My iPhone 6 prediction

fanny pack

If all the rumours are correct and Apple does indeed this evening (Taiwan time) introduce a 5+ inch screen iPhone, I predict we’ll see a resurgence of those ridiculous artificial leather wast bags as a man’s fashion accessory. Small waist carry-alls (otherwise known as: fanny pack, hip sack, bum bag) used to be popular in the 80’s, but with the exception of some attempts at reintroducing the accessory and stage its comeback into the fashion world in 2007, it has largely been relocated to poorly dressed tourists, sports enthusiast and/or outdoorsy types (I own one for running).

But how else would one carry such a large phone?



Colour and Contrast


Despite the weathered type, there is no mistaking the location and meaning of the device in the photo above.

Warm colours take control, we use them for things you want to pop out and get noticed. Colours like red are especially good for this purpose. Some colours have universal meaning, but some do not. Higher contrast items stand out and catch your eye, the white background above is very effective. The same red box placed on a red brick background is less effective, a problem I often see.

This is very basic knowledge but it’s consistent application requires a discipline I don’t often encounter in my day to day environment.

Four principles for screen interfaces

Taken from Donald Normans Affordances and Design essay comes and excellent set of conventions to help guide the design of screen based products in a way that will help users understand what actions are possible, like most design conventions, each has both virtues and drawbacks:

1. Follow conventional usage, both in the choice of images and the allowable interactions.

Convention severely constrains creativity. Following convention may also violate intellectual property laws (hello Samsung et al). Sometimes we wish to introduce a new kind of action for which there are, as yet, no accepted conventions. On the whole, however, unless we follow the major conventions, we are doomed to fail.

2. Use words to describe the desired action.

This is, of course, why menus can be relatively easy to understand: the resulting action is described verbally. Words alone cannot solve the problem, for there still must be some way of knowing what action and where it is to be done. Words can also cause problems with international adoption. It is also the case that words are understood more quickly than graphics — even a well known, understood graphic. Words plus graphics are even more readily understood.

3. Use metaphor.

Metaphor is both useful and harmful. The problem with metaphor is that not all users may understand the point. Worse, they may take the metaphor too literally and try to do actions that were not intended. Still, this is one way of training users.

4. Follow a coherent conceptual model so that once part of the interface is learned, the same principles apply to other parts.

Coherent conceptual models are valuable and, in my opinion, necessary, but there still remains the bootstrapping problem; how does one learn the model in the first place?

Though written over twenty years ago the logic still is valid today, many of my chief complaints with iOS 7 could be solved by following the above. For complete detail refer to the original article.

Robert Brunner: What All Great Design Companies Know

We emulate the design acumen of companies like Apple and BMW, but what are the processes and mindsets that make them tick? In this 99U talk, designer Robert Brunner deconstructs his creative process revealing the stories behind products like Beats by Dre headphones and the Polaroid Cube.
First, he says, recognize that a brand belongs to your customers. “You don’t own your brand. A brand isn’t a logo or packaging,” he says. “It’s a gut feeling. And when two people have the same gut feeling, you have a brand.” Secondly, most people view design as a part of the production chain, you get requirements in and out comes a product. But design is the chain, and for the best products it permeates every step. “It should be a topic of conversation constantly,” he says. “Thats how you make great stuff.”

Visual distraction and productivity

Visual distraction: a behavioral and event-related brain potential study in humans

Astract: Recent studies reported that the detection of changes in the visual stimulation results in distraction of cognitive processing. From event-related brain potentials it was argued that distraction is triggered by the automatic detection of deviants. We tested whether distraction effects are confined to the detection of a deviation or can be triggered by changes per se, namely by rare stimuli that were not deviant with respect to the stimulation. The results obtained comparable early event-related brain potential effects for rare and deviant stimuli, suggesting an automatic detection of these changes. In contrast, behavioral distraction and attention-related event-related brain potential components were confined to deviant stimuli. This finding suggests that deviancy from a given standard adds a genuine contribution to distraction.

Neural Mechanisms Underlying the Impact of Visual Distraction on Retrieval of Long-Term Memory

Filtering information on the basis of what is relevant to accomplish our goals is a critical process supporting optimal cognitive performance. However, it is not known whether exposure to irrelevant environmental stimuli impairs our ability to accurately retrieve long-term memories. We hypothesized that visual processing of irrelevant visual information would interfere with mental visualization engaged during recall of the details of a prior experience, despite goals to direct full attention to the retrieval task. In the current study, we compared performance on a cued-recall test of previously studied visual items when participants’ eyes were closed to performance when their eyes were open and irrelevant visual stimuli were presented. A behavioral experiment revealed that recollection of episodic details was diminished in the presence of the irrelevant information. A functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment using the same paradigm replicated the behavioral results and found that diminished recollection was associated with the disruption of functional connectivity in a network involving the left inferior frontal gyrus, hippocampus and visual association cortex. Network connectivity supported recollection of contextual details based on visual imagery when eyes were closed, but declined in the presence of irrelevant visual information. We conclude that bottom-up influences from irrelevant visual information interfere with top-down selection of episodic details mediated by a capacity-limited frontal control region, resulting in impaired recollection.

Guardians of The Galaxy Screen Graphics



Showreel covering Territory’s UI concepts, design and animation for both on-set playback and VFX shots for Guardians of The Galaxy.

Beautiful work but like all UI created for movies overly complex; complexity lends itself well to delivering an idea of technological advancement, what we don’t understand is inherently advanced (and few understand onscreen UI displays).

Auditory distractions and productivity

I’ve been thinking of the effect of music, background noise or periodic sound events might have on a persons ability to learn and be productive and creative. I’ve long felt that music or sound helps with known repetitive tasks but what effects on short term or long term memory? Another question, are purposely created sound effects an aid in concentration? Some software features background sounds as an aid to concentration, is this effective? And if it is are some sounds better than others (ticking clock, nature etc).

Some reading.

A comparison of auditory and visual distraction effects: behavioral and event-related indices

Infrequent task-irrelevant deviations in the frequency of a tone may distract our attention away from the processing of task-relevant tone duration. The distraction obtained in the auditory paradigm is reflected in prolonged reaction times in duration discrimination and in P3a. The P3a is followed by a late negative component, which may be related to a re-orienting process following distraction (RON, re-orienting negativity). The present study aimed at comparing effects of the auditory and a corresponding visual distraction paradigm. Distraction elicited a deviance-related negativity which revealed a modality-specific distribution. It was followed by P3a (350-ms post-stimulus) and by RON (500-ms post-stimulus). RON did not occur with long-duration visual stimuli indicating a difference in visual and auditory distraction. Moreover, the results suggest that in both tasks irrelevant deviants were detected by modality-specific processes which caused an attention shift.

Can preference for background music mediate the irrelevant sound effect?

Research suggests that listening to background music prior to task performance increases cognitive processes, such as attention and memory, through the mechanism of increasing arousal and positive mood. However, music preference has not been explored with regard to a more common and realistic scenario of concurrent music and cognition, namely the ‘irrelevant sound effect’ (ISE). To examine this, serial recall was tested under quiet, liked and disliked music sound conditions as well as steady-state (repetition of ‘3’) and changing-state speech (random digits 1–9). Results revealed performance to be poorer for both music conditions and the changing-state speech compared to quiet and steady-state speech conditions. The lack of difference between both music conditions suggests that preference does not affect serial recall performance. These findings are discussed within the music and cognition and auditory distraction literatures.

Effects of Music on Cardiovascular Reactivity Among Surgeons

Objective. —To determine the effects of surgeon-selected and experimenter-selected music on performance and autonomic responses of surgeons during a standard laboratory psychological stressor.

Design. —Within-subjects laboratory experiment.

Setting. —Hospital psychophysiology laboratory.

Participants. —A total of 50 male surgeons aged 31 to 61 years, who reported that they typically listen to music during surgery, volunteered for the study.

Main Outcome Measurements. —Cardiac responses, hemodynamic measures, electrodermal autonomic responses, task speed, and accuracy.

Results. —Autonomic reactivity for all physiological measures was significantly less in the surgeon-selected music condition than in the experimenter-selected music condition, which in turn was significantly less than in the no-music control condition. Likewise, speed and accuracy of task performance were significantly better in the surgeon-selected music condition than in the experimenter-selected music condition, which was also significantly better than the no-music control condition.

Conclusion. —Surgeon-selected music was associated with reduced autonomic reactivity and improved performance of a stressful nonsurgical laboratory task in study participants.(JAMA. 1994;272:882-884)

Auditory distraction from low-intensity noise: a review of the consequences for learning and workplace environments

The ‘irrelevant sound effect’ in short-term memory is commonly believed to entail a number of direct consequences for cognitive performance in the office and other workplaces (e.g. S. P. Banbury, S. Tremblay, W. J. Macken, & D. M. Jones, 2001). It may also help to identify what types of sound are most suitable as auditory warning signals. However, the conclusions drawn are based primarily upon evidence from a single task (serial recall) and a single population (young adults). This evidence is reconsidered from the standpoint of different worker populations confronted with common workplace tasks and auditory environments. Recommendations are put forward for factors to be considered when assessing the impact of auditory distraction in the workplace.

A simulator study of the effects of singing on driving performance

This study aimed to investigate how singing while driving affects driver performance. Twenty-one participants completed three trials of a simulated drive concurrently while performing a peripheral detection task (PDT); each trial was conducted either without music, with participants listening to music, or with participants singing along to music. It was hypothesised that driving performance and PDT response times would be impaired, and that driver subjective workload ratings would be higher, when participants were singing to music compared to when there was no music or when participants were listening to music. As expected, singing while driving was rated as more mentally demanding, and resulted in slower and more variable speeds, than driving without music. Listening to music was associated with the slowest speeds overall, and fewer lane excursions than the no music condition. Interestingly, both music conditions were associated with slower speed-adjusted PDT response times and significantly less deviation within the lane than was driving without music. Collectively, results suggest that singing while driving alters driving performance and impairs hazard perception while at the same time increasing subjective mental workload. However, singing while driving does not appear to affect driving performance more than simply listening to music. Further, drivers’ efforts to compensate for the increased mental workload associated with singing and listening to music by slowing down appear to be insufficient, as evidenced by relative increases in PDT response times in these two conditions compared to baseline.

The following has a nice summary of some of the answers I am looking for.

Stress and open-office noise

Forty female clerical workers were randomly assigned to a control condition or to 3-hr exposure to low-intensity noise designed to simulate typical open-office noise levels. The simulated open-office noise elevated workers’ urinary epinephrine levels, but not their norepinephrine or cortisol levels, and it produced behavioral aftereffects (fewer attempts at unsolvable puzzles) indicative of motivational deficits. Participants were also less likely to make ergonomic, postural adjustments in their computer work station while working under noisy, relative to quiet, conditions. Postural invariance is a risk factor for musculoskeletal disorder. Although participants in the noise condition perceived their work setting as significantly noisier than those working under quiet conditions did, the groups did not differ in perceived stress. Potential health consequences of long-term exposure to low-intensity office noise are discussed.

Look around any open-plan office today (especially one full of younger employees) and you’ll see that many workers deal with this problem by wearing ear buds or headphones. Although it might seem that importing one’s own noise wouldn’t be much of a solution, experts say that this approach could be effective on at least one dimension. Part of the reason office noise reduces our motivation is that it’s a factor out of our control, so the act of asserting control over our aural environment may lead us to try harder at our jobs. But does having a constant soundtrack to your day also distract you from the task at hand? That depends on the task. Research shows that under some conditions, music actually improves our performance, while in other situations music makes it worse—sometimes dangerously so.Via

Ritot Smartwatch


Ritot is a smartwatch that projects the time of day, and when connected to your phone, notifications onto the back of your hand. So far I haven’t seen any product from this category that would convince to wear a watch again, but to my eyes this device at least looks attractive.

If you carry an iPhone with you everywhere what purpose does a wearable hold that isn’t already covered by an app.?

