when you have the Crystal. Hmmm what else? You want to go outside? Use the crystal to control your garage door, your car door, just about anything.
We’ve eliminated clumsy confusing buttons such as Volume + / – Channel Up / Down with simple one touch controls. Want to change control to your Blu-Ray player? No confusing mode buttons to look for, simply touch the Crystal with the appropriate number of fingers that correspond to your Blu-Ray player and you instantly have access to all of its controls. Makes you feel like Adam Sandler from Click!!!
Hence we say, if you don’t have a Crystal, you just don’t have a Crystal!!!

Features

  • Touch screen- Capacitive touch, support gestures (Press hard to increase volume, Press lightly to decrease, swipe sideways with one finger to increase channel number, two fingers to go up by 10, three for 100, and so on.)
  • Transparent- efficient LED to give you a sci-fi experience, no ugly hard plastic or labels that rub off.
  • Accelerometer- used to lower and raise and increase and decrease things. Simple terms; it supports motion sensing.
  • Multi Touch – Number of fingers pressed on screen changes device mode (TV (1) to DVR (2), etc.)
  • Single Buttons for common commands – Volume, Power (Light press to increase or activate, hard press to decrease or deactivate)
  • Auto Screen Rotate – Landscape or Portrait! – Hold the device any way you want and the icons rotate automatically
  • Beauty – Clean, uncluttered appearance. Distracting and archaic digits are replaced with clean, elegant, roman numerals.

 

Violations:

VISIBILITY:
– No indications as to what the proper orientation is for the device to be held.
– Roman numerals are not well understood and are not natural representations.
– Touchscreen buttons are flashed underneath your finger, and cannot be seen.
– Transparent display makes it difficult to see each icon.

MAPPINGS:
-Accelerometer is confusing to use the user does not know whether to point and go up to raise curtains or go down.
-Mapping also comes into play when you choose your fingers to map controls onto devices.
– Press and Press Hard are not natural mapping for the functions of increase/decrease and activate/deactivate. When user is frustrated or startled for example, they are likely to press hard, which will increase volume when they may want to decrease it.

CONCEPTUAL MODEL:
– No hint as to how to hold the device in the proper orientation for the emitter to face the device.
– Until the user has memorized each number for each device, they will be challenged to remember that the Blu-Ray player is device VII.- In order to activate devices numbered higher than II, the device must be set down in order to place more fingers on the screen.

FEEDBACK:
-Well you don’t know which device has been selected since your fingers indicate the device number. Hence you have to remember which number refers to which device. A novice user would struggle here.-When you wanna increase the volume you first start by pressing gently and then press it hard, So the volume goes down first and you might be confused as to whether you are increasing or decreasing the volume.
– With the visual indication of volume increasing, you may think it is actually increasing, but if the device isn’t held in the proper orientation, it won’t accurately control your device because it isn’t receiving the signal.
SUMMARY:
After this exercise I realized that not everything we use makes sense. Most of us today are more brand driven rather than being usability driven. We need not go into the big gadgets but look at the small everyday usable items. Take clothes for instance, how many times have you Heard yourself say ‘I’ll buy this, it looks cool’. Is looking cool or fancy the new being usable? It is not a pleasant question to ask but might be true in the years to come if not already. Others might disagree, especially people who are creating innovative usable products daily. But once the brand reaches a certain pedestal, the product is always about being a status symbol and a cool looking one rather than a usable one.