Tax Day

Today is the last day to submit the 2004 “individual income tax return of the Republic of China”. It’s my habit to leave many unpleasant things to the last possible moment. The GTD gang call this cringing and set up a how-to on Cringe-Busting your TODO list. I’ve read it but some habits are too hard to break.
Unlike in Canada where reducing your tax expenditures can be a complicated and paid obsession the process here is relatively painless. A simple one page form and you are finished. Seeing as this is Taiwan and their still exists a slight distrust of foreigners living here there are a few questions geared towards tracking your movements.
The remarkable thing about filing here is that the officers in charge of receiving your forms will actually find your mistakes in your form resulting in receiving a larger tax refund. Last year that meant an extra 15,000NT$ which meant a cheap holiday abroad. I can’t imagine anyone in Revenue and Taxation Canada has ever thought of this concept.

Trendy – Customer Made

“TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed the latter ‘CUSTOMER-MADE’: the phenomenon of corporations creating goods, services and experiences in close cooperation with consumers, tapping into their intellectual capital, and in exchange giving them a direct say in what actually gets produced, manufactured, developed, designed, serviced, or processed. The CUSTOMER-MADE trend has been slowly building over the last five years, but with the current onslaught of consumer activism and the rapid rise of GENERATION C, it finally seems ready for its big moment in the limelight, where TRENDWATCHING.COM expects it to stay for many years to come. It doesn’t hurt that Management Guru C.K. Prahalad recently published ‘The Future of Competition’ an insightful and highly recommended book on co-creation, which prompted us to move CUSTOMER-MADE to the top of our emerging trends list!”

CUSTOMER-MADE| An emerging consumer trend and related new business ideas

The Freesound Project

“The Freesound Project aims to create a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, … released under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus License. The Freesound Project provides new and interesting ways of accessing these samples, allowing users to

  • browse the sounds in new ways using keywords, a “sounds-like” type of browsing and more
  • up and download sounds to and from the database, under the same creative commons license
  • interact with fellow sound-artists!

We also aim to create an open database of sounds that can also be used for scientific research. Many audio research institutions have trouble finding correctly licensed audio to test their algorithms. Many have voiced this problem, but so far there hasn’t been a solution.”

Freesound. (Via of all places.)

Maintaining Motivation

Rather pertinent information for me now as I sit here in my home office unshaven and in a ripped pair of jeans trying to get serious about staying on task.
“When I went solo, one of the first of many things that hit me like a kick in the teeth was consistently being able to get into a work mindset when I sat down at my desk. The workplace was now my apartment, where all my fun diversions live, and the staff was now me. When I would go to work before, the change of scenery and addition of new faces would instantly put my mind into work-mode and I would get down to business. Currently, I have three cats that don’t pull their own weight and a picturesque view of a sink full of dishes. Not the most potent inspiration starters. So, I was forced to really reflect on the way I do things. It wasn’t going to be as easy anymore to just sit down and start working. I would have to learn how to motivate myself in a new environment.
There are many ways to get things done, ways to stay organized, and ways to keep things running smoothly. But, they really don’t mean shit if you can’t find something to love about what you do.”
Jason Santa Maria on Maintaining Motivation

First Principles of Interaction Design

“The following principles are fundamental to the design and implementation of effective interfaces, whether for traditional GUI environments or the web. Of late, many web applications have reflected a lack of understanding of many of these principles of interaction design, to their great detriment. Because an application or service appears on the web, the principles do not change. If anything, applying these principles become even more important.”
AskTog: First Principles of Interaction Design  


“Sonicforms an open source research platform for developing tangible interfaces for audio visual environments. The aim of the project is to improve this area of musical interaction by creating a community knowledge base and open tools for production. By decentralising the technology and providing an easier entry point, artists and musicians can focus on creating engaging works, rather than starting from the ground up.”
This at first glance looks quite interesting. Will certainly take a closer look … later.
Sonicforms – open source tangible user interfaces

Creative Wack

Creative Think: “Columbus challenged the Spanish courtiers to stand an egg on its end. They tried but failed. He then hard-boiled one and stood it on its end. ‘That’s not fair,’ they protested, ‘you broke the rules.’ ‘Don’t be silly,’ he replied, ‘you just assumed more than you needed to.’ What can you let go of? What unnecessary assumptions can you eliminate? How would that change the way you view your issue?”
From Roger von Oech’s Creative Think consultancy. There are a number of other ideas to promote creativity and spur yourself into action on his site. I like how he sets up his company site, immediately giving valuable advice to your potential customers as a way to start a relationship. It’s fun and useful and a great way to start a conversation.