Words on screens are not substitutes for words on paper

The differences between page and screen go beyond the simple tactile pleasures of good paper stock. To the human mind, a sequence of pages bound together into a physical object is very different from a flat screen that displays only a single “page” of information at a time. The physical presence of the printed pages, and the ability to flip back and forth through them, turns out to be important to the mind’s ability to navigate written works, particularly lengthy and complicated ones. We quickly develop a mental map of the contents of a printed text, as if its argument or story were a voyage unfolding through space. If you’ve ever picked up a book that you read long ago and discovered that your hands were able to locate a particular passage quickly, you’ve experienced this phenomenon. When we hold a physical publication in our hands, we also hold its contents in our mind.

The spatial memories seem to translate into more immersive reading and stronger comprehension. A recent experiment conducted with young readers in Norway found that, with both expository and narrative works, people who read from a printed page understand a text better than those who read the same material on a screen. The findings are consistent with a series of other studies on the process of reading. “We know from empirical and theoretical research that having a good spatial mental representation of the physical layout of the text supports reading comprehension,” wrote the Norwegian researchers1. They suggested that the ability of print readers to “see as well as tactilely feel the spatial extension and physical dimensions” of an entire text likely played a role in their superior comprehension.

Paper Versus Pixel. The science of reading shows that print and digital experiences are complementary.

Link Love: What I’m reading

Nice latté but underwhelming compared to Hsinchu's excellent Ink Café.

Nice latté but underwhelming compared to Hsinchu’s excellent Ink Café.

After 3 months of fairly intense training I finished my first two races while I was vacationing home in Canada. It wasn’t a pain-free experience but my goals were to finish, not stop, and not be too concerned with pace, at least not at this stage. With my age, and as a beginner runner, I always had in the back of my mind that if I gave too much, especially with the heat we experience in Taiwan, I might suffer a heart attack. At the end of each training session and each race I always had more to give; the training went so well that I thought that I finally found my competitive sport. That is, until just the day before I had to board the longest flight I had been on in years, that stiffness in my back turned into full blown pain, like I was being stabbed, I couldn’t sit or walk, I had killed my back. What a pleasant series of flights it was going to be. Without painkillers I would never have made it through the flight experience, nor the ridiculous long walks they force you to endure in modern airports. Thus far lack of proper stretching appears to be the culprit.

A Dynamic Routine. Stretch safely—before you run.
Warm Up While You Lace Up. Get those muscles ready to go while you prepare for a run.
The 5 Top Stretches to Minimize Back Pain.
Banish Back Pain. How to Bounce Back from Back Injuries.
Stretching for Back Pain Relief
Best Post-Race Standing Stretches. Jump-start recovery with five simple moves.
Low Back. Wharton’s Simple Solution No. 4.

Running 5 Minutes a Day Has Long-Lasting Benefits.

How the Paleolithic Diet Got Trendy.

The Gangster’s Guide to Upward Mobility

23 defining traits of a good teacher.

Why You Won’t Learn Like a Child. “Have you ever hung out with a crazy friend who will go up to any stranger and say anything, seemingly without inhibitions? It’s awkward but also awe-inspiring, because it opens your eyes to how much your own inhibitions prevent you from doing and experiencing.”

John Oliver goes off on native advertising. Always excellent.

MUJI app that helps you relax/sleep. It’s not great but better than many.

Possibly the best place to buy pancakes anywhere.

“One of the easiest things to do is to realize that maybe it’s your distractions, not your goals, that are the problem,” said Steel. “So you make the distractions harder to get to. Make them less obvious.”
Getting Over Procrastination

Gofor: Drones on Demand

Gofor provides drones on demand. Using the mobile app, you can task a drone to complete a variety of helpful tasks. Drones are summoned much like taxis in other popular service apps. Your desired task is either noted at the outset using presets, or customized using voice commands.

Just a concept, or a well produced gag, but an interesting look into what the future could hold.

