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The world is flat - a video lecture by Thomas Friedman

Here's a video lecture (1hr 15min) by Thomas L. Friedman on his book - The World is Flat.

"Chances are good that Bhavya in Bangalore will read your next x-ray, or as Thomas Friedman learned first hand, “Grandma Betty in her bathrobe” will make your Jet Blue plane reservation from her Salt Lake City home. In “Globalization 3.0,” Friedman contends, people from far-flung places will become principal players in the marketplace."

Creating digital prototypes

Dave Rogers has written an article about creating digital prototypes using Acrobat. So instead of having dead pages, you can have live links and forms. Here's the proof of concept (PDF).

Apple iTunes gets into podcasting

Apple's tuning in:

Apple says the next version of its iTunes music management program will give people a way to find and subscribe to podcasts, MP3 audio files online.

Need a tutor? Call India.

A good overview of this new outsourcing trend.

As technology develops and the barriers to communication erode, most agree that tutoring is likely to join the list of other jobs facing global competition. Some hurdles remain, of course. Indian tutors undergo training to learn an American accent and US teaching methods, but still face some cultural gaps. And just dealing with students online - rather than face to face - can be tough.

How to use the dial phone (1927)

Check out this multimedia-instruction from 1927 on how to use the dial phone. It uses a story to link the sequence of operations together.

On another note, I also like the way the Internet Archive uses thumbnails to allow users preview the movie before downloading it. [Via Usable help]

Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags

Here's an article by Clay Shirky on the differences between controlled categorization and free tagging or, as he puts it, the differences between browse and search, between Yahoo! and Google.

Star Wars Interactive

This NY Times Star Wars interactive explains the plots and the characters in this unfolding saga. Want more? Check this listing out.

Enterprise Information Architecture in Context

James Melzer shares this 'enterprise information architecture roadmap' that he drew to help his team have a common understanding of a project. I found it a little difficult to follow and extrapolate, but again, my context is a little different.

"My diagram is pretty specific to the federal government landscape in the US, but you can extrapolate the kinds of inputs that are relevant in your organization."

The Power of Shared Knowledge

Hubert Saint-Onge talks about collaboration and knowledge management:

"Despite a content explosion taking place on the word side—including blogs, content-management software, and IM—most offerings are incomplete. The collaboration aspect is often weak, and, when it's present, it's generally not integrated with collaboration tools. Even with the best intentions, most IT vendors don't have all of the pieces together to implement an effective content and collaboration platform, and software offerings in this area are far too compartmental and proprietary."

Hey Google, Map This!

This is a wonderful case of bricolage in action:

"Inventive web developers are taking Google's online map service to a new level, layering in house sales and apartment rentals, real-time traffic stats and Flickr photo tags."

The Power of Design

The latest issue of Fast Company is on the power of design:

"Look around you: The evidence of design's power is everywhere. It's apparent in the mere fact that the bar has been raised. Customers expect, even demand, more from the design of everything they buy."

Complications, by Atul Gawande

This book ranks high in my list of great reads. (Thanks Venkat). In Complications, Atul Gawande writes about his experiences as surgical resident in a Boston hospital. His main intent is to show how medicine is really practiced -- the story behind the story. And in doing so, he highlights the messiness, the ambiguity and the uncertainties under which surgeons have to make decisions (usually tradeoffs).

This book is also one of the best books on organizational learning that I've read. It gives an in-depth look at the learning demands in a complex environment -- the risks, the fallibleness, the mysteries and the uncertainties of it all. The first chapter -- Education of a Knife -- should be a must-read for all of us in the learning industry. Here's the gist of the chapter:

"The thing that still startles me is how fundamentally human an endeavor it [medicine] is. Usually, when we think about medicine and its remarkable abilities, what comes to mind is the science and all it has given us to fight sickness and misery... But we rarely see how it all works. You have a cough that won't go away -- and then? It's not science you call upon but a doctor. A doctor with good days and bad days. A doctor with a weird laugh and a bad haircut. A doctor with three other patients to see and, inevitably, gaps in what he knows and skills he's still trying to learn."

Natural selection and thin slicing

In the Reith Lectures 2003, acclaimed neuroscientist V.S Ramachandran first talked about art and the brain and something he called 'artistic universals', which he says are principles of art that exhibit similar neurological activity in the brain across different cultures. He thinks that there are around 10 such artistic universals (see website). One among them is called the 'Peak Shift' universal. He explains this wonderfully using a bit of research finding on the feeding habits of newly born seagull chicks:

As soon as the herring-gull chick hatches, it looks at its mother. The mother has a long yellow beak with a red spot on it. And the chick starts pecking at the red spot, begging for food. The mother then regurgitates half-digested food into the chick's gaping mouth, the chick swallows the food and is happy. Then Tinbergen [the researcher] asked himself: "How does the chick know as soon as it's hatched who's mother? Why doesn't it beg for food from a person who is passing by or a pig?"