Steve Jobs on design

Steve Jobs on design:
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But, of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. To design something really well, you have to ‘get it.’ You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something…. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”
The quote is from a Wired News article entitled Steve Jobs Buys a Washing Machine.

Context matters

“Context plays a more fundamental role for Asians than for westerners. Asians have a more difficult time thinking of an object as completely separate from its background.
Americans, on the other hand, focus on objects… things and categories more than relationships.
Asians think in verbs where we think in nouns. And these differences can have profound implications.”
Something to think about. He admits that he oversimplifies and I will give him the benefit of the doubt. It does run a bit counter to my experience of most people wanting to focus on the details but not the big picture.
Creating Passionate Users: Context matters

Site update

I updated my portfolio recently and though its far from finished have published it for all to see (yes I am looking for work). I want to write more about this experience later as it seems my best laid plans didn’t quite go as I had hoped.
I wanted to create a site the reflects my personality and my work well of course but I wanted to do it quickly and simply. Why is it that simple is so hard? And why must the tools we use to create sites quickly always end up costing us more time in the end?
Part of this process for me is checking out what other people are doing to show/market/promote themselves online. I especially love this part of the process since it gives me the excuse to spend hours looking some really brilliant work.
It seems some things haven’t changed much in the past 8 years. Why so many broadcast-like, over produced, click to the next flash movie sites that profess to be interactive and yet yield the vast majority of these sites manipulated their users’ environment to reduce interactivity. In fact so many interactive sites are not interactive at all.
Other sites tend to be so obsessed with complying with web standards that they lose all sense of voice. All these sites look and interact the exact same way. Sure when you create a commercial site used my a broad spectrum of people its pays to rely on UI and web development standards but what happened to creating ‘unique’ personal sites?
These are just observations and maybe my age is showing. It’s all good baby. I suffer from all the above I’m sure and I am by no means professing originality. Far from it.
Work site and r

Change of habits

I’m sitting here in Bangkok drinking bad coffee and missing the ubiquitousness of fast internet that exists just about everywhere else. Downloading hundred’s of new e-mail (most of which will be spam) and rss feeds here harkens back to the early 90’s when you used to download your email for later viewing while you had a shower, made breakfast and coffee, and were generally ready for the day. No instant information here.
I appreciate this approach in some ways. It forces a certain discipline that I might not always have. For people like me, having instant access to information means getting trapped in a endless cycle of reading and discovering and reading. With so much information readily available it is hard to stop trying to absorb it all. Put a small barrier in this process, in this case speed, and you are forced to be far more goal directed. I plan out exactly what I need to see ahead of time.
Working out of Bangkok tends to change your habits too. Elsewhere I tend to treat a remote web server much like a local drive. But here you are forced to do all your work locally and then when you find a good upstream upload all your work to the remote server. There are advantages to this approach I suppose.
In a beautiful country with such happy friendly people it’s hard to want to spend anytime in front of my Mac anyway but it’s interesting to reflect on the changes to your habits when access to fast networks become the exception and not the rule.

Notes on Tiger

Judging by the volume of noise on news sites Apples Tiger release appears to be an exciting even among those of will little else in our lives to entertain ourselves other than an operating system release. Yes I got caught up in it and yes I spend far too much time sitting at a desk. It’s obvious I have to get out more since after a simple morning of walking on Saturday has left my body stiff and sore. And the Tiger excitement.
Yes it’s cool and I’m certainly digging the refinements to the look n feel of the UI. Other than Spotlight, I’m mostly psyched about the improvements they made to their bundled apps. , safari is much improved. The Wiki dashboard widget should be very useful.
The biggest impression the upgrade has left on me though is the hefty memory requirements. Opening activity monitor shows me that Safari eats up 140megs of ram – it’s a web browser for God sake. Each of those Dashboard widgets take up 30 and mail takes up 20. It’s becoming obvious that if you expect to run a few programs in addition to Photoshop you are slowly approaching 2 gigs of ram. Apple still sells computers with only 256 megs of ram so obviously their is money to be made creating software with bloated memory requirements.