A clear dividing line between important work and busywork

A clear dividing line between important work and busywork. Before there was email, there were letters. It amazed (and humbled) me to see the amount of time each person allocated simply to answering letters. Many would divide the day into real work (such as composing or painting in the morning) and busywork (answering letters in the afternoon). Others would turn to the busywork when the real work wasn’t going well. But if the amount of correspondence was similar to today’s, these historical geniuses did have one advantage: the post would arrive at regular intervals, not constantly as email does.

Sarah Green summarises some of the ideas in the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry.

I loath checking email and I resent the amount of time I have to devote sorting through the noise to get to those 2-3 meaningful letters I receive a week. If Gmail’s spam algorithm stopped working I would abandon it completely (like I would if I had to depend on Apple mail). Would you continue to use postal mail if you received 3000+ spam letters a week?

But the older I get, or perhaps the less the sheen of new devices and services fails to dazzle me, I find much of what we/I experience online has little in the way of importance, value or permanence.

Own Your Words

Article-dump sites take away your editorial control, and reduce you to one voice amongst many. You have no influence over who’s up before or after you, and you have no deeper identity. There’s no sense of inviting the reader in to try what you have to offer, then hoping they’ll stay for more.

I think a lot of people haven’t made that realisation, and that’s a sad thing. Your words, and the stories they tell, deserve more than being the latest morsel on a buffet of tiny, fashionably-circular author photos, to be sampled and then forgotten as the next thing rolls around. Where’s the identity? Where’s the commitment?
Own Your Words

Matt Gemmell writes why he doesn’t post on sites like Medium and instead writes for his own site. This has been my reluctance from the very beginning, when sites like these have appeared, not just for words, of which I write infrequently, but also with my photographs, which I used to share a great deal. This isn’t an activity I pursue with the interest I once had but I still hesitate to share much of anything on services that stand to gain, how ever small, from my thoughts, my content. But mostly it’s a question of warmth and ownership. It just feels different reading words amongst the noise and crassness of Facebook compared to a purpose built space.

Kids Planting Rice

This is a wonderful educational opportunity for the kids and allot of fun. We can give kids books to read, iPad apps to play with, and teach the essential concepts, but nothing beats hands on interaction to gain an understanding of a topic. I’m quite pleased that my kids have the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the natural environment, and grow and eat their own food. So many schools focus on technology initiatives and the latest ‘big thing’, when resources might be better allocated on improving and supporting what they already have, teachers and their learning environment.

Moff – a wearable smart toy

Moff bills itself as a “wearable smart toy”. Grab a broom and strum, and the Moff bracelet will emit a guitar sound. Grab a banana and point it like a gun, and your shots ring out. A pretend tennis racket, you’ll hear a swat sound when you swing.

I love this idea, it’s weakness and strength is it’s reliance on a smartphone.

Timbre Speaker

Timbre Speaker by young designer Casey Lin.

“Timbre Speaker trims the essence of a speaker down to the very bare minimum, allowing the inherent qualities of the materials to become the centerpiece of the design. All superfluous detail is stripped away, leaving only the necessary audio and power ports at the rear, and combined power and volume dial. Wood and glass were selected for their favourable acoustic qualities which enhances the audio experience of the user. The Black American Walnut wood adds a warmth to the tone, while the addition of the glass vessels bring a more reverberant characteristic to the music.

Surface transducers are mounted on the interior of the wooden box, vibrating the surface and turning the box into a speaker. The glass vessels act as physical equalizers, where the vibrations transfer through the wood into the glass and changes the timbre of the sound. The wooden box can act as a standalone speaker, or alternatively, vessels of other material, size or shape can be placed on the speaker to change the sound according to the users taste.

Timbre Speaker has an elegant, yet playful feel to it, users are encouraged to experiment with different objects and placements to find the timbre they enjoy the most.”

Chromophore, Lumophore

Projected onto the dome of the Kaluga Planetarium and Space Museum in Russia, Chromophore, Lumophore – “a fixed media work, explored(s) the potential for inter-modal colour-shape-sound synergies to create an abstract narrative of architectonic forms in relation to sound. A lumophore is an atom or atomic grouping in a chemical compound that manifests luminescence”.

The projected version looks wonderful.