And he found that you don't need a mother.

You can take a dead seagull, pluck its beak away and wave the disembodied beak in front of the chick and the chick will beg just as much for food, pecking at this disembodied beak. And you say: "Well that's kind of stupid - why does the chick confuse the scientist waving a beak for a mother seagull?"

Well the answer again is it's not stupid at all. Actually if you think about it, the goal of vision is to do as little processing or computation as you need to do for the job on hand, in this case for recognizing mother. And through millions of years of evolution, the chick has acquired the wisdom that the only time it will see this long thing with a red spot is when there's a mother attached to it. After all it is never going to see in nature a mutant pig with a beak or a malicious ethologist waving a beak in front of it. So it can take advantage of the statistical redundancy in nature and say: "Long yellow thing with a red spot IS mother. Let me forget about everything else and I'll simplify the processing and save a lot of computational labour by just looking for that."

That's fine. But what Tinbergen found next is that you don't need even a beak. He took a long yellow stick with three red stripes, which doesn't look anything like a beak - and that's important. And he waved it in front of the chicks and the chicks go berserk. They actually peck at this long thing with the three red stripes more than they would for a real beak. They prefer it to a real beak - even though it doesn't resemble a beak. It's as though he has stumbled on a superbeak or what I call an ultrabeak.

From the above research it seems that evolution naturally opts for 'thin-slicing' or thin-slicing is nothing but nature’s way of indicating that it has gained expertise in that area.

Dutch academics declare research free-for-all

This is wonderful news:

"Scientists from all major Dutch universities officially launched a website on Tuesday where all their research material can be accessed for free. Interested parties can get hold of a total of 47,000 digital documents from 16 institutions the Digital Academic Repositories."

[via OLDaily]

The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design

Dan Saffer, who is doing his Masters in Interaction Design at Carnegie Mellon, has just finished his thesis paper and made it available on the web -- The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design (PDF, 340kb). It looks like a good read. I've been following Dan's blog on his experience at D School and it has helped me get a good understanding of interaction design. All the best Dan. Also, here's my interview with him on why he blogs his course.

Put Some Wisdom in Your Pocket

Along the lines of Wikipedia comes its mobile equivalent -- Cellphedia. However, this seems to be more like the those expert-exchange sites on the web. Wired reports:

"Cellphedia lets users sign up to receive updates in one or more categories like architecture, music and technology. When a question is asked in one of those subjects, users receive a text message with the query."

Cancer survival rate infographic

Edward Tufte deconstructs a published cancer survival rate table and offers a set of redesigns that enhance understanding. A nice case study.

Infographics in the Internet Era

Wonderful PDF book from Alberto Cairo that looks at the process and practice of infographics in visual journalism, especially with the Spanish newspapers. [via Interactive Narratives]

Mental Models For Search Are Getting Firmer

Jakob Nielsen on elements of search :

Search is such a prominent part of the Web user experience that users have developed a firm mental model for how it's supposed to work. Users expect search to have three components:

A Vision of Terror

This is cool:

"A new generation of software called Starlight 3.0, developed for the Department of Homeland Security by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), can unravel the complex web of relationships between people, places, and events. And other new software can even provide answers to unasked questions."

What an IA Should Know About Prototypes for User Testing

This is a nice article from Boxes and Arrows, which focuses on a) the degree of fidelity and b) the level of interactivity for your prototypes. These two points are also useful when using distributed teams to build systems -- both factors are high initially but with shared understanding they gradually come down.

Enterprise IA Roadmap

Lou Rosenfeld has updated his enterprise information architecture roadmap. The roadmap lists the activities that need to be done to organize information. It also provides a nice starting point for discussing an enterprise's IA needs.

Change or Die

I finally got a chance to read this heavily blogged article. This is one of those articles that give me the Aha! feeling. Change and change management has always been viewed as a complicated subject, but as this article shows, it's just about being humane. Here are the three steps: re-frame the reasons for change to make it beneficial, 2) accelerate the change process so that changes are visible, and 3) support the change.

Cognitive Psychology Resource

Here's a cool site with many Macromedia (Adobe?) Flash-based experiments in memory, perception, attention, etc. Try them out, it's great fun!

CNN on tags

CNN has published an article on tagging. There's nothing new in the article, but it does provide a good gauge of the current usage around the world.